samedi 6 mars 2010

Breakfast for Appetizers and Appetizers for Breakfast

I haven't been blogging because I've been . . . not here. I went back to the US for a couple of months to be with my family for awhile, but now I'm back, in a new apartment (pictures to follow), studying my brains out (well, really procrastinating my brains out) and cooking up a storm. This week I've made three versions of my new favorite recipe: Savoury cake.

Savoury cake!?!? yup, it's a really popular aperitif, or "shnick-shnack," as my mother in law would describe something served at a coffee table with a pre-dinner cocktail. If you're invited over for dinner around here, the pre-dinner spread is likely to include:
salted nuts
thinly sliced sausages
thin crispy breadsticks

we've also been served something called "paté en croûte" which is translated as "paté in crust." That's exactly what it is--basically, a loaf pan with a pie crust tucked inside, filled with paté and baked, and then sliced like bread. SO GOOD. But so bad for you.

There are also French appetizer items that seem to veer into the world of breakfast foods. At one dinner in Paris last week, we were served, as an appetizer, poached eggs over toast and sautéed mushrooms with bordelaise sauce. Breakfast for appetizers? Weird, but delicious.

And then there's the world of appetizer flavors in non-appetizer packages: herbed or cheese crackers that are really the texture of shortbread or chocolate chip cookies and vegetable crumbles, even molten broccoli cake with a center of melted cheese sauce.

And then there's cake salé, savory cake: your basic cake recipe, hold the sugar, and add omelet ingredients. Voilà, a cross between a cracker and an omelet. Perfect for French appetizers or American breakfast.

So, here's my basic recipe:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease loaf pan.

Sift together in a bowl:
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Add 5 eggs (remember, this is breakfast for a week) and 2 tablespoons olive oil (or canola). Mix until it's a uniform batter.

Add "toppings":
2/3 cup cheese
1 1/2 cups something else (veggies, diced ham, bacon, etc.)

Stir, pour in loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes. Let cool, slice generously, and enjoy as a snack, breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, appetizer. . . it's a pretty versatile dish.

So far I've made ham and green olive (the classic provençal version), bacon and mushroom (the classic hobbit version) and spinach, goat cheese, herbs and tomato. That's my favorite so far. I used tomato concentrate in a tube (try the Italian aisle of the grocery store) and swirled it in for a marbled effect that didn't work as well as I hoped but is still yummy.

I know my love affair with this recipe is too passionate to last very long, but I'm not sure what can take the place of savoury cake in my pantry and fridge. It takes about 10 minutes to prep, needs no supervision while baking. I can throw a piece in a baggie and have breakfast-to-go; I can keep it in my backpack (being careful not to squish it) for an after-school snack before work, we can eat it for a quick no-dishes-necessary lunch... plus, packed full of spinach, or made with 3 eggs and 4 egg's a pretty healthy way to get some protein (and we'd eat that much cheese anyway). Are you daring enough to try a cake that isn't for dessert? Let me know if you manage to break free of your coffee cake ideals and fall in love with this breakfast bad boy.

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