Whole Grain Mornings

WholeGrainMorningsWhen I received Megan Gordon’s new cookbook, Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons (Ten Speed Press), I thought rather jadedly, “Another whole grains cookbook? Really?” Fortunately, I don’t judge a cookbook by its cover.

This cookbook is a keeper. Here’s why: Gordon is an enthusiastic and unpretentious cook. Although she owns her own successful bakery, Marge, in Seattle, she describes her cooking style as “quite simple” and is refreshingly honest about eating real foods: “I don’t fear fat. I eat eggs, drink whole milk, and eat full-fat yogurt,” she says. She does, however, limit sugar, and generally adheres to a well-balanced diet of seasonal, unprocessed whole foods. A realistic and balanced diet. That’s something I can embrace.

The book is divided into seasonal chapters and further divided into recipes that are best for busy weekdays, leisurely weekends, and brunch. Interspersed throughout the book are personal anecdotes about the author’s journey from high school English teacher to “accidental baker” who falls in love with Sam and moves from San Francisco to Seattle — Another natural way to sweeten her recipes.

Many of the recipes are an appealing combination of old-school favorites and modern creations like the Triple-Coconut Quinoa Porridge. Made with quinoa, vanilla bean, fresh ginger, and coconut milk, it takes porridge to a new fashionable height. Similarly, Gordon updates classic baked apples by stuffing them with vanilla, honey, and ginger-spiced bulgur making these Bulgur-Stuffed Baked Apples with Walnuts and Raisins an ideal homey dessert or a satisfying breakfast.

Gordon makes the most out of seasonal produce. Sun-kissed fresh peaches receive special treatment in her Peach Breakfast Cobbler with Cornmeal Thyme Biscuits. And nearly-elusive huckleberries are deliciously captured in her creamy Huckleberry Cornmeal Custard.

While most recipes lean towards sweetness, there are several enticing savory ones including hearty Zucchini Farro Cakes with Herbed Goat Cheese and Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Easy Gruyere Soufflés with Fresh Corn, Leeks, and Millet, and Baked Pumpkin Risotto with toasted hazelnuts and Parmesan cheese.

In addition to the recipes, you’ll find Gordon’s instructions on storing, cooking, and freezing whole grains invaluable. And busy cooks will appreciate her easy-to-read charts on quick and slow cooking grains.

So get ready to welcome Whole Grain Mornings to your cookbook collection. She will be a wholesome addition.

WGMN-Saucy-Tomato-Poached-EggsSaucy Tomato Poached Eggs with Kale and Wheat Berries

I first had shakshuka at Eltana, a wood-fired bagel shop here in Seattle known for their crusty bagels and breads, spreads and schmears, and winter soups. Shakshuka is a traditional Middle Eastern dish of saucy tomatoes, peppers, and runny eggs. When I began writing this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like if there were hearty whole grains strewn throughout, so my version has chewy wheat berries, along with chopped kale, lemon zest for brightness, and capers for a slightly salty kick. If you’re nervous about spice, don’t be: the Anaheim peppers are quite flavorful without adding much heat. Serves 4 to 6

Morning Notes: A 12-inch skillet with a lid is ideal to allow all the ingredients to cook evenly and the eggs to poach successfully. Because people are particular about the way they like their eggs, use the timing here as a rough guide but rely on your own best judgment, too. If you’re in the mood to experiment with different grains, farro, spelt berries, or rye berries would be great. I’d just avoid any of the tiny grains like amaranth or millet.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 cup / 60 g diced yellow onion (about 1-2 medium onion)
2 Anaheim chiles, stemmed, seeded, and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce / 800 g) can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 cup / 85 g cooked wheat berries (see page 23)
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 bunch kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups / 125 g)
6 large eggs
1/4 cup / 45 g crumbled feta cheese
Flaky salt
Red pepper flakes

In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, warm the oil until it shimmers. Add the onion and sauté until just soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chiles and sauté for another 3 to 4 minutes. Then add the garlic and continue sautéing for 1 minute.

Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, cooked wheat berries, capers, cumin, paprika, lemon zest, and kosher salt and stir well to combine. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat until the sauce starts to thicken, about 15 minutes. Taste and season with more salt as desired.

Fold in the kale and simmer until it begins to soften into the sauce, 1 to 2 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to make 6 little wells in the sauce for the eggs to nestle into. The skillet will be relatively full at this point, so just do your best. Crack the eggs into the wells and cover the skillet. Cook over low heat until the whites are firm but the yolks remain a touch runny, 6 to 8 minutes. Top with the crumbled feta.

Scoop into bowls, sprinkle with flaky salt and red pepper flakes, and drizzle with a dash of olive oil. While I find this best the day it’s made, you can allow leftovers to cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Wheat Berries (1 cup / 170 g)
Water: 2 1/2 cups
Cook time: 50 to 60 minutes
Approx. yield: 2 3/4 cups
Cooking time varies widely depending on type of wheat berries, so check the package.

“Reprinted with permission from Whole-Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon (Ten Speed Press, © 2013). Photo Credit: Clare Barboza.”


Susan Russo is a free lance food writer in San Diego, California. She publishes stories, recipes, and photos on her cooking blog, <Food Blogga and is a regular contributor to NPR’s <Kitchen Window. She is also the author of  Recipes Every Man Should Know and The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches.