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Want to spice up breakfast? Add herbs

Rosemary, dill, parsley and cilantro are among the herbs that can transform a bland breakfast.

Associated Press

Rosemary, dill, parsley and cilantro are among the herbs that can transform a bland breakfast.

Take a hint from the French and perk up your morning fare with the incomparable flavors of fresh herbs.

With just a few snips of your kitchen scissors you'll transform your favorite egg, potato, quick bread or crepe.

"Fresh herbs expand everything," says David Barry, an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America who teaches breakfast cuisine.

"You can take something as basic as eggs and completely change how the aromas are going to taste," he says. "We turn to herbs a lot for our scrambles."

Adding herbs to a recipe can make it healthier, as well as tastier. The additional flavors reduce the need for salt, says Georgeanne Brennan, who wrote the cookbook Brunch and runs a cooking school in France.

Here's what you need to know to experiment with herbs at breakfast.

Eggs

"Eggs are a great place to try herbal flavors," Barry says. "They have a nice but mild flavor and welcome a wide variety of herbs depending on what you might have in your garden or left over in that grocery store clamshell."

Try adding 1 tablespoon of herbs, such as basil, parsley or chives, per two or three eggs. Opt for slightly less of more flavorful tarragon or dill, and just a teaspoon of woody herbs such as thyme, rosemary and sage.

It can be helpful to think in themes and accent other ingredients in your egg dish.

• French scramble: Round out a simple scrambled egg with chervil, parsley, tarragon and chives.

• Mediterranean scramble: Combine diced tomato, avocado and feta with freshly snipped cilantro.

• Tex-Mex scramble: Combine salsa, jalapenos, poblanos, broken corn chips, cheddar or jack cheese and fresh cilantro.

• Provencal omelet: Fill your omelet with ratatouille (fresh tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini) as well as onion, garlic, fresh basil and a sprinkle of dried herbs de Provence.

• Italian omelet: Combine fresh mozzarella, fresh sage or basil and a sprinkle of red hot chili flakes.

• Smoky quiche: Add bacon, onion and a teaspoon of minced fresh sage.

Potatoes

"Potatoes are such a great canvas," says Cheryl Jamison, co-author of A Real American Breakfast. "Chives come immediately to mind. I don't think there's a greater thing a chive can be than with a potato in any form."

Use similar ratios of herbs per three potatoes as listed here for eggs.

• Spiked hash browns: Snip fresh parsley and sage into a hash brown mix before frying.

• Herbed home fries: Fold fresh lovage, thyme, parsley, summer savory, rosemary and/or chives into home fries during the final 5 to 10 minutes of cooking.

• Rubbed baby potatoes: Roast olive-rubbed baby red potatoes with sage sprigs.

• Thyme scalloped potatoes: Fresh thyme and minced shallots complement creamy, eggy scalloped potatoes. Rosemary or sage also could be used.

• Rosemary potato pancakes: Combine rosemary, butter, cheese and mashed or grated russet potatoes. Flatten and fry on each side. Or try a similar technique with dill.

Breads

Herbs can transform a basic quick bread recipe to savory or sweet depending on your ingredient combinations.

Per dozen muffins, scones, biscuits, or rolls, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of delicate herbs such as chervil, parsley or chives.

Use slightly less — about a tablespoon — for stronger herbs, such as sage, rosemary and lavender. Add them to the dry ingredients to keep them well distributed.

• Cheddar thyme muffins: Cheddar and fresh thyme blend nicely in a savory muffin or biscuit.

• Sage biscuits: Sage's strong flavor mellows nicely with goat cheese for biscuits or scones.

• Sweet rolls: Add cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom with some extra sugar to rolls or biscuits.

• Basil scone: Experiment with different types of basils, including traditional, lemon and Thai.

• Harvest scone: Add currents, caraway seeds and thyme to create a savory sweet scone. Or use the same blend in a muffin.

• Provencal scone: Add a teaspoon of fresh or dry lavender flowers to a basic scone recipe.

Crepes and pancakes

We tend to think of crepes and pancakes as sweet foods, and herbs as savory. But their flavors can combine in unusual ways in your standard crepe or pancake recipe.

Use similar portions of the herbs as with the previous breakfast foods.

• Seafood crepe: Fill a basic crepe with crab, chives and tarragon.

• Earthy crepe: Fill a basic crepe with sauteed mushrooms and thyme, parsley and a little rosemary.

• Herbed apricot crepe: Tame the sweetness of apricot jam with thyme or lemon thyme to fill a basic crepe.

• Dill crepe: Snip dill into your crepe batter, then wrap the finished crepe around lox and cheese.

• Savory crepe: Fold fines herbs (a blend of chervil, chives, parsley and tarragon) into your crepe batter, then wrap the finished crepe around a filling of ricotta and caramelized onions. Or try parsley, chives or lemon thyme in place of the fines herbs.

• Mint pancakes: Add apple mint to baked apples spooned over pancakes. Or combine chocolate mint and raspberries.

>>BREADS

Apple Lavender Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon lavender flowers

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

1 large egg, beaten

1 cup peeled and diced apple, divided

• Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat 12 muffins tins with cooking spray or line them with muffin cups.

• In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center.

• In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, lavender, butter and egg. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir by hand just until the batter is evenly moistened. Fold in 1/2 cup of the apples.

• Fill the prepared muffin tins about three-quarters full. Gently tap the filled tins to release any air bubbles.

• Sprinkle the remaining diced apple over the muffins. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the muffins in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes 12.

Source: David Barry, an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America

>>BREAKFAST

Frittata With Mixed Herbs, Leeks

and Parmesan Cheese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 cups thinly sliced leeks (including tender green tops)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 large eggs

1/2 cup mixed minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, basil and mint

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

• In an ovenproof 10-inch skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.

• Preheat the broiler.

• When the butter foams, add the leeks. Season with salt and pepper, then saute until softened, about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat as needed to keep the leeks from browning.

• In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. Whisk in the herb mixture and cheese, then season with salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into the pan and stir to distribute the leeks evenly.

• Reduce heat to low and cook until the eggs are set around the edges but still moist at the center, about 15 minutes.

• Transfer the skillet to the oven about 6 inches below the broiler. Broil until the top is puffed and golden and the center is firm, about 1 minute.

• Using a wide spatula, carefully transfer the frittata to a cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve at once.

Serves 4.

Source: Adapted Williams-Sonoma Breakfast & Brunch by Georgeanne Brennan, Elinor Klivans, Jordan Mackay and Charles Pierce (Oxmoor House, 2008)

Want to spice up breakfast? Add herbs 03/18/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 6:00am]
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