Breakfast of Champions

kosher vegetarianI am not a breakfast food person. Not that I don’t eat breakfast — it is, of course, the most important meal of the day. But I am not one for cereal, omelettes, waffles or pancakes. Today I had leftovers from last night, tamari and mirin roasted vegetables on top of soba noodles. Yesterday was eggplant salad with a side of pita and hummus. My stepdad used to come down the stairs in the morning, spy the food on the plate in front of me and exclaim, “Soup, it’s not just for breakfast anymore!”

I’ve tried, really, I have. This past June, when Whole Foods put large containers of Fage yogurt on sale, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to get more into breakfast. I’ll have some in the morning with a teaspoon or two of jam, maybe a nice bit of honey swirled in, I told myself. After taking a look at the expiration date – all the way in August! – I bought several containers, assuring myself that this would be the perfect way to start my breakfast quest.

Well, it didn’t work. The yogurt got eaten, all right, just not for breakfast. I used it in Ana Sortun’s beet tzaziki (I’ll post the recipe soon, Scout’s Honor), to cool down curries and dress up dressings. And then there were these paletas.

This is a riff on another one of Fany Gerson’s ice pops. She makes hers with blackberries; I thought this was the perfect opportunity to use the pint of blueberries from my CSA. She suggests using the berries whole, or, if they are too big (a problem I can’t possibly imagine) to slice them in half. I tried her method but soon discovered the pop stick could not be inserted properly. Instead, I used the blender to whirl it all together.

A lovely byproduct of making the lemon simple syrup for this dish is candied lemon peel. As I munched on mine, I pondered what other things would be nice candied. More on that one in a later post, I hope.

And if you ask me, these would make a perfectly suitable breakfast.

Yogurt Blueberry Ice Pops – adapted from Fany Gerson’s Paletas

1 lemon

½ cup water

½ cup sugar

1 ½ cups plain unsweetened Greek-style yogurt

2 Tablespoons honey

2 cups fresh blueberries

Directions

Rinse the lemon, then peel it. (This recipe uses only the peel, so save the lemon for a different use.) Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon peel, lower the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, then refrigerate until chilled.

Put the yogurt and honey in a blender, add the chilled syrup and blend to combine.

Put the berries in the blender and whirl.

Pour the mixture into the molds.

If using conventional molds, snap on the lid and freeze until solid, 3 to 4 hours. If using glasses or other unconventional molds, freeze until the pops are beginning to set (45 minutes to 1 hour), then insert the sticks and freeze until solid, 3 to 4 hours.

Fire and Ice

Rocket pops awaiting lift-off. Houston, we have a problem...

I had a plan for this blog post, but life got in the way. It was, and still is, going to be about paletas, Mexican ice pops which, according to a trendologist (yes, that’s an actual job) I profiled last fall, are going to be the next big thing. I hadn’t thought much about them until my neighbor told me about a paletas cookbook she’d come across. I borrowed the book, found a recipe that I wanted to make and began composing my post. I’d even made the ice pops, photographed and served them, to good reviews, as dessert last Sunday night.

But after we bid adieu to our dinner guests and as Rich was in the kitchen cleaning up, I came across this story via Facebook. Our friend Brian Levinson, one of the most important people in the world to me, had been in a horrible fire at his apartment in Queens. He and his childhood friend Eric were (and still are) in the burn unit at New York-Presbyterian hospital.

So instead of writing this blog post, we went to sleep as well as we could, and then in the morning we set out for New York City. Rich had to go back to Boston that night, but I ended up staying the week. I’d been meaning to visit Brian and other friends in New York for vacation this summer, but this was obviously not what I’d had in mind.

Now, I don’t want to be a total downer about this. Brian was in excellent spirits when we got to him and throughout the week. He basically held court in the burn unit, to the mild annoyance of his nurses, who would have preferred if he’d kept his oxygen mask on instead of cracking wise. In his honor, I subbed on his trivia team at the weekly game at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg. Our team name: Fryin’ Levinson. (We won.)

Eventually Friday came around and it was time to start back to Boston. I thought about what I’d written so far for this blog post, but, in all due respect to trendology, it seemed a little trite. Everything seemed a little trite after seeing what my friend was going through. Feeling down, I ended up wandering into the Strand Book Store before catching my bus to Boston. I hadn’t been to the Strand in years, even though it was one of my regular haunts when I lived there. Old habits die hard, and without even thinking about it, I found myself in the cookbook section. And there, tucked into the dessert section, I came across the very same paletas cookbook I’d borrowed from my neighbor. I think it was the universe’s way of calling me back to work.

So get well, soon, Brian and Eric. If you want to help Eric, who is a circus performer and doesn’t have health insurance, check out this benefit event page.

Paletas de Aguacate: Avocado Ice Pops, from Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas by Fany Gerson

Gerson, one of the country’s most authoritative voices on Mexican sweets, is the owner of La Newyorkina, a Mexican frozen treats and sweets business. When I first borrowed her book from my neighbor, I made note of a few pops that tickled my fancy: spicy pineapple; sour cream, cherry and tequila. But when I saw the recipe for the paletas de aguacate, or avocado ice pops, I knew they had to be made that afternoon.

The recipe is very easy: a mix of simple syrup, fresh lime juice and avocado, all whirled up in a blender. The result is more sweet than savory, which might surprise a lot of avocado lovers out there. While most of us in the United States associate avocado with tortilla chips, avocados also have a sweet side and appear in desserts such as avocado milkshakes in places like the Philippines.

This paleta is sweet, creamy and 100% vegan.

Ingredients

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 small ripe avocados

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut the avocados in half lengthwise. Remove the pit and scoop the flesh into a blender, along with the cooled syrup and salt. Blend until smooth, scraping the sides as needed. Add the lime juice and blend until combined.

If using conventional molds, divide the mixture among the molds, snap on the lid, and freeze until solid, about 5 hours. If using glasses or other unconventional molds, freeze until the pops are beginning to set (1 1/2 to 2 hours), then insert the sticks and freeze until solid, 4 to 5 hours. If using an instant pop maker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Gerson claims this makes 8 to 10 pops. It made 6 in my wacky rocket ship molds.

Blast off! Get well soon, Brian and Eric.