I’ve finally found the perfect breakfast for me, and it’s easy being green. It lends itself well to overwintering hardy greens in the Willamette Valley, although we may have to search for them in the snow today. It’s a perfect farm meal, since kale lingers in the garden, and leeks can store well for a while. Until my rosemary unceremoniously gave up the ghost, I could harvest the herbs fresh each day.
Contrary to what a hundred years of breakfast cereal propaganda will have you believe, protein in the morning is a good idea since it doesn’t burn through you like empty carbs and sugar. After leaving my bagel habit behind, I’ve tried every kind of breakfast imaginable, including hot cereal, poached eggs, yogurt with fruit, and a ham sandwich.
But the Breakfast of Champions — a bowl of kale, ground beef, and leeks — is without doubt the best thing I’ve eaten for breakfast, and I eat it almost every day. It instantly makes me happier, not sleepy, and if I wait long enough in the morning, I can skip lunch. I’ll often make enough for two days and reheat a serving.
You’ll probably guess that with these ingredients and the paleo/gluten-free/nutritionist slant, I did not come up with this breakfast on my own. It’s the work of my friend and kayak-builder Brian Schulz, with whom I (mostly goodnaturedly) quarrel almost daily about diet. He’s often right, but I know how to cook, so it’s a pretty even match. (Incidentally, if you want to make your own traditional skin-on-frame kayak in one of the most beautiful places on the Oregon Coast, take one of his classes in Manzanita or other locations on the road.)
Anyway, he insisted on making me this breakfast one day when I was visiting his farm, and I got hooked on the flavor combination of coconut oil and kale. Who knew? For someone that pretty much follows the if-it-grows-together-it-goes-together principle of food combinations, and eschews fad oils altogether, I believe I have the necessary street cred to say it tastes good; try it. And yes, they’re paleo-friendly.
Charred chard with an egg is another green breakfast I eat when I’m out of hamburger meat. I really like the contrast of well browned leaves, crispy on the edges, and the silky softness of sautéed chard with the sunnyside up egg nesting in it. In early spring, try mixing your chard with another and punchier green mixed in during the last few moments, preferably wild nettles or arugula. I developed the recipe as I was writing my next column for Eugene Magazine, which will show you how to use the stems in a delicious chard stem pickle. Stay tuned!
Breakfast of Champions
- 6-8 cups torn kale or kale/chard mix
- one large leek
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mixed herbs: rosemary, sage, and thyme
- 2/3 lb. lean ground beef (about 7% fat)
- 2 tablespons of coconut oil
- salt to taste
Rinse and drain dry kale and chard (if using). Tear up greens into bite-sized pieces.
Clean leek by removing the tough green tops (save these for soup stock), slitting the leek lenthwise partially through the stalk, then rinse well under cold water, making sure to get any sand trapped in the outer layers.
In a large skillet or wok, melt coconut oil on medium heat, then add leeks and saute until golden.
Add herbs and ground beef, crumbling up the large pieces. Once no longer pink, allow the beef to sit without stirring to acquire a bit of browning, about 2-3 minutes. Turn beef over and let sit again for the same amount of time, then add greens. If your wok or skillet is too small, you may need to add in batches. Be careful, as the water clinging to the leaves may splatter. Cook greens down until tender.
Charred Chard with An Egg
- 4-5 cups chard leaves, washed, patted dry, and torn into pieces
- optional: 1 cup of spring nettles (be careful!) or dandelion greens, washed, patted dry, and torn to pieces
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 eggs
Preheat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Add greens and stir until any water on leaves has steamed away.
Add butter or coconut oil and minced garlic, and stir to coat leaves well. Sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste. Smooth out the greens into one layer, and let cook, without stirring, until the bottom is crispy. The goal is to mark the chard with little near-burned bits.
When chard is crispy on bottom, separate into two piles in the skillet with a spatula. Create a divot in the middle of each pie for the raw egg.
Crack an egg into each divot, and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover the skillet with a lid and let egg cook through until the yolks are done to your liking.
Carefully scoop out the kale and egg servings, and present on a plate with toast.