Breakfast salad. It’s not something you hear as often as breakfast sandwich, breakfast burrito, or maybe even breakfast lasagna. And no, it doesn’t have eggs to give it that smack of “breakfast” approval. I just had some beautiful peaches and nectarines, and leafy lettuce from my CSA, and I didn’t feel like eating them separately. Or having yogurt with those peaches and perhaps some granola. Then I realized that this crispy oat-flecked topping could be great on a salad instead of yogurt. Perhaps with a savory twist.
Yes, a breakfast salad—or snack, or side, or midnight healthy binge. That was the ticket for me this past weekend. I had just gone picking peaches and nectarines at a farm Upstate, and these firm, just-ripe baubles of juices needed to be eaten, any time of the day.
You can pick your friends, you can pick your peaches, and you can pick your friends’ peaches, I’d learned. We four of us piled into a car on a sunny day to get out of the city, and came back toting dozens of fruits back—I’m not sure whose I might have ended up with after it was said and done. Some toppled out from their bags at the farmstand and in the car, some were eaten fresh from the orchard, handed to one another as we tasted amongst the different trees. Life brings an abundance of good things, truly—just go to a u-pick orchard in August to experience it in full, peachfuzzy smell-o-vision yourself.
Some of my favorite picks were the white nectarines. Still a little bit crisp, they had thick, juicy cells and a lovely floral taste. There were also pleasantly mellow white peaches, ripe and raring to fall from their stems. And there were the not-so-mellow yellow peaches, great for baking or cooking into some type of jam or chutney if you let them ripen at room temperature just a little too long.
I made a hand pie with some of those, for a picnic on Sunday. And have simply been eating the rest fresh, like in this salad, experiencing the different notes of flavor as the fruits age day by day.
I determine that slightly firm fruit are still optimal for slicing thinly to serve in a salad. Plus they’re a little more tart than sweet, adding balance to a refreshing bed of lettuces and dressing. I grabbed some whole rolled oats, “extra thick” ones according to the Bob’s Red Mill package I had, although I’m sure whole rolled oats of normal size works here just fine as well (just don’t use “quick-cooking” oats as they’re more flaky and easier to crumble to bits). I got a pan nice and hot to toast them lightly in, just like you would a bunch of nuts before adding to a salad. Except nuts have plentiful natural oils, and oats, not so much. So I dribbled a little extra-virgin olive oil on the pan to toast the oats with, encouraging a golden hue. Sprinkled them with some salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper, too.
It’s a simple hack to substitute some crispy croutons (or perhaps savory bacon or lardons) with some nice and healthy, crispy whole grains. You could just as easily toast some oats in oil or butter and add sugar and cinnamon instead to make a topping for your yogurt. Not sure why I need to have so many half-eaten bags of muesli in my cupboard, then. And the best thing is that you don’t have to make a great big batch at a time—like I would if I were actually making granola. Just a handful to sprinkle on your peaches, right now. Freshly picked peaches and freshly toasted oats. What a refreshing thing to wake up with in the summer.
Peachy Salad with Savory Toasted Oats
(makes 2-3 servings)
1/4 cup whole rolled oats
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper (latter optional)
1 peach (or nectarine), thinly sliced
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
about 4 cups assorted baby lettuces
Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan over medium-high heat about 30 seconds, or until hot. Add the oats and shake or stir the pan to coat them all in the oil. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle with the salt, pepper and optional cayenne. Cook, stirring frequently, another 1-2 minutes or until the oats appear lightly toasted (careful to watch for any signs or smells of over-toasting or burning). Remove from the pan immediately and set aside to cool.
Toss the lettuces and the peach slices in a large bowl, and drizzle in the balsamic vinegar and remaining olive oil. Toss to coat thoroughly, and divide amongst serving dishes. Top each with the cooled oat topping and serve immediately.
(for 2-3 servings)
1 peach (from a u-pick farm): $0.50
4 cups baby greens (from CSA): $2.00
1/4 cup whole rolled oats: $0.30
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil: $0.50
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, cayenne: $0.25
Four brownie points: It isn’t a fill-yourself-up kind of salad, but as a light summer breakfast, it’s a great start. You’ll get yummy antioxidants and potassium from the fresh peach, and plenty of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin K from the lettuces. The oats will add some slow-burning energy to your day, with fiber and protein to boot. There’s little need for dressing in a salad that features such prime fresh peaches (and lettuces, hopefully), so skip the bottled stuff and go with just a dab of good old oil and vinegar.
Eight maple leaves: This 100% plant-based dish is a seasonal treat, thanks to the summer’s bounty of peaches and leafy greens. When it’s not in season, those ingredients will not only be more expensive and probably less fresh, but have a much bigger carbon footprint due to the miles it’s traveled from. So enjoy it while you can.