Note: “R&R” is an easier “abbrev” for Review and a Recipe. Helps keep things simple.
From the wordsmiths at http://www.thefreedictionary.com:
Noun1.portmanteau – a new word formed by joining two others and combining their meanings; “`smog’ is a blend of `smoke’ and `fog'”; “`motel’ is a portmanteau word made by combining `motor’ and `hotel'”; “`brunch’ is a well-known portmanteau”
My favorite portmanteau, by far, is brunch. Brunch, I might argue, is epitome of the good things in life. Sleep in late? Time for brunch. Can’t decide between breakfast food and lunch food? Time for brunch. Got a hankering for scones AND a sandwich? Time for brunch, indeed.
DC, luckily enough for this lady, is VERY into the brunch scene. Maybe those politicos and high-powered government folk like to blow off steam over coffee, omelets and Monte Cristo sandwiches. (If Texts From Hillary were still going, I like to imagine one pic might reference Hil noshing upon pancakes at a DC brunch joint and running the world.) This love is pretty evident all over the Interwebs, including here, here, and here; Yelp and Urbanspoon also have lots of message boards and lists related to DC’s epic brunch offerings. Booyah.
I recently hit up one of the DC outposts of Le Pain Quotidien for brunch with an out-of-town friend who was visiting the DMV. Le Pain Quotidien (French for “The Daily Bread”) is something of a hybrid between café-type joints like La Madeleine or Panera, with their fast-casual approach, and a sit-down-with-a-menu restaurant. With communal wooden tables, a rustic color palette, and a simplistic approach to style, Le Pain Quotidien really lets the food – and particularly the bread – sing.
On an earlier visit several weeks prior, I was on the hunt for a refreshing afternoon snack. Their 100% vegan-friendly Chilled Gazpacho, made with a tomato base, loads of red peppers, drizzled with olive oil, and chock-full of fresh herbs and a sprinkling of cucumber, was the answer to my prayers. Served with a side of rustic wheat peasant bread and a Mint Lemonade, it hit the spot.
On my brunch visit, I decided to explore more of the menu’s options. My friend and I planned to split their Breakfast Basket, a selection of breads and pastries served with jams and a chocolatey, nutty spread, but due to a brief power outage the night before (sheesh, DC – there wasn’t even a storm!), few of their breads were available. The staff still lent us the spreads, however, and whatever bread they could scramble. Their wheat bread was a perfect base for the Apricot and Raspberry jams, and that Chocolate spread? Let’s just say I contemplated swiping the jar and running out the door.
Their brunch offerings include the full lunch menu (featuring salads, tartines [open-faced baguette sandwiches], and various seasonal offerings), as well as a selection of breakfast goods ranging from Steel-Cut Oatmeal and cups of fresh berries to various omelettes and Riz Au Lait, a sort of breakfast rice pudding that looked delicious. In the end, I ordered a Tofu Scramble with soy cheese, mushrooms and herbs, and my friend thought their Asparagus and Parmesan Frittata, a seasonal item, looked like a winner. For the full menu, click here. It’s worth checking out for the photos alone!
My friend’s frittata was light and fluffy, chock full of asparagus and a generous helping of aged, nutty parmesan. My scramble was a bit of a gamble (tee hee, rhyme time – I kill myself); while I enjoy tofu in most forms (particularly marinated and stir-fried), I’d never had it “scrambled” like eggs before. Would the scramble be as light and fluffy as the eggs I love? Or would it simply turn to egg-colored mush?
Like the men of “The Hangover” during that imitation-“Rain Man” scene, my tummy and I were richly rewarded for our gambles. The beauty of the dish was its creamy, so-totally-egg-like texture and flavor. It maintained that subtle soy character while taking on additional flavors in that beautiful way that tofu can do. Softly sautéed mushrooms, nutty soy cheese, and various herbs all played their part in making my breakfast something extraordinary. While it was a hefty portion, it disappeared from my plate in a manner of minutes.
I sipped my little pot of coffee (all coffee is served in an individual white ceramic pot, which was charming), enjoying the delicious flavors and good company. We were there for about two hours, and the staff never once rushed us through our meal. It did take me a good 15-20 minutes to get a spoon for stirring my coffee mix-ins, but that’s a pretty insignificant quibble in the grand scheme of things.
In honor of my lovely breakfast, I’ve put together a recipe for my own Tofu Scramble. If you’ve never really tried tofu, this is a great “gateway” into vegetarian and vegan eats. Enjoy! Note: You can easily, however, substitute traditional eggs for the tofu. Just use 4-6 eggs as your base.
Not-Quite Vegan Tofu Scramble – serves 2
- ½ block extra-firm tofu, pressed for 4 hours at minimum. (Explanation below.)
- Cooking spray or olive oil
- ½ to ¾ cup sliced mushrooms
- ½ green bell pepper, diced
- ½ white onion, chopped fine
- 1 tbsp Bragg’s (vegan soy sauce) or traditional soy sauce
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup shredded soy cheese (or ¼ cup shredded traditional cheddar if you’re not going vegan). This takes the place of Gena’s nutritional yeast, a common vegan ingredient that adds creaminess and flavor to various dishes.
Here’s what you do:
Note: Pressing the tofu: Extra-firm tofu will taste better and absorb more flavor if you press it – removing the excess moisture – for an extended period of time. To press your tofu, layer it between two plates, lining each plate with a paper towel (the order being plate, paper towel, tofu, paper towel, plate). Top with a heavy jar or even a book, and leave in the fridge for 4 hours or more.
- When ready to cook, spray a sauté pan with cooking spray or drizzle with minimal olive oil, heating the burner to medium-low (4-ish on your stove dial). Sauté the mushrooms, green pepper and onion until the veggies are soft. Julia Child says “Don’t Crowd the Mushrooms,” and if you’re concerned about following the Gospel According to Julia (as I often am), cook them first, then set them aside and cook the green peppers and onions.
- Crumble the tofu into bits using your hands, adding it to the pan. (Here’s where it will start to look more like traditional scrambled eggs.) Stir-fry until the tofu has warmed through.
- Add your spices, soy sauce, and pepper, stirring to combine. Finally, add your soy or traditional cheese, stirring thoroughly until the cheese is well-incorporated and begins to melt.
- Serve with your favorite scrambled egg fixins. (Mine may or may not be good ole processed ketchup, which probably explains why I’m unlikely to ever go fully vegan!)
What are your favorite brunch spots in the DC area, or in your own hometowns? Are you fans of tofu and other vegan or vegetarian ingredients, or would you stick to traditional eggs?