Salad for breakfast?

Does that sound weird to you?

I thought so too until I read a story by Julia Moskin in The New York Times.

She writes, "New Yorkers have taken to the modern breakfasts served at the city’s rapidly multiplying Australian cafes. This cooking style features bright mashups of foods that are healthy, natural and luxurious all at once, and that even the most hardened bacon-egg-and-cheese lover may not be able to resist. Cafes like Two Hands, Ruby’s Flinders Lane, Banter and Five Leaves serve plates of organic porridge with raw honey and grass-fed cream, free-range poached eggs with local bacon and roasted broccoli and all manner of avocado toast, garnished with everything from pickled onions and hoja santa to sesame seeds and shiso leaves.”

Well, I live in Arkansas and that all sounds foreign to me (I looked it up: hoja santa is a Mexican herb; shiso is Japanese basil). But because some of the most surprisingly good dishes I’ve ever tasted were during my trip to Australia, I'm going to share this morning salad idea from the Brooklyn restaurant Carthage Must Be Destroyed that was included in the article.

Breakfast Salad

• 2 large hearts romaine lettuce, outer leaves removed

• 2 lemons, halved

• 1 avocado, halved, pit removed

• 2 ounces sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover or rainbow

• 2 mini or Kirby cucumbers, cut into spears or sliced

• 2 or 3 creamy-yolked boiled eggs, at room temperature, peeled and halved

• 4 ounces feta cheese

• Flaky salt and coarsely ground black pepper

• Extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 handfuls soft herbs (basil, chives, cilantro)

• Sourdough toast, for serving (optional)

Wash and crisp the lettuce: Fill a deep bowl with very cold water, hold the lettuce heart by the stem, dip it in and swish it gently to loosen any dirt. Lift out and let drain upside down. Repeat with the other heart.

Cut off the white stem ends and gently unfurl each romaine heart onto a large plate. Use your fingers to fluff and separate the leaves, but try to keep the natural formation intact.

Squeeze half a lemon over each lettuce heart. Use a spoon to scoop chunks of avocado on top. Place tufts of sprouts among the romaine leaves. Place cucumber pieces and egg halves near the base of the lettuce. Add about 6 chunks of cheese.

Liberally sprinkle the plate with flaky salt and black pepper, then splash on plenty of olive oil, making sure to hit the egg, cheese and avocado.

Tuck the herb leaves in among the lettuce leaves or just sprinkle them over the top. Place the remaining lemon halves near the egg halves.

Serve with warm toast if you like. At the table, squeeze lemon over the salad and eat with a knife and fork, or with your hands.

Makes two servings.

 

There’s plain avocado toast, and there’s this amped-up version shared in the same story.

Why not a fried egg on top?

Avocado Toast

• 2 large slices crusty, chewy sourdough bread, preferably whole wheat

• 1 ripe avocado, halved, pit removed

• Extra-virgin olive oil

• Flaky salt and coarsely ground black pepper

• 1/2 lemon or lime

Optional garnishes:

• Poached or fried eggs

• Thinly sliced pickled or fresh red chilies

• Thinly sliced pickled red onions

• Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sesame seeds, or both

• Herbs, such as basil, cilantro, mint or baby arugula

Toast the bread to your liking.

Meanwhile, use a wide spoon to remove the avocado halves from the peel, keeping them in large pieces.

Drizzle the hot toast lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Let cool slightly, then place one avocado half on each slice of toast. Use the back of a fork to roughly mash the avocado into the bread, keeping it as chunky as possible.

Sprinkle with a little more salt, and pepper, if desired. Squeeze the citrus over the top and add any garnishes. Cut each piece of toast in half if they’re large and serve immediately.

Makes two servings.

 

In another case of “who knew?”: I’ve never once seen catfish cakes on a restaurant menu.

I didn’t even know such a thing existed until I flipped through the Summer 2018 issue of Front Porch, a publication of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation.

Inside, smack on page 30, is a colorful picture of a crab cake and a story about how President Ronald Reagan declared August National Catfish Month in 1984, and how Arkansas is one of three states, along with Alabama and Mississippi, that are home to the majority of the country’s catfish farms.

The magazine shares three recipes, one for grilled catfish and one for Dixie Catfish Chowder (a little warm for August), but it’s this recipe for catfish cakes that looks so good it has me jotting down catfish fillets on my grocery list.

I guess if I can’t order these in a restaurant, I’ll just have to it make them myself.

Catfish Cakes

• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

• 1/4 cup chopped celery

• 1/4 cup chopped onion

• 1 pound catfish fillets, cooked, flaked

• 2 tablespoons mayonnaise

• 1 egg, slightly beaten

• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

• 1 teaspoon lemon juice

• Dash of hot pepper sauce

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 3/4 cup Ritz cracker crumbs

• 3 tablespoons butter or margarine

Saute onions and celery in the oil until tender. Transfer to a bowl and mix with the fish and remaining ingredients except the cracker crumbs. Form into six to eight patties, and dredge in the cracker crumbs. Brown in a skillet with hot butter.

Makes six to eight servings.

 

Then about 10 days ago, I received an email from Heartland Catfish, a farm in Mississippi with another catfish cake recipe (never heard of them, now I have two recipes?): Smoked Catfish Cakes with Avocado Salsa.

The recipe, developed in conjunction with the Viking Cooking School, calls for brining the catfish and smoking it on the stovetop.

I’m sure it tastes wonderful, but the Arkansas recipe is a whole lot easier. But that salsa …

Avocado Salsa

• 1/4 small red onion, finely diced

• 1 green onion, white and green parts, thinly sliced

• 1/2 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely diced

• 1/2 jalapeno, seeded (if desired) and finely chopped

• 1 clove garlic, minced

• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro

• 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon) or to taste

• 2 large plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced

• 1 avocado, pitted and finely diced

• Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine red onion, green onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl; stir to combine. Stir in tomatoes and avocado gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve on top of warm catfish cakes.

 

A couple of weeks ago, a friend mentioned she heard the best way to cook a steak is in a skillet and she thought it was strange.

I told her I watch TV chefs do it all the time.

Luckily, I saved the Spring 2018 issue of Front Porch specifically for the following pan-seared ribeye steak from chef Jamie McAfee, executive chef at Pine Bluff Country Club.

I forgot the part about placing the steak in the oven after searing.

Pan-Seared Arkansas Ribeye

• 1 large (1 3/4- to 2-inch thick) butcher-cut ribeye steak, at room temperature

• 2 teaspoons salt

• 2 teaspoons black pepper

• 1 teaspoon steak seasoning of choice

• 1 tablespoon soft butter, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Season steak with salt, pepper and seasoning of choice.

Heat a large cast iron skillet or griddle on the stovetop for 10 minutes or until it is white hot.

Sear one side of the steak in the skillet for four minutes and flip. After flipping, place the skillet in the oven for five to six minutes. Top the steak with the butter and it’s ready to enjoy medium rare.

Makes one to two servings.

Looking for a recipe? Have one you’d like to share? Write to Potluck, Times Record, P.O. Box 1359, Fort Smith, AR 72902. Email: jharshaw@swtimes.com.