The Chef's Take: Roasted Root Vegetable Breakfast from Zoe Nathan

Many people who crowd into chef Zoe Nathan’s Huckleberry Café in Santa Monica come for her phenomenal morning pastries and baked goods, including the likes of chocolate-almond muffins, blueberry scones and lemon-kumquat teacake. But Nathan -- who is a veteran of San Francisco's cult favorite bakery, Tartine -- was actually trained as a chef, not a baker, and cooked at restaurants like bld in Los Angeles and Lupa in New York City before convincing her now-husband and business partner Josh Loeb to hire her as a pastry chef at his restaurant Rustic Canyon. "I had never done desserts before," she recalls. "At Tartine, I had done breakfast breads and lots of savories, so I kind of lied and told him I had pastry chef experience, and then when I got the job, I had to go to my parent’s house to teach myself how to bake!"

Even though pastries and breakfast treats make up a huge part of Nathan's repertoire at Huckleberry Café, the bakery she and her husband opened in 2009, the savory side of her palate has not been forgotten. These days, she shows it off on a menu that includes eggs served every which way -- in a hole, on a homemade English muffin and in a terrific mushroom frittata -- as well as in whole-grain creations like whole-wheat scones and brown rice and quinoa pancakes.

This simple recipe for roasted root vegetables and eggs is as versatile as it is healthful: Nathan eats it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. "You may have the roasted vegetables from another meal, and you can make something comforting and filling by just putting an egg on top," she says. "You just have a little bit of fattiness from the egg, and the protein, and it's super-healthy."

Nathan's new book, Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from Our Kitchen, is dedicated to both the sweet and the savory, with 115 recipes for breakfast, brunch, sides and pastries as well as baking tips. Among her suggestions: Pick the ripest fruit, use whole-grain flour whenever possible, bake at a high temperature for more flavor and browning -- and reduce the sugar and add just a little more salt. "People are scared to use salt, but it's a flavor enhancer," Nathan explains. "You can halve the amount of sugar in most any recipe and just double the salt and it would taste so much brighter."

For Nathan, eating well is about more than whole grains and local foods. It's about moderation and mindfulness. "Butter and white flour and pastry is actually okay in a mindful way, where you sit down and a have delicious latte with a piece of cake that someone has thoughtfully made for you," she says. "There should be no guilt around food. It's not about eating a cookie in the dark after your husband has gone to bed! Trust me, I am a woman who has two children, I get it. But balance is the key."

Roasted Root Vegetables with Eggs

2 or 3 small beets, plus 3 cups (110 g) beet greens, washed and chopped

4 tablespoons (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 apple, unpeeled, sliced into eighths
2 small turnips
2 cups sliced carrots, cut into ½-inch (12-mm) coins
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon capers in brine, drained and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 4 eggs
Fleur de sel, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).

Put the beets, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and 1/8 teaspoon salt on a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap thoroughly. Roast for about 1 hour and 30 minutes

Meanwhile, toss the apple, turnips and carrots with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and the rosemary. Place on a sheet and roast beside the beets until browned, 15  to 20 minutes longer, and the beets are fork-tender. While warm, but not hot, rub the skin off the beets with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. Slice the beets.

When everything is roasted, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the garlic in a large saute pan over medium-high until browned and fragrant. Discard the garlic. Add the beet greens and capers and saute until wilted. Add the roasted vegetables and saute until heated through. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Remove from the heat toss with mustard and parley, and set aside.

When it comes to frying the eggs, you may need to either work in batches or have two pans going at once. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a nonstick saute pan over high heat. Crack 2 eggs into a small bowl and gently slide them into the butter. (If you break a yolk, discard the egg and try again.) Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the whites are set but the yolks are runny, about 2 minutes. When ready give the pan a gentle shake to loosen the eggs.

Meanwhile, mound the roasted vegetables onto two plates. Slide the eggs on the vegetables, and spring with fleur de sel. Repeat with any remaining butter and eggs.

The roasted vegetable mixture keeps, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.

Andrea Strong is a freelance writer whose work often appears in Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She's probably best known as the creator of The Strong Buzz, her food blog about New York City restaurants. She lives in Brooklyn with her two kids, her husband and her big appetite.

Photos by Matt Armendariz

Portrait by  Emily Hart Roth

Recipe and photos reprinted by permission from Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from Our Kitchen (Chronicle Books). 

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