Story and photography by Lori Ross
Morning is a very special time of day for many cruisers, especially when hanging on the hook at a quiet anchorage. With a hot cup of coffee, we often watch the sun peeking over the horizon to reveal our surroundings in the early light of day and listen to the sound of water gently lapping at the hull, fish jumping and birds splashing into the water on their quest for breakfast.
I enjoy rising early, taking a cup of strong black coffee and ripe fruit up to the flybridge at sunrise, then later in the morning, I like to sit down to more substantial fare to start the day. Like the hobbits in author J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy – I call this meal “second breakfast.” While we all tend to think of breakfast as a single meal early in the day, some cultures have a tradition of “second breakfast.” Bavarians in Southern Germany have early morning Frühstück (breakfast) then, Zweites Frühstück, a lighter meal eaten of coffee, pastries and sausages around mid-morning. Following the tradition of Quebecois farmers, my Franco-American family would often have a light breakfast of coffee with toast or fruit at dawn, spend an hour or so on our chores (shoveling snow in winter and tending the garden in summer) then return for a rib-sticking meal of oatmeal, eggs or crepes before going off to work or school. While landlocked, we usually don’t have time for second breakfast, but while cruising, Jim and I often indulge in a 6:30-7:00 a.m. coffee with fruit, followed at 8:30 or 9:00 by a more substantial breakfast of eggs, pastry or cereal. We find it a gentle way to wake up the senses during a cruise.
Most of us choose cereal, eggs, breakfast breads, pastries and breakfast sandwiches in the morning, while others have unusual breakfast cravings. We have all eaten our share of cold leftover pizza, but my best childhood friend demanded tuna fish salad sandwiches for breakfast or half a cantaloupe filled with vanilla ice cream, even when we were children! My oldest sister craved chocolate cake with heavy cream to start her day. My Dad often heated leftover apple or blueberry pie for breakfast with whipped cream or ice cream.
Jim used to tease me about my own unusual breakfast cravings –French pates, cheese, baked beans and smoked sausages; soups; leftover fried rice or pasta from the night before; even salad – until we started traveling to foreign lands! He observed that the English and Scots eat smoked fish, black (blood) sausage and haggis (oatmeal, liver, kidneys and other innards) for their breakfast and many Germans start their day with Frühstück, a virtual deli platter of assorted cheeses, salami, bologna, smoked fish, boiled eggs, cereals and pickled salads. In France, we were offered French bread with a slice of pork pate and cornichons (dill pickles) in addition to croissants, butter and jam. While traveling in Asia, I ate breakfasts consisting of dim sum -- pork dumplings and sweet pork buns or congee, a rice porridge with a choice of savory, hot and sweet ingredients to put on top. We also had miso soup and Japanese breakfast bento boxes of teriyaki salmon, rice, pickles and steamed vegetables! In Quebec, breakfast may consist of sweet and savory crepes stuffed with cheese, vegetables, fruit, meat or cretons (a rich pork terrine) and baked beans. In Greece, the beach bars specialty was fried eggs atop a stew of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers. And, in the Southwest of the U.S., we ate Mexican (or Tex-Mex) breakfasts of spicy burritos, chilaquiles and hot chocolate. He finally had to agree that what I liked for breakfast was not so unusual….so I was redeemed!
On the boat, I aim for simple and convenient fare by creating a menu that allows for advance preparation, cooks quickly or requires no special equipment like waffle irons or standing mixers that I need to remember to bring aboard. Some of our favorites include: fruit, yogurt, eggs, sausage and bacon, smoked fish, muesli, granola, quick breads, bagels, pancakes and crepes.
Alone, we usually have juice or a little sliced fruit but when we entertain, I love making a beautiful fruit platter or fruit salad for guests. For a quick salad, just cut a few colorful fruits into bite sized pieces, place them in a pretty bowl and top with a sweet/tart dressing, a sugar syrup or simply lemon, orange or lime juice and a bit of sugar. Add fresh mint or citrus zest and you have a lovely salad. On a fruit platter, lay out contrasting colored fruits, side by side for a beautiful display or top one ripe fruit (melon, mango, pineapple) with a little fresh ground pepper or a pinch of chili powder, salt and a squeeze of lime as they do in West African and Latin American to awaken and enhance the sweetness of the fruit.
If we are not having cereal with milk, we often have yogurt and cereal (like muesli) or layered parfaits of fruit, yogurt and nuts instead. We also occasionally have cheese dishes – like welsh rarebit or use a soft cheese like ricotta with sugar and cinnamon to spread on bread or toast.
Our favorite egg preparations are soft boiled or poached eggs for me and scrambled or an omelette for Jim. However, when we have friends cruising with us, I enjoy trying out egg dishes that we can all eat at the same time, like frittatas, tortillas, quiches and breakfast stratas.
Breakfast meat and fish
For convenience, I usually bring pre-cooked sausages, bacon or smoked ham and smoked fish, but I occasionally make my own sausage patties (adding my own spices to already ground pork, veal and beef) or my own fish gravlax.
When we are hanging lazily on the hook, I really enjoy making warm muffins, bread and pastry. The scent of baking in the cabin, especially on a cool morning, is irresistible! Because they are yeast-free and there is no waiting to cook them, quick breads are the simplest breads to bake on the boat. Just mix up the batter put it into the oven. I sometimes prepare quick breads in advance at home or combine the dry ingredients of a recipe (flour, baking soda or baking powder, salt and seasonings) so, all I have to do is add eggs, oil or butter and milk and they are ready to bake.
If your boat has no oven, make pancakes or crepes on the stovetop to achieve the same effect. Mix the batter at home or the night before you want to serve them and in the morning, just heat your griddle and you have a delightful hot breakfast.
When we have adventurous guests aboard or other cruisers are joining us for breakfast, I like to get a little exotic and serve an ethnic themed breakfast and pretend we’re in a foreign port. Some of my favorites themed breakfasts are:
CafeCon Leche (coffee with milk, sugar and cinnamon)
Champurrado (Mexican Hot Chocolate)
Quebec Bistro Breakfast
Dark Roast Coffee
French bread or Croissants
Butter and Cretons (Pork Rillettes)
Sliced cold cuts (ham, mortadella, salami)
Sliced cheeses (Swiss, provolone, brie)
Sliced tomatoes and cucumbers
Assorted breads (rye, pumpernickel, white)
Butter, jam and cream cheese
Breakfast at the Casbah
Yogurt with honey and nuts, dates and figs
Flatbread (like pita or lavash) with preserves
Chinese Dim Sum
Pot stickers or steamed dumplings
Egg pancakes with onion
Steamed buns stuffed with pork and vegetables
Japanese Breakfast Bento Box
Miso soup with tofu and sliced green onions
Rice with soy sauce
Give some of the recipes a try on your next cruise…they might inspire you to be creative when “breaking the fast” on your boat
Winter Fruit Salad
At the start of the cruising season, fresh citrus, bananas, apples, pears and grapes are readily available. Section citrus and make the vinaigrette the night before. When you arise, simply slice apples, pears and bananas and toss the salad (gently of course).
1 medium pink grapefruit, peeled, sectioned
1 medium orange, peeled, sectioned
1 medium red pear, sliced
1 apple, sliced
1 cup seedless red grapes
1 banana sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tbsps balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Use a small sharp knife to peel grapefruit and oranges, removing as much of the white pith as possible. Section fruit and place in a large bowl. Add apple, pear, banana and grapes. To serve, toss with dressing. Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients in small bowl.
The origin of the Birschermuesli is Swiss-German; the word muesli means cereal. This recipe is based on the most delicious muesli I ever had. The restaurant, Hotel Deidesheimer Hof, was in the Pfalz wine region of Germany. Serves 4
3 cups rolled oats (not instant oats)
8 oz. apple juice
3 cups plain yogurt (thick Greek yogurt like FACE is best)
2 tbsps of honey
1 cup almonds chopped
1 fresh pear chopped with peel
1 apple chopped with peel
½ cup raisins
Place the oats and apple juice in a bowl and soak for an hour. Add dried fruit and mix well, then place in refrigerator overnight. The next morning add chopped fruit, honey and nuts.
Variations: Muesli is good with almost any fruit juice, dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, dates, figs), nuts and fresh fruit (berries are yummy). The chopped apple and pear gave a nice crunch though, so you may want to add a crunchy and a soft fruit. Some people use flavored yogurt instead of plain and eliminate the honey from the recipe.
Yogurt honey and nut parfait
During the Miami Boat Show, Jim and I stayed at a lovely hotel near the beach called The Abbey that had a Middle Eastern/Continental restaurant. They offered this yogurt dish for breakfast with thick Greek yogurt and toasted sliced almonds. It was the best yogurt dish I had ever had and very easy to replicate at home.
8 tbsps honey
1 cup nuts
16 oz. plain yogurt (thick Greek yogurt like FACE tastes best)
Toast nuts in a fry pan at medium heat for 3-4 minutes until gold and crunchy (don’t let them burn). Place in each of four small glasses (pretty) or bowls, 2 tbsps honey plus ¼ cup nuts and top with 4 oz. yogurt. Alternatively, simply place yogurt in each bowl and top with honey and nuts.
Variation: Sprinkle 2 tbsps of brown sugar over plain yogurt for a caramel syrup flavor. Add nuts or fruit if you wish.
My mother sometimes made this melted cheese dish on a cold day for breakfast or lunch. It is rich, filling and delicious and made in minutes using a microwave.
2 tbsps butter
½ cup beer
2 egg yolks
½ tsp dry mustard
pinch of pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 cups grated cheddar, Swiss, American or other cheese, as desired
4 Slices of bread or English muffins, toasted
4 slices of tomato sautéed in a ½ tsp of oil, salt and pepper
In a deep, 1 1/2-quart non-metallic casserole, melt butter for 30 seconds on high in microwave. Add beer, beaten eggs and spices and stir until well blended. Stir in cheese and heat uncovered on high in microwave oven 2 minutes. Stir, then heat for 1 minute more. If cheese is not completely melted or the mixture has not thickened enough to coat a spoon, heat for 30 seconds then check again. Timing will depend on the individual microwave. If you want to make the mixture VERY smooth, beat with rotary beater for several minutes (I prefer it less smooth with some texture). Spoon welsh rarebit over toasted English muffins or bread topped with thin slices of sautéed tomato or ham.
Variations: Welsh rarebit is infinitely flexible…add small pieces of ham, sausage or bacon to the cheese mixture or add chopped scallions or chives for a fresh flavor. You may also want to experiment with adding small shrimp, crab, lobster or smoked salmon for an elegant brunch dish. Cooked, chopped broccoli, cauliflower, sugar snap peas or zucchini are also nice added to the cheese.
While we usually make scrambled or boiled eggs or omelettes when we are alone, we love the ease of making frittata, tortillas and quiches when we have guests
Easy Frittata, Tortilla or Quiche
Tortilla is Spanish, frittata is Italian and both are basically the same recipe of eggs, onions and parmesan cooked on the stove top with additions of other items based on national preferences. For example, in Spain, most tortillas I’ve tasted include potatoes while in Italy, frittatas often included antipasto vegetables such as roasted peppers, mushrooms and artichoke hearts.
According to Julia Child’s classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the classic Quiche Lorraine contains heavy cream, eggs and bacon, no cheese. It is usually baked in a pastry crust. However, endless variations of quiche with cheese, meat, veggies with or without a crust abound. The recipe below provides the basics for making a stove top tortilla or frittata
Stove top tortilla or frittata:
Use a non-stick pan that is 9" in diameter.
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsps olive oil
½ tsp cracked black pepper
½ tsp salt
salt and pepper to taste
Sautee sliced onions gently in the olive oil until soft and golden. At this point you may add your optional additional items to sautee.
Beat and season the eggs, adding cream and cheese to the mixture, add to the pan and turn the heat down low. Tip the pan around slightly so the egg mixture settles in evenly. After cooking for 5-6 minutes run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen. If it slides around, it is almost set. To finish cooking, place frittata under a preheated hot broiler for 1 minute or cover fry pan with a plate and flip frittata upside down into it. Slip frittata (top down) back into pan to brown top and finish cooking. Cut into wedges and serve.
½ cup cheese (parmesan, Swiss and cheddar are always nice)
½ cup cream
½ cup ham, bacon or sausage cubed
½ cup cooked potatoes cubed
½ cup assorted fresh herbs
½ cup marinated artichoke hearts drained and sliced
½ cup chopped cooked vegetables asparagus, mushrooms, roasted peppers, zucchini, broccoli
½ cup chopped tomatoes or ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes
½ cup small cooked shrimp or crab meat
½ cup chopped cooked lobster meat
1 tbsp fresh thyme or ¼ tsp dried thyme
Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a 9 inch non-stick fry pan. Add egg mixture to the pan, then sprinkle with 1 tbsp each of chopped pimento peppers, sliced marinated mushrooms (drained), chopped sundried tomatoes and sliced black olives. Sprinkle frittata with cheddar, Swiss, feta or goat cheese and continue with recipe.
12 oz marinated artichoke hearts sliced
3/4 cup cream ½ tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 cup grated Swiss or cheddar cheese
1 tbsp fresh thyme or ¼ tsp dried thyme
Set oven to 350 degrees. Place artichokes in 9 inch non-stick pan and cook stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes. Place eggs, cream and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine. Spread artichokes in a 9” square or round baking pan. Pour egg mixture over artichokes and sprinkle with cheese and thyme. Cook in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes until it is golden and bubbling and set. Cut into wedges or squares and serve.
Quiche with a Ham Crust
Chop boiled or baked ham fine and set aside. Oil a 9” square or round baking pan. Place chopped ham in a thin layer on the bottom. Mix eggs with cream, cheese and herbs. Pour into baking pan over ham. Cook for 30 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve. The crust of ham will add a lovely texture to the finished dish.
Sweet and savory quick breads are easy and impressive. You can make the following recipes in bread pans, muffin tins or cake pans. Substitute blueberries or bacon and cheddar for ingredients you have aboard!
Sweet Blueberry Quick Bread
2 cups self-rising flour
½ cup sugar plus 2 tbsps for topping
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream or milk or a mixture of each
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup frozen, dried or fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or oil an 8 x 8-inch cake pan or bread pan. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except 2 tbsps of sugar and the blueberries and mix well. Fold in the berries. Spread the cake evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining 2 Tbs sugar evenly on the top of the bread. Bake until the bread springs back when lightly touched in the center, 50 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature cut into squares. Serves 6-8.
Savory Bacon and Cheddar Quick Bread
2 3/4 cups self-rising flour
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1 cup grated cheddar
1 cup chopped cooked bacon
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp sea or kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or oil an 8 x 8-inch cake pan or . In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, folding in the cheese and bacon at the end of mixing. Spread the cake evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle sea or kosher salt on the top of the bread. Bake until the bread springs back when lightly touched in the center, 50 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature cut into squares. Serves 6-8.
This recipe is the one my French-Canadian mother used when I was growing up. It is simple and delicious when crepes are rolled around brown sugar and butter or topped with maple syrup. Makes 6-7 crepes.
1 cup flour
2 cups milk
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, egg, and milk. Heat a large skillet or crepe pan over a medium-high heat. Spray the pan with Crisco, butter, cooking oil or non-stick cooking spray. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into the pan. Roll pan around or back and forth to spread the batter very thin – it should touch the edge of the pan. Flip the crepe when it starts to bubble. When it is finished cooking, remove it and repeat this process with the remaining batter. Either top with maple syrup and butter or butter and brown sugar for a traditional flavor. Alternatively, you may wish to stuff the crepe with fruit, cheese, ham, sausage or vegetables.