16 September 2014

In Praise of the Arab Breakfast

I wanted to take a moment to write in praise of the Arab breakfast. On those mornings when I'm not running out the door juggling coffee and keys, I like having a proper home-cooked breakfast. I used to never eat breakfast, but more and more I find breakfast a centering part of my day, even if it's just 10 minutes to sit down and pause before rushing forward again. Some mornings it's oatmeal, others it might be toast and eggs (always with plenty of hot sauce). But especially in the summer, I love having sliced tomatoes and cucumbers as part of the breakfast table, preferably with some yogurt and bread and steaming hot coffee, and if I'm really dreaming, to be eaten outside in the shade with chirping cicadas and time to linger over the newspaper or a good book.

I'm not sure where what most people think of as the Arab breakfast came from, but most Arabs I know don't really eat breakfast to begin with, unless strong tea or coffee counts. I've always assumed the concept of a solid breakfast was imported from the west, and that the Lebanese or Syrians or Egyptians just started to put out simple light things they had around anyway: bread, olives, yogurt, cucumbers, and so the Arab breakfast was born. I particularly love having tomatoes at breakfast, with a bit of salt and olive oil. If you've never thought of tomatoes as a breakfast food I highly recommend you try it.

This kind of breakfast is very easy to throw together, and involves almost no cooking or baking, which I find makes it great for hosting brunch or house guests, or simply lazy summer Sunday mornings.

Ideas for an Arab-style breakfast:

Sliced tomatoes
Sliced cucumbers (preferably Persian or very small thin skinned types)
Thick yogurt (labne)
Feta or ricotta type cheese
Pita bread
Eggs (fried, frittata, omelet, etc)
Za'atar flatbreads
Fruit (fresh, poached, or in syrup)
Other types of bread or pastries

For the table: chopped herbs, salt, olive oil

** special credit for the delicious homegrown tomatoes in the photo goes to our friends Lauren and Andy, who let us steal from their prolific backyard crop while visiting them this summer

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