Summer is just as hot as it is fleeting, and while skyrocketing temperatures and record-breaking heatwaves have many of us laying low during the warmest hours of the day, during the cooler evenings and mornings, the season requires seizing. That means minimizing chores and labour in favour of outdoor leisure – especially at mealtime, when easy-breezy dishes and no-stove recipes take precedence. And while summer suppers and lunchtimes are generally covered, with grilled meals and crudités, summertime breakfasts have long been given the short shrift, relegated to smoothies, cold cereals, and grab-and-go fruits and pastries.
Consider, then, the breakfast salad.
It’s not exactly a trend, but it’s not not a thing, either: last year, Lizzo posted a video of herself eating a breakfast salad on TikTok and, in a New York Times recipe for Breakfast Salad (basically just leafy greens and herbs with some boiled eggs on top), writer Julia Moskin noted that side salads are popular on Australian breakfast plates – Australia, of course, being the place that brought us avocado toast. So it has trend potential.
Mika Bareket, owner of Toronto cookbook store Good Egg, admits that breakfast salads aren’t regular characters among the books she stocks, but they’re in there: Julia Sherman’s 2017 cookbook Salad For President lists a recipe for Toast with Parsley Mint Salad for a morning meal; Jook with Quick Pickled Carrot Salad appears in the “breakfast” section of Hetty McKinnon’s To Asia With Love; and in Dining In, Alison Roman suggests a Morning After Breakfast Salad as a hangover remedy (it’s a customizable dish featuring a combination of any protein, leafy greens, herbs and eggs).
“Vegetables are not an uncommon part of a morning meal,” Bareket says, “but they perhaps are in our North American interpretation of breakfast.”
For Bareket, salad’s lack of inclusion on breakfast menus may be due to a sort of myopia about what a salad can be: in North America, salad is most often associated with fresh, crisp, leafy greens, which aren’t exactly suited to a morning meal, while a more hearty chopped salad would sit well beside scrambled eggs and toast. “Chopped salad is easy,” Bareket says, adding that her mother puts out a plate of chopped cucumbers, radishes and tomatoes every morning: “More of a salad plate than a salad,” she notes.
Which, ultimately, may be the key to adopting salad for breakfast: widening our parameters for what a salad can be. The books on Good Egg’s shelves suggest that this work is already being done, with the aforementioned titles presenting salads as main events, spread out on platters and artfully drizzled with dressing, rather than as sideshows errantly tossed in a bowl. Nowhere is this more clear than Salad Freak, the 2022 book (and bestseller) from Jess Damuck. “The possibilities with salad are endless,” Damuck says. “Salad, by definition, should be flexible. It’s just eating to feel good.”
Salad Freak is one of few books that includes a salad recipe meant explicitly for breakfast: Damuck’s Citrus Breakfast Salad with Spicy Granola (featured below, is a fruit salad, yes, but the addition of chili flakes adds a punch of unexpected spice that elevates it beyond your typical brunch side. Consider it your gateway to a summer of early-morning salads.
Citrus Breakfast Salad with Spicy Chile Granola
Damuck writes of this recipe in Salad Freak: “I made this salad for the first time in the woods of the Russian River Valley and ate it on a porch overlooking the trees while wearing a bathrobe. I isolated myself in an A-frame cabin for five days to write, but first loaded up on ingredients at the farmers’ market in San Francisco. I made it with avocados, and you can do that too. If you want to save time, you can use store-bought artisanal granola here.”
4 to 6 of your favorite mixed citrus, such as blood oranges, Cara Cara oranges, grapefruit, and Satsuma mandarins
2 egg whites, beaten
Sheep’s milk yogurt (plain or maple flavored), for serving (optional)
1/3 cup (75 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes (I like the brightness of Calabrian chiles)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups (265 g) old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
½ cup (85 g) toasted buckwheat groats (kasha)
½ cup (about 75 g) seeds (flax, hemp, sesame – go crazy)
½ cup (50 g) sliced almonds
½ cup (120 ml) good maple syrup (only the best will do, seriously)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
Prep: Slice and segment the citrus.
Cook: In a small pot over medium heat, bring ¹/3 cup (75 ml) olive oil and 3 tablespoons red pepper flakes to a simmer and then remove from the heat. Swirl in 1 teaspoon cinnamon and let sit for a few minutes (the longer it sits, the spicier it will be; I like to let it cool to room temperature). Strain into a large bowl though a fine-mesh sieve; remove 1 tablespoon or so of the spicy oil and set aside for drizzling later.
To that same large bowl with the spicy oil, add 3 cups (265 g) oats, ½ cup (85 g) buckwheat, ½ cup (about 75 g) seeds, ½ cup (50 g) almonds, ½ cup (120 ml) maple syrup, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 2 egg whites. Combine with a wooden spoon or your hands until everything is mixed and moistened.
Transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake, rotating and mixing every 15 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant, 25 to 30 minutes.
Assemble and serve: Arrange the citrus on your plate or plates. Scatter with a handful of granola and top with a spoonful of yogurt (use the back of your spoon to give it a nice swoop), if desired. Drizzle with the reserved spicy oil and sprinkle with flaky salt. Save any remaining granola in an airtight container for up to three weeks.
Plan your weekend with our Good Taste newsletter, offering wine advice and reviews, recipes, restaurant news and more. Sign up today.