Here in Chicago (and I assume most other urban areas in the Western world?) Sunday brunch is a pretty big deal. When you’re young, brunch is key for soaking up all the booze (and stories!) from the night before. When you’re old, like me, brunch comes after hot yoga but before a trip to Home Depot. It’s the bright spot of Sunday, a cheerful crescendo before the ennui and dread of the workweek ahead team up to ruin the rest of your day.
Brunch can be challenging when you’re not eating animal products. The only vegan options at most brunch restaurants range from unappetizing to downright nauseating. Typically, vegans can choose from a selection of lumpy oatmeal, dry granola, a cup full of withered and flavorless fruits, tomato slices, and breakfast potatoes.
My husband and I, like most Chicagoans, have a relatively well-established tradition of brunching on Sundays. Eggs benedict (subbing spinach for the Canadian bacon) was my go-to dish. Pretty much every restaurant had it. After giving up eggs, I was a little worried whether I’d ever be able to brunch again. After suffering through a few brunches with a sad fruit cup and unlimited mimosas (it was the only vegan thing on the menu, I swear!) my husband finally agreed to give up his bacon and take me to a few vegetarian/vegan restaurants for brunch.
One of our favorite vegan friendly brunch places in Chicago is Handlebar, and my Simple Savory Scramble is inspired by one of their dishes (the Pepita Scramble). Mine’s a bit more basic than the Pepita Scramble (no pesto, no kale, no need to deep fry the onions), so it’s manageable to whip up on a weekend morning. To balance out the spice and heat from the scramble, I added a bright and colorful fruit cup. Then, I mixed up a refreshing Grapefruit and Blueberry Sparkler to wash it all down.
Simple Savory Scramble (serves 4)*
*to make this SUPER simple, use frozen, pre-chopped potatoes and bell peppers.You can get them at Trader Joe’s!
1 package of extra firm organic tofu, drained and cut into 1″ cubes
1-2 lbs red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 2″ dice (or use frozen red potatoes)
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 small bell peppers, sliced: 1 red, 1 green, and 1 orange (or use frozen sliced bell peppers)
1/2 medium yellow onion sliced thin
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 tsp turmeric
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
Optional: fried onions to put on top
1) Preheat oven to 425F. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil, and arrange the potatoes on a single layer. Toss with garlic and rosemary, plus a little more olive oil. Bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through.
2) Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the tofu and cook until tofu turns golden brown and crisp, flipping tofu every few minutes to cook evenly. Sprinkle the turmeric over the tofu and stir until coated (the tofu will turn yellow, like scrambled eggs). Lower heat to medium and add peppers, onion, and jalapeno. Cook for about 7 -10 minutes, until peppers and onions soften. Stir frequently so as not to overcook or burn tofu. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes as desired.
3) Top potatoes with tofu mixture, and top with fried onions if desired. (I left them out this time.) Add a bit of sriracha for more heat if you want.
The fruit cup is self explanatory. Just take fresh papaya cubes and pineapple cubes and put them in a pretty dish. You could also add mint, berries, or whatever else you have on hand. I like to keep mine in the freezer while preparing the rest of the food, especially on a warm morning like today.
Grapefruit Blueberry Sparkler:
Add some crushed iced to pre-chilled glasses. Add 3 parts freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, and 1 part Izze Blueberry Sparkling Juice. Garnish with a thyme sprig. I made these as mocktails, but you could also add sparkling wine if you want.
What are your favorite brunch dishes?