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The Alice Waters breakfast

Or at least that's what I'm beginning to call it ever since seeing her make it on 60 Minutes. It consists of eggs fried in olive oil, served on diced tomatoes on toast. I've made it several times since, finding it to be a delightful and delicious combination I had never tried before. I guess using chopped tomatoes in an omelette can be considered standard fare, but topping it on toast and putting a fried egg on top seemed unique to me. Is this something anyone has ever seen in restaurants? I never have.

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  1. Tomatoes are common with breakfast in Britain and Latin America. Not common in the US, until recently, even though Huevos Rancheros have long been on breakfast menus in some sections of the country - but that uses tortillas.

    Americans aren't big on vegetables for breakfast and, in the US, tomatoes are considered a vegetable, ever since the Supreme Court said so.
    In Nix v. Hedden, 149 U.S. 304 (1893)[1], the United States Supreme Court decided that the tomato was a vegetable (rather than a fruit which it is botanically,) under the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883, which required a tax to be paid on imported vegetables.

    9 Replies
    1. re: MakingSense

      <Americans aren't big on vegetables for breakfast >

      Have to disagree with you there. Eggs Florentine are ubiquitous in Manhattan, and spinach is most definitely a vegetable. Unless you're making a distinction between breakfast and brunch, in which case I agree with you.

      1. re: small h

        OP was talking breakfast, not "brunch."
        People eat lots of stuff for brunch.
        Most of the 300 million Americans - at least those who aren't skipping breakfast - are grabbing bagels, toast, cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, eggs if they're lucky, cold pizza, donuts, etc.
        Eggs Florentine ain't on the breakfast menu at truck stops and diners in towns and along highways across the US. Not at the Waffle House or part of Denny's Grand Slam. Ain't made it to McD's yet.
        The closest you might find would be a Western Omelet as a ubiquitous American breakfast item that included veggies. Or perhaps shreds of onions and peppers in some hash browns.

        1. re: MakingSense

          Speaking of McD's, didn't (or does?) their breakfast burrito have diced tomatoes in it? I've never actually eaten one, but I seem to recall commercials involving chunks of lovely, red tomatoes. Could've been added as an artistic license, of course.

          1. re: cimui

            Good catch. At least I think.
            I've never eaten one either, but I checked on their website and found that the "eggs" contain [emphasis added]:
            "Sausage & Scrambled Egg Mix
            Pre-cooked egg product [eggs, nonfat dry milk, soybean oil, food starch-modified, salt, natural black pepper flavor (plant source), extractives of black pepper, xanthan gum, citric acid, natural (dairy and botanical source) and artificial butter flavor, annatto extract (color)], pre-cooked sausage [pork, water, dextrose, spices, corn syrup solids, sugar, monosodium glutamate, BHA, propyl gallate, citric acid (protect flavor)], VEGETABLE BLEND (TOMATOES, GREEN CHILIES, ONIONS, calcium chloride, citric acid)."

            Teeny tiny bit of vegetable bring up the rear of the list.
            You're right that it is "artistic license." Just to give it that little bit of South of the Border flair, huh?

            I'll keep skipping this one.

      2. re: MakingSense

        Sliced tomatoes in season are far from unknown on Southern American breakfast tables, and a slice of tomato is a common addition to a sausage biscuit, when it's eaten ungravied as a sandwich. Tomatoes, onions and sweet peppers are popular all over the country as omelet fillings, with California adding the ubiquitous canned green chiles. My favorite omelet to make at home is a French-style thing with melted pepper-jack cheese rolled up inside of a green chile, topped with pico de gallo, sour cream and a drizzle of Pico Pica taco sauce.

        1. re: Will Owen

          I was JUST this minute thinking of you! I'm about to take "your" wonderful pork shoulder roast out of the oven. 'Bout the 4th or 5th time I've cooked it in 3+ months. It's the best. It's for tomorrow night's dinner but I like to pour the "juice" into a Pyrex cup and lift off the fat tomorrow. Thanks again and always for that, Will Owen.

          1. re: Will Owen

            Agreed. Growing up our weekend breakfasts in the summer almost invariably involved tomatoes. A bacon-egg-tomato sandwich on toast with mustard and mayo is still one of my favorite summer breakfasts.

            1. re: Will Owen

              my recently departed mother(91) always loved throwing tomatoes in with the frying eggs in the pan, then served over a piece of toast. She'd eaten em that way since a kid.
              Country cooking :)

            2. re: MakingSense

              << Americans aren't big on vegetables for breakfast >>

              I always flinch a little when I see these stereotypical comments on American diets. America is a huge country with many regional differences in diet. I am in New England and my family has always had veggies served at breakfast. I also see this in many diners in the area.

            3. I make shakshuka for breakfast now & then. Here's a recipe, if you like a nice hearty tomato & egg concoction:


              1. I had something along these lines at Cafe Fanny, which I'm sure you know is an Alice Waters cafe in Berkeley. Poached egg on toasted english muffin with tomatoes, drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette. This was more than 10 years ago, when I was but a fledgling food lover and it seemed really new and unusual... and delicious! Now it's just part of my repertoire and would not surprise me to see it on a menu somewhere, at least here in California, though I don't specifically look for it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: soniabegonia

                  I've had poached eggs on sliced tomatoes many times restaurants. I've just asked for that and never get a funny look. But, like you, I live in NoCal. Don't think I ever saw that my first 30 years living in Atlanta.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    I too live in northern California, but have seen sliced tomatoes on the menu in other states as well. It would tend to be in coffee shops or diner type places. It would either be listed as a side or as an option for the kind of breakfast where you select how you want your 2-3 eggs prepared, what kind of meat side or substitute sliced tomatoes, and toast.

                    It sticks in my head because I would frequently pick sliced tomatoes over sausage or bacon (shocking, I know). Just now, I googled: diner eggs sliced tomatoes, and turned up the option on random menus in states like Florida, Michigan, California, New Jersey.

                    Another thing I order for breakfast where tomatoes are a key ingredient is a bagel with cream cheese and sliced tomatoes, yum!

                2. Can't say that I've seen it in a restaurant - I'm not sure that my brain on the hunt for a meal would even see it since a frequent breakfast for me is grilled tomato and fried egg on quince or damson toast. When ordering, I look for things I wouldn't typically have at home.

                  It is such tasty breakfast.

                  1. I prefer grilled tomatoes, which are especially convenient considering that you can cook everything in a single pan. Halve the tomatoes, swipe the cut ends through a bit of salt, and cut-side down into the pan; toast the bread and fry the egg alongside. By the time the egg is cooked through, the tomatoes will be nicely softened and caramelized.

                    1. Well, I would not like the wetness of the tomatoes (especially if they are not hot; I like my eggs very moist but not juice or watery fluid near them) in that mix. I'd prefer to do something Catalan inspired - rub the toast with a meaty tomato, then top it with an egg deeply fried in EVOO.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: Karl S

                        Karl, what do you mean by "deeply fried" egg? BTW, like your avatar.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          I mean an egg that is, instead of being poached in simmering water, is cooked in hot oil. It's what is meant by a fried egg in Spain and parts of France and elsewhere.

                          Thanks on noticing my late beloved Boston terrier. He liked all food except celery (I like celery, but his short muzzle made it difficult to enjoy).

                          1. re: Karl S

                            So it's not fried hard?

                            Somewhere I have a video of my dearly departed horse when I attempted to give him celery. It looked like a blender with the lid left off. He did NOT like celery either :)

                              1. re: c oliver

                                PS: I think you get by now that I seriously love eggs, and am always looking for ways to include them in a meal. I think eggs are particularly fine because they are a poor person's food, and poor people the world over have created an ginormous repertoire of uses for them at all hours of the day that are not only delicious and economical, but inspired. I am uninterested in becoming vegan because of my veneration of the myriad uses of the egg.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  Yeah, I'd say I figured that out about ya. Me too. Growing up, if my mother had had a busy day, we might have breakfast for dinner - eggs, sausage, grits and biscuits. Nothing better.

                          2. re: Karl S

                            Oh yum yum yum. I love the Catalan rubbed toast in the summer when the tomatoes are juicylicious. Why have I never thought to perch a fried egg atop and have it for breakfast ... or lunch ... or dinner ... or ?!?! Thanks Karl.

                            1. re: cinnamon girl

                              Folks not familiar with "Pan con tomate" or "Pan a la catalana" can search for it as they are interested. Perfect for meaty summer tomatoes (in the winter, I like others favor the Campari or Amore large cocktail tomatoes if they are left on a sunny windowsill for at least a week after being brought home from the market; they are pretty good for what they are, seasonality and locavorism be damned).

                              Btw, there's nothing saying one could not put a clove of garlic in the deep oil while it heats up, removing it before it browns, then dropping the raw egg in the oil to poach-fry. I drain my fried eggs on a paper towel, not too perfectly; I do not snip away the frilly browned edges of the cooked whites, as I view those as a feature rather than as a bug. Top with freshly ground pepper and coarse salt of choice.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                "snip away the frilly browned edges"? Puleeze. Just how precious can we get? Re the garlic clove, I like that idea. I use Hazan's carbonara recipe and whole cloves are cooked in the olive oil in the first step til golden brown and then removed. Flavors the oil beautifully. A little more clarification please. Is there enough oil to cover the egg or is it just like a fried egg in execution. Tx.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  Well, I like the egg to float in the oil; I use a small 1.5 qt pot that is somewhat tall for its size.

                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    Thanks. That gives me exactly what I'm looking for. Tomorrow :)

                          3. I will have to give this a try, thanks. I haven't seen this combination in many restaurants here in Boston, but I am sure with all the wonderful fruits and veggies in Ca., it's more common.

                            For me in the winter here, I buy compari tomatoes at Costco and let them sit on the counter for a week or so. For this recipe, I'll chop a tomato, add a little kosher salt and let it sit for awhile.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mcel215

                              I buy those tomatoes too! They are the best winter option for me.

                              I frequently make a variation of this breakfast with a soft boiled egg.
                              If I have leftover roasted garlic I spread that on the toast first.

                            2. Skip the AW breakfast.

                              Have hot rice, pickled vegetables, a bit of cold smoked fish, and tea for breakfast.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                Count me in, Sam! I just had white fish, jasmine rice, pickled peppers and black tea about an hour ago. So good :)

                              2. I saw the Youtube video of Alice Waters on 60 minutes.

                                The breakfast she made was much more elaborate that it sounds. She made a salsa with chopped heirloom tomatoes, fresh chives, fresh basil and olive oil. She has a roaring fire/oven in her kitchen, to which she used a huge ladle half filled with olive oil. A crusty bread is sliced and browned, all while Alice holds the ladle with the oil and egg into the fire, cooks to perfection. Topping the crusty bread with a heaping mound of tomato salsa. All plated, you had a very gormet breakfast. Along with her abundance of California fresh vegetables, it made for a very appealing looking breakfast for her and Leslie Stahl to sit down with. :) Her kitchen setting was pretty amazing too. Ambience and good food! A winner every time. Who wouldn't love it?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: mcel215

                                  If I were Alice Waters I'd do something spectacular like that too. Not being Alice Waters, nor having either her kitchen or her ingredients, I was sufficiently inspired by this thread to make a frittata for breakfast yesterday with four gynormous eggs, a half-cup of fresh salsa I'd bought (well-drained), half an avocado cubed, and a cup of grated grass-fed New Zealand sharp cheddar from Trader Joe's. S&P to taste, good big dash of Tabasco. Cooked it in the 5-qt. nonstick sauté pot until frizzling around the edges, then into the oven set on Preheat and up as high as it would go for about six minutes. Crisp fried edges, custardy in the middle, a nice change from eggs'n'grits...

                                2. We grew up (in the south in the 50s and 60s) having tomatoes for breakfast in many forms: fresh sliced on the side, fried green, chopped up in omelettes, huevos rancheros, baked whole, broiled slices. One of my favourite ways to serve them in the mornings is roasted as a side to poached eggs on toast.

                                  Alice's breakfast looks great. I'll give it a try soon.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: decolady

                                    That's funny. I grew up in Atlanta at the same time and I never saw tomatoes with breakfast until I moved to SF in the mid70s. Figured it was a Left Coast thing.

                                    Does that picture show that you put poached eggs on untoasted bread? Now that's something I've never seen. Can't quite get the texxture of that.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Oh no. The bread is definitely toasted. Sorry that didn't show up well.

                                      Re: the tomatoes for breakfast. I was in Louisiana. Perhaps it was because my grandfather gardened and tomatoes were a prolific crop. In season we had them at pretty much every meal. Or it could just be the difference in cuisine between GA & LA.

                                      My grandmother made something she called fried peppers which we sometimes had at breakfast, too. She would stuff banana peppers with cheese, dip them in batter, and fry them. Delicious with scrambled eggs and biscuits or corn griddlecakes.

                                      1. re: decolady

                                        AHA! Louisiana! See I've never considered LA as truly part of the South because of all that racy French blood :) Those peppers sound great.

                                      2. re: c oliver

                                        I'm of a similar period in the South and experienced them at home and in restaurants. Many restaurants had them as a side dish option for breakfast, some still do. Fancy places would broil them. Home style places would just slice them.

                                        1. re: meatn3

                                          Tomatoes at breakfast are very common in and around Nashville, especially if there's a buffet. Not cooked, but sliced. Never saw broiled ones, but perhaps we ate at too few "fancy" places!

                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            Well, that's based on memories made when I was a child. I'd sometimes get to tag along with my Father when he met with salesmen for his business. The meetings were often conducted in hotel dining rooms. I had never seen tomatoes broiled before and they made quite the impression the first few times! Anything with cloth napkins and tablecloths seemed fancy to me at the time...

                                    2. I love tomatoes for breakfast: roasted as per the Brits; diced and cooked with onions, then scrambling in eggs... Don't think I'd put the tomatoes on top of toast, though. I like my toast nice and crisp, not soggy.