There's not much in Zoe Nathan's new cookbook, Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from Our Kitchen, that you'd traditionally consume after the sun goes down. But that's okay, because the book, released today, has breakfast on lockdown.
It's the first book for Nathan, one of this town's finest pastry chefs and bakers. Together with her husband Josh Loeb, Nathan is building a veritable Santa Monica restaurant empire, which includes, of course Huckleberry, as well as Rustic Canyon, Milo & Olive and Sweet Rose Creamery. (The pair will add two more in the next year: a wine bar called Esters and a Southeast Asian spot called Cassia are both in the works.)
The most charming thing about Huckleberry is its table of contents: The sections are arranged like the production schedule for the thriving bakery, beginning at 3:30 a.m. with muffins and working its way through biscuits and scones (4 a.m.), breads (5:30 a.m.), doughnuts (7:30 a.m.) and more before getting to more savory breakfast sandwiches and, in the world's most accurate description of most restaurant brunch dishes, “hearty plates with an egg on top.”
There really is something for everyone among the 115 recipes. Sugar-lovers will go for the fig and brown sugar muffins, apple-cinnamon hand pies or Nutella-glazed cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, while the more health-conscious can try the brown rice quinoa pancakes or something from the entire chapter of cereal recipes, both hot and cold.
There are even a handful of vegan and gluten-free baked goods, including banana chocolate muffins and pancakes with maple blueberry compote.
But even for the baking-averse, the book shines. The aforementioned hearty plates will make you want to throw a brunch party. They range from the creatively inspired tartine with spicy bitternut squash, kale, pancetta and egg, to traditional classics, such as an old-school croque monsieur with homemade bechamel, or Nathan's mom's version of egg in a hole, which sprinkles a little brown sugar on the bread.
Noted food photographer (and Long Beach-based food blogger) Matt Armendariz shot the images, making the whole project the product of local talent. His lovely full-page photos have a bit of a rustic look that makes the recipes feel more accessible, though sadly there are only images of about half the recipes. Time lapse-style photo series are a great way to demonstrate techniques like making pie dough and lining cake pans with parchment, as well — too bad there are just a handful.
The best part about Huckleberry, though? Unlike the shop for which the book's named, you never have to wait in line to get in.
Brown Rice Quinoa Pancakes
From: Huckleberry, by Zoe Nathan
Makes: About 15 pancakes
1/2 cup (60 g) whole-wheat flour
5 tbsp. (50 g) cornmeal
2 tbsp. rolled oats
1 tbsp. flaxseed meal or wheat germ
2 tsp. chia seeds or poppy seeds
1 tbsp. millet
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups (480 mL) buttermilk
1/2 cup (110 g) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cup (200 g) cooked brown or wild rice
1/2 cup (100g) cooked quinoa
1. Put the flour, cornmeal, oats, flaxseed meal, chia seeds, millet, brown sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk, butter and eggs, and whisk to combine. Stir in the rice and quinoa.
2. About 5 minutes before you're ready to cook the pancakes, pre-heat a greased griddle or large skillet over medium-high heat; the griddle is ready when droplets of water sizzle and dance across the surface. One heated, lower the heat to medium to prevent burning.
3. Drop 1/3 cup (80 mL) of batter onto the griddle. When bubbles set on the surface and the bottom is golden, flip and cook for about 1 minute longer. Serve immediately, while hot.