Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Savory french toast with tomatoes and basil

Yum. Yumyumyumyumyumyumyum.

I have been struggling with coming up with some healthy breakfasts that fit into an Fast Metabolism Diet (FMD) Phase 1 box...For those of you unfamiliar, it requires a whole grain (often in the form of oats or sprouted grain bread in this phase) and a fruit, and most vegetables are allowed. However, there are to be no added fats. So egg yolks are out, as is olive oil. A lot of people rely on oat-based meals (for example, the pancakes here). But I can only eat so many oats and I was aching for something new. The FMD book has a recipe for egg-white french toast with strawberries that became my inspiration for this recipe- that combined with a heaping bowl of red and yellow cherry tomatoes from the garden and a beautiful pot of basil outside my front door.   

For anyone not working within the FMD restrictions, this is still a dairy-free, no-added-fat recipe. You can even make it with gluten-free bread if your diet calls for reduced gluten. I used a sprouted spelt bread that we actually found at a local farmers' market over the weekend. On a sad note, I forgot to store the non-preservative-laced bread properly and it went bad after 4 days. Learn from my mistakes, people. 

Here are the ingredients you will need for 2 servings of the healthy version (See the notes that follow at the end regarding variations that could be made):

2 slices of sprouted grain bread
Approximately 1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes
2 egg whites
Salt (ideally Himalayan sea salt)
Ground pepper
Chopped fresh basil
Optional:*(see note at bottom) 
Sliced onion
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
other seasonings such as garlic or onion powder, cayenne or red pepper flakes, etc...

Let's start by talking about the tomatoes. So what I have in the picture below are my "dueling tomatoes." Since this phase calls for no added fat, and cutting down on fats (but not cutting out!) isn't a horrible idea in general, I wondered what would happen if I roasted tomatoes just by themselves, in a non-stick pan, naked-style. The pan on the left has tomatoes that have been sprayed with olive oil, and the right side is nekked. Both have a light dusting of sea salt. I roasted them side by side in a 400 deg F oven.

Dueling tomatoes
After about 15 minutes, the tomatoes on the right, the non-fat tomatoes, looked like this:

Zero fat added
Aren't those awesome?? All caramelized and sweet and juicy.... I didn't end up taking a picture of the other pan, unfortunately, but they looked basically the same. Verdict: oil or any additional fat = unnecessary for roasting tomatoes. The juices they release during the cooking process are sufficient for making really tasty tomatoes. Sweet.

I'm glad we have that all figured out. So while your fat-free tomatoes are getting all sweet and gooey in the oven, you can prep the bread. For each slice, make a mixture of egg white (1 egg white or 3 tbsp of cartoned egg whites), salt, and pepper. This is also where you can also add any other seasonings that you think might taste good. Just remember that they should go along with the roasted tomatoes, so nothing that would add any additional sweetness. Use a whisk to combine the spices and the egg white, getting the white a little frothy. Place the bread in the mixture and let it sit a bit before flipping, allowing the egg white to soak in. This will depend on the type of bread you're using. If it is a long piece from a bread loaf (like the one below), I would suggest slicing it in half to provide more soaking surface. If it's a thinner piece, like Ezekiel bread, if you let it soak too long it will just fall apart- so just use your best judgment. Warm your non-stick pan over medium heat and then add the soaked bread. Let it cook for about 2-3 minutes per side, allowing each side to get a crispy brown. 

Browning the toast
Now here comes my favorite part: putting it all together.

First- the toast. Then the tomatoes, pressed down slightly with a fork to open them up and get them to stay put. Then the freshly chopped basil, finish with a touch of salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. 

At this point, you could eat it as-is and be super happy. Or this could also be the time for you to add any customizations you might want to experiment with. In the photo below, I added a drizzle of balsamic glaze (which I would argue should be a staple condiment in any home).
French toast  #1

*I mentioned some optional items...

...Let's talk about those: The second time I made this, I decided it needed a hit of garlic. I didn't think about it in time to toss the garlic in with the tomatoes, so I sliced the garlic in half lengthwise and let it cook, cut side down, for a couple of minutes before I added the toast. I also rubbed the garlic over the pan to get the garlic flavor on the bottom of the pan prior to adding the soaked bread. By the time the french toast was done, the garlic was also a pleasant brown. I served it just on the side (as you can see in the photo below) and T and I just cut and ate pieces with it as we went along. I would even consider roasting the garlic (whole and peeled) with the tomatoes next time. If it gets soft enough, you can just spread it onto the bread. If not, I would just serve it on the side as I did above. 

As you can also see in the picture below, I added onions the second time. When  I put the tomatoes in the oven, I also added 3 full red onion slices, thinly cut (still no added fat), and laid them directly on top of the tomatoes. They softened up nicely and I really liked the way the onion cut the sweetness of the tomatoes.

French toast, take 2!

Some other options: 
- If you just don't need/want/care to remove dairy or reduce fat, the flavor of this dish would likely be enhanced by adding those in. You could make more of a traditional french toast base by using a whole egg and about 1/4 c of milk, and then adding in your savory spices. Then you could cook it in a little bit of olive oil or melted butter. I still don't think you would need the oil on the tomatoes, but that's totally up to you. 

- A drizzle of pesto instead of/in addition to the fresh basil would add a super flavorful punch. Standard pestos usually have olive oil, and some have parmesan and pine nuts, so this would only be FMD friendly in P3.

- Finally, if you're really feeling nutty, I bet a poached or overeasy egg on this dish would ROCK. Although I generally think yolky eggs make everything better...

I hope you enjoy this savory french toast. What's your favorite unusual breakfast dish?


  1. This looks delish! What brand bread do you use? My sprouted grain bread looks and tastes pretty bad.

  2. Thanks! This was a sprouted spelt bread loaf that I got from a local bakery at a farmers' market. I have made the french toast part with berry compote instead of the savory element before using Ezekiel bread- that was actually pretty tasty, too. You just have to make sure you let the egg soak in so it makes the bread kind of light and spongy...