Cindy Burke is the author of To Buy or Not to Buy Organic and recipe writer for The Trans-Fat Solution.

The breakfast salad

Everyone loves this salad

June 19, 2008

My always-curious six-year-old daughter and I were talking about good eating yesterday. She asked, “If I wanted to live for a long, long time, what would be the best food to eat?”

I told her that she could eat nothing but fish and vegetables and still live a long and healthy life.

“But mom, what would I eat for breakfast?”

Vegetables, of course. “Oh no, Mom, I’m not ready for that every morning.”

Unlike my little pancake lover, I do eat vegetables for breakfast almost every morning during the summer. When I wake up and the sun is already hot, I love the mild crunch and silky textures of a breakfast salad. But, I wondered, am I the only one, or are there others out there who enjoy a veggie breakfast?

A quick Google of “vegetables for breakfast” revealed two distinct camps.

breakfast salad
Salad for breakfast.

Most people will eat a few vegetables if, and only if, they are mixed with eggs — say, a few mushrooms or fried peppers wrapped in a cheese omelet. (And don’t forget the side of hash browns — but the bad news is, if you’re trying to eat several servings of vegetables each day, potatoes don’t count.)

I also read a few passionate epistles from veggie lovers who insisted that they would happily steam up a pound of broccoli, mix in a chopped papaya with a drizzle of honey, and chow it down for breakfast.

I couldn’t even face the smell of steamed broccoli in the morning, let alone a bowl of it for breakfast. But I have found that there are some vegetables that work very well for breakfast, especially in the summer when produce is so fresh and plentiful. And since I try to eat a minimum of five servings of vegetables every day, eating veggies for breakfast gives me two or more servings while the day is still young.

One of my favorite summer breakfasts is salad. In the summer months, when the local cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers are plentiful and popping with flavor, I happily eat this for breakfast almost every summer morning.

My breakfast salad is composed of cubes of cucumber, pepper, and ripe tomato, topped with ribbons of soft summer greens and finished with a soft-boiled egg and freshly cracked pepper. The vegetables need to be from the farmers’ market or your own garden — ripe, fresh, and high quality. The supermarket will do if you have no better choice, but the flavors in this salad should sing “summertime.”

Over the past four years, I’ve made this breakfast salad for people who don’t even like breakfast, for children (including my own picky eater), and for family members who only like to eat toast or muffins in the morning. Every person who has tried the breakfast salad has enjoyed it. I hope you’ll give it a try this summer.

The beauty of the breakfast salad is that most of the dish can be prepared one or two days ahead, refrigerated, and pulled out in the morning. The following recipe makes enough for two salads.

In the evening, select a firm cucumber and peel away the skin. Cut it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Now, cut the cucumber lengthwise into eight equal strips and then cut it into medium dice. Place the diced cucumber into your bowls.

Cut one large bell pepper (any color) into a similar-size dice and add it to the bowls. Now dice two ripe summer tomatoes or, if it’s early in the summer, substitute a handful of halved cherry tomatoes, and scoop them into your bowls.

Now is the time to add a sprinkle of salt to the vegetables if you like. I add a glug (about a tablespoon) of flaxseed oil to each bowl, but olive oil is also a good choice to moisten the vegetables and add a little fat. Then a drizzle of mild rice-wine vinegar, not too much — remember, this is for breakfast. Toss the diced vegetables with a spoon.

Next, add a handful of greens torn into bite-sized pieces — purslane is a summer favorite of mine, as is watercress or peppercress. Miner’s lettuce or lamb’s quarters are both tasty additions sometimes found at the farmers’ market. Shredded lettuce leaves are also good. Do not toss the greens with the vegetables yet, because the oil and vinegar will wilt the leaves.

On top, I crumble a little soft goat cheese. I am partial to the Port Madison goat cheese from my local goat farm. It smells as mild and milky as a newborn baby’s breath, so it’s perfect for morning. Any chèvre will taste good, as would a whole-milk ricotta.

Finally, I sprinkle a tablespoon of roasted sunflower seeds over everything. Then I refrigerate the salad overnight so it’s ready when I wake up in the morning.

In the morning, I take a salad out of the fridge while I make my morning tea. I bring a small pot of water to a boil and drop one large farm-fresh egg into the water. I like my soft-boiled eggs to have cooked whites and slightly goopy yolks, so I set the timer for eight minutes. When the egg is cooked, drain the hot water and peel away the shell under cool running water.

Plop the egg on top of the salad, cut it in half with your fork so the yolk can ooze out a little, and add a grind of black pepper. Then toss it all together and enjoy.

The texture of the soft egg and goat cheese mixed with the crisp summer vegetables is so good. Try it yourself and see if you don’t reconsider the idea of vegetables for breakfast.

There are 13 comments on this item
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1. by anonymous on Jun 20, 2008 at 11:05 AM PDT

One morning, I made a salad for breakfast just to use up the last of some things in the fridge: strawberries, spinach, crumbled St. Andre, and chopped pistachios. Dressing was walnut oil, sherry vinegar, honey, and shallots. It was one of the most satisfying breakfasts I’ve ever made.

2. by knifethrower.jen on Jun 22, 2008 at 3:04 PM PDT

When I summered in Israel as a kid, we had dairy, eggs and vegetables on the table at breakfast. My favorite meal was avocado mashed into plain yogurt, spread on fresh bread, topped with sliced hard boiled eggs, tomato, cucumber and a generous dash of salt and pepper. Cheese slices rounded out the meal. I still crave it for breakfast now and then.

3. by GirlCanBake on Jun 23, 2008 at 3:25 PM PDT

This looks like a mighty fine breakfast! I don’t think I could handle the bowl of broccoli for breakfast, but these light and crunchy veggies with the egg looks just lovely! Thanks for the creative breakfast!

4. by becky on Jun 23, 2008 at 7:55 PM PDT

honestly, all i could see was that beautiful egg. it’s such a wonderful food. the salad sounds delicious too though!

5. by becky on Jun 23, 2008 at 7:55 PM PDT

honestly, all i could see was that beautiful egg. it’s such a wonderful food. the salad sounds delicious too though!

6. by anonymous on Jun 23, 2008 at 9:05 PM PDT

In Israel its very common to have salad(s) for breakfast - generally tomatos, cucumbers and peppers cut up very small.

7. by Olga on Jun 24, 2008 at 6:59 AM PDT

That looks really pretty, easy to make and refreshing.

And I agree with anonymous who posted a comment re Israel: I miss those breakfasts of olives, salads, eggs, etc.

8. by Nate on Jun 24, 2008 at 3:31 PM PDT

Salad for breakfast...gotta wrap my head around that one...I think I’ll stick with the omelettes

9. by christie @ fig&cherry on Jun 27, 2008 at 12:49 AM PDT

Yum, that sounds absolutely delicious! One of my favourite breakfasts is a poached egg on top of sliced roma tomatoes and avocado on soy and linseed toast.

10. by Monica on Jun 27, 2008 at 5:24 PM PDT

That picture is so appetizing. The image of the soft-boiled egg and the bright yellow yolk about to flow through the bed of green is absolutely mouthwatering.

link text

11. by Kat Tancock on Jul 2, 2008 at 7:47 AM PDT

.you could even have a salad for breakfast, as suggested by writer Cindy Burke in her blog on

12. by Ashley on Jul 24, 2008 at 10:30 AM PDT

That actually sounds really good. I will def. give it a try.

13. by Gail Long on Jun 3, 2009 at 6:02 AM PDT

I’ve been eating fresh homemade salads for decades for lunch and dinner, but for the past two months, I’ve also been eating them for breakfast. I’ve found that it’s the best thing for me to eat in the morning. It makes me feel good and it’s a great way to start the day. My salad consists of green leaf lettuce or romaine, red bell pepper, chopped onion, artichoke, carrot, celery, broccoli, minced garlic clove, tomato, with cayenne pepper, thyme, rosemary, and oregano sprinkled on top. I make a salad dressing consisting of half lemon juice and half organic olive oil, with several cloves of garlic minced. I’m glad to hear that there are others out there who enjoy eating salad for breakfast.

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