Breakfast at Tassajara: 2 Tasty Vegetarian Recipes

How to make a Vegetarian Sponge Cake Omelet and Vegetarian Ginger Muffins for breakfast.

In The Complete Tassajara Cookbook, Edward Espe Brown shares his favorite recipes from his years as the head cook and baker at Tassajara – a vegetarian, Zen retreat center in the Santa Lucia Mountains of California. Guests at Tassajara loved Brown’s breakfast creations, and now so can you. The book contains more than 300 recipes, so consider these two “just a taste.”

“Sponge Cake” Omelet

There are several secrets to preparing this light, spongy omelet. It all begins with eggs from free-range chickens with their deep golden yolks, rather than the watery, pale yellow-yolked eggs from chickens locked in wire boxes, unable to move, stuffed with pellets and antibiotics. The other keys are the yogurt, which makes for a fluffier omelet than milk, and having the pan medium-hot initially and then turning it down low and covering with a lid.


2 jumbo eggs

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

¼ cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

1 to 3 teaspoons butter

½ teaspoon fresh thyme, minced


Whisk the eggs in a bowl with the yogurt and cheese. Let a 6-inch skillet warm up over medium heat. Add the butter – the lesser amount if the skillet is nonstick. Wait for the butter to stop bubbling, then pour in the egg mixture, cover with a lid, and reduce the heat to low. Check after about 3 minutes, and if the omelet is nearly firm on top, re-cover the pan, and turn off the burner, allowing the omelet to finish cooking from the heat of the pan. Otherwise let the omelet cook a minute or two longer before turning off the heat.


Ginger Muffins

Freshly grated ginger – spicy, warming, a good digestive – makes these muffins a distinctive treat. Served with orange marmalade they taste especially heavenly.


1 cup unbleached white flour

1½ cups whole wheat flour

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs

1½ cups plain yogurt

½ cup honey

Zest of 1 orange

1/3 cup canola, safflower, or corn oil

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated



Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flours with salt, baking powder, and soda. In a separate bowl mix together the eggs, yogurt, honey, orange zest, oil, and fresh ginger. Pour wets into dries, and mix with as few strokes as possible (20 stirs is usually about right). I use a rubber spatula for this, so I can get the batter off the sides of the bowl. Overmixing will make the muffins tough.

Grease a muffin tin (unless you have one of those nice, new nonstick ones). Spoon in the batter to near the top of the muffin cups. Grate some nutmeg over the tops of the muffins. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the tops have rounded and cracked and the sides and bottoms have browned. On a recent batch I discovered once again that it is not a good idea to use the bottom rack of the oven, as the bottoms of the muffins will tend to blacken.


The Complete Tassajara Cookbook

Excerpted from The Complete Tassajara Cookbook: Recipes, Techniques, and Reflections from the Famed Zen Kitchen by Edward Espe Brown, 2009.  Published by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston.


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