A few months ago, my little sister Mary was coming over for breakfast and I was at a loss about what to make. She's one of my favorite people to cook for—and, you know, one of my favorite people in general—for a few reasons: First, she's in college, so she appreciates a home-cooked meal a whole lot. Second, she's a pretty handy sous-chef and she doesn't mind when I ask her to chop onions so I don't cry all over dinner. And third, she's endlessly adventurous and likes trying new things. This is all to say, she doesn't mind when she comes over and I open the door saying something like, "This is an experiment; I hope it's good!"
But this particular morning, I had swung wildly between sweet ideas and savory ones, between simple ideas and complicated ones, and I was getting to crunch time. So if I needed to buy anything, it needed to be something I could find at the tiny grocery store around the corner. I flipped through Small Victories, a cookbook Mary had given me for Christmas (told you she was great) and finally, finally inspiration struck. There was a recipe for classic, easy buttermilk pancakes, topped with a tiny, easy twist: berries, but roasted berries. I sprinted out to the bodega, grabbed buttermilk and strawberries and made it back with time to spare.
By the time Mary arrived, I had whipped up the pancake batter and was getting started on the berries. While the oven was heating up, I chopped off the leafy tops and quartered the berries. (Usually I'd only halve them, but these were big guys.) Then, in a bowl, I mixed them with a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and lemon juice to taste. Then I spread them on a baking sheet, slid them in the oven, and let them roast while Mary and I made pancakes. I gave them a stir a couple times, and let them get so soft they were almost jammy. It turns out that you can't really roast berries too much—they just get better.
When we were ready to eat, I pulled them out of the oven, plopped them in a bowl, and dotted them with butter. We spooned strawberries all over our buttered pancakes, bits of ruby red berry mingling with a concentrated fruity syrup. I didn't even reach for the maple syrup. But Mary did, and that's another reason I love her.
Roasted Breakfast Berries
Adapted from Small Victories by Julia Turshen
Note: You could replace the strawberries here with literally any fruit. I've had success with plums and blueberries, and I can see this working with anything from bananas to peaches.
Preheat oven to 400*F.
In bowl, thoroughly combine fruit with brown sugar and lemon juice.
Spread on sheet pan, and slide in the oven.
Roast berries for about 20 minutes, or until everything looks jammy.
Remove berries from oven, let cool slightly, and move to serving dish. If you feel like it, dot the strawberries with butter and combine.
Serve with pancakes (or biscuits, or scones, or anything that could think could use it).