Theres nothing like that warm, cozy feeling you get from a good breakfast. I love making breakfast for my guests because, unfortunately, this meal is too often rushed through; people don't take the time to make it memorable. The word breakfast has its roots in the concept of breaking the involuntary fast of sleep. So far as I know, nobody can actually eat while they are sleeping, but I do know a guy called Two-ton Tony Galante who had a habit of getting out of bed for a midnight snack (and, sometimes, a 1 or 2 a.m. snack, while he was at it). Sometimes he'd set his alarm clock for 3 a.m. and make himself a plate of pork chops and peppers while smoking half a pack of cigarettes. I'm guessing that, with Tony's smoking, overeating, and sleep depravation, he kept his doctor really busy. But for us less obsessive folk, breakfast is typically the first meal of the day. Some of what passes for breakfast these days is just two tiny steps from horrifying. Pop Tarts, doughnuts, energy bars, sugary cereals, frozen waffles, frozen pancakes, microwavable eggs, fruit roll-ups, greasy fast-food breakfast sandwiches, mysterious convenience store fare; I have nightmares about these things. The excuses for eating such garbage are even worse: I dont have time to eat right, I like to eat while I drive, I cant cook, "But it says 'breakfast' right there on the box," etcetera. Well, in keeping with the title of this column, I've got a few simple secrets that will help you uncomplicate breakfast while keeping it healthy. I always say that with any type of cooking the main ingredients are love and freshness. If you dont love what you are doing whether its cooking, construction, teaching, or making crafts the job will always be second rate. There's no quality without passion. Freshness is just as important, and it's even easier to control; just use fresh ingredients. Nobody wants to eat a dried out grapefruit, stale bread, or leftover scrambled eggs, not even Two-ton Tony, and he's cooking in his sleep. Use common sense and lots of love and you're half way to a perfect breakfast. For our model breakfast, we're going to offer a choice of three types of omelets. An omelet looks good and has a combination of flavors that makes it taste like something complex even though it's not difficult to make. To start off, we have the Julia Child-style French omelet, which takes some practice to make just right. It should be light, airy, fluffy, and never brown. Then there's the Frittata (pronounced free-ta-ta), an Italian omelet that comes out like a crust-less pie and is brown on both sides. Finally, we have the typical diner omelet, which some snobby chefs despise despite the fact that it can really be good if done right. This is basically a flat-cooked scrambled egg with the ingredients of the omelet stuffed into the middle like a taco. If you aren't up to an omelet, regular eggs scrambled, sunny-side up, over easy are even simpler, but you have to know your audience. Many people are set in their ways when it comes to eggs, and 10 people may tell you 10 different ways that they like theirs done, even if they all like them scrambled. Even worse, they all think that their way of scrambling an egg is the right way to do it. I once had a member of the Hell's Angels stand over me and tell me in excruciating detail how to make his eggs. Talk about intimidating. I would have told him to just make his own darned eggs if it hadn't been for the leather jacket, the bulging biceps, the extra height, the humorless eyes, and the prospect that I might never walk again. But for any egg preparation, even when my continuing health isn't on the line, I use a bit of extra virgin olive oil in place of butter. It wont burn as quickly and fluffs up the eggs much better, plus the taste is great and it's good for you! And once you've got simple egg preparation down, it's just s short step to those three omelets I mentioned. The French Omelet
A French omelet is all in the wrist, the pan, and the heat. In a non-stick or copper pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil until its just up to the point of smoking. (Dont let it smoke, because then youve burnt it. As a safety measure, sprinkle a drop of egg in the oil when the oil is ready the egg will expand to more than twice its size.) Into the pan, drop three beaten eggs, already seasoned with salt and pepper to taste (not that you should taste raw eggs, but you know what I mean). The trick here is to tilt the pan so the eggs roll down to the bottom. Keep flipping and tilting until the eggs sort of roll together like a sleeping bag. Once the eggs are rolled up and firm, voil_youre done! If you want to add a filling such as cheese, do so after you beat the egg in a mixing bowl and before you put it into the pan. This will help incorporate the filling and keep everything well mixed. The Italian Frittata
This one is my favorites. In Italian-American neighborhoods, one of the most popular frittata recipes uses potatoes, onions, and eggs you just fry up your potatoes and onions as you would home fries and then add the egg. But for our impressive recipe, lets try something a little more unusual. Scramble four or five eggs in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste (not that you should taste raw eggs when making a frittata, either). Set aside a small, diced tomato (drained so it's not watery), four fresh leaves of basil, and a sliced ball of fresh mozzarella (1/4", golf-ball-size slices). Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, until it's almost as hot as in the recipe above. Add the eggs and let sit for twenty seconds. Stir the eggs up a bit with a plastic spatula. Dont worry about breaking the eggs up, they will go back together. Place the sliced mozzarella on top of the egg mixture as you would dress a pizza. Do the same with the tomato and basil. Now comes the tricky part: using the spatula and keeping the flame on medium heat, lift the frittata on all sides, one after the other, allowing most of the uncooked egg to go under the frittata and cook. When the frittata begins to firm up, place a dish that is the same size as the frittata on top of the egg and flip the pan upside down so that the cooked side is now facing up on the plate. Slide the frittata back onto the frying pan and cook until both sides are golden brown and the egg has risen. Now you have what you can call an egg pie (if you'd rather not say "frittata"), and boy is it delicious! The Diner Omelet
Heres the one most people have made or attempted to make before, but varied in an unusual way. Scramble three eggs in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in the frying pan as you would in the frittata recipe. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and, using your rubber spatula, keep checking the bottom until its the color of your desire (golden to light brown). Flip the egg like you would a pancake. As the rest of the egg is cooking, spoon 3-4 ounces of your favorite cream cheese onto one side of the circle. Gently fold the egg pancake over so that it now resembles an egg taco. Flip it over as needed until both sides are cooked to your satisfaction. The cream cheese should heat up and start to melt, but should not run out the sides of the egg. Garnish with some fresh chopped chives and youve got a great diner omelet with a new twist. Serve your omelet choice with some freshly buttered toast, a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, and a hot cup of coffee, maybe throw in some light conversation about somnambulistic Italian snackers or not tasting raw eggs -- and youll be your guests hero for the day! And who knows, maybe he or she will stay over more often, just for the warm, cozy breakfast.