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Posts Tagged ‘Brunch’

Stale baguettes and long Italian loaves always provide a welcome excuse to make savory Italian bread puddings or stratas.  I consider them to be the ideal make-ahead breakfast or brunch recipe stuffed full of garden-fresh vegetables and savory meats and cheeses.  With the summer planting season in full swing, this recipe celebrates summer’s bountiful tomato plants.  Sandwiched in layers with buttery avocado, earthy thyme and rosemary, garlic-rubbed bread, and salty (albeit scant) cheese, we’ve redesigned the savory strata in the style of a lasagne.  It is a striking and healthful start to any day. 

Savory Tomato Avocado Bread Pudding Stacks, from Rice Kernel’s kitchen

Ingredients

1/2 pound stale bread, sliced about 1/2 inch thick (white or whole grain)
1 large garlic clove, cut in half, green shoots removed
1/3 cup Gruyère cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 pound firm, ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 avocado, sliced thinly
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp basil, chopped
2 large eggs + 4 egg whites (or 4 eggs – but we try to limit cholesterol)
1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups low-fat milk (I use 1%)

Optional: vegetables of your choosing (e.g. sauteed mushrooms, swiss chard, spinach, or zucchini), nuts (pine nuts or cooked chestnuts are delicious), and meats (sausages, prosciutto)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray (or grease with butter or oil) a two-quart baking dish or gratin.  If the bread is soft, toast it lightly and rub all the slices, front and back, with the cut clove of garlic.  (If it’s hard and stale, just rub with garlic.)  Mince what garlic remains.  Combine the two cheeses in a small bowl.
  2. Layer half of the bread slices in the baking dish.  Top with half of the tomato slices and half the avocado slices.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then with half the thyme and rosemary and half the remaining garlic.  Top with half the cheese.  Repeat the layers.
  3. Beat together the eggs and milk.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to your taste, then pour over the bread and tomato layers. 
  4. Place in the oven, and bake 35 to 45 minutes until puffed and browned.  Remove from the oven, and serve hot or warm with a side garden or fruit salad.

Advance preparation: This can be assembled through step 2 a few hours before beating together the eggs and milk and completing the casserole.

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My husband and I were at the gym Sunday morning.  Somehow none of the twelve TV monitors were tuned to ESPN or a sporting event.  So FHE positioned himself in front of the screens airing Food Network and the Cooking Channel.  Now, my husband taught me to cook (here) so there’s nothing unusual about his programming selection.  But it has been awhile since he’s cooked anything other than on the grill, in the oven or in the microwave.  He was obviously inspired because later that morning, he excitedly took over the kitchen to make this hash for our weekly brunch with my in-laws. 

This is a simple, comforting, and flavorful dish.  While preparation comes together quickly, it is probably too involved to appear on a typical weekday morning.  So it’s in our recipe rolodex as a brunch or breakfast-for-dinner offering.  Served under the eggs of your choosing, this hash is the perfect marriage of sweet, orange-hued potatoes, rich sausage, creamy avocados, and carmelized vegetables (you can add any you fancy).  Add some sour cream and salsa for the perfect cooling touches.  These are fantastic flavors in every bite. 

Sausage Sweet Potato and Avocado Hash, from Rice Kernel’s kitchen

1 lb sausage, any kind
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper
2-3 sweet potatoes, cubed
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 cup muushrooms, sliced
A few handfuls of fresh spinach
Sour cream and salsa, for serving (optional)
Eggs, for serving (optional)

  1. Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Place sweet potatoes in pan with a drizzle of olive oil.  Cook until tender, adding water or stock if necessary to prevent scorching.  (You can also boil the sweet potatoes in a saucepan or roast them in a 400 degree F oven for 7-10 minutes.)  Reserve in serving bow.
  2. Add a teaspoon of olive oil into the same saute pan and crumble in the sausage.  Cook until the sausage is nearly done.  Add the onions and mushrooms and cook a few minutes longer, until the vegetables are softened.  Add the garlic, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes and spinach to the sausage mixture, and stir to combine.  Cook until the sweet potatoes are completely softened and the flavors are blended, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Serve the hash topped with avocado slices, sour cream, salsa or poached or scrambled eggs.

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Savory French Toast

For my husband, sugar and cinnamon aren’t the desired breakfast flavors.  His palette favors savory and salty.  Not one to cook up breakfast sausage, bacon, or ham with regularity, I turned to the pantry and decided a vegetarian, savory french toast would be a good change of pace.  This is a simple “template” recipe – vary the spices, cheese, and toppings to your liking.  Today, we dipped slices of whole wheat baguette into a buttermilk-egg mixture seasoned simply with herbs de Provence and topped with mozarella cheese, avocado, and tomato.  The more adventurous tastebuds might enjoy a spicy wake-up with curry or Tabasco mixed in the eggs.

Savory French Toast, from Rice Kernel’s kitchen

Ingredients

2 thick slices day-old bread
1/4 cup milk, buttermilk, or sour cream
1 egg + 1 egg white
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp herbes de Provence
Cheese, avocado, tomato for topping

Directions

  1. Soak the bread in the milk on both sides to soften, about 5 minutes per side, depending on how hard the bread is. (If it is softer, it may need less time.
  2. Beat the egg with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence in a flat or shallow dish.
  3. Over medium high heat, add oil.  Pull the bread from the milk and turn it around in the egg mixture to coat.
  4. Fry on both sides until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Add cheese to melt in the last minute. 
  5. Serve warm, topped with avocado and tomato.  Tomato jam would also be delicious.  And, for my husband and son, I imagine ketchup (my despised condiment – sorry) would be perfect. 

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I love crab.  Growing up on Long Island, my maternal grandparents, mom, and I delighted in blue crab often.  It was a messy, loud affair but for us nothing beat whole crabs, to be shelled and eaten with gusto at the table.  (With some nutcrackers or small mallets nearby for assistance.)  At the end of the meal, there would be nothing left on the table but piles of crab carcasses atop newspapers, all eaten clean and precariously perched like mountains – blunt reminders that the best things in life are worth working for and getting your hands dirty.

I would have fondly continued the tradition but my husband and dad aren’t quite as enthusiastic about whole crab.  For one, my dad complains that after a few bites through the crab membrane or shell, his tongue is rough like sandpaper.  FHE?  He says it’s not worth the work.  And Rice Kernel… he’s a bit too young to be navigating through shells.  As a result, my handling of crab has become, well, civilized.  And these days, instead of whole crabs we typically buy lump crabmeat.  (Little tear.)

This is one of my mother-in-law’s favorite preparations.  It is pure, savory decadence.  Chunks of rich crabmeat suspended in fluffy, creamy eggs, seasoned simply with some chives or cilantro.  It is perfect for any time of day, for a special occasion or no occasion at all.  Tonight, it’s paired with some extra greens for a hearty, indulgent supper. 

Crab and Chive Eggs

Ingredients

3 large eggs + 2 egg whites (adjust whites to your liking; I consider 2 egg whites to equal 1 whole egg)
6 oz lump crab meat
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives and/or cilantro
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tbsp oil or butter
Slices of whole grain bread or baguette, lightly toasted and buttered or drizzled with olive oil
Spash of milk or stock (About 2-3 tbsp)
Whole chives (optional)

Directions

  1. Whisk eggs, chopped chives, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in medium bowl until well blended.
  2. Drizzle oil (or melt butter) in heavy medium nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add eggs and crab and stir with heatproof silicone spatula until eggs are almost cooked but still runny in parts, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  3. Arrange bread on plates and spoon scrambled eggs atop.  Sprinkle with more pepper and chives. Garnish with whole chives, if desired.
Garlic Green Beans
 
Ingredients

1 pound green beans, trimmed
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil, garlic, and beans. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes.  (Add stock or water if the beans are becoming scorched.)  Adjust seasonings, if necessary, and serve.

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Sundays are synonomous with family brunch.  Pre-Rice Kernel, FHE and I would go out to brunch with our parents.  When Rice Kernel came along, the new grandparents started coming over for brunch to play with him.  At first, the menu was simple:  sandwiches.  That got old fast.  So I scoured blogs and websites for recipes that would be fairly effortless and feed at least six.  Thus far, nothing has beat the simplicity and delectability of a strata or frittata.  They are endlessly versatile and well-balanced – perfect for a brunch meal that is often lacking greenery, if you know what I mean.  I was prepared to return to my standby strata recipe this weekend but with a pair of sweet potatoes beginning to show their age, I knew I had to find a way to put them on the brunch menu. 

Lucky for me, I came across a frittata recipe featuring a layer of sweet potatoes as the base.  The original recipe features a swiss chard and sweet potato filling – enticing, especially since FHE loves swiss chard, but we didn’t have any around.  So I modified it using spinach and mushrooms and added some meat (for my meat-loving family).  My mother-in-law and I gushed over the creamy sweet potato but the boys seemed to miss the bready chew of a strata.  No matter, the result was perfectly savory and comforting (and colorful with veggies) on a gloomy Sunday morning. 

Sweet Potato Frittata, adapted from The Psychedelic Turnip



Ingredients

    4 oz mushrooms, chopped (I used baby portabellas)
    1 leek, washed thoroughly and sliced thinly
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    3 sausage links, without casing
    2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
    1 cup spinach, frozen
    7 eggs, lightly beaten
    2 tbsp milk or water
    3/4 cup gouda, shredded
    salt and freshly ground pepper
    1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, cook sausage until nearly cooked through.
  3. Add onions, leeks, and mushrooms.  Cook until the onions are translucent. 
  4. Add in spinach and garlic.  Cook an additional 2-3 minutes and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, 2 tbsp water or milk, gouda red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.
  6. Once the sweet potatoes are done, remove them from the oven and arrange in a single layer in a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  7. Pour the egg mixture over the sweet potatoes.
  8. (At this point, you can refrigerate for up to 24 hours.)
  9. When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the middle of the frittata is set.

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