Perfect the art of hosting a beautiful brunch with the utmost ease by taking some help from your favorite grocer.
~ By Jessica Benson
There is a time of year when it’s not quite still winter but decidedly not yet spring during which we start to feel antsy. The festive (and somewhat stressful) crunch of the holidays is in the rear view but we haven’t yet started planning for summer barbecues and back patio birthday parties. During this space between the seasons a simple, fun and inexpensive way to host friends for a get-together is to pull together an (almost) effortless Sunday brunch.
The key to hosting brunch without breaking a sweat is twofold. First, acknowledge that entertaining others for a meal does not necessarily have to mean hours and hours of preparation in the kitchen and take some help in the form of high quality, store bought ingredients. Second, prepare everything that is homemade ahead of time. Once this approach is ingrained: plan your menu precisely and figure out exactly what you will make (hopefully just one or two items) and what can be purchased (everything else).
This do-ahead preparation is crucial, because the art of hosting is not just about feeding people; it’s about being able to connect and catch up. Being able to spend quality time with your guests, which is not something you can do if you’re sweating over a frying pan flipping French toast and eggs to order. This simple, straightforward brunch menu cuts every corner it feasibly can, making sure you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, because if you’re having fun, chances are your guests are as well.
At the Fruit Center Marketplace, we’re passionate about making the most of each passing season and the produce and recipes unique to each time of year. Just because Memorial Day is a long stretch down the road, doesn’t mean you can’t make time to gather together some friends and family and share a leisurely brunch on a sunny Sunday morning. We’ve got all your resources to do just that.
Yogurt, Fruit and Granola
Bagels with Scallion Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon
Roasted Tomato, Spinach and Cheddar Strata
Homemade Scones with Butter and Honey
TO PURCHASE: grab creamy Greek yogurt, some fresh seasonal fruit and a sack of your favorite granola at the store. Set these out the morning of in decorative bowls with spoons so guests can serve themselves. Likewise, with your bagel spread: mince two scallions and blend into plain cream cheese and set out with sliced, halved bagels and a pile of savory smoked salmon. Feel free to add a small dish of capers and sliced red onion as well. Make sure to set up a makeshift bar with OJ, ice, glasses and a few chilled bottles of Cava or Prosecco so that you can simply direct your guests to help themselves to mimosas once they arrive.
TO MAKE: prepare your cheesy breakfast strata the night before, cover and refrigerate. Prep the dough for your scones, cut them out and place them on a baking sheet. Pop the whole pan in your freezer and in the morning, remove the pan and place it in a preheated oven. The scones can bake while the strata comes up to room temperature, making your house smell terrific and impressing your guests with buttery, warm-from-the-oven scones. To serve, set the scones out with some butter and good quality honey for drizzling.
ROASTED TOMATO, SPINACH & CHEDDAR STRATA
1/2 – 3/4 loaf ciabatta bread, cubed
1 package cherry or plum tomatoes
2 bags baby spinach
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees and set tomatoes in a small baking dish with a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Grease a large baking dish (9×13) with butter on the bottom and up the sides.
Set the tomatoes to roast in the oven until blistered and almost caramelized (about 40 minutes). While the tomatoes roast, cube ciabatta bread and set into prepared baking dish. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté spinach just to wilt and season with salt and pepper. Remove the roasted cherry tomatoes from the oven and spoon, with accumulated juices over cubed ciabatta bread. Scatter wilted spinach on top and then sprinkle about 2/3 of your shredded cheese on top of the vegetables.
In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, milk and mustard; add salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the bread, veggies and cheese, sprinkling the remainder of the cheese on top. Hit with a pinch of salt and a few turns of pepper, cover and refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight.
In the morning, remove the strata from the refrigerator and let it come up to room temperature. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until set and the cheese on top is bubbly and golden. Turn oven off and let the strata sit in the warm oven for an additional 10 minutes before serving. This will make it more cohesive and easier to slice and serve. Remove from the oven and enjoy. Yields: 10 servings.
SIMPLE SCONES (from Saveur)
5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
5 tsp. baking powder
2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
14 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
2 cups milk
Salted butter, jam, and clotted cream, for serving
optional: blueberries or raspberries
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add butter and rub into dry ingredients with your fingers or a pastry blender until pea-sized crumbles form. Stir in milk until dough forms; add berries if using.
Transfer to a heavily floured work surface and pat into a square that’s approximately an inch thick; cut that square into 16 smaller squares. Using a floured spatula, transfer squares to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat liner; bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Yields: 16 scones.
Keep up to date on more fresh ideas for seasonal cooking on The Fruit Center blog: Just Picked! Find the link tab on our website: www.fruitcentermarketplace.com.
Unless otherwise noted, recipes (and photographs) reprinted with permission from Porky Dickens (www.porkydickens.blogspot.com).