Oh, summer bounty. Let’s make salsa and margaritas and heirloom tomato salads and citrus popsicles and, and, and…
Ooooh, heirlooms….I’m getting a bit giddy. Time to fortify with a good, nay – an excellent – breakfast that welcomes in the summer with open arms.
Throw into a dish: some fresh herbs, the ripest tomatoes, and any other quick-sauteed summer veg that your heart desires. Sprinkle with one, or two, or three kinds of cheeses that you adore. Beat some eggs with a pinch of flour and pour it on top. Bake it today or maybe just keep it in the fridge for tomorrow morning, when you are sure to be hungover or otherwise sluggish.
And voila! A hearty, yet elegant breakfast frittata with the best of summer therein.
Fruit salad with melons and *shudder* bananas is not for me; I’d rather stab my fork into my eye – or this minted collection of ruby red grapes, blackberries and plums. Cherries are welcome, as are other berries and stonefruit.
Or, save your stonefruit for the grill. Place your buttered-and-brown-sugared peach or nectarine halves on a medium-high heat grill that is generously oiled with high-heat cooking spray, and grill for 3-5 minutes on each side until you get nice grill marks but before the fruit is too mushy. Slice ’em up and pile a plate high with this summer gold.
Don’t turn off the grill just yet – did you know you can grill French toast? And did you know that it is awesome? The key is to makes sure those grill grates are oiled, oiled, oiled (I use high-heat non-stick cooking spray) so that the sticky bread doesn’t stick too much. The result is a beautiful smoky and caramelized crust with souffle-like custardy goodness inside. Serve them with grilled nectarines and a simple raspberry syrup to entice summer to take a seat, have a drink, and stay a while.
I love this time of the year. I love the sparkling Christmas lights, the air infused with cinnamon and peppermint, the slivers of shiny gift wrap leftovers, the secretly good embarrassingly bad holiday movies and the bejeweled Christmas tree welcoming you home every evening with its warm glow. I love all of these things but certainly the best part of Christmas is spending it with loved ones (and finding your fingers visiting the cookie bowl…again). Last year was my first time ever hosting and it was ridiculously fun – I can’t wait to do it again.
Festive tins with holiday cookies for munching absentmindedly while watching Love Actually for the 32nd time? Check.
Easy peasy Christmas breakfast with custardy Challah baked French toast and a sweet-tart berry compote that takes a handful of minutes to make? Check.
A fluffy egg frittata with a mixture of Gruyere and goat cheese, fresh herbs, and juicy tomatoes that you can whip up the night before and stick into the oven for a lazy breakfast? Check.
Fresh flowers for Christmas dinner? Check.
A classic side dish made elegant like savory crisp roasted Brussels sprouts with browned butter (and made even better with fresh sage)? Check.
A new favorite addition like creamy crunchy cauliflower gratin bubbling hot from the oven? Check.
And, of course, a perfectly roasted glorious bird (thanks Anna…and for the stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes and pillowy soft dinner rolls!) ready for carving as we sit down to dinner with jokes and stories (and red wine)? Check.
We made a Christmas, let’s do it again!
I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a brunch girl. I wear this label pretty proudly and yes the stereotypes are all true: I have my favorite brunch spots in every neighborhood with backups, I will break a diet for brunch, I consider brunch as anytime between 8am and 4pm, I will optimize my brunch experience by ordering a savory dish for myself and a sweet dish to split, and anything on the menu can be had on the side. My one pet peeve is waiting more than 20 minutes for a table. I HATE waiting to eat, so I know that if I’m not at the neighborhood darling cafe by 10.30AM I better head to the unknown greasy spoon diner instead to get my omelette on.
A typical weekend includes Sunday brunch, usually exploring a new place in the neighborhood if the day is decidedly leisurely or heading straight to a favorite stand-by if there are other shenanigans planned for the day. However, my neighborhood gets a lot of crowds during certain city-wide events (Bay to Breakers, SF Pride) and its a nightmare to even consider going to brunch unless you are OK fighting the crowds. For those days, I’ll try to remember to plan ahead and make brunch at home. My goal for brunch at home is to make it as easy as pointing to the menu at that lovely place down the block.
I always use this wondrously simple recipe for baked french toast from Martha Stewart which turns out like a scrumptious bread pudding, yielding the perfectly baked texture of a creamy custard within each sweet slice of challah. Make sure to use thick slices of challah or a similar sweet eggy bread. The soaked up custard forms a caramelized crust on each slice. The best part about this recipe is it takes about 4 minutes to make it the night before and you have everyone’s French toast ready at the same time. Why would you ever make French toast on the griddle, a few at a time while the rest dry out in the oven, ever again?
I love to top this crisp, custardy French toast with the tartness of a simple summer fruit compote. Simply melt some brown sugar in an equivalent amount of butter over low heat. Add your favorite in-season fruit and simmer until the juices are released. Just before turning off the heat to allow it to thicken, I add cinnamon and a splash of maple syrup. I used plums and blueberries this time, but have also used peaches, raspberries, blackberries, pears, and apples with the same ease and tasty results.