The Mother of All Brunches
Today I’m here to talk to you about two things I hold very dear to my heart: My mom, and breakfast. Luckily, they happen to go hand-in-hand for our story. I’ll never forget the evening my mom led me into her closet and pulled a worn photo album out from beneath a mountain of shoeboxes. In it was a 46-year old plastic-wrapped piece of French toast, sandwiched between the pages of the faded book.
I know what you’re thinking. And no, you cannot have her. She’s mine. My mom is a free spirit, an artist, a healer, and the creator of impeccable sunny side eggs. As for the renowned French toast; in order to preserve the memory of her last childhood summer at Tripp Lake Camp, she collected this breakfast treasure and held onto it all these years. Some may find that odd, but I am thankful because her uniqueness and zealous passion for food was ultimately passed along to me.
So in order to celebrate Mother’s Day 2014, I have created an epicurean menu to honor this wonderful being that I get to call my mom. Want to craft a Mother’s Day brunch spread of your own but lacking inspiration or ideas? Pay attention. Let’s get started.
Morning time is never complete without several elements: Eggs, lemon zest, and booze. Inevitably, this meal contains all three. To kick-start this foodie fiesta, we begin with the bubbly–and, of course, one more mom-inspired anecdote. Memories can easily be triggered by smell. For example, the aroma of chicken roasting with garlic and rosemary immediately transports me into the kitchen with my dad. And on that same note—the floral, fragrant scent of lavender instantly induces familiar embraces from my mom. My homage to this refreshing essential oil she dabs on like perfume: a fizzy combination of lemon, honey, and Prosecco permeated with fresh, light lavender blossoms. Or as I like to call it— a “mom-osa.”
Sparkling Lavender Lemonade Mom-osa
Ingredients2 cups water 2 Tbsp dried lavender 2 Tbsp honey Juice of 2 lemons Ice 2 cups Prosecco Lemon wedges and fresh lavender (if in season) for garnish
Directions: Bring water, lavender, and honey to a boil. Cover and let lavender steep for 1 hour. Strain and mix with fresh lemon juice. Pour over ice and top each cocktail with Prosecco. Garnish with lemon wedges and fresh lavender leaves.
Holy mother of frittata, there are four hundred ways to prepare eggs! Although this breakfast protein seems effortless, a decent omelet or light-as-air scramble is actually quite difficult to master. That’s why our first dish is one that sounds fancy, yet only contains several simple steps. A frittata is essentially a crustless quiche. The bottom is browned in a pan and the top becomes golden and poufy in the oven. Once you become a frittata wizard, the possibilities are endless.
For this particular dish I sautéed wild mushrooms, earthy and outdoorsy (like my mom) with lemony fresh thyme. Combined with aromatic roasted scallions and creamy, buttery Taleggio—on behalf of her adoration for artisanal cheese— this nourishing main course is the idyllic opening for our celebratory meal.
Wild Mushroom, Roasted Scallion, and Taleggio Frittata with Fresh Basil and Thyme
Ingredients2 cups wild mushrooms (like shiitake or porcini), sliced 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped 4 scallions, bulbs cut off 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided Salt and pepper
FRITTATA:6 eggs, beaten 1 Tbsp half & half 1 Tbsp butter 4 oz Tallegio cheese 1 cup fresh basil leaves, reserving several smaller leaves for garnish Salt and pepper
Directions: Preheat oven to 400º. Toss scallions with 1-tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast 15-20 minutes until scallions are golden brown and caramelized. Let cool, then roughly chop. Heat 1-tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and thyme leaves and sauté 4-5 minutes until mushrooms are browned. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Preheat broiler to high. Whisk the eggs with the half & half and season well with salt and pepper. In a large non-stick oven-safe skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Pour egg mixture into pan. Evenly drop in scallions, mushrooms, Taleggio, and whole basil leaves. Cook untouched 4-5 minutes, and then check to make sure the bottom is a light golden brown. Place entire pan under broiler and cook for 8-10 minutes, keeping the oven door slightly open and rotating the pan halfway through if necessary. Frittata is done when fluffy and golden brown on top. Cut into pie-like pieces and garnish plates with fresh tomato slices and small bunches of basil leaves.
Where there is fluffy, there must be crunchy. I am certain that crispy things belong on the breakfast table, and in my family we often prefer to deviate from what is traditional or expected. Instead of concocting conventional homefries for my Mother’s Day menu—I took a page from my dad’s recipe book: zucchini fritters.
These zucchini fritters are salty, dill-infused patties laced with lemon zest and feta. They are topped with a creamy herbaceous mint-yogurt sauce and are positively sublime alongside a forkful of frittata.
Dilled Zucchini and Feta Fritters with Minted Yogurt Sauce
Ingredients3 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and grated 1 medium shallot, minced 1 Tbsp olive oil 1 egg, beaten ½ cup panko breadcrumbs ¼ cup fresh dill, chopped ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped 1 Tbsp lemon zest, plus 1 tsp for garnish ¼ cup feta, crumbled Salt and pepper ½ cup flour, for dredging Vegetable oil for sautéing (approximately ¼ – ½ cup)
MINTED YOGURT SAUCE: 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt 2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 Tbsp honey Salt and pepper
*To make yogurt sauce: mix all ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Directions: Place the grated zucchini in a colander in the sink and generously sprinkle with salt. Toss, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Place zucchini in a clean towel and squeeze out all of the moisture. Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until translucent— approximately 3-4 minutes. In a large bowl, combine grated zucchini, sautéed shallots, egg, panko, herbs, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, and feta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Using a ¼ cup scoop, make 5-6 even-sized patties. Refrigerate patties for at least 30 minutes. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat in a large sauté pan. Lightly dredge each patty in flour and sauté until golden brown and crispy—approximately 6-7 minutes per side. Serve on top of a fresh green salad and garnish with minted yogurt sauce and lemon zest.
Now that we’ve covered the savory, it’s time to get to the sweet. Although my mom has a profoundly soulful connection with chocolate, she’s not necessarily what I would call a dessert person. None of us really are. At our dinner table, it’s more likely that we’ll choose a third or fourth crab cake over a single piece of cheesecake. Nevertheless, a finale is still in order to bring this brunch to a close.
Everyone has a happy place. For my mom, it’s Hawaii. This tropical utopia is not only where we gather as a family each year to visit my sister who resides on Oahu, but it is a spiritual center of bliss for my mom. As a tribute to her Hawaiian happiness, this decadent parfait is layered with fresh island fruit and toasted coconut. Drizzled with a syrupy balsamic-fig reduction, every bite is as harmonious as a sun-drenched day on Kailua Beach.
Kailua Parfait with Island Fruit, Toasted Coconut, Chopped Pistachios, and Balsamic-Fig Syrup
BALSAMIC FIG SYRUP:½ cup balsamic vinegar ¼ cup dried mission figs, halved
PARFAIT:4 cups vanilla Greek yogurt 1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped 1 cup fresh mango, chopped 2 Tbsp shredded coconut, toasted in a 300 degree oven until golden brown (4-5 minutes) 2 Tbsp pistachios, dry toasted in a pan over medium-low heat for 5 minutes and roughly chopped 4 large fresh mint leaves for garnish
Directions: In a small pan, bring balsamic vinegar and figs to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture is thick and syrupy—about 8-10 minutes. To keep from burning, occasionally drag a spatula through to check consistency. In four clear parfait glasses—layer yogurt, pineapple, mango, coconut, and pistachios. Garnish the top of each parfait with pistachios, coconut, a drizzle of balsamic-fig reduction, and a mint leaf.
Well, that’s my rendition of Mother’s Day on a brunch table. Now I invite you to compose your very own. And who knows, maybe one of your dishes will end up with a 46-year old shelf life, too.