Thursday, September 16, 2010

Brunch is for Birthdays

Instead of England's early Sunday dinner, a postchurch ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare? By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well. Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.
- Guy Beringer, "Brunch: A Plea," Hunter's Weekly, 1895
What is brunch? Is it simply a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch, like linner (sorry had to throw that in there)? Is it merely a synonym for buffet, as the Office québécois de la langue française suggests? I prefer the definition wikipedia gives, "A meal cannot be considered brunch if it is started before 10 am, such meals would still be considered breakfast. Typically brunch is had at around 11 am, close to lunch time but still before." Simply stated, brunch is what you make of it...there are no rules surrounding what kind of food must be served at brunch nor is there a prescription for what drinks should be served, only that it should be served sometime after typical breakfast hours and still before lunch.

Brunch is such a great meal for socializing to me, it falls at a time that isn't obscene during the weekends (well for those who can sleep late, of which I'm not one) and it is socially acceptable to have alcoholic beverages with breakfast if you call it lunch....that sounded worse that I meant it to but oh well. No matter how you slice it, brunch is one of my favorite things to host, I regularly have brunch at my house with two of my closest girlfriends. While the particular brunch that I am going to share photos from happened in late August, we regularly have brunch to share our birthdays as my birthday (today, September 16) and my friend Mickey's birthday (September 9) are so close it works out well.

The particulars of brunch change from event to event, but this particular brunch had an elegant flair, with Eggs Florentine in Prosciutto, Roasted and Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps and a Dragon Fruit Melon Salad.

Dragon Fruit is something I had never tried before but that I found at our local Asian market, it is actually not just a single fruit but there are many varieties that are the fruit of certain cactus species. Dragon Fruit is native to Mexico, Central and South America and is also cultivated in Asian countries like Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. They bloom only at night, the plant produces a large white flower that is called a 'moonflower' or 'Queen of the Night.' The specific Dragon Fruit I purchased had pink skin (not to be eaten) and a white flesh with tiny black seeds inside.

With the Dragon Fruit cut open and on display I decided it would meld nicely with a simple melon salad.

Dragon Fruit Melon Salad

1 Thai Melon
1 Dragon Fruit
Juice and Zest of One Orange
2 Tbsp Chopped Mint Leaves

Combine all ingredients, stir and allow to chill for at least one hour before serving.

With the fruit ready to go I set to work on the remainder of our brunch. The mushroom recipe that follows is from a cookbook I picked up this summer, Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone.

Portobello Mushrooms with Ricotta, Tomatoes and Basil

3 Medium Heirloom Tomatoes, halved and cored
1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
3 Tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
3-4 Springs of Thyme
4 Portobello Mushrooms, stems removed
4 oz Fresh Ricotta Cheese
2 Tbsp Small Fresh Basil Leaves

1. Position an oven rack about 8 inches below the heating element and preheat the broiler to low heat. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up on a large heavy baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme. Broil for 5-7 minutes.
2. Arrange the mushrooms, grill side down, on the same baking sheet with the tomatoes, and drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Broil the mushrooms and tomatoes for 5 minutes.
3. Turn the mushrooms gill side up and spoon ricotta onto the mushrooms. Continue broiling for another 5 minutes, or until the ricotta is heated through and beginning to brown on the top. At the point the tomatoes and mushrooms should be just tender and the tomatoes should be lightly browned on top. Transfer them to a platter, sprinkle with basil and serve.

Baked Eggs Florentine in Prosciutto Cups

16 Slices Prosciutto
8 Large Eggs
6 Cups Fresh Spinach Leaves
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
1/8 Tsp Freshly Ground Nutmeg
1/8 Tsp White Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Layering two pieces of prosciutto per cup, lay prosciutto into a muffin tin so that cups are formed. Once oven is hot, bake cups for 18 minutes.
2. Remove cups from oven, turn heat up to 450F. In a small bowl mix spices and parmesan cheese, set aside.
3. Distribute spinach equally among the cups and then place one egg inside of each cup. Sprinkle spice/cheese mixture over eggs and put in oven.
4. Bake 10-15 minutes, until eggs are just set. Serve hot.

As an aside (and to explain posts you may see soon), I have entered the Foodbuzz Project Food Blog competition, there will be a series of ten challenges I will need to complete (read as: there will be ten posts will be focused on challenge topics) running from September 19 through December 13. During this time I plan to continue to post my typical posts but I wanted to make sure to call attention to the other items as a special thing that will not last forever nor will they detract (hopefully) from the normal topics I write about. In advance I'd like to point anyone who is interested in reading about the contest, checking out the participants and hopefully voting for me ;) to the contest homepage.

1 comment:

Dee said...

The Dragon fruit salad was simply spectacular as were all the other yummy dishes. What lucky friends, the birthday bash looks like a wonderful success!