How to Host Brunch at Home + a Make-Ahead Menu

How to Host Brunch at HomeBrunch is my favorite meal these days, and I know I’m not alone.

You’re in line with me at opening time, hoping to get a table. One of my favorite spots recently said it would be more than an hour before we saw any eggs or pancakes. The Portlandia episode in which a long line evolves into a brunch village complete with an overlord suddenly doesn’t seem so outlandish. For our next Sunday out, I reserved a table.

Wait, what? Brunch is supposed to be easy. Lazy. Indulgent. We smooshed two words into one for this thing and yet there’s nothing shortened about the meal itself.

I propose a new plan: brunch at home. No reservations.

A make-ahead quiche for brunch

We told our friends to show up at noon and we’d have breakfast: something eggy; bacon; coffee, and a mimosa-ish drink, definitely. At home, the drinks really can be endless, and soon brunch morphed into a dance party. The dance party turned into dinner.

Going out for brunch is still fun and means trying something new, but brunching at home means kicking back and losing track of time and your shoes. And since having people over for brunch isn’t as pricey as a dinner party can be, we could have friends over more often.

So we hosted another. And another. A late summer brunch. A holiday brunch with a twinkling 7-foot Christmas tree and spiced sangria because I learned my cake stand can be inverted to serve as punch bowl. (Yours probably lives a double life, too!)

Our tiny apartment kitchen belies the late-morning feasts it has turned out, including creme brulee French toast and all kinds of quiches. A sort-of French 75 cocktail punch is in heavy rotation. Our dinner table seats four, but we’ve had a dozen people over on Sunday. Friends kept asking about the next brunch, and I realized we’d inadvertently formed a sort-of brunch club.

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Grace Parisi, a James Beard-nominated cookbook author and former senior test kitchen editor at Food & Wine magazine who is now executive food director for publisher Oxmoor House in Birmingham, Ala., said she prefers brunch to dinner when entertaining. It’s more relaxed and nothing has to be fancy if you don’t want it to be. Plus, eating at home when you have kids is easier than hustling for busy tables in Brooklyn only to get what she calls the biggest crime of going out for brunch — mediocre coffee.

“On Sunday morning, do you really want your blood pressure getting that high hoping you get a table?” she said. Continue reading  continue reading

Hazelnut and Cacao Nib Granola (with Coconut and Sesame Seeds)

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I started with the recipe for Megan’s Very Best Oatmeal, of course. You know how roasting nuts brings out their flavor? They are totally enhanced with some heat, especially when we’re talking hazelnuts or walnuts. Megan figured out the same move works for oatmeal. Toast the oats in melted butter until they get a little color and start smelling good. This one move makes a big difference in your everyday oatmeal. She also has a different method for cooking the oats, a sort of steam method requiring less stirring, which makes things easier when I’m running around in the morning trying to get ready.

But when I think of Megan Gordon of A Sweet Spoonful and Marge, I first think of granola. I followed some of her granola tips to get this olive oil granola right, and now she’s led me to a new favorite. Hazelnut and Cacao Nib Granola from her cookbook, Whole-Grain Mornings.

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This recipe drew me in with its use of cacao nibs, but once I read through the ingredient list, I decided to make it as soon as I had the chance. A batch of this granola boasts sesame seeds, hazelnuts, coconut flakes, cardamom, maple syrup, and it finally gave me a reason to open that jar of coconut oil. It never occurred to me to stir sesame seeds into granola, but it’s one of the best things about this recipe. They add an earthiness that plays really well with the cardamom. Every time I bit into a good cluster, it reminded me of those sesame candies my dad loves.

Not that this granola is very sweet. The flavor here dances along that salty-sweet line, which is what I love about Megan’s granola and about making my own granola at home. Most grocery store granola tastes far too sweet and lacks the flavor you’d hope for. This is the most interesting granola I’ve tried, and now it’s my breakfast main squeeze. Continue reading  continue reading

Five Things (Austin Edition)

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BBQ + BFF

(1) From Vegas, I kissed Danny goodbye, hugged all our friends, and got on a plane to Austin to see my best friend. I was spending the rest of the week in Texas, and this time I was finally going to Franklin Barbecue. It was as good as people say it is. We were in line just before the Last Man Standing. The line was extra long with SXSW going on, but they guaranteed us brisket and passed out sausage while we waited.

Kay says Austin is all about waiting in lines, but waiting is no big deal when you’re with your bff (and chairs, a six-pack, and Heads Up, which was a good way to make friends in line and kept us going in the line for Jimmy Kimmel as well). Four hours never went by so quickly.

 

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Beer and baked goods, together forever

(2) Easy Tiger is a bakery + biergarten with excellent food. I loved my garlic sausage on a pretzel bun with plenty of mustard. Also, free PBR. There’s so much free stuff during SXSW. For dessert, a tiger claw filled with Indian spices.

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An Afternoon with French Breakfast Radishes

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No gym this morning and the French press stays where we left it yesterday. It’s Saturday and I’ve been looking forward to the market all week. Jeans on. Teeth brushed. Off we go.

The Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg is a trek from our place in the ‘burbs of north Hillsborough, but the trip is worth it every time. We hit up the first coffee stand we see and mosey around the rest of the market in search of this morning’s pastry. A brioche-like cake for Danny. The fluffiest macaroon dipped in chocolate for me.

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We head to my favorite tent, the big one for Worden Farm. Their tables are always stacked high with fresh, organic produce, but today, we’re late. They’re out of that deeply green savoy cabbage I can never get my hands on and the line stretches long and loops several times around like a garden snake. Danny gets in line. I hustle over to the greens and fill my basket with arugula, kale, and brussels sprouts. I grab a bunch of perky sunflowers and start to slow down near the kohlrabi, propped up like purple roses, when I see the radishes. The French breakfast ones with their elegant, long shape and pink and white tones.

Deborah Madison, a woman who knows her vegetables with a veracity I aspire to, says people pick up radishes as soon as they see them because they’re so pretty. And yet they often end up forgotten in a crisper drawer. Not me, I thought. I wouldn’t let these beauties fade away.

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Vegas

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I’ll say this about Vegas. It was fun. Way more fun than I expected it to be.

The shows, the lights, the food. I loved the ease of walking around with friends, stumbling upon one good thing after the other. On our way into Las Vegas, other passengers on the plane were cheering, whistling, and chanting the city’s name. Ve-gas. Ve-gas. It was funny and kind of silly to me at the time, but now you might find me cheering, too.

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