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Sometimes phenomenal food experiences come in waves. Maybe it is because when you enter that elevated gastronomic mindset, it’s hard to fall down. In this instance, we piggybacked one of the greatest NYC restaurant experiences at Danny Meyer’s Union Square Café one night, with a well-executed homemade brunch in my Brooklyn apartment the following morning. In fact we really never stopped living and dreaming about food. Sanaë and I went straight from Union Square Café, where we ate and drank to say the least — tempura fried asparagus with crispy pork belly, linguine with flaked halibut & broccolini, slow cooked baby lamb, a sundae of porter ice cream & salted caramel popcorn and multiple glasses of wine — directly to Whole Foods to pick up ingredients for our brunch party.
Over our dinner at Union Square Café, we put together a strategy for the morning’s menu. Sanaë wanted to make sea salt brownies, chickpea salad, a “breakfast” ricotta and orange cheesecake from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook, River Cottage Everyday and a zucchini-ricotta galette from Smitten Kitchen, all fairly labor and time-intensive dishes. Planning ahead, Sanaë made the brownies when we returned home the evening prior, and the dough for the galette early in the morning as soon as she woke up. On the other hand, I took on a couple of dishes to be cooked and served minutes before eating: a baby spinach salad with oranges and a balsamic, Dijon vinaigrette, and mushroom, spinach, shallot frittata sandwiches with pickled onions on mini toasted brioche buns. As a result, entertaining guests was quite hard for me. Sanaë watched her tarts and cakes rise and bake in the oven while sipping a grapefruit mimosa.
We invited an eclectic group of people, to name a few: a distant cousin of mine from Germany, three fraternity brothers (one American, one Brit, and The Phil Boyer) a Turk and a couple of couples. We had many delicious contributions as well: a colorful berry salad with an accompanying yogurt, cream and mint sauce, Dunkin’ Donuts (gobbled up before our food was ready), and booze provided by our personal bartender, Brendan Susens-Jackson, a friend from the industry. Albeit more than fashionably late, BSJ mixed up some gin cocktails complimenting the 72-degree sun that morning. His signature drink was a Silver Fizz, made up of gin, lemon juice, egg whites, sugar, club soda and fresh strawberries and blackberries to top it off. My guests passed the cocktail around, lighting up each subsequent face as they took a sip. All an all, the brunch spread turned out fresh, wholesome, diverse & homemade. As always, I prepared a mixtape, to accompany the aesthetics of the afternoon: the first rays of the summer, breakfast food & drink and good company. That mixtape can be found above, and the recipes below.
————————————————————————————————————– The Brunch Menu ————————————————————————————————————–
I.Chickpea & Feta Salad
2 cans of chickpeas, washed, drained and dried
2 bell peppers (I used a red and a yellow)
1/4 cup of fresh mint, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2-1 teaspoon cumin
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup feta cheese
Directions: Slice the peppers into small cubes. In a large bowl, stir chickpeas and peppers. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and juice of 1 lemon. When I make this recipe I don’t usually measure the quantity of salt, pepper, cumin and olive oil, I do it to taste, but over time I’ve noticed that more dressing is fine, especially if you enjoy the spicier and flavorful taste of cumin, delicious with the chickpeas. Make sure to stir and taste as you go along. Add the fresh mint and crumbled feta cheese. This is an excellent salad for the summer, to be enjoyed with pita bread or simply a slice of fresh bread.
II.Baby Spinach & Orange Salad
1 bag Baby Spinach
1 whole orange, peeled & sliced without pith
1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly and caramelized
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
A pinch of sea salt
A pinch of thyme
1. Caramelize onions on a sauté pan with olive oil (and butter if you like.) Remove from heat when onions are translucent and soft. Combine spinach, orange and onion in a salad bowl.Then, combine olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and thyme in a cup and mix rapidly with a fork. Toss the dressing into the salad and serve
I. Mini Frittata Sandwiches w/ Pickled Red Onion:
2 tbsp whole milk
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
2 tablespoon salted butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch root spinach
6-8 crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 bag mini brioche buns (can find them at whole foods)
Dijon mustard, to spread on buns
1 medium red onion thinly sliced
1 cup water
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Makes approximately 12 sandwiches
Quick Pickle Red Onions:
1. In a mason jar, mix water, vinegar, salt and sugar until solids are dissolved.
2. Add onions to the jar, shake & cover for 30 min before serving. The more time you have the better.
1. Preheat oven to Broil.
2. Heat an oven-proof pan on the stove. Once hot, melt 1 tbsp of butter on the pan, then toss in shallots and mushrooms. When the onions are golden, toss in spinach, and cook on a medium heat until spinach is fully cooked, then remove vegetables from heat.
3. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, whole milk, cheese and salt together until fluffy
4. Over a medium high heat, heat remaining butter, add back vegetables and spread around the pan. Then pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook on the stove for 2 minutes.
5. Transfer pan to the oven and cook for 5-8 minutes, until eggs have just barely browned and are solidified all the way through. (you can stick a knife through to test.)
6. Just before serving, cut buns in half, melt butter on a non-stick pan, place buns face down and toast until warm.
7. Cut Frittata into portions for each sandwich, put onto bottom half of the bun, place a couple pickled onions on top, coat the top half of the bun with dijon mustard and close the sandwich. Serve when warm.
II. Zucchini Ricotta Galette:
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold salted butter
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water
For the Filling:
1 large or 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves
1 egg yolk beaten w/ 1 tablespoon of water to GLAZE
Serves 6, so we made 2!
For Directions CLICK HERE
I. Baked Breakfast Cheesecake
Adapted from River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
21 ounces ricotta cheese
5 tablespoons salted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
A good pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup superfine sugar
2 eggs, beaten lightly
Finely grated zest of two small oranges + 1 tablespoon juice
To serve–Mixed Berry Compote:
1 bag frozen Mixed Berries
3 tablespoons sugar
2-3 tablespoons water
1. Preheat the oven to 325 ºF.
2. Generously butter a 10-inch springform cake pan.
3. Beat the cheese with a wooden spoon until smooth, then add the melted butter, whole wheat flour, salt, sugar, eggs and orange zest & juice. Then mix well.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes, until just set, with a slight wobble in the center.
5. While cake is baking, put bag of mixed berries into a pot over a medium heat with water and sugar, bring to a simmer and stir occasionally until thick, about half an hr. Add sugar when/if necessary.
6. Serve cheesecake at room temperature with mixed berry compote
II. Sea Salt Brownies
Adapted from River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, cut into cubes
8 ounces dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa, Icelandic is what we used)
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt and extra for sprinkling on top (I used coarse salt for this, or fleur de sel)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1. Grease a shallow baking pan, 8×10 inches, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 ºF.
2. In a pot, on very low heat, melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring constantly until fully melted. You can use the oven as a heating tool as well. Set aside and let cool.
3. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until combined, then beat in the melted chocolate and butter until smooth.
4. Combine salt with the flour and pour gradually over the chocolate mixture, and fold in with a metal spoon.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle sea salt on the top (I am rather generous with the salt, as I love the salty taste in contrast to the sweet and rich flavor of the brownies.) Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, if you stick a knife through it should come out with a couple moist crumbs.
6. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting into squares.
For a budding mixologist seeking to entertain a brunch crowd, it is best to think of yourself as a yeoman for the overhung. Back in the latter half of the nineteenth century, before the days of Alka Seltzer, bartenders crafted some delightful morning-after drinks to help soothe those with aching heads from one-too-many goblets of punch the night before. To remedy the afflicted, barkeeps concocted beverages with protein, complex carbohydrates, H2O, and the so called “hair of the dog”. One such drink, the Silver Fizz, is relatively easy to produce, and is guaranteed to please. You’ll notice that the Fizzes call for no ice in the drinking glass, as they were meant to be drunk quickly, not dwelled over like their notorious cousin: the Collins. The Ramos Fizz is a slightly more involved variation on the Silver Fizz, and requires (historically) twelve minutes of shaking in order to properly emulsify the egg white and cream, which makes it ideal for those who want to also incorporate a “Shaker Weight” style workout into their mixology endeavours. The Ramos Fizz takes its namesake from inventor Henry Charles Ramos, a famous New Orleans bartender, and was accoladed by the Kansas City Star as being “… a gin fizz which is not equaled anywhere.” –Brendan Susens-Jackson
I. Silver Fizz:
2 oz Plymouth Gin
¾ oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
¾ oz Simple Syrup
1 Egg White
Shake ingredients vigorously, strain into a collins glass with no ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with fresh seasonal fruits (blackberries & strawberries)
II. Ramos Fizz:
2 oz Plymouth Gin
½ oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
½ oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1 oz Simple Syrup
3 to 4 drops Orange Flower Water
1 oz Heavy Cream
1 Egg White
Shake ingredients first with no ice to help blend egg white and cream (a technique called dry shaking), then add ice and shake like the dickens. Pass the shaker around and let everyone have a go! Strain into a collins glass with no ice. Top with club soda.
Beach House. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .”Lazuli”
Toro y Moi. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . .”Still Sound (Vindata Remix)”
Black Light Dinner Party. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .”Older Together”
The Flaming Lips. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .”Fight Test”
Michael Kiwanuka. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .”I Need Your Company”
The Neighbourhood. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .”Sweater Weather”
Beck. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .”I Only Have Eyes For You”
jj. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .”Beautiful Life”
Vacationer. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .”Dreamlike”
—————————————————————–THANK YOU FOR COMING, HOPE YOU ENJOYED—————————————————————–