Ricotta Blintzes with Berries

Blintzes are a brunch favorite that we almost never make because they are somewhat tedious, but the few times we do we are always left wondering – why don’t we make this more often?

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Some time ago Matt bought me Breakfast Comforts, a cookbook from Williams-Sonoma, as a Valentine’s Day gift. One might consider it a self-serving gift, but it’s turned out to provide joy for me to cook and for him to eat!

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We made a few modifications to the recipe as noted below, and the original recipe is from Sarabeth’s, one of the more popular brunch chains in New York. After making this recipe at home, however, it’s hard to justify going out and spending almost $21 per entrée!  The following makes about 10 blintzes.

Filling

16 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
1.5 tbsp granulated sugar
zest of a lemon (optional – I forgot it and it turned out fine)

Crepes

1.5 cups whole milk (I used goat milk, a new discovery in the store and delicious)
6 large eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1.5 tsp granulated sugar
pinch of salt

Topping

Blackberries, Blueberries, or Raspberries or some combination
2 tbsp honey

Directions

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and the six eggs.

2. In another bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and the salt. Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture, just until the batter is smooth.

3. With a rubber spatula, rub the butter through a wire sieve into another bowl to remove any lumps.

4. Brush a 7-8″ nonstick frying pan with the butter and place over medium high heat until hot. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly.

5. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip and cook the other side until golden, about another minute. Transfer to a plate.

6. Repeat with all the remaining batter, adding butter as needed. Stack the blintzes separated by parchment paper until all done. You should have about 10 blintzes.

7. In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, the sugar and the lemon zest if you are using.

8. Place one blintz, spotted side up on a work surface. Place about 2 tbsp of the filling just below the center of the blintz.

9. Fold in the sides, and then roll up from the bottom, enclosing the filling. Repeat with the remaining blintzes and filling.

10. Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat with butter. Add the blintzes to the pan and cook, seam-side down until the bottoms are golden, about two minutes.  Adjust heat as needed so that the blintzes cook evenly.

11. Flip blintzes and cook on the other side for about 2 minutes more, or until they are also golden.

12. In a separate small pan, (I just used the one I had for the blintzes) add the berries and honey and cook over low-medium heat so that the berries release their juices and it becomes like a compote.

13. To serve, put the blintzes on a plate and drizzle with the berry compote.  (Optional: add a dusting of powdered sugar.) Serve immediately!

Filling recipe from: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/ricotta-blintzes-with-berry-compote.html

Crepe and Assembly recipe from: Breakfast Comforts, by Rick Rodgers

Beet and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

I used to live right above a Le Pain Quotidien and as it was one of the few restaurants in my neighborhood where I could just sit with my newspaper and eat my favorite soft boiled eggs.  They also had some light, rustic French fare that included this tasty quinoa salad.

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We try to pack our lunches during the week, and lately I’ve been making a lot of quinoa salads, but it felt time to mix up the type of quinoa salad.  I suddenly remembered this one, and it ended up also being a delicious brunch when set over some lightly dressed arugula and a side of avocado toast.

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Add some eggs and then you truly have a healthy but elaborate brunch. Bon Appetit!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 medium beet, chopped (I like to buy the precooked, prepeeled beets and just dice them)
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas

If you’re serving this over an arugula salad… then also:

  • 2 cups arugula per serving

And if you want to add eggs…

  • 3-4 eggs/person

Directions

  1. Begin by preparing the Quinoa salad. In a medium bowl, mix the cooked quinoa, beet, parsley, and chickpeas. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper until fully incorporated.
  2. If you’re serving over arugula, add arugula to your serving plates, and then add about a cup of the quinoa salad.
  3. If you also want to add eggs, heat olive oil on a medium sized skilled, crack your eggs into the skillet and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the whites are not runny anymore.  Serve on top of everything else!

Adapted from Le Pain Quotidien, Quinoa Taboule Salad Recipe.

 

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

After making French toast challah and some variation on an egg scramble for brunch for the last few weekends, and after finding some ricotta leftover from making a blood orange ricotta cake, I decided to try this recipe for lemon ricotta pancakes.  We’re usually always whole wheat pancake types of people, but the preface for this recipe claimed that these would result in very fluffy pancakes, or more elegantly put, “ricotta cheese lends a delicate, airy texture.”  They turned out so fluffy and just melted in our mouths.  Plus they were mini sized so it felt fine to eat them all!

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups blackberries (or raspberries)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 7 oz ricotta cheese (or 15 oz – I halved the ricotta only because I only had 7 oz lying around my fridge, but I’m pretty sure these would turn out better with all 15 oz)
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • canola oil or butter for cooking.

Directions

1. Combine the berries and maple syrup in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, sitrring occasionally, just until the berries begin to release some juices, about 3 minutes.  Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta, flour, egg *yolks*, sugar, melted butter, lemon zest and vanilla.  In another bowl, using a clean whisk or handheld mixer (I use a standing mixer) on high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks begin to form.  Scoop the whites onto the batter, and using the whisk or a spatula, fold them in evenly.

3. Place a griddle over medium heat until hot.  Lightly oil the griddle and pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle.  Cook until bubbles form on the surface, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Flip the pancakes and cook until the other sides are golden, about another minute.  Repeat until all the batter is used.

4. Serve with the warm berry compote poured on top.

_MG_6486.JPG(Note on servings – the recipe claims it makes enough for 4 servings, but Matt ate them all in one sitting… so if you have a big eater, make sure to scale the recipe accordingly.)

From Breakfast Comforts, Williams Sonoma.

Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata with Goat Cheese

Frittata bite

Everyone should have a frittata in their cooking repertoire. It’s a wonderful brunch option or makes a quick light dinner. And once you know the basics, you can let your imagination run wild with combinations. Just don’t skimp on oiling your pan with whatever fat you are using, have your oven hot enough and you will have success. Leftovers can even make an un-sad desk lunch.

Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata with Goat Cheese

Yield: 4-6 servings with salad and bread

Ingredients

8 large eggs, preferably brown, cage free

1 pound of asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds

8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

3-4 ounces of fresh goat cheese

1 -2 Tablespoons fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley – any one or a mixture)

2 Tablespoon of milk (any kind will do as long as it isn’t sweetened)

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Generous 1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried oregano or thyme

EVOO for the pan plus 2 Tablespoons of butter OR all EVOO

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Pour 1 Tablespoon of EVOO and 2 Tablespoons of butter into a 10 inch no-stick oven-safe pan. (You can also use a well-seasoned cast iron pan.) Lightly saute the vegetables, including the garlic, until they just begin to soften and the asparagus turn bright green. The pan will be very full. That’s what you want. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and milk with a wire whisk until foamy. Add the salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Pour the vegetables into the eggs and mix through.
  3. Oil the pan you used for the vegetables or spray it well with something like Pam. This should be the bottom and sides. Heat the pan on medium heat.
  4. Pour the egg and vegetable mixture into the pan, just making sure that the vegetables are more or less evenly distributed. Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat.
  5. After 10 minutes, uncover the pan. The edges of the frittata will have begun to solidify but th ecenter will still be pretty liquidy. Scatter the goat cheese over the top. Place the pan, uncovered into the preheated oven. The frittata will puff up some and finish baking in the oven. It can take up to another 10 minutes but keep an eye on it since ovens are different.
  6. Once the frittata looks finished, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to rest for 2 minutes. With a thin spatula, carefully loosen the frittata from the pan. If the pan was no-stick and well-oiled, it won’t even need that – just a good shake. Unmold the frittata onto a cutting board or serving tray and cut into quarters with a large, sharp knife.

 

Popovers

One of the first restaurants I went out to eat in while in San Francisco for a business trip was called Wayfare Tavern. They had the most amazing smells in this upscale “tavern” of warm comfort foods being cooked, but I think my favorite part was that there was someone constantly walking around offering freshly baked popovers.  Given that it was a crowded restaurant and it was a full house that night, trying to attract the attention of the “popover man” was no easy feat.  It must be this reason that made me think popovers were incredibly difficult to make.

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While flipping through my Breakfast Comforts cookbook, however, I found to my delight that 1) popovers required very few ingredients, most of which I always have on hand anyways, and that 2) they were rather simple to make.

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The result was just as light and fluffy as the popovers of memory, and I hope to find more reasons to serve them up!

Ingredients (for 12)

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • Apricot or peach jam for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Have a standard 12 cup muffin pan on hand.  In a bowl, whisk together the flour and the salt.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the milk and eggs.  Whisk just until combined.  Pour the batter into a glass measuring cup or pitcher.
  2. Place the muffin pan in the oven and heat until hot, about 2 minuts.  Remove from the oven and spoon 1 tsp of the melted butter into each cup.  Divide the butter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them half-full.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and continue baking, without opening the oven door, until the popovers are puffed, crisp, and golden brown, 20-35 minutes.  Using your fingers, gently remove the piping hot popovers from the pan and served with jam and butter!

From Williams-Sonoma Breakfast Comforts

Egg in the Bread

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One of my all-time favorite movies is Moonstruck. Whenever I need a lift, I re-watch it and it never fails to delight me. There is a scene where the Olympia Dukakis character is making breakfast for the Cher character and it always looks so delicious to me. It’s what I call “egg in the bread” and it looks as if she serves it with roasted red peppers. For Matthew and Frances’ final breakfast before they had to leave, I made this old favorite. It’s very versatile and you could easily make a vegetarian version (which I often do) with either roasted red peppers or plum tomatoes or spinach lightly sautéed in garlic and olive oil. You could serve it with warmed ratatouille or sautéed zucchini or mushrooms. Let your imagination (and what’s in your fridge) guide you. What follows is more of a method than a strict recipe, but give it a try. I think you’ll like it.

Egg in the Bread

Ingredients

1-2  thickly-cut slice(s) of Italian, whole grain or sourdough bread for each serving

1 large egg per slice of bread

Unsalted butter and EVOO for the pan

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Herbs of choice (optional)

1 thin slice of Black Forest ham or smoked turkey (optional)

About 1 generous teaspoon freshly grated cheese of choice (Asiago, Pecorino with truffles, a good sharp cheddar etc.)

Directions

  1. Heat enough unsalted butter and EVOO in a heavy-duty skillet with a lid (cast iron is best) to cover the bottom of the pan. I would say about 1 Tablespoon of each for 2 slices of bread.
  2. While the butter and EVOO are melting, use a cookie cutter or sharp knife to cut a circle out of the center of the bread that will hold the egg. Save the cut-out piece. You will use it.
  3. When the butter/EVOO is sizzling, add the bread slices, including the circle that you cut out. Cook on medium high heat until desired brown. When the first side is the color brown you like, turn over the slices. Make sure you have enough butter/EVOO in the pan so the bread and egg won’t stick. Add more if needed. As soon as you turn over the bread, crack the egg into the hole that you created. It will sit directly on the pan. Don’t worry if some seeps under the bread. egg in the bread 4
  4. Add a sprinkling of Kosher salt, any herbs if used, the cracked black pepper and the grated cheese. Cover with the lid. Check in about 3 minutes to see if the white of the egg is almost entirely cooked, but the yolk is still soft. If using the ham or smoked turkey or vegetables, add them to the pan now. If using vegetables, I generally am starting with vegetables that have already been cooked and I am simply reheating them. Cover with the lid and cook for about 2 more minutes.
  5. Using a thin spatula, arrange on a plate and enjoy.

 

 

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

banana bread

When my son was little, like most children, he had a limited palate. He has long since outgrown that and now eats things that I wouldn’t, but one thing he has never outgrown is his love for my banana bread. He and Frances are coming for Thanksgiving and so not only am I getting ready for the holiday, but I want to have some of their favorite treats on hand as well.

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

Yield: One 9 x 5 inch loaf

Ingredients

2 cups, sifted all-purpose flour OR 1 cup AP flour + 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup amaranth flour (I used to try to get as much nutrition into this as I could without compromising the taste)

1.5 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 cup butter at room temperature

scant 1 cup granulated sugar

3 large over-ripe bananas mashed (I use bananas that are BLACK! They have the most flavor and have almost started to ferment. Those fruit flies know a thing or two. I mean it – black!)

2 large eggs

1/3 cup of milk mixed with 1 teaspoon of distilled vinegar (any kind of milk will do). You are basically making curdled milk. You could use buttermilk if you have it on-hand, but most people don’t.

12 ounces of chocolate chips (semi-sweet or up to 60% cacao, but no higher) tossed with 2 Tablespoons of the flour (or flour mixture)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lavishly butter (or use a cooking spray like PAM) a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, preferably non stick.
  2. In a mixer (although for years I did this by hand) cream the butter and the sugar, mixing well. Add the eggs and bananas and blend thoroughly.
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Blend well after each addition.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. If you didn’t toss them with the flour, the taste will be fine, but most will sink to the bottom. The flour prevents this from happening.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 1.25 hours. Then turn off the oven, open the door part way and leave the bread in the oven for 10 minutes more.
  6. After the 10 minutes, allow the pan to cool for about 20 minutes or until it is cool enough to handle without oven mitts. Turn the bread out onto the rack to finish cooling completely. This will get even moister over time, especially if you substitute 1/4 cup of the flour for toasted wheat germ. The wheat germ and the black bananas is what gives my banana bread its darker color.

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Spanish Piperade (Sauteed Peppers) with Poached Egg

Years ago, Matt bought me this wonderful cookbook of just Brunch Delights for an anniversary.  Given that Brunch is probably my favorite meal of the day, I thought I would be making all sorts of recipes from this book, but I confess to say that we fell in love with the French Toast and a blintz recipe, and then really never made the time to make other inventive brunches from the book because French Toast was ordered every week!

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Anyways, we finally decided to make the plunge and try a different, perhaps healthier recipe and came across this one.  The book claims that this is a typical Basque dish, and it really is versatile in that it suggested either serving it over bread, OR with a poached or fried egg, and then we ended up just doing all of the above to end up with a toasted piece of challah, layered with the peppers, and topped with a poached egg.  If you’re not a “brunch” person, this savory dish will surely make you reconsider.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 oz prosciutto (or cooked Italian sausage instead is also delicious)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 tsp paprika (or smoked paprika)
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • chopped parsley for garnish
  • 4  fried or poached eggs (for 4 servings)

Directions

  1. In a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the proscuitto (or sausage) and cook, stirring frequently until lightly browned about 3 minutes.  Add the bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender, 6-8 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook until it softens, about 1 minute.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until they give off some of their juices, about 3 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are very tender, 20-25 minutes.
  3. Uncover the pan and stir in the paprika.  Continue to cook until the juices thicken, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. (Optional) Toast two slices of bread such as challah and put on plates.
  5. Divide the peppers among the bowls serving with parsley and a fried or poahed egg.  Serve hot!

From Breakfast Comforts, by Rick Rodgers.

Oven Skillet Peach Crisp

I happened to come across a big Farmer’s Market the other day, and bought up as many peaches as I could carry home.  Of course, this then brought on the dilemma of what to do with allll the peaches.

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After having this as a dessert, I was surprised to find a recipe for it that was categorized as brunch… but who says that brunch can’t be dessert and vice versa?  I heavily cut down on the sugar for the peach mix, and upon reflection, were I to make this recipe again I would barely sprinkle sugar on the peaches.  After all, if the peaches are good, they’re so naturally sweet that the sugar is sort of unnecessary.

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Suffice to say, this made for a delicious late summer brunch!

Ingredients

Topping

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Assembly

  • cups pecans
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • pounds peaches (about 7 medium), cut into ½-inch wedges
  • 1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. Butter a skillet lightly.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut up the peaches into about 1/2″ wedges.  Toss with the pecans, brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and salt to combine.  Layer into the skillet.
  3. Assemble the topping by combining the flour, brown sugar, salt and butter in a small bowl.  Rub the butter with the dry ingredients until a “crumble” forms.
  4. Sprinkle the topping in an even layer over the peaches in the skillet.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the top layer is golden and the peach juices are bubbling.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Serves about 4

Adapted from Bon Appetit “Iron Skillet Peach Crisp”

Baked French Toast

Brunch may be my favorite meal to cook, mainly because it’s usually synonymous with a lazy morning where I’m taking it easy after sleeping in, and then getting ready for a leisurely day reading the paper.

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While I have a great French Toast recipe, every once in a while it’s fun to try a new variation on an old classic.  We were traveling around Lenox, MA a few years ago while hanging out at Tanglewood and came across an excellent brunch place that happened to have “baked French toast.”  It was the first time I had come across it, but it looked so decadent and filling that I promised myself I would try to make it one day.

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Three years later I have *finally* gotten around to it!  Since it was only for two, I ended up just halving the recipe and using a regular loaf pan (about 9″ x 4-5″) instead of the 9 x 13″ in the original recipe.  However, I used just as much bread from the original recipe.  (The following is for two portions using the loaf pan.)

Ingredients

Butter, for greasing
3 eggs
1.5 cups whole milk
1/3 cup maple syrup, plus extra for serving
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus 1/2 tablespoon
pinch kosher salt
1 lemon, zested
8 ounces day-old challah or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cups (6 ounces) fresh or frozen, thawed, and drained blueberries
1.5 tablespoons granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 4-inch baking dish. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, and lemon zest. Add the bread cubes and mix until coated. Stir in the blueberries. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the egg mixture in an even layer.
  4. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes until the top is golden and the filling is set.
  5. Spoon onto serving plates and drizzle with maple syrup.

Serves 2

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis from the Food Network.