A brand new year is on the horizon, and none of us knows what Mother Nature or the governmental powers-that-be have planned for it. Best to greet it with the non-failing tenets of hope, faith and love, and with family and friend-ship firmly incorporated into that mix, a celebratory gathering.
Brunch is the answer and Food is always a comfort, so if that’s in your plans, here are some ideas to make it happen beautifully. Our little menu might be just what you’re looking for. If so, enjoy!
Brunch Egg Bake
3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
3 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup med. size white mushrooms, wiped w/paper towel, sliced
1/3 cup sliced green onions w/tops
1/2 medium red bell pepper, thin sliced then chopped
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup flour
1 3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
8 eggs, beaten
In large bowl combine cheese. Sprinkle half the cheese mixture in an ungreased 13x9-inch (3 quart) baking dish.
In medium skillet, cook mushrooms, green onions, and red bell peppers in melted butter until just tender. Arrange vegetables over cheese; top with remaining cheese.
Heat oven to 350F: Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In large bowl, blend flour, milk, parsley and eggs, using whisk or hand beater. Pour over layers in baking dish and place in oven. Bake 35-45 minutes or until mixture is set and top is lightly browned. Let stand 10 minutes; sprinkle with parsley and a decorative design as shown if you wish. Cut into squares and serve.
Note: You may add 1/2 cup chopped or thinly sliced ham with the mushroom mixture if you wish.
Many years ago, I met a co-reporter’s wife whom I immediately befriended. Of Mediterranean descent, she was not only lovely but a great cook. The following tabouli recipe, a perfect go-with for the egg-bake, is an old traditional hand-me-down from her mother’s mother: a real winner.
Sharon’s Mideast Tabouli
(For about 6 people)
1/2 cup bulgar wheat
1 bunch romaine lettuce
2 bunches parsley, stemmed
1/2 bunch green onions w/tops
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
3-4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded
1/8 tsp. allspice
Salt, pepper to taste
Juice of 3 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
Soak bulgar in warm water to cover 20 minutes or so; wash and chop all greens finely into a large bowl. Cut tomatoes into small dice using sharp knife so as not to mash; add to the greens. Add allspice, the salt and pepper to taste.
Squeeze soaked bulgar with hands to drain out all water well; add to salad and mix thoroughly. Add lemon juice and oil and toss well. Let stand at room temperature 1-2 hours, chilling in refrigerator a half-hour or so before serving .
Sharon said her mother always added some crumbled feta cheese to her tabouli, though purists did not. I add it, and like it — it’s your choice.
If you like breakfast breads with brunch, consider this timely delight.
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups pure cane sugar*
4 tsps. baking powder
1 1/2 tsps. baking soda
1 1/4 tsps. Salt
4 large eggs
4 Tbs. orange zest
1 1/2 cups milk
10 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 12-ounce pkg. cranberries (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter well 2 9-inch loaf pans or similar size decorative pans. In a bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, orange zest, milk and butter.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry, stirring until just combined. Fold in the cranberries and walnuts.
Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, smoothing the tops, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes before inverting onto racks to cool completely.
* If you decide to use candied cranberries or dried, sweetened “craisins” alter the amount of sugar in this recipe. This is an old authentic “receipt” that used raw cranberries and is excellent today as well. (I never argue with success)!
You may serve your choice of bread with your entrees — cranberry bread, garlic toast, small croissants, or for a more casual presentation, such as canapés — consider the following. The salmon is especially nice when ham has not been used in the cheese dish. This recipe is for a crowd.
Salmon, Cream Cheese & Caviar on Pumpernickel
1 1-pound center cut salmon fillet (about 1 1/2-inches thick)
3 fresh fennel fronds
8 ounces smoked salmon, chopped
1 8oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
1 Tb. lemon juice
3 Tb. chopped fresh chuves OR green onion tops
1 8-oz. pkg. sliced Danish-style Pumpernickel bread (these come in small rounds of about 20 slices)
3 2-oz. jars of your choice of red salmon or black lumpfish caviar (alternate)?
Additional chopped fennel fronts or chopped chives/green onions
Lemon wedges cut small
Preheat oven to 350F. Place piece of oil on baking sheet, brush with oil; Place salmon fillet in center, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place 3 fennel fronds atop salmon. Enclose in foil and bake until just opaque in center, about 30 minutes. Unwrap and cool completely. Remove any bones and place in processor with smoked salmon, cream cheese and lemon juice. Blend to a coarse puree* and transfer to bowl. Mix in the 3 tablespoons of chives or green onions; season with salt and pepper.
If you found the little cocktail-sized loaves of pumpernickel, great; if not, use a cookie or biscuit cutter to make rounds from the larger loaf. — or better yet, Cut off outside edges to square off the slices and simply cut on the diagonal for perfectly acceptable triangles! Spread salmon mixture atop each piece, top with 1/4 tsp. caviar and garnish with your choice of the chopped fennel or chives and a lemon wedge.
*I, of course, don’t use fancy stuff like processors, and do perfectly well mashing with two forks; it’s up to you.
Making a variety of little open-faced canapés like this is more fun when varied: use black caviar on some, red on others; chives/green onions on some, fennel on the rest. One point that this recipe did not mention is initial buttering of the bread. I feel each little piece of bread should be lightly buttered before piling on the goodies. It adds to the flavor and holds the spread better.
Whatever your celebration entails — whether with a party or a quiet get-together around the TV — may the coming new year be kind to us all and to our Mother Earth and her attendant creatures. God bless!
Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 208-265-4688.