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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Posts from the Brunch Category

Dessert

Peaches and other produce are available year round at many of our grocery stores. Sure, they may be in season in other parts of the world and shipped here so we can have asparagus even in the dead of winter, but as much as possible, we should buy produce that’s ripe and ready to eat in our own latitude and longitude. Better yet, if you can skip the impersonal chill of the supermarket and opt for a leisurely stroll through a local fruit farm, do it and take in the colors and smells of summer produce. The peaches featured here are from Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue, one of Tara’s frequent pit stops in the North Fork of Long Island.

Fresh fruit is one of our favorite ingredients to start summer desserts because it requires very little preparation and needs only minimal coaxing to release its juices. For these peach shortcakes, slices of ripe yellow peaches are sprinkled with coarse sugar and lemon juice. This combination macerates the fruit, creating a light, natural syrup with a balancing tartness.

You can pile the peaches onto shortcakes and slather them with vanilla-flavored whipped cream or add a generous spoonful of homemade bourbon and ginger peach jam. The recipe for the jam follows—one of Tara’s go to-s every summer when farmer’s market and fruit stand purchases are delicious freshly picked and promise to be just as good months down the road.

About the shortcakes: I’m obsessed with biscuits and scones and have been baking them since I was little. I have my preferences for how to fold in butter and how to arrange them on the baking sheet, and by now I think they’re easy to make. But, I know that even these quick breads can be daunting for non-bakers, and also, that they can be made even quicker! This recipe cheats with self-raising  flour and instead of carefully cut up chilled butter, whipped cream. Sugar and (optional) orange zest are also in the mix, and just like that, dessert is ready.

EASIER THAN EVER BISCUITS

Makes 6

*If you don’t have self-raising flour, substitute it with 2 cups all-purpose flour + 1 tablespoon baking powder + 1 teaspoon salt

2 cups self-raising flour*, plus additional for work surface
2 tablespoons coarse granulated sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup heavy cream, chilled

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

– In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and orange zest. In a second bowl (chilled if possible), whisk the cream until it holds soft peaks. With a rubber spatula, stir the cream into the flour mixture.

– Lightly dust a clean and dry work surface with flour and turn the dough out. Gather the dough together and knead it just until it comes together, 3 to 5 times. Press the dough into a ¾-inch thick disk and punch out the biscuits with a 2.4-inch cutter (you can use a glass of similar size). You may have to shape the last biscuit from the leftover scraps of dough.

– Arrange the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake until golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Transfer tray to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.

 

FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch salt

–  Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl (chilled if possible – it helps in holding the peaks) until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until needed, up to 6 hours. If it wilts a bit, re-whisk before serving.

 

FOR THE PEACHES

6 to 8 ripe peaches, sliced
Coarse granulated sugar to taste
Lemon juice

– Toss the peach slices with 2 teaspoons sugar and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in a medium bowl. Taste and add more sugar and lemon juice until you like it.

 

FOR THE BOURBON AND GINGER PEACH JAM

Recipe adapted from The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss

Makes about 4 half pint jars

3 pounds peeled and cored peaches
2 – 3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼-½ teaspoon dry ginger
1-2 tablespoons Bourbon

– Toss the fruit and 2 cups of sugar in a large bowl. Cover and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

– Add the fruit and all of the juices to a large nonreactive pan. Bring the jam to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. When the fruit has softened, add the lemon juice and ginger.

– You can break the fruit down more at this point with a potato masher if you prefer a smoother texture for your jam. This is also a great time to taste the jam. You can add more sugar if you feel it’s needed, up to 1 cup.

– Continue cooking, stirring frequently until the jam is glossy, a bit darker, and thickened. When it reaches 220°F (at sea level) it’s done. It should sheet off the spoon.

– Reduce the heat to low and add 1 tablespoon of bourbon. Stir well and taste. Add additional bourbon if desired.

– Ladle the jam into sterilized hot jars leaving ¼ headspace. Remove any air bubbles and wipe the jar rims down. You can use a chopstick to help remove the bubbles by running it along the inside of the jar. Place the lids on the jars according to the manufacturer’s directions.

– Process the jam in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. (Use the water bath canning method, processing for 10 minutes. This is a great resource http://www.nwedible.com)

– Once the jars have cooled fully, check to make sure they have sealed. If any have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator and use within a month.

– Sealed jars should be labeled and stored in a cool dark place. They’ll be good for about a year.

*A great link for a complete how to on hot water bath canning: http://foodinjars.com/2013/07/new-to-canning-start-here-boiling-water-bath-canning/

You’ve hopefully detoxed from holiday party extravaganzas and have settled back into the day-to-day routine. But, if your resolutions are already in danger of being ignored, at least opt for changing up your eating and drinking routine. Start with this shrub—  a drink with bright and zesty flavors made with ingredients that you’ll find pretty surprising!

And if you’re wondering what on earth this “shrub” thing we’re talking about is, here’s a quick introduction: Shrubs are fruit-flavored sweetened vinegars that originated in colonial America as a method of preservation. They’ve had a resurgence in the more recent past, particularly in the cocktail world.  The combination possibilities are practically endless: you can mix and match vinegars (from champagne to apple cider) with fruits, and for extra flavor, herbs.  Stir them into basic cocktails like gin-and-tonics for a unique twist or pour them, like in the following, into some bubbly. Teetotaler? Sub the sparkling wine with sparkling water.

SCARLET SIPPER

For the Shrub
Makes about 2 cups

1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
12 ounces beets, scrubbed, peeled, and cubed
1 cup fresh mint
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves

– In a quart-sized container with a lid, combine the sugar, vinegar, and ginger. Cover container and shake to combine.  Add the beets and mint, ensuring that everything is submerged. Add more vinegar if needed.

– Cover the container and let stand for 2 days in a cool, dry place, shaking every 6 to 8 hours to redistribute the ingredients.  Strain the shrub and discard the solids.  The shrub will keep for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.

For the Cocktail
Makes 1

– Fill a highball or other glass with ice. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons shrub and top with prosecco or champagne. Garnish with fresh thyme and mint, if desired.

Sweet, salty, crunchy, gooey, toasty, buttery, sticky, porky, beefy, cheesy: you can have all of these flavors and textures at once if you like when you have breakfast.  And what’s not to like?  Forget a rushed bowl of cereal and come to the diner with us.

A toasted bagel with lox is one of the most impeccably balanced food combinations. Make sure you start with a good bagel and lox or smoked salmon, and have the appropriate condiments when assembling one: fresh dill, cream cheese, capers, red onions, and lemon wedges.

Steak and eggs, if you’re feeling like extra-ravenous! Pick a quick-cooking steak like strip, flat iron, hanger, or skirt. Allow to meat to come to room temperature (pull it out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking). Pat the meat dry with paper towels, season it generously with salt and freshly ground pepper on both sides.  Head 2 teaspoons vegetable in a large skillet over high heat and add the steak to the pan when it starts to smoke. Add the steak and cook it for 1 to 2 minutes, then turn it and let it cook on the opposite side for about 30 seconds. Continue flipping the steak for 4 to 6 minutes total for medium-rare, longer if you prefer it more done.

For the seasoned potatoes seen alongside, get ready to raid your pantry. To serve 2, scrub 2 russet potatoes and cut them into 1-inch chunks. Place them in a medium saucepan, add 1 tablespoon salt, and add enough cold water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and boil the potatoes until they’re fork tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let them stand to dry out for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 2 teaspoons ground black pepper, and 1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and season them generously with the spice mixture. Cook, shaking the pan and tossing the potatoes occasionally until they’re golden and crisp. Season with salt to taste.

Pancakes. From the box to greatgrandma’s recipe, I’ve griddled it all, but this recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook is the one that I keep coming back to. They’re buttery and light and so delicious you might even pass on the syrup.

RUTH’S PANCAKES

Makes about 8 pancakes

1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
1 stick (4 ounces / 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

– Whisk together milk, eggs, and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a medium bowl, then whisk in the butter. Stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in another medium bowl. Whisk in egg mixture until just combined. Heat ½ teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet* over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, pour 1/3 cup measures of batter into the skillet and cook until bubbles have formed on the top and broken, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip pancakes with a spatula and cook until undersides are golden, 1 to 2 minutes more.

-Serve with maple syrup. Keep pancakes warm in a preheated 200°F oven on a baking sheet if you want to make all of them and serve at once. I much prefer using an electric griddle to make pancakes. It makes for more even ones, and also, if you’re the cook, you get to eat with your crowd and not alone at the very end of the meal!

Diner DeluxeThese waffles have a bit of crunch with the addition of cornmeal. I call for 1 stick of butter, but you can add up to 2 of them: the more butter in the batter, the crispier the waffle. Keep the waffles warm in a preheated 200°F oven directly on the racks while you make the rest. Freeze the leftovers for a weekday breakfast.

WAFFLES

Makes 4

 Whisk together in a large bowl:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup medium grind yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Whisk together in another bowl:
3 large eggs
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ cups milk

– Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ones. Gently whisk them together with a few swift strokes. Cook waffles according to your griddle’s instructions and serve with butter and syrup or fruit syrup.

Fried eggs seem to be a mystery to many, but they’re really very easy to make. Heat a tablespoon of butter in a medium nonstick skillet. Once melted, crack in an egg or 2 and season them with salt and pepper. Cook the eggs until the egg whites are opaque and set and the yolk — well, if you like a runny egg, serve it when the whites are done, but if you prefer a firm one, let them cook a while longer, until you start to see the yolks firm up.

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