Awake, hungry and convivial. It’s the weekend and I want brunch.
Brunches are a wonderful way to entertain because they’re relatively inexpensive, don’t take all day to prepare and there’s still daylight afterwards. Since most brunches start at 11 or even noon, you don’t have to arise at dawn to cook.
Serving buffet style makes for a comfortable casual occasion. When planning the menu, I try not to have too many items, which crowd the plate. I also try to balance the ‘good’ (fresh fruit) with the ‘yummy’ (bacon). Count out the platters, plates and flatware in advance to get an idea of how to set up the table. When the brunch is ready, you won’t have to go searching for the right plate. My daughter-in-law Trina Giese always has something ready when children arrive with cups and paper plates in easy reach. This frees up space for adults and makes things a little more relaxed.
Make plenty of coffee and have tea as well but make it just as guests arrive so that it’s fresh. Mimosas and bloody Marys are always popular at a brunch. Mimosas are simpler since you can provide a pitcher of orange juice and then your guests can add their own champagne or sparkling wine.
Here are some uncomplicated menu and recipe suggestions for a Sunday brunch.
The French toast is put together the night before leaving just the fruit to cut up and the bacon and sausage to cook.
Baked Blueberry Pecan French Toast with Blueberry Syrup
Bacon and Vegetarian sausage
#2 Slightly Italian
The frittata can be cooked in advance so you can spend your time arranging all that salami…
Sudi’s Artichoke Frittata
Salami, Parma ham and Proscuitto
Sliced tomatoes and cucumbers
Basket of breads: (include something sweet here)
#3 Deli Special
If you make the muffins a day ahead, you can read the newspaper before your guests arrive! It’s that easy!
A smoked fish platter
(salmon, trout, herring, etc.)
Bagels, cream cheese and sliced red onions
Sliced oranges (or other seasonal fruit)
Pear Ginger Muffins
Baked Blueberry-Pecan French toast with Blueberry Syrup
This is a great recipe to make for a crowd and also to travel with – I’ve made it twice at a rented beach house and found the ingredients easy to pack and put together once you arrive. You can use frozen blueberries in the winter months. The syrup only take a few minutes to make but plain maple syrup is fine on its own.
- 1 baguette
- 6 eggs
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup pecans, (3 oz)*
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 cups blueberries (about 12 oz)
For the syrup:
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Cut 20 – 24 slices (1″) from the baguette and arrange them in the dish in one layer.
Whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, vanilla and 1/4 C brown sugar and pour evenly over bread. Chill mixture covered at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. Flip all the pieces of bread in the pan once so all the liquid is evenly absorbed.
Toast pecans in a dry pan or microwave (about 30 seconds), checking constantly to avoid burning.
Pre-heat oven to 400.
Sprinkle pecans and blueberries evenly over bread mixture. Heat the butter with remaining brown sugar, stirring until butter is melted. Drizzle butter mixture over bread and bake 30 to 40 minutes or until any liquid from blueberries is bubbling.
Syrup: Cook blueberries and maple syrup over moderate heat until berries have burst- about 3 minutes. Pour syrup through a sieve pressing on solids. Stir in lemon juice.
Serve French toast with warm syrup. About 10 servings.
*Nut tip: Store all nuts in the freezer well wrapped. They go rancid fairly quickly on the shelf.
Sudi’s Artichoke Frittata
This recipe comes from my good friend Sudi Press, a natural and welcoming party giver par excellence. She called these simply ‘artichoke squares’ and served them, cut small, for cocktail hors d’oeuvres. They are so good I’ve given the dish a fancier name and serve it in larger squares for brunch.
4 (6-oz) jars marinated artichoke hearts
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup breadcrumbs
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon hot pepper
1 pound shredded cheese (Swiss or cheddar)
¼ cup parsley, chopped
Drain marinade from 2 jars only of the artichoke hearts and discard. Drain the marinade from the remaining jars and combine this liquid with the olive oil in a pan. Heat and add the onion and garlic, cooking until soft.
Combine eggs, crumbs, and seasonings. Fold in cheese and parsley. Chop artichokes and add them and the onions and garlic to the mixture. Blend well.
Pour into a greased large glass pan (13 by 9 inches).Bake at 325 for about 30 minutes. The top will be browned and puffed slightly. Cool a little before cutting into squares.
Can be served hot or cold; can be prepared ahead and reheated 10 to 12 minutes.
Pear Ginger Muffins
These very rich sweet muffins were baked at the Morrison Clark Inn in Washington, DC when I worked there.
12 tablespoons (6 oz) butter, melted
¾ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
Big pinch salt
1 heaping tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
2 firm pears, peeled and chopped in small chunks (about 1 cup)
Combine sugars, flour, baking powder and soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, vanilla and butter and stir just to combine. Should not be smooth.Add gingers and pears.
Bake in greased muffin tins (or use paper liners) at 375 for 20 to 25 minutes.
Makes about 1 dozen muffins.
Have a great brunch!