I'm always on the lookout for new brunch dishes that are not only easy (I like to do most of the cooking the day before) but also really appetizing. The egg dish started as a pizza with eggs on top, and it quickly transformed into this elegant dish. I often make these oatmeal biscuits because they pair so well with the eggs. To round out the offering, I typically set out smoked salmon, cream cheese, good breads and croissants, softened butter and jam or marmalade. Desserts are always muffins and a few squares, either bought or homemade, plus a seasonal fruit platter, which at this time of year includes mangoes, melons, clementines and Medjool dates.
CREAMED LEEKS AND SPINACH WITH EGGS ON TOP
If you want to serve more people, this recipe is easily doubled, using two baking dishes. For the simplest serving, you can make them individually in ramekins (they will take a little less time to bake). The leek and spinach mixture can be prepared a few days ahead - keep it in the fridge until you're ready to bake. Reheat it for five minutes in the oven before adding eggs and continuing with recipe. I often make bacon with this.
2 tablespoons butter
6 cups sliced leeks, white and light green part only
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
8 cups packed baby spinach
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Fleur de sel for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 450F.
Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and garlic and sauté until leeks are limp, about five minutes. Add spinach in handfuls and cook until wilted. Pour in wine and cook for two minutes, or until reduced by half. Add whipping cream, soy sauce and Dijon, bring to boil and cook for five to seven minutes, or until cream is reduced and mixture is thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer mixture to an oiled 12x8-inch baking dish. Use a spoon to make a small well in the leek mixture for each egg.Crack one egg at a time into a small bowl and gently pour into a well. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake for eight to 10 minutes or until egg whites are set and mixture is bubbling. Remove from oven and let sit for two minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley and fleur de sel.
When I tasted these oatcakes from a farm store on Scotland's remote and beautiful Isle of Mull, I knew I had to try to make them myself. This is my remembrance of them. Isle of Mull cheddar is in a class of its own, but old Canadian cheddar is a good substitute.
2/3 cup steel-cut oats
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces grated sharp cheddar (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 325F.
Combine oats, oatmeal, flour, salt and cheddar in a bowl. Drizzle in the melted butter and water and mix until well combined. Let stand 10 minutes, or until mixture has firmed up and come together. If it is still crumbly, add a touch more water.
Knead the dough enough to bring it into a ball, then roll or pat out on a floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut out biscuits. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly golden around edges. Let cool on baking sheet.
Makes 18 biscuits
DRIED CHERRY MUFFINS
This is an outstanding grown-up muffin. The beer gives it a moist and cakey crumb, and you cannot taste it. Enhance it with plump cherries or cranberries and crunchy almonds. They will keep moist for two days.
3/4 cup dried cherries
1 cup flat beer
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled slightly
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
Place cherries and beer in a small pot over high heat and bring to boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain, and reserve the cherries and beer separately.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Oil or spray 12 medium muffin cups.
Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. Combine butter, egg, orange rind and 1/2 cup reserved beer in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients into dry, gently stirring together. Batter may be a bit lumpy. Stir in reserved cherries and almonds.
Fill muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.
Makes 12 muffins
ESCAROLE, AVOCADO AND ROASTED TOMATO SALAD
Escarole is a sturdy winter lettuce with a slightly buttery edge.
18 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated asiago cheese
1 head escarole, torn into bite-sized pieces (about 8 cups)
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 ounces asiago cheese, shaved
Preheat oven to 350F. Oil a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
Toss cherry tomatoes with oil and salt and pepper, place on prepared baking sheet and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until semi-dried. Remove from baking sheet and reserve.
Whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, olive oil and grated asiago. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve.
Combine escarole, avocado, red onion and roasted cherry tomatoes in a bowl. Toss with dressing and garnish with shaved asiago.