Category Archives: Brunch Suggestions

Dinosaurs Bake Biscuits for #Dinovember

1 - Dinosaurs set up mise en placeT-Rex explains that setting up the ingredients beforehand makes it faster to get the biscuits done

Sometime last year, I bumped into the Facebook page for Dinovember. It might have been around Christmastime, when I was looking for a present for my dinosaur-obsessed nephew. It was right after Dinovember had passed, and I was captivated by the creativity of the originators of this month-long activity as well as by the responses of their ardent followers.

2 - Pour in flourVelociraptor and Dilophosaurus pour in the flour

This year, I said that I was going to take part in the adventure. It reminds me so much of what my mother used to do with us kids: give us whatever materials were lying around and let us be as creative as we wanted to be. Inevitably, with brothers, this turned into sword fighting with craft paper tubes (well, until they snapped in half) and turning wiffle bats into lightsabres.

3 - measures out the saltAnkylosaurus measures out a bit too much salt

Blankets became capes, worn while running around the house singing the Batman and Robin theme song (reruns were a snow day tv treat). Almost anything, including leaves from the magnolia tree in the front yard, could be a Star Trek communicator or a phaser, depending upon the mood and the storyline that we would have made up.

3 - Tears foil from new tin of baking powderVelociraptor figures the easiest way to open the new tin of baking powder is just to rip the foil with his teeth

When I visit my nephews and nieces, they have tons of toys and games to choose from. They also seem equally adept at organizing the vast collection of Fisher Price people, animals, and gear that my parents accumulated over the decades and in creating their own worlds with them. For me, Dinovember is a chance to re-capture some of that whimsy which which I grew up, and to share it with the little (and not-so-little) ones in my life.

4 - tall enough to reach baking sodaBrachiosaurus is the only one tall enough to measure the baking soda

This year, after way too much Halloween candy, it seems like the dinosaurs in my home wanted to get off on the right foot (paw?) by making buttermilk biscuits from scratch from a recipe I’d posted on this website a few years ago. They seemed to have learned something from when I was in culinary school because they not only prepared a mise en place before getting started, they also cleaned up after themselves.

5 - work together to mix dry ingredientsVelociraptor and Dilophosaurus mix together the dry ingredients

The biscuit recipe is one that I’ve used before from Thibeault’s Table.  I’ve made these biscuits dozens of times.  They are also perfect to bake up a big batch and to freeze to keep on hand.  As I had leftover buttermilk from a pie that I’d made from The Up South Cookbook for #PiePartyICE hanging out in the fridge, I’m really glad that the dinosaurs saw fit to use it up making biscuits for Sunday brunch.

6 - Stegosaurus jumps in to helpStegosaurus decides to help out mixing the butter into the flour

This biscuit recipe in a slightly different format, adding chives, sharp cheddar cheese, a bit of dry mustard, and a kick of cayenne pepper, are the ideal appetizer to bring to holiday party, which I’ve done several times.  They are the basis for my Ham Biscuits that I’ve made for many gatherings and which are always a huge hit.  I’m wondering if I can convince the dinosaurs to make another batch!

7 - Makes a well for the liquidAnkylosaurus makes a well for the liquid

8 - Brachiosaurus pours in the buttermilkBrachiosaurus wonders if it would be rude to bathe in the buttermilk

9 - Cut out the biscuitsIf we all work together, this will go much faster!

10 - Ready for the ovenT-Rex asks if they should each mark their biscuits before they are baked

11 - Stegosaurus & Brachiosaurus confer on clean-upStegosaurus and Apatosaurus confer on how to clean up the biscuit-making mess

12 - Dinosaurs clean the dishesEveryone chips in to lend a hand with washing the dishes

13 - Hot biscuits from the ovenIt’s almost too much to have to wait for the biscuits to cool

14 - what to spread on the biscuitsButter, jam, honey or everything?  The dinosaurs are divided on what to put on the biscuits

Post15 - everyone gets their favoriteFinally, a decision is reached to put honey on one half and jam on the other

Buon appetito!

Courgette Frittata / Zucchini Frittata

Plated courgette frittataCourgette (aka Zucchini) Frittata

Recently, I’ve been seeing piles of squash arriving in at the local farmers market.  This means, it’s time to bring out those recipes that use zucchini (also known as courgettes) to use up this year’s crop.  I found this recipe in a British magazine when I was living there, but I’m not sure where my copy of it got to in all my changes of households over the years.  At some point, I’d tweaked it and modified it so much that I might have even tossed out the original instructions.  Now, I just recreate it from memory whenever I have a craving for it.

Courgette frittata with berries & smoked salmonFrittata with Smoked Salmon and Berries

Having picked up a bag of mixed zucchini (courgettes) and summer squash at the Greenmarket this week, along with a dozen eggs and cheddar cheese from one of my favorite stands, I knew that I was going to put this together for brunch over the holiday weekend.  I also snapped up a couple of sets of red and black raspberries to add to the dish as a garnish.  This frittata is terrific to serve on the breakfast side or the lunch side of brunch, so adding a green salad would also work, too.

Courgette frittata portioned outCourgette frittata portioned out

This recipe would be great to make for a picnic, as well.  It doesn’t need to be served scorching hot; room temperature will do.  It also packs up well to pop in the oven or microwave to reheat for a quick and easy meal on the go, as you’re running out the door to get to work (or even when you are already there before answering the a.m. barrage of emails and phone calls).  One of the reasons this is in my keeper file is that it is not only delicious, but flexible and quick and easy to make.  It’s a good option for those Breakfast for Dinner nights, too.

IngredientsIngredients

Courgette Frittata / Zucchini Frittata

Prep time: 30-45 minutes

Serving size: 4-6 people (depends upon how big you’d like the portions to be)

Ingredients:

3 medium-sized Courgettes / Zucchini (dark and/or light green),

3 oz. (75 g) Cheddar Cheese, white, mild (not extra-sharp)

5 Eggs, large (can also use 2 whites and 3 whole eggs)

1 pinch Salt

1/4 tsp. (1-2 g) Black Pepper, freshly ground

2 Tbsp (30 g) Shallot, finely minced (about 1 medium shallot)

1 Tbsp (15 g) Unsalted Butter

1 tsp. (5 g) Olive Oil

Assembly:

Grating courgettesGrating courgettes (zucchini)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Centigrade / Gas Mark 4).  Trim the end of the courgettes (zucchini) and move them cross-wise on the large holes of a box grater to create large shredded pieces.  Stop just before you get to the end of the courgettes (zucchini), as you don’t want to use that part (like the photo above).  You should end up with around 200 grams (or 8 ounces or 1 packed cup) of vegetables.  Squeeze the courgette (zucchini) using cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel (or your hands – I usually do it that way) over the sink until most of the water is gone from it.  Set it aside.

Prepped ingredientsPrepped ingredients

Grate the cheddar cheese on the large holes of a box grater.  Put that to the side until ready to mix with the courgettes (zucchini).  Chop the shallots very finely.  Also set that aside until ready to cook them.  You’ll end up with separate piles of the ingredients ready to be combined with the eggs.

Egg whites & yolks separatedEgg whites and yolks separated

The next step is a bit of a fussy one, but it’s one that I use when making omelets as well, too.  I separate the egg whites from the yolks (darn – there’s always that one yolk that falls apart!).  Then, I whisk the yolks until they are smooth and creamy.  Into the egg yolks, I add the shredded courgettes (zucchini) and cheddar cheese along with the salt and pepper.  Stir to combine all these ingredients.

Egg whites - whiskedWhisked egg whites

Whip up the egg whites until they are light and frothy.  They should not get anywhere near the meringue stage, just agitated enough to break down the structure of the whites and make them more liquid and fluffy.

Courgette mixture combined w egg whitesFrittata ingredients combined

Pour the courgette (zucchini) mixture into the egg whites.  Gently fold in the courgette mixture until it is thoroughly combined with the egg whites.

Shallots cookingShallots cooking in butter and oil

Place a 23 cm / 10-inch ovenproof skillet on the stove over low to medium heat.  Put butter and olive oil in the skillet so that the butter melts and the liquid combines with the oil.  Add the shallots and cook until they are softened, about 1-2 minutes.

Frittata on stovetopFrittata cooking on stovetop

Pour in the frittata ingredients.  Very quickly give a couple of gentle stirs to combine the shallots and butter/oil into the courgette (zucchini) mixture so that they are incorporated with the vegetables, cheese, and eggs.  Leave the frittata alone to cook on the stovetop for 5 minutes until the frittata is mostly set but still wet and jiggling a bit in the middle, like with a custard.

Courgette frittata out of the ovenFrittata out of the oven

Put the pan into the oven and let the frittata cook for another 5-10 minutes until it is completely set and is golden brown around the edges (check to see how it is doing after 5 minutes).  The top of the frittata should still be a nice, sunshine-y yellow.  *Leave it in the pan on a trivet or the stovetop to cool for a few minutes before cutting into it.  Serve warm or at room temperature or save for eating later.

Kitchen Witch Tip:*

Hot pan handleSign of a hot pan handle

When the pan in which you cooked the frittata comes out of the oven, it will be scorching hot, enough to really hurt the person who touches it bare-handed.  I know this sounds like it makes common sense, but when you have people running around your kitchen or you’re greeting guests, there’s that one split second when you might forget just how fired-up this cooking implement really is.  It will take quite while for it to cool down.

In the professional kitchen (and as we were taught to do in culinary school), there’s a a couple of ways we indicate to our fellow team members that they might want to take caution when handing a hot pan.  A. leave a side towel wrapped around it or B. sprinkle flour on it to make it stand out.  In your own home kitchen, wrapping a towel around the handle or covering it with a potholder, as in the photo above, are good options.  Just remember to let the person washing your dishes know that the handle is hot before he/she slips off the covering and places it in the sink. (It’s probably not necessary to say “caliente” before handing into to him/her to clean, as we do in the restaurant.)

Buon appetito!

St. Patrick’s Day Menu Ideas – Colcannon Cakes with Fried Quail’s Egg & Irish Bacon Crisp

Colcannon Cake w Back Bacon & Quail EggColcannon Cakes with Fried Quail’s Egg & Irish Bacon Crisp

With the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations kicking off this weekend, I wanted to share this recipe that I created for my culinary school menu project.  When we were assigned this task to design a dinner party, of no fewer than four courses to serve eight guests, I decided to explore the culinary traditions of the Emerald Isle.  You see, unlike other folks, I don’t have any traditional, cultural family recipes handed down through the generations that tug at the ethnic heartstrings.  This project gave me a chance to research the cuisine of Ireland and to pair it with some of the beverages for which that country is perhaps better known.

Colcannon cakes cooling on a rack

No menu featuring Irish cooking would be complete without at least one potato dish like this one. Colcannon, meaning “white-headed cabbage” in Gaelic, is a mix of mashed up potatoes (sometimes leftover from a previous meal) combined with cabbage, kale, leeks, and/or scallions. I found several different versions of this recipe in my menu research and was told about others from friends and contacts of mine, all of which included potatoes mixed with one or several of those vegetables. The main differences in these recipes tend to be regional or familial and dependent upon individual taste preferences.

Irish back bacon

Traditionally, this dish is served for Halloween, originally celebrated as the Celtic feast of Samhain (then it was co-opted by Christianity as were many previously pagan celebrations), which signaled the end of the Celtic year and of the harvest season. According to superstition, a young, single woman who found a ring hidden in the dish could expect to be married before springtime while the young, single woman who found the thimble faced spinsterhood.  (I’m not necessarily recommending that you continue that tradition!)  Colcannon is also considered to be a quintessential Irish comfort food.  For my menu project, I paired this with Harp Lager, but you could serve it with the beverage of your choice.

Ingredients for Colcannon cakes with Fried Quail’s Egg & Irish Bacon Crisp

Prep Time: about 1 1/2 hours

Serving Size: 8 portions (1 Colcannon cake, 1 slice back bacon, 1 quail’s egg per person)

Ingredients:

For the Colcannon Cakes:
3 large Russet or Idaho Potatoes
4 large Kale leaves
4 large White Cabbage leaves
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, plus 3 Tablespoons to cook the Colcannon cakes (I used Kerrygold.*)
3/4 cup Whole Milk
2 teaspoons Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper, freshly ground
1/4 cup Flour

To serve:
8 slices of thick-cut Irish back bacon
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter for frying eggs (I used Kerrygold.*)
8 Quail Eggs
1 Tablespoon Scallions, finely minced, for garnish

Assembly:

Steaming hot potatoes

To prepare the Colcannon Cakes, first cook the potatoes in their skins. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan or pot filled with cold water that just covers the potatoes. Bring the water up to a boil, turn down the heat and let the water simmer. The potatoes are finished when a knife can be easily inserted into the thickest point. Set aside to cool for a moment. (If you have leftover mashed potatoes, you can re-purposed those instead for this recipe.)

Steamed kale

Clean kale leaves of any dirt or grit and strip the leaves from the tough stems. Chop up the kale into thin strips. In a pan of boiling water fitted with a steamer basket. Steam the kale for about four minutes until just tender. Remove the steamer basket from the pan and let the kale drain in a colander.

Cooked cabbage

Peel off ragged, damaged outer leaves of the cabbage to get at the more tender inner ones. Clean cabbage leaves of any dirt or grit. Chop the cabbage up up into small chunks. Melt one tablespoon of the butter in saucepan. Put cabbage in pan and cover with a lid. Cook the cabbage until it becomes tender and translucent. Take the pan off the heat and allow the cabbage to cool down a bit.

Fluffy mashed potatoes

By this time, the potatoes will have cooled off enough to be handled. Peel the potatoes by using a paring knife to remove the skins gently. The skins should come off easily. Mash up potatoes using a fork or a potato ricer. Heat the milk until it just reaches the boiling point. Pour the milk into the potatoes and stir it into the potatoes together with the remaining three tablespoons of the butter, salt, and pepper. Mix together until the potato mixture is smooth. It can still contain some lumps, but it should be mostly smooth and fluffy. Add the steamed kale and cooked cabbage to the potatoes.

Colcannon mixed together

Mix together the kale and cabbage with the mashed potatoes. Taste the mixture and adjust it for seasoning, as necessary. Form potato-kale-cabbage mixture (Colcannon) into eight rounds. Pour flour onto plate. Dust Colcannon cakes with a little bit of flour to aid them developing a brown crust when cooked.  While Colcannon cakes are cooking, finely mince scallions. Set aside to be used when assembling the final dish.

Frying up Colcannon cakes

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt two teaspoons of butter in a large skillet.  Place four of the Colcannon cakes in the pan and cook on one side until golden brown and crispy.  Flip over and cook them on the second side in the same manner, adding extra butter, if needed.  Remove the Colcannon cakes from the pan after they have become brown and crispy on both sides. Place on a rack until ready to serve.

To serve:

Reheating Colcannon cakes and bacon

Heat an oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Wipe the skillet clean after cooking the Colcannon cakes. Place the bacon in the skillet. Cook bacon on both sides until the edges become slightly crisp. It will not become completely crunchy-chewy like American-style bacon, as it has less fat overall. Remove the bacon from the pan and place on a rack.  Place the Colcannon cakes and the bacon on a baking sheet to keep warm while preparing the quail’s eggs. You could also make the Colcannon cakes in advance, refrigerate them, and then reheat them in the oven prior to serving them.

Frying up quail eggs

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Crack three to four of the quail’s eggs in the skillet (depending upon the size of the skillet), taking care not to let their whites overlap. Cook until the white is firmly set, the edges are a bit crispy, and the yolk is still mostly runny. Set aside on a warm plate. Repeat with the additional eggs, adding more butter as necessary.

Colcannon Cake with Quail’s Egg & Irish Bacon Crisp paired with Harp Lager

Place one of the warmed Colcannon cakes on each of eight plates. Top each with a fried quail’s egg. Place one piece of the bacon alongside the Colcannon cake. Sprinkle with a bit of the chopped scallion. Serve while everything is still warm, alongside a beverage of your choice.

Buon appetito!

*A few months back, Kerrygold invited me to be a part of their blogger network.  As a long-time fan of cooking and baking with their butters for its taste and texture and ability to deliver consistent results, I accepted their offer.  I had designed and tested these recipes (as well as many others on this website) using Kerrygold well before they reached out to me.  You can use whatever butter you wish.

The Experimental Gourmand now on Gojee.com

UPDATE: Due to the editorial changes that took place at Gojee.com in 2013, I decided to remove my recipes from their website, as my content no longer fit with their website’s mission.

For those who follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve already seen my exciting news, but I wanted to share this with everyone who drops by this site, too.  Thursday, I announced that I’ve published some of my recipes on Gojee.com, a site that lets you search for dishes to make based upon entering the ingredients you have in your cupboard.  For those who are based in the New York City area, you can also link your Gojee.com account to a D’Agostino loyalty card to make this an even better way to maximize those grocery-store dollars.  Hopefully, this service will be available for other stores’ cards soon.

Here’s what I’ve uploaded to the site so far:

 

Quinoa with Broccoli – super simple to whip up for a quick weeknight dinner or for lunch

 

 

 

 

 

Salad with Balsamic Vinegar-Fig Reductionfull of greens and goodness, this is a unique way to use up that bottle of balsamic vinegar that’s been lurking the bottom of your kitchen cupboards

 

 

 

No-Mayonnaise Carrot Salad – light, refreshing, and with a hint of smokiness from the cumin-scented dressing, this is a perfect salad for summertime picnics or barbecues

 

 

 

 

Seared Scallops with Parsley Salad and Bacon – this dish was the hit of a luncheon that I hosted for some friends.  The original post also walks you through a step-by-step tutorial on cooking scallops

 

 

 

 

Smoked Salmon Hash – I’ve reposted this recipe several times in round-ups for entertaining, holidays, and brunch.  It is super easy to make and is so delicious

 

 

 

I hope that you go to Gojee.com and check out the recipes from the amazing food writers who are listed there.  I’m honored to be in such great company and am looking forward to posting many more great meal ideas on their site.  One word about my profile picture on the site, it was taken by my friend Kim Elphinstone.  I had brought him a half a batch his favorite cookies, Chocolate Chip with Sea Salt, for his time and photographic skills.  After several hours of shooting, I was ready for a snack so I started to dive into them.  Turned out that they were the perfect prop!  (Yes, I did eat that cookie when we were done.)

Buon appetito!

Cinco de Mayo Entertaining & Menu Ideas

Chilaquiles for Brunch

I’m still in a bit of denial that May is really here already, so wrapping my head around what to pull together to acknowledge Cinco de Mayo has been daunting.  This year, I’ll actually be in Washington, DC at Eat, Write, Retreat with several dozen other food bloggers and writers.  With the day itself falling on a Saturday, this is a perfect opportunity to gather your friends around to eat and drink and to celebrate being together.  Maybe a few of these American-Mexican hybrid dishes could be on the menu to get things rolling.

Tomatillo Salsa

This Tomatillo Salsa is a good base for any one of a number of dishes, the Chilaquiles, enchiladas, nachos.  My favorite way to eat it is just drizzled over eggs folded over gooey melted cheddar cheese.  It really perks up the morning, and gets the day started on just the right note.

Fork Tacos for DIY entertaining

My sister-in-law will groan at seeing this dish, but it’s not a bad option for a Weeknight Dinner for the gang.  I’m speaking from first-hand experience on this one, as growing up we had Fork Tacos at least a few times a month, and I was the person who was usually tasked with putting it together.

7-Layer Dip

Or maybe you’d like to start with the leftovers first?  When I originally posted this recipe for 7-Layer Dip, I was using up those Fork Taco dinner extras.  You could even start off by making this dish instead of the tacos.  I might even add a layer of the Tomatillo Salsa to the beans, making it an 8-Layer Dip.

Family-flexibile Fajitas

I wish I had a better photo from this post for Family-flexible Fajitas, but the truth is that my siblings and their kids and spouses descended upon all the dishes before I even had a chance to make my first fajita.  That’s the reality of living in a large family.  Seriously, they were all eating the Guacamole as fast as I could mash up the avocados, even using the little ones to sneak chips in underneath my arms to grab a bite.  That should be recommendation enough that this dish is a real crowd-pleaser and would be a great way to entertain your friends for Cinco de Mayo.

Buon appetito!

Easter Brunch Menu Ideas

It’s Easter Brunch time!  This year, I’m not inviting folks over this year, as several of my friends are out of town, and I’ve been waylaid by a spring cold.  That means I might be doing brunch for one, which isn’t totally awful, especially when I have a collection of Recipes to draw from to make a holiday special meal.  I’ve pulled together some ideas here based upon dishes that I’ve tested for the site.  These would be great anytime you are inspired to throw a weekend meal together for friends, not just on holiday weekends.

Smoked Salmon with Mustard Crème Fraîche on Brown Bread

 

 

 


 

Smoked Salmon Mousse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beet and Goats Cheese with Horseradish on Lavash Crackers with Microgreens

 

 

 

 

 

Spinach-Artichoke Dip

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arugula Salad with Mushrooms and Gran Padano

 

 

 

 

 

Spinach Salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eggs with Sautéed Mushrooms, Spinach, and Taleggio

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asparagus and Scrambled Eggs with Herb Butter

 

 

 

 

 

Baked or Shirred Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

Leek and Ham Gratin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fondue

 

 

 

 

 

 

Torta al Cioccolato

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed-Berry Crostata

 

 

 

 

Buon appetito e Buona Pasqua!