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When it comes to rising food prices and entertaining, you can cut costs by preparing a weekend brunch instead of dinner.
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Brunch has been around since as far back as 1895, when the word first appeared in an article by British author Guy Beringer who suggested a noon meal of breakfast fare on Sundays — no doubt to quell the effects of the night before. The idea travelled and finally arrived in Chicago in the 1930s. Many countries celebrate this casual repast, such as dim sum in China and the pre-hunt English breakfast in the U.K.
Canada is known as the country where brunch can last for hours. I can attest to this. During a pre-COVID-19 brunch, the last guests departed at 5 p.m.
Vegetarian or vegans, or lactose-intolerant, are welcome, of course. Pick up vegan sausages, serve a fruit bowl, and offer soy or almond milk for tea or coffee.
Smoked Salmon, Asparagus and Watercress Salad
This salad makes a nice brunch for a summer get-together. Baby spinach is a good stand-in for the watercress. If desired, serve the salad with Swedish rye bread.
½ cup (125 mL) sour cream
2 tbsp (25 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp (25 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp (10 mL) minced fresh dill
1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard
½ tsp (2 mL) grated lemon peel
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
2 bunches watercress, trimmed
1 peeled cucumber, thinly sliced
4 oz (125 g) thinly sliced smoked salmon
2 green onions, thinly sliced
4 hard-cooked eggs (see below), peeled and quartered
In a small bowl, combine first 6 ingredients and stir to blend for dressing.
Bring a large skillet with 1 inch of salted water to simmer over high heat. Add asparagus, cover and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer asparagus to a bowl of ice water and cool. Drain asparagus and pat dry with a clean dish towel. Cut asparagus into 2- to 3-inch pieces on the diagonal. Divide the watercress among 4 individual salad bowls or plates. Top with the asparagus, cucumber, salmon and green onions. Garnish the salads with the egg quarters and serve with the dressing.
The dressing can be prepared up to 3 days ahead; cover and refrigerate. Asparagus can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate.
Makes 4 servings
Hard-Cooked Eggs: It’s always good to have a few boiled eggs on hand, as they make a great addition to any number of salads and are a quick, healthy snack.
4 large or extra-large eggs
Cover the eggs with water in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Simmer the eggs slowly for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Rinse eggs with cold water to cool. Refrigerate eggs until well chilled. Eggs can be hard cooked up to 1 week ahead; cover and refrigerate.
‘Denver’ Breakfast Bake for a Crowd
2 tbsp (25 mL) butter or olive oil
¾ cup (175 mL) diced onion
1 ½ cups (375 mL) julienne (matchstick-cut), mixed red and green bell peppers
1 tbsp (15 mL) minced garlic
3 cups half-and-half
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) black pepper
8 cups 1-inch diced hearty French bread
1 ½ cups (375 mL) julienne (matchstick-cut) ham
2 cups coarsely grated cheddar cheese
3 tbsp (50 mL) sliced green onion
½ cup (125 mL) grated Parmesan cheese
In a large sauté pan, heat butter or olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and peppers, and sauté until three-quarters cooked, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper until well combined. Add bread, ham, cooled vegetables, cheddar cheese, green onion and half of Parmesan cheese. Place in a 11-by-13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan over the top and let sit, refrigerated, at least 1 hour or preferably overnight so that bread soaks up the egg mixture.
When ready to serve, bake in a preheated 350 F oven for approximately 45 to 50 minutes, or until puffy and golden a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Serves 6 to 8
Brown Sugar & Pepper Glazed Bacon
1 lb (500 g) thick-sliced bacon
1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard
3 tbsp (50 mL) brown sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) balsamic or cider vinegar
¾ tsp (5 mL) coarsely ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Lay out bacon on a sided baking sheet. Bake in oven until about three-quarters done. Drain well and dab with paper towels.
Meanwhile, in a very small saucepan, heat remaining ingredients until smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush bacon with some of the glaze.
Increase oven to 425 F. Bake the bacon for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until crispy and shiny.
Kitchen Hack: Double-decker Egg Storage
It’s not uncommon to purchase a new carton of eggs before you’ve used up the old one. To save fridge space and make sure the older eggs get used first, place the newer carton upside down on a shelf and set older eggs in the now-converted cups on bottom of carton.
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