Sunday, 18 July 2010

An impromptu brunch, with only a *little* hair-tearing!

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When my friend Miranda suggested brunch last weekend, I immediately offered to host.  I’d been out and about a lot the week before, and I was kind of tired of the rat race (and paying people to cook my food), so I was psyched when she accepted.  I started planning right away: something savory, something sweet, some fruit, maybe a salad, something else sweet…  I spent hours on Allrecipes, cruising brunch recipes and looking for something new and different.  And I found three recipes that seemed perfect, at which point I printed them out and spent another couple of hours (book?  What book?  Was I supposed to be writing something other than blog posts?) reading the reviews and compiling tips in the margins so I could idiot-proof the recipes. 

That didn’t work so well with the coffee cake, but the strata was yummers (if a bit more work than I really wanted to do) and the scones, despite the butter melting in the heat and the dough spreading into wonky shapes, were also pretty tasty!  Add to that some really delicious melon (although, Waitrose/British produce people, I’m pretty sure it was mis-labeled as mini watermelon, given that it tasted like honeydew and had all the seeds in the middle) and a super-vinegary (the way I like it) Greek salad, and it wasn’t half bad! 

Of course, what made the brunch a success was the company– I rarely see Miranda, because London feels as big as Texas sometimes, but when I do I’m reminded of how witty and clever and generally fun she is– but it’s nice when the food doesn’t totally suck.  And I needed some success after the week I’d had.  

Farmers Strata
(Note: I cut this recipe in half, because there were only 3 of us, and we had beyond plenty.  The bf and I ate the leftovers for dinner the next night.)

In a large skillet, saute with a splash of vegetable or olive oil:
      3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
      3 cups chopped zucchini
      2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
      1 1/2 cups chopped onions
      1 1/2 cups chopped green pepper
      2 garlic cloves, minced

In a large bowl, beat until smooth:
      2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
      1/2 cup half-and-half cream

Beat in:
     12 eggs

Stir in: 

     4 cups cubed day-old bread
     3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
     1 teaspoon salt
     1/2 teaspoon pepper
     veggies/ham mixture

Pour into two greased 11-in. x 7-in. x 2-in. baking dishes.  (And here's where you cover them in cling film and stick them in the fridge until the next morning, if you're making them ahead.) Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F (175C) for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. 

Sour Cream Scones
adapted from Allrecipes 

In a small bowl (not too small, because mine exploded! See below.), mix and set aside:
     1 cup sour cream
     1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F/175C.  In a large bowl, mix:
     4 cups all-purpose flour
     1 cup white sugar
     2 teaspoons baking powder
     1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
     1 teaspoon salt

Cut in:
     1 cup (225g) butter
Stir in:
     sour cream mixture
     1 egg + 1 tsp vanilla, beaten

Turn out dough onto floured (or cling-filmed) surface and knead briefly.  Roll or pat dough into a 3/4 inch thick round. Cut into 12 wedges (or use a cookie cutter to cut out as many rounds/hearts as you can get), and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom.


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