Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sundays are great Brunch Days......

What can I say about Sundays? Day of rest (from what? not working means every day is Sunday for me! Sounds nice but can be boring after a while...)- day to get together with friends and family, make Sunday dinner a tradition for your family, day to be lazy and selfish, day to get your act together for starting a new work week......

Whatever Sunday means to you, or even if you make another day of the week into "your" Sunday if you work on this day- we can make it a great day..... Sunday just seems to bring out the relaxed in us for some reason, from the time you wake up and carries it all throughout the day; maybe it's the sleeping in, not hurrying through breakfast or just being able to have breakfast that makes it special. In any case, it's good for us to try and conserve this feeling all week long, don't you think?

For us, Sunday means Brunch with a late breakfast that will carry us until dinner time. After sunset brings a special kind meal to top off the week and recharge energies to get us going on beginning a new week. It doesn't mean you have to spend all day preparing and working, not at all. I've found that I can get organized well in advance and it's now become natural for me to think ahead, sometimes weeks in advance, when I initially go shopping (sparing shopping time and having to think on the spot and gas savings too) to include items I might like for the next weekend or so.... this way I've already got one or two things chosen.

It also makes sense during the week when making other things for our daily menu's, if it's similar or can be worked into your time schedule, to make advance steps that will save time and energy during the weekend. Maybe you can recycle leftovers that with little effort can be turned into a Brunch item or prepare items and save them in zip lock bags to save prep time later; since sauces store well these can be made in advance too; freeze things that might work later, many items can be done in advance (look at all the recipes you're considering to see which can benefit from advance planning- at first it might take more time and planning but once you get used to working this way it's a snap) and you'll love the time and work this saves you later. Makes planning something special very easy.....

Also, think that when making a particular dish for one day might mean that if you make extra, half can be stored or frozen for it's use on the weekend. It can used as a base for other meals by simply adding this or that, giving it a different spin and coming up with an altogether different meal! Even pieces cut from vegetables, trimming meat or bones being prepared for one dish can be stored in zip lock bags and kept for the day when you need a soup, stock, sauce, chili, salad or ? You'll have less waste, save money and time.

I'm sure you get the idea (or maybe all this just sounds like more work to you.... ) but it will save time and money, really. The trick is to change your mind set and think in advance, but it does mean to give a spin in how you look at things.

Here are some great dishes you can incorporate into your Brunch or Family Dinner.....

Artichokes with Roasted Garlic Aioli.- A great appetizer or light lunch. We love the flavors here and have it often!

1 egg yolk
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 cup grape seed oil (I use olive oil usually)
1 head garlic, roasted (see note below)
Salt and pepper
Lemon juice to taste
12 baby artichokes (poivrade variety, which are the tiny ones)
1 to 2 lemons
2 to 3 tbl olive oil

Make the aioli: Beat the yolk with the vinegar and mustard. Whisk in the oil, drop by drop, to make a thick mayonnaise. Squeeze the garlic out of the roasted cloves into the mayonnaise and whisk smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, to taste.

Prepare the artichokes: Trim the artichokes, rubbing with lemon as you go, until you are down to the core with a bit of stem attached. Halve. While you’re trimming, bring a pot of water to the boil. Squeeze the juice of a lemon into it and salt it. Drop in the artichokes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes, depending on the size. Drain, and pat dry. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and brown the artichokes on all sides. Transfer to paper towel to drain. Serve with the aioli.
NOTE: To roast a head of garlic, wrap in foil with about 2 tsp olive oil and bake for an hour at 350F.
I also stretch the aioli even more by adding either heavy cream or sour cream (or creme fraiche too), to "loosen" it up and then turn it into a dressing which I use with salad, vegetables, as a dipping sauce, over fish or chicken or you name it.... it's wonderful!

Lovely Watercress S
alad.- How about this for a change? It's great! (I also use this salad in place of lettuce on all kinds of sandwiches, fantastic!)

4 handfuls watercress, with the stems trimmed, rinsed
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
Champagne vinegar to taste
Salt and pepper
2 handfuls small green grapes
1 handful slivered almonds, toasted

Toss the greens with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange on a serving platter and scatter over the almonds and grapes. Serve.

Belge-Ette de Veau (Belgian Veal Stew).- Belgian counterpart to the French version but very similar, truly comfort food. Don't like or want veal? Use pork!

4 lbs veal shoulder, cut in into chunks
8 cups chicken stock
1 boquet garni (see note below)
1 carrot
1 onion, poked with 2 cloves (just insert them into the onion and drop in)
Salt and pepper
5 tbl butter
12 oz small cremini or button mushrooms
3 tbl flour
1/2 cup crème fraîche (or half sour cream, half heavy cream)
A few handfuls of finely chopped parsley for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Salt it, and blanch the onions one minute. Remove and set aside. In the same pot, blanch the meat four min. Drain, and rinse under cold water. Put the veal in a pot and cover with all but 1 cup of the chicken stock. (If you need more liquid, add water.) Drop in the bouquet garni, carrot, and clove-studded onion. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer very gently, uncovered, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. (I make it in the pressure cooker and it takes all of 30 min....! I cook the entire dish in there and makes for less cleanup)

While the meat cooks, peel the blanched onions. Melt 2 tbl of the butter and gently fry them together with the mushrooms until golden, about 5 min. Pour over the remaining cup of stock and cook until tender and all the liquid has evaporated, about 10 min. Set aside.

When the meat is very tender, but not falling apart, remove from the heat. Discard the carrot, onion, and bouquet garni. Strain the liquid into a saucepan. You should have about 2 cups: if you have more, simply boil to reduce over med-high heat until you get the right volume. Set the meat aside with the mushrooms and onions and keep warm.

Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook one minute. Pour over the cooking liquid and simmer to thicken, about 10 min, skimming off any film that rises to the surface. Add the cream, season with salt and pepper, and pour over the meat. Gently reheat, transfer to a dish, scatter of the parsley, and serve.
NOTE: The bouquet garni is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string and mainly used to prepare soup, stock, and various stews. The bouquet is boiled with the other ingredients, but is removed prior to serving. There is no generic recipe for this, but most recipes include parsley, thyme and bay leaf. Depending on the recipe, it may include basil, burnet, chervil, rosemary, peppercorns, savory and tarragon (my favorite!)....
-You can also add or substitute other vegetables for the ones here, follow your taste.

Meringue and Almond Cake.- Rich yet light and full of wonderful almond flavor..... It's also one of the prettiest cakes you'll see....

4 oz almonds or hazelnuts, finely ground
1 tbl cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar + 1 tbl sugar
4 egg whites
1/2 cup + 2 tbl sugar (for the butter cream)
4 egg yolks (for the butter cream)
1 cup butter, very soft (for the butter cream)
1 tsp vanilla extract (for the butter cream
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted (for the topping)
6 peaches, sliced thin, unpeeled (for the topping)

Make the cake: Heat the oven to 275F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and draw on two 9-inch. (You could also do rectangles). Combine the ground almonds, cornstarch, and all but 2 tbl of the sugar. Beat the whites to peaks, then beat in the remaining sugar to make a stiff meringue. Fold in the almond mixture in three batches to combine thoroughly but gently. Using a piping bag with a large tip, (or use a plastic bag with one of the bottom corners cut off) pipe the meringue onto the circles on the parchment. (so it looks like a thick white cord coming out, start on the center and work in a spiral, making it larger as it goes until you end up at the edge of the circle you drew on the paper) Bake until crisp and dry, about an hour and a half. Keep watch on it so it doesn't burn and get only slightly golden.

Make the butter cream: Heat the sugar with 1/3 cup + 2 tbl water to dissolve, then boil to soft-ball stage, which is just before the syrup changes color (239F on a candy thermometer if you're using one). Beat the egg yolks with a mixer, then, with the beaters running, quickly add the hot syrup in a thin stream, a little at a time. Continue beating until the mixture is cool and forms and thick mouse, about 5 min. Beat in the butter, gradually, and finally add the vanilla.

Assemble the cake: Set a round of meringue on a serving plate. Spread over a quarter of the butter cream. Lay in a layer of sliced peaches. Spread the top layer with butter cream and set it on top on the first. Spread the remaining butter cream over the sides of the cake. Press the toasted almonds all around the sides. Arrange another layer of peach slices on top.
NOTE: You can use other fruits for this as you like, but I've found that stone fruits work best.

"The 44" - Orange - Coffee Drink.- Sounds strange but tastes great and packs a punch! You really need to plan ahead for this one.....

1 large organic orange, well washed
44 coffee beans
44 sugar cubes
4 cups vodka

Poke the orange with a skewer or knitting needle and insert the coffee beans through the slits in the skin into the orange flesh. Put the orange in a sterilized preserving jar (with an opening large enough to fit an orange through), add the sugar, pour over the alcohol, seal, and shake. Store in a cool, dark place, giving the jar a shake every day for 44 days. Filter the liqueur through a coffee filter into a serving bottle.
NOTE: This recipe is for one jar or bottle that will accommodate 4 cups, if you want to make more then adjust the recipe as needed. I make all my home made liquors (kahlua, flavored vodkas, galiano, etc. about twice a year but in Sept/Oct for sure so they will be ready for Xmas since they make fantastic gifts and nice to gave during the holidays. More recipes under "gifts" section.

Better Citron Presse (Lemon Beverage).- A popular beverage served in bistros which you can turn into a great aperitif....

2 cups sugar
Peel from 2 lemons, julienned
2 cups water
mint springs

To make lemon syrup: put the sugar and lemon in a saucepan with water. Bring to a boil just 5 min. Remove from the heat and cool. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Put 1-3 tbl of lemon syrup in a glass with a few ice cubes and a sprig of mint. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Stir in 1 oz vodka, add cold water to lighten. Sweeten with more syrup, if you like.
NOTE: This can be non-alcoholic or with vodka if you like. You can also use sparkling or soda water if preferred or Lemon-Lime soda.... your choice.

I'm waiting for the guys to settle in before serving, we decided to leave the main dishes shown here for dinner yet we'll be having the artichokes and some crusty Bruschettas made with home made baguettes (Yay! so good!)..... here's the drill: Shredd Mozzarella, chop black olives and have ham and slices of tomato, basil leaves and onion on hand.

Mix the mozzarella, olive oil, vinegar, oregano, onion and black olives. Mound the mixture on the cut side of the baguette halves. Bake at 425 F for 8 - 10 min or until bubbly and golden.

Remove from oven and lay sliced tomatoes, basil leaves and ham over baked sandwich and serve. Amazingly easy and good! Hope you enjoy it, talk soon......

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