Let's Do Brunch!
article & photos by renata haidle
I didn’t grow up with traditional brunches. There was no smell of scrambled eggs or bubbling casseroles in my mother’s kitchen, no caramel rolls to get my hands sticky. Back then, a lazy Sunday morning would have brought the comfort of a slow-cooked and constantly stirred rice pudding, thick and creamy, with tiny flecks of fragrant lemon zest throughout. Occasionally, there would be a platter of labor-intensive croissants, flaky and delicate, filled with jam or Turkish delight and lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Or better yet, my all-time favorite: rolled-up crepes, as thin as paper and filled with homemade apricot jam sourced from Grandma's generous pantry. I didn’t see it then (I’m sorry, Mom). I probably didn’t see it until I had my own children and started my own rituals, but on Sunday mornings, the only mornings my mother had the extra time, the food was made with extra love.
For it is love that best encapsulates the concept of brunches, isn't it? Be it for family or dear friends, love is the driver behind this laid-back meal, reminiscent of Christmas mornings in PJs and slippers, messy hair optional. Love and comfort - although one might argue that all food is meant to be comforting, after all.
It might come as a surprise to hear that brunch, in its early years, was created to serve a totally different purpose. The 19th-century English upper class, already known for excesses of all sorts, seems responsible for the advent of this meal that is neither breakfast nor lunch, but something in between, meant to accommodate late Saturday night party-goers and their subsequent hangovers. In 1895, Guy Beringer, an Englishman writing for a magazine called Hunter's Weekly, made a case for late-morning meals and their inherent social cheer in an article aptly titled "Brunch: A Plea." "Brunch is a hospitable meal; breakfast is not," Beringer wrote. "Eggs and bacon are adapted to solitude; they are consoling but not exhilarating. They do not stimulate conversation. Brunch, on the contrary, is cheerful, sociable, and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper; it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings. It sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week."
As you might have guessed, it did not take long for his plea to be accommodated. And a mere three decades later, this indulgent Sunday morning ritual made its way across the Atlantic, with a little bit of help from the Roaring Twenties crowd. It's not like one could refuse an offer this good, especially when it came with the added benefit of mimosas and Bloody Marys before noon.
Mimosas aside, a satisfying brunch offers the attraction of sugary treats, eggy mixtures, and spongy cakes soaked in syrup. If not careful, one runs the risk of waking up from a Saturday night hangover and landing straight into a carb-induced stupor. To avoid that, we collected a few recipes that will give your next brunch gathering a healthy twist without losing its comforting appeal.
So put on your aprons, take out a carton of eggs and some fruit and veggies, and let's get cooking together. We'll make simple recipes that won't stretch anyone's culinary talents yet aim to please most palates. All that while seeking to lighten up the caloric load, because let's face it: social distancing has been brutal on many waistlines and, well, summer is just around the corner.
BANANA COCONUT PINEAPPLE PANCAKES
Bring a Hawaiian flair to the table with these flavorful pancakes reminiscent of the shores of Waikiki.
- 1 Cup flour
- 1 Cup milk
- 2 Tbsp. oil
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. lemon extract
- 2 ripe bananas, mashed
- 3 oz crushed pineapple
- ½ Cup shredded coconut
- 1 Tbsp. butter for greasing
- Makes 6-8 medium pancakes.
- Brush a non-stick skillet or griddle with butter and preheat to medium-low.
- Whisk all the ingredients together in the listed order - omit the butter.
- With a ladle, pour circles of the mixture on the hot griddle and cook until bubbly and golden brown (4-5 minutes). Flip the pancakes and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until golden. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve warm with a drizzle of honey and a side of freshly cut pineapple. Decorate with a sprinkle of shredded coconut.
SPINACH AND MUSHROOM FRITTATA
A simple dish that comes together in minutes, this frittata is something you'll want to make again and again. You can easily swap various vegetables for the ones listed below and add different cheese combinations for different flavors.
- 2 Cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
- ½ large onion, finely chopped
- 1 small can (6.6 oz) sliced mushrooms, drained
- 4 large organic eggs
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1/2 Cup feta cheese, crumbled
- ½ Cup cheddar cheese, grated
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a 9-inch round pan with parchment paper.
- Sauté the onion on medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and chopped spinach, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Pour the mixture into the 9-inch pan.
- Beat the eggs lightly, add the salt, pepper, and feta cheese, and pour over the spinach and mushroom mix. Top with the grated cheddar cheese.
- Bake at 400F for 30-35 minutes.
SPINACH AVOCADO AND TOMATO SALAD
This summery salad is an excellent accompaniment to the spinach frittata and couldn't be easier to put together.
- 3 Cups baby spinach
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1 Cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- ½ tsp. Maldon salt
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
GOUDA CHEESE MUFFINS
Inspired by Brazilian cheese bread (Pão de queijo), these airy muffins are gluten-free and irresistibly delicious.
- 1 egg at room temperature
- 1/3 Cup canola oil
- 2/3 Cup milk
- 1 1/2 Cups tapioca flour
- 1/2 Cup Gouda cheese, grated
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
- Makes 10-12 small muffins.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a muffin pan with paper or silicone liners.
- Lightly beat the egg with the milk and oil. Add the tapioca flour, constantly mixing to avoid lumps. Add the salt, pepper, and shredded cheese. Pour the mixture into the lined muffin pan.
- Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes, until golden.
STRAWBERRY KIWI SLUSHIES
Welcome summer with a vibrant drink that can be adapted to suit every age group at your table. Use popsicle molds to create a refreshing, low-cal alternative to ice cream.
- 10 strawberries
- 2 kiwi fruit, peeled
- 2 Cups ice
Makes 2 slushies.
- Purée the strawberries with 1 cup of ice and divide between two chilled 8 oz glasses.
- Rinse the blender with cold water.
- Blend the kiwi with 1 cup ice until puréed and pour over the strawberry slushies.
- To make this into an adult beverage, add 1-2 oz light rum to the fruit before blending.
PINEAPPLE FRUIT TOWER
A showy display that takes the classic fruit platter up a notch. Kids will enjoy assembling the fruit kebabs - get them involved!
- 1 fresh pineapple, rinsed
- 2 bananas
- 1 mango
- 2 Cara Cara oranges
- 12 strawberries
- 12 bamboo skewers
Cut up the bananas, mango, and oranges into ½-1 inch pieces. If large, halve the strawberries. Thread the fruit pieces onto skewers, alternating for variety. Leave at least 3 inches empty at the bottom of each skewer. Insert the fruit skewers into the pineapple at a 45-degree angle, creating a symmetrical fruit display.
GOLDEN MILK ICED LATTES
An old traditional Indian drink that mixes milk and turmeric, golden milk has made its way into our kitchens to remedy various ailments from inflammation to memory loss.
- 12 oz freshly brewed coffee
- 1 Cup coconut milk (or any other plant-based milk of your choice)
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 cardamom pods, crushed
- Ice cubes
- Whipped cream (optional)
- Honey (optional)
- In a small saucepan, bring the milk, turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom pods to scalding temperature (150F). Remove from heat. Using an electric milk frother, whip the milk to foam.
- While the milk is heating up, brew the coffee. Add honey at this step if you desire a sweeter beverage.
- Fill three 10 oz glasses halfway with ice cubes. Divide the coffee between the three glasses. Add the foamy milk. Top with whipped cream if desired, and sprinkle with a dusting of cinnamon.