Monday, July 30, 2012

easy brunch

Brunch is not a meal I usually prepare. On Sunday mornings I tend to linger in my pajamas over the real estate section of the NY Times, clucking at the prices of condos and occasionally spotting stories featuring people I happen to know. I think my own story should be featured in the Times real estate section, having moved after 30 years from a rent stabilized apartment in the West Village to an attached house in Rego Park, Queens with a new husband and four teenagers. Ah, but that's another story.

Brunch at home here in Queens is usually a batch of scrambled eggs with chives from the garden and re-fried rice with lots of sauteed onions; my husband's favorite meal.

This Sunday, I was honored by a visit from some of my favorite families bearing young children in their arms, arriving to spend a few hours in my garden to share a meal and splash in the wading pool on this sunny late-July day. Brunch was a must, but what to make?

The excellent August issue of Savour magazine is all about Mexican food, and it got me hankering for a Mexican inspired breakfast.

Fruit served in a single color looks so lush! Watermelon always knocks my socks off with its shocking scarlet flesh. I don't really even eat it,  I just love the way it looks. Fortunately kids seem to love watermelon so it disappears quickly.

I didn't want to serve guacamole, it felt too predictable. While thumbing through Deborah Madison's cookbook Local Flavors I came across a recipe for a Tomato and Avocado Salad with a Cilantro Lime dressing. Her salad had a lot of other ingredients in it but I thought simply sliced tomato and avocado on a bed of lettuce would be more what I had in mind. The cilantro dressing is my own variation on her theme.

Cilantro Lime Dressing
juice of one lime
1 clove garlic
3 Tbs. chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of sugar
-blend above ingredients in a food processor, or with an immersion blender,
to puree the garlic and the cilantro.
With the motor running, slowly add in about 1/4 cup olive oil.
-pour over the salad just before serving.

Corn salsa seemed like a great way to use up the last few ears of farm stand corn I brought home from Long Island.

Corn Salsa
3 ears of corn- boil in salted water for five minutes, remove corn from the pot and let it cool till it can be handled. Slice the corn off the cob and place the kernels in a bowl.
3 Tbs red onion, minced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 Tbs cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 lime juiced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all the ingredients and taste to adjust seasoning. Let marinate for an hour before serving.

Quesadillas are an easy crowd pleaser. I made some plain, with just cheese, for the fussy, and then another batch with roasted vegetables.
The recipes and cooking tips in Savour 's Mexican Issue gave me the idea for roasting the vegetables to deepen their flavor. Normally I saute peppers and onions for quesadillas, but when I read the suggestion, it was a "duh, aha!" moment and I will never go back to the saute pan for this dish. At least, that's what I'm saying now!

Quesadillas with roasted vegetables.
-use what you have-
I placed a tomato, a bell pepper and a couple of slabs of sliced vidallia onion on a baking sheet and doused them with a bit of olive oil. Bake in a hot oven (400) for at least 1/2 hour-45 minutes, till the vegetables are soft and charred. Roughly chop the roasted vegetables and spread them over the flour tortillas and top with cheese. I cook my quesadillas on a hot oil-free skillet, for about two minutes per side.

This brunch was very easy to put together. Easier even than expected and I found myself with lots of free time to enjoy my young guests and their parents, who I plied with mimosas spiked with a very inexpensive Jaume Serra "Cristalino" Cava at under $10 a bottle. I would not pay more for a wine I was diluting with orange juice after all!

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