Renew spring brunch tradition
By Kaui Philpotts
|Malassadas, like these from Champion Malassadas on Beretania Street, can help round out a great springtime brunch.
Eugene Tanner The Honolulu Advertiser
The other day, as I was on a run through Longs Drugs, Easter hit me in the face. All piled up were stacks of pastel baskets, plastic eggs waiting to be filled with chocolate, shredded cellophane.
In addition to the season's religious observances (Passover begins at sunset on March 27, and Easter is a very early March 31), it is a time of year which calls for brunch on a lawn. OK, so you don't have a lawn. Then let it be outdoors in the fresh air, whether on the lanai of a high-rise condominium, on your back patio, or in the favorite Hawai'i entertainment space, the carport. Smell the beautiful day and get happy.
Many years ago, one of my dearest friends became famous for throwing an annual Easter brunch. Every Easter Sunday, we dressed up a little more (some of us even broke out the straw hats) and made our way to her house for ice-cold mimosas and champagne under white tents in her back yard. We dined on ham, eggs and coffee cakes. We dipped strawberries and gobbled up her creamed oysters before collapsing in our own beds for mid-afternoon naps, stuffed and mildly intoxicated.
She gave up the brunch years ago as her own life changed, but the glorified memory of them stays in my mind and surfaces every time Easter rolls around.
This column is designed to help you revive the tradition with your own for friends and family. Begin by serving something cool and delicious to drink (with or without alcohol) and get the whole gathering off to a nice start: a tropical smoothie, chilled champagne or champagne cocktails. Have lots of good orange juice on hand for those who want mimosas.
You can work as hard as you like, or not at all, on this event. See what's in the markets first. Mounds of fresh strawberries accompanied by bowls of brown sugar andÊsour cream, and trays of cold, blanched asparagus take next to no time to throw together and have lots of impact.
You can also supplement your brunch with trays of store-bought sashimi, potato salad and sushi. They're always welcome on a buffet, and nobody cares if you made them yourself. The same goes for a spiral-cut ham served cold with dinner rolls, mustard and mayonnaise. Throw in a lightly dressed green salad.
Supplement all of the above with some things you make yourself, like a couple of springtime quiches filled with fresh spinach and tomatoes, popovers, and/or malassadas. Make sure to have lots of freshly brewed coffee and an assortment of regular and herbal teas. (Borrow vacuum flasks from all your friends, and make these ahead if your coffeemaker doesn't have a large capacity or you don't have an insulated carafe.)
This springtime quiche was adapted from "The New Basics Cookbook" by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins of Silver Palate fame. The great thing about quiches is that they can sit awhile and be served at room temperature. For this quiche, you don't have to bother with a pastry crust; it's just a simple cheese and spinach casserole even easier! Double the recipe for a crowd. You can also make it easier on yourself by buying those giant packages of already cleaned spinach leaves.
- 12 cups fresh spinach leaves
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup chopped shallots
- 3 plum tomatoes
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup grated monterey jack cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh dill
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
Rinse the spinach and place in a large saucepan with just the water that clings to the leaves. Over low heat, wilt the spinach, 3 or 4 minutes. Drain, squeezing the excess moisture. Chop and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a small skillet and saute the shallots over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Halve the tomatoes and squeeze out the seeds and juice. Coarsely chop and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, jack cheese, dill, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Stir in the spinach, tomatoes and shallots. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Add the filling and sprinkle with the bread crumbs and parmesan. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Let it stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6 to 8 people.
Popovers are classy and not as tricky as they look. They're a lovely addition if you're having a small group. If you don't have a popover pan, substitute buttered oven-proof custard cups on a tray.
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and butter a popover pan or custard cups. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, butter, flour and salt. Mix until ingredients are just blended and only tiny lumps of flour are visible, about 1 minute. Fill popover cups halfway with batter, the bake popovers at 425 degrees until they begin to brown and rise, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until popovers are brown and crisp, about 15 minutes more. Makes 12 mini or 6 regular popovers.
This recipe for malassadas comes from Aloha Airlines reservations agent Gerry Johnson and was published in the airlines' in-flight magazine, Spirit of Aloha. Johnson shapes the dough into small balls and fries them as soon as the second rising is completed, but some experts believe the malassadas will be lighter and more puffy if you form them and then allow them to air-dry on a rack for half an hour or so, preferably in a cool place. This technique lends itself to entertaining because you can form the malassadas in advance, then fry them after guests arrive.
- 2 packages dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 1/4 cup warm water
- 8 eggs
- 6 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Sugar for coating
Dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in 1/4 cup of warm water; allow to proof until fizzy and a bit foamy. Beat the eggs until thick. Place the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast, eggs, sugar, melted butter, milk, 1 cup warm water and salt. Beat to a smooth dough. Cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down and allow to rise again. Heat cooking oil in a large, heavy dutch oven or french fryer to 375 degrees. With a tablespoon or by hand, drop pieces of dough into the hot oil. Fry until the outsides are brown and crisp. Remove onto absorbent paper to drain, and toss while still hot with sugar. Serve immediately. Makes about 2 dozen.
These fruity drinks are from "Barefoot Contessa Parties!" by Ina Garten.
- 2 ripe mangoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (1 1/2 cups)
- 2 papayas, peeled, seeded and chopped (3 cups)
- 3 ripe bananas
- 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 1/2 cups skim milk
- 3/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 6 cups ice
Mix together ingredients and process in blender one-third at a time. It will make three batches to serve about 8 people.