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Brunch conjures up friends and family gathered around the kitchen table. It signals lazy Saturday and Sunday mornings where we make, and even bake, breakfast foods we never have time for during the hectic workweek.
The origins of the word “brunch,” an obvious play and merging of the words “breakfast” and “lunch,” are hazy. Some say it began as a way to cope with Sunday morning hangovers from a raucous Saturday night of drinking. Others attribute it to the English and the elaborate breakfasts that followed the English hunt. In the American South, it became a meal to enjoy after church.
According to writer Jesse Rhodes in Smithsonian Magazine: “The word “brunch” … first appeared in print in an 1895 Hunter’s Weekly article. In “Brunch: A Plea,” British author Guy Beringer suggested an alternative to the heavy, post-church Sunday meals in favor of lighter fare served late in the morning. ‘Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,’ Beringer says. ‘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.’ ”
Whatever its derivation, brunch is about sleeping in on weekend mornings and serving a more substantial meal than a regular old hurry-up Monday through Friday breakfast. Brunch menus at restaurants tend to include Bloody Marys or mimosas. There’s coffee cake and omelets, avocado toast and Eggs Benedict. But brunch is also a great time to experiment and adapt recipes from all over the world.
With that thought in mind, I offer three new recipes. Shakshuka, an Israeli favorite combines a spicy tomato sauce baked with eggs and a scattering of cheese; breakfast tacos, here with a simple chorizo hash, topped with avocado, sour cream and hot pepper sauce; and, finally, a sour cream coffee cake simplified into individual muffins, topped with a spiced streusel for something sweet.
Put on a pot of strong coffee or tea. Open the Sunday paper. Enjoy breakfast/lunch with some new favorites.
This Israeli favorite is simple to put together. In an ovenproof skillet, a spiced tomato sauce is simmered, eggs are popped on top with a scattering of cheese and baked until the eggs are just set. Serve with warm crusty bread and hot pepper sauce.
Serves 2 to 4.
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 ½ cups crushed tomatoes
- 1 to 2 very small chopped chiles, red or green, with or without seeds depending on how spicy you like it, finely chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ cup fresh parsley or cilantro, coarsely chopped, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- Hot pepper sauce
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- In a large 10-inch ovenproof skillet mix the cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on the middle shelf and roast for 10 minutes. Remove and stir in the crushed tomatoes, chiles, cumin, nutmeg and ½ cup of the parsley or cilantro. Roast another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and use the back of a spoon to create 4 indentations in the sauce. Crack an egg into each indentation and place back in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and scatter the feta on top. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the egg whites are set and the cheese is just melting. Serve hot. Serve topped with the remaining parsley (or cilantro) and hot pepper sauce on the side.
Breakfast tacos with chorizo hash and avocado
Spend time in Texas, particularly Austin, and you’ll find dozens of variations of something called a breakfast taco. Like Tex-Mex cuisine, the breakfast taco, according to Austin Eater, was created by “cross-pollinating Mexican culture with Anglo-Germanic ingredients.” Essentially, the morning taco combines some form of egg — fried or scrambled — on a corn (though sometimes flour) tortilla with a variety of other ingredients. My version uses a simple hash made by boiling up potatoes and then sauteing chorizo sausage, sweet and spicy peppers with the potatoes, and piling the hash on top of a corn tortilla topped with scrambled eggs, sour cream, shredded cotija cheese (or feta or sharp cheddar), avocado slices and hot sauce.
Serve with strong coffee or Mexican-style hot chocolate (with cinnamon) and a fruit salad. The recipe is easily doubled or tripled, and the hash can be made a full 24 hours ahead of time.
Serves 2 to 4.
The chorizo hash:
- 1 large or 2 medium white potatoes, peeled or unpeeled and cut into small cubes
- ¾ pound fresh chorizo sausage (about 2 links, squeezed out of the casing)
- 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped sweet red or green pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded or unseeded depending on how spicy you like it
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
The eggs and tortillas:
- 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
- 6 large eggs, or 8 small eggs
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 scallion, white and green sections, finely chopped
- 4 corn tortillas
- About ⅓ cup grated Cotija cheese, sharp cheddar, or feta
- About 4 tablespoons sour cream
- Hot pepper sauce
- Sprigs of fresh cilantro, optional
Prepare the hash:
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the potato cubes and cook for 8 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and set aside.
- In a large skillet bring ⅓ cup water to boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, add the chorizo and, using a spoon or knife, break the sausage meat up so it forms small chunks. Cook over high heat until the water evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the red pepper and the chile pepper, salt and pepper and the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil if needed and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the pepper is soft. Raise the heat to moderately high heat and add the boiled potato chunks. Cook, stirring, until the potatoes and meat are crispy and slightly brown and everything is cooked through, about 5 minutes. If made ahead of time, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.
To assemble the tacos:
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the salt and pepper.
- Place the tortillas in a clean tea towel in the preheated oven to warm for 5 minutes.
- Reheat the hash if made ahead until hot over medium heat.
- Add the oil to a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the whisked eggs and cook, about 2 to 4 minutes, until set, depending on how wet or firm you like your eggs.
- Place a warm tortilla on a plate. Top with ¼ of the hash and ¼ of the scrambled egg, a generous sprinkle of cheese, and a dollop of sour cream. Arrange the avocado slices on top or on the side and sprinkle with hot pepper sauce and the cilantro leaves. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Coffee cake streusel muffins
These muffins offer all the benefits of a coffee cake in easy-to-make individual muffins. A sour cream coffee cake batter is layered in muffin tins with a walnut and cinnamon spice streusel mixture, and then the muffin is topped with the remaining streusel. The muffins will keep covered at room temperature for 2 days. They can also be double-wrapped and frozen for a month. Serve warm or at room temperature with hot coffee or tea.
The muffins are also excellent split in half, lightly buttered and placed under a broiler for a few minutes.
Makes 12 muffins.
The spice streusel:
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup dark or light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
The muffin mixture:
- Vegetable oil or 12 muffin or cupcake liners
- 2 ¼ cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- Softened butter for serving, optional
Make the spice streusel:
- In a medium-sized bowl mix the flour, sugar and butter together. Use your hands to crumble the butter into the mixture so it resembles small peanut-sized pieces. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice and mix. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil (or place cupcake liners into the muffin trays).
Make the muffin batter:
- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer, beat the butter, vegetable oil, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth and light, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Add the sour cream and mix until almost smooth. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.
- Fill the muffin tins halfway with the muffin batter. Sprinkle on half the streusel. Use the back of a kitchen spoon to press down the mixture. Spoon the remaining batter on top of each muffin and then top with the remaining streusel and gently use the spoon to press the streusel down onto the batter.
- Bake on the middle shelf for around 20 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, and the streusel is golden brown. Remove and place on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with softened butter, if you like.
Other brunch ideas