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Inspired Brunch – Gourmet at Home

Lately, my weekends have been filled with wonderful brunch dates.  My dear husband and I recently made the trek to Washington County for a three course extravaganza brunch at the Inn at Dos Brisas.  (Great food, even if each course was suspiciously similar to the one before.)  Last weekend, a dear friend and I ventured just around the corner to Cafe Bello for a less than stellar brunch before wandering downtown for one of my favorite weekend daytime cocktails – the clear spicy bloody mary served at The Grove. And, after all that dining out, I realized that I was really overdue for a nice brunch at home.

Alas, my good intentions simply were not realized and, instead, today K and I headed to Farrago’s for our morning meal.  Even with the time change, the joint was jumping when we arrived at 11:30.

I love the brunch offerings at Farrago – and not just because of the (almost) bottomless mimosas.  Rather it’s the combinations that include yummy tomato polenta and perfectly cooked eggs that get me.  That and a lemon beurre blanc sauce that makes the souffle sing.

And now that my tummy is full and my spirit satiated, I’m ready to start thinking about next weekend’s brunch.  This time, I really am going to whip up something stellar in the kitchen and spend a little more time in my slippers.  Inspired by two of my favorite offerings off the Farrago menu (stuffed french toast and a spinach and feta souffle) I’ve selected a couple of recipes that are sure to impress my spouse and have all the makings for a fabulous at home offering.

Chocolate and Banana Stuffed French Toast

This stuffed french toast, featured on Rachel Ray’s Tasty Travels show and republished on the Food Network website, melds the rich flavors of chocolate, bananas and cream cheese between two perfectly battered and pan fried pieces of challah bread.  If you are looking for a really, really sweet treat, try serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, though for brunch I’ll probably just stick to berries and syrup.


Ingredients

Batter:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup medium-diced banana
  • 1/8 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • Butter, as needed
  • 4 (2-inch thick) pieces challah bread
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving, optional
  • Fresh berries, for serving, optional

Directions

Batter:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well until incorporated. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Filling:

Fold all ingredients together in a bowl until well incorporated but not completely smooth.

Syrup:

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and let reduce by 1/3.

French Toast:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a large saute pan and then add butter. Dredge the bread in the batter and place in the pan. Cook until golden brown on both sides, approximately 2 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool. Divide filling between 2 pieces of the bread top with the remaining 2 pieces of bread. Transfer French toast to oven and bake for 8 minutes.

Cut each French toast in half and serve with the cinnamon syrup and, if desired, a large scoop of vanilla ice cream and fresh berries.

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Arugula and Fontina Souffle

This souffle is loaded with peppery arugula and creamy fontina – and makes an elegant savory brunch course.  As a contrast to the stuffed french toast, this two-quart souffle from Cooking Light is not only a contrast for your taste buds, but a scant 154 calories a serving.  In total, the souffle yields six servings.


Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 6 ounces trimmed arugula (about 9 cups)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
  • 6 large egg whites
  • Dash of cream of tartar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°.

Coat a 2-quart soufflé dish with cooking spray; sprinkle breadcrumbs over bottom and sides of dish.

Cook arugula in boiling water 15 seconds or until wilted, and drain in a sieve, pressing until barely moist. Finely chop; place in a large bowl.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place the flour, salt, ground nutmeg, ground red pepper, and black pepper in a medium saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute or until thick.

Gradually stir about one-fourth of hot milk mixture into egg yolk, stirring constantly with a whisk, and add to remaining hot milk mixture, stirring constantly. Cook 30 seconds, and remove from heat. Stir in arugula and cheese. Cool slightly.

Place egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-fourth of egg white mixture into arugula mixture; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture. Spoon into prepared soufflé dish. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until puffed, golden, and set. Serve immediately.

Alternate Fillings:

Asparagus and Gruyère Soufflé: Substitute 3/4 pound asparagus for arugula. Cook asparagus in boiling water 4 minutes; drain and rinse with cold water. Cut a 1-inch tip from each asparagus spear; finely chop stalks. Substitute 1 teaspoon dry mustard for ground red pepper. Substitute 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Gruyère for fontina. Stir in asparagus tips and chopped asparagus with the cheese.

Spinach and Feta Soufflé: Substitute 10 ounces baby spinach (about 8 cups) for the arugula. Substitute 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese for the shredded fontina. Stir in 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill with the cheese.

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I hope you enjoy your next weekend brunch.  In the interim, let me know what are your favorite make at home brunch dishes?  Can it be a brunch without eggs?

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