It’s patio season in Houston. Well, actually, with the muggy weather that has returned to the city this week, it feels a little like patio season may soon be coming to a close. But, for me, that’s inspiration to serve at least one more beautiful dinner on the deck.
I love setting a beautiful outdoor table, gathering my loved ones, and soaking in the sound of birds chirping away in the live oak canopy shading the yard. Pablo and Diego (my silly team of canines) will run wild in the yard, greeting anyone who happens by the fence, while K and I enjoy a seasonal, brightly flavored meal.That’s an idilic version of my two canines and their rude “defending the fence” routine, but the meal on our plates this weekend will definitely make the public shame worth it. (We’ve got to move somewhere with a more private outdoor view!)
We’ll start the meal off with a bright chilled avocado soup that sets the tone for hearty tarts with potato, roasted red peppers and kalamata olives. Alongside a salad kissed with gorgonzola and the surprising texture of barley, this brunch will not only be a hit with mimosas (my Sunday favorite) but will keep us satisfied for a full day ahead.
Of course, this menu is easily adaptable to a larger gathering if you are looking to have friends join you. The muffin-sized tarts are perfect for a buffet and guests can add easy to transport contributions like fruit or bite-sized pastries. (The perfect way to greet guests with their requisite coffee if your brunch starts before noon.)
With a focus on gorgeous Indian dishes and ethereal photography, Aaplemint is always an inspirational read. But the infusion of lemongrass in this chilled, brilliant soup seriously makes the dish. Oh, and it’s avocado soup and who doesn’t love avocados?
- 1 medium sized ripe avocado
- 1 large green cucumber
- Handful of fresh mint leaves
- 3-4 stalks of lemongrass infused in 200 ml water and then chilled (alternately you can infuse it in some fresh homemade vegetable stock)
- 200 ml low fat yogurt
- 3-4 sprigs of spring onion
- Salt to taste
Peel the cucumber then peel and stone the avocado. Roughly chop the cucumber and spring onions and put it in the food processor along with the avocado and all the other ingredients. Whizz it till smooth and if you find the soup a bit thick you can further thin it with some more of the lemongrass infused water (smash the lemongrass stalks and boil them in the water. Leave to cool and then chill. When ready to use, strain the water) or some more yogurt. Personally i like the soup a bit runny and not too thick. Pour into a jug and cover tightly and chill it well. To garnish, pour into soup bowl and add some chopped cucumber for that extra crunch and a finish of with a sprig of mint.
- 4 cups quick-cooking pearl barley
- 3 Tbsp sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 oz Gorgonzola cheese, finely crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
- 6 cups baby spinach leaves, shredded
- 1/4 cup sliced red onion
- 2 Tbsp toasted chopped walnuts
- Cook barley according to package instructions. Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar and mustard. Whisk in oil until well blended, then whisk cheese into the mixture.
- Put cooked barley in a serving bowl. Add remaining ingredients, plus salt and pepper to taste, then toss gently. Stir in vinaigrette; cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to mix.
Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 330 cal, 12 g fat (2.9 g sat), 51 g carbs, 463 mg sodium, 8 g fiber, 7 g protein
- 1 9-inch refrigerated prepared piecrust
- 3 small Yukon Gold potatoes (about 14 oz)
- 3/4 cup drained and chopped roasted bell peppers
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato tapenade
- 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed, crushed
- 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 kalamata olives, pitted and thinly sliced
- Basil leaves (optional)
- Let piecrust sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes or until pliable. Unroll crust on flat surface or cutting board and cut into 8 wedges. Roll each wedge into a ball. Take one ball and roll with a rolling pin into a 5-inch circle (it doesn’t have to be perfect); tuck dough circle into a nonstick 12-piece muffin tin, crimping edges under. Repeat with remaining balls. (Dough should roll easily without the need for flour.) Fill empty muffin cups halfway with water so the dough cooks evenly.
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Meanwhile, prick potatoes with a knife and microwave on high for 6 minutes or until tender. Let cool completely, then peel and slice crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
- Place one potato slice into each tart shell, cutting to fit if necessary. Combine peppers, tapenade, and feta. Place a spoonful of pepper mixture into each tart shell. Top each with another potato slice.
- Whisk fennel and rosemary into eggs, then carefully spoon egg mixture into each tart. Top the tart with a dollop of remaining pepper mixture and a few olive slices. Bake at 425°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until crust is nicely browned. Cool for 5 minutes in pan; garnish with basil leaves, if desired.
Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 184 cal, 9 g fat (2.9 g sat), 19 g carbs, 325 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 5 g protein