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Bluebirds & Bunnies
hatching up a brunch buffet
Two of the three Spring Brunch menu offerings call for eggs. I’m painfully aware of the escalating prices of eggs, so if you skip the Brunch Bake, which clocks in at a hefty half dozen, I won’t hold it against you. But I warn you, do not overlook the Egg Tarts, first introduced to us by a former mother-in-law. They. Are. Really. Good.
The “Bob” referenced below* is my late stepfather: the official Cook & Tell grocery procurer, mailing list expert, crossword aficionado, ice-cream-cone-as-a-food-group advocate, and Mom’s husband of 28 years. He may play a cameo role in today’s issue, but fear not: Bob is slated to appear in future episodes.
Small Bites from Cook & Tell Newsletter, April 2000
Bob* saw the great blue heron in the cove first, and that was good. Spring had come. But I trumped him. I saw the bluebird, the bluest and surest sign of them all!
It was March 31st that the rarely seen vernal harbinger appeared outside my window, flitting from tree to tree to survey housing possibilities. Apparently seeing none here, he was gone before Bob got to the window to check him out.
Last year the bluebird or one of his relatives showed up on April 4, as my journal for that date reported. We had never met before and for me, it has been love at first sight.
Time now to celebrate the return of spring and its blue messengers with a bow to the bird and bunny in this Springtime Brunch trio!
I’m not sure how British this Brunch Bake actually is; a certain muffin probably gave this recipe its name. But the Brits, with their patent on “cooked breakfast,” could have inspired this one. Cheddar’s as good as Swiss and even more British!
In the April 1983 issue, I ran a delightful Egg Tart recipe from Nova Scotia, using brown sugar and 2 T (yes, 2 Tablespoons) of vinegar. As homage to maple syrup season, I converted half the brown sugar to maple syrup and changed the vinegar to lemon juice. These are soft and sweet and lovely.
BRITISH BRUNCH BAKE
Makes 4 servings
2 English muffins, split and toasted
1 large tomato
1 c. shredded Swiss (or cheddar) cheese
½ c. milk
3 T. flour
6 eggs, beaten
2 t. horseradish
2 t. chopped chives
½ t. salt, ¼ t. pepper
3 oz. ham, cut in small strips
Preheat oven to 325. Grease and 8 x 8 square baking dish or pan very well. Put the muffin halves in the dish. Cut the tomato into 4 slices and put one on each muffin half. Sprinkle each with ¼ c. cheese.
In a blender, blend the milk, flour, eggs, horseradish, chives, salt and pepper until smooth. Pour the mixture around the muffin halves. Sprinkle ham over the egg mixture.
Bake 35-40 min until golden and the center is nearly set. Cut into squares and serve hot.
Makes 16 “carrot” wedges
2 c. flour
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
¼ t. baking soda
½ stick cold butter, cut in small pieces
¼ c. shortening
One 4-oz. jar baby-food carrots
¼ c. buttermilk
Parsley sprigs for garnish
Heat oven to 450. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda until blended. Cut in the shortening and butter until crumbs are petite pea size. Mix carrots and buttermilk together and add all at once, stirring with a fork until evenly moistened.
Gather the crumbs into a ball and knead gently 2 or 3 times. On a greased cookie sheet, pat the dough into a 7 ½” round. Dip the edge of a long, sharp knife in flour and cut straight down (no sawing) into 15 slim wedges. Dip the knife in flour between cuts. Bake for 15-17 min. Recut, straight down to separate. Cool on a rack.
Before serving, poke a 1” deep hole in the wide end of each wedge and insert a parsley sprig, for “carrot greens.”
MAPLE EGG TARTS
Pastry for a single-crust 9” or 10” pie
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. real maple syrup
2 t. fresh lemon juice
1 t. vanilla
Preheat the oven to 400. Cut rounds in pie crust to fit 12 muffin wells and press them gently in place. Beat the egg until light, and beat in the brown sugar, maple syrup, lemon juice and vanilla. Batter will seem a bit thin, but will solidify as it cooks. Fill the unbaked shells a little over half full.
Bake 5 min, turn down the temperature to 350 and bake about 10 min longer. When done, if the crust is brownish, the filling will be perfect.
Tarts are best after cooling several hours or overnight.
What’s the story with egg prices, anyway? If you’re lucky enough to have your own chickens or a friend with chickens or a nearby farmstand selling fresh eggs, you’re probably paying less than at the grocery store. For those of us city dwellers or otherwise, Trader Joe’s egg prices can’t be beat.
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