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Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Brunch with Chimichurri Strata and Apple Quinoa Salad

The Thanksgiving meal, the holiday cookies, the tins of popcorn and candy, the work celebrations, the nog and glogg and the weekend parties- we've all been on an eating fest for weeks now and I, for one, am full!

What if holiday brunch was a chance to have a lighter meal while still being elegant?  I have this theory that you can have a great brunch set up that is tasty and filling yet leaves you comfortable enough that you don't have to unbutton your pants.  Plus, I am a believer that brunch is a merely a vessel for mimosas* and should be a back drop for them.
*Mimosas in my family are a glass of champagne with the orange juice waved over the top.

The key to an easy brunch is creating dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. Strata's are one of the easiest breakfast dishes out there and uses simple ingredients.  It's assembled the night before and dropped in the oven in the morning. The quinoa salad and roasted beets carpaccio can be made the day before, and the Ginger Molasses Bread can be made a week prior and frozen until ready to use.

That means you can start the oven, pour the champagne and open your present without the hassle of a really heavy, daunting meal. Go fat and happy holiday!

Tips and Techniques:  Add cooked bacon, chorizo or ham to the strata while you are assembling it if you need meat in your meal.

Holiday Brunch Menu
Chimichurri Strata (recipe below)
Apple Pistachio Quinoa Breakfast Salad (recipe below)
Orange and Roasted Beet Carpaccio (recipe below)
Ginger Molasses Bread (click here for Ginger Molasses Quick Bread recipe)
Mimosas (Roasted Pear Bellini or Lychee Bellini)

Chimichurri Strata

1/2 cup onions, small diced
1 small shallot, diced
1 Tbls olive oil
6 cups day old bread
4 eggs
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded queso cheese (or cheddar or whatever you have on hand, use more if you want extreme cheesiness)
1 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1 heaping tsp cumin
juice of 1/2 lime
salsa (optional)

Saute the onion and shallots in olive oil until soft, set aside to cool. Cut the day old bread into chunks.  Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Assemble strata by placing a layer of the bread crumbs in a a greased pan (choose a pan slightly smaller than a cake pan, if you have one), spread a layer of the chimichurri sauce over the bread and a layer of the cheese.  Repeat until the ingredients are used up, then pour the egg mixture over the top.

Mix the yogurt with the cumin and lime juice, set aside or keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve the strata

Use a large spoon to push the bread pieces down a bit. Cover the strata with tin foil and place in the refrigerator over night.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, cook the strata about 45 minutes or until the middle is puffed up and set. Serve with the cumin yogurt and salsa (optional).

Chimichurri Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 large shallot
1/2 cup parsley, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1 Tbls oregano, chopped fine
pinch of salt, black pepper and red pepper
juice of 1/2 lime

Using a fork, smash the garlic cloves into the salt.  Mix all ingredients together and let sit for 1 hour before using.

Apple Pistachio Quinoa Salad

1 cup Quinoa
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp salt
1 - 8 oz can of pineapple slices, with juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbls red wine vinegar
2 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls fresh oregano
1 apple
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Cook the quinoa according to package directions; essentially you will cook the quinoa in the same manner as rice, so simmer the quinoa with 2 cups of water for about 15 minutes or until tender with a tight lid on the pot.

In the meantime, using a fork smash the garlic clove with the salt until it forms a paste; place the paste in a small quart jar that can be sealed with a lid.  Add the juice from the pineapple can (should be about 1 cup), the mustard, red wine vinegar, olive oil and fresh oregano, close the lid and shake well. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the pineapple and apple into small chunks and add to the quinoa when it is finished cooking.  Pour the dressing over the quinoa while it is still warm and toss well. Top with the pistachios and pomegranate seeds before serving. This can be served warm or room temperature, you can make a day ahead to help save time the morning of your brunch.

Orange and Roasted Beet Carpaccio 

2 oranges
2 beets
Fresh tarragon or thyme
1 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls honey

Cut the skin off of one of the beets and slice half of the beet as thin as possible, this is going to be easiest with a mandolin. Wrap the remaining 1/2 beet and the full beet in tin foil and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the beets are fork-tender. When the beets are done remove from the tin foil and allow them to cool slightly then peel off the outside skin.

While the beets are in the oven, dice the raw beet slices into the smallest dices you can.  Set aside in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and the tarragon (or thyme).

Use a small knife to cut the outer orange peel off of the orange, be sure to remove all of the white pith. Using a mandolin (or use a sharp knife and cut by hand), slice the oranges and the beets as thin as possible. Layer the slices on a platter.

Drizzle with the olive oil and the honey, then scatter the raw beets across the top. Serve at room temperature.

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