Marc Meyer's cookbook is a winning invitation to brunch
Published: Monday, January 9, 2006 at 3:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 9, 2006 at 3:53 p.m.
NEW YORK (AP) - Not only did I make a point of getting a copy of chef Marc Meyer's "Brunch: 100 Recipes From Five Points Restaurant," I started cooking from it regularly.
The paradox is that I don't really like brunch as the ritual is practiced here in New York City. It usually entails waking up early on the weekend, and waiting in long lines. I'd rather sleep.
But I am a fan of brunch foods, and I'm especially a fan of Meyer's cooking at dinnertime in the Five Points restaurant in lower Manhattan which he co-owns with his wife Vicki. So when I learned he'd written a cookbook based on his popular weekend brunch, I got hold of it, and may never wait in line for brunch again.
The book, published by Universe ($24.95) and co-written with Peter Meehan, is very manageable _ it's not too big or complicated, and has clear recipes and tempting pictures. It's also seasoned with plenty of friendly first-person advice and explanation from Meyer, who urges readers to try variations of his recipes if the spirit moves them.
Many of the recipes are quite simple, relying on good ingredients in deft combinations, rather than on long labor. Learning that this busy chef also cooks some of these recipes for his own family at home should also encourage other home cooks.
Recipes range from savory to sweet, and include drink recipes _ many of them alcohol free.
There are old favorites with new twists: Bourbon-vanilla French toast, eggs Benedict over smoked salmon and a potato pancake, homemade granola sweetened with granulated maple sugar, scones flavored with fresh rosemary, and BLTs with extra-thick slab bacon, which is baked, rather than fried.
The egg recipes range from simple frittatas, good for people on low-carb diets, to more substantial dishes such as baked eggs with fresh corn "polenta" and slow-roasted tomatoes, and baked eggs in an oxtail gravy that is first cooked slowly with a whole bottle of red wine. These are dishes that could also be served as a family supper instead of brunch.
One of my favorite recipes, burst sungold tomato frittata, was also one of the simplest and most beautiful, and the recipe for the tomato topping is worth the price of the book. Small cherry or grape tomatoes are first doused with olive oil then tossed with salt, pepper, garlic and oregano, and cooked under a broiler until charred and the juices that are released become concentrated.
Meyer says he makes it at home for his sons because it's "the easiest pasta sauce on the planet," which isn't an exaggeration. It wasn't long before I too was tossing pasta into the pan of tomatoes, mixing it all up and topping it with baked shrimp and grated cheese. Delicious!
Another recipe that is both child- and adult- (and diet-) friendly is the citrus salad with dates, three ways. The basic salad is sliced grapefruit and oranges drizzled with honey and topped with a few big, soft Medjool dates cut into slices.
The variation I made twice, and liked the best, also included a handful of torn frisee leaves and some thinly sliced fennel tossed with salt, pepper and olive oil. When I got the idea to add some prosciutto and serve it at dinnertime, it disappeared in a flash.
I also tested a similar citrus salad that omits the sweet ingredients and adds mint, avocado and smoked trout. This one was a hit too and would make a lovely first course for an elegant dinner, or could serve as the centerpiece of a light supper.
Two of the sweeter recipes, which I delegated to friends, were delicious both times each were made. The rosemary corn scones were rich and delicate with a unique herb flavor, and the freshly made granola, with its just-toasted flavor, was better than any store-bought variety.
"Brunch" was a pleasure to cook from, for me and the friends who pitched in and helped prepare my "testing" brunches. Even though the testing is finished, I'm looking forward to cooking, and eating, from this book again.
Frittata Master Recipe
3 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few teaspoons olive oil
Preheat the broiler and set your broiler pan (or the shelf in an electric oven) about 3 to 4 inches away from the broiling element.
Beat the eggs with salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil in a 7-inch ovenproof skillet over high heat and, when it slides easily from side to side, add the eggs. Immediately turn the heat down to low. (If you're using an electric stove, you may want to start the frittata on one burner set to high and transfer the skillet to another burner turned on to low.) Let the eggs cook undisturbed until set on the bottom, then use a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to pull the eggs away from the rim of the pan and let the loose eggs run underneath.
Sprinkle or arrange the topping (see following recipe for Burst Sungold Tomato sauce) over the frittata, and flash the frittata under the broiler to set its surface, a minute at most. Serve hot or warm.
Makes 1 serving of one 7-inch frittata.
"This sauce of burst cherry tomatoes was born of practicality, as a way to expediently handle a bunch of small tomatoes that didn't involve slicing and made more sense to me than stewing," Meyers writes. "And now it's a go-to for me at the restaurant, where I char and pop the tomatoes in the wood oven and imbue them with a little smoky flavor, and at home, where I make it for my sons, because it's just about the easiest pasta sauce on the planet. It works on frittatas, too, and is wonderful spooned over a grilled or baked fish."
Burst Sungold Tomato Frittata
Preheat the broiler. Dump 2 pints of cherry (or grape) tomatoes onto a rimmed baking sheet, pour 1/4 cup (or more) of olive oil over them, and toss to coat. Season them aggressively with salt and black pepper, toss them with 1 minced clove of garlic, and sprinkle a couple of pinches of fresh thyme leaves or dried oregano over all if you like. (Two pints of cherry tomatoes will yield enough to top 4 to 6 frittatas.) Set the baking sheet as close to your broiling element as possible and cook the tomatoes 8 to 12 minutes, until the skins have shrunken away from the flesh, the tomatoes have begun to exude their juices, and a few have taken on a little char. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and hold it at room temperature until you're ready to use it.
Start the frittata as instructed in the Master Recipe. Spoon a goodly amount of burst tomatoes across the eggs and finish the frittata under the broiler as instructed in the last step of the Master Recipe. Spoon some of the juice the tomatoes were sitting in over the frittata before serving.
Note: If you're using the tomatoes as a pasta sauce, toss it with the pasta just after removing from the broiler and serve immediately.
"The difference between homemade and store-bought granola comes down to one thing: freshness," Meyer says. "Fantastically long shelf life not withstanding, granola is really best eaten within a week or two, when the grains, seeds, and nuts still have that "just toasted" flavor. This is the granola we make at Five Points (we make and serve it on the same day, for maximum freshness), but it's also a rough guideline that you can vary to your taste: substitute maple syrup, regular sugar, or honey for the granulated maple sugar, or another variety of nut for one of the seeds."
2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup chopped almonds (or any nut of your choice)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup corn oil
1/2 cup granulated maple sugar
1 cup raisins
Yogurt and honey, for serving
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Stir together the oats, wheat germ, almonds, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and the salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and stir until the mixture is evenly coated. Spread the mixture out in a roughly even layer on a sheet pan and bake it for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, pull the granola from the oven. Sprinkle the sugar over it, then stir the contents of the pan to help distribute the sugar and to help the granola cool. Let the pan sit at room temperature to cool the granola.
Once cooled, return the granola to the mixing bowl, toss it together with the raisins and transfer it to an airtight container. Serve with yogurt and honey.
Makes about 6 cups.
Note: It's best to serve granola with an unsweetened, unflavored yogurt and let your guests add the sweetness themselves, passing honey or maple syrup at the table.
The following recipe makes a sweet-savory scone with a slight flavor of rosemary.
Rosemary Corn Scones
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling out the dough
3/4 cup cake flour
1 3/4 cups cornmeal
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons stemmed and finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus additional small sprigs for garnish
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
Finely chop the cold butter and put it in the freezer for up to 15 minutes while you gather and measure out the rest of the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Combine the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, chopped rosemary and brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse once to mix. Add the chopped, frozen butter and process it into the dry ingredients in short pulses until the butter is just incorporated into the flour, with a texture somewhere between sand and pebbles.
Add the egg and yolk, honey and cream, and incorporate them in short, quick pulses, working the dough as little as possible. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board or counter, knead it gently for a few seconds to bring it together, and roll it out 3/4 inch thick with a lightly floured rolling pin.
Cut scones out of the dough with a square cookie cutter (or cut them into 3-inch squares with a knife) and arrange them 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly knead the leftover dough back together, roll it out, and cut out more scones.
Brush the tops of the scones with the melted butter, dust them with turbinado sugar, and gently press a rosemary sprig into each one. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and firm. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes twelve 3-inch-square scones.
"I remember my grandmother preparing grapefruit this way every once in a while during my childhood, not with dates or a vinaigrette or anything like that, but cutting away the skin and slicing the fruit and serving it alongside oatmeal or some other simple breakfast," Meyer writes.
"And I remember thinking how special it seemed, all the (admittedly minimal) work of eating a citrus fruit done away with, nothing between me and the grapefruit's tart-sweet flesh except a fork or, if she wasn't looking, my fingers.
"But it's not just nostalgia that makes this a winter staple in my life and at my restaurant. It is a spectacularly simple salad that never fails to please; it's infinitely adaptable (these three variations are just the beginning of what you could do with it); and it's best during the winter, when other salad ingredients are in sad shape or short supply.
The following basic recipe - citrus, dates, and honey - "is as unfussy as it gets," Meyer says, "and is perfect at the end of just about any meal. The two savory variations could start a meal or provide a refreshingly acidic counterpoint to some of the creamy, rich brunch dishes in this book."
Citrus Salad With Dates, Three Ways
1 large grapefruit
2 blood oranges (or substitute 1 grapefruit and 1 navel orange)
1 navel orange
2 or 3 Medjool dates, pitted
2 to 3 tablespoons honey (wildflower, buckwheat, or orange blossom, if possible)
Cut the top and bottom (the stem end and side opposite it) off the citrus, then cut the skin and pith away from the flesh of the fruit, your knife following the convex shape of the flesh. Trim away any pith you missed on the first pass and slice the citrus crosswise into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Arrange the slices on a serving platter. Slice the dates lengthwise into matchsticks and reserve.
For the simplest citrus salad: Scatter the dates over the citrus, drizzle the platter with honey to taste, and serve.
Variation one: Scatter the dates over the citrus. Thinly slice and separate the layers of 1/4 of a small red onion and scatter them over the citrus. Dot the plate with 10 to 12 pitted black olives (I prefer Gaeta; meaty, salt-cured olives would also work well in this dish), and drizzle with at least 2 tablespoons of fruity extra-virgin olive oil and the honey.
Variation two: Combine the dates with a handful of torn frisee leaves and 1/4 to 1/2 of a small fennel bulb, thinly sliced, in a small mixing bowl. Season the salad ingredients with a pinch of salt, a few turns of freshly ground black pepper, the honey, and 2 tablespoons of fruity extra-virgin olive oil, and toss. Arrange the fennel-frisee salad in the middle of the platter on top of the citrus, drizzle the plate with a little additional olive oil, and serve.
Makes 4 servings.
(All recipes from "Brunch: 100 Recipes From Five Points Restaurant" by Marc Meyer and Peter Meehan, Universe, 2005, $24.95)
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