A Love Brunch


Cathleen Blagay of Thornebrook Chocolates with a heart-shaped chocolate box.

Suzanna Mars
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:47 p.m.

It doesn't take champagne and caviar to create a love feast, though these things are always appreciated. From humble eggs and black bean cakes to a sublime gift box made of chocolate that you can create yourself, it's the love that surrounds the effort that speaks of true romance.

Facts

Where to Find Them

The Flying Biscuit Café, 4150 NW 16th Blvd., Gainesville; 373-9500, www.Flyingbiscuit.com

Thornebrook Chocolates, 2441 NW 43rd St. #11B, Gainesville; 371-0800, www.thorne brookchocolates.com

Going right to the heart of the matter, food is love. Nothing speaks the language of love better than a favorite dish or treat, prepared and served with care and imagination.

At The Flying Biscuit restaurant in Gainesville, the young crew serves up a dish called “Eggceptional Eggs,” made of humble ingredients which in a festive setting, would wing straight to anyone's heart. While garnishing a plate with toppings and a bright salad, Chef/Manager Lyndsey Weathers contends that “it's simple foods, made with care and attention to detail, that seem to please the heart.”

Some of the elements of this brunch, such as the mysterious “Love Cakes” that anchor the egg dish, can be made a day ahead, along with the salsa and garnish, the salad and dressing, and a dessert, such as Chocolate Biscuit Pudding. After a romantic morning, there's no need to interrupt the mood, as the brunch can be finished and presented in the few minutes it takes to cook the eggs. Make homemade biscuits yourself or purchase them from a bakery.

A Mimosa cocktail made with fresh-squeezed orange juice and champagne would pair nicely, and the added luxury of homemade chocolate bread pudding adds up to a seductive meal.

The elements of a love feast may be extremely simple...or they may be sophisticated ... the essential ingredient is the romantic attention bestowed on the loved one. In this sense, every meal is a love feast, and every cook, the World's Greatest Lover.

Eggceptional Eggs, Biscuit Style (Courtesy of The Flying Biscuit Café)

Love Cakes

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon minced onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup Masa de Harina cornmeal

In a small pan, heat the canola oil and cook the onion, garlic, salt, and cumin together until the onion is translucent. Put the onion mixture and black beans together in a bowl and mash with a potato masher until creamy.

Gradually add the cornmeal a little at a time, allowing the mixture to absorb it before adding more. Keep adding meal until the mixture can be formed into a ball without sticking to your hands. Form 8 balls by rolling the dough between your hands. Place the balls on waxed paper and flatten into 1/2-inch thick cakes.

At this stage, the cakes may be covered tightly and refrigerated overnight.

Green Salsa

12 ounces of fresh tomatillos

2 tablespoons minced onion

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 serrano pepper, or to taste, stemmed and seeded

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel off the tomatillo husks and place in a baking pan with the onion, garlic and pepper.

Roast for 25-35 minutes, or until the tomatillos have broken down and become juicy.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool thoroughly. Pour the contents of the pan into a food processor and purée.

Stir in the salt, white pepper, and cilantro and chill until served.

Champagne Vinaigrette

1/2 cup mild olive oil

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

1/4 cup champagne

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Whisk together all the ingredients and chill until served.

PUTTING IT TOGETHER

4 large fresh eggs

Butter or oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Green Salsa (see related recipe)

4 tablespoons sour cream

2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

3 tablespoons red onion slivers

Salad of spring greens

Heat an oiled skillet to medium high. Lightly brown 4 Love Cakes for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until sizzling and heated through. Meanwhile, heat another oiled skillet over medium heat and crack 4 eggs gently into it without breaking the yolks. Season with salt and pepper. When the whites of the eggs are almost fully cooked, carefully flip the eggs over and cook until the desired consistency.

Set out two warmed plates and arrange two Love Cakes on each. Top each cake with a cooked egg and spoon Green Salsa over all. Add a tablespoon or two of sour cream and then garnish with crumbled feta and red onion slivers.

Arrange a small green salad alongside the eggs and pour Champagne Vinaigrette over it, or serve on the side in a small bowl. Homemade biscuits with butter cannot be underestimated as an ideal accompaniment.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Serves 6

5-6 day-old biscuits, crumbled

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup whole milk

6 eggs, separated

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat a kettle of water to boiling.

Place the cream and milk in a heavy pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate chips until melted and thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Separate the egg yolks and whites, saving the whites for another use. Whisk the yolks, sugar and vanilla together in a medium bowl. Slowly stir a little of the heated cream mixture into the eggs to temper them and then stir the eggs into the cream and blend thoroughly.

Arrange the crumbled biscuits in the bottom of a buttered 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Pour the chocolate custard over the biscuits, making sure all are submerged. Set the pan inside a larger one and place in the preheated oven. Carefully pour boiling water into the outer pan, halfway up the sides of the pudding pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the custard is just set.

Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Sometimes, the real gift is the box (especially if it's chocolate)

For chocolatier Cathleen Blagay of Thornebrook Chocolates, “knowing what is special to your loved one, and celebrating it with food” is the key to a great romantic gift. She describes the day that “a gentleman came in with a request for an edible box in which to put the engagement ring he would present to his intended on Valentine's Day.” Blagay filled the dark chocolate box with assorted handmade truffles, a particular favorite of the lady, with the ring nestled among the treats. It goes without saying that the effort was a success. Since then, Blagay has created similar boxes with everything from chocolate gators to golf balls to molded dogs and cats...whatever the passion of the recipient may be.

The fine art of the chocolatier is in the “tempering” process, in which the chocolate is melted and brought to the perfect consistency. Luckily for the rest of us, something called “melting chocolate” is available that needs only to be heated in the microwave or over a double boiler. Molds and melting chocolates, including the white chocolate double-heart box shown, are carried by several arts and crafts outlets locally and come with instructions. At Thornebrook Chocolates, deluxe melting chocolates and personal instruction from Blagay allow for a no-fail first try. For the more adventurous solo attempt, here are basic directions.

Chocolate Gift Box (Courtesy of Cathleen Blagay)

You will need “melting chocolate” and a box mold made of non-stick, heat-proof material ... both can be found at craft and hobby supply stores such as Michaels in Butler Plaza. Melting chocolate also can be purchased from chocolatiers such as Thornebrook Chocolates.

Following the directions that come with the mold, melt the appropriate amount of chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water on the stove, or in the microwave in a glass bowl. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate or it may “break,” or separate, and become unusable.

Pour the melted chocolate into both parts of the mold, tapping the mold gently on a flat surface to remove air bubbles. Allow the mold to rest until the chocolate begins to set but is still warm, then press on the chocolate gently with your fingers to force it into all of the mold's details. Top off the mold with more melted chocolate until it is even. Tap the mold again and allow to set thoroughly.

When thoroughly hardened, gently remove the pieces from the mold. Repair any small chips or cracks with melted chocolate.

To finish, garnish with flowers. Then fill the box with ... jewelry, candy, or anything romantic that will surprise a special someone.

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