Some of my favourite gatherings are the ones that include just a few people. Smaller groups are more intimate, with the conversations easier to keep track of, and while I truly enjoy hosting a big group, I like being with fewer people just as much.
A gathering is no less significant if there are only two people instead of ten; in fact, when I think about family dinner or date night, those come-togethers will be some of the most important “gathering” I do in my lifetime, I’m sure of it. I’ll always remember our Canada Day parties, and big birthdays, but hearing Jackson talk about his friend’s toddler-aged sister’s mispronunciation of their new dog’s name (you can only imagine how she says Tucker) while shoveling tangy lemon loaf into his mouth will stay with me far longer.
For this month’s Gatherings post, Julie and I are talking spring brunches. Mid-morning meals are a great way to entertain on the weekend as the food is usually cost-effective, the timing is family-friendly (no late nights for little kids), and the dress code is nothing more than yoga pants and fluffy hoodies. Besides, how often do you get to serve pancakes to your guests?
Here’s my version of a simple, mostly make-ahead menu designed for two to six people. I made it with a very small group, the kind we usually eat with, in mind. It looks nice, but isn’t overly fancy, and the colourful linens (the fabric is from Ikea and a quick hem on all four sides yielded me a pretty seasonal tablecloth) yellow tulips, and tiered dessert stand make this meal a little special, yet totally approachable, for almost everyone.
Here’s a look at my spring brunch menu:
- Hash brown quiche with caramelized onion, spinach and cheddar cheese
- Mixed greens with almonds and mango poppy seed dressing
- Lemony lemon loaf
- Fresh fruit which includes grapes, strawberries, blood and navel oranges, and pink grapefruit
I made the lemon loaf, salad dressing, and hash brown base for the quiche a day before serving. On the day we ate, the fruit was washed and sliced, the eggs and veggies added to the pie, and the salad greens tossed with almonds. It’s a meal made for sharing, even if you only have three people at your table.
For Julie's brunch, she's serving up waffles and slushy fruit and wine smoothies - I sure wish we lived a little closer!
Mixed Greens with Almonds and Mango Poppy Seed Dressing
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ mango, peeled and pit removed
- ½ cup canola or grapeseed oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons poppy seeds
- 4 cups mixed greens
- 1 cup whole or chopped almonds
1. To make the dressing, place the honey, vinegar, mustard, salt and mango in a blender or food processor and pulse until pureed or well combined.
2. With the motor running on low, slowly pour in the oil and blend until the dressing is completely emulsified. Transfer the liquid to a small glass jar and add the poppy seeds, stirring to combine.
3. In a large salad bowl, toss the mixed greens and almonds, and drizzle with the mango poppy seed dressing. Leftover dressing can be stored in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Hash Brown Quiche with Caramelized Onions and Baby Spinach
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled and grated squeezed in a towel to release the liquid
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted + 1 teaspoon butter
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 medium sweet onion, peeled and sliced
- 3 cups baby spinach
- ¾ cup grated cheddar cheese
- 6 eggs
- 1 ½ cups light cream
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush the bottom and sides of a pie plate or 9” springform pan with some of the melted butter and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl combine the potatoes, egg, remaining butter, and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Press the potato mixture into the prepared pan with your fingers, covering the bottom and sides evenly. Bake until the potatoes are set and golden brown, about 20 -25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
3. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil and 1 teaspoon butter in a skillet and add the onions. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until some of the liquid is released. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover, cooking for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the onions are caramel in colour. Season with salt and transfer to a bowl. Add the baby spinach into the same skillet and cook until wilted, about 4 minutes.
4. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees.
5. Spread the onions over the potatoes and top with the spinach. Cover with the grated cheddar cheese. Whisk together the eggs and light cream and season with salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the pie plate. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the centre of the quiche is set but soft, slightly puffed and golden brown.
6. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.