Category Archives: Brunch

Dark Chocolate Cherry Muffins

You rarely find fresh cherries in pastries and desserts because cherries aren’t available year-round like other fruits. In California, cherry season is from mid-April to early June, so if you blink you just might miss it. This week, I bought the last of the season cherries from Murray Family Farms. While Murray’s won’t have any more cherries available this season, there are other farmers that will have cherries available for a couple more weeks, but after that we’ll have to wait until next year.

Due to limited availability and a very short season, I am always torn whether to just eat them fresh or bake with them. With that said, I do enjoy adding fresh cherries to baked goods. In this recipe, I created a dark chocolate muffin recipe with fresh cherries. The slightly bitter chocolate and the tart dark cherries compliment each other well. These muffins are moist in the center and crunchy on top from the raw turbinado sugar, which adds a golden brown color that contrasts nicely with the dark brown muffins. Try this recipe before cherry season is over. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Muffins

Yield: About 16 muffins

2 cups of Sonora wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of Valrhona cocoa powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
½ cup of unsalted butter, soften
3/4 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup of sour cream
1/3 cup of whole milk
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of pitted and chopped ripe dark cherries (Bing or Tulare)
2/3 cup of dark chocolate chips
Turbinado sugar for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line the muffin pans with cupcake liners.

2. In a medium bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk and break up any lumps. If the cocoa powder is lumpy, sift the dry ingredients.

image

3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter on medium speed for 2 minutes.

image

4. Add one egg, beat until combined. Add the second egg ask beat well until smooth.

image

5. Add sour cream, milk, and the vanilla extract. Beat until the mixture is smooth.image6. Set the mixer on low speed. Slowly add the in the dry ingredients until just a few streaks of flour is visible. Turn off the mixer and release the bowl.

image

7. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dark chocolate chips and the cherries, but don’t over mix.

image

8. Scoop the batter with a large ice cream scoop into a lined muffin pan. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

image

image

9. Bake for 20-22 minutes, but don’t overbake. Check with a toothpick at the 20 minute mark.

image.jpeg

10. When the muffins are done, immediately remove them from the muffin pans and transfer to a cooling rack. Cool for 10 minutes and serve with a tall glass of milk or coffee.

imageimage

Long-Cooked Broccoli Frittata

I first tried long-cooked broccoli at Campanile restaurant, visiting the restaurant many Thursday nights to eat one of their delicious sandwich creations. Nancy Silverton, former owner of La Brea Bakery and co-owner of Campanile, is the genius behind the delicious long-cooked broccoli sandwich, and this broccoli was unlike any I had ever eaten. It was soft but not mushy, and slightly sweet with lovely caramel notes. The long cooking process helps draw out the natural sugars from the broccoli. Though she has since sold La Brea Bakery and Campanile has closed its doors, Silverton has written many cookbooks, and in one she shares her recipe for long-cooked broccoli. I’ve used the recipe many times and have adapted it slightly here, adding it to my frittata recipe.

This frittata is delicious, but he broccoli is the star in this recipe. While the broccoli does takes about 1 1/2 hours to cook, don’t let the long cooking time intimidate you. You only need to stir the dish occasionally during cooking, so you can go exercise, prep other food, or read a book – just stay nearby so you check up on it from time to time. This the perfect dish to make on a leisurely Sunday morning, and I recommend serving it with light salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. As an alternative, you could use this long-cooked broccoli in pasta or on pizza. Enjoy!

 
Long-Cooked Broccoli Frittata

Serves 6

12 ounces of broccoli head (sliced 1/4″ thin)
1/8 cup of Kosher salt
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced)
1/2 small onion (thinly sliced)
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
8 large eggs
2 tablespoons of heavy cream (optional)
1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for topping
1/4 teaspoon of freshly-grated black pepper

1. Bring 2 quarts of water and 1/8 cup salt to boil. Add the broccoli and boil for 2 minutes.

2. While the broccoli is boiling, get an ice water bath ready.

3. When the broccoli is ready, using a spider strainer, transfer broccoli to a ice water bath. Remove the broccoli and pat with paper towels until dry.

image

4. In a 12″ stainless steel sauté pan, add the olive oil, blanched broccoli, onion, garlic, sea salt, and red pepper flakes.

image

5. Cook over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

It should look like this at the halfway point.

image

6. Once the broccoli is done, preheat the oven to 375°.

image

7. In a large bowl, crack the 8 eggs. Add the the heavy cream and whisk.

image

8. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the black pepper. Give it another good whisk.

image

9. Turn up heat to high on the broccoli. Wait 1 minute. Add the eggs over the broccoli. Cook over the burner for 1 minute. Transfer to the the oven.

image

10. Bake for about 10 minutes. Make sure the center is set and not jiggly. Broil for 1 minute until the top is golden brown.

image

11. Remove from the oven. Loosen the frittata using a fish spatula. Transfer to a clean cutting board. Grate additional Parmigiano-Reggiano. Slice into 6 triangles.

image

12. Serve warm with a side salad. I like to serve it bottom side up, since it has a nice golden color.

image

Strawberry Frangipane Tart

Frangipane is an almond filling used in French pastries, most commonly found in almond croissants. I absolutely love frangipane because it is only mildly sweet for a custard-like filling and it brings out the best in almonds. Frangipane also compliments seasonal fruits well, especially in tarts. Strawberries at your local farmers market are at the peak of their sweetness right now, so what better time to make a strawberry frangipane tart!

This strawberry frangipane tart is beautiful enough to serve at dinner party, but casual enough to whip up for Sunday brunch at home. It is also a forgiving recipe, because the tart crust is free-form – that is, there is no need for a special tart pan and no need to create perfect edges. The crust is very flaky and crumbly, which balances the texture of the fillings. Also, the frangipane helps absorb the natural juices from the strawberries, which results in jammy strawberries in this tart recipe. When strawberries are not in season, you can use this recipe with other fruits like stone fruits or apples. Happy baking!
Strawberry Frangipane Tart

1 tart – 6 servings

3/4 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
3/8 cup of granulated sugar (divided into 2 tablespoons and 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
3/8 teaspoon of Kosher salt (divided into 1/4 teaspoon and 1/8 teaspoon)
1/2 cup of cold butter (cut into cubes)
1/8 cup of ice water
3/4 cup of ground almonds
1/3 cup of confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon of organic cornstarch
3 ounces of butter (room temperature)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract (optional)
1 pint of ripe strawberries (washed, hulled, and cut in half)
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of raw sugar or crystal sugar for sprinkling
1. To make the tart crust, place the flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a food processor. Pulse 3-4 times.

image

2. Add butter. Pulse 3-4 times.

image

3. Add water. Pulse 2-3 times until the dough comes together.

image

4. Move the dough to your work station, then gently knead until it just comes together and form into a disk. Do not overwork the dough or it will yield a tough crust.

image

5. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

6. To make the frangipane, spread the ground almonds on a small baking sheet. Bake at 300° for eight minutes. Cool.

image

7. Place the cooled ground almonds, confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, cornstarch and 1/8 teaspoon of salt in the food processor. Pulse 5-6 times.

image

8. Add the butter and pulse 3-4 times.

9. Add the egg and extracts and process until smooth.

image

10. Transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

11. To make the tart, remove the tart dough from the refrigerator. Remove the frangipane from the refrigerator.

12. Preheat the oven to 400°.

13. Dust a little flour on the work station. Roll the tart dough to a 13-inch circle.

image

14. Transfer dough on to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place the dough in the freezer for five minutes. Remove.

15. Spread frangipane all over the dough up to 1 1/2 inch around the edge. (You will have extra frangipane. You can spread the rest on brioche bread or croissants and bake until golden brown)

image

16. Arrange the strawberries, cut side down, until all the frangipane is covered.

image

17. Fold the edges of the tart dough over the strawberries, creating a pleat as you fold them over.

image

18. Brush the edges with heavy cream.

image

19. Sprinkle the edges with the raw sugar. Sprinkle the remaining sugar evenly over the strawberries.

image

20. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes. Cut a slice and serve.

image

Chicken and Mushroom Omurice

One of my favorite foreign films is Tampopo, a hilariously fun “ramen western.” The main storyline focuses on the quest to make the best ramen with bizarre food-related vignettes imbedded throughout the movie. One of my favorite scenes is when a vagabond sneaks into a restaurant kitchen and makes a perfectly cooked omurice (Japanese rice omelet) for a young boy. You can tell the vagabond was a skilled cook by the way he maneuvered the scrambled egg in a pan. Tampopo Omurice Clip. After watching that scene I wanted omurice so badly, I went into the kitchen made my own.

Although omurice originated in Japan, Koreans have adopted this breakfast dish and many Korean home cooks make the dish for their children. This rice omelet is so popular with Korean kids, in fact, there’s even a childhood song about it. So what is in omurice, you ask? The main ingredient is cooked rice, but the condiment that gives the rice a reddish hue is ketchup. I know the recipe sounds weird, but trust me, it’s pretty good and kids love it. My recipe has soy sauce to temper the tartness of the ketchup and sautéed shiitake mushrooms for more savory notes. You’ll get sweet, sour, salted and umami flavors in one bite. The trickiest part of this dish is making the perfectly football-shaped egg omelet, or you can fry the egg-like crepe and drape it over the rice instead. Either way it’s delicious! Enjoy!

Chicken and Mushroom Omurice

Serves 4

1 1/2 tablespoons of sunflower oil or other neutral oil (used in two steps)
1/4 cup of chopped onion, small dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces of fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup of chopped roasted red bell pepper
2 tablespoons of organic ketchup*
1 tablespoon of organic soy sauce*
2 teaspoons of Maggi or 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar
3 cups of cooked short-grain rice
6 ounces of chopped, marinated, and cooked chicken (recipe below)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of fresh cooked peas or frozen peas
Freshly grated black pepper
8 eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1/2 cup of omurice sauce (recipe below)

image

1. Heat a wok or large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Then add the chopped onion and sauté for about 2 minutes.

image

2. Add the mushrooms and the garlic to the wok and sauté for 3 more minutes or until all the liquid is evaporated. Add the chopped red bell pepper and sauté for one more minute.

image

3. Next, add the ketchup, soy sauce, Maggi, and brown sugar to the wok. Stir well. Cook the sauce until it starts to bubble.

image

4. At the cooked rice. Stir to coat the sauce over the rice. Add the cooked chicken and stir well for about 1 minute.

image

5. Finally, add the chopped green onions and peas and stir until they are evenly distributed into the rice mixture. Taste for seasoning to see if it needs salt or pepper. Turn off the heat and cover the rice to keep warm while making the omelet.

image

6. Heat a 6-inch nonstick pan on medium heat. Add a 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Add some beaten eggs to the pan, just enough to coat the entire pan (this will be about 2 eggs or 6 tablespoons)

image

7. Now you have to work quickly. Once the eggs start to cook on the bottom, quickly tilt the pan away from. Start folding the egg using your wrist to create an omelet that resembles a football. You want the center to be runny.

image

8. Place a mound of omurice rice mixture, the same size has the omelet, on a plate. Carefully placed the omelet on the mound of rice.

imageimage

9. Spoon some sauce on top of the omelet and sprinkle with some chopped green onions. Make 3 more omelets. Serve with Japanese pickles.

image

 

Marinated Chicken for Omurice

2 chicken tenders (about 6-7 ounces), chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of sake
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of organic cornstarch*
1 teaspoon of sunflower oil.

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let marinate for 20 minutes.

image

2. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the marinated chicken in one layer. Leave undisturbed for about one minute.

image

3. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 30 seconds.

image

4. Quickly sauté for about 1 more minute. Transfer to a bowl and set aside for the omurice recipe.

image

 

Omurice Sauce

1/2 cups of organic ketchup*
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of mirin
1 teaspoon of organic soy sauce*
1/2 teaspoon of mustard powder

1. Place all the ingredients in a small nonreactive sauce pan. Stir well breaking up the brown sugar.

image

2. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until the sauce starts to bubble.

image

3. Turn off heat and cover with a lid until ready to use.
*If at all possible, try to use organic corn-based or soy-based products. Most of the corn syrup, cornstarch, and soy products sold in the stores are GMO.

Blackberry Meyer Lemon Scones

I have always been a fan of English Afternoon Tea, not to be confused with English High Tea, which is hearty meat and potatoes tea. During afternoon tea social events, you would find a nice pot of tea, finger sandwiches and, of course, scones. Most of the scones served at afternoon teas were dry and the only way to make to them go down was to spread plenty of jam and clotted cream on them and chase them with some tea. I thought to myself, “There has to be way to make tender scones.” Then I was asked to host a tea party for a bridal shower. It was the perfect opportunity to work on my scone recipes.

I tested several scone recipes and one from Cook’s Illustrated had an interesting technique. Their trick to making the scones tender is using grated, frozen butter in the dough instead of cutting squares of cold butter into the flour mixture. Not only was it a great short cut, but it made the scones perfectly tender. It was pure genius. I took that recipe and a tweaked it a bit and then added blackberries and Meyer lemons. What better time to share this recipe than during Meyer lemon season! The scones are jammy and buttery with a crispy exterior. You won’t need extra butter, jam or clotted cream with these scones. Just serve them with tea or coffee. Enjoy!

Blackberry Meyer Lemon Scones

Yield: 12 scones

2 sticks of frozen unsalted butter (you will only use 4 ounces grated).
1 cup of fresh blackberries (or your favorite berries) – Freeze for at least 2 hours
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 3/4 cups of Sonora wheat flour or unbleached all-Purpose flour
1/4 cup of spelt flour
1/2 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of freshly grated Meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 tablespoon of Meyer lemon juice
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
Crystal sugar (for sprinkling)

1. Line one large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Take the frozen sticks of butter out of the freezer. Using a box grater, grate on the largest holes. Grate about half of each stick. Place the grated butter back into the freezer. Save remaining ungrated butter for another use.

image

3. Take the frozen blackberries out of the freezer. Using a serrated knife, cut them in half. Put them in a small bowl and toss them with the two tablespoons of sugar. This will make the blackberries jammy when you bake the scones. Set aside.

image

image

4. Whisk the milk and sour cream in a small bowl. Set aside.

image

5. In a large bowl, add the flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Take the frozen grated butter and toss into the dry ingredients until the butter is evenly distributed and no clumps are present. Do this quickly and don’t handle the butter too much.

image

image.jpg

6. Stir the Meyer lemon juice into the milk and sour cream mixture and pour into the flour butter mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold until the mixture comes together.

image

7. Generously flour your work surface.

8. Take the dough and knead quickly a few times, just until the dough can be rolled. It is important that you don’t overwork the dough or the scones will become tough.

image

9. Roll out to a 12” x 12” square and then fold in thirds and the fold in thirds again. This process will help create layers.

image

10. Place on parchment-lined plate or tray and place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes or until it gets cold.

11. Heat oven to 425°.

12. Remove the dough and again roll out to a 12” x 12” square. Take the berries and distribute them evenly throughout the dough, pressing them in. Then roll the dough tightly, securing the berries inside like in a jelly roll and then flatten.

image

image

image

13. Using a serrated knife (cleaning the knife with a paper towel in between cuts), cut the the long rectangle in half, then each rectangle in thirds. You should have 6 smaller rectangles. Cut each small rectangle on a diagonal to form 2 triangles.

image

14. Place the scones on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with cream and sprinkle with crystal sugar.

image

15. Place the baking sheet with the scones in the the freezer for about 5 minutes.

16. Remove the scones from the freezer and place in the oven on the center rack. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, then turn the broiler on high and broil for 1-2 minutes until the top is golden brown. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

image

17. They are best the day of, but you can keep them in an airtight container for up to three days.

Walnut Pesto Rice Bowl

Now that the New Year is here, one of resolutions on many people’s lists is to eat healthier. Here is a vegetarian brunch dish that is easy to assemble. The inspiration behind this dish comes from the sorrel pesto rice bowl from Sqirl Cafe and Bakery in Los Angeles. Their unique and delicious rice bowl is made with organic brown rice, sorrel pesto, picked radishes, preserved Meyer lemons, sheep’s feta, hot sauce and a poached egg. This dish is so popular that people will wait in line for well over an hour to order it and, on the weekends, it is almost impossible find an open table at the restaurant. To avoid the long wait in the lines, I decided to create my own version.

My pesto bowl is made with a walnut pesto recipe. I prefer walnuts over pine nuts because they have a better flavor and nutritional value. I also added lemon zest and lemon juice to mimic the sorrel flavor for this recipe. I’m not big fan of feta so I used goat cheese in mine, but you can use feta instead if you prefer. This recipe only make two bowls, but you can always double the recipe if you want to feed a family. Here is to healthy start for the New Year! Enjoy!

Walnut Pesto Bowl

Serving Size: 2

3 tablespoons of chopped yellow bell pepper, small dice
3 teaspoons of white vinegar, divided
2 small red radishes, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt
2 farm fresh eggs
1/4 cup of walnut pesto, plus extra for serving (recipe below)
2 1/2 cups of cooked organic brown rice (short grain)
1 ounce of goat cheese, crumbled
2 basil leaves, julienned for plating
Jalapeño hot sauce for serving, optional
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. In a medium pot, bring 5 cups of water to boil. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add the diced yellow bell pepper, 2 teaspoons of white vinegar, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Remove as much of the liquid as possible, squeezing the liquid from the bell peppers. Set aside.

image

3. In another small bowl, add the thinly sliced red radishes, lemon juice and a pinch of Kosher salt. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Remove as much of the liquid as possible, squeezing the liquid from the radishes. Set aside.

image

4. Once the pot of water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Crack the eggs one at a time into the water. Make sure you leave enough space in between the two eggs so they don’t cook together. Poach for about 2 minutes or until the egg sets but the center is still soft and runny. Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.

image

5. Add the cooked brown rice to a medium bowl, making sure it’s hot. (If not, heat in the microwave with a damp paper towel over it.) Add the walnut pesto and mix to combine.

image

6. Divide the pesto rice into two bowls. Garnish with the radishes, crumbled goat cheese, chopped quick pickled yellow peppers and top with the poached eggs. Sprinkle some chopped basil, sea salt and freshly grated black pepper. Add a little extra pesto or jalapeño sauce, if using. Serve immediately.

image

Walnut Pesto

1 1/2 cups of organic basil leaves
1/4 cup of toasted walnut, chopped
1 garlic clove (thinly sliced)
1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
2 tablespoon of lemon juice
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
Red pepper flakes (optional)

image

1) In a blender or food processor, add the basil, walnuts, garlic, cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, pinch of salt, pepper and a couple tablespoons of oil in a blender. Pulse a few times. You made need to use a rubber spatula to push down the basil leaves.

image

2) Keep the lid on but remove the plastic cap. Turn on the blender (or food processor) and slowly add the remainder of the oil in a slow stream. Blend until the pesto is smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as needed.

image

3) Transfer to a bowl. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to one week.

image

Pumpkin Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chunks

As we close in on Thanksgiving, here is a simple muffin recipe that is perfect for the holiday. Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving or showing up as a guest, these can be whipped up in no time and will definitely be a crowd favorite with the kids and adults alike. In fact, I find myself making some sort of muffin recipe at least once a week because my kids love them so much. The muffins themselves are just mildly sweet, but the chocolate makes up for it!

As with any recipe, it is important to use the best ingredients, as your recipe is only as good as the ingredients you start with. As long as you have everything on hand, the active prep time should be less than 20 minutes. The muffins also bake in less than 20 minutes. If you prefer, you can substitute the total amount of spices listed in the recipe below with 1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice, which you should have no trouble finding in the spice section of your supermarket during the holiday season. Happy baking!

Pumpkin Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chunks

Yield: 12 muffins

1 ½ cups of whole grain flour (like Sonora wheat) or unbleached AP flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of ginger
1/8 teaspoon of cloves
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¾ cup of organic sugar
½ cup neutral oil (sunflower or coconut oil)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
8 ounces of organic pumpkin puree (homemade or store-bought)
5 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped into ½”pieces (52% cacao)
Crystal or turbinado sugar for topping

1. Preheat Oven to 400°. Line muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.

2. In a medium bowl add all the dry ingredients (the first 8 ingredients). Whisk and set aside.

image

3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add the sugar and oil. Set on medium speed until completely blended.

image

4. Add the eggs, one at a time until just blended.

image

5. Add the vanilla and pumpkin puree mix until smooth.

image

6. On the lowest speed setting, slowly add the dry ingredients until just blended.

image

7. Remove the bowl from the mixer.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the chocolate chunks in until evenly distribute. Don’t over mix.

image

8. Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop into the liners.

9. Using a teaspoon, sprinkle the crystal sugar on each section of the muffin batter.

image

10. Place the muffin pan in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the muffins.

11. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes; remove and then transfer to cooling rack.

image

12. Enjoy them warm with a cup of milk or coffee.