Diane Rossen Worthington’s The Bountiful Brunch
Each season brings with it a bounty of produce that inspires new recipes. The autumn harvest doesn’t disappoint. Wandering past stands at the farmer’s market and looking at the colorful array of winter squash brings to mind curried soups and roasted vegetable stews. Fresh cranberries, large white and orange pumpkins and their miniature versions evoke seasonal breads, savory sauces and holiday centerpieces. Golden pears and ripe red apples become luscious poached desserts and rich fruit crisps.
Creating dishes with the highest quality ingredients that are simple to execute yet serious in flavor is the essence of my cooking--what I call seriously simple food. For a holiday brunch, I like to include a variety of dishes that can be made ahead, such as crispy scallion-potato pancakes, crumbly streusel coffeecake and a spiced pumpkin-chocolate loaf. Some are easy to put together the morning of the brunch, such as the autumn salad and the winter frittata. I also try to include fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market, such as Swiss chard and fingerling potatoes for the frittata, and juicy pomegranates and fresh wild greens for the salad. Most of all, I like a menu that comes together with as little last-minute preparation as possible so that I have time to enjoy a freshly brewed cappuccino before my guests arrive.
Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of “Seriously Simple” and 16 other cookbooks. These recipes are adapted from her latest book, “The Taste of the Season.”
Winter Frittata With Sausages, Potatoes, Swiss Chard and Fontina
Serves 6 to 8
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 favorite cooked sausages (about 1 pound), sliced into 1-inch pieces and cut into quarters
1 medium leek, light green and white parts only, cleaned and finely chopped
1 pound red or white waxy potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small bunch Swiss chard (about 1/2 pound), stems removed and leaves torn into small pieces (or 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves, stems trimmed)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese, divided
Fresh tomato salsa or salsa verde
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet with an oven-proof handle (cover the handle with foil if not oven-proof) heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and saute for about 4 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove the sausages with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the leeks and potatoes and saute for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the leeks are golden brown and the potatoes are tender inside and crisp on the surface. Stir in the chard, cover and cook for about 2 more minutes, until the chard is wilted. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
Combine the eggs, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until well-blended. Stir in 1 1/4 cups of the shredded cheese. Add the sausages to the potato mixture and spread evenly in the skillet. Pour the egg mixture over it. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 6 to 7 minutes, until the bottom is lightly set and cooked. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until frittata is puffed and brown. Leave in the skillet or slide onto a round serving platter. Garnish with salsa and sour cream, if desired, and serve immediately.
Advance preparation: This may be prepared up to eight hours ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Crispy Scallion-Potato Pancakes
I like to use a small ice cream scoop to drop the pancakes into the hot oil. Make sure the oil is very hot so the pancakes cook to a crisp and are not greasy.
The recipe doubles or triples easily.
Makes 24 to 26 (2-inch) pancakes
6 scallions, light green and white
parts only, thinly sliced
2 medium russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons matzo meal
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup maple Asian pear applesauce (see recipe on this page)
1 cup sour cream
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the scallions and eggs together until smooth and fluffy. Add the potatoes and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped but still retains some texture. Add the matzo meal, season with salt and pepper, and process briefly to combine. Do not over-process. Pour the batter into a medium bowl and let sit for 15 minutes, covered with plastic wrap to prevent discoloration.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 3/4 inch of oil over medium-high heat. Pour a scant tablespoon of batter into the skillet to test the oil. If it is hot enough, the pancake will begin to sizzle and brown. Turn the pancake to brown the other side, then remove from skillet, let cool slightly, taste the pancake and season the batter again if necessary.
Spoon tablespoons of the batter into the skillet, making sure that there’s a little room between each pancake. Flatten them with the back of a spoon and use the spatula to round out the sides if necessary. Fry the pancakes for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are golden brown on one side, then turn them and brown the other side, about 2 more minutes.
Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer the pancakes to a cookie sheet lined with two layers of paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining batter. Add more oil if necessary to the pan.
Place the pancakes on a platter and serve with the applesauce and sour cream.
Advance preparation: The pancakes can be frozen for up to one month. To freeze, lay the cooled pancakes in a single layer on a sheet of aluminum foil, place another sheet of foil on top and wrap tightly. Place on a flat surface in the freezer. To serve, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the foil packet of still-frozen pancakes on a baking sheet and remove the top sheet of foil so that the pancakes will heat evenly. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until the pancakes are hot.
Maple Asian Pear Applesauce
The Asian pears must be cut smaller than the apples because they are firmer and take longer to cook. Expect this applesauce to be chunky.
Makes about 4 cups
4 medium Asian pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 medium Pippin or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 2-inch chunks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
In a heavy, medium-size, non-aluminum saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and set over medium heat. Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes, or until the apples are slightly softened. Remove the lid and continue cooking, stirring occasionally to break up the large pieces (you can use a potato masher), for about 7 to 10 minutes, until the apples are soft but there is still some texture. Season with maple syrup or lemon juice. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate.
Advance preparation: This may be prepared up to one week ahead, covered and refrigerated.
Pumpkin Chocolate Loaf
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
11/4 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet
chocolate, cut into pieces
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch nonstick loaf pan. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well-blended. Add the pumpkin puree and vanilla, then add the flour mixture, beating just until well-blended.
In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until smooth, about 5 minutes. (Or melt in a glass bowl in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until completely melted and smooth.)
Spoon half of the batter into the loaf pan. Spoon half of the chocolate on top of the batter and swirl it into the batter with a wooden skewer. Repeat with the remaining batter and chocolate, making sure the chocolate is well-swirled into the pumpkin batter.
Bake the loaf on the middle rack of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a metal skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the loaf cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack, then invert onto the rack and turn right-side up. Cut into slices and serve warm or at room temperature.
Advance preparation: This may be made up to one day ahead, covered tightly and kept at room temperature.
Autumn Salad With Persimmons and Pomegranates
This is an elegant first course or side dish for a larger buffet.
The recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.
Serves 4 to 6
1/4 pound mixed salad greens
8 Belgian endive, cores removed and thinly sliced crosswise
3 medium Fuyu persimmons, peeled and sliced
Seeds from 1 medium pomegranate (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 pound soft, fresh goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
Place the greens and endive in a large salad bowl. Scatter the persimmon slices, pomegranate seeds and goat cheese on top. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the vinegars and season with salt and pepper. Slowly add the oil, whisking constantly until incorporated. Taste for seasoning. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Advance preparation: The dressing can be made ahead and left, covered, at room temperature.
Sparkling Wine With Pomegranate Juice
For each serving, pour 2 tablespoons of pomegranate juice (such as Pom) in a Champagne flute and fill with sparkling wine or a dry Champagne. Add a slice of orange for garnish, if desired.
For each serving, pour 2 tablespoons guava nectar and 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice in a Champagne flute and fill with either 1 cup sparkling wine or sparkling water.
Diane Rossen Worthington, www.seriouslysimple.com.