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Hello, spring. We're so glad you're here.

You're a season that means big changes for cooks. Our thoughts turn to lighter fare and dishes that remind us of warmer weather and fresh-from-the-garden ingredients. You've also become the season of brunch, whether it's brunch in a restaurant or one prepared at home.

Part breakfast and part lunch, brunch is one terrific meal. It allows us to combine eggs and other breakfast fare with quite a mix of sweet and savory dishes and ingredients. Brunch can be casual or gussied up for special occasions. At this time of year, asparagus and fresh greens help make it cheerful and colorful.

Here are a few things to remember when planning a brunch:

Have a menu plan and do as much as you can in advance. Many egg, potato and casserole-type of dishes reheat well. Menu items like bacon can be prepared in advance.

Will you be serving a complete meal or will you have small plates or appetizer-like dishes? Set everything out in advance.

Take stock of your glassware, dishes or china, linens and silverware.

Accents of flowers and fresh small plants or herbs make inexpensive centerpieces and add color to your brunch table.

Don't forget cocktails. You can serve spicy bloody Marys or mimosas made with a variety of juices.

Baking the cheesecake in a water bath helps prevent the top from cracking. And if it does crack, no worries. The top is covered with a layer of lemon curd. You can use lemon curd from the store or make your own. Before making this cheesecake, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature.

Dreamy Lemon Cheesecake

2 1/2 cups crushed creme-filled lemon sandwich cookies such as Lemon Oreo Sandwich Cookies (about 25 cookies)

2 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, melted

5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 eggs

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon lemon zest

5 tablespoons fresh juice (about 2 large lemons)

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Yellow food coloring gel paste

1 cup lemon curd, jarred or homemade (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the outside of the pan in a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

In a bowl, stir together crushed cookies and melted butter. Press into bottom of prepared pan.

Bake until lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack until ready to use. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and flour, beating until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and heavy cream.

Place 3 cups of the batter in a medium bowl. Using a wooden pick, add a small amount of food coloring gel paste to the 3 cups of batter. Stir until batter is pale yellow, adding more gel paste if necessary.

Dollop half of untinted batter into prepared crust. Dollop half of pale yellow-tinted batter on top of untinted batter dollops. Swirl together, using a small knife, to create a marbled look. Repeat procedure with remaining batters. Place springform pan in a roasting pan. Add boiling water to reach about halfway up sides of springform pan.

Bake until center is almost set but still slightly wobbly, 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes. Turn off oven and let cheesecake stand in oven with door partially open for 1 hour.

Remove cheesecake from roasting pan and water bath, and place on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap, using wooden picks to prevent plastic wrap from touching top of cheesecake. Refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.

Gently run a knife around outer edge of cheesecake to loosen from sides of pan. Remove sides of pan. Spread top with 1 cup lemon curd.

Makes 12 servings.

Adapted from Southern Living magazine, February 2017 issue

This lemon curd will keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Lemon Curd

1/2 cup salted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 egg yolks

1 cup fresh juice (about 4 large lemons)

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until blended, about 45 seconds. Add eggs and egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Gradually add lemon juice to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in zest. (Mixture will look curdled.)

Transfer mixture to a heavy 4-quart saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, over medium-low until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, 14 to 16 minutes.

Transfer curd to a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on warm curd (to prevent a film from forming). Chill until firm, about 4 hours.

Makes about 3 cups.

You can also cut this tart into smaller squares and serve it as an appetizer.

Asparagus Fontina Tart

Flour, for work surface

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

5 1/2 ounces fontina or gruyere cheese, shredded

1 1/2 pounds medium asparagus

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt and ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-inch-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Remove pastry shell from oven and sprinkle with the cheese. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over gruyere, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Adapted from

Tarragon Deviled Eggs

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled

2 tablespoons chopped shallots or green onions

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

1 to 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Dash of hot red pepper sauce, optional

Salt and black pepper to taste

Paprika, optional

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the cooked yolks to a medium bowl and mash them with a fork. Set aside the egg white halves.

Add the shallots and tarragon to the egg yolks and mix together. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, garlic powder, hot red pepper sauce, salt and black pepper. Mix until slightly smooth.

Fill the egg whites with the yolk mixture. If desired, sprinkle the tops with paprika.

Makes 12 servings.

Ham, Leek and Mushroom Quiche

1 pastry crust for a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan

1 egg white

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup sliced leeks (about 2 leeks, white and light-green parts only, washed well)

2 cups chopped ham

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups favorite shredded cheese, divided use

3 green onions, washed, thinly sliced

Heat oven to 375 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Fit the pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate and flute a high edge. Brush the bottom of the crust with egg white. Fit another pie pan into the crust to hold it in so it doesn't shrink. Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, ham and red pepper and saute about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until they release their liquid and the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, Dijon, cornstarch, pepper and salt.

Remove the pie crust from the oven. Sprinkle 1 cup of the cheese on the bottom of the crust and top with the ham mixture. Pour egg mixture on top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and green onions.

Bake until center of quiche is just set, 45 to 50 minutes. If the edges start to get too brown, cover them with pieces of foil.

Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Food on 04/11/2018

Print Headline: Let's do brunch: Spring is the perfect season to mix sweet and savory for a meal between breakfast and lunch

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