EVENT: Rainy Sunday Brunch
VENUE: Cara’s Apartment, Prospect Heights
PARTY SIZE: 3
TYPE: Coffee Table Meal
MENU: Coffee; Banana-Coconut Crumb Cake; Baked Eggs with Tomatoes & Smoky Potatoes
I really love hosting brunch. It fits in with so many of my favorite habits, including but not limited to: getting up early even on the weekends, cooking up a storm, and not leaving the house on rainy days. I can’t predict the weather, but I can invite friends over on Saturdays and Sundays and cook them some delicious food.
This brunch was easy enough to plan. I hadn’t seen Kate in a while, and we were emailing about weekend plans. Her boyfriend, Sam, was out of town, and so the guest list was a lovely and intimate three: Kate, Alex, and me. Kate didn’t seem to mind leaving her house in the rain, Alex didn’t seem to mind the all-female company, and I tried not to mind being the sole Blackberry kid at a brunch turned iPhone-worship hour, complete with app talk, a photoboth session, and a comparison of old AT&T phones to new Verizon ones.
For the food, I relied on a formula that’s been serving me well at recent brunches. Basically, I make a coffee cake, a batch of muffins, or some quickbread, and I treat that both as the appetizer/bread basket and as the side dish. This frees me to have just one other offering, albeit one that contains all the important brunch food groups: carbs, veggies, and protein. Best of all, the two dishes don’t have to match completely; since the sweet is sort of acting as a first course, it doesn’t have to be something that pairs exactly with, well, tomatoes, capers, olives and eggs. It’s truth that when you add bananas and coconut to something, you’ll be hard pressed to have it pair with any savory food at all.
I am completely in love with this egg and potato one-dish meal. It is filled with flavor, from the briny capers and pungent olives, to the fresh basil and smoky paprika. The potatoes stay crisp on the bottom even once you’ve added the tomato sauce on top, and the eggs make the whole thing filling and rib-sticking. If you’re a stickler for gooey yolks, you could always make the potato dish and top it with olive oil fried eggs, as baking the eggs usually results in a harder, though deliciously smooth, yolk.
From my kitchen, brunching with the best of them, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Baked Eggs with Tomatoes & Smoky Potatoes
You can make the tomato sauce up to 2 days in advance. If you put the potatoes into the oven about 30 minutes before your guests arrive, you’ll be ready to crack the eggs soon after they take off their coats and settle down with a cup of coffee and some coffee cake.
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
about 2 pounds red potatoes, quartered (each wedge should be about 1 inch thick)
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
4 cloves garlic, sliced
pinch hot pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
2 tablespoons white wine (optional)
1 tablespoon capers
10 pitted kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a ceramic or other nice-looking baking dish, toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, the smoked paprika, and a good sprinkling of salt. You want the potatoes to fit more or less in one layer, so use slightly less than 2 pounds as necessary. If they seem a little dry, add another 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until starting to crisp up.
Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic slices and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until golden. Add the red pepper flakes, the oregano, and the tomato paste and stir to combine. Pour in the white wine and let it boil off. Add the capers, olives, a pinch of salt, and half of the basil and cook for about 1 minute. Add the juice from the tomato can, then add the whole tomatoes, squeezing each one in your hand as you go (this may splatter, so do it into a bowl in the sink if you don’t want to dirty the stovetop). Raise the heat slightly to bring the sauce to a boil, then lower it again and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until reduced and no longer watery. Stir in the sugar, and taste for salt, adding more as desired.
Scoop about 3/4 of the sauce on top of the partially roasted potatoes. With a spoon, create 6 little bits in the tomato-potato mixture and crack 1 egg into each. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the whites are cooked through. Serve straight from the casserole, sprinkled with the reserved basil.
Banana-Coconut Crumb Cake
Makes 12 pieces
This crumb cake is dairy free, just the way Alex likes it. It’s delicious, which is good for the rest of us.
For the cake:
1/2 cup oil
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 very ripe banana, diced
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
For the crisp topping:
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons neutral oil
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 by 9-inch baking pan. Combine the almond milk with the oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients gently into the wet ones until combined. Gently fold in the bananas and the coconut. Pour into the pan.
In a mini food processor, grind the almonds for a few pulses until coarsely chopped. Add remaining crisp topping ingredients and process into into a dry dough. Distribute bunches of topping over the top of the cake.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top of the cake has risen, the crumbs are golden, and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.