DanvilleSanRamon.com

Living - March 30, 2007

Epicure: An Easter brunch to remember

by Jacqui Love Marshall

Spring is sprung and Easter is hoppin' on down the bunny trail! Easter usually takes me by surprise but it comes extra early this year so I'm sure I won't be ready for a large Easter dinner. So I'm thinking a light yet filling Easter brunch is the perfect meal for this Easter's celebration.

Brunch is a great family holiday meal because it can be served early morning, mid-morning or even early afternoon depending on church services and other activities. It can be an alternative to Easter breakfast or dinner or can be juxtaposed with a lighter and later Easter supper. Brunch recipes generally include multiple ingredients (meats, vegetables, carbs) and are usually more popular with kids and teens than heavier dinner menus. And lastly, the dishes are usually flexible enough to make ahead and re-heat before serving or can be served to later-comers without disaster.

These recipes will make for a delightfully light brunch menu, easing the transition into the spring season. Serve with bread, a green salad, and Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine. Finally, set your Easter table with bunches of tulips and daffodils to usher in the colors of Spring. Add jelly beans and dyed eggs for more color. Voila - a festive Easter brunch that's sure to please all Easter egg hunters!

-Jacqui Love Marshall lives in Danville with her vintage-car-loving husband, two pugs and binders of recipes. Her column runs every other week. E-mail her at Epicure@DanvilleWeekly.com.

Recipes

Poached Eggs with Prosciutto, Asparagus and Chive Oil (serves 6)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1/4 tsp finely grated lemon peel

6 Tbsp white wine vinegar

6 to 12 large eggs (for hungry guests, poach 12 eggs and serve each person 2 instead of 1)

2 lbs medium asparagus spears, trimmed

3 Tbsp olive oil

3 oz thinly-sliced prosciutto

1. Blend the extra-virgin olive oil, chives and lemon juice in blender or processor until smooth. Stir in grated lemon peel; season to taste with salt and pepper. (Note: Chive oil can be made three hours ahead. Cover and chill. Return to room temperature before using.)

2. Fill two large bowls with ice water and ice; set aside. Pour enough water into each of two large skillets to reach depth of 1 inch. Bring water to slow simmer over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons vinegar to each skillet. Carefully crack each egg into individual ramekins. Gently slide 1 egg at a time into simmering water, working in batches of 3 eggs for each skillet. Cook until whites are just set, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, very gently transfer eggs to bowls with ice water, being careful not to break eggs. (Note: Can be made one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate eggs in bowls of ice water.)

3. Preheat broiler. Spread asparagus in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil; turn asparagus to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil asparagus 6 minutes. Turn asparagus over and continue to broil until crisp-tender and beginning to brown, about 6 minutes longer. Divide asparagus among six plates and drape the prosciutto slices over.

4. Pour enough water into each of two large skillets to reach depth of 1 inch; bring to simmer. Using slotted spoon, transfer eggs to skillets; cook 1 minute for soft yolks. Using slotted spoon, place 1-2 eggs atop each serving of asparagus and prosciutto. Drizzle chive oil over and around each serving. Pass remaining chive oil separately.

Lemon-Raspberry French Toast Strata (serves 8-10)

1/2 cup pure maple syrup, plus additional for serving

6 cups 1-inch cubes day-old country-style white bread with crusts (12 oz. or 3/4 loaf)

1 pint fresh raspberries

6 large eggs

4 cups whole milk

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1/4 tsp salt

1. Place rack in center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish or 14-inch oval gratin dish. Pour in maple syrup; scatter bread cubes and raspberries in dish.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, lemon zest and salt; pour over bread cubes.

3. Bake strata until puffed and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool 5 minutes, then serve warm with additional maple syrup. (Note: Leftover strata maybe frozen and re-heated for another day.)

Sunshine Cake

1 - 18.25-package yellow cake mix

4 eggs, beaten

11 oz. Mandarin oranges with juice

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Frosting:

13 oz. crushed pineapple with juice

1 - 5.1-box instant vanilla pudding

1 - 12 oz. container Cool Whip

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the cake ingredients together. Beat for two minutes on medium speed of a mixer. Drop into buttered and floured pans (two 9-inch cake pans, one 9 by 13-inch pan or into 18 cupcake papers).

2. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. While cake is baking, prepare the frosting. In a large bowl, mix together the pineapple, vanilla pudding and Cool Whip.

3. Remove the cake (or cupcakes) from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before frosting. (Optional: Add flaked coconut to the frosting for extra pizzazz.)

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