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Sunday Brunch

Text by: Jacque Crosswell Watene

What better way to celebrate the warm, sensual, lazy days of summer than to host a low key — yet delicious — Sunday brunch? With autumn whispering just around the corner, and preparations for a new school year underway, it's important to savor these last, fleeting days of seasonal glory. There are a myriad of ways by which to do so, but we at Polite Society Magazine hold that celebrating over breakfast sweets and lunchtime savories is just the thing!

Brunch was a meal originally enjoyed only by European nobility and the financially elite who could well afford the time and money required to linger over an elaborate, mid-morning meal. It became a popular practice at the turn of the 20th century and rose to its height in America in the 1930's, where people began to "brunch" exclusively on Sundays, as this was a day usually set aside for rest, relaxation, and respite from work. Still, it remained a tradition carried out by only the upper crust of society. Now, thankfully, brunch can be enjoyed by anyone savvy enough to carve out a couple hours and a few dollars to make a scrumptiously memorable get-together. You may want to invite a few close friends and family over for the affair, or just keep it especially intimate, perhaps extending an invitation only to your dearest one.

The main idea of brunch is to create a delicious dining experience, somewhere between the usually sweet fare of breakfast and the savory foods of lunch. Breakfast is often a hurried affair — sipping a cup of coffee or tea while rushing kids with granola bars out the front door to school — and lunch is rarely experienced as a meal to enjoy the conversation of loved ones between bites of delectable dishes. But brunch is a special occasion to revel over your plate in the company of intimates, perhaps even in your pajamas.

© Stephanie Hitchins Photography

The foods to serve can range from crab cakes, fresh berries with crème fraiche, bacon-wrapped scallops, egg and gruyère soufflé, and roasted asparagus spears, to cinnamon oatmeal brûlée (pour the oatmeal into individual bowls, cover with raw sugar, and broil in an oven at 450 degrees until sugar is caramelized and hardens. Serve this with cream — so delicious!) and fruit salad, or even a simple quiche casserole. Sunday brunch can be as elaborate or simple as you wish — there really are no rules, except that it should be held between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., and if you are able to, use your best china or dinnerware (or even beautifully designed paper-ware).

Above all, enjoy your beautiful brunch with your loved ones, making memories and feeling the warmth of the last summer days fill your soul, kindling the fires that will keep your heart warmed throughout the coming fall and winter.

Fig and Chavroux Canapés

4 figs, pulp scraped and lightly mashed
4 oz. chavroux (goat cheese)
1 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
2 Tbsp. honey
1 prepared pie crust

Preparation:

Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Unroll pie crust at room temperature on a lightly floured surface. Cut crust dough into 2x3 inch pieces and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Cool on a pie rack. Mix chavroux and 1 Tbsp. honey. Spread chavroux onto cooled pastry pieces. Spoon fig pulp on top of chavroux. Drizzle honey over canapés and sprinkle with pine nuts.

Mushroom and Asparagus Strata

Serves 6

½ cup medium cheddar cheese, grated; plus additional ¼ cup
4 medium eggs, beaten
1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
8 slices good quality white bread, crusts removed
12 asparagus spears, chopped
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. sea salt (or more to taste)

Preparation:

Pre-heat oven to 425° F. Grease a 9x9 baking dish and set aside. In a sauté pan, melt butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat, and let stand at room temperature. Add mushrooms and brown for 3 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and asparagus, and sauté for 1 minute. Add green onion, and sauté for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat, salt to taste (Do not over-cook!).

In medium bowl, beat together eggs and milk until well blended. Add thyme, cayenne, and salt.

Place 4 slices of bread in baking dish, covering bottom surface over mixture. Cover with remaining 4 slices bread. Pour egg mixture over bread, allowing both layers of bread to soak. Sprinkle additional ¼ cup of cheese over top layer of bread. Cover with lid or foil, and bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 300°, and bake until fork inserted into middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove lid during last 7-10 minutes of baking. Allow to set 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Fresh Berry Yogurt Dip

8 oz. vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup whipping cream, plus 2 tsp. sugar and ¼ tsp. vanilla extract, whipped into stiff peaks
6 strawberries
1 tsp. honey

Preparation:

Mix yogurt and honey well. In small bowl, crush strawberries with a fork until well juiced. Fold strawberries into yogurt. Gently fold in whipped cream. Serve with fresh berries.