What’s better than brunch on a summer Sunday? With the sun shining and nature in bloom, life seems a little less frantic, and the Monday morning grind feels a little more distant than it does the rest of the year.
Of course, brunch is even better when the cook can take it a little easier, too. That means simple but delicious dishes — whenever possible, do-aheads, the host’s best friend. And since it’s growing season again, it also means using the fruits of the garden or the farm stand. What to serve for summer brunch? Here are some ideas.
What to pour: Iced coffee and iced tea will refresh while providing your morning shot of caffeine, but if you or your guests don’t like the way the ice cubes dilute the brew, make some cubes by freezing frozen coffee or tea the night before.
For a brunch cocktail, classic mimosas and Bloody Marys are always nice, but serving one special cocktail is a festive touch that keeps things simple. Create your cocktail by adding a store-bought fruit or herbal syrup, or make your own herb-infused simple syrup (strain after steeping the herbs). A fresh fruit or herb garnish will also add pizzazz to your creation. For a frozen cocktail, add ice and fresh (seedless, pitted) or frozen fruit to a favorite drink and whiz in the blender. And don’t forget non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated options like fruit juices or smoothies.
Fire up the grill: Grilled breakfast pizza is a tasty surprise, and the topping options are nearly endless. If you’re using meat like bacon or sausage — or going lighter with chicken — cook it first. Likewise, pre-cook longer-cooking veggies or fruits by sautéing or grilling them (in a grill basket). You can use your own homemade pizza dough, but premade from the supermarket is quick and easy. Roll to a thickness of ¼-inch, making one big or several personal pies.
Grill over medium heat for a minute or two, watching carefully to avoid burning, and turn. Next, top with a sauce (tomato or pesto, sausage gravy, or whatever you like) and/or cheese (softened cream cheese is a nice base for a fruit pizza — think peach and basil, for example). Then add the toppings and grill for three to five minutes, or until done, watching carefully, and moving it off the hottest part of the grill to cook over indirect heat if necessary.
To fry eggs right on your pizza, once it’s turned, make some small wells in the crust by arranging some of the other toppings around the edge, and pour the cracked egg into the center. Cover and cook until the eggs are done. Just before you’re done, top with whatever you like: crumbled cheese, bacon or sausage, fresh herbs, or powdered sugar for fruit pizza.
One-pot wonders: Grilling not your thing? Consider a dish you can do partially or totally ahead of time. Quiche or a frittata fit the bill deliciously. Both can be customized to your liking and served hot or at room temperature. With quiche, try a crowd-pleaser like cheddar, ham, and spinach — or go fruity with sliced apples and Gruyere or Swiss cheese. (If you slice apples ahead, douse with orange juice to prevent browning.)
With a frittata, you’re basically making a giant omelet. You’ll sauté your filling ingredients on the stovetop first and then transfer the whole thing into the oven, so a big ovenproof skillet is key. Peel, slice and chop your fillings ahead of time (or use pre-cut from the supermarket) and sauté just before baking. Add what you like: sliced onions, cubed potatoes, mushrooms, red bell pepper, cut green beans, shredded salami, turkey chorizo. Sauté in oil, starting with aromatics that flavor the dish (onion, garlic) and adding the longer-cooking items (potatoes, carrots) before the rest. Once everything is softened, pour the beaten eggs over the top, and if there’s not enough to cover, beat one or two more and add. (Fillings need not be completely submerged; just covered). To serve six or more, beat 10 to 12 eggs with a dash of salt, and one-quarter cup milk. Add shredded or grated cheese, cover, and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, until cooked through. Uncover and cook for a few more minutes, until browned.
Sides: Keep them simple. Fruit salad is always welcome, as is a platter of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, olives and pickled veggies. Crusty bread, rolls, and pastries are a brunch indulgence, and you can jazz up plain butter by making compound butter — mash it with puréed fresh herbs or fruit and chill overnight.
Dessert: You can’t go wrong with sweet treats, whether homemade or from the bakery. But after an indulgent brunch, something light and refreshing is just the thing. A flavorful sorbet or some berries and whipped cream — alone or shortcake-style — will leave everyone happy, including the host.