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Around my house, brunch is a rare occasion reserved for a relaxed weekend morning. I especially like brunch because it’s a meal at which almost every kind of food (or beverage) is appropriate. It’s fun to see what the cook of the day will put on the table or to plan a surprising dish for your guests if you’re the chef.
May brings two perfect excuses for enjoying the special midmorning meal: The springtime weather and the second Sunday of the month—the day we honor mothers.
What nicer gift for the moms in our lives than to be treated to a leisurely meal, al fresco if the day is nice, made by devoted family members? This after, perhaps, being allowed to sleep in.
Looking for something special to serve her? Here’s a recent favorite we’ve been enjoying at my house. It’s a colorful vegetable dish with a bit of meat thrown in for additional flavor. It can stand as a main dish or side and is a healthy complement to any brunch.
2 large purple eggplants
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion or 2 shallots diced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
Trim ends from eggplants, peel and cut each lengthwise into about four slices, about 1/4 inch thick. Line baking sheet with paper towels and generously sprinkle both sides of each slice with kosher salt. Lay slices flat on baking sheet and cover with more paper towels. (This “sweating” step draws moisture from the eggplant and shrinks its cells. This helps eliminate bitterness and allows slices to be fried without absorbing excess oil.) Allow salted slices to sit for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in small sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add onion or shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add bell peppers and continue to cook until vegetables are soft. Turn burner off and let mixture rest. When ready to cook eggplant, blot surface liquid from slices with paper towel, removing any remaining salt. Sprinkle smoked paprika evenly over both sides of each slice. Heat remaining oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and cook, turning occasionally, until surface begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Turn heat to low and top each eggplant slice with a piece of ham. Divide pepper mixture evenly among eggplant slices. Sprinkle each with Parmesan, if using. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes, or until cheese melts slightly. Serve immediately.
Servings: 4. Serving size: 2 slices eggplant with topping and cheese. Per serving: 207 calories, 8.3 g protein, 9.4 g fat, 25 g carbohydrates, 9.8 g dietary fiber, 225 mg sodium, 11.3 g sugars, 11 mg cholesterol
Cook’s Tip: Thorough drying of eggplant is important; excess moisture will yield a greasy texture.
For a little something sweet to go with a savory dish, try a fruit smoothie. Combine fruit, ice and milk, or a milk substitute, and you get a refreshing beverage that is good for you, too. A flavor combination that I’ve enjoyed recently pairs banana with the tang of lime and the richness of coconut milk.
1 ripe banana
Juice of 1 medium lime
1 cup (about half a 14-ounce can) coconut milk
1 tablespoon, or to taste, honey, sugar or other sweetener
Combine banana, lime juice, coconut milk and sweetener in blender and process until smooth. Add enough ice to double level of liquid in blender jar and process until ice is crushed and consistency is as you like it. If too thin, add more ice and process. If too thick, add small amount of coconut milk and process.
Servings: 2. Serving size: 1 1/4 cups. Per serving: 314 calories, 3.1 g protein, 24.3 g fat, 27.9 g carbohydrates, 1.7 g dietary fiber, 15 mg sodium, 16.4 g sugars, trace cholesterol