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Joni Woolf: Blossoms a sign that spring is near: time to plan a brunch

Perhaps it’s because I walked out on the deck this morning and saw the first tiny crabapple blossom. I am easily seduced by signs of spring. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been invited to that annual Valentines’ party that a few gentlemen friends in Macon prepare for a couple of dozen ladies of their acquaintance — and I’ve been given early access to one of their recipes. I need no reason, actually, to begin to think about brunches in springtime — but the crabapple blossom did get my attention. And the new recipe, given me by Terry Holland, called for action. So now I must plan some event — anything to use the new recipe and enjoy the crabapple blossoms, with friends. The time of blossoms is brief, like so many good things in life. So, you learn to move quickly. Here’s a collection of tried and true brunch recipes, plus the new one, for a Golden Fruit Medley. Don’t wait for the right time. It is now.

Tomato Florentine Quiche
(Makes 6 to 8 servings)
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (can be omitted for vegetarian quiche)
½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon pesto seasoning or dried basil
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
1 unbaked, 9-inch, deep-dish piecrust
Italian parsley for garnish
(Note about cheese: do not used packaged shredded cheeses; for fuller flavor, grate your own)

Drain spinach in a wire-mesh strainer, pressing with several paper towels to remove excess water. Set aside. Toss together diced tomatoes and seasoned breadcrumbs. Stir together spinach, eggs, half-and-half, bacon, and next four ingredients in a large bowl. Gently fold in tomato mixture. Pour mixture into frozen piecrust and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F. 50 to 60 minutes, till firm in center. Remove from oven and let stand 20 minutes before cutting. Garnish with parsley.

Southwestern Grits Wedges
2-2/3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup quick-cooking grits
½ (8 ounces) loaf pasteurized cheese product, cubed
1 10-ounce can Rotel Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, drained
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Toppings: sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro
Bring broth and 2 tablespoons butter to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat; add grits, and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, and add cheese, stirring until melted and combine. Stir in tomatoes and green chilies. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate. Cover and chill 2 hours. Unmold grits, and cut into 6 wedges, lightly brush each side with melted butter. Cook wedges on a hot, lightly greased griddle 4 minutes on each side or until golden. Top with dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Golde Fruit Medley (from Terry Holland)
(Sauteed apples, oranges, and pears)
2 Golden Apples, peeled and cut into eighths
1 Anjou pear, peeled and cut into eighths
1 banana, sliced
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup walnuts or pecans
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup bitter orange marmalade
3 navel oranges, peeled, sectioned, without membranes
Mix first four items in lemon juice. In large skillet, cook the mixture in 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat, turning the fruit gently, until apples are tender. With slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining butter and marmalade to skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring until melted. Pour sauce over fruit, add oranges, and pecans or walnuts. Toss gently. Serves four.
(Terry notes that this is also a good side dish with pork.)
We eat well in winter to stay healthy and fit against all of winter’s ills. But when spring comes, we eat with gusto, with thankfulness for life, for new beginnings, for food with a few good friends. So, go the kitchen and stir up a new dish — or an old one that you really like. And invite a friend or two to share. It’s always better when you extend the hand of friendship to join you at table.

-Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net