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Joni Woolf: Easter, Passover are near, plan a brunch for family, friends-

The crabapple tree that spreads over my deck is in full bloom, the surest sign that spring is here. It is buzzing with honey bees, with cardinals and sparrows and cowbirds, and soon the hummingbirds will be visiting the feeder that hangs from a limb. It is the kind of scene that could inspire a brunch, to be enjoyed under the spreading branches, long before summer’s sun makes outdoor eating uncomfortable (to say the least). We know too that Easter and Passover are just around the corner, and early planning gives more time to enjoy loved ones when the day arrives. Easter brunches have become popular in recent years and that’s a good thing. Those of us who attend special worship services are often pressed for time, and anything that can be prepared in advance is helpful. We’ll hurry home, pop a couple of things in the oven, stir up a good beverage, and be ready to spend the afternoon enjoying time with family and friends. Spring is relatively short in the South, so many of us make the most of it when it appears. What follows are some relatively easy recipes to make your spring brunch an event to remember — and repeat down the road.

Mushroom and Leek Tart
(Makes 8 servings)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 pound mushrooms (such as cremini and button), thickly sliced
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, sliced into rings, ½-inch thick
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, plus more whole leaves for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for work surface
½ (17.3 ounce) package puff pastry, thawed
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
1 large egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and saute until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove mushrooms to a plate; reserve skillet. Add remaining tablespoon butter, leek, garlic and thyme to reserved skillet and saute until leek is wilted, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Lightly flour work surface. Unfold pastry and roll, sealing seams if necessary, into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle. Cut pastry into two 5-by-12-inch rectangles and place on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Lightly prick the dough with a fork, leaving a ¾-inch border all around. Spread the mustard on the dough, inside the border. Sprinkle with Parmesan and top with mushroom mixture. Brush edges of pastry with egg. Bake until edges are golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes. Garnish with thyme. (This could be put together the night before, then pulled out to reach room temperature before baking.)

Spring Vegetable, Ham and Goat Cheese Frittata
(Makes 8 servings)
8 large eggs
¾ cup heavy cream
3 oz. ham, chopped (deli ham is fine for this)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
6 radishes, thinly sliced
4 scallions, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together eggs, cream, ham, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Melt butter in a 10-inch oven-proof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and saute until crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Add radishes, scallions and garlic and saute until scallions are just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Pour egg mixture over vegetables and cook until eggs begin to set around the edges, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with goat cheese. Bake until set, 15 to 17 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serve these two dishes with a green salad, perhaps Bibb lettuce tossed with a buttermilk dressing, adding chives and parsley leaves. Mix up a pitcher of Bloody Marys, making sure to use enough horseradish to taste, and you’re ready to enjoy the kind of day that comes only in the early spring. Give thanks.

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