Your family may be the stay-at-home-on-the-holidays type. If that's the case, you might think breakfast in bed is just the thing to honor Mom on her day. But this year, why not ask her opinion? It's entirely possible that the female parental unit in your house would prefer dinner on the deck over breakfast in bed. Even if she has to fix some of that dinner herself.
For that purpose, we provide inspiration by way of a "simple" summery menu for eight that may very well fit better into Mom's fantasy agenda for celebrating her wonderfulness than your own ideas.
Since we've planned to feed eight, you might have leftovers, which is always a good thing. But we provide enough sustenance so that if you don't feel up to the entire task, you might invite some friends, who could conceivably share the culinary duties.
In any event, we suggest champagne cocktails to accompany chilled corn and buttermilk soup with garlic croustades, followed by a grilled porterhouse steak (yes, Mom does enjoy beef now and then) and grilled veggies. Accompanied by a lovely, fruity red wine — pinot noir, for instance — or a slightly spicy malbec.
Easy, peasey so far, n'est ce pas? And dessert is just as simple: Mixed berry shortcakes with homemade or semi-store-bought biscuits.
Of course, if you're feeling particularly affectionate, you can always provide both breakfast in bed and dinner on the deck. Just make sure you wash the dishes.
One bottle (750 ml) of sparkling wine is enough for about 6 cocktails. The recipe amounts here are enough for 1 cocktail. You do the math.
If the kids are underage, fix Shirley Temple-type drinks with ginger ale, cranberry-raspberry juice, ice and a maraschino cherry (with stem) and/or an orange slice as garnish.
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier liqueur
Sparkling pink rose wine, well chilled
1 (11/2 by 1/4 -inch) strip orange peel
Drop sugar cub into a champagne flute. Add brandy, then a few drops of bitters to the glass. Fill with sparkling rose. Garnish with orange peel. Repeat as many times as Mom wants.
Cold corny soup
For the garlic croustades, heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut a loaf of French bread into 3/8-inch diagonal slices and place on a baking sheet. In a skillet, over medium heat, combine 2 tablespoons each, olive oil and unsalted butter. Add 3 cloves garlic, minced, and a few dried hot red pepper flakes. Saute gently until garlic is softened, about 5 minutes. Brush some garlic mixture onto each bread slice in baking sheet. (If desired, sprinkle on some shredded Parmesan cheese.) Bake about 6 minutes, until lightly toasted. Serve warm.
We're daydreaming a summery day, remember, so this soup will make an appropriate starter. An additional virtue is that it can be made ahead.
8 medium to large ears fresh corn, husked
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped cubanelle pepper (mild green chili pepper)
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups reduced fat/sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (reduced fat is acceptable)
6 tablespoons finely minced fresh Roma tomatoes, garnish
6 tablespoons finely chopped avocado, garnish
Cut kernels off cobs and place in a large bowl. Scrape cobs over bowl with a knife to remove any remaining corn and milky liquid. Break corn cobs in half and keep handy.
In a large, non-stick skillet, over medium-high, heat oil. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add corn and any accumulated liquid in the bowl. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add corn cobs and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover pan and simmer until corn is very tender, about 30 minutes. Discard corn cobs.
When soup is cool enough to handle, puree in batches in a blender. Transfer to a large bowl. Add buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours.
To serve, season soup with pepper, and salt if you must. Divide soup among 6 shallow soup plates. Add some minced tomato and chopped avocado to each serving. Serve immediately with garlic croustades.
Here's the beef
We chose steak for our Mom's Day entree, first, because most of us ladies do like steak on occasion, and second, because Dad is usually the family grill meister, so this is right up the proverbial alley. He can even teach Mom how to grill it, so when Father's Day arrives, she can return the delicious favor.
P.S. We fix a "relish" made from olives and capers to go with this, but it's strictly optional.
1 1/4 cup green olives, coarsely chopped
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 cup marinated mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained
About 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 (2-inch thick) porterhouse steaks
Olive oil, for brushing
About 1 2/3 cups Gorgonzola cheese crumbles, optional
Flat-leaf parsley sprigs, garnish, optional
In a bowl, combine green and Kalamata olives, marinated mushrooms, capers and ground black pepper. Chill.
Heat charcoal or gas grill to high. Pat steaks dry with paper towels. Brush each with oil. Grind on some pepper, if you like. (We don't like to salt meat before grilling, as we feel it toughens it; but if you feel you must, then add salt.)
Grill about 4 inches from heat source for 10 minutes per side (for medium-rare). Brush with more oil after you turn the steaks. Don't use a fork to turn them, use tongs.
If using Gorgonzola, add it to top of each steak about 2 minutes before they're done. Remove steaks to a large cutting board. Cover loosely with foil and let stand about 8 minutes before slicing. Garnish with parsley. Don't forget the olive relish.
And the veggies
It's probably best to grill the vegetables before you concentrate on the steaks. They can be served at room temperature.
If you must have a carb with the meat and vegetables, serve some store-bought mashed potatoes, or fix some orzo with butter. Or buy a loaf of artisanal bread.
2 large red or yellow bell peppers, quartered lengthwise (seeds and pith removed)
4 small eggplants (about 1 pound total), each cut into 3 lengthwise slices
2 smallish zucchini (about same size as eggplants), each cut into 3 lengthwise slices
8 (1/4 -inch-thick) lengthwise slices red onion, with roots attached (about 4 onions)
About one-half cup olive oil
One-half teaspoon each garlic powder and coarse black pepper
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Combine olive oil, garlic powder and pepper. Brush some onto prepared vegetables. Grill in batches, about 4 inches from heat, turning and brushing often, until crisp-tender. Transfer veggies to a platter. Tent loosely with foil to keep warm. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar just before serving.
Mixed berry shortcakes
If you have a favorite biscuit recipe, use it for this. Betty Crocker can tell you how, too. Or, use dairy case "Grand" biscuits. Just make sure you have eight good-size biscuits. (It's all about the berries anyway. )
3/4 cup sliced almonds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups hulled strawberries
1/2 pint blackberries
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 pint raspberries
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup red currant jelly
8 large shortcake biscuits, cut in half crosswise
Sweetened whipped cream (homemade or store-bought), for serving
In a medium-size non-stick skillet over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add almonds and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together lemon juice and red currant jelly until smooth. Add berries and mix gently. Let macerate for at least 1 hour (so juices from berries "marry"). Stir in 2/3 of the almonds just before finishing shortcakes.
To serve, place a biscuit bottom on each of 8 dessert plates. Spoon some of the berry juices around the outside of the biscuit. Divide berry mixture among biscuits. Dollop on some of the whipped cream. Add biscuit top. Add more whipped cream. Top with remaining sugared almonds.