Even trendy cooks prefer to serve traditional foods on holidays such as Easter. Let's face it, sun-dried tomatoes, shiitakes and arugala might be fine for a special Saturday night dinner, but Easter wouldn't be the same without the perennial favorite meat -- ham -- and the symbol of new life -- eggs.
For this 1991 Easter brunch, I offer you ham in two guises: chopped in a crustless quiche and thinly sliced and glazed in rosettes. If you are a fashion-conscious cook (probably one wearing shoulder pads and skirts above the knees), you undoubtedly find crustless ham and asparagus quiche passe. But if you change the name to three-cheese tart with mushrooms, ham and asparagus, this timeless dish suddenly becomes very chic. And since the rich dairy batter can be whipped up in minutes in the food processor and forms its own crust as it bakes, the recipe certainly fits into today's need for fast and fuss-free cuisine. When Easter is over and all your ham is used up, you might wish to substitute 1/2 pound of crab meat.
The glazed ham rosettes taste great and are pretty enough to be a platter garnish. Slice the ham (or ask the butcher to do it) as thinly as possible and then cut the slices into 1/2 -inch-wide strips. It is simple to wrap the strips around each other like petals of a rose; the maple-mustard glaze helps the slices adhere to each other. If desired, prepare the rosettes a day ahead, cover them tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.
For me, brunch is never complete without muffins, and you'll find my banana-split muffins a complete surprise. The bottom layer is a sour cream batter, which holds a slice of banana and some nuts; it is topped with a dollop of coconut meringue.
The banana softens during baking to permeate the muffin with its aromatic flavor.
To celebrate the newness and exhilaration of spring, for dessert offer luscious fresh strawberries, dipped into fluffy whipped cream and dusted with brown sugar.
You'll find this menu wonderfully adaptable not only for Easter VTC brunch, but for any time of the day or year. Simply substitute sun-dried tomatoes for the asparagus in the quiche, add them to your updated recipe title, and you have a feast fit for the trendiest cook.
The recipes follow:
Banana split muffins
Makes 12 muffins.
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) butter or margarine, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup flaked coconut
1 small banana, cut into 1/2 -inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans
candy pastel eggs or candied cherries, cut in half, if desired
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until well blended in food processor with metal blade or in a mixing bowl with electric mixer. Beat in egg until combined; the batter will be lumpy. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until well blended. Mix in flour, baking powder, soda and salt until incorporated; do not overmix.
Grease 12 2-inch muffin cups. Beat egg whites in large mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until stiff peaks form. Fold in coconut. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon batter into each cup. Top each muffin with a slice of banana and 1/2 teaspoon chopped nuts. Press in lightly with fingers. Top each with a heaping tablespoon meringue. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 25 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and immediately top with candy or cherries, if desired. Cool minutes and remove from tins. Serve warm.
Muffins may be well wrapped and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen. Defrost, wrapped, at room temperature. Reheat at 350 degrees 8 to 10 minutes or until warm.
Glazed ham rosettes
Makes about 8 rosettes.
1/2 pound thinly sliced ham (If you are not using leftover ham, purchase a small Jones Dainty Ham and ask the butcher to slice it as thinly as possible)
4 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
Line a small rimmed baking sheet with foil. Trim the ham slices into strips about 1/2 inch wide and 3 to 4 inches long. To make
the glaze, stir the syrup, orange juice and mustard together in a small bowl. Dip a slice of ham into the glaze. Roll it up tightly for the center of the rose. Continue to dip each slice in the glaze and wrap it around the center piece, making the "petals" looser for the outside of the rose. Secure the petals in place with toothpicks and place on prepared baking sheet.
You can make the rosettes as large or small as you wish. If desired, they may be refrigerated overnight, covered with plastic wrap. Reserve remaining glaze.
Before serving, heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush petals with glaze and bake for 10 minutes; brush with glaze again and bake until edges are lightly browned, about 5 minutes more. Remove toothpicks and serve immediately.
Crustless ham and asparagus quiche
Makes 8 servings.
1/2 pound thin asparagus spears
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 large eggs
1/2 pint sour cream
1/2 pint small curd cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
4 drops Tabasco sauce
2 cups shredded Jack cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove rough stems from the asparagus and place the tips in a shallow microwave dish. Add enough water to barely cover the bottom, cover and microwave on high power for 2 to 4 minutes or until barely tender. Slice into 1/2 -inch pieces. Melt butter in medium skillet and saute mushrooms until tender. Toss in ham.
In a food processor with the metal blade mix eggs, sour cream, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, flour, salt and Tabasco sauce until well blended. Remove to a bowl and stir in asparagus, mushrooms and ham. Pour into a 9- or 10-inch quiche pie dish and bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cut into wedges to serve.