Monday, March 12, 2012

Sunday brunch

There's something special about Sunday brunch. Whether we have it at home, or go out to one of our favorite brunch places such as Lucky's in Tremont or The Flying Fig in downtown Cleveland, brunch is just a leisurely, carefree time of day that reminds us to just enjoy the moment. Both places are quite a trek from where we live (by that I mean 30-40 minutes), but the food is so good, it's worth the trip.  I love both places due to the fact that they have vegetarian brunch dishes; and they source many of their ingredients locally.

Yesterday however we just stayed home, and I wanted to cook something I don't normally make for brunch. Typically weekend brunch here might just be simple toast, jam, and either poached/boiled eggs or an omelet/frittata. Or if A. cooks, we have poha, which is a traditional Indian breakfast. Every now and then we have pancakes, but I was in the mood for something savory.

One of my favorite brunch items at the Flying Fig is a dish of creamy polenta with wilted greens - either spinach or kale or some other greens depending on the season - and sauteed mushrooms (which they source from a local farm), and topped with a crispy poached egg. Crispy poached egg, you ask? Yes - it's a poached egg coated in panko breadcrumbs and flash fried to golden brown. It's an amazing study of textures - you break that crusty, crispy crust and yet you have that soft, runny poached egg inside.

The Flying Fig's creamy polenta dish

So I made my own version of the dish (without the 2-step crispy poached egg though), but I had to get creative with the ingredients I had. I almost always have polenta - and I use the quick-cooking kind that comes together in just a few minutes. Unfortunately I didn't have fresh greens left (only frozen, which wouldn't work here). I did, however, have olives and sun-dried tomatoes, so I decided to make a relish or pesto out of it - just finely chopped with some herbs and extra-virgin olive oil.

my Sunday brunch creation

Creamy Polenta with Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Pesto and Poached Egg

2 cups vegetable broth or water
2 cups whole milk
pinch of kosher salt
3/4 cup quick-cooking polenta
about 1/3 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives (or regular black olives if you find kalamata too salty)
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (rehydrated in hot water for about 10 minutes)
extra virgin olive oil
chopped basil or parsley
(I didn't add salt because I used kalamata - but you would probably need a pinch of it if you use regular black olives)

Poached eggs
Chives or parsley

Polenta: Combine the broth and milk in a saucepan. Add a pinch of salt. Let it come to a boil, then slowly add the polenta while whisking (this prevents clumps). If using quick-cooking polenta, this mixture comes together in under five minutes; if using regular polenta, it might take 15-20. Once the mixture is creamy, add the grated parmigiano reggiano. Cover and set aside. (Note - this made a LOT of polenta for just two of us, but I like having some leftover for another dish)

Pesto: Combine all ingredients - you can chop by hand or in a food processor. I chopped them by hand because I didn't want a very fine pesto for this dish - I wanted small pieces of olives and the chewy-ness of sun-dried tomatoes. Since the rest of the dish is soft and creamy, I wanted a little texture contrast. The quantities specified above result in more than what you would need for 2 servings of this dish, but it makes a nice topping for bruschetta later. :)

Poached egg: Bring a small saucepan of water to a bare simmer. Crack an egg into a bowl. Take a spoon and make stirring motions in the water, to create a "whirlpool". Slowly lower the egg from the bowl into the water - I actually lower the sides of the bowl into the water and let the egg slip out that way. The "whirlpool" will help the egg come together, but you can help it along by "stirring" the water (not the egg!) just along the inside wall of the saucepan. (Some people add a small splash of vinegar to the water to help "tighten" the egg, but A. is a bit particular about vinegar-y smells, so I do without. But fresher eggs seem to hold together just fine.) Let the eggs poach for about 3 minutes until the whites are set and the yolk is still runny. Line a plate with a paper towel, then use a slotted spoon to gently lift the egg from the water and drain it on the plate. (Here is a nice photo-tutorial on making perfect poached eggs.)

Spoon about a cup of polenta into a wide bowl, add the pesto and then top with the poached egg. Add a small pinch of salt over the egg, as well as freshly cracked black pepper all over. Snip some chives (or parsley or whatever herbs you like) over the top.


Yesterday we had amazing 60-degree weather. A. and I went out in the afternoon for a nice long walk on the trails, about an hour and ten minutes... and, we had our first smoothies this year! We actually sat outside in the sunshine with our icy treats. Can't wait for spring.

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Anne said...

yum! i love your improvisation!

Mia said...

Thanks Anne! I had fun putting my own spin on it :)

Dianne Khu said...

mia, you must come visit me in chicago! let's have brunch!
i love your ingenuity.

Mia said...

Dianne - I would love to sometime! Love Chicago. I'll let you know when (not "if", haha) I visit!

Dianne Khu said...

you/hubby can stay with me and hubby (na-excite ako). just let me know! spring/summer would be best.

Mia said...

Aw thanks Dianne! That is sweet!

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