Bright Idea

Spring presents an irresistible opportunity to serve a brunch menu as vibrant in color and flavor as the season itself.

Photos by Fred + Elliot 

It starts with a single crocus, defiantly popping out of the cold earth, a hint of color with a promise of more on the way. Spring comes again! And with it, a slew of verdant produce, seasonal allergies, and entertaining opportunities—none more exciting than brunch, a call to shake off the flannel of winter’s hygge and invite friends to gather around and raise a glass to warmer days ahead.

This brunch shouldn’t be fussy, just bright and joyous, a celebration of new life, with golden-yolked eggs and foraged morels and the kind of hyper-seasonal produce that early spring does best—radishes, garlic scapes, rhubarb. It’s also a good time to pick up something new from the farmers market and give it a try, something beguiling like kohlrabi.

The menu begins with a hibernation wake-up call in the one-two punch of peppery radishes and yuzu kosho—a Japanese citrus and pepper paste—whipped into ghee and gilded with flaky salt. It readies the palate for star of the show, and it’s as simple as it is satisfying. A salad of favas, feta and a simple mint vinaigrette is a modern upgrade to the traditional lamb and mint pairing. The frittata, studded with morels, chèvre and long ribbony garlic scapes, shines in a supporting role, bringing together some of spring’s most exciting flavors all in one bite. Skip the grocery store, and find fresh chèvre at the market. You’ll appreciate the difference, the tangy taste of the goat’s milk in contrast to the earthy morels and fluffy eggs.

For dessert, a riff on the classic lemon bar combines a crumbly shortbread crust with a zingy rhubarb curd, brightened in both flavor and color with a few dried hibiscus leaves. Polish off a few before grabbing your galoshes and running outside to splash in puddles. And don’t forget to look for rainbows.

Potato and Kohlrabi Gratin

2 tablespoons butter, plus more for buttering the skillet
3 heads kohlrabi, sliced 1⁄4 inch
2 cups heavy cream
2 sprigs of thyme, picked and finely chopped
6 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1⁄4 inch
1 cup Gruyère

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add kohlrabi and sauté for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add heavy cream, thyme, salt and pepper, and cook for an additional five minutes, just to combine flavors. Arrange potatoes in a buttered cast iron skillet. Pour kohlrabi cream mixture over potatoes and sprinkle with Gruyère. Cover with foil and cook for 45 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees and remove foil. Heat for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the top is bubbly and golden brown. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serves 6

Radishes with Yuzu Ghee

2/3 cup ghee
1/3 cup yuzu kosho
1 bunch radishes, cleaned and halved
flaky salt, such as Maldon or JQ Dickinson

Stir together ghee and yuzu kosho until combined, and sprinkle with salt to taste. Prepare a platter with radishes and ghee for dipping, plus extra salt for sprinkling. Serve chilled.

Serves 6-8

Fava Salad with Mint, Feta and Red Onion

3 pounds fava beans, shelled
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
1⁄2 teaspoon Dijon mustard salt
1⁄4 cup olive oil
4-6 ample sprigs of mint
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces feta, crumbled

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and set aside. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add shelled fava beans to rapidly boiling water, and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes. Drain into a colander and shock in the ice bath. Once beans are cool, remove the germ (the outer, opaque layer) to reveal the bright green bean within. Meanwhile, combine red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil.

Remove mint leaves from the stems, and finely chop about half of it, reserving the smallest leaves for garnish. Combine favas, onion, feta and chopped mint. Add red wine vinaigrette, and toss lightly to combine. This can be served immediately or prepared a day in advance. Transfer to serving dish and garnish with mint leaves.

Serves 6

Yogurt-Marinated Leg of Lamb

1 cup Greek yogurt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons paprika
cracked black pepper
1 leg of lamb (4-5 pounds), butterflied

Combine the first six ingredients. Place lamb in a Ziploc bag and add marinade, making sure to completely cover the lamb. Allow to marinate for at least six hours or, ideally, overnight. Remove lamb from refrigerator at least a half hour prior to grilling. Heat a grill to medium-high heat.

Remove lamb from marinade, removing the excess from the lamb. Heat on each side for approximately 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 145-150 degrees for medium rare. Rest meat on a cutting board for 10 minutes, and slice thinly to serve.

Serves 6

Morel, Chèvre and Garlic Scape Frittata

2 tablespoons olive oil1 tablespoon butter
1 cup morels, cleaned and halved
3-4 garlic scapes
8 large eggs, at room temperature
1⁄2 cup milk
8 ounces chèvre, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat olive oil and butter in an 8-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add morels and sauté for five minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Add garlic scapes and sauté for another two minutes. Remove garlic scapes from the pan and set aside. Meanwhile, gently whisk eggs and milk until just combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Still over the heat, pour egg mixture over morels, and stir gently. Add chèvre throughout the mixture. Cook on the stove for another five minutes. Drape cooked scapes over the top before baking. Position skillet on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for an additional 20 minutes. The center should be set but not puffy. Allow to rest for five minutes, and slice into wedges. Serve warm or cold.

Serves 6-8

Lillet Blanc Mimosas

1 bottle (750 ml) dry sparkling wine, chilled
3 cups orange juice, chilled
1⁄2 cup Lillet Blanc
orange slices

Fill a large pitcher halfway with sparkling wine. Add orange juice and Lillet blanc. Garnish with orange slices, and serve in Champagne flutes, or for a less dainty approach, stemless wine glasses.

Serves 6-8

Rhubarb Shortbread Bars with Vanilla-bean Shortbread Crust

For the vanilla-bean shortbread crust: 
2 vanilla beans
1 cup all purpose flour
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
10 tablespoons butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with parchment paper and butter or pan spray. Scrape the insides of vanilla beans into a mixing bowl. Sift flour and sugar together and add to bowl. Add butter and work ingredients until the mixture is the consistency of crumbly meal. Pat ingredients into baking tin. Bake for 22-25 minutes. Allow to cool.

For the rhubarb curd: 
3⁄4 pound rhubarb (about 6 stalks), washed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1⁄4 cup and 2/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
5 egg yolks
4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
2 teaspoons lemon zest
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon dried hibiscus flowers

In a small saucepan, heat rhubarb, 1⁄4 cup of the sugar, and water on medium. Cook until rhubarb melts, adding water as necessary if rhubarb begins to stick to the pan. Strain rhubarb mixture through a fine mesh strainer and set aside. Prepare a double boiler over medium heat. Put egg yolks, butter, remaining sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice in the bowl of the double boiler and whisk to combine. When sugar has dissolved completely, add the rhubarb purée by the spoonful. When all of the purée has been added, set bowl back over the pot—the water should be simmering—and add hibiscus. Continue stirring the rhubarb mixture for another 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Using an offset spatula, spread curd evenly over shortbread. Bake for 15-17 minutes, then remove from oven and cool on rack. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until firm enough to slice cleanly. Cut into 16 equal bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Makes 16 bars

This story originally appeared in our April 2018 issue. Credits: Special thanks to Accoutre.

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