As inspiration for more adventurous culinary efforts I’m following along with Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, in my tiny New York kitchen. Let’s see if I can keep up with the Contessa!
Episode: “Brunch Bunch”
The Set-up: Ina has enlisted her BFFs Miguel and Michael to create a Pinterest-perfect brunch spread. I will indubitably be jealous.
0:36 – We begin with Ina chopping hazelnuts for Roasted Hazelnut Granola and waxing poetic on the charms of day-time entertaining. Highlights: loves the food, people are full of energy, and (she says this more nicely) then they get the heck out so she can take a nap! That last bit is close reading on my part…
1:10 – Granola time! Pro Tip #1: Starting with roasted nuts (hazelnuts, cashews, almonds) gives the granola a deeper flavor.
3:22 – Split screen time with Miguel and Michael working on their tasks (table setting and flowers, respectively). Ina selected the theme of blue & white but now their on their own. No pressure!
3:30 – Michael selects blue muscari (aka grape hyacinth) since they’re “blue, low, and not too formal, which is perfect for brunch.” So far so good, although a second later he seems to be plotting something involving eggs?
3:45 – Now over to Miguel. He’s using the blue and white tablecloths Ina gave him and large, bowl-sized tea cups in a blue chinoiserie pattern for a “touch of whimsy.” You officially have my attention, Miguel; tell me more about this whimsy….
5:04 – Granola is in the oven looking very much like one of those deliciously sticky Nature Valley bars and now it’s back to Miguel pouring OJ and grapefruit juices into pitchers and delighting us all by saying ‘teacups’ one more time.
9:16 – We’re back with Ina for instructions on making the best Fruit Platter. Pro Tip #2: Smell the pineapple before buying to see if it’s ripe (it should smell like pineapple.)
10:23 – Fruit Platter 101: line the platter with large leaves (fig, hydrangea, lemon) for a touch of green. Make large blocks of color by staggering the slices of melon and pineapple together. Scatter a ‘stream’ of blueberries over the top and then another of strawberries and raspberries, again keeping the colors uniform.
10:52 – I can’t believe she put together a picture perfect platter in about 30 seconds. Apologies to future guests if I practice this on you…
11:07 – Croissant time and Ina (again) blows my mind with her perfect technique for lining a breadbasket with a napkin. Hard to describe, but essentially fold in the middle one direction and then again in the other. Confused? Is there anything she can’t do?
12:28 – Pro Tip #3: Leave the croissant baking to the professionals, but heat them up in the oven for a few minutes and serve them warm with Apricot Butter.
13:01 – Ina talks us through how to make it, but the true takeaway is that anything can be mixed into butter.
13:49 – We check in with Michael who has really committed to his egg idea by turning them into little vases for the grape hyacinth and placing them in porcelain egg cups. Never underestimate a florist.
14:56 – On to the Baked Blintzes with Blueberry Sauce, which Ina explains are basically like a large pancake with ricotta filling. Sounds good to me!
19:24 – The filling (ricotta, mascarpone, eggs, lemon) seems like it would please both people who prefer sweet breakfast and people who prefer savory. Good news for me since Mike and I are a house divided on that subject.
21:18 – Miguel is stealth – he snuck a peek and discovered the Apricot Butter, so he chose apricot colored napkins to finish the table and honestly the contrast of the soft blues and whites with the bright orange and salmon colors is gorgeous. Miguel definitely knows what’s up with table setting.
22:03 – The first layer of the Baked Blintzes is done and Ina has spread the ricotta filling evenly before adding the top layer of ‘pancake’ mix. Pro Tip #4: Pouring the batter into a spoon, rather than directly onto the filling, will keep the layers from mixing. (Think: bartender making a ‘float.’)
26:31 – Blueberry sauce time and it looks amazing – like liquid blueberry pie. Yum.
28:19 – Blintzes are done, flowers are on the table, fruit platter and croissants have been set out. Seriously, this is magazine perfect – not that I had any doubts with Ina, Michael and Miguel on the case.
29:42 – Ina and Michael are more patient than I would be as Miguel snaps away (we get some of his shots interspersed with compliments from Ina on their work) and then everyone dives in!
I’m excited to have a brunch idea that A.) requires one dish and B.) should be a crowd-pleaser for both savory & sweet.
I adore the blue/white/apricot color scheme of this brunch – gorgeous.
The hunt is on for ‘whimsical’ over-sized teacups. I will keep you posted.
I’ve never made blintzes before and the steps of the Baked Blintzes with Blueberry Sauce recipe worked well for me through the ricotta cheese and top layer stages. That’s where I ran into some issues….
First things first, I used a blender to mix the pancake batter, which I think added a lot of air to the mixture. See how fluffy the blintz is - it puffed up like a soufflé! A food processor or just a spoon is probably a better option.
Second, the consistency of the ricotta mixture was a little thinner than ideal - something closer to the thickness you'd use in lasagna would be better - in the future I’d add a little more mascarpone to thicken it up. The combination of these two factors made it really tricky to keep the layers from mixing together, even using the spoon-pouring method Ina demonstrated and I wasn't totally successful.
The final factor is the baking vessel. I cut the recipe in half and baked it in a medium oval casserole dish, but I think this made the layers too thick and really increased the baking time. Next time I’d use a larger dish so that the layers are spread over a larger area and bake more evenly.
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, definitely. I used a blender (recommend: food processor), medium bowl, small sauce pan, and a baking dish in addition to a rubber spatula, microplane grater, wire whisk, small paring knife, along with the usual measuring cups (liquid and dry) and spoons.
Mike and I were one week into a two week busy-spell of travel, work, and evening plans, so I wanted to slow down over Sunday brunch and have Baked Blintzes with Blueberry Sauce. I like a ‘sweet’ breakfast, especially waffles, while Mike would rather have something like an omelet. So, this seemed like a great compromise that we’d both like.
While the flavors are good and we thought the blueberry sauce was awesome (excellent over warm croissants, btw.) this dish didn’t really check the box for either of us. Not quite eggs, not quite a waffle. However, the next morning I had a piece still chilled from the refrigerator and actually like it a lot better cold. Bizarre, I know. Final decision: I will probably save this recipe for times when we have guests for brunch and will be making more than one dish to choose from.