Rather than celebrating at a crowded restaurant, this year, I decided to host an Easter brunch at home!
While my little helper was busy setting up the table with Easter decorations, I got crankin’ in the kitchen. Given that I am not a morning person, I had planned to keep the brunch simple, elegant and easy for me to whip up in the morning. On the menu were Mini Masala Frittatas, Brie & Apple Bruschettas with Spicy Pecans, Pasta with Pea Shoots, Snow Peas and Pesto and Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Bread.
With the banana bread and the pesto done the previous night in addition to the other prep work, I was confident that I would be able to finish the entire menu in less than an hour that Sunday morning before my parents, siblings and cousins arrived.
Mini Masala Frittatas
Eggs, I think, are synonymous with Easter and are also symbolic of the Spring season, indicating brand new beginnings. Also, no brunch is complete without an egg dish on the table! I thought of making my signature phyllo cups with scrambled eggs at first, but then decided to make something more festive and colorful by filling up mini muffin pans with veggies, cheese, pancetta and eggs with a hint of warm, spicy Indian masala.
The muffin pans came out of the oven with the fillings turned into gorgeous mini frittatas!
Makes about 48 mini or 24 individual frittatas
about 2 cups of finely chopped vegetables (combination of broccoli, different bell peppers, baby spinach)
1/3 cup diced pancetta or bacon (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated gruyere or fontina cheese (or any other kind that melts easily)
Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray
12 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp garam masala or Chicken Masala
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Spray 2 mini muffin tins (each with 24 cups) with nonstick spray. Fill them up 1/2 way through with the diced veggies and pancetta or bacon if using. Whisk the eggs, milk, masala and salt in a liquid measuring cup with a spout and mix well. Fill prepared muffin cups almost to the top with the egg mixture.
Bake until the egg mixture puffs and is just set in the center, about 8 to 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the frittatas from the muffin cups and slide the frittatas onto a platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Pasta with Pea Shoots, Snow Peas and Pesto
I think Easter is all about the Spring season and new beginnings! With the advent of Spring, the markets fill up with the freshest produce of the season. I decided to create a hearty pasta salad with sweet snow peas that are widely available during Spring and used homemade basil pesto as a dressing. To make it festive, I used the colorful vegetable radiatore pasta that gave the salad a very elegant look. In addition to the added veggie punch, the pasta has a beautiful shape that makes the Parmesan cheese and pesto sauce to stick in between the ridges. I threw in some roasted red peppers for added flavor and color and instead of tossing in herbs, I chopped up a handful pea shoots and added it to the salad. It gave the dish a delicately sweet taste of Spring peas.
Serves8-10 as side or 4 as main dish
1 lb (i.e. 1 packet) of radiatore ( or other short pasta like rotini, bowties, fusilli etc that allow the pesto to get in and coat well)
a handful (about 1 cup) snow peas, cut in half at an angle (if you can’t find snow peas, you can use green peas, fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, sliced (about 2 from the jar)
a handful (about 2 oz) pea shoots (if you can’t find them, you can use a few sprigs of parsley)
1/2 cup basil pesto
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender but still firm to the bite), stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. In the last 1 min, throw in the snow peas and let them cook in the boiling water for just a min. Drain the pasta and the peas, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to add to the pasta later, if needed.
In a mixing bowl, add the hot pasta, peas and peppers to the pesto and toss well to coat evenly. Add the required quantity of reserved liquid for desired moisture level. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Mix in the chopped pea shoots and serve warm or at room temperature.
Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Bread
My Easter brunch menu was incomplete without a sweet treat on the table! I made a hearty, healthy banana bread for dessert using my signature recipe. Its one that I have mastered over time. We always have bananas on hand and I tend to use the ripe ones to make the bread, atleast every other week or so. I started by playing with a couple of recipes from here and there and eventually crafted my own version of it.
I like to use a combination of whole wheat flour, ground flax seed and instant or quick cooking oats for the dry ingredients. I think it makes a wholesome banana bread thats not just healthier but even more tastier than the one made with regular all purpose flour alone. To maintain the richness of the bread, I use the good ol’ butter and not the oil and for me, there’s no substitute for sugar! I also play with the other additions to the bread like topping the bread with or stirring in different kinds of nuts or raisins or chocolate chips.
Makes 1 loaf
3/4 cups whole wheat or unbleached all-purpose flour + additional 1/8 cup flour if mixing nuts or chocolate chips in the batter
1/4 cup ground flax seed (optional. If not using, add another 1/4 cup of flour to the above quantity)
1/4 cup instant or quick cooking oats (optional. If not using, add another 1/4 cup of flour to the above quantity)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces (optional)
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
1/3 cup sliced toasted almond (optional for topping)
Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. If not, leave the eggs and butter out on the counter for a couple of hours to get to a room temperature.
Whisk the flour, ground flaxseed, oats, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a liquid measuring cup with a spout and set aside.
Lightly brush a 9- by 5- by 3-inch loaf pan with butter.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand-held mixer) until light and fluffy. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the butter, while mixing, until incorporated. Add the bananas (the mixture will appear to be curdled, so don’t worry), and remove the bowl from the mixer.
With a rubber spatula, mix in the dry ingredients into the banana mixture until just incorporated.
Mix the nuts or chocolate chips in the flour to make sure they are evenly coated with flour. This will ensure they are evenly distributed throughout the batter and not sink in to the bottom of the pan. Fold in the nuts and transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
Keep the loaf pan on a baking sheet, just in case the batter over flows. If using sliced almonds for topping, pull the pan out of the oven after the first 5 mins, when the batter has evenly spread in the pan and sprinkle sliced almonds.
Continue to bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, about 55 mins to an hour. Take the pan out of the oven and cool the bread in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Turn the bread out of the pan and let cool completely on the rack.
Wrap in plastic wrap or keep in an air tight container. The banana bread tastes best if served the next day.