Friday, April 8, 2011

Birthday Brunch

Monday, March 28, many moons ago, little Steven Eric was born. I wasn't there or even thought of then. Each year since we have been together, (42) I try to do something special.  On his 26th birthday and the first year of our relationship, I threw a surprise block party in San Diego's Mission Beach where we lived.  All of our neighbors came out to enjoy the keg of beer I ordered.  His family drove down from Los Angeles and surprised him too.  He was very impressed. I think my girlfriends all helped with the food and I am sure it was California Mexican. Things like tortilla chips ( fresh fried), salsa, guacamole some sort of stew, beans, salad and a birthday cake. I guess I was destined to cook and cater although that didn't become my profession for 12 more years. 
One fun birthday for Steve was when we lived in Chicago and I was taking classes in Chinese cooking.  I made hot and sour soup, potstickers, fried won tons, Shrimp fried rice and a few vegetarian things that I don't remember. One of his cousin's showed up with a case of beer. His "trading" buddies from the Chicago Mercantile came, stoned, but brought copious amounts of wine and spirits. A good time was definetely had by all as they say. Fast forward to San Francisco when I was just beginning to take cooking seriously and starting to make a career out of it. The parties took my skills to another level. Fine Napa Valley wine ( it used to be reasonable back in the 80's), grilled birds on beds of wild rice, beautiful platters of perfectly cooked vegetables seasoned with various herbs, and spices,homemade breads and pastry shop quality desserts. I am tired just thinking about how hard I worked to put together those dinners. Those were also the "hot tub" days so everyone would shed their clothes after a huge dinner and soak in the hot tub with more libations ( usually champagne, as we were allowed to call it back then). We would have a big fire in the fireplace and just dance and laugh our heads off.
The years tick by.

This birthday was celebrated in Phoenix with Steve's brother Scott, sister in law, Paula and our nephew Coleman in their newly purchased winter home. We laugh because they lived there 30 plus years, left for California, now live in Idaho and have come full circle back to spend the winters in Phoenix. They are now the "snow birds" they used to eschew. We were all so thankful to be warm as California has had a really chilly spring too.
 With a minimally stocked kitchen I decided to make a brunch for  Steve's birthday. Paula, my sister in law, and I went to the local farmer's market and picked up some fresh eggs, herbs, baby spinach, green garlic (yum) and a wonderful loaf of cheddar-apple bread. Trader Joe's and Paula's refrigerator filled in the other necessary ingredients for a pretty good brunch.
At Trader Joe's we picked up some proscuitto, chicken breakfast sausages, a ripe mango, mushrooms and some Italian truffle cheese. Fun fun!!
My Nikon camera battery died just as I was about to snap away. I used Paula's camera and the results were pretty good, at least the dishes are captured for posterity.

First up:                         Spinach and Mushroom Frittata

1/4 # brown mushrooms, sliced
1 c. diced onion
1 small bulb green garlic, peeled and sliced
1 T. olive oil
1# baby spinach, rinsed and dried
    In a saute pan with a lid, saute the mushroms, onions and garlic in olive oil until soft. Season with a little salt and pepper.  Add baby spinach in handfuls, cover with the lid and let steam until wilted. Stir into the mushroom mixture and keep adding spinach until it is all incorporated. I do this as opposed to blanching it to avoid too much moisture and the subsequent squeezing the death out of the  little leaves to remove said moisture.

9 farmer's market eggs (the large size)
2 T. milk
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese ( can use Parmesan)
2 T. chopped Sundried tomatoes ( sister in law had these so why not?)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
    or to taste on these seasonings.
Pour over the mushroom-spinach mixture in the skillet and stir to combine.  Over medium-low heat stir occasionally until the mixture starts to set but doesn't look like scrambled eggs.
I grated about 2 oz. of the Italian Truffle cheese and sprinkled over the top of the frittata. You could use any cheese that melts.
Pop the skillet into a 400* oven and bake 13-15 min. until it is browned and puffy.

  I didn't like the choice of bacon at this T.J.'s so opted for proscuitto which I spread out onto a baking sheet and baked until crisp in the 400* oven before the frittata went in. Watch it carefully as it can burn easily. It takes 4-5 min. max. Sister in law was in heaven!

I have poached these particular chicken breakfast sausages in a little water until it evaporates and they just start to brown then added some Chile Verde salsa to the skillet and baked them in a 350 oven for about 10 min. I thought it would be a good addition today.

We had a medley of odds and ends of fruit including the nice ripe mango so I diced up what we had and tossed in a little orange juice. 

Paula was in charge of her "Home Fries"  with baby yukon gold and red potatoes, bell peppers and onions. All crispy and yummy.

The cheddar apple bread was really good heated and sliced with sweet butter.

A toast was made with the favorite Trader Joe's Crement du Bourgone sparkling wine (what you have to call it now) to our favorite sweet man, Steve.

Off the brothers went in search of a baseball game while Paula and I went on a hunt for a birthday cake for the evening's dinner she had planned with a group of friends.  Steve got double the fun this Birthday!


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