Thinking about the prospect, just the prospect, not even the nailed-down-on-the-calendar brunch makes me happy. Going to bed at 9PM also makes me happy, which is why if I had to rank brunch and dinner, I have to admit that I get a little more excited about an invitation for brunch. (But let’s be clear here, any opportunity to sit around a table and enjoy food and conversation with friends makes me happy!)
When I was a new mom I began watching Ina Garten’s show “The Barefoot Contessa”, of which I became a instant fan even though I’m not able to enjoy many of her recipes. She is so warm and inviting and had a way of making me, the viewer, feel like I was personally sitting in her kitchen and watching her cook. I know I’m not alone here!! Who wouldn’t want to be considered Ina’s friend? Anyway, she once said that brunch was her favorite meal to host. She loved the informal nature of it and that guests had the rest of the day to make their own. Another reason why I love her.
So, even though brunch and I are great friends, when I’m hosting brunch, I still need time in the morning for a book and coffee in bed (i.e. spilling coffee in bed). Oh wait, reality check, that was pre-kids! Back to reality. I just want a lazy morning where the kids and I can do puzzles, play doctor and color before I begin preparing everything. I also want to serve something a little fancier (but not too fancy) than my weekday fare.
Of course a frittata or an egg bake is an obvious choice for serving a group, (accompanied by your favorite baked bread, roll, etc.) but I’m going to go a little further in simplicity here with the help of a make-ahead and amazingly flavorful harissa chile sauce. If I was serving a brunch menu to friends this weekend, I would prepare this dish, sweet potato bread (I’m working on my own recipe, but I have made this one with great success!), and finish with berries with a little kefir and sprouted pumpkin seeds on top to finish. Oh my gosh, I’m getting hungry!
The recipe run-down goes as follows: roasted asparagus topped with prosciutto, sunny-side up eggs and smothered in harissa sauce which is an extremely versatile and TOTALLY flavorful chile sauce. If you’re not a fan of heat, don’t worry, you can completely control the level in this harissa sauce, and it is sooooo flavorful no matter where you take the heat!
You could also add avocado for healthy fat, and/or fresh grape tomatoes to accompany the slight tomato flavor of the harissa.
- Eggs – The nutrient rich proteins in the yolk of an egg are quite susceptible to heat, thus it’s always better to cook eggs slower than you think. And preparing your eggs sunny-side up or over-easy is preferable over scrambled for preserving these nutrients as well. When cooking on low heat, you’ll need to scrape the whites in a few times as they spread more. However, when cooking for a crowd, scrambled is definitely the easier way to go and that can definitely be done for this recipe as well.
- Mint– Choose the spearmint variety at the store. Mint actually aids in the digestion of meat (lamb and mint go together like lamb and mint!), thus it’s a tasty and functional pairing with the prosciutto in this recipe.
- 24 stalks of asparagus, ends trimmed
- 4 oz package of prosciutto (uncured and organic if possible)
- 8 - 12 eggs (2-3 per person)
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil, butter or ghee, divided
- 3-4 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped (measure after chopping)
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (measure after chopping)
- Optional additions - avocado, sliced and/or grape tomatoes, halved
- HARISSA *
- ¼ cup dried chiles of any sort and combination, measure after chopped **
- 1 cup diced jarred tomatoes (fresh roma tomatoes can be substituted)
- 2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
- 1½ teaspoon caraway seeds ***
- 1½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1½ teaspoon coriander seeds
- ¾ teaspoon sea or himalyan salt
- 1-2 packed tablespoons fresh mint ****
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- filtered water to thin
- Cut chiles into large pieces and remove some seeds to lower heat if desired. Place chile pieces into a bowl of warm water to soak for at least 20 minutes. Touch the chiles as little as possible (I use a fork to handle them) and BE CAREFUL to wash your hands well afterward!
- While chiles are soaking, toast the spices. In a dry small pan over low-medium heat, toast the spices for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. After toasting, grind the spices with a mortar and pestle, a spice grinder, or a coffee grinder.
- Place soaked chiles and all remaining ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth, about 10 seconds.
- Sauce will last a week in the refrigerator.
- ASPARAGUS AND PROSCIUTTO
- Preheat the oven to 450.
- When the oven is ready, place the asparagus stalks on a baking sheet on the top rack. Roast for 10-12 minutes or until the stalks are bright green and crisp.
- If cooking the prosciutto (I like to), with 7 minutes left on the asparagus, roll up the slices and place them on the same baking sheet as the asparagus.
- With a few minutes left on the asparagus, begin preparing the sunny side up eggs.
- In a large skillet over low to medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon per pair of eggs you plan to cook at one time (i.e. if you are able to fit 4 eggs at once in the skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of oil). You may need to work in batches.
- Crack the eggs in the oil, keeping them separate from each other as best as possible. Place lid on pan to give the eggs more volume, or leave the lid off to keep the yolks super bright. Cook for about 3-5 minutes or until the eggs whites have set. For over easy eggs, turn off the heat, flip the eggs and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Repeat process if cooking additional eggs.
- Serve with roasted asparagus on the bottom, topped by eggs, prosciutto (broken into pieces), mint and parsley. Place the harissa in a bowl to allow for guests to decide how much to enjoy, or place 2-3 tablespoons on each plate (or per person).
** ¼ cup is the recommendation when using relatively medium-high heat chiles. If you use low-heat chiles (Anaheim or New Mexico for example), more than ¼ cup can be added. Start with less chiles and add more after blending if you'd like more heat.
*** If you don't have the whole seeds, you can use ground. You CAN toast the ground spices but they will take less time - 2 to 3 minutes.
**** If you find that you've made the harissa too hot for your liking, adding more mint or tomatoes can help cool it ... slightly.