by MELISSA GORDON
I recently heard the comic Dave Chappelle say that he sometimes comes up with a punchline first and crafts the joke second. That got me thinking about my articles. Most of the time, I am so taken by a particular food that I must write about it — and then come up with a recipe. Sometimes I am so shocked/amused/inspired by a particular incident involving food, that I am compelled to share the story — and then come up with a recipe. But there are times when a recipe is so spectacular that it comes first. When this happens, the article is the hardest to write because all I want to say is, “Here, try this. It’s amazing. You’ll love it.”
In this case, none of the above were true. I knew I wanted to write about brunch, but I don’t really have anything interesting to say about brunch. I have no funny or memorable brunch stories to share and I don’t particularly like brunch foods. But there is one thing: I do love how colorful brunch can be. Even with the dullest of guests, brunch can be a lively affair for the bouncy colors alone. Take the dishes below, for example. Add a platter of brightly dyed hard-boiled eggs, a bowl full of kumquats, a green salad, and a loaf of freshly baked bread and you’ve got a brunch more colorful than an ‘80s dance party.
Honey Bourbon Ham Steaks
• 3 tablespoons bourbon
• 1/4 cup honey
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1 teaspoon vegetable oil or butter
• 4 4-ounce ham steaks
Combine the bourbon, honey, ginger and cloves in a cup and stir to mix. Set aside.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add oil or butter and tilt the pan to coat. Place the ham steaks in the hot pan and sear on both sides for about one minute per side. When the ham is browned and heated through, take the pan off the heat, move the ham to a plate and cover loosely with a pan lid or foil to keep warm.
Put the pan back on the burner over medium heat and add the honey mixture, stirring as soon as it hits the hot pan. It will boil and thicken quickly, within 30 seconds or so. Put the ham steaks back in the pan and turn frequently until they are glazed and coated.
Serve immediately and drizzle with any sauce left in the pan.
Zucchini Corn Cakes
Adapted slightly from delish.com
• 1 pound zucchini (about two large), grated and squeezed in a cheese cloth to remove excess liquid
• 1 cup corn kernels
• 2 scallions, thinly sliced
• 3 large eggs, beaten
• 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
• 1/2 teaspoon basil leaves
• Salt and pepper
• 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
• 3/4 cup flour
• olive oil
• 1/2 cup Greek yogurt plus one tablespoon hot sauce (optional)
In a large bowl, combine shredded zucchini with corn, scallions, eggs, and spices. Season with salt and pepper, then mix in Parmesan and flour.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. For each pancake, scoop 1/4 cup of batter, flatten to about 1/2-inch and cook until golden, about two minutes per side. Add more olive oil between batches, or as needed.
In a small bowl, mix Greek yogurt with hot sauce. Serve pancakes with sauce on the side.
Kumquat and Pink Pepper Spritzer
Adapted slightly from thekitchn.com
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup water
• 2 teaspoons dried pink peppercorns, lightly crushed
• About 24 kumquats, sliced into rounds and seeded
• Ice (optional)
• About three liters sparkling water
Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for five minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugars.
Stir in pink peppercorns, remove from heat, and let stand for 30 minutes.
Strain syrup through a fine-mesh strainer and reserve pink peppercorns for garnish. Let syrup cool completely.
For each drink, stir 12 kumquat slices and two tablespoons of syrup into an eight-ounce glass. Add ice cubes if desired, then fill glass with sparkling water and stir. Garnish with a few pink peppercorns.