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Add flair to the traditional brunch

When serving traditional American brunch, I add a little ethnic flair to the fare – and offer a basket of fresh, Mexican pastries.

Driving to Salisbury, I spotted a small panaderia y pazteleria in town, right past the former high school. The discovery was a lucky find as I like to support folks who make fresh baked goods available to us locally.

Enjoy these recipes for a south of the border approach to brunch – I forgo serving the typical pinto, black beans, and rice that usually come with a meal. Typical Mexican cuisine is rich with egg dishes, but brunch can be a simple tortilla topped with an egg, covered in cheese, and garnished with tomatoes and chilies.

No meal is complete or table ever without traditional bowls of crud-raw or cooked salsa. The watermelon salsa introduces a new taste – the jicama – that’s enjoying popular status now.  The sweet Plantain-Peanut Bead is delicious toasted and spread with butter and favorite jam.

And toss a few of those cake piglets into your pastry basket – a delightful addition that will bring smiles to your guests’ faces.  Those little grunters are my favorite.

For baked goods, you can place special orders if you want to purchase the same day they’re baked.  You’ll also find fresh corn, pork, and chicken tamales, corn tortillas, tostadas, crema, and queso cheese.

My bag was filled with fresh, fruit-filled pastries. My heart was overflowing, too. I support those who work hard at what makes a meal memorable – the sweet stuff. Good food’s a universal language we all speak – even more so when combined with love.

As I prepared to leave, I received, for me, one of the best things offered – a value-added, no additional cost, genuine expression of love – a beautiful blessing.

Maybe you’ll get one, too

MEXICALI EGGS & CHORIZO

1 peeled, pitted, diced avocado

Lime juice

6 oz. diced chorizo sausage

4 soft corn tortillas

2 Tbsp. salted butter

4 soft yolk, poached eggs

4 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese

Tomato salsa or ketchup

1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

1 Tbsp. chopped scallions

In a bowl, dice the avocado and toss in lime juice. In a skillet, add chorizo, and cook until browned. Drain. In another non-stick skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. butter, and add a stack of tortillas to skillet.  Heat bottom tortilla and move to top of stack as you heat them all. Add more butter as needed. Cover with foil and keep warm. Poach eggs at this time, keeping yolks soft.  Arrange warm tortillas on a serving platter.  Arrange chorizo, avocado, cheese, and a spoonful of salsa on each tortilla. Place a poached egg with soft yolk in the center. Sprinkle with cilantro and scallions. Serves 4.

YELLOW TOMATO SALSA

2 cups yellow cherry tomatoes

1 chopped jalapeno chili

1 Tbsp. chopped shallot

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

¼ tsp. salt

Cut tomatoes into quarters. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Allow to marinate at room temperature for several hours. Makes 2 cups.

WATERMELON AND JICAMA SALSA

1 peeled, diced jicama

½ lb. peeled, diced watermelon

1 minced scallion

1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint

In a bowl, toss the jicama, watermelon, scallion, and lime juice. Allow to marinate at room temperature for an hour.  When ready to serve, stir in the mint. Makes 2 cups.

POTATOES WITH GOAT CHEESE

3 lbs. peeled, cubed, baking potatoes

Salt and pepper

1 cup crème fraiche

½ cup vegetable broth

4 chopped garlic cloves

½-1 chopped chipotle

8 oz. sliced goat cheese

1 ½ cups shredded Asiago or Monterrey Jack cheese

¾ shredded Parmesan cheese

In boiling water, cook potatoes until half done. Salt and pepper.  In a bowl, combine crème fraiche with broth, garlic, and chipotle.  In a butter greased casserole dish, arrange half of potatoes. Pour half the crème fraiche mixture over potatoes. Top with goat cheese. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, remainder of crème fraiche, and then goat cheese. Cover top with Monterrey Jack Cheese. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 375-degree oven until potatoes are done, and cheese topping is crispy and golden.

ZUCCHINI PANCAKES

2 beaten eggs

½ cup milk

4 shredded zucchini

3 tsp. minced garlic

1/3 cup minced fresh parsley, thyme, and basil

2 oz. shredded Jalapeno Jack cheese

½ cup fresh bread crumbs

¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

4 Tbsp. salted butter

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add milk and mix. Stir in zucchini, garlic, herbs, cheese, salt, and pepper. Add bread crumbs and flour. Mix well. In a skillet, melt butter. Pour in ¼ -cup portions of batter onto skillet. When edges of pancake begin to brown, turn over and cook 1 minute on other side or until browned. Transfer to platter and keep warm in the oven. Serve with orange cinnamon syrup.

Orange-Cinnamon Syrup

1 ½ cups water

Grated rind 1 orange

4 Tbsp. fresh orange juice

½ cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp. honey

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

In a heavy skillet, bring water, orange rind, juice, sugar, honey, and cinnamon to a boil over medium heat while stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until thickened. Spoon syrup over pancakes.

FRIED PLANTAINS

1 ½ cups vegetable oil

3 peeled, sliced 2-inches, ripe plantains

1/3 cup sour cream

In a heavy skillet, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Slice plantains on a diagonal.  Fry the plantains until dark golden brown. Transfer them to paper towels with a slotted spoon. Drizzle with sour cream. Serve warm.

FRESH MINT & TEQUILA INFUSED PINEAPPLE

1 peeled, cored, chunked, ripe pineapple

Sugar

1 juiced lime

3 Tbsp. tequila (or vanilla extract)

Chopped fresh mint

Mint sprigs

In a bowl, place pineapple chunks. Sprinkle with sugar, lemon juice, and tequila. Toss to coat well. Cover and chill until ready to serve. When ready to serve, sprinkle with chopped mint. Decorate with mint sprigs. Serves 6.

EMPANADAS

(Hand Pies)

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup cold water

Beaten egg, glaze

water

In a mixer bowl, place flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a fork and mix well. Add oil and mix with your hands or fork until mixture is crumbly. Add water and mix until you have a joist dough. Knead the dough in the bowl for 1 minute or until smooth. Wrap dough in plastic and set aside for at least 1 hour. Don’t refrigerate. Divide the dough ball into 12 equal parts. When ready to use, roll out and cut into 6-inch circles or desired size. Vary size anywhere from 2-6 inches whether appetizer, lunch, or dinner portions. You can fill with savory or sweet fillings.  Makes 12.

Peachy-Pecan Filling

5 peeled, pitted, chopped, sweet peaches

Boiling water

1 cup sour cream

6 Tbsp. brown sugar

6 Tbsp. toasted, chopped pecans

In a heatproof bowl, place the peaches. Pour boiling water over them just to cover and allow to stand for a few seconds. Drain and peel off skins. Remove pits and slice. Place a spoonful of sour cream on half of the pastry circle. Top with a few peach slices. Sprinkle with ½ Tbsp. of brown sugar and ½ Tbsp. of nuts. Brush edge with beaten egg. Fold pastry over the filling like a half-moon.  Press edges together to seal and crimp edges with a fork. Prick the tops several times. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush with a glaze of egg yolk and water. These are baked to avoid the fat, but you can fry them as well. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden and edges browned. Cool and serve at room temp.

CHURROS

(Fried Dough)

2 beaten eggs

1 cup water

¼ cup diced, salted butter

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 zested rind from orange

Pinch of salt

1 ¼ cup sifted, all-purpose flour

1 tsp. ground cinnamon, plus

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Vegetable oil

Superfine dusting sugar

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. In a deep saucepan, melt butter. Add water, brown sugar, orange rind, and salt. Add the flour, cinnamon, and vanilla. Remove from heat and beat until mixture pulls away from pan. Add mixture to the eggs. Beat until mixture is thick and smooth. Fill a pastry bag with a wide-star tip. Heat oil to 350-degrees. Pipe 5-inch lengths into the oil. Keeping them about 3 inches apart, deep fry for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Dust with superfine sugar and cinnamon. Serves 4.

PLANTAIN-PEANUT BREAD

8 eggs

1 ½ cup packed brown sugar

2 sticks softened, salted butter

3 cups all-purpose flour

½ Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

4 pureed ripe plantains

2 diced plantains

1 ½ cups unsalted peanuts

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add brown sugar and mix well. Add softened butter and mix well. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the egg mixture. Mix well until smooth. Puree the 4 plantains. Dice the 2 plantains. Fold in all plantains and peanuts into the mixture. Pour into a well-greased and floured 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick tests clean. Cool and cut into squares. Toast and spread with favorite jam.

MEXICAN COFFEE

½ cup ground coffee

1 broken in half, cinnamon stick

4 Tbsp. packed brown sugar

4 cups water

Prepare in a drip-style coffee maker. Place coffee in a filter container. Scatter cinnamon and brown sugar over the coffee. Brew with water. 4-6 servings.

PIQUANT RANCHERA

(Smokey Tomato Ketchup)

5 lbs. chopped ripe tomatoes

1 chopped onion

1 seeded, chopped poblano chili

2 chopped jalapeno chilies

2 dried chipotle chilies

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp. mustard seed

1 tsp. celery seed

¼ tsp. cayenne

1 tsp. black pepper

1 ½ tsp. salt

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 1 ½ hours while stirring occasionally. When vegetables are soft and sauce has been reduced, puree sauce in a food processor. Strain into a clean pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer 1 hour until thick and a smoky red color. Cool. Can be refrigerated for several weeks.