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because brunch. and challah.

there's something totally irresistible about brunch. 

It might be that the warmer weather stirs something up inside us all, this time of year. We get the uncontrollable urge to bust out of the house when it's finally the weekend and find a patio somewhere with lots of sunshine, eggs and bottomless mimosas. Amiright?  

 oh, hello, french toast.

oh, hello, french toast.

I also love that somehow we get to eat whatever we want when it comes to brunch. Whether it's a whipped-cream and maple syrup covered stack of chocolate chip pancakes or just a bowl of wholesome oatmeal, basically you can eat anything from straight up dessert to well, just breakfast. 

And did I mention the day drinking? Anyway, I could go on and on about my love for brunch but the point is, you should have some. Immediately, if possible. How, you ask? I say let's start with challah.

 holla.

holla.

Everybody needs a use for leftover bread. That is, if you eat bread, which you should because it's delicious. But look to different cultures around the world and if they eat bread, they are sure to have developed some delicious dishes that make good use of the stale stuff. Bread pudding, panzanella, fattoush, and croutons are all clever and tasty examples. French toast just happens to be my favorite.

 it's a french toast party and everyone's invited.

it's a french toast party and everyone's invited.

The formula is really simple: you need eggs and milk or cream or both. I almost always use a combination of whole milk and half and half because that's what I usually have on hand. From there, the possibilities are many. You can go the savory route and add salt and pepper, you can go the sweet route, as this recipe does, and add vanilla and some kind of sugar like maple syrup. You can even get crazy and add a little whiskey, grated lemon zest, cinnamon or even hot sauce, if you're extra sassy.  I won't judge.

As far as bread goes, French toast can be made with just about any kind you like, but to achieve true Brunch Bliss I insist you try challah. The result is light and fluffy in texture with a toothsome, almost cakey bite. Challah absorbs liquids with great enthusiasm, so just a light dip in the batter pool is all you need for each slice. In fact, this recipe makes exactly enough batter to be absorbed by four big, thick slices so if you let the bread linger in there too long you won't have enough liquid for your last slice. You're better off airing on the side of less batter versus more, anyway, because too much batter is impossible to undo and results in a soggy, eggy, sorry pile of mush, hardly worthy of the name toast. 

The only other thing you need is a trusty pan and plenty of butter. A shallow frying pan or cast iron skillet are excellent choices, although I'm also quite fond of dusting off the ol' grilling pan for this purpose, too. Not that it makes any difference taste-wise, but grilled French toast is just pretty. Once you've cooked up your toast, the rest is up to you. I am a big fan of serving it up simply with a (very generous) drizzle of maple syrup and maybe a pat of butter. Some folks (and most restaurants) love topping their sweet toast with more sweet stuff, like berries, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and more. Savory French toast works with any number of things, especially just a perfectly poached egg and a few slices of bacon. So what are you waiting for? Go get your brunch on!

Challah French Toast
Serves 4

Ingredients

2 eggs
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup half & half (or cream, if you're feeling fancy)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 T maple syrup
Pinch of salt
4 thick (about 1-inch) slices of challah loaf
2 T butter (or so), for frying
Maple syrup, to serve

Directions

1. Whisk together eggs, milk, half & half (or cream), vanilla, maple syrup and salt in a shallow dish. 
2. Place a large pan over medium heat and melt 1 tablespoon butter. Dip each bread slice in the batter, coating both sides (don't allow bread to soak or it'll absorb too much liquid and get soggy). After the fourth slice, all the liquid should have been absorbed. 
3. Fry each slice in hot pan (adding more butter as necessary) until the toast is nicely browned and just a little bit crispy around the edges, about 3-5 minutes per side. 
4. Drizzle with maple syrup and serve immediately.

 

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get your greens.

this is the story of a simple salad.

No endless chopping of vegetables.  No dressing.  Hell, you don't even need to bust out the whisk!  Because salad is awesome, and anybody who tells you different is a dirty liar who doesn't have a great simple salad recipe in their repertoire (promptly point them toward this one, please).

 now that's a sexy salad.

now that's a sexy salad.

Truth is, all you really need is a few great ingredients. In this case, I used some absolutely gorgeous, peppery mizuna from Oxford Gardens, a nearby farm run by geeky soil scientists who grow some of the most delicious vegetables I've ever put in my face. I also used my favorite local chèvre, made by my favorite local goat farmer slash cheese maker, Andrea, of Broken Shovels Farm. The other key ingredient is preserved lemons. These are not always easy to find (although if you happen to live in Denver you can get them at Marczyk Fine Foods) but they are, in fact, incredibly easy to make.  And boy, are they worth it with their bright, salty, lemony, almost otherworldly flavor that adds unbelievable depth to tons of different dishes. Lastly, some really good olive oil.  I always have the cheap stuff on the counter by the stove, to use for just about a million different things, but I keep the good stuff in the pantry and reserve it for pouring on a plate and dipping with bread, finishing soups and such, or for drizzling over sexy salads like this one.

These are all ingredients that are readily available to me, but you can use this recipe as inspiration to create something great that's easy for you, too. Another delicious combination would be arugula, roquefort, and salt-cured olives. Or maybe spinach, pecans and dried cherries.  Can you see the formula?  Greens + fat + concentrated flavor. All you need are three delicious things, a drizzle of good oil, salt and pepper if you like (although with this recipe, the preserved lemons already add the salt for you.  Score!) and you're riding the salad train all the way to Pleasuretown. Top it with a fried egg and you're officially my new best friend.

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The best thing about a simple salad is that when you keep the right assortment of fresh vegetables, good quality fats, and flavorful pantry staples on hand, then you'll have the ability to throw one together in under five.  For reals. You can save the fancy crispy-fried shallots and julienned peppers and carrots for another day.  All of those things are delicious but they take time and effort that we cooks just don't always have.  And what's the really great news?  If you find some simple combinations that you really love, you can throw a salad together so fast you might just be tempted to... wait for it... eat more salad! So grab a big bowl and let's get started...

mizuna, chèvre and preserved lemon salad. 

4 oz mizuna, washed well and dried
2 T preserved lemon (about 1/4 lemon), finely chopped
2-3 T chèvre, kept cold until ready to use
Drizzle of olive oil (about 2 teaspoons)

In a large salad bowl, toss mizuna and preserved lemon together until combined, and the greens get a nice coating of salty, lemony goodness.  Crumble all but a couple of teaspoons of the chèvre over the salad and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Lightly toss and garnish with remaining chèvre.  Serve immediately.

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