Savory and sweet dishes to celebrate mom on Mother's Day
It’s not hard to understand why Mom would choose breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day over dining out at a restaurant crowded with dysfunctional families embittered by the heightened expectations and pressure of delivering another “perfect” display of their affection.
After all, simple comfort food made with love - and nurtured along with a few shortcuts and do-head tricks - is often more satisfying than the guiltiest pleasure from a commercial kitchen.
And when your menu also showcases the vibrant, fresh produce of spring - from Chocolate Dipped Strawberries to Crab Eggs Benedict with Asparagus - it’s hard not to smile.
Just thinking about the yolk of a poached egg and a mound of golden hollandaise oozing into the crunchy canyons of an English muffin can melt even the fiercest tiger mom into a mound of butter.
Lisa Lavagetto of Ramekins in Sonoma came up with these and other dishes - from easy-peasy pancakes to a sophisticated goat cheese soufflé - and is happy to pass along her tips about how to pull off each dish, with efficiency and grace.
“I want to share what I know so that people will cook more,” Lavagetto said. “This is a great thing to do for Mother’s Day, and you can do a lot of this ahead of time.”
At a recent class on Spring Brunches, Lavagetto helped two women who flew in from Connecticut cook up a batch of Macadamia Nut and Banana Pancakes, and one of them had hopes that it would translate into a delicious breakfast in bed when she got home.
“I have two kids, so I’ll give them a crash course for Mother’s Day,” said Christine Paulo, avid home cook from East Branby, Conn.
The class started off with a super simple recipe for Chocolate Dipped Strawberries that can be served with a flute of sparkling wine or Prosecco.
“These are so much fun to do if you have kids or grandkids,” Lavagetto said. “You can drizzle bits of white chocolate at the end.”
Next up was a Chocolate Cherry Scone that can be cut into a heart shape for fun.
“It’s a very rich scone, made with buttermilk,” Lavagetto said. “Have your butter already cold and use a pastry cutter or two knives to combine it with the flour. It will be a lot lighter, with a nice, biscuit flavor.”
The dough can be made the night before, cut into heart shapes and stored on a baking sheet in the fridge. The next morning, just pop them into the oven.
The recipe for Macadamia Nut and Banana Pancakes, topped with Orange Butter and Maple Syrup, was the most accessible, but the combination of crunchy nuts, sweet banana and orange butter elevated it above the usual, ho-hum hotcake.
“These are my kids’ favorites,” Lavagetto said. “You can chop the nuts and make the orange butter the night before.”
For more of a challenge, Lavagetto offered a savory Goat Cheese, Tomato and Poached Garlic Soufflé, served on a bed of spring greens. While the thought of a soufflé may conjure images of a disastrous collapse, Lavagetto coached the students with tips for success, including poaching rather roasting the garlic, making the base early and whipping the egg whites until they are barely firm.
“This is kind of a fun thing to make,” she said. “Every soufflé starts with a roux as a base. The key is letting the base cool so that when you add the whites, they won’t curdle.”
For those daunted by the idea of whisking up some homemade hollandaise, Lavagetto came up with a fail-proof alternative made in minutes in a blender. The Blender Hollandaise is used to top the Crab Eggs Benedict, which already has plenty of moving parts, with toasted English muffins and poached eggs, sliced tomato and asparagus, smoked salmon schmear and fresh crab meat.
To help with assembly, it may be wise to blend the salmon and cream cheese in advance in a food processor, pick the crab meat (if necessary) and blanch the asparagus.
Finally, for mothers with a sweet tooth, Lavagetto suggested making an Apple Cranberry Crostata with Cinnamon Topping, which can be served with whipped cream. The dough also an be made in advance. In fact, it needs to rest in the fridge for at least an hour or so.
“That lets the glutens rest,” she said. “It will roll out much easier.”
The following recipes are from Lisa Lavagetto of Ramekins.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Makes about 20
1 pound strawberries with stems, washed and dried well
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
Rinse strawberries but do not hull. Drain and pat dry.
Put the semisweet chocolate into heatproof medium bowls. Fill medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat; set the bowls of chocolate over the water to melt. Stir until smooth. Once the chocolates are melted and smooth, remove from the heat. Line a sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper.