I am not a huge fan of a big breakfast. I prefer something small, like oatmeal, a muffin or maybe some toast. I just can’t get behind a big greasy egg or sausage dish early in the morning. I am a fan of brunch though. It is served later in the day and encompasses a wide variety of foods. It is also perfectly acceptable to have a glass of champagne (with or without fruit juice), which can be a little questionable at breakfast. I think my favorite thing about brunch is the assortment of foods that can be served. There is often a savory dish, sometimes a fish option, almost always some fruit and if you’re lucky some delectable pastries. Brunch is also a great time to get friends and family together. It is more relaxed than dinner and a nice time to showcase different recipes, both sweet and savory.
When I plan for brunch, I usually try to serve one or two main dishes and a few simple sides. One of my favorite main dishes is a quiche or savory tart. They are egg based, so appropriate for mid-morning and the combinations of fillings are virtually endless. They come together quickly, which make them easy to prepare when you wake up and they can be served warm or at room temperature – perfect for a relaxed and leisurely meal. The one drawback of a standard tart or quiche is that they have a pastry crust, which is not too healthy. I have played around with frittatas, which are essentially crust-less quiches, but no matter how delicious they came out…I just love a little crust. So in search of alternatives, I decided to research some options for a healthier crust. I was lucky to find a gluten-free recipe that uses almond meal in place of all-purpose flour and coconut oil in place of butter. The result was amazing! It was quick and easy to make and tasted fantastic. Although I do not follow a gluten-free diet, the use of almond meal sparked my interest. Almond meal provides a low-carb, high protein crust. The coconut oil is still high in fat, but since it is plant based it contains no cholesterol. Also, there are numerous claims that coconut oil can strengthen your immune system. True or not, it is still a healthier option than butter. The almond meal and coconut oil combination does have a different taste than standard crust, as it is sweeter, with a rich, nutty taste. This needs to be considered when deciding on a filling. At a recent brunch, I decided to make my vegetarian friends happy and made a goat cheese and asparagus filling with fresh herbs. It was a superb combination, people were asking for seconds.
Gluten-Free Asparagus, Goat Cheese Tart
For the Crust:
- 2 cups almond meal
- 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
In a food processor pulse the ingredients together until they form a ball. Empty into a 9 inch tart pan and press dough down along bottom and up the sides. Check for holes in the bottom of the crust, they will allow the egg to seep under and form a soggy bottom. Set aside until ready to fill.
For the filling:
- 4 eggs
- 3 oz goat cheese
- ⅛ cup parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup milk
- ½ bunch of asparagus, approximately 6 oz
- 1 Tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1 Tablespoon chopped thyme
- Olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Toss the asparagus with 1 -1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 8 minutes until the asparagus is tender, but still crispy. Remove and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
Turn oven down to 375.
Beat eggs, cream and milk in a small bowl. Mix in parmesan and herbs. Pour into prepared crust. Crumble ½ of the goat cheese into filling. Place the roasted asparagus decoratively on top of the filling. Crumble the remaining goat cheese on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling has set, slightly brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
Serve with sides of your choice. I like it with a bed of mixed greens tossed in lemon juice and a side of fresh fruit.
Crust recipe from: Elana’s Pantry
Filling inspired by Bon Appetit magazine, May 2012 and williamssonoma.com