So today we had a little impromptu brunch with friends who graciously invited us over to enjoy their new waffle maker. A big part of why I love brunch is sharing it with friends or loved ones, so if I have an opportunity to enjoy brunch with a fun group at home or go out to a fancy place with just hubby, I’ll usually choose the former.
Although I was told I didn’t need to bring anything, I hate to go to a meal empty-handed. This time I was lucky to have a ton of tomatoes on hand and could throw together a solid favorite of mine: Caprese Salad. I can’t remember exactly when I fell in love with Caprese Salad, but I’m sure it was in my early twenties around the time I really started cooking for myself on a regular basis and was definitely influenced by a study abroad trip to Italy in 2009. I’ll also have to admit that Indiana’s often prolific tomato harvests didn’t hurt, as there were always good quality specimens available (often brought over free from neighbors) to create the base of this recipe from.
Now when it comes to this recipe (and really any of my own in the future) I’m going to give you another one of my little prefaces:
- I do not follow recipes well. I like to improvise, so usually I’ll go a little off the prescribed path when it comes to cooking. Most of the time this turns out fine. Sometimes the dish actually gets better, occasionally things also go awry.
- I like to make up my own recipes or combine them. Occasionally I’ll try out a new variation of some dish and remember something I enjoyed about another I’ve cooked or eaten, so i try to incorporate that element. Again sometimes it works, others it doesn’t.
- I don’t always “measure.” When I started learning to cook from my grandmother, most of the recipes I wanted to learn from her were in her head and cooked by taste. So this is how I started cooking and still contributes to a lot of the ways I cook now. That means often times I’ll eye-ball something, use hand measurements, or make adjustments as I taste. This can be difficult to replicate and leads to varying results in my cooking.
All of these things can make anything I cook difficult to recreate and also difficult to publish/share a recipe. Consider yourselves warned that the following is an approximation of what I did today and what I normally do for this dish. Hopefully it’s a reliable enough outline for you all to work from. In recipes I also add optional notes for some things I’ll change-up and add according to my mood. These optional changes keeps me from getting bored with any given recipe and also allows for change to suit your audience (picky-eaters or allergies, etc.) With all that said the basic recipe is as follows:
- Tomatoes (today about 1 1/2 cups campari tomatoes and a large tomato)
- 8 oz Mozzerella (fresh ball, shredded just doesn’t cut it for this recipe)
- 1 small bunch;1/4-1/3 cup when chopped Basil
for the Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 1 tsp good quality Dijon Mustard
- 1 clove/1 tsp tube Garlic
- optional: 1 tsp Pesto (just adds a little extra basil flavor) or 1 tsp Dried Basil (same idea)
- 1/4-1/3 cup Olive Oil (good quality if you have it, today I should have used some brought back from Italy for us… sadly I spaced it)
- 1/2-2/3 cup good quality Balsamic Vinegar (if you can find some well aged, slightly viscous/thick Balsamic awesome!)
- 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
- Chop tomatoes into roughly 1/2-1 inch pieces. Cut or tear mozzarella into 1/4-1 inch pieces. Chiffonade cut your basil leaves. Arrange nicely on a platter, on top of a bed of greens or simply toss into a bowl.
- Assemble vinaigrette in a separate bowl, then wisk until emulsified. Taste to test, then when satisfied pour evenly over top of the salad. Add more salt and pepper if desired then serve and enjoy. You can also toss before serving.
Optional: If I have it on hand or want to make this a little healthier, I will often serve this over a bed of 50/50 Spinach and Spring Mix salad greens. I’ve also used Arugula with good results, though it does better mixed in with the other greens. If you have a crusty baguette available, preferably from a good bakery, that also makes a great addition.
So yeah Caprese Salad is super simple and easy, but as in most Italian dishes good quality ingredients play a major role in making the best result. Now look how pretty.
Our hosts were happy with the results as well. When I take the Caprese Salad somewhere to share I usually bring partially prepped elements in separate containers. For starters I assemble the tomatoes and mozzarella in one container, , the vinaigrette ingredients in another container, lastly maybe take with a little container of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper just to be prepared. I usually bring the basil uncut so it stays fresh and unwilted for consumption. This preparation makes it easy to enjoy the meal it’s brought to and it tastes pretty fresh and delicious this way also. It took me maybe 5 minutes to throw together when we arrived, to keep everything from getting soggy I also wait until right before we are going to eat adding the vinaigrette. Today this gave me hands free to help out a little in the kitchen too along with enjoying some coffee and good conversation.
All I can take credit for between the Waffles and Corned Beef Hash with Eggs is the Cranberry Maple Syrup I helped assemble to top the waffles. I do however have the recipe at the bottom of this post and the results were amazing. Our spread was pretty impressive for the four of us. Our Caprese Salad was joined by Sweet Potato Waffles with Cranberry Maple Syrup, Buttermilk Waffles, two kind of freshly Whipped Cream (one with Grand Marnier), some serendipitously accidental butter (freshly churned when some whipping cream was whipped unattended) and Corned Beef Hash with Over Medium Eggs.
Not only was the food pretty great, but we could not have asked for a much nicer day. Our gracious hosts have a lovely apartment on the Indiana side of the Ohio River which provides great views and today also an amazingly lovely breeze. Both humans and furry friends alike enjoyed the weather.
So onto the food. Both sets of waffles were pretty great, all soft and fluffy goodness, but the think that really brought them next level was the snazzy toppings. Freshly whipped cream is always amazing, adding booze to it is a brilliant way to step it up and making it orange flavored booze of quality (like Grand Marnier is) to it for a fall dish (like these Sweet Potato Waffles) is just brilliant. The slightly tart and spicy syrup rounded out this equation brilliantly too, and just made the entire experiences excessively pleasant.
As I’ve said my Caprese Salad turned out pretty well (sorry to keep tooting my own horn) and was well received. I also thought it added a lovely little, lighter dish to the brunch offerings, which is always a good space to fill.
I am also a fan of Corned Beef Hash in general, and even though this one came out of a can I can’t be mad at its salty, crunchiness. It seemed an easy savory dish to complement the rest of our meal especially considering they were topped with perfectly Over Medium Eggs. Some kind of egg being a must at brunch in my opinion, these finished the spread nicely.
Post brunch we were fairly comatose, so we tried to slowly work our way out of the food comas with some quick tabletop games we’ve played before, along with a little Buffalo Trace Bourbon (bourbon also never adds to sleepiness or slothfulness).
Both Batman Love Letter and Exploding Kittens provide some quick, casual gaming entertainment easily picked up by novices and still enjoyable for more experienced tabletop gamers. These provided us with a nice amount of time to chill and digest, while still keeping us competitively bantering into the early afternoon.
Eventually we somehow made it outside to enjoy the beautiful weather by walking the Big Four Bridge, a former train bridge retrofitted as a walking/biking bridge that spans the Ohio River between Louisville, KY and Jeffersonville, IN. On weekends it’s full of cute kids walking with their families, bicyclists, skateboards and all manner of folks enjoying the sites and good weather. Now hubby’s company happens to be working on the I-65 bridge construction and the East End Bridge project, so anytime we get a chance to monitor the progress it’s always pretty fun. The fresh air and movement did us good and was a lovely end to a great brunch.
I hope you enjoyed this rather long post, but I feel the fantastic day and wonderful brunch warranted it. Until next time keep eating and drink (and maybe even walking and gaming) in the best of company.
Sweet Potato Waffles with Cranberry Maple Syrup
Prep 15 min Cook 10 min Ready In 25 min
- 1 1/2 cups sweet potato puree
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup cranberry sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat a waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Stir sweet potato, milk, egg, and butter together in a bowl. Whisk flour, brown sugar, baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt together in a separate large bowl. Add potato mixture to flour mixture; stir until batter is just combined.
- Ladle batter into the preheated waffle iron and cook until waffles are golden and crisp, about 3 minutes.
- Stir maple syrup, cranberry sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until well-combined and heated through, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour syrup over cooked waffles.
Printed From Allrecipes.com 10/4/2015