Sunday Brunch

Last Sunday we had four couples over for brunch. It had been about two months since I last had guests over and was missing the sounds of a full house. Normally, because of our small dining table, we limit guests to four. However, you don’t get the opportunities to introduce groups of friends who have never met when you have so few guests, so I invited a larger crowd.

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In a moment of OCD, I actually printed the menu and tied it above the kitchen counter so guests could see what they were serving themselves. (Buffet style service today.) To save your eyesight, here’s the menu:

  • “Make Your Own” Parfait Bar – Fresh tropical fruits, homemade almond maple granola, local whole milk yoghurt, and Northern Thai honey.
  • Crostini – Made from Maison Jean Philippe baguettes drizzled with annatto seed and garlic infused extra virgin olive oil, served with fromage blanc from Yogi.
  • Salad – Imported black quinoa and chickpeas mixed with bell peppers, rocket, capers, raisins, and toasted almonds, dressed with black sesame tahini, lemon juice, and honey.
  • Main – Baked organic eggs Mediterranean style with spinach, Kalmatta olives, onions, feta and mozzarella cheese, and green onions. Drizzled with annatto seed and garlic infused extra virgin olive oil.
  • Bread – Whole wheat, toasted oat, walnut, and date muffins served with Swedish whipped honey.
  • Dessert – Choice of American cherry tart or American blackberry tart, served with Disaronno infused whipped cream and nutmeg garnish.

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Main counter with the parfait bar, crostini, muffins, and tarts from left to right.

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Second counter with the quinoa and chickpea salad and baked egg dishes. I had originally bought aluminum tins (tacky, I know, but easy clean-up) but didn’t look at the package count so had to cave in and use ramekins anyhow.

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The quinoa and chickpea salad. The market was out of regular tahini so I had to use an organic black sesame spread (think peanut butter made from sesame seeds) which required a lot of lemon juice to overcome the sweetness of the honey in the spread. The result was tasty, though, and very healthful.

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The muffins, although a little stunted, were tasty. With mostly whole wheat flour and lots of toasted oats, they were fairly healthful. Plenty of chopped dates added minerals, nutrients, and fiber. Oh, and a little sprinkle of sugar on top? Well, who can resist?

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One of the two tarts. One of my guests had not so subtly suggested I bake a cherry pie for dessert so I took him up on it. Decided to do a tart, though, so I could use puff pastry from the store. Unfortunately, while it looks impressive, the brand of pastry uses shortening instead of butter so I found it a bit tough. Looks nice, though!

The conversation was wonderful and some friends who had never met each other before finally had a chance to connect. Of course, some who did not know each other, knew of each other. It is a small world here, even smaller when you are in my condo!

Baking Pecan Tarts

Every time I visit the US, I make a trip to Costco and buy several pounds of pecans and walnuts.  Nuts (with the exception of cashews, peanuts, and macadamias, all of which are grown locally) are very expensive here in Thailand and I enjoy adding nuts to salads, pestos, and of course desserts.  Recently, I perfected a pecan pie recipe that makes wonderful two-bite-sized tarts.

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The recipe started out from one contributed by an unknown source on the Food Network’s site.  As such, they warned that the recipe had not been tested.  Certainly not, as I found out after an initial mishap.  Let’s put it this way: adding beaten eggs directly into boiling sugar syrup makes for sweet scrambled eggs – not a proper pecan pie filling!

Instead, I rewrote the directions and, after testing two batches, made some adjustments to the ingredients to reduce the sweetness and richness of the filling while adding some depth of flavor thanks to the use of maple syrup.

Pecan Pie or Tarts

1 stick butter (4 oz or 115 g)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup¹
1/2 cup maple syrup²
2 eggs plus 3 egg whites, beaten well
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (or 1 cup plus whole pecans to layer the top of the pie)
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell, or 12 small tart pans lined with pastry dough³

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). In a saucepan, melt the butter but don’t let it brown. Mix in the sugar, corn syrup, and maple syrup and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.

Temper the eggs by slowly pouring the sugar mixture into them while whisking continuously. Stir in the pecans then pour the mixture into the pie or tart shells. If you want to decorate the top(s) with whole pecans, you can do so.

Bake 1 hour or until firm when shaken. Let cool before serving.  If you are making the tarts in a muffin tin, you should carefully remove them to a wire rack after ten minutes of cooling, so they do not stick.

¹ Note that the corn syrup you buy in the store (like Karo brand) is not high-fructose corn syrup. 
² I think the Grade B maple syrup, which has a richer flavor, is nice to use.  If you have only regular maple syrup, that is fine, too.  You can also substitute corn syrup if you do not have maple syrup.
³ Instead of tart pans, you can also use a muffin tin.

Pecan pies and tarts freeze beautifully after they are cooked.  They can be warmed up in the oven for about 15 minutes before serving and they’ll be just as nice as if they were freshly-baked.