A Special Brunch for Special Occasions

So many events are on the calendar this time of year: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, first Holy Communions, baby and wedding showers. It’s the perfect time to host a beautiful brunch buffet with quiche, tea sandwiches and a variety of salads. Add a fruit platter and cookies for dessert.

Spinach Salad with Raspberry Dressing

Summer is the season for raspberries in this region, but this dressing can be made all year long. It’s delicious over chopped romaine lettuce and baby kale with shredded carrots, sugar snap peas, toasted sunflower seeds and feta cheese.

2 bags baby spinach

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup candied walnuts (recipe follows)

Raspberry Dressing (recipe follows)

1 pint red raspberries

In a large bowl, toss spinach, red onion, candied walnuts and dressing. Add raspberries.

Serves 6 – 8.


Raspberry Dressing

2 TBS raspv13n5_recipe_raspberry_dressingberry vinegar

3 TBS sugar

1-1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/3 cup canola oil


In a medium bowl, whisk ingredients together.


Candied Walnuts

1/2 cup walnut pieces

1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Spread nuts on a baking sheet. Toast in oven, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cook sugar over low heat until melted and a light caramel color, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add walnuts, stir to coat. Be careful, melted sugar is very hot! Place parchment paper on baking sheet and carefully transfer candied walnuts to baking sheet. Allow to cool completely before eating.

Gary: The astringency of the spinach calls for a white with crisp acidity and the candied walnuts add some sweetness to the entrée, so a lightly sweet white with acidity should be a delightful pairing.

Try a softly sweet Chenin Blanc/Vouvray, a Spätlese (late harvest) Riesling with its yin/yang of sweetness and acidity, an Orvieto Abboccoto, or a softly sweet Moscato, either still or sparkling. Some wineries have released Raspberry Rieslings, which might be a very enjoyable pairing with this salad.

Farro Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Farro is an ancient Italian grain that has a most satisfying nutty crunch. This recipe is not a science. Toss in whatever you’d like. Farro comes as perlato (pearled) and semi-perlato. The latter has more of the bran, but takes longer to cook. I used yellow cherry tomatoes in this recipe because I love their sweet flavor. You can use any tomato with equally good results.

1 cup farro, cooked according to package directions

Salt, pepper to taste

2 cups yellow cherry tomatoes, quartered

2 TBS minced fresh parsley

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

Place cooked farro in a serving bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix vinegar, Dijon mustard and olive oil. Pour over farro, tossing to coat. Gently stir in tomatoes and parsley. Garnish with goat cheese.

Serves 6 – 8.

Gary: With the farro and the goat cheese my first wine choice would be a bright Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, California or Sancerre/Pouilly Fumé from the Loire, as this grape echoes the earthy, pungent character of the Chèvre. Pinot Gris/Grigio, unoaked Chardonnay and Grüner-Veltliner will help mellow the goat cheese flavors, should you want to do so.

Tea Sandwiches

Tea sandwiches are the ultimate finger food. Add filling sparingly; the tea sandwiches should be easy to pick up and eat. Cut meat and cheese to fit thinly sliced bread with crusts trimmed off. You may also vary the type of breads used, such as white, whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel, black, date and nut, sunflower, potato or multi-grain. After assembly, cut sandwiches into triangles or squares and cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

To assemble, spread bread lightly with softened butter. Then spread with the following filling ingredients: mango chutney and brie; chicken salad mixed with mayonnaise, slivered almonds, crushed pineapple and minced green grapes; pimiento cheese; egg salad or thinly sliced hard-boiled eggs and avocado; ham salad; prosciutto and shaved Parmigiana Reggiano; orange marmalade, smoked ham and fontina cheese; crabmeat mixed with mayonnaise and cilantro; thinly sliced tomato, basil and Thousand Island dressing; lox, cream cheese and snipped chives; thinly sliced cucumber marinated in cider vinegar, oil, dill and a dash of sugar; thinly sliced pear, blue cheese and watercress.

Gary: For the tea sandwiches just follow the basic guidelines of wine and food pairing: if the sandwich contains fruit with sweetness, ensure the wine is as sweet. Mayonnaise, eggs, avocado and cucumber with vinegar all would call for a light, crisp white or sparkling wine. Choose richer whites with the seafood and poultry. Don’t forget some of the dry Rosés just being released for the lighter sandwiches and charcuterie. Soft, plush reds would be delightful with the meat and cheese combinations.

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