On the brunch menu:
~ Butter Lettuce Salad, Fresh Cherry & Scallion Salad with Gruyere and Chardonnay Vinaigrette
~ Croque Madame
~ Fresh Cherry & Greek Yogurt Parfait Shots
Mom was absolutely overwhelmed by the spread (in fact, she started digging in before I could bring her her present!), and declared it my most delicious meal to date. She was even more impressed when I told her the entire meal, including the mimosas, cost just over $30! Not bad for a gourmet brunch for two, even with splurges like Gruyere cheese and sparkling wine.
So how did I manage to pull this off for such a low price? I think it was a combination of planning and careful shopping. Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to go overboard on buying too much extra food, I got serious and took detailed inventory of what I already had in my fridge, freezer and cupboards. Once I’d come up with a rough menu outline based on what I had on hand and the potential dishes I could create, I went shopping only for the ingredients I absolutely needed and paid very close attention to the prices at the store. To ensure the lowest prices, I went to both Trader Joe’s and Safeway: cheese is way more affordable at TJ’s, so I was able to score a nice chunk of gruyere for just $3.25 (that took some major digging through larger, more expensive blocks, but I knew persistence would pay off!), while Safeway was offering better deals on champagne & sparkling wines because of the Mother’s Day holiday (YAY for $4 champagne!).
I was extremely lucky to have just scored some lovely cherries at last week’s farmer’s market and figured I’d showcase the extremely easy recipes for the two cherry-inspired dishes I ended up serving. I’d considered making the Mango-Berry Stuffed French Toast with cherries instead of mixed berries, but decided not to go in that direction because I wanted to have more savory dishes than sweet ones. Because I was serving Croque Madame (a common French sandwich that is basically grilled cheese & ham with a fried egg on top), I thought a nice salad would complement this beautifully. I knew I wouldn’t be using all the cheese in the Croque Madames, so I did some mental food math and decided to combine the cherries, the cheese, and the remainder of my giant head of butter lettuce to make a delicate spring salad that I must say I’m going to be making a lot from now on. The sweet tartness of the cherries, the earthy nuttiness of the cheese, and the satiny leaves of butter lettuce all went together wonderfully, especially with the addition of a tasty white wine vinaigrette. Let’s check out the recipe.
Butter Lettuce, Fresh Cherry and Scallion Salad with Chardonnay Vinaigrette (serves 2-3; total cost per serving: ~$2.95)
1 head butter lettuce
½ lb fresh cherries, pitted & halved
¼ c gruyere, shaved
1/3 c chopped scallions
2 T light olive oil
3 oz. chardonnay
1 T white whine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
Prepare the dressing by whisking together all ingredients until completely combined. Set aside in the refrigerator. Next, rinse and dry the butter lettuce and tear into 1”-2” pieces. Combine the lettuce, scallions and cherries in a medium bowl and toss together. When ready to serve salad, drizzle about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the dressing and toss until everything is completely coated. Add freshly ground pepper and a couple extra shavings of the gruyere if desired, and enjoy!
(NOTE: Do NOT overdress this salad! Butter lettuce is very delicate and will turn soggy very quickly if you overdress. If you like a lot of dressing on your salad, simply serve the remaining dressing on the side.)
As much as I loved doing something a little different than I would have normally done with my lovely bowl of cherries, I couldn’t resist using them in some type of dessert, too. Since we were having brunch, I figured I’d stick with that theme and made some lovely little yogurt parfaits that, despite their simplicity, were almost sinfully delicious. I absolutely adored this dessert (and so did Mom!) because it truly shows that Mother Nature is sometimes the best chef. I mean, really: what baked good or creamy concoction could possibly compete with the perfect sweetness of fresh cherries? The addition of sinfully rich Greek yogurt makes this dessert seem like it could be bad for you, but it’s practically guilt-free. No bells & whistles needed for this one! Here’s the super easy, super tasty recipe:
Fresh Cherry & Greek Yogurt Parfait Shots (makes 6 parfait shots; total cost per shot: $0.60)
½ lb fresh cherries, pitted & quartered
1 T granulated sugar
3/4 c nonfat Greek yogurt
1 T honey
In a medium bowl toss together the cherries and sugar until they release their juices and create a light syrup. In a separate bowl, whisk together the honey and Greek yogurt until smooth. Alternate layers of cherries and yogurt in each shot glass, drizzle small amounts of remaining cherry syrup on top, and enjoy!
That’s it for now! And don't forget to stay tuned for the Poor Girl version of Croque Madame in the next couple of posts. Cheers!