Growing up in Deerfield, Illinois, everybody knew Folk Singer Bob Gand and his Village School of Music. (In fact I still have my dulcimer with the village school sticker on the back.) It wasn't until I came back to visit after college that I found out Bob had a daughter, Gale, and that she was a pastry chef, I was so inspired to hear this.
Having since followed Gale's career I've found that I understand where she's coming from: simple, elegant, approachable foods based in the sensibilities of a small Midwestern town and family influences. Lots of family influences!
Indeed, this is as much a book about family as about cookery. You have to love the introductions to each recipe. There you'll hear tales of traveling with her folk singing dad and brother to Arkansas folk festival where she fell in love with hominy grits. And why her husband's grandfather was called Jimmy and not Vinnie when his real name was Vincenzo because there were too many Vinnie's at the shipyards where he worked in Brooklyn. Quirky and fun, Brunch! is full of unique recipes as well as comfort foods.
For this new book Gale has compiled a collection of easy to understand, easy to produce extremely impressive recipes, not all sweet not all savory but each one beautiful and delicious. The book is a great little size with a truly vintage feel. Ben Fink's photographs are absolutely delicious; where many of the colors and set ups are reminiscent of those nineteen sixties how-to pamphlets but with a distinctly modern edge.
Each shimmering recipe grouping complements the next. Take, for example, her beet and artichoke salad, featuring red beets, garden fresh peas, artichokes and feta cheese; a gorgeous quick and easy to make salad; while the Farro with Tomatoes and Parsley is a thoughtful addition that beautifully brightens almost any meal. The fact it is high in protein while low in gluten is just a plus.
What's more, if you don't have the imagination to put together the perfect menu, Gale has done that for you with great ideas for when the In-Laws Come to Brunch to a New Years Brunch Celebration to a Baby Shower Brunch.
Beverages include a sophisticated Pimm's Cup with Champagne and a homey Hot Cocoa with Brown Sugar that will warm you to your toes. It's the little touches like brown sugar that makes the hot cocoa taste like caramelized toasted marshmallows even before you top them with Gale's homemade marshmallows!
If you're looking for a main course that's anything but ordinary try the Asparagus with Poached Eggs and Parmesan. I've made a habit of serving this in the early spring evenings when it's too newly warm for a heavy meal.
Eggs are always a highlight of any brunch, and Gale doesn't skimp there. Brunch! includes variations on Strata about five different ways, Omelets about five different ways and for Frittata, Crepes and Quiche included about five different ways! She calls those the 101's. One of the most whimsical of the egg dishes is the baked eggs in ham cups which can be eaten either with your hands or with a fork and knife.
For those of us who come from the Midwest or Philadelphia, who can resist homemade Scrapple or Homemade Pork and Maple Sausage Patties? Gale provides these rare recipes that take the mystery out of these mystery meats.
Of course it wouldn't be a Gail Gand cookbook without her fabulous baked goods; from the peanut butter and jelly turnovers to the cinnamon sugar doughnuts these do not disappoint. One of our favorites was the quick pear streusel coffee cake and of course the Bacon-Scallion Scones; all baked goods don't have to be sweet you know.
For the kid in you, try the chocolate hazelnut spread. It's kind of like Nutella only better because it's homemade. Or fresh homemade Pretzels that are great for brunch – warm from the oven and the leftovers make treats for the kid's lunchbox!
Gail provides you with all kinds of tips; for example how to make the perfect hard boiled egg (which she learned from her friend Julia Child) and tidbits like oven roasted tomatoes, roasting garlic and a fantastic vinaigrette dressing. So the next time you walk through the grocery you can hold your head high knowing that you have the very best recipes for scratch pancakes, waffles and even granola that don't cost a million dollars to recreate and they don't take hours and hours of time.
The beauty in Gales writing is that it's almost like having a conversation with her. The recipes are open to interpretation in that you can substitute without a headache. Gale's approach is just perfect for all levels of cooks in that the recipes are not fussy and they're well thought out; she provides a great map to a wonderful meal.