Once upon a time, I used to love hosting an annual Christmas bash, be it dinner party or a cast of thousands (okay, 50 or so) gala event. I got off on decorating the house, shopping for the most exotic ingredients in small ethnic stores, and spending days preparing goodies for my friends. This, I must confess, is something I haven’t done in recent memory. Over time, the idea of entertaining became more appealing than the harsh reality. As I <ahem> matured, I discovered I was too busy to host a Christmas bash. Or too tired. Or working to a deadline. Or too jet-lagged. Or was suffering through my annual virus. The list goes on, but I won’t bore you.
This year, we formulated the perfect entertaining strategy for our hectic lifestyle. We decided to host a series of small brunches, spread them out over the winter, and invite no more than six guests to each. This would be manageable, relaxed, and fun, even for the hosts.
If I do say so myself, the first brunch was a resounding success. Good friends, good conversation, and delicious make-ahead food. For appetizers, we served a fruit tray and cold shrimp (a nod at Weight Watchers), accompanied by a ripe brie, all washed down with Mimosas. The main course consisted of Creamy Scrambled Eggs, Beer-Braised Bratwurst, Caramel French Toast Casserole, and Bob’s Famous Asparagus Salad. For dessert, I served home-made squares and cookies.
Here is a recipe for an easy and delicious salad. I invite you to share your own favorite make-ahead brunch recipe.
Bob’s Famous Asparagus Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette
(Serves 6 – 8)
3 pounds asparagus, ends discarded, cut into 2” pieces
1/2 cup olive (or vegetable) oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 green onions, finely chopped
6 or 7 black olives, chopped
1 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
2 avocados, cubed and dipped in lemon juice to prevent discoloration
1 box cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 ounces prosciutto or crisp cooked bacon, chopped (aprox. 1/4 cup)
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
In a deep 12″ skillet, in 1″ boiling water, heat asparagus to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until just tender (5 min).
Prepare vinaigrette. With wire whisk or fork, mix oil, vinegar, mustard, green onion, chopped black olives, salt, pepper, and 2 tbsp. parmesan.
Add asparagus to vinaigrette, turn to coat. Can be refrigerated at this point, turning occasionally. Remove from fridge 2 hours before serving, stir in sliced avocado and halved cherry or grape tomatoes. Sprinkle with prosciutto or bacon, chopped egg, and remaining parmesan. Serve at room temperature.