Moms

A menu worthy of your mom

PARIS -- It's the busiest day of the year for restaurants, but this year, instead of worrying about whether you'll get a table at Mom's favorite place (because your brother didn't make the reservations like he promised that he would), why not just do something different -- why not do brunch at your place, however big or small the place may be?

I'm not going to be home for Mother's Day this year, but if I were, this is the menu that I'd put together for my mom -- all things that she loves, and with a slight French accent.

The beauty of this lineup is twofold: It's elegant and impressive (and therefore guaranteed to win Mom's approval), and it's incredibly easy and nearly all of the prep work can be done the day before. That way, you relax and enjoy the day along with Mom.

The zucchini, leek and goat cheese tart works best in a tart pan, but if you don't have one, any old pie plate that you've got in your cupboard will do just fine. The olive oil crust is a recipe by Paris food blogger and cookbook author Clotilde Dusoulier (www.chocolateandzucchini.com) that I tried not long ago, and that I really like. Unlike a pie crust, this is super-simple to roll out and press into the tart pan. Not a spec of stress.

For the madeleines, I went to the expert of all things baking, Dorie Greenspan, who also lives here in Paris part time. I've tried a few other madeleine recipes, but none is as good as Dorie's, or as fit for this do-ahead idea. Dorie says that it is better to let the batter sit for hours (even days!) so the madeleines will cook with the traditional "hump." I love that. I think you will, too.

The rosemary potatoes are as simple as it gets, and they are something that if you don't already make, one try and you'll add them to your repertoire. They're lovely with roasted chicken, or with an omelet or anything, really. They are just one of those things that is a good go-to recipe for any occasion.

I put the fruit compote together with what was in season in Paris right now -- I found strawberries, kiwi and fresh melon -- but feel free to use whatever is fresh at your local market or grocer. The mint-ginger honey gives the fruit a little added sweetness and the meal a nice minty finish. So much better than an Altoid, wouldn't you say?

To moms everywhere, including mine, living not far from Krum, on a patch of land with a panoramic view of the big, fat Texas skies, Happy Mother's Day.

Ellise Pierce is the Cowgirl Chef. Read her blog and watch her cooking videos on www.cowgirlchef.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/cowgirlchef.

Make-ahead Mother's Day brunch

The day before:

Make the olive-oil crust and put in the fridge.

Make the madeleine batter and put in fridge.

Cook the leeks and put in fridge.

Cut up the fruit, and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Make the honey-mint-ginger sauce and refrigerate.

The day of:

Cut up and roast the potatoes.

Slice the zucchini, mix up tart filling, assemble tart and bake.

Bake madeleines.

Open the champagne!

Zucchini, leek and goat cheese tart with basil

I've fallen head over heels for zucchini, and I can't imagine not having at least two or three kinds of goat cheese in my fridge. Ditto on leeks, France's elegant, softer member of the onion family. All of my favorite things come together in this tart.

Makes one 10-inch tart; serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 leeks, 1/4-inch slices, whites only

3 large eggs

3/4 cup cream

1 cup whole milk

4-5 large basil leaves, chopped

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 large zucchini, 1/4-inch slices

5 ounces goat cheese

Olive-oil crust for tart, recipe at right

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle the 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large skillet and turn the heat on medium-low. Cook the leeks until they brown a bit and soften, 5-10 minutes. Remove them from the skillet and set aside. (This can be done ahead of time.)

2. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, cream, milk, basil, salt and pepper.

3. Spread the leeks over the bottom of the prepared tart pan, then add the zucchini, and put bits of the goat cheese all around. Carefully pour the egg mixture on top of all of this, and slide the tart into the oven for 45 minutes to one hour, until the center is firm and the edges begin to brown.

Nutritional analysis per serving, crust included: 345 calories, 25 grams fat, 14 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 122 milligrams cholesterol, 411 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 65 percent of calories from fat.

Olive-oil tart crust

An easy tart crust, from Clotilde Dusoulier's blog, Chocolate and Zucchini (www.chocolateandzucchini.com). It's nutty and healthy.

Makes one 10-inch tart crust; serves 8

Olive oil for greasing pan, if needed

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup ice water

1. Grease tart pan with a bit of olive oil if it doesn't have a nonstick coating.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour and sea salt. Add oil and mix a bit -- you can do this by hand -- then add water and mix until dough comes together in a ball.

3. On floured surface, roll out dough into a circle that fits tart pan. Trim edges and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 114 calories, 7 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, no cholesterol, 236 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 54 percent of calories from fat.

Rosemary potatoes

I've been making these potatoes as long as I can remember. Feel free to make this your own -- using herbes des Provence instead of rosemary, or with diced onions and green pepper, too.

Makes 4-6 servings

2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, cut in 1-inch pieces

1/3 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons rosemary

2/3 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Make sure all of the potato pieces are evenly covered with oil and spices and spread out on one or two cookie sheets.

2. Bake for 30-45 minutes, flipping the potatoes over about halfway through.

Cowgirl tip: Always make more potatoes than you need. These reheat beautifully in a skillet with a bit of olive oil and are great in an omelet.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 4: 339 calories, 18 grams fat, 41 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, no cholesterol, 369 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 47 percent of calories from fat.

Fruit compote with mint-ginger honey

Makes 4 servings

1 medium cantaloupe, sliced in 1-inch pieces

4 kiwis, 1/4-inch slices

1 pint strawberries, tops removed, 1/4-inch slices

5-6 large mint leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons water

Pinch ginger powder

1. Put all of the fruit in a pretty bowl and garnish with a large sprig of mint.

2. Make the honey-mint simple syrup. In a small saucepan, put the 1 tablespoon of honey with the 2 tablespoons of water and over low heat, stir until combined. Add the remaining mint and the pinch of ginger and taste. Serve on the side.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 134 calories, 1 gram fat, 32 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, no cholesterol, 18 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber, 6 percent of calories from fat.

Madeleines

One of the first things that I bought at my favorite cooking supplies store in Paris, A. Simon, were two madeleine pans. I love madeleines, which you can find in every patisserie in Paris -- they're more cake than cookie. This is Dorie Greenspan's recipe from her James Beard award-winning book, "Baking." This recipe will transport you to Paris with the first bite.

Makes 18 regular-size madeleines

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

Grated zest of one lemon

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled

Butter (for greasing pan)

Flour

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of the mixer, rub together the lemon zest with the sugar, so the sugar becomes nice and lemony. Add the eggs, and with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is pale and light, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix in.

3. With a rubber spatula gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (or up to 2 days). The idea is to help the batter breathe a bit, so it'll form the traditional madeleine "hump."

4. When ready to bake the madeleines, put a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees. Butter and flour two madeleine pans. Spoon batter into the molds, filling each one almost to the top. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes. When you remove the pans from the oven, give them a whack on the counter to loosen madeleines -- or if this doesn't work, gently coax them out with a knife. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Nutritional analysis per madeleine: 82 calories, 4 grams fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 34 milligrams cholesterol, 75 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 48 percent of calories from fat.

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