Even though Valentine’s Day is just one day, with it falling on a Friday this year, I say make it a weekend long celebration! To carry the festivities through to Saturday, Sunday or even Monday (if you’re fortunate to have off Presidents Day), here’s a great brunch recipe that conjures up the fanciness of Eggs Benedict minus a lot of the saturated fat and heaviness. Without that overstuffed feeling, you just may feel like venturing out for a post-brunch snowshoe or cross-country ski with your valentine(s).
Last Saturday we had a morning with no commitments so I decided to make something special for breakfast. Having never made hollandaise sauce, I googled some recipes. After only looking at a couple, with both calling for a full stick of butter, that idea was tossed. Then I remembered a sauce I’ve made before that’s much lighter, yet still flavor packed, and thought it would make a great hollandaise substitute. The sauce portion of the recipe is from a 2008 issue of local grocers Lunds and Byerly’s Real Food magazine. It’s extremely versatile; I’ve served it over crepes, frittatas, wild rice, potatoes, etc., plus it’s really delicious. As you can see from the photos, my sauce is more orange than coral in color, and that’s due to not having two red bell peppers on hand. I used one red and one orange—the taste is still divine!
You’ll have more sauce than you need, so if you’re cooking for more than two, increase the other ingredients proportionately, but keep the sauce as is. Enjoy! And happy Valentine’s Day!!
Spinach Eggs Benedict with Coral Pepper Hollandaise
2 large organic large red bell peppers, cut into 1” chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
½ cup water
1 ½ tablespoons butter or vegan, trans-fat free, margarine
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
A pinch or two of sea salt (smoked salt, if you’ve got it)
A couple splashes dry white wine
4 big handfuls of fresh spinach
Freshly ground black pepper
2 whole wheat English muffins, split and toasted
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Salt & pepper, to taste
A couple pickled peppadews, thinly sliced, for garnish (optional)
To make coral pepper “hollandaise,” place pepper chunks, garlic slices, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer pepper mixture to a blender or food processor and add butter or margarine. Process until smooth. Return to saucepan and keep warm (you can also make this a day ahead of time and reheat just before serving).
In a medium skillet, preferably cast iron, heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add shallots and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes until shallots have softened. Add a couple splashes white wine to pan and deglaze, scraping any brown bits from bottom of pan. Let wine reduce until it’s almost gone and add spinach. Add a few grinds of black pepper and stir. Continue cooking until spinach wilts.
To poach eggs, crack each egg into individual small bowls. Add the vinegar to a large saucepan of water and bring to a boil. Gently drop each egg from bowl into water. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and cover pot. Cook until eggs are done to your liking, 4-5 minutes for runny yolks, 6-7 minutes for a more solid yolk. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Top toasted (and buttered, if you like) English muffin halves with some of the spinach mixture. Place an egg (or eggs) over spinach. Drizzle with coral pepper “hollandaise.” Sprinkle with sliced, pickled peppadews (which I forgot to do before taking the photos, but they add a great piquant flavor!) Serves two.