All Over BRUNCH!

A delightful chance meeting with Chef Gail Gand, left, at the launch of “Chef’s Move to Schools”, Washington, DC June 2009. Joy Rupe, right.

Chef Gail Gand is a lovely and gracious person. You may know of her as a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef, Food Network star, restaurant owner or cookbook author. Her book, BRUNCH! was just released in 2009 when I happened across it while planning a Mother’s Day event that year. I couldn’t have imagined that I would ever meet Gail but in fact I did – at the launch of Chef’s Move to Schools initiative in June at the Whitehouse.

One thing that Gail and I share is a love of brunch. Hardly any other meal can swing with such finesse from sweet to savory and elevate the humble egg to such heights. A much loved institution, brunch is most notably egg-centric. Classic menus include eggs in various forms from quiche, omelets, frittatas and strata, poached eggs, eggs Benedict, and stuffed eggs to infinity and beyond. Accompaniments include seasonal fruit, smoked salmon and steak, ham, bacon and sausage, all forms of toast, muffins, crepes, scones, waffles, and pancakes. Brunch is a wonderful way to entertain on a weekend and can be as casual or elaborate as you wish. As a late morning meal, one of its finer qualities is ample time for preparation.

In BRUNCH! Gail takes traditional breakfast staples and makes simple enhancements that don’t require additional time or add complexity.  Immediately you see that she is a teacher as her instructions are clear and to the point. She includes simple techniques that are easy to master – a trait that all of my favorite chefs share.

Brunch is not complete without a specialty drink to set expectations. Iced Coffee with Cinnamon-Coffee Ice Cubes and Tangerine Pink Grapefruit with Mint are two of my favorites from BRUNCH!  I made Gail’s Torta Rustica (below), a multi-layered, pastry covered dish that includes mushrooms in garlic butter, sautéed creamed spinach, roasted red peppers, scrambled eggs, ham, and mozzarella. Click on the photo to see the layers. It was a delicious meal made complete with a side of fresh fruit and a glass of champagne.

Chef Gail Gand’s recipe for Torta Rustica from her book BRUNCH!

I often rely on a crustless quiche for my week day breakfasts. It takes about an hour and a half on Sunday to prepare then I just reheat a slice during the week for a delicious, protein-packed meal.  Without the traditional crust I’m free to choose from various whole grain breads with more fiber and higher quality nutrients than usually found in a pastry crust.

If you would like to learn how to make pastry crust, scones, turnovers, and doughnuts, Gail’s BRUNCH! book is a great primer.  Visit her website for information about her other books.  Also, I’ve posted decorating ideas for a brunch buffet on the Photos tab.  Need a brunch recipe? Just post a request.

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Maria on July 29, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Joy, I love the crustless quiche recipe of yours and have used it a lot. I do end up freezing a part of it so we can it on hand for a quick breakfast or lunch. I would love to have few more recipes that I could make up and freeze to have on hand. Any ideas? I would also like the recipe for your Iced Coffee with the special Ice cubes. It sounds yummy!!!!


    • Hi Maria, that’s a great question about other breakfast foods that freeze well. Eggs freeze well if they are cooked; cottage cheese and sour cream will freeze if they are combined with something else. A breakfast burrito may interest you – very simple assembly of lightly scrambled eggs with cheese and salsa, some may add hashbrowns, cooked sausage or Canadian bacon, wrapped in a tortilla then in freezer paper or foil. It reheats in the microwave or toaster oven (foil wrap for oven, freezer paper for microwave). Also, I’ve been known to have lasagna for breakfast with sauteed greens. As far as I know there’s no rule to what we can have for that meal! 🙂 French toast freezes well, so does breakfast pizza, and egg/cheese on muffins (or sausage and cheese). There are many options. What doesn’t freeze well is hard boiled eggs, lunch meats, whipping cream, cake batter, cream cheese, or soft frostings.

      For breakfast I shoot for a nutritional balance of protein, carbs, and fats, which can come from most anywhere. Hope this helps!


  2. Posted by pam on July 30, 2012 at 6:57 am


    Brunch is one of my favorite ways to celebrate the weekend and your crust-less quiche is a great way to treat my family to a delicious and healthy meal. Thanks for the reference to Gail’s book. Do you have a published book I can also add to my library?


    • Hi Pam, thank you for note! My family just loves the crustless quiche. 🙂 I haven’t published a book yet but hope to some day. Coming up are more features on favorite chefs and select books they have published that I would recommend for those who love practical and healthful cooking. Stay tuned!


  3. Posted by Deb G on July 30, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Ya gotta love a woman who loves breakfast – my personal favorite meal! Although Gail’s pastry is amazing. Your crustless quiche was a great reminder to me this morning as I left home without my usual breakfast packed so I’m hungry girl eating a stupid breakfast bar instead of something yummy today! 😦

    I think we need a brunch class 😉


    • Hi Deb, thanks for the laugh! I’ve changed out most of the monteray jack in the quiche and replaced it with cheddar which my husband prefers. It is such a versatile dish. I had been filling the quiche with lots of ingredients to make it more hearty but find that just 2 or three ingredients do well, such as onions and asparagus, or kale and roasted red bell pepper. Goat cheese has been a nice addition, too, as in 4 oz plus 4 oz. jack, and 4 oz. cheddar. I’ll look forward to a brunch class, maybe this fall!


  4. Posted by Lois Szydlowski on July 30, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Will you be posting the recipe for this fabulous looking torta rustica from Gale Gand? It sounds wonderful and it cuts so beautifully…I would love to make it sometime. I will send you a recipe I have used for crustless quiche that I ate when I was on the NO CARB diet…although I am sure yours is more healthy…mine has breakfast sausage and lost of cheese in it as well as spinach, ricotta cheese and eggs…


    • Hi Lois, the Torta Rustica was delicious and more so the second time. I used more seasonings than the recipe called for, such as sauteeing the mushrooms in garlic butter. Since the original recipe comes from Gail’s book I’m not able to post it here, but the concept is simple. An enclosed pastry surrounds layers of cooked ingredients including a meat, a couple of sauteed vegetables, and soft cooked eggs with cheese. What made it pretty was the colorful layers which would vary based on the vegetables chosen. It is a great make-ahead dish to heat through and brown the pastry on the day of serving. It would probably freeze well although I haven’t tried it.

      Your variation with sausage, lotsa cheese, spinach, ricotta and eggs sounds like a great combination. I’d be tempted to skip the pastry and cover it with a layer of mashed potatoes!


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