Cottage Daze

Serve up a delicious brunch with these “Simply Scratch” recipes. Photography and Recipes By Laurie McNamara

Simply Scratch by Laurie McNamaraWho wants to run out for breakfast or spend hours in the kitchen during a relaxing weekend at the lake?

Laurie McNamara, author of the new cookbook “Simply Scratch” (Avery, 2015), shares her favorite breakfast meals for easy weekend entertaining at the cabin or cottage (reprinted from “Simply Scratch” by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group USA LLC, a Penguin Random House Co.).

Read more about McNamara’s passion for home cooking and what prompted her Simply Scratch movement and popular blog in State of Mine on page 34, or visit

Roasted Banana Coffee Cake

Serves 8

Roasted Banana Coffee Cake8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 tablespoon at room temperature for the pan
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 bananas
¾ cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

I love to make this coffee cake on special occasions like Mother’s Day, Easter, or when I have a low-key brunch with friends. Don’t let the word “cake” in the title mislead you; there’s also the word “banana,” which means it’s suitable for breakfast. High five.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan with the 1 tablespoon room temperature butter and dust with the granulated sugar and tip out any excess.

Place the bananas on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. In a small bowl, combine the pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and nutmeg through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on low speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then add the roasted bananas, sour cream and vanilla. Beat until incorporated.

With the mixer running on low speed, spoon in the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with the pecan topping. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean with a few crumbs attached.

Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Vegetarian Polenta Skillet

Serves 4-6

Butter or olive oil, for the baking sheet
1 recipe Cheesy Polenta
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small zucchini, quartered and cut into ¼-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 small yellow squash, quartered and cut into ¼-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1 cup Romesco Sauce (see opposite page)
4 ounces sharp Vermont cheddar cheese, grated
Fresh parsley or basil leaves, torn, for garnish
4 to 6 large eggs, for serving (optional)

Eventually, I decided I wanted to try to recreate my beloved breakfast from this restaurant at home. So I did, but I served it family-style in a giant skillet. Eggs are optional but highly recommended.


Vegetarian Polenta SkilletLine an 8-by-11-inch rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease the foil with butter or olive oil. Prepare the polenta (omit cheddar cheese if desired). Immediately pour the polenta into the prepared pan. With a spatula, spread it evenly and let it sit for 25 minutes, then invert the pan onto a cutting board. Peel off the foil and cut the polenta into 1-inch cubes. Set aside.

Position the oven rack in the top portion of oven, crack the door, and heat the broiler on high.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and bell pepper and season with the salt and pepper.

Toss to coat the vegetables in the butter and then spread in an even layer. Let the vegetables cook undisturbed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they start to turn a deep golden color. Stir and continue to cook until tender but still firm, 6 to 8 minutes more.

Transfer the vegetables to a medium bowl and stir in the romesco sauce.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the now empty skillet. Arrange the polenta cubes in an even layer in the skillet. Spoon the vegetable mixture over the top. Sprinkle with the grated cheddar and slide the skillet under the broiler for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and lightly golden brown.

Season with pepper and sprinkle with fresh parsley or basil.

If desired, while the polenta is in the oven, heat a little olive oil or bacon fat in a skillet over medium heat. Crack in a few eggs at a time, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until desired.

Serve immediately as is, or spoon onto plates and top with a fried egg.

Simply Scratch tip: To save time, I make my romesco sauce a few days in advance and store in the fridge. Then I just pull it out when I start making the polenta, to take the chill off. Making the sauce in advance cuts down the prep time for this recipe immensely.

Romesco sauce:

Roma Tomatoes
Photography courtesy Thinkstock

6 large plum (Roma) tomatoes, halved horizontally
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 small head garlic
1/3 cup blanched almonds, toasted
1 thick slice stale sturdy bread, torn into pieces
¾ teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the tomato halves cut-side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with ½ teaspoon of the salt and pepper.

Break up the head of garlic and place all but one of the unpeeled garlic cloves in the center of a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with one teaspoon of the olive oil, then fold and crimp up the sides so the garlic is secure.

Place the foil package on the baking sheet with the tomatoes and roast for 25 minutes. Remove the foil pouch and let cool for 10 minutes. Roast the tomatoes for 20 minutes more.

Once the garlic cloves are cool, remove the skin and place the cloves in a food processor. Add the reserved clove of raw garlic, the roasted tomatoes, almonds, bread, chili powder, vinegar, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and process until smooth.

Cheesy polenta:

1 cup coarse yellow corn grits (or polenta)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups whole milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup grated Vermont cheddar cheese
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Measure the corn grits and add the salt to the measuring cup. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and broth to a boil.

Watch carefully because it will start to boil quickly. Whisk in the corn grits and salt; keep whisking until the corn grits have absorbed all the liquid. Add the cheese and pepper. Stir until smooth and serve immediately.

Laurie McNamara is a food blogger and author of the new cookbook “Simply Scratch.” She resides in Holly.

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