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The party: A smorgasbord is a great way to go for a casual brunch. People serve themselves as much or as little as they like, and they can come and go throughout the morning and early afternoon. Once the food is set out, you're free to socialize. After all, as Marcus points out, "the real reason the guests are there is to see you."

The food: This menu works well any time of the year. On a warm spring or summer day, all the food can be enjoyed at room temperature. On a crisp fall or winter morning, you can serve the tart warm with meatballs or couscous. When the guests arrive, just reheat the tart in a 300º F oven.

The mood: Keep it simple, clean, and fresh. If you use your dining table as the buffet, you can invite guests to sit in the living room or on comfortable pillows scattered on the floor around a low table. A few little decorative touches, like a vase of flowers in a single color or a bowl of lemons and an assortment of candles (yes, even in the daytime), are all you need to make this self-serve brunch feel warm and welcoming. To give the buffet a unified, natural look, serve the food on wooden cutting boards over a homespun runner that shows off the wood surface of your table.

Easy extras: Round out the smorgasbord with a selection of thinly sliced Scandinavian-style breads, flatbreads, and crackers. Set out a few different kinds of mustard, along with capers, pickles, dill sprigs, lemon wedges, and paper-thin slices of onion, cucumber, and radish. You can also set out a bowl filled with hard-boiled eggs, a simple green salad, a platter of sliced fruit, or a big fruit salad tossed with finely shredded fresh mint.

Marcus's Playlist

Putumayo, Brazilian Lounge

Michael Jackson, Off the Wall

Prince, Sign 'o' the Times

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue

Mushroom, Goat Cheese & Tomato Tart

Marcus always likes to include a substantial vegetarian item on the menu, so everyone has plenty to eat. This beautiful eggless tart is easy to make, especially if you purchase the pastry dough. Just roll out the dough to fit your tart pan and press it into the bottom and sides with your fingertips, folding the overhang inward to make a double layer around the sides.

Serves 8

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup sliced button mushrooms

1/2 cup sliced portobello mushrooms

1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
8 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

8 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and halved lengthwise

6 to 12 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata or Niçoise olives, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

2 small-to-medium Idaho russet or other baking potatoes, unpeeled

1 unbaked 10-inch tart shell (see recipe introduction)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces fresh goat cheese

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add all of the mushrooms and the garlic and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are golden brown. Remove from the heat.

In a bowl, combine the mushrooms and garlic, the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil, the vinegar, tomatoes, anchovies, olives, and thyme and mix well. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

After the mushrooms have stood for about 1 hour, preheat the oven to 400º F. Poke the potatoes in a few places with the tines of a fork and bake them for 40 minutes, or until they offer only a little resistance in the center when pierced with a thin-bladed knife. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 375º F.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and slice into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Layer the potato slices in the bottom of the tart shell, seasoning them generously with salt and pepper as you go. Drain the mushroom mixture in a sieve held over a bowl to capture the marinade. Spread the mushroom mixture over the potatoes. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over the top.

Bake the tart for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese begins to turn golden. Remove from the oven, let cool on a wire rack, and serve warm or at room temperature. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of the reserved marinade just before serving.

marcus

Think drinks: Pitcher drinks like this wine cooler mean less last-minute measuring and mixing for the host. You can also serve it in a punch bowl. In addition to the cooler, Marcus recommends a dry sparkling wine, beer, and a variety of citrusy soft drinks with this menu.

Fresh Citrus Wine Cooler

"This is super-refreshing any time of year," says Marcus, "and I like that you can make it more or less alcoholic, just by adjusting the amount of wine you use." Experiment with the proportions to suit your taste. You can't go wrong.

Serves 8

Juice of 2 oranges

Juice of 2 lemons

Juice of 2 limes

3 tablespoons sugar

2-inch piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped

8 fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

3 cups dry white wine

1 orange, sliced

1 lime, sliced

Crushed ice

Chill tall glasses. In a small saucepan, combine the orange, lemon, and lime juices and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the sugar and ginger, stir briefly to dissolve the sugar, and remove from the heat. Let cool completely.

Pour into a large pitcher and add the mint, the wine, and the orange and lime slices. Fill the glasses with crushed ice, pour in the cooler, and serve immediately.

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