April 28th, 2016

Strawberry-Rhubarb Custard Cake

DSC_0035

It’s been a long while since I’ve made a big beautiful delicious cake, but the stars aligned last week. Gigi’s “double nickel” birthday and our “last—for a little while” community potluck fell on the same day: April 21st.

Time to celebrate changes and celebrate BIG.

DSC_0057

Yes, our community potluck is taking a hiatus. For almost 7 years, we’ve been gathering on the third Thursday of each month, sharing good food and fellowship. Things are changing in our household a bit faster than we anticipated. Our home of 16 years is under contract and we will soon be moving. This is not completely unexpected. We are building a smaller home (fit for our down-sized life!) and had always planned to sell.

Just not this fast.

But when the right person comes along with the right offer, well, you do the right thing.

And this means shift our gears and start packing. There’s one hitch:construction on our new home won’t be complete until late fall, like after Thanksgiving. Our plan? Put our stuff into storage and find a “Svaha” place to live.

Do you know the word “Svaha?” It’s a native American term that means the undefined place between two defined places, like what occurs between the flash of lightning and roll of thunder. The unknown in-between. Who knows where we’ll end up? Guess we’ll be gypsies.

Enough about change and moving and gypsy possibilities—let’s get to the heart of the post, this marvelous cake. The cake itself gets its richness from butter, eggs and Greek yogurt in the batter.

DSC_0027

You spread both custard and fruit sauce onto each layer, which seeps into the cake, making it exceptionally moist and delicious. I got the idea, and first made this confection using Florida strawberries while we were in DC for Easter. Everyone loved it.

I baked it again for our potluck-birthday-farewell feast, this time doubling the recipe for a towering dessert, and pairing local berries and rhubarb in the fruit sauce.

Raves around the table, my friends!

DSC_0014

If you don’t relish the puckery taste of these ruby stalks (rhubarb is actually a vegetable), try ’em with strawberries. It could change your ways.

As potlucker Rhonda noted, “I can’t believe it. I ‘m making friends with rhubarb.”

DSC_0033

The Cake (makes a grand 4 layer cake)
1 pound butter, softened
2 cups sugar
8 eggs
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon fiore di sicilia (optional)
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

2 10 inch cake pans (or springform pans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the cake pans with parchment and coat with butter or baking spray.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then beat in the Greek yogurt and extracts.

In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients—flour, baking powder, soda and salt.

Beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing into a smooth batter.
Divide the batter between the two cake pans.

Bake for 40-45 minutes–until top is golden and set.

Remove and cool on a baking rack.

DSC_0016

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 pound rhubarb, washed and chopped (like celery)
1 quart strawberries, washed, capped, and coarsely chopped

Place a 2 quart saucepan on medium heat. Pour in the sugar, cornstarch and water. Stir well until sugar and cornstarch is dissolved. Add the chopped rhubarb. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 5 minutes, then stir in the strawberries. Cook for another two minutes, stirring well.

Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake. (This cane be made ahead of time.)

DSC_0022

Custard
1 quart half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg yolks, beaten

Pour the half-and-half into a 2-quart saucepan. Stir in the sugar, vanilla and cornstarch. Place on medium heat. Stir constantly, making sure the sugar and cornstarch are well dissolved.
When small bubbles form along the rim of the pan, remove from heat.
Add a small amount of liquid to the egg yolks and beat well.
Pour the egg yolks into the saucepan. Place on low heat. Continue stirring (I use a whisk or wooden spoon) Mixture will thicken, and coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake. (This can be made ahead of time.)

Chantilly Cream
3 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the ingredients into a chilled mixing bowl. Whip until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to ice the cake.

DSC_0025

ASSEMBLY
Split both cooled cakes in half, creating 4 layers.

Spread the first layer with strawberry-rhubarb sauce, followed by custard. Top with another cake layer and repeat this process until all four layers are spread with sauce and custard and stacked.

Place into the refrigerator for an hour to set up.

To finish the cake: cover sides and top with whipped cream. Garnish with fresh strawberries and flowers, if you like. Serves 20-25.

DSC_0050

Posted in Desserts, Fruit, Recipes | 19 Comments »




November 22nd, 2015

What a Throwback!

DSC_0014

Right now, I’m sure many of you are forming your Thanksgiving plans–choosing recipes, composing grocery lists, plotting your course to the Thursday feast. I am too; we’ll be driving to DC to spend the holiday with my daughter, son-in-law, and precious grandson. Plenty to be thankful for, in that one sentence alone.

We live in uneasy times. I think we always do–it’s in matters of degrees. The impact of global unrest, of violence, fear, loss and anguish has felt extreme to me of late. We all feel it, its heaviness, its power to constrict. I remind myself to keep an open mind, and even more so, an open heart. We’re all connected, part of a great family living on this planet. An open heart keeps those darker forces at bay, keeps the creative compassionate flow vital and moving between us.

Before I sign off, and wish you all love and peace, I want to share this totally retro recipe.

DSC_0005

It’s similar to Swedish Meatballs, although there’s no nutmeg or allspice in the mix. It’s more of a Stroganoff–the meat seasoned with grainy mustard and Worcestershire. The beefy gravy is folded with sour cream. So 1960s. I can remember my mom making these, serving them in a chafer for festive gatherings with frilly toothpicks. On the flipside, I also remember the ghastly 1970s boxes of Hamburger Helper with a stroganoff version that she would simmer in a skillet for supper.

DSC_0008

I hadn’t thought of them, these meatballs in sour cream, which, despite their “throwback” quality, are really quite delicious. I was reminded of them by a woman in a cooking class that I teach at Magdalene House. We were discussing what we could prepare for our December class, and she asked if we could make them. (potato latkes, too!)

DSC_0012

Why not? Last week, I resurrected my recipe, jazzed the sauce with oyster mushrooms (!) and tested ’em out at our potluck. I served the stroganoff meatballs over a bed of buttered egg noodles.

Woo-hoo! Everyone went crazy, devouring every last one. “What inspired you to make them?” “My parents used to serve these at every party.” “Oh my goodness, I haven’t eaten this in years.”

DSC_0019

The dish is hearty and potent, triggering memory, delivering comfort and taste. Well-worth bringing back—from time to time. You might like to serve a batch at a festive gathering of your own.

Here’s my wish, which is for myself, as much as for you:
As we move into the season of plenty, but also a time of rush and stress, remember to take time for yourself and your loved ones. Savor the moments together. Breathe deeply. Express gratitude. Feel joy. Be light.

Nancy

DSC_0016

MEATBALLS STROGANOFF

The Meatballs
3 pounds ground chuck
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons coarse grain mustard
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 eggs
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, mix and mash everything together until well-incorporated. The beef mixture will feel lighter and have a glossy look when that is achieved.

Form small (as in smaller than a golf ball) meatballs (again using your hands, or a small ice cream scoop) and arrange them on baking sheets.

Place into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove and set aside while you make the sauce.

(After they cool, you could place them into freezer bags and freeze for later use.)

Makes 6 dozen meatballs

Stroganoff Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
8 ounces oyster mushrooms, torn or chopped
1/2 cup cooking sherry
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 quart beef stock
1+ cup sour cream
1 bunch green onions or chives, chopped

Place large pot on medium heat and melt the butter. Saute the onion until translucent, then add the mushrooms. Saute until golden. Add the cooking sherry and stir well. Let the sherry reduce, then add the flour. Stir vigorously to coat the mushrooms and onions.Let the flour gently “cook” for about a minute. Pour in the beef stock, stirring well. Season with salt, coarse ground black pepper. The brown gravy will begin to thicken.

Add the cooked meatballs. Simmer for 5 minutes. Fold in the sour cream, making sure it melds into the gravy. Taste for seasoning. Garnish with chopped green onions or chives.

Serve over a bed of egg noodles.
Serves a crowd–15 or more guests

DSC_0024

Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Casseroles, Meats/Poultry, Pastas, Recipes | 22 Comments »




September 25th, 2015

New Ideas, New Techniques

DSC_0027

The Plus Element

That’s what my friend Maggie calls it. On any path to mastery, there’s always one more step.

I think that’s why I both enjoy and feel challenged by my kitchen calling.

Thirty plus years on this culinary path, and I am still learning.
Thirty plus years, and I am still excited about food.

Today’s post shares two of my most recent discoveries, and they couldn’t be more disparate.

The first took its inspiration from a meal at a new vegan-raw food eatery AVO.
The second was the product of a little pre-Thanksgiving research and experimentation.

I served both at our last potluck, to raves.

DSC_0003

AVO (as in avocado) is Nashville’s first full service vegan raw food restaurant. (Nothing heated above 118 degrees, can you imagine?) I was beyond surprised by how delectable–and creative—it’s offerings are. No-bake sea salt chocolate “cheesecake” made from soaked cashews pureed with coconut milk, maple syrup, and bitter chocolate. Pad Thai noodles made from threads of zucchini, daikon, and kelp in a spicy almond-based sauce.

DSC_0005

And a remarkable tabbouleh, made from pulverized cauliflower curds.

And while I’m less likely to attempt the mock cheesecake (despite its incredible, creamy mouthfeel, and rich, deep chocolate taste) the tabbouleh-style salad using cauliflower as its grain is nothing short of genius.

Finely chopped by hand, or pulsed in a food processor, the curds have the right appearance. The texture is a ready receptor for the lemony vinaigrette. The taste is convincing–bright, fresh, healthful and delicious. To the ever-growing repertoire of dishes where this species of Brassica oleracea mimics something else (like mashed potatoes, or piccata, or pizza crust…) add this recipe.

Isn’t cauliflower the versatile one?

DSC_0012

My recipe takes the Middle Eastern mainstay, and flips it further. Instead of flat leaf parsley, I chopped a mound of tangy peppery arugula to fold in with the cauliflower. I “quick-pickled” thinly sliced red onions, for spark and color contrast. I added finely chopped broccoli. I even cooked up a batch of pearled couscous, to extend the salad for our group. (It didn’t need it.)

DSC_0018

The second trial is the “Dry Brine.”

We are all familiar with brining–immersing a hunk of meat or poultry in a highly seasoned-salted bath for an extended, which acts as both marinade and tenderizer. I’ve brined pork roasts to my satisfaction, but my efforts with turkey have not entirely pleased me.

The flavor was there. The juiciness too. But the skin never got that same compelling crackle.

And the gravy–not that rich brown.

I attempted dry brining a turkey breast. So easy and less cumbersome. It was always a challenge to find a receptacle Large enough to hold the brine-and-bird, much less fit it into the fridge without making a sloshing mess.

DSC_0021

Create your dry brine blend of salt, pepper, and herbs. Sprinkle all over the bird. Place into the refrigerator UNCOVERED for 24 hours. Remove the next day, thirty-minutes before roasting–let it lose some of the chill while you preheat the oven. Drain off any collected liquid at the bottom of the pan. Slip some pats of butter underneath the skin.

Roast, uncovered.

The result?

DSC_0023

It’s a WOW.

Crisp browned skin, tender, juicy meat, wonderful infusion of seasonings. And this was for the breast—which can get dry. I’m looking forward to using this technique on a whole turkey for our grand Thanksgiving feast. Another step on the path.

DSC_0015

CAULIFLOWER-ARUGULA TABBOULEH
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small red onion, sliced very thinly
1 head cauliflower, washed and cored
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 head broccoli, washed and stemmed
2 cups arugula, stemmed and coarsely chopped

Quick-Pickle the Red Onions: In a separate bowl, mix the red wine vinegar, salt, black pepper, and sugar together. Add the red onions. Cover and allow the mixture to soften and pickle the onions—about 15 minutes.

DSC_0007

Break the head of cauliflower into manageable sized pieces. Finely chop the curds and stems.
If you prefer, you may use the food processor and pulse them into fine pieces. Place into a large bowl.

Add lemon and juice. Season liberally with salt and black pepper. Pour in the olive oil and stir to coat the pieces.

Fold in the arugula.
Finely chop the broccoli. Add it to the salad.
Drain the pickled red onions and fold them into the salad as well.
Taste for seasonings and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings

DSC_0030


DRY-BRINED AND ROASTED TURKEY BREAST

8-10 pound turkey breast
poultry rub
4 tablespoons butter

Poultry Dry Rub:
3 tablespoons Salt
1 tablespoon Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Rosemary
1 tablespoon Thyme
1 tablespoon Ground Sage
1 teaspoon Granulated Garlic
1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

The Day Before Roasting:
Rinse the turkey breast under cold water. Pat dry. Sprinkle the rub over the entire breast, pushing some underneath the skin. Place onto a baking pan and refrigerate uncovered, overnight.

Roasting Day:
Remove the turkey breast from the refrigerator. Drain off any liquid which may have collected on the bottom of the pan. Cut the butter into small pats and slip them underneath the skin.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the turkey breast onto the middle rack and let it roast undisturbed (and uncovered) for 1 1/2–2 hours. Check the turkey after an hour and rotate the pan.

DSC_0025

Posted in Gluten Free, Meats/Poultry, Recipes, Salads, Vegan, Vegetarian Dishes | 24 Comments »




March 29th, 2015

Signs of Spring

DSC_0049

This lacy green array, which reminds me of wallpaper in a summer cottage, is the herb, chervil. A member of the parsley family, it grows well in cool weather. With its frill of carrot-like leaves and mild licorice taste, chervil is one of the quartet of fines herbes, a seasoning pillar of French cuisine.

I have used chervil, in dried form, on occasion. Bearnaise sauce comes to mind.

But I had never found any fresh…until recently, through Fresh Harvest Co-op.

DSC_0055

Which is also where I bought this beautiful rainbow of carrots…

DSC_0042

…and leeks, for this lush tart.

After a long winter of eating hardy greens and tubers, (and, trust me, I’m not complaining,) it sure feels good (uplifting!) to have these early spring herbs and vegetables.

It inspired me to put together a little grazing spread for friends–all of us ready to celebrate longer days, warmer weather, a world in bloom.

DSC_0058

My menu included steelhead trout brushed with fruity olive oil and quick-roasted, artichoke-leek tart in puff pastry-layered with a ricotta-Greek yogurt blend–and those sweet rainbow carrots, oven-browned in thyme.

The chervil found its way into a versatile buttermilk-based sauce–whipped up in a blink.

It tasted fresh and light, grassy and tangy, with a hint of anise. It was delicious spooned over the fish. And, it was also quite nice with the carrots.

For your pleasure, here are the recipes. Be on the lookout for fresh chervil–like most herbs, it is different, and better than its dried form.

DSC_0068

Welcome Spring! Looking forward to all that the season brings.

DSC_0045

SPRING LEEK TART adapted from Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed but still chilled
1 large leek, cleaned well and sliced (white and light green parts)
6 artichoke hearts
1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a food processor with steel blade, add the ricotta cheese, yogurt, salt, and pepper, and blend until smooth.

Slightly roll out the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin. Place one piece of pastry onto each baking sheet.

Spread the cheese mixture over the surface of each to the edge all the way around. Cover with roasted leeks, artichokes and bell pepper pieces. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake the pastries until they are golden brown and puffy, about 25 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking time. Remove from the oven and let the pastries rest for a few minutes.

Cut into squares and serve.

DSC_0053-001


BUTTERMILK CHERVIL SAUCE

2 heaping tablespoons chopped fresh chervil
3/4 cup whole buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons good mayonnaise, like Hellman’s
1 teaspoon salt

Place all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until the mixture is smooth and well incorporated. Cover and chill.

Makes one cup.

DSC_0067

QUICK-ROASTED STEELHEAD TROUT
2 1/2-3 pounds steelhead trout (or salmon) fillet(s)
3 tablespoons good olive oil
sea salt
coarse ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse the fillet(s) and pat dry. Place onto a baking sheet, skin side down.
Liberally brush the surface with your favorite fruity olive oil.
Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Roast for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the fish rest for 5 minutes,
Remove and cool.

Serve warm, or at room temperature with chervil sauce.
Serves 10-12

DSC_0060

RAINBOW CARROTS ROASTED WITH FRESH THYME adapted from Cooking Light’s Lighten Up America
1 pound fresh carrots, different colors/varieties if you like
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
kosher or sea salt
black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Clean and trim carrots, keeping small ones intact, and cutting long ones into 2-3 lengths.
Peel only if the outer layer seems tough.
Coat the carrots in olive oil and lay them out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle them with fresh thyme, salt and black pepper.
Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning the carrots after 12 minutes.
Serve warm, or allow to cool and serve with dip.

Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Fish/Seafood, Recipes, Sauces, Vegetables | 17 Comments »




January 26th, 2015

Korean-style Beef Short Rib Tacos

DSC_0058

I don’t know too much about Korean food, but on the rare occasions that I dine on dishes like Bibimbap or Galbi Jjim at one of the homespun Korean eateries here in Nashville, I always experience this brilliant palate awakening. The spices, sugar and chili pepper heat, fermented vegetables and grilled meat hit on all the taste buds: Sweet-salty-sour-bitter-umami.

Envigorating!

And I chide myself: Why don’t I eat here more often? Why don’t I try to cook like this?

The truth is, I tend to cook in my culture-comfort zone–which is a mish-mash of Italian-French-Southern-New American whatever! But today’s post reflects a little expansion beyond that zone.

DSC_0008

It’s not authentic Korean, to be sure. The seasoning of the meat–soy-ginger-garlic-sesame—falls in line. Lashing it with the sweet-sour crunch of pickled red cabbage and grassy fresh cilantro fits too–although it’s much tamer than traditional Kim-chi. And, eating it wrapped in a griddled corn tortilla makes it more like Mexi-Korean fusion.

No matter. The result is simply delicious.

Kogi BBQ, a food truck in the Los Angeles area, gets the credit for originating the cleverly filled tacos over 6 years ago. It’s an idea that has caught on across the country–and inspired all manner of taco fusion treats.

DSC_0014

My prompt started back in December, when I had purchased–and overbought– some boneless beef short rib for a big family meal. (which was a classic French preparation.) I put the extra meat into the freezer, knowing that I’d soon have the chance to use it in a different flavor profile:

Tacos inspired by Kogi, for our community potluck.

I did a little research, and put together my plan.

First: the marinade. Easy to make–what is key is allowing enough time for it to permeate the meat. Six to eight hours, if you start in the morning. A 12 hour-overnight would be even better. Don’t worry if you can’t locate an Asian pear. I used an apple that I already had! The texture and mild sweet fruit taste gets communicated into the mix.

Note: if you cannot, for whatever reason, get short rib then I recommend flank steak. These Korean-style beef tacos at Cooking Light use it to great advantage—marinated and grilled.

DSC_0049

Next: The Sear and the Braise. It’s important to get a nice rich brown finish on the beef. The marinade goes far in that regard, caramelizing as you sear the meat. Once you’ve accomplished that, you smother the strips in deglazed juices from the pan, along with the remaining marinade.

Cover and place into a low oven and forget about the meat for the next two to three hours.

DSC_0052

What emerges, after that time, is succulent beef, steeped in garlicky gingery tastes.
You really don’t need a knife to shred the meat for the filling–pick it apart with a fork.
Save all those braising juices, too.

DSC_0059

I didn’t have the time needed to make Kimchi, which is about a week. Instead, I whipped up a quick pickled slaw, using red cabbage and red onion. In short order, it provided a snappy sweet-sour topping.

Finish the taco with some cilantro and a stripe of Sriracha sauce.

Gosh, these were good.

DSC_0053

KOREAN STYLE BRAISED BEEF SHORT RIB TACOS
3 pounds boneless beef short ribs
marinade and braising mixture
vegetable oil

The Marinade:
1 Gala apple or Asian Pear, cored and chopped
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons sesame oil
a few pinches red pepper flakes

Place the apple, onion, garlic, and ginger into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse the ingredients together.

Add the soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, water, and sesame oil. Process until smooth.

Place the meat into a non-reactive bowl or container. Pour about 1/2 of the marinade over the meat (reserving the rest for later use in the recipe.) Make sure the meat is well coated. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Cover and refrigerate–marinating overnight is best.

The Braise:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place a large skillet or pot on medium heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil.
Remove the beef from the marinade and brown the pieces a few minutes on each side.
Place the browned pieces into a shallow baking dish.
Pour remaining marinade over the beef.
Cover with aluminum foil and oven-braise for 3 hours.
When done, the meat will be juicy and fork-tender.

When the meat is cool enough to handle, break it up into small pieces for the tacos. Pour braising juices over the meat. Keep warm until ready to assemble the tacos.

Makes 2 dozen 6 inch tacos

“PICKLED RED” RED CABBAGE AND RED ONION SLAW
1/2 head red cabbage
1/2 large red onion
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Slice the cabbage as thinly as possible and place into a mixing bowl.
Slice the onion as thinly as possible and add to the cabbage.
In a separate bowl, whisk the vinegar, sugar, and salt together.
Pour over the slaw and let marinate for 20 minutes.

TACO ASSEMBLY
warm beef in braising juices
pickled red slaw
1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves picked and coarsely chopped
24 6 inch corn tortillas
Sriracha hot sauce

Place a skillet on medium heat. Brown the tortillas on both sides–about 1 minute a side.
Spoon in the beef. Top with pickled red slaw, fresh cilantro, and a squirt of Sriracha hot sauce.

DSC_0056

Posted in Gluten Free, Meats/Poultry, Recipes, Sandwiches | 16 Comments »




August 31st, 2014

Warm Eggplant-Tomato Salad with Fried Tomato Skins

DSC_0024

It’s the last day of August, and my summer garden is looking ragged. The ongoing battle with Johnson grass is over and I’ve surrendered: a thick border now entrenched along the fence row, and tall clumps reside undisturbed among the tomatoes and wax beans.

Arugula, long since bolted, has reseeded, trying to bully its way up through the weeds. One by one flourishing squashes have collapsed, victims of those dreaded borers. Two large tomato plants yellowed and died, seemingly overnight, the reason unknown.

DSC_0002

Nonetheless, my visits remain fruitful and full of wonder. My stand of Mexican sunflowers continues to put out astonishing blooms in copper, bronze, and blazing yellow, even when their primary heads are bare, petals dropped, seeds picked clean by feasting goldfinches.

The slow-growing Italian roasting peppers are showing streaks of bright red, their fiery signal for harvest.

A few heavy rains have inspired the tomatoes to produce again, although not in the gargantuan sizes of July, and their skins are a bit tougher.

DSC_0009

And my lone eggplant, which weathered an early onslaught of flea beetles, is forming plump white and purple streaked fruit. Sweaty, dusty, but excited, I return home with my pouch filled with just-picked things for dinner.

What to make?

Today’s recipe comes from my cookbook: Caroline’s Warm Eggplant Salad. It uses my garden spoils so well! I’ve embellished only slightly–having found a genius idea in the Farmer’s Market issue of Cooking Light (June 2014).

Chef Deborah Madison shared a simple beefsteak tomato salad with fried tomato skins. It’s those fried skins that caught my attention. They are easy to prepare, and add a welcome bite as a garnish-a clever use for these late summer-tough skinned “maters.”

DSC_0006

After you plunge your tomatoes in boiling water, quickly cooling them in an icy bath, you slip off the skins. Your tomatoes are ready to cube for the salad. Dab the skins dry and pan fry them in a small amount of oil. They’ll become like thin glassy pieces of cellophane, crisp–and when drained and salted–almost “bacony.”

DSC_0018

Even without the fried skins, the salad is simply delicious. A splash of sherry vinegar (a nice change-up from balsamic or red wine,) minced garlic and salt coax out the sumptuous tomato juices. Chunks of roasted eggplant gain a rich brown crisp, and soft sweet flesh.

If you’d prefer this to be vegan, omit the fresh mozzarella. I like the extra meatiness the cheese brings. It turns the salad into a one-dish meal, especially if you serve it with crusty bread to mop up all those lush juices.

I haven’t tired of the tomatoes—not yet. In fact, knowing that their time is waning makes me savor them all the more. The seasonal shift is soon to come.

DSC_0022

WARM EGGPLANT-TOMATO SALAD WITH FRIED TOMATO SKINS
adapted from Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook

1 large eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse kosher salt and black pepper to season eggplant
5 ripe heirloom tomatoes, skins removed* and cubed
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup fresh mozzarella, diced

*Recipe to follow

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the cubed eggplant with the olive oil in a large bowl and toss well to coat. Spread the eggplant out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Bake for 12 minutes. Turn the eggplant over and bake until soft, with browned edges, about 12 minutes longer.

While the eggplant is cooking, toss the cubed tomatoes, minced garlic, and chopped basil together in a large salad bowl. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss gently to blend.

Allow the eggplant to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Add warm eggplant to the tomato mixture and toss. Let this sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving to allow the flavors to marry.

Right before serving, fold in the diced fresh mozzarella. Garnish with fried tomato skins and serve.

Serves 6

DSC_0015

FRIED TOMATO SKINS
from Deborah Madison for Cooking Light

5 heirloom tomatoes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
kosher or sea salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core tomatoes; discard cores. Place tomatoes in boiling water for 15 seconds. Plunge tomatoes into ice water; drain. Peel; arrange skins flat on a jelly-roll pan. Cut peeled tomatoes into 1/2-inch-thick slices; arrange on a platter.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of skins to oil; cook 2 minutes or until crisp, turning occasionally. Drain on a paper towel; repeat procedure with remaining skins. Discard oil in pan. Sprinkle skins with 1/8 teaspoon salt.

DSC_0029

Posted in Recipes, Salads, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 21 Comments »




June 17th, 2014

Community Salad

DSC_0020

Anatomy of a Salad

The arugula and slices from a lone lemon cucumber? I grew those in my garden patch. The impossibly thin green beans were a gift from neighbor Ray. I purchased the onions and baby new potatoes from Barnes’ stand at the downtown farmer’s market. The ruffled purple basil, flat leaf parsley and garlic scapes all came from our friends at the Fresh Harvest Co-op. I picked up the grape tomatoes and a sweet bell pepper at the grocery store, blocks from my home.

DSC_0005

Leaves and stalks, pods and seeds, tubers and fruits: All seemingly disparate parts assemble into a lively composition on this plate.

All the sets of hands that played a part in bringing them: A friend and neighbor, farmers whom I’ve met, farmers whom I’d like to meet, growers in a state not too far away, pickers and truckers and sorters and sellers,

DSC_0003

even my own hands.

This salad, which will make a fine dinner, also tells a story about community.

All the connections surrounding this one plate.

All the connections we make at the table.

I am mindful of this, especially at this moment, poised as I am, to launch this cookbook into this world.

Today, June 17, 2014, is the day.

It’s been a long road, from pitch to proposal, contract to manuscript delivery, edits, edits, styling and photography, layout, and more edits. Whew. Here comes the Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook.

Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook cover

I couldn’t have done it without my community.

Here’s to Gigi Gaskins, my potluck conspirator and co-host, and all the potluckers who contributed their delectable recipes.

Here’s to my editor, Heather Skelton, who caught the vision for this book, its look and structure. She understood our story, a fluid group of people who meet on the third Thursday of each month, and bring their best efforts, with no assigned dishes, no RSVP.

Together, our recipes and stories travel the arc of the seasons.

Together we celebrate the bounty of the moment.

Here’s to Mark and Teresa and Julie. Mark Boughton‘s extraordinary photography, Teresa Blackburn’s deft styling and Julie Allen’s cover design brought Third Thursday to life.

And, to you all, my dear friends and readers, a community that reaches far and wide.

DSC_0049

This is the sort of salad that lends itself well to community. Take what you like, and crown it with a nice dollop of lush green garlic scape aioli.

COMMUNITY SALAD
1 pound young green beans, ends trimmed
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound baby new potatoes
salt
black pepper
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 sweet bell pepper, cut into strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 lemon cucumber, sliced
1/4 pound arugula
basil leaves

Blanche the green beans: Fill a skillet with water and place over medium high heat. When boiling, plunge the green beans in to cook for 2- 3 minutes (longer, if they are thicker–you want them tender-crisp) Place the cooked beans into a bowl of ice water to set the color and cease the cooking. Drain well.

Pan-roast the new potatoes: Place a skillet on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and rosemary. Cover and cook for 15-18 minutes, shaking the skillet periodically, until the potatoes are browned and tender when pierced with a knife.

Caramelize the onions and red pepper strips: Place olive oil in the skillet set on medium heat. Saute the onions until browned.
Remove the onions and add the red pepper strips. Saute until tender-crisp with browned edges.

Assemble the Community Salad
Place the salad elements in sections on a large serving platter. Serves 4 generously.

Serve with Garlic Scape Aioli (recipe below)

DSC_0025

GARLIC SCAPE AIOLI
2 or 3 loops of scapes, chopped
1 egg yolk
juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive oil
pinch salt

Place the scapes, egg yolk, lemon juice, and mustard into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse, then process, slowly pouring in the olive oil. The mixture will thicken and emulsify, resembling a spring green mayonnaise. Taste for salt and add a pinch as needed.

Place into a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Keeps 3-4 days.
Makes 1 generous cup.

DSC_0035

Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Gluten Free, Recipes, Salads, Sauces, Vegetables | 17 Comments »




February 22nd, 2014

Gastrique Mystique

DSC_0023

Gastrique.

What is it?

Over the past several months, I have come across the French term on menus and recipe sites. I knew that it meant a kind of sauce, but in my years of cooking, I’d never made a gastrique. A little research dispelled some of the mystique: It is a reduction of sugar, vinegar, and a defining ingredient: be it herb, fruit or vegetable, wine, juice, or even hot sauce. You could call it sweet-and-sour, a la Francaise.

That sweet-sour sauce is more akin to a syrup. It can take on any ingredient; give it a boost. And it does so, with little effort. Sugar paired with your choice of vinegar, caramelized and slow-simmered with whatever ingredient you wish to showcase, becomes an intense tangy glaze.

DSC_0001

Our Third Thursday Community Potluck became the happy beneficiary of my gastrique experiments. Since my co-host Gigi (who doesn’t eat fish) couldn’t attend (a first in almost 5 years!) I decided to feature steelhead. (“When it comes to food, I just don’t like the ocean,” she says.)

Steelhead trout is not salmon, although it is in the same family. Steelhead is Rainbow trout that migrates to the sea, returning to spawn in fresh water. Unlike salmon, it survives spawning. But its appearance and taste are very similar, hence steelhead is gaining in popularity. Recipes for it and salmon are interchangeable.

DSC_0012

Before I roast the fillets, which cook quickly in a hot oven, I like to begin introducing flavor in the form of oil and spiced salt. When you brush the (cleaned and dried) fish with good olive oil and dust it with this savory mixture, you are in effect laying down the first layer of flavor.

This spiced salt rub consists of 5 ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry. You’ll combine S+P with paprika, and 2 kinds of seeds (yellow mustard and coriander) that you’ve freshly ground together.

DSC_0015

In this fashion, you can season the fish hours before you cook it, if you like. The olive oil ready absorbs into the fillet, a sealant in a sense that also holds the spice rub in place. Refrigerate until a half hour before you want to roast it.

Meanwhile, you can make the gastriques.

I chose to make two: one with Sriracha hot sauce and one with white wine. Each has only three ingredients, but what amazing taste!

The hot sauce gastrique packed plenty of fire, that was amplified and yet tempered by the sugar and vinegar.

The white wine gastrique was almost like honey.

DSC_0018

After the gastriques cooled, I poured them into squeeze bottles. You can really control how much and where, with a deft squirt and squiggle.

DSC_0024

Roasted simply with the spiced salt mixture, the steelhead was very good, without question. But the intriguing overlays that the vigorous striping of gastriques brought to fish elevated it to something extraordinary–imbuing unexpected pops of sweet heat and pungency. Even served at room temperature at potluck, the dish was devoured with gusto by our group.

A new world of cooking possibilities afforded by these infused syrups! I’ve scarcely scratched the surface. I love considering gastriques using different vinegars, like sherry or red wine, married with figs, or blackberries, or even tomatoes.

In my research, I found this luscious sounding recipe for Gorgonzola stuffed Chicken Breasts with Strawberry Gastrique on Cooking Light’s website. It is still winter, but this week, there have been hints of coming spring. And, in Tennessee, that means strawberry season is soon to follow.

DSC_0026

ROASTED STEELHEAD TROUT WITH SPICED SALT RUB, AND TWO GASTRIQUES
3 pounds boned steelhead trout fillets (or salmon)
3 tablespoons olive oil
spiced salt rub (recipe below)
Sriracha gastrique (recipe below)
white wine gastrique (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Rinse off the fish fillets and pat dry. Lay onto a baking sheet, skin side down. Brush the tops liberally with olive oil. Sprinkle with spiced salt mixture.

Roast the fillets for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let them sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

Place on a bed of sauteed spinach greens. Stripe the fillets with both gastriques and serve.
Serves 10-12

DSC_0013

SPICED SALT RUB
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds

Place salt, black pepper, and paprika into a small bowl.
Place yellow mustard seeds and coriander seeds into mortar, and coarsely grind them together.
Add the ground mustard and coriander seeds to the salt mixture and blend well.

DSC_0017

SRIRACHA GASTRIQUE
1/2 cup Sriracha (or other choice of hot sauce, such as Louisiana Hot, or Tabasco)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar

Place the three ingredients into a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved into the mixture.
Bring to a simmer, (uncovered) stirring occasionally. Simmer until the mixture reduces by half—this could take 20 minutes.
The gastrique will deepen in color, and acquire a glazy sheen. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Makes about 3/4 cup.

WHITE WINE GASTRIQUE
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine

Place the three ingredients into a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved into the mixture.
Bring to a simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cook until the mixture reduces by half—-this could take 20 minutes.
The gastrique will become syrupy, with a glazy sheen. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Makes about 3/4 cup.

DSC_0019

Posted in Fish/Seafood, Recipes, Sauces | 21 Comments »




January 20th, 2014

Molé! Olé!

DSC_0028

You never know how or from what place cooking inspiration will come. Today’s dish arose from an unexpected find: a 10 pound box of loosely packed dried guajillo chiles in our food bank’s warehouse. Whatever entity had donated the box didn’t realize that it would be considered a reject. Dried chiles offer little in the way of real food to people who don’t have a viable kitchen or the means to prepare them. Unless anyone at Second Harvest wanted them, ten pounds of dried guajillos were destined for the dumpster.

Of course, we (meaning the staff and volunteers of Second Harvest’s Culinary Arts Center) wanted them. You can’t imagine how many peppers filled the box. Thousands, I’d say! We portioned them into ziplock bags and now have a seemingly inexhaustible supply.

It set me to thinking about molés, those rich complex sauces from Oaxaca, Mexico that have layers of flavor from chiles, fruits, nuts, spices and chocolate.

DSC_0002

With our potluck on the horizon, and a turkey breast in my freezer, I deemed it time to make Pavo con Molé—turkey mole. CAC Director Mark gave me a ziplock of chiles and wished me success.

All these many many years of cooking, and I had never made a molé. I’m not sure why. Likely I thought that it was too complicated. Likely I’ve never had a big bag of dried guajillos.

In either event, it’s a project long overdue.

DSC_0005

I didn’t have a recipe. Research on the ‘net and some of my cookbooks turned up scads of molé recipes. I cobbled together my own version, which was gleaned from the stellar likes of Diana Kennedy, Susana Palazuelos, and Rick Bayless, tempered by what I had in my pantry.

DSC_0007

The common threads:
–Pan-toasting the sesame seeds and spices, to bloom their flavors, before grinding. The same is true for the almonds.

–Steeping the guajillos in boiling water. I add the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and dried currants to the batch. The resulting liquid is infused with intense tastes.

–Stirring in the unsweetened chocolate at the end of the cooking process–the final bass note of flavor to the molé.

DSC_0010

Don’t be daunted by the lengthy ingredient list. Believe me, there are molé recipes out there with lists twice as long. This one possesses wonderful fruity heat and complexity. Its texture is lush.

The method has a few steps, but it is not difficult to make. At all. In fact, it was a pleasurable process to undertake.

DSC_0014

In the time it takes for the turkey breast to braise in a Dutch oven, the sauce comes together, filling the kitchen with heady aromatics.

An immersion blender is a life-saver, making the puree a breeze. If you want the molé ultra-smooth, you may run it through a sieve, post-pureeing. I didn’t. I liked the minute bits of guajillo skin, which give the thick, mostly smooth sauce more character.

DSC_0018

This makes a lot of molé—plenty to cloak the turkey, with a few cups to spare. That extra will keep up to a week in the fridge, or three months in the freezer.

At potluck, we all were over the moon about this dish, which I served with corn tortillas. Sparks of clove and cinnamon, toasted nuts, fruit and heat, bitter depth of chocolate: The tastes revealed themselves from the front to the back of the tongue, slowly, leaving a mild, contained fire in the mouth. So satisfying to eat!

We were also psychically connected in our potluck preparations. We never assign dishes, or share ahead of time what we are going to bring. And yet, asparagus salsa, Mexican rice and lentils, and black bean-corn salad all turned up on the table–fabulous molé accompaniments.

DSC_0025

MOLE SAUCE FOR TURKEY
12-15 dried guajillo chiles
3 bay leaves
2 sticks cinnamon
1/3 cup currants or raisins
12 peppercorns
6 cloves
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 cup almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 bulb (about 10 cloves) garlic, minced
1-28 ounce can plum tomatoes in sauce
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces

Place a kettle of water on to boil.
Break off the stems of the dried chiles and shake out the seeds. Break the chiles into pieces and place into a large bowl. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and currants (or raisins.) Pour boiling water over the ingredients to cover. Allow the chiles to rehydrate for 30 minutes.

Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and cloves. Add a teaspoon or two of the guajillo chile seeds. Toast the mixture, shaking it occasionally, for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and place into a separate bowl. Add the almonds to the skillet and toast them in similar fashion, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place cooled almonds, sesame seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds and cloves into a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse an process nuts, spices and seeds into a fine grind.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue the sauté.

Open the can of plum tomatoes and add the juice to the onion-garlic mixture. Season with salt.
Coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them as well.
Discard the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks from the steeped guajillos. Pour the chiles, currants and liquid into the pot. Add the ground nuts, spices, and seeds. Stir in the 4 cups of stock.

Finally, stir in the unsweetened chocolate.

Reduce the heat to simmer and cook the mixture for 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until it is smooth and glossy. It will still have texture, and will be thick.

Makes 2 quarts molé

PREPARING THE PAVO (TURKEY)
1 turkey breast (6-8 pound)
juice from one lime
salt
black pepper

Rub the inside and exterior of the turkey breast with lime juice. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
Brown the breast on both sides in a Dutch oven set on medium heat. This will take several minutes—6-8 minutes per side. Add a cup of water (or stock.) Cover and reduce the heat to low.
Braise the bird for about an hour. When done, remove the breast and let it sit, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Remove the skin and pull the breast meat, in lobes, from the carcass.

ASSEMBLY
Place a base of mole, like a thick blanket, over the surface of a serving platter.
Slice the turkey breast and place the pieces on to the blanket of sauce.
Add more sauce over the top.
Garnish with sesame seeds and slices of fresh lime, if you like.

Serves 10-12 generously

DSC_0028

Posted in Gluten Free, Meats/Poultry, Recipes, Sauces | 17 Comments »




September 25th, 2013

Crepes and the Cover

DSC_0017

A leftover shank of baked ham and looming potluck dinner: this was my dilemma, my quandary, my challenge last week.

Surely the two could intersect–one should be able to be used in some fashion to satisfy the need of other.

But, what to make?
Deviled Ham Salad? Big Ham Biscuits? A creamy ham and mac-cheese casserole?

None of those seemed very exciting.
What would you make? I asked a friend.
A shrug, and
What was I doing with a big leftover bone-in baked ham anyway,
was her response.

I would have to try another method.
Sometimes you have to plant the notion or request in your mind and let it go. Wait and see what might come up to inspire you.

DSC_0021

It took about a day, but for whatever reason while on an errand driving across town, a pleasant memory from almost 10 years ago bubbled up:

I was with Bill and my daughter in Paris. We had strolled the Luxembourg Gardens early one morning and were ravenous. Our meander led us down a narrow street with a row of vendors—Look, Crepes!

We watched greedily as the creperie chef combed the batter over the special griddle, deftly flipping the great thin round when the edges became golden and crispy, then splashing it with melted citrus butter, a rapid fold and shower of powdered sugar, and Voila!

Madeleine got one with fresh bananas. Bill’s had egg and cheese. And mine….

Ham.

There, it is called a complete–a buckwheat flour crepe filled with ham, gruyere, and egg. Absolutely luscious, and substantial enough to sate a powerful hunger.

My potluck plan was set in motion.

DSC_0007

The versatility—and ease—-of crepes is what makes them so appealing. The batter can be whipped up in minutes. The impossibly thin pancakes can be swirled and flipped in a small skillet–and stacked until ready to fill. And the fillings?

All manner of savory and sweet.

With sweet crepes, I’ll put a little sugar into the batter. With savory crepes, a combination of flours–all-purpose and buckwheat is nice. I didn’t have any buckwheat flour, but today’s crepe batter uses buttermilk to give it distinctive tang.

DSC_0011

I made the batter early in the morning. In the afternoon, I began The Cook. It didn’t take long to pour, swirl, and flip. The crepes were thin and elastic, yet golden. Filling them with ham, cheese, and spinach-artichoke was like assembly-line work–a nice rhythm or repetition.

DSC_0012

I decided to make a mornay sauce to bake onto the crepes in the casserole dish. This would add an enriching element, while keeping the crepes moist in the oven.

For other splendid crepe ideas and recipes, check out Cooking Light’s page here:

Oh, and here’s Why I had that big leftover Ham.

The Cookbook Cover! We are now at the stage of shooting the images for the Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook.

On our first day, we (I say we, because I helped the team–photographer, food stylist, art director, editor—by making the dishes) shot the cover–a cool overhead of a potluck feast–along with 8 interiors. We have many more to go. I will keep you posted as the process unfolds—and I have something to show you.

DSC_0019

BUTTERMILK CREPE BATTER
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons melted butter combined with
1 tablespoon olive oil

You can make the batter in a blender or food processor. I have found that this is the simplest way to achieve that smooth-smooth mixture that resembles heavy cream. The batter also should be made up ahead of time and allowed to rest–at least an hour, and up to overnight, covered and refrigerated.

I used a 6″ stainless steel skillet—easy to handle. I like the small size of the crepes for filling and serving. I think you will, too.

Place the flour, eggs, buttermilk, water, and salt into the blender or processor. Mix until well-combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl. Pour in melted and slightly cooled butter and continue to process. The mixture will be thinner than traditional pancake batter–but will coat the back of a spoon like cream. Cover and let the mixture rest for a minimum of an hour.

Heat the skillet on medium. Brush it with the butter-oil mixture. Pour approximately 2 tablespoons of batter into the skillet, tilting and swirling the skillet to move the batter as it covers the surface. In a minute, the edges of the crepe will become golden–time to flip. The other side cooks–browns–in half the time of the first side. Remove the crepe to a plate or platter, and continue the process.

You don’t need to brush the skillet with the butter-oil mixture each time—every 2-3 times works fine.

Makes 16-20 6″ crepes

HAM-SPINACH-ARTICHOKE FILLING
1 tablespoon soft butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lb. fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
pinch of salt and cayenne
1 lb. thinly sliced ham
1/4 cup coarse grain mustard
1 cup shredded parmesan
1 cup shredded gruyere

Coat a baking dish or casserole with butter.

Place a large skillet on medium heat. Add the olive oil. Then, mound the spinach into the skillet. Stir, as the leaves collapse. Sprinkle in the minced garlic pieces and cook for a minute. Add the artichoke hearts and stir-fry them into the spinach mixture. Season with a pinch or two of salt and cayenne. Remove from heat.

Lay the crepe rounds out onto the work counter in rows. Cover half of the crepe with slices of ham, dab of mustard, tablespoon or 2 of spianch-artichoke mixture, and a sprinkle of the cheeses. Beginning with the ham side, roll the crepes and place them into the casserole dish(es).

When you are ready to bake and serve them, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the Gruyere Mornay sauce over the crepes. Sprinkle extra cheese, if you like, or dot the surface with strips of sundried tomatoes or sage leaves.
Place in the oven and bake until bubbly–25-30 minutes. Serve

GRUYERE MORNAY SAUCE
3 tablespoons butter
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded Gruyere
salt
white pepper
sundried tomatoes or fresh sage leaves (optional)

Place a 2 quart saucepan on medium heat. Melt the butter, then stir in the green onions, cooking to soften–about 1 minute. Stir in the flour, allowing it to coat the green onions, absorb the butter, and make a light roux. Stir constantly, and don’t let the flour brown.
Pour in the milk. Stir-stir-stir! Over the next 10 minutes, the mixture will thicken. When it comes to a simmer, stir in the cheese and remove from heat. Stir until the cheese is melted throughout and incorporated into the sauce. Season with salt and white pepper.

DSC_0001

Food-stylist Teresa Blackburn at work on set at photographer Mark Boughton’s studio. At this time, we were working on placement of dishes to fit within the format of the book.

DSC_0003

This does little justice to the final image that Mark captured–but gives a peek at the process.

Posted in Breakfast, Casseroles, Egg/Cheese Dishes, Recipes | 26 Comments »