Wow, it sure got chilly this week. Perfect weather for a side dish like a potato gratin. I am catering a surprise birthday party for an octogenarian tomorrow and this family wanted something warm, comforting and old fashioned for a side dish with beef. This recipe is not only easy, it's delicious. I think they are going to love this!
Caramelized Onion-Potato Gratin
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 T good olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
2 lbs russet potatoes (4 large potatoes)
2 1/4 c heavy cream, separated
2 1/2 c grated Gruyère cheese (1/2 pound) (expensive but worth it)
1/2 c Asiago cheese
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
2 T fresh thyme, stripped off the stem
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-by-15-by-2-inch (10-cup) baking dish, set aside. Sauté the onions in the olive oil and butter on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until browned lightly and caramelized. Peel the potatoes and thinly slice them by hand or with a mandoline (one of my favorite kitchen tools). Mix the sliced potatoes in a large bowl with 2 cups of cream, 2 cups of Gruyère, 1/4 c Asiago, salt, and pepper. Add the sautéed onion and mix well. Pour the potatoes into the baking dish. Press down to smooth the potatoes. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup of cream, the rest of the asiago and Gruyère and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, until the potatoes are very tender and the top is browned and bubbly. Allow to set for 10 minutes and serve. Serves 10-12.
Note: Add thinly sliced Black Forest ham and a handful of frozen peas and you have a single dish casserole dinner.
As a caterer, I am often asked to provide dishes that are vegan, vegetarian and/or gluten free. Paired with a gluten free bread or cracker and served with a vegan yogurt (think soy or almond milk) this dip fits the bill for all three. I don't have any dietary restrictions myself, so I often look for ideas in cookbooks, on the internet (blogs like mine) or from friends who cook. I found the idea for this dip from a favorite chef of mine, Yotam Ottolenghi in his cookbook, Plenty More. I might not usually use carrots as the centerpiece for an appetizer, but in this dip, they are magically transformed and taste incredible. The spicy carrots atop the lemon-y garlic yogurt is a perfect, winning combination. I took this dip to my last bocce game and heard nothing but rave reviews!
Smashed Carrots with Lemon-Garlic Yogurt
1 T olive oil, plus extra to finish
1 T unsalted butter
10 large carrots, peeled and cut into slices 3/4" thick
1 c vegetable stock
grated zest of 1 orange
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 t *harissa paste
grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 T lemon juice
1 c Greek yogurt
3 1/2 T shelled, salted or unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
salt and black pepper
Place the olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring often; they need to soften and take on a bit of color. Add the stock, turn down the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook for another 25 minutes, until the carrots are completely soft and there is hardly any liquid left. Transfer the carrots to a food processor, add 3/4 teaspoon salt, and process briefly to form a coarse paste. Leave to cool and then add the orange zest, garlic, harissa, half the lemon zest, and some black pepper. Pulse briefly to combine.
Mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, the remaining lemon zest, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
Spread the yogurt our on a serving platter and spoon the carrot mixture on top. Sprinkle with the pistachios, drizzle with a little olive oil, and serve with the pita chips. Serves 8-10 as an appetizer.
Zaatar Toasted Pitas
1 pkg plain or whole wheat pitas
4 T butter, melted
2 T **Zaatar seasoning
Cut the pitas into 8 triangles then pull apart to make 16. Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with the Zaatar. Bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees.
*Harissa is a North African and Middle Eastern condiment that is made from garlic, cumin, caraway, pounded chili peppers, salt and a dash of olive oil. Pretty much any chili-based hot sauce will work as a substitute.
** Zaatar is available at The Spice Tin in Murphys or by mail order.
I usually make fruit crisps for an easy summer dessert (June 2016) because they are inexpensive and go together quickly, but a cobbler strikes me at my Texas roots with its biscuit-like topping and homey appearance. The topping is "cobbled" rather than smooth; and is generally dropped or spooned on in small clumps over the fruit, allowing bits of the filling to show through. A great ending for a late summer bbq. Just add some homemade ice cream or whipped cream and you're all set! Priscilla, this recipe's for you.
Texas Hill Country Nectarine Cobbler
8 nectarines, pitted and sliced
4 T sugar
3/4 t cornstarch
juice & zest of one lemon
1 t vanilla
pinch of kosher salt
1 1/2 c flour
2 T sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 t baking powder
1 c buttermilk
6 T unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 400°F and set rack to middle position. In a large bowl, combine nectarines with sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice/zest, vanilla and salt. Stir well to combine. Scrape peaches and any juices into an 8- by 8-inch baking dish and set on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake on middle rack for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine all dry ingredients for cobbler crust in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers, to make the texture like coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk and stir to form a soft dough, don't over mix. Drop spoonfuls of biscuit dough all over nectarines, smoothing slightly to avoid any overly thick sections and mostly covering the fruit, return cobbler to oven and cook for 25 minutes more until the biscuit topping is browned and a knife comes out clean when inserted through the top. Let rest at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream on the side.
My favorite fig tree is finally starting to produce! It's a Calmyrna fig, the green ones with the pink insides. Figs are simply amazing. They are beautiful, delicious and versatile. Use them with artisan cheeses on a cheese board, in pancakes, with yogurt and honey, in smoothies, breads, cakes and salsas...there are endless possibilities, but don't wait, the season is short and they'll be gone before you know it. I wanted to use figs in my menu for a dinner party I had the other night, something to go with fresh salmon. I have used a dried fig and olive tapenade on salmon before (from the Jimtown Store) and I thought why not do a fresh version? Here is an easy, fresh fig and olive compote that is sweet, salty and savory. Use it on grilled chicken too!
Fig & Olive Compote
8 fresh figs, Calmyrna or Mission, cut in half from the top and through the center
1 T juice & zest of one lemon
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped
1/2 c oil cured black olives, pitted and cut in half
1 T extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
1 T white or dark balsamic vinegar, more as needed
pinch of sea salt & a grind of black pepper
Mix all together gently. Taste to adjust seasonings, oil and vinegar. Let sit at room temperature for a couple of hours to blend flavors. If not using right away, refrigerate the compote but bring to room temp before serving. Serve along side or on top of grilled fish or chicken. I think this would be great as a sort of chutney, with cheeses too. Serves 8.
Last week I was lucky enough to cook for a group of guys who call themselves the "Dingos". I am still not quite sure where the name came (I never did find out who to ask about the origination) but they were a fun bunch to cook for and they really loved my food. I made them my easy chicken molé along with a fresh corn flan and some grilled summer squash with a pumpkin seed-garlic butter. Typically, molé takes hours to develop the depth of flavor from the spices, but not this recipe, it's SO EASY, really!
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 c chopped onion
1 medium clove of garlic, chopped
1 t New Mexico style chili powder
1/2 t black pepper, kosher salt, cayenne & cinnamon
1/4 t anise seeds
1 T toasted sesame seeds
1/4 toasted. sliced almonds
1/2 c tomato purée
1/2 c chicken stock
3 T semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 lbs, boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1 serrano chile, minced
1/2 c cilantro leaves
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices, sesame seeds and almonds and cook for about a minute. Stir in the tomato purée, stock and chocolate chips. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until flavors develop and the sauce thickens and darkens a bit, about 10 minutes. Purée in a blender, thinning with 1/2 cup of water if necessary, about 30 seconds. Pour 1 cup of molé over the chicken in a bowl and toss to coat. Grill the chicken, turning once, until browned, about 10-12 minutes. Put the chicken on a platter, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, the minced chiles and surround with lime wedges.
Voted Best Caterer for Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties 2016