Lisa’s Au Gratin Potatoes

Au Gratin Potatoes

Chicago has been experiencing bitter cold for the last couple of weeks. But that hasn’t stopped my husband and me from taking long walks. If you know how to dress properly, it can be rather invigorating and I’ll take it over the heavy snow that hit the East coast of the United States last week. The extreme cold, however, does make things very dry despite the use of humidifiers and lotions, so during this weather I allow my cooking to be a bit heavier on fats. This recipe (really more of a guideline than a hard and fast recipe) is pure comfort food. It’s fairly pliable, adapting well to personal tastes and ingredients on hand. Next time I might add some chopped chives and skip the prosciutto. Here is my version.

Lisa’s Au Gratin Potatoes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

5-7 medium Yukon Gold potatoes

3-4 ounces prosciutto, cut into large dice and crisped in a frying pan (You can use bacon, if you prefer. This is what I had on hand and it’s also less fatty than bacon.)

8 ounces extra sharp cheddar, grated

1/4 cup grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese

About 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1.75 cups of skim milk (You can use whole if you prefer or part skim and part half & half)

2 large eggs

2-3 Tablespoons butter (I used garlic butter because I had Amish garlic butter that we received as a gift from Frances’ parents.)

2 Tablespoons Panko bread crumbs

Hungarian Paprika

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter an oval or rectangular pan with 2-inch sides. I like my heavy Le Creuset oval gratin pan, but a glass pan will work as well. The pan should be big enough to fit the all of the ingredients. If you are making this for a crowd, you will need a bigger pan.
  2. In a large pot, cover the potatoes with 2-3 inches of water. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 8 minutes. Remove the potatoes after 8 minutes and run under cold water to stop the cooking. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them about 1/4 inch thick. (I leave on the skins unless the skin starts to come off. In that case, just peel that extra skin away.) 
  3. Line the buttered pan with the potato slices, over-lapping them slightly. After you have one layer of potatoes, take half of the crisped prosciutto and scatter it across the top of the potatoes. Do the same with half of the cheese mixture. Repeat this entire process with one more layer.
  4. Mix the eggs with the milk and add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk to mix well. Pour the mixture over the potatoes. Sprinkle the top with the Panko bread crumbs and the paprika. Dot the top with more butter. Au Gratin Potatoes3
  5. Place the pan, uncovered in the oven and bake for about an hour. This can be made ahead and loosely covered. When you are ready to serve, uncover the pan and place it in a 350 degree F oven for about 10-15 minutes. Ovens vary but you want the top looking browned and crispy and the potatoes to be tender. Au Gratin Potatoes2

 

 

 

Punjabi Chana Dal

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According to WikipediaCultural appropriation is a concept in sociology, dealing with the adoption of the elements of one culture by members of another culture.[1] Cultural appropriation, often framed as cultural misappropriation, is sometimes portrayed as harmful and is claimed to be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating culture. This is a hot-button issue these days, particularly on college campuses. While I generally try to stay away from terribly controversial topics in this blog, I want to say that especially where food is concerned, this is complete bollocks. If I were limited to cooking and eating foods which were theoretically only within my cultural competency, I would likely die of boredom or worse. So I say “guilty as charged” that when it comes to food – and jewelry – I practice cultural appropriation and am proud of it.

This dish is a wonderful example of a basically humble food (the chickpea) that is elevated to an incredibly flavorful and satisfying dish. It is eaten as a snack by itself or with Basmati rice as part of a meal. If you are vegetarian, just add a vegetable dish and if you are an omnivore, it is wonderful with grilled meats or chicken. It can be garnished with a dollop of yogurt or eaten as is. This dish is not vegan because traditionally it is made with ghee (clarified butter), which is how I make it, however, if you wished to keep it vegan, using a neutral-flavored vegetable oil should work. It can be made ahead and gently reheated when you are ready to serve it.

Punjabi Chana Dal from the Flavors of India by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff and tweaked by me   

Yield: 6 servings, although if I’m eating it the recipe only serves 3!

Ingredients

1 cup whole dried chana (chickpeas or garbanzo beans) The chana is a little smaller and softer than the garbanzo, but either would work.

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt

2 Tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)

1/2 cup peeled onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger (I use the stuff in a jar)

1/4 teaspoon each: garam masala, ground turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste (optional)

Juice of one lemon or more, to taste

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional garnish)

Directions

  1. Soak the chana overnight in 3 cups of water.
  2. When the chana has finished soaking, drain and rinse them. Place 4 cups of water in a 4 quart pot and bring to a boil, adding 1 teaspoon of the salt. When the water has come to a full boil, add the drained chana. Allow the water to return to the boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook the chana for 45 minutes.
  3. Drain the chana into a colander over a bowl. You will be using some of the reserved liquid later.
  4. Place the ghee in a large frying pan with a lid over low heat. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and stir until the onions just begin to brown. Then add your spices and the additional 1/2 teaspoon of salt and stir through for about 1 minute. Now add the well-drained chana and mix through the spices and onion mixture. Saute for 7 minutes. The smell will drive you crazy – it is sooooooooooooo good.
  5. Now add 1.5 cups of the reserved chana cooking liquid. Stir through. Raise the temperature to high to bring the mixture to a full boil. Cook uncovered for 2 minutes.  Punjabi chana4 
  6. Now cover the pan, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes. Most of the cooking liquid should have been absorbed and the chana are tender but not mushy. [I have never had to add more liquid or cook the chana for longer, but depending on the chickpeas that you used it could take a bit longer to cook. If necessary, add a few more tablespoons of the reserved liquid and cook for another 10 minutes to get the chana to the right consistency.]  Punjabi chana8
  7. Add the fresh lemon juice and enjoy.Punjabi chana5

Holiday Coleslaw

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I could make the same thing every Thanksgiving and no one in my family would complain. But I would be unhappy and bored. So each year I try to keep all of the favorites but I then add some new element. Occasionally, like this year, one of the new things fails and ends up in the garbage before it ever makes it to my holiday table. However, I also had three successes and they are foods that would be delicious anytime. This is the first of those items and with the availability of pre-shredded slaw, it is a snap to put together. I used a colorful mix of kale, Brussel sprouts, carrots and cabbage which held up beautifully so that even with some left-overs, I could enjoy it a day later. While it added that satisfying crunch and lightness to my holiday meal, this slaw would be equally good with burgers (veggie or otherwise) or grilled meat, chicken or fish.

Holiday Slaw from kitchn and tweaked by me

Yield: 10-12 servings

Ingredients

For dressing

1/3 cup EVOO

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard (I used a wonderful walnut Dijon mustard)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 of a medium red onion, finely chopped

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

For the salad

Two 14 ounce bags of mixed slaw or about 2.5 pounds of green cabbage, shredded (about 10 cups)

3/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

3/4 cup dried cranberries

One bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Directions

  1. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together. I made this the night before and refrigerated it. Make it at least 30 minutes before to allow the flavors to meld properly.
  2. Put all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing. This can be tossed at least two hours ahead and should be tossed at least 30 minutes before serving for optimal taste.

 

 

 

Red Lentils with Ginger

Red Lentils with Ginger1

I am watching so many Indian movies these days, that now when I see an American show it sounds strange to my ears. I have become a big fan of the classic style Bollywood film, but also have seen many of the newer films like Dangal, Neerja, and Pink, which have little to no dancing but a very strong story, especially about woman power. Having always enjoyed Indian food, these movies are only making my cravings more immediate. Dal is a staple in the Indian diet whether you are a vegetarian or a meat-eater. If you have never eaten dal before – or even if you have – this recipe will make you a believer. It is a wonderful side dish or can become more of a main course served with rice and other vegetarian dishes.

Red Lentils with Ginger from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 4-5 servings

Ingredients

3 large cloves of garlic, crushed in a garlic press

1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger (Make your life easier and buy this already prepared in a jar.)

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 Tablespoons EVOO or Canola oil

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

1 cup finely diced tomatoes (I actually used canned this time and it was wonderful)

1 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained (skinless masoor dal – these are split red lentils and are readily available in Indian markets and online)

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (optional, but I used it)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Mix together the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, cayenne and turmeric.
  2. Pour the oil into a wide pan (I used a 10-inch pan with 3-inch sides and a lid) and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, put in the onions and fry until the edges begin to turn golden.
  3. Add the spice mixture and stir for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan. If you are using canned tomatoes, cook for about 2 minutes. If using fresh tomatoes, cook until the tomatoes have softened.
  4. Add the red lentils and 3.75 cups of water and the salt. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cover the pan partially and reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  IMG_3988
  5. After 45 minutes, add the butter, if using and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped cilantro and serve.

 

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Bismati Pullao

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This Bismati pilaf would be a delicious accompaniment to many Indian meals or a side for grilled meat or fish. I used it to accompany Kashmiri Spiced Lamb (See previous recipe).

Bismati Pullao from Ismail Merchant’s Indian Cuisine

Yield: 4-6 servings (Can be doubled)

Ingredients

1.5 cups Basmati rice

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

2-inch piece of cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

1 bay leaf, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads

1/2 cup raw cashews (or pistachios)

1/2 cup seedless golden raisins

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Soak the rice in cold water to cover for about 30 minutes. Then drain well through a sieve.
  2. Heat the oil or ghee in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the onions and saute until the onion becomes translucent and softens. Add the well-drained rice, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, saffron, cashews and raisins and stir for 2 minutes, coating everything with the onions and oil or ghee.  IMG_3567
  3. Add 3 cups of cold water to the pot along with the salt. Bring to a boil, cover tightly and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the rice is tender and fluffy and all of the water is absorbed. (The cooking time will depend on the brand of rice and how long it soaked prior to cooking.) Stir through with a fork and serve.

 

 

Cauliflower and Peas (Ghobi Aur Matar)

Cauliflower and Edamame

I served this dish as a side to my Goan chicken (See previous recipe), but it would also be delicious over rice as part of a vegetarian or vegan meal. While it is traditionally made with peas, the fresh edamame looked so good at the store that I used them instead. This recipe came from a wonderful vegetarian Hindu cookbook that I have had for years called the Flavors of India.

Cauliflower and Peas (Ghobi Aur Matar) from the Flavors of India by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

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Ingredients

1 large cauliflower

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Kosher salt to taste

2 cups fresh or frozen, defrosted peas or edamame

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/3 cup of water

Juice of 1/2 large lemon

Directions

  1. Separate the cauliflower into smallish florets.
  2. In a frying pan or wok, place the cumin and mustard seeds in the oil over a moderate flame. When the seeds have all started to pop, add the cauliflower, turmeric and salt. IMG_3424
  3. Saute for about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook covered for 3-5 minutes more. IMG_3428
  4. Uncover the pan and add the peas or edamame and the remaining spices. Mix well. Add the water, cover and cook for about 5-10 minutes more, depending on how tender you like your cauliflower. I tend to like my vegetables firm.
  5. Add the lemon juice, mix through and serve.

Radish Slaw with Remoulade and Pistachios

Looking for a light, refreshing summer salad? This the answer to any steak or other rich, red meat dish that needs a zesty sidekick (though this also went very nicely with salmon).screen-shot-2017-06-03-at-8-57-20-pm-e1496538875297.pngWe made this originally to pair with our steak with corn salsa, and then quickly realized it went well with an assortment main meats.

Ingredients

Remoulade

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1.5 tbsp coarse grain mustard
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of EVOO
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp minced chives
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 2 tbsp cornichons
  • 1/2 tsp liquid from canned chipotles in adobo sauce (optional but if you have the chipotles from the steak recipe then why not?)

—–

  • 1 large daikon radish, about 8 oz, peeled and dice
  • 1 bunch red radishes, sliced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
  • (optional but good if you’re repurposing leftovers) handful of mixed greens

Directions

  1. Place the egg in boiling water for 90 seconds using a slotted spoon.
  2. Take the egg out of the water, let it cool slightly. Tap the top of the egg to peel of the top of the shell and using a small tsp, carve out the egg from the shell (think of it as a flash soft boiled egg). Add to a food processor.
  3. Add the lemon juice, mustard, salt and the pepper and pulse or blend. With the motor running, add the olive oil until it is emulsified.
  4. Add the tomato paste, parsley, chives, capers, cornichons and the chili liquid and keep processing until well mixed.
  5. Separately, combine the radishes and celery in a large bowl. Add about 1/2 cup of the remoulade to coat completely and mix. (Save the remaining remoulade for seafood dishes or sandwich condiment. We still haven’t figure out what to do with our leftovers quite yet. Mainly because we forgot about it.)
  6. After mixing thoroughly, refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  7. Prior to serving, add the pistachios and mix.

Adapted from the Wine Lover’s Cookbook.

Red Cabbage Lime Cilantro Cole Slaw

Red Cabbage Lime Cilantro Cole Slaw

So I had half of head of red cabbage leftover from my red cabbage, goat cheese and walnut salad and hated for it to go to waste. I was making some lovely grilled trout and corn on the cob for dinner and thought about what would go well alongside that would be fast, easy and didn’t require any ingredients that weren’t already in my fridge. I was able to throw this together in minutes in the morning and left it covered on my counter until dinner. I hadn’t planned on blogging about this since it seemed almost too simple. But when my husband saw how beautiful it looked he decided to take a photo. And then of course, it tasted great. So especially now that it is officially barbecue season, this is one side that goes with just about any grilled meat or fish. I don’t actually have a grill, but broiled or oven roasted foods work well too. The amounts are a guideline and can easily be doubled or tripled.

Red Cabbage Lime Cilantro Cole Slaw 

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1/2 small head of red cabbage, cored and sliced thinly

1 medium carrot, peeled and grated with the large grate (or if you are REALLY lazy, you could use the bought julienned carrots)

Juice of 2 fresh limes

4 Tablespoons EVOO (I used a Meyer Lemon EVOO but you could use just a good quality plain EVOO)

1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 small bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped

freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

Toss everything in a non-reactive bowl and cover for a few hours, tossing when you think of it.

Fruit Compote

img_2741I don’t know if it is because my parents are both now dead or if it is because the world seems like such an unsettled place these days – or simply because it is winter – but I seem to be turning more and more to simple comfort foods. I’m sure you noticed that I did not say because I am getting older! While it may seem strange, I have never been what I term a “foodie.” I have not been terribly interested in fads and eating at fancy restaurants where they mist my food in front of my nose and call it dinner. That is no place that I want to eat. I may enjoy the artistry involved in some of these creations, but it is not how I would choose to spend my money or tickle my palate.

I have been making this fruit compote for as long as I can remember and my mother made it before that. I have no idea where the recipe, such as it is, came from. It is simple to make and wonderfully versatile. It is equally good on its own as it is over a good pound cake and I have used it to stuff Rock Cornish Hens or loin of pork. It lasts a very long time in the fridge and every time I eat it, I recall my father teasing my mother about serving “ein bisschen com-putt.”

There is no magic mixture of fruit to use and you can buy packages of mixed fruit. I would recommend buying really good quality dried fruit, preferably unsulphured. I usually make sure that I have dried apples, pears, apricots or peaches, prunes and figs, but I will use what I happen to have around as I have done this time because I am too lazy to go shopping. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. This can be enjoyed warm, at room temperature or even cold from the fridge over vanilla ice cream. This humble dish will definitely brighten these dark days. Tomorrow I will post an orange currant pound cake to go well with this.

Fruit Compote

Yield: About 10 servings

Ingredients

1.5 pound of mixed dried fruits

3 cups of cold tap water

3 fat cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon of whole cloves

1.5 cups of granulated sugar

2 or 3 thinly sliced strips of lemon peel, yellow part only

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Directions

  1. Soak the dried fruit in the water for 3 hours
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F
  3. Drain the liquid through a sieve into a saucepan and arrange the fruit in a non-metal baking dish
  4. Add the sugar to the water and cook the mixture on medium high heat for a few minutes, stirring until the sugar is dissolved
  5. Place the cinnamon sticks, cloves and lemon peel in with the fruit. Pour the sugar syrup over everything
  6. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes to one hour or until the fruit is plump and tender. How firm you want your fruit is a matter of personal taste
  7. Squeeze the lemon juice over the fruit and allow it to cool. I like to store mine in a glass jar.

 

 

Harissa and Maple Roasted Carrots

img_2531Sunday was the unveiling of my mother’s gravestone and since family was in for the ceremony, we decided to host a pre-thanksgiving dinner. I took advantage of the opportunity to make some things that were not my traditional thanksgiving fare. I found this recipe for carrots that sounded incredibly easy and were also attractive. While I won’t be making them this thanksgiving, you easily could.

Harissa and Maple Roasted Carrots from Bon Appetit, November 2014 by Alison Roman

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup EVOO

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 Tablespoon red harissa paste

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

2.5 pounds, rainbow carrots, peeled, trimmed, cut in half and split

1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Whisk garlic, EVOO, maple syrup,harissa , cumin seed, slat and pepper together. Pour over the carrots and sliced lemon and mix through.
  3. Place in a roasting pan and roast for 40 to 45 minutes r until the carrots are tender and the lemons are caramelized.

Note: This can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead. Allow to cool, cover and keep at room temperature. Just before you are ready to serve, warm the carrots in a 225 degree F oven until warmed through. img_2534