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Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

Braised Leeks

I actually made this dish ages ago. Like in February. But I’m posting it because it is delicious and I’m not sure how it fell through the cracks. And also because my grand plans for fava beans went bust. Yes, that is fava beans as in fava beans and a nice chianti. (As an aside, that movie haunts my dreams. Who lets fourth graders at a sleep over watch that??) But unfortunately I ruined them with some bitter orange zest. Which is a shame, because fava beans photograph beautifully – I took some glorious photos and they are going to live on in a future fava beans post. But it is leeks for today!

Leeks and shallots really just seem to go together. It is one of those classic pairings that just scream French food and Julia Child to me. This is a great simple side dish that could compliment any chicken dish or stand alone, perhaps with a poached egg and hunk of baguette. I think it also would be great dressed up with a dollop of sharp mustard mixed into the shallots and some panko bread crumbs on top. I love simple recipes like this because they are great bases on which you can build more complicated variations.

My only tip for this recipe is to carefully clean the leeks! I’ve included specific directions in the recipe text. The first time I made this dish, I was in a serious rush and I didn’t clean the leeks fully. Things were a little gritty, which is not exactly the texture I was going for.

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Puff pastry is back! I eased up on it after my puff pastry filled beginning of the year, but I still had some in the freezer and it was calling to me. It was saying it felt unloved after all this time. And so, here we are again. I learned a new tip for puff pastry this time around. For once, I thought ahead and defrosted the puff pastry ahead of time. However, it should be noted, you should really unfold the puff pastry while it is defrosting. Not only does it speed up the defrosting, then the folds don’t stick to each other. I had a truly interesting time trying to un-stick the pieces to each other!

I only recently started to like asparagus (am still trying to broaden my veggie horizons). Like any weird person, I prefer the stalks. I really like my veggies crunchy and all that fiber makes me feel extra veggie virtuous. But, yes I am aware that the tips are supposed to be the best part. Really though, any vegetable tastes awesome on a bed of goat cheese on puff pastry. Maybe even broccoli rabe. (Which, frankly, blech to! So bitter! Is this an acquired taste I am missing or what? How do people eat that?)

So yes, this recipe. Delicious. Easy. Elegant. Everything looks better in tart form. That is the motto of my cooking. And also, puff pastry makes everything better.

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This. Is The. Perfect. Potatoes. Au. Gratin. Recipe. Perfect, perfect, perfect. It tastes like the au gratin you always wanted to make, but somehow always fell short. The cheese combination is wonderful, the potatoes taste creamy, but not dense and heavy and the secret ingredient of chicken broth gives everything a wonderful flavor. Perfect.

However, part of the perfection of this recipe using a mandolin. Thinly, evenly sliced potatoes are a must for au gratins and my knife skills are really subpar. I debated whether I should buy one for awhile because, frankly, they make me nervous. I am constantly burning or cutting myself as it is, so did I really want to step it up to a potentially really dangerous item? The answer is yes, as the mandolin made potato slicing a dream. So thin! So precise! And somehow, not very dangerous. I made the decision to just give up on the very ends of the potatoes and not try to slice every single bit and this probably saved my poor fingers.

There is a tremendous range on mandolins and some are truly, astoundingly expensive. I bought this one, because seemed like a good compromise between insane and too cheap. At the Williams Sonoma Outlet it was significantly less money.

But enough about mandolins, back to the important thing here: the recipe. Russets are a must here, do not substitute Yukon golds or red potatoes, as they are not starchy enough for a solid gratin. And don’t rinse the potatoes, that rinses off the starch! I’ve never made anything from America’s Test Kitchen and now I can’t wait to make as many recipes from them as possible. I love the little articles that accompany the recipes about what they tried and what didn’t work. It is like Recipe Thunderdome, dozens of recipes enter, only one leaves. And this recipe is a definite winner. (Cheesy, I know. But it had do be done).

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To be honest, I have never really eaten squash until this winter. I know the amount of butternut squash recipes on this site would suggest otherwise, but it’s true! My mom never made squash, I generally avoided anything healthy in college and the weather in New Orleans never really lent itself to squash eating, as I very much associate it with cold winters (though I hear things are verrrry different this year!). I don’t know what shifted, but moving back to the Northeast has really encouraged my squash consumption.

This is probably the first time I’ve tried spaghetti squash and I really liked it! Eating it made me feel very earthy and healthy. The spice combination is Moroccan and it is very flavorful. This is the exact sort of dish that you try the first bit and think, hmmmm, interesting and then keep taking bite after bite, until it is all gone. The spice combination is very addicting! Like the best of Gourmet recipes, it is simple, yet delicious.

P.S. How cute are my new pinch bowls? I love them, so they will be making many appearances on the site from now on!

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Potato Latkes

Happy Hanukkah!

Recently, there have been all these recipes for “healthy latkes” or “foodie latkes” involving zucchini, oats, spaghetti squash and other blasphemous ingredients. This is unacceptable. Latkes should be as simple as possible. My only concession to these ridiculous trends is including apples. Which isn’t even that much of a concession, as much as a compliment to the apple sauce.

But whatever latke recipe you follow, the most important thing is to eliminate as much water as possible from the potatoes. I used paper towels, but next year I might invest in a cheesecloth, as I have heard very good things about their wringing qualities. The next important thing is to use a cast iron pan. Sadly, I did not and I missed it. Cast iron is perfect for frying, it really retains heat and browns the latkes perfectly. But it is possible to make perfectly delicious latkes in a regular non stick pan.

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Roasted Garlic Potatoes

I cannot resist roasted garlic. Or roasted potatoes. Basically this was my kryptonite. The smell was out of this world. This is essentially the perfect potatoes side dish. Simple, delicious and goes with anything. I could write more, but this is roasted garlic we’re talking about. You should need no convincing.

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This recipe has been everywhere recently! It is from the new Thomas Keller cookbook and every review of the book mentions it. When he was on Martha, he made it. I love that suddenly leeks seem to be very popular – next to squash, they are my new favorite ingredient!

This, as to be expected, is a little complicated. I actually toasted the brioche bread cubes (more like over toasted them). I highly recommend buying already made ones, as it would greatly simplify things. The flavor of the pudding is initially a bit disappointing (it is delicious – this is a Thomas Keller recipe- but after the time involved, I had unrealistic expectations), but it just gets better and better as the flavors really meld together. After two days in the fridge, the leeks taste even more leek-y if that is possible. In short, a great leftovers recipe!

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