As much as I love vegetables (and I do), I admit there’s no better way to eat them than when they’re bubbling in hot cream and covered in melted cheese. Vegetables have for so long been the healthy thing that has to fill that corner of your plate to make a meal wholesome. When they’re decadent, the meal takes on a special kind of indulgence.
I love cauliflower gratin, and this is my streamlined broccoli version. Baking the vegetables in crème fraîche, which doesn’t separate in the heat of the oven, means you don’t have to bother making a béchamel. The crème fraîche melts, and the cheese melts into it, without separating, so you have all the function of a béchamel, without the bother, and the whole gratin comes out lighter. Simply toss blanched broccoli with créme fraîche and grated Gruyère, then top it with more cheese and panko. The sauce pools and melts and cooks inside the little florets of the broccoli, and the top gets gooey and crispy. I could sit down and eat a whole plate of it myself. You may want to double the recipe–especially if I’m invited!
serves 2 to 4
4 cups broccoli florets
1/3 cup crème fraîche
1 cup grated Gruyère
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons panko
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Blanch the broccoli in salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain.
Toss the broccoli with the cream fraîche, three quarters of the cheese, and salt and pepper. Spoon the broccoli mixture into a greased baking dish. Top with the panko, and the remaining cheese. Bake until the top is golden and bubbling—30 to 35 minutes.
I recently contributed to a few pieces to MyRecipes.com, the website for magazines like Real Simple, Cooking Light, Southern Living, Sunset, and Health. When asked what my pick was for “the flavor you’ve got to have right now,” I chose my recent favorite Ginger Jam. Click here for the piece, and be sure to try these delicious Asian-inspired ginger oven ribs. Continue reading …
I was recently in my favorite restaurant in Paris, when I looked down and noticed something on the menu that I hadn’t before. Not that it wasn’t there; I just hadn’t noticed it. The Tuna Niçoise salad was labeled, “à ma façon,” which means, my way. Tuna salad, my way. And as it came out again, for the many-eth time, I realized, it was quirky and idiosyncratic and most certainly done to someone’s particulars. In truth, “my way” is a term I’ve seen quite a few time on French menus, to beg pardon or give warning that something classic might come out slightly artsy—read: better. Frank Sinatra would be beaming with pride.
Niçoise à Ma Façon
This sandwich is Croque Monsieur, my way. On that same trip, I ordered a croque monsieur just before I left. It was a far cry from the usual open-faced broiled ham-cheese-and-béchamel that it’s “supposed” to be. Instead, it was two different petite sandwiches, crusts trimmed, the sandwiches cut into dainty tea triangles. One set was stuffed with Jambon de Bayonne, similar to prosciutto, and Rebluchon cheese, the other with Paris ham and Comté. So, I can’t feel too bad about doing it my, distinctly American way: a grilled cheese sandwich, filled with smoky ham, a Dijon béchamel, a mix of Gruyère and sharp white cheddar, and window-pane slices of crisp apple. I like it my way. It’s my way or the highway, as I see it.
Paris Croque Monsieurs
Apple and Cheddar Croque Monsieurs
½ tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the bread, room temperature
½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
4 slices white bread
4 thin slices Black Forest ham
½ Gala apple, thinly sliced
In a small saucepot, melt ½ tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the flour, and whisk together. Cook for 1 minute. Add the milk, and whisk to combine. Heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, or until the soft coats a spoon. Add the mustard, and one quarter of the cheddar and Gruyère. Whisk to melt.
Butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread the cheese sauce on the other side of each slice of bread. Divide the cheese between the bread slices, on top of the cheese sauce. Then, divide the ham and apple between the slices of bread. Then, sandwich the croque monsieurs together. Grill the sandwich in a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook until the bread is golden bread, and the cheese melted. Flip over, and do the same on the other side. Serve immediately.
One of my favorite magazines, French Glamour, is holding a recipe contest. The winner gets her recipe on the menu of a famous Paris restaurant for one day, and gets the recipe printed in the magazine! I’ve entered my Noix de Saint-Jacques Gratinées à la Persillade, or Garlic and Parsley Gratin-ed Scallops. They’re extremely easy, and they taste so good. I mean, scallops, butter, garlic, parsley, and panko. How could that not be good?
Click “Je Vote!” A box will pop up. Enter your email address.
Check your email. Open the email from Glamour.com, and click on the 2nd link in the email.
Here’s the recipe in English for you!
Noix de Saint-Jacques Gratinées à la Persillade
4 large cloves garlic
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
8 U-10 sea scallops, halved horizontally
Fine sea salt
¼ cup panko
Preheat the broiler.
In a mini food processor, whiz the garlic to smithereens. Add the parsley, whizzing to break it up even more. Then add the butter, and whiz to incorporate.
Lightly spray 4 individual gratin dishes with cooking spray. Lay 4 scallop halves in a single layer in each dish. Season with salt. Place the 4 dishes on a rimmed baking sheet. Top with one quarter of the butter mixture per dish, then top with one quarter of the panko. Broil 10 to 12 minutes, until the scallops are opaque and the panko is golden. Serve immediately with warm, crusty bread.
Nothing irks me more than the neglected vegetable. It’s abusive–to the vegetable, for one, and to you, because you’re either missing out on your vegetables altogether, or eating ones that taste like mush. Neither is acceptable.
I was vegetarian for twelve years, so I get a special thrill when I see vegetables done right. Creamed leeks is not exactly something new in France, but it was new to me when I first had a bed of them underneath a simply sautéed fillet of fish.
The dish is simple: sliced leeks are sautéed down in a little bit of butter until they are soft, and sweet. Then, I add cream and a dash of Parmesan (my addition to tradition). The cream creates that texture that binds all the leeks together, and has that same savory-sweetness of the leeks themselves. The Parmesan adds that punch of salt to wake it all up. It’s so simple, but decadent. And it goes perfectly with everything–under fish, seared chicken breasts, even sliced steak. Why gild the lily?
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large leeks, washed, and thinly sliced
1/4 cup water
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan
In a nonstick sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and water, season with salt and pepper, cover, and reduce heat to low, cooking until the leeks are soft—10 minutes. Stir in the cream and Parmesan, and serve.
There is no denying that there’s something about pasta after a long day. It’s done in ten minutes, and it fills you up in more ways than one. There’s something undeniably comforting a too-big bowl of something warm and simple. This is my healthed-up version of the Italian classic cacio e pepe, which I believe translates to Pecorino and black pepper. Although, really, what’s in a name? As long as it tastes good.
The traditional version is made with bavette, kind of like linguine, tossed with Pecorino cheese, and butter, and lots of black pepper. I used multigrain spaghetti (love Barilla Plus), and add chopped baby arugula. Both of them add nutrition, but also texture, and great flavor. I actually prefer this dish with the whole grain pasta. Its nuttiness goes with the cheese and pepper so perfectly. The whole thing takes 10 minutes, and one pot. You don’t even have to cook the sauce. It’s that easy.
And then you have a big bowl of pasta to bury yourself in. Warning: it might take even less time to eat than to make.
Multigrain Cacio e Pepe
½ pound multigrain spaghetti or linguine
1 cup finely grated Pecorino
2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
1 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1 cup baby arugula, roughly copped
2 tablespoons reserved pasta water
Bring a large pot of water to boil, and salt the water. Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
In a large bowl, mash together cheese, butter, and black pepper. Add the arugula, and the hot pasta and pasta water. Toss together, and serve.