Cooking this weekend

November 8, 2010 at 2:28 am (AMA, Cruciferous rich, Fall recipes, French, frozen tofu, My brain, Other, Spring recipes, Starches, unrated, Winter recipes)

I don’t have time to post full recipes right now but I wanted to say a few words about what I cooked this weekend, before I forget the details.  I’ll come back and post the recipes when I get a chance.  For dinner last night I started with white bean, rosemary, and fennel soup, which I’ve blogged about before. I also made two new recipes out of my French vegetarian cookbook.  The first was a brussels sprouts dish with apples, onions, and cider, and the second recipe was for a beet and potato gratin.In the brussels sprout dish recipe, the sprouts are pan-sauteed with apples and onions and then simmered briefly in apple cider.  Then you remove the solids and reduce the cider, and finally mix in quite a bit of balsamic vinegar.  I reduced the fat by 50%, because our other dish was quite rich, and I thought it worked fine. However, I screwed the dish up in another way:  I turned off the stove after the sauteing step but before adding the apple cider.  That was a mistake, as the sprouts continued to cook as they sat and by the end were a bit putrid colored and a little too soft.  I also added the vinegar before reducing the cider, so the sauce was more like soup than the glaze I think it’s supposed to be.  The recipe calls for two star anise, but I couldn’t taste them at all.  Despite my mistakes, I quite liked the dish.  Derek wasn’t fond of it (oddly), but I had two guests at dinner who both took seconds.  I’m going to try making it again, following the recipe properly this time!

The second recipe was for a beet and potato gratin.  Derek and I went to a local German restaurant a while back and I got a beet and potato gratin that had walnuts in it.  I really loved the beet and walnut combo, so I decided to try adding walnuts to this French recipe.  The recipe says to steam the beets and potatoes separately, then peel and slice them.  That was a huge pain.  I also don’t like peeling potatoes, as the skin is the best part.  The steaming instructions confused me because they say to steam until tender but then you bake the gratin for another 30 minutes or so.  I was worried that the veggies would get overcooked, so I didn’t let them get totally tender.  That was a mistake, as the beets in the final dish were just a tad undercooked.  Once the veggies are steamed you slice them and then make a layer of beets, a layer of potatoes, and a final layer of beets.  Between the layers you sprinkle salt and pepper, rosemary, small amounts of parmesan and gruyere cheese, and dotted butter.  You then pour a mixture of cream and milk over the whole thing, and top it with bread crumbs and 1 Tbs. dotted butter.  But 1 Tbs. of butter is not enough to cover a 9×13 pan, and the bread crumbs ended up just like dry, sandy breadcrumbs.  Derek said he liked the topping though, despite its dry, sandy quality. He liked the dish a lot, actually.  He kept saying how flavorful it was, and tried to eat all the leftovers for breakfast.  My guests seemed to like it too, and even asked for the recipe.

I added walnuts, and everyone liked them, but they were few and far between.  Next time I’d add more.  I could barely taste the rosemary–next time I’d use 2 or 3 Tbs. instead of 1 Tbs.  I might add a little garlic too. Sprinkling salt and pepper uniformly over the veggies was difficult.  Next time I think I’d try salting the veggies while they cook. The cream and milk didn’t thicken up, but just kind of pooled at the bottom.  I think I’d try just using milk next time.  I’m going to try buying roasted beets at the farmer’s market, and simmering my sliced potatoes in seasoned milk, so that the starch helps thicken the milk and the seasonings infuse the potatoes. This recipe calls for 2:1 beets to potatoes, which I liked, but Derek thought there should be more potatoes.

The last dish I made was a vegetarian imitation of chicken and dumplings.  I have to admit I have no idea what chicken and dumplings actually is supposed to taste like, but I liked the idea of  making a stew and then cooking biscuits on top of it.  I need to defrost my freezer (no auto-defrost here in Germany!) and so I’m trying to use up everything in the freezer.  I pulled out some frozen tofu and was trying to figure out what to make with it.  None of my standards appealed to me, so I thought I would try something new.  I decided to make the chicken and dumplings recipe from my AMA cookbook, just subbing in the frozen tofu for the chicken.  I prepared the frozen tofu as my mom prepares her tofu for her potatoes and gravy dish.  She marinates the tofu with a combo of soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and poultry seasoning, then she dredges the tofu in flour and lightly pan-fries it.  The only thing I did different was she said to add 8 ounces of water to the marinade, which seemed odd.  I had just squeezed all the water out of the tofu, why add it back?  I just used 1/4 cup of water instead of 1 cup.   I had 2.25 pounds of tofu, but only half would fit in my dutch oven at a time, so I cooked it in two batches.  Afterwards it was kind of addictive–crispy on the outside and salty and sour on the inside.  Derek couldn’t keep his hands off of it.  While the tofu waited, I sauteed onions, celery, carrots, and garlic in the dutch oven.  I would have added peas too but I didn’t have any.  Then I covered the veggies with about 4 cups of vegetable broth and dumped in the tofu.  I brought it to a simmer and dropped in the drop biscuits, covered and simmered for about 20 minutes.

The dumplings did not come out how I expected.  I thought they’d be kind of like biscuits, but they were more shiny and gelatinous.  Their flavor was okay but not worth the calories.  The stew was okay tasting, but I think it was kind of a waste of that great crispy tofu.  The flour on the tofu just got kind of slimy and the tofu lost all its crispness.  I don’t think I’d make this recipe again.

Update Nov 20:

I made the beet and potato gratin, but changed it quite a bit. I bought cooked beets at the farmer’s market and just sliced them 1/4-inch-thick. I sliced 2 pounds of potatoes 3/8-inch-thick (but didn’t peel them) and simmered then in a 12-inch skillet with 2 cups of whole milk, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. I simmered them about 8 minutes but I think that was too much. Next time I’d check them after 5 minutes. They’re supposed to be barely tender when pricked with a fork.

Next Derek grated about 4 ounces of gruyere and 4 ounces of parmesan.

I “greased” my 9×13 pyrex pan with 1/4 cup whole milk, then put down half of the beets. I sprinkled on 1/4 tsp. salt, some fresh pepper, 2 tsp. minced rosemary, and 1/3 of the cheese.

Next layer was all the potatoes. They were a bit crowded. I topped the potatoes with another 1/3 of the cheese and 2 tsp. minced rosemary.

The final layer was the rest of the beets, sprinkled again with 1/4 tsp. salt, pepper, and 2 tsp. minced rosemary. I then sprinkled the top with 3 ounces chopped, toasted walnuts (about 1 cup whole), then added the rest of the cheese. Finally I added about 1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs and 1 very large clove of garlic, minced, and then cooked in 1 Tbs. of olive oil.

The pan was a bit overfull. The original recipe called for 4.5 pounds of vegetables but this time I used 5. Obviously that’s too much. Next time if I add more potatoes I’ll have to reduce the beets by the same amount.

The dish wasn’t nearly as tasty as the last time, but I think it was because I cut out all the butter and used whole milk instead of cream. However, I think using pre-cooked beets and using unpeeled potatoes that I sliced and cooked in a skillet with the milk worked just fine. The rosemary added a lot of bitterness. I’m not sure if it was because it was a bit old or if I just put too much. Maybe next time it would make sense to saute the rosemary with the garlic? I’m not sure about putting the walnuts and garlic on top or not. The walnuts stay crisper but everything is more prone to burning. I used homemade bread crumbs this time which were much less sandlike then the breadcrumbs from the bakery, but I think Derek kind of missed the sand! The dish didn’t hold together at all (when it was hot out of the oven), but when pulled from the fridge the next day it sliced and held together well. I used a total of 1 tsp. of salt and everyone ended up adding more. Even though I used a full 8 ounces of cheese, we couldn’t really taste it. Derek says he tasted it more last time when I used less, maybe because the butter and cream helped carry the flavors better.


  1. austingardener said,

    dumplings are really good. Maybe you need a different dumpling recipe?

  2. Beet and potato gratin with rosemary and walnuts | The captious vegetarian said,

    […] first made this beet and potato gratin recipe back in 2010. I have no idea where the recipe originated. Here is what I want to try next […]

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