Beet and potato gratin with rosemary and walnuts

September 20, 2020 at 11:29 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Derek's faves, French, Root vegetables, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

I first made this beet and potato gratin recipe back in 2010. I have since forgotten where the recipe originated. I’ve modified the recipe quite a bit in the intervening years. (The original recipe is at the end of this post if you want to see it.) Here is my current recipe. It has more cheese and less butter and cream than the original, and I’ve added walnuts and rosemary and omitted the breadcrumbs. The recipe is not really hard, but it is somewhat labor-intensive. I usually make it once a year, twice at most.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds beets, unpeeled
  • 1.5 pounds potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 Tbs. butter (or however much you need to grease your pan)
  • 1 cup / 4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (or use another cheese like aged gouda)
  • 1/2 cup / 2 oz. grated gruyere cheese (or use another cheese like comte or tete de moine)
  • 1 tsp. salt (I’m totally guessing on the amount. I just sprinkle a little salt on each layer.)
  • 1 tsp. pepper (ditto)
  • 3 to 4 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 200g / 0.85 cups heavy cream
  • lots of walnuts, pretty finely chopped (I think I use about 3/4 cup chopped walnuts maybe?)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Steam the beets and potato until tender when pierced with a knife. Note that even though the gratin cooks for another 30 minutes in the oven, you need the veggies to be tender before they go in the oven. They don’t really soften up otherwise. You can steam the veggies on the stovetop, but beets take a while, so I usually steam my veggies in my Instant Pot. I put the beets in first and cook them until they are about 3/4 done. (The exact time depends on their diameter–tables are online.) Then I add the potatoes and finish cooking both. Ideally you should do this well in advance so the veggies have time to cool and you aren’t trying to peel or slice boiling hot beets!
  3. When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel the beets. Depending on your potatoes you might want to peel them after they are cooked, but I usually don’t bother.  Cut both the beets and potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, still keeping them separated.
  4. Choose a gratin dish large enough to hold four layers of the sliced vegetables. (I use a 9×13 inch pyrex pan.) Grease the dish.
  5. Build a gratin with 4 layers: beets, potatoes, beets, potatoes. After each vegetable layer sprinkle one quarter of the parmesan, gruyere cheese, salt, and pepper on top of the vegetable layer. After each layer sprinkle on 1/3 of the walnuts and rosemary. (I don’t put walnuts and rosemary on the top layer of potatoes because I’m afraid they will burn, but maybe it would work if you put them under the cheese?)
  6. When all four layers are assembled, pour the cream evenly over the top.
  7. Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese on top is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

Update Oct 11, 2021:

Alma has never liked this dish, but today she said it was “delectable” and ate thirds. I thought it came out really great as well. Derek said it was tasty but needed more cheese.

Notes from Sept 20, 2020:

I shattered my 9×9 inch pan a few months ago, so we used a 9×13 inch pyrex dish. It was bigger than necessary, but worked fine. I think next time maybe I’ll increase the amounts of veggies to make more gratin in the same pan. I forgot to measure my beets this time but I know I used almost 2 pounds of potatoes. I think maybe I used 5 medium/small beets (about 2.5 inches in diameter), so maybe only about 2 pounds?

I cooked the beets in the instant pot for 10 minutes under high pressure, left them for a bit, then did a quick pressure release and added the (medium-large) potatoes and cooked them for another 10 minutes under high pressure with a natural release. The beets came out perfectly–easy to peel but not mushy. But 10 minutes was too much time for the potatoes. They were way too soft. The skins were falling off and they were hard to slice. I couldn’t use the mandoline at all. They would have been great for mashed potatoes, but next time maybe I’ll try 15 minutes for the beets + QR and then only another 5 minutes extra once I add the potatoes.

This time we forgot to add walnuts but I definitely want to try adding them next time!

Definitely make sure your potatoes are on the top layer. They get nice and crispy, which doesn’t happen to the beets. And maybe reserve a bit more than 1/4 of the cheese for the topping?

I’ve made some version of this recipe a few times in the last couple of years, and Alma has never liked it. She will take a few bites of the cheesy top, but then rejects it. (She’s never liked non-crispy potatoes.) Tonight (at 5.5 years) she had a bit more than she has in the past, but we had challah on the table, so she mostly focused on that and wasn’t interested in the gratin.

My original notes from Nov 6, 2010:

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 used less butter and added walnuts.  I used a light cream not heavy cream, and lowfat milk.  If I made this again I would double the rosemary and try it without pre-cooking the vegetables.  Steaming the beets and potatoes separately is a pain.  I might also try adding more cheese and skipping the cream altogether–just using milk.

And here’s the original recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds beets, unpeeled
  • 1.5 pounds potatoes, unpeeled
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup fine dried, bread crumbs, preferably homemade

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Steam the beets until tender when pierced with a knife, 20 to 30 minutes.  Set aside.  Steam the potatoes separately in teh same way;  they should also be tender in 20 to 30 minutes.  (You can also boil instead of steaming.)  When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1/4-inch-thick slices, still keeping them separated.
  3. Select a gratin dish just large enough to hold three layers of the sliced vegetables.
    1. Layer 1:  Grease it with 1 Tbs. of the butter.  Arrange half of the beets in the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle with one third each of the parmesan and gruyere cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Dot with 1 Tbs. of the butter.
    2. Layer 2:  Arrange all of the potatoes in a layer atop the beets.  Sprinkle with half of the remaining cheeses, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Dot with 1 Tbs. of the butter.
    3. Layer 3:  Layer the remaining beet slices on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, salt, pepper and rosemary.
    4. Final topping:  In a vessel with a spout, combine the cream and milk and pour the mixture evenly over the top.  Strew the bread crumbs over the surface and dot with the remaining 1 Tbs. butter.
  4. Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

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Black-eyed peas smothered with leeks and tarragon

March 7, 2020 at 10:46 pm (101 cookbooks, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Fall recipes, French, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

I first tried this 101cookbooks recipe for black-eyed peas with leeks and tarragon a few years ago, but apparently I never blogged it. I make it probably once a year. Derek’s father loves tarragon, so I always make it when he’s here. It’s a lovely (albeit rich) way to serve black-eyed peas. You saute up a ton of thinly sliced leek until golden, then throw in the cooked black-eyes and the tarragon. If you have cooked black-eyed peas on hand, it’s a pretty fast recipe. Today I served it with the maple-mustard brussels sprouts I just blogged about and a side of wild rice.

The recipe calls for dried marjoram and tarragon, but I never have either on hand. Instead I just chop up lots of fresh tarragon and sprinkle it liberally into the dish. And I put more tarragon on the side for those who like it extra-tarragony.

Derek and I both really enjoy this dish, but Alma doesn’t like the tarragon flavor, and always asks for plain black-eyes instead.

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Simple parsnip puree

December 25, 2019 at 9:25 pm (A (4 stars, love), Fall recipes, French, Other, Root vegetables, Spring recipes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan) ()

If I find nice parsnips at the store then about 90% of the time I roast them. I find that if you try to roast them directly them end up dry and burnt. They turn out the best if they are steamed first, then roasted. But occasionally I get a big bag of parsnips from my CSA and I’m not in the mood for roasted parsnips. Then what? I like to grate them and use them to make chard parsnip patties. I add them to soup, like lentil soup or matzoh ball soup. Occasionally I’ll serve them mashed with potatoes and topped with balsamic-roasted seitan. But sometimes I just want pure parsnip flavor, and then this is the recipe I turn to. I first made it last fall and since then I’ve made it at least four times.

This recipe makes a lot. If you’re not having company then I’d probably just make 1 pound of parsnips. Last time we made the whole recipe just for us we ended up throwing out half of it because everyone got sick of it.

Unlike mashed potatoes, parsnip puree reheats well. I’ve even brought it to a potluck before. The recipe is pretty easy, but somehow tastes much fancier than it actually is. This recipe is based on a recipe from the cookbook Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, but I’ve changed it to reduce the cleanup a bit. Moulton says she got the idea of reducing the cooking liquid from Julia Child.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick.
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter or 4 Tbs. cream
  • freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Peel and slice the parsnips. (Save the stem ends and peelings for vegetable broth.) Note that the diameter of the disks isn’t as important as the thickness. The thinner they are the faster they will cook.
  2. Place the peeled and sliced parsnips in a large saucepan (3 to 4 quarts) and barely cover with boiling water. (The parsnips on top don’t have to be entirely submerged.) Add a few pinches of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer (uncovered) until tender. If your top parsnips aren’t totally submerged, give them a stir about halfway through. Moulton says this step should take about 25 to 30 minutes, but I think it’s closer to 15 minutes? Max 20.
  3. Drain the parsnips, but reserve the cooking liquid! Leave the parsnips in the colander and return the liquid to the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly until reduced to about 3/4 cup. Turn off the heat.
  4. Return the parsnips to the pan and add the butter or cream. Use a stick blender to puree the parsnips. (For a finer, perfectly smooth puree you can use a food processor, but I find that a stick blender works well enough and is much easier to clean.) Season with salt and pepper. If you need to, need to return the pan to very low heat to warm the puree up again before serving it.

This recipe makes about 3 cups, or about 4 very large servings, 6 normal servings, or 8 smaller servings.

What to eat it with: Tonight I made the parsnip puree and green beans (steamed from frozen). Derek had them with duck, and I had some chorizo veggie sausages. I really liked the combination of the spicy, salty veggie sausages with the sweet parsnip puree and slightly chewy, moist green beans.

Last year Alma would never eat this dish. (She doesn’t like mashed potatoes either—something about the texture I think.) But tonight (at almost 5 years old) she ate her entire (small) serving! We’ll have to see what she thinks next time, but for now I’m marking this recipe preschooler approved.

Update Sept 23, 2020: I made this dish tonight, but I think I cut my parsnips too thick, and they took a long time to fully soften. By the time they were really soft almost all of the cooking liquid had boiled away. So I skipped the draining / liquid reducing step and just pureed the parsnips right in the pan. I ended up adding a bit of milk to think them down a bit. They turned out great. No lumps at all. Even Alma, who at first said “yuck,” admitted they were really good. Derek said the meal tasted like something he would get at a fancy restaurant. 🙂 I also made a butternut squash puree. (I cooked it in the same pan as the parsnip, but it cooked much faster.) Alma said the butternut squash puree was fine, but she preferred the parsnip. Derek said he though the butternut squash puree would be better in a burrito. Maybe I put too much nutmeg in it.

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Simple, French-style pureed soup, especially for toddlers

May 1, 2016 at 8:09 pm (French, Root vegetables, soup, unrated, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog) ()

I recently read the book French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen LeBillon. I quite enjoyed the book, and—when it comes to preparing food for Alma—it gave me lots of “food” for thought. (Sorry!)

There are a number of interesting observations LeBillon makes in the book, but I’ll save them for another post. Today, I wanted to focus on the idea of starting dinner with a simple pureed vegetable soup. LeBillon says that the French start their meal with a soup several times a week. This soup is almost always a vegetable soup, and often a simple pureed vegetable soup. These soups supposedly make great starters for babies and toddlers, as they’re an easy way to introduce them to a lot of different vegetables. Also, it gives them a vegetable at the start of the meal, when they are most hungry. Finally, they’re really fast to make. Just saute some aromatics, throw in your veggies and broth, simmer briefly, and puree. All in all, that’s pretty easy, which is definitely a plus when it comes to cooking with a busy toddler underfoot. Finally, they freeze really well. You can freeze the soups in small jars and then defrost them quickly when needed—no need to scramble to put something healthy on the table at the last minute.

I thought I’d give it a try. I started with LeBillon’s simple French carrot soup with dill recipe.  Although most toddlers seem to like carrots, Alma usually does not, I’m not sure why—maybe a texture issue? I thought  pureeing them was worth a try. The first time I served it, Alma ate one very tiny bowl of it (a mise en place bowl), without too much complaint. She didn’t love it, but it helped that she’s just learned how to use a spoon, and so anything that requires a spoon is therefore very exciting. I had made quite a bit of soup, so I decided to take half of the leftovers and add in some roasted red bell pepper and jarred tomatoes, and pureed the soup again. I refrigerated a little bit of each soup, and froze the rest in small glass jars. The version with red bell pepper and tomato was definitely a bigger hit (with both Derek and Alma) than the straight carrot soup, but over the last several weeks Alma has eaten the plain carrot dill version several times, sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes less so.

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Tangy lentil salad with a sherry, dijon vinaigrette

July 7, 2014 at 8:03 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, French, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads) ()

This recipe is based on one from the Cook’s Illustrated “The Best Light Recipe” cookbook. The original recipe is for a lentil salad with scallions, walnuts, and roasted red peppers.  But when Derek makes this dish he usually just makes the lentils, and doesn’t bother to add the other ingredients.  He’s perfectly happy with just the lentils and the über simple mustard-olive oil-sherry vinegar dressing.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Buckwheat pancakes filled with asparagus, broccoli, and mushrooms

April 12, 2014 at 10:51 pm (Cruciferous rich, French, Rebecca Wood, unrated)

I wanted to use up some buckwheat flour, and so I went straight to the buckwheat section of The Splendid Grain by Rebecca Wood. The first recipe we picked was a very simple recipe for Sarrasin Crepes, the buckwheat crepes that are typical in Brittany. The recipe looked pretty typical, except that it calls for ground coriander. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fennel braised in vegetable broth

October 3, 2012 at 10:10 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Derek's faves, French, Italian, Vegetable dishes)

I was planning on making white bean, fennel, and rosemary soup this weekend, but I overcooked my white beans and so I ended up making a white bean and rosemary puree with the beans.  But what to do with the fennel?  I remember making (and loving) a braised fennel recipe from Jack Bishop’s Italian Vegetarian cookbook many years ago, but for some reason I never made it again.  I considered making the same recipe tonight, but I didn’t have any white wine open.  Instead, I roughly followed this epicurious recipe, except rather than braising my fennel in chicken broth I used vegetable broth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Winter lasagne with spinach, shiitakes, and fromage fort

April 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm (French, My brain, Necessarily nonvegan, Pasta, Starches, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

Derek rented a car this weekend (to see Chick Corea in Luxembourg), and so we decided to check out the Cora across the border in Forbach, France.  It was enormous and packed, and (strangely) I heard tons of people speaking American English.  Why were there so many Americans in Forbach?   Could they be coming all the way from the military base in Kaiserslautern just to shop in France?   We explored the store a bit, but didn’t find much of interest.  Derek got some cheap Leffe Belgian beer, and picked out a few cheeses.  It turned out, however, that most of the cheeses were not very good.  He wanted to toss them but I hated to throw them away.  I found Alton Brown’s recipe for “fromage fort” online, and made it with half of the (quite sour) Little Billy goat cheese and half of a (quite stinky and sharp) Camembert.   I added quite a bit more garlic and parsley than the recipe calls for.  After pureeing everything together the cheese was more like a cheese sauce than something you could spread on crackers.  It tasted a little odd, but not bad.  Kind of like a very strong, stinky Boursin.  I decided to use it in a lasagne.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tomato-tarragon soup with fennel croutons

August 27, 2011 at 9:40 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Derek's faves, French, Georgeanne Brennan, soup, Summer recipes)

The summertime soup recipe is from Georgeanne Brennan’s “France: The Vegetarian Table.”  Brennan says that tarragon gives this soup a surprise finish that is heightened by the crunch of toasted fennel seeds. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cherry clafoutis

July 30, 2011 at 7:24 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Dessert, French, Necessarily nonvegan, Pies and custards)

It’s cherry season here in Germany, and wow are they good.  I don’t know if this year is unusual, but almost all the cherries I’ve bought have been big, juicy, and extremely flavorful.  Martha Rose Shulman recently did a whole set of recipes featuring the cherry, including a recipe for a cherry soup (which I’d like to try), one for a cherry smoothie (which I blogged about on my smoothies post), and one for a cherry clafouti made with yogurt and no butter or cream.  Many years ago in Pittsburgh Derek and I used to make a cherry clafoutis recipe, which was also from the New York Times (posted below).  For reasons best left unexplained, he had dubbed it “floor cake”.  But we decided to try neither of these recipes.  Instead we ended up making Julia Child’s recipe for cherry clafoutis. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chard and leek crustless quiche

May 22, 2011 at 10:02 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Dark leafy greens, French, Necessarily nonvegan, Website / blog)

Derek chose the chard, celery, and leek tortino recipe from Union Square Cafe, and I bought all the ingredients, but when it came down to it I just couldn’t do it.  The recipe had so much cheese, cream, butter, and eggs in it, and last time I made a chard and celery recipe from that cookbook we weren’t so thrilled with it.  So I chickened out and used the ricotta to make the savory zucchini cheesecake that I just posted about.  I used the chard, leeks, and cream to make a crustless version of this leek and swiss chard tart from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Bon Appetit. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chard and potato terrine

March 10, 2011 at 12:43 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, French, Georgeanne Brennan, Necessarily nonvegan, Root vegetables, Spring recipes, Winter recipes)

I had some chard and potatoes that needed to get eaten, and found this recipe in Georgeanne Brennan’s cookbook France: The Vegetarian Table.  It looked pretty decadent (lots of butter plus cheese and a bit of heavy cream), but Derek liked how the picture looked and encouraged me to try it.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Celery salad with green apples, walnuts, and mustard vinaigrette

March 9, 2011 at 11:36 pm (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, French, Peter Berley, Salads, Spring recipes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

This recipe is in the winter section of Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast, and I’ve been wanting to try it for a while now.  Berley says that the salad is “all about the nuance of crunch. The green apple, celery, and walnut each have a different yet complementary toothsome quality in the mouth.”  It seemed like a great winter salad, but I was nervous about making this recipe because Derek normally isn’t too excited about celery.  I thought I might have to eat all four servings myself.  I shouldn’t have worried though — Derek loved it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Winter vegetable ragout with caramelized whole shallots

March 6, 2011 at 6:06 pm (Dark leafy greens, F (0 stars, dislike), Fall recipes, French, Georgeanne Brennan, Middle East / N. Africa, Root vegetables, Winter recipes)

I was looking for a recipe that called for turnips, and came across this winter ragout in France: the Vegetarian Table by Georgeanne Brennan.  It’s basically an oven-roasted stew full of big chunks of parnsips, turnips, rutabagas, and carrots.  (I couldn’t find any rutabagas so I subbed in potatoes.) The stew also calls for ribbons of chard and caramelized shallots.  At first glance I thought this recipe was for a French-style stew, but it’s seasoned with turmeric and raisins, and you’re supposed to serve it with yogurt and a mixture of dill, tarragon, mint, and chives.  So there’s definitely a North African influence. Read the rest of this entry »

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Provençal garlic and herb broth

February 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), French, Necessarily nonvegan, Peter Berley, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes)

This recipe makes up the second half of winter menu number five from Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast.   Last January in Segovia, Spain I had a bowl of garlic soup that was quite satisfying.  It was a rich garlic broth with olive oil and little tiny tendrils of egg.  I was hoping that this provençal garlic and herb broth would be similar.  Berley’s head notes say this pungent broth (made from plenty of garlic and herbs) is a traditional hangover cure in southern France and Spain.  He seems to imply that it doesn’t normally have egg in it, because he says “to make it more substantial I enrich it with egg and serve it over croutons with grated parmesan cheese.”  I think it’s funny that he added more cheese to a menu that was already swimming in smoked mozzarella (from the bean salad).  But, nonetheless, I followed his instructions to a T. Read the rest of this entry »

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fresh pea soup

June 20, 2010 at 10:06 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), French, Other, soup, Spring recipes, Vegetable dishes)

I’ve never made pea soup before.  I’m not even sure I’ve ever cooked with fresh peas before.  But I saw the peas in the Turkish market and remembered that my new French cookbook (France: The Vegetarian Table) has a recipe for fresh pea soup.  Then when I got them home I had a sudden crisis of confidence.  Was what I bought actually English peas?  Or could they be sugar snaps?  I did some research online and determined that I bought the right thing.  At the right is the photo from 4.bp.blogspot.com that reassured me.  The pea on the left is an English (or sweet) pea.  The middle pea is a (very flat) snow pea.  The last pea–which is small, fat, and a little pointy–is the sugar snap.  Duly reassured, I proceeded to pop the peas out of their pods.  Wow, shelling 2 pounds of peas is a lot of work.  It took me almost an entire episode of Top Chef Master’s to finish, and my hands were aching by the end.  I was praying that that the soup would be worth all the trouble. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mashed celery root and potatoes

May 23, 2010 at 1:36 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Fall recipes, French, Georgeanne Brennan, Root vegetables, Starches, Summer recipes)

I bought a big celery root to make Locro last week, but I only used a small fraction of it.  I decided to use the rest of it to make another recipe out of The Vegetarian Table: France by Georgeann Brennan.  The recipe is titled “celery root and potato puree”, and for some reason I thought it was going to be a soup.  But it turned out with a consistency more like mashed potatoes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Deep-dish cassoulet of flageolet beans

May 18, 2010 at 10:31 am (Beans, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Fall recipes, French, Georgeanne Brennan, Winter recipes)

Last fall Derek and I went to Metz for the day.  (It’s an hour away by train, so it makes a nice day trip.)  Saturday is their farmer’s market, and I searched every stand trying to find things that I can’t buy find in my local market.  I bought a beautiful braid of garlic, a bag of harissa paste, lots of French cheeses, some fresh beans (whose name I couldn’t understand), and a bag of dried flageolet beans.  I’ve never eaten flageolet beans before, or even seen them.  Mine were small, pale-green, kidney-shaped beans.  Georgeanne Brennan says they have an intense bean flavor that brings their particular character to a dish, they hold their shape when cooked, and they do not lose their integrity even when combined with other ingredients.

Inspired by our trip last week to Paris, I decided to make a French dinner on Friday night, using recipes from my new French cookbook (“The Vegetarian Table: France”). Read the rest of this entry »

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Creamy celery root, leek, and barley soup

April 26, 2010 at 12:00 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), French, Georgeanne Brennan, Grains, Root vegetables, soup, Starches, Winter recipes) ()

Derek and I are going to spend a few days in Paris next week–just in time for his 30th birthday!  In anticipation of the trip, I recently bought the cookbook France: The Vegetarian Table, by Georgeann Brennan.  The Vegetarian Table is a series of cookbooks written by different authors, one per country.  In addition to the France cookbook, there is a cookbook for American, Japan, Indian, Italy, Mexico, Thailand, and North Africa.  (When I lived in the co-op in college we had the Japan cookbook and I made excellent pickled ginger using their recipe._  One thing that I really like about the French cookbook is that it offers recipes using produce appropriate to every season.  Mediterranean cookbooks so often rely almost entirely on vegetables that are local here only in the summer–peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.  But Brennan includes recipes that use spring vegetables, and also ones that use vegetables that are available in the winter.  Here in Saarbruecken we’re just starting to see the first of the Spring vegetables, but I’ve been stuffed up lately, and so I was craving hot soup rather than fresh Spring vegetables.  I decided to try one of the winter recipes instead.

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French-style baked white beans

December 25, 2009 at 11:36 pm (Beans, French, My brain, unrated)

I’m not a fan of traditional tomato-y, ultra-sweet baked beans.  Instead, I put together a number of different “vegan cassoulet” recipes, and baked my beans with traditional French seasonings:  a base of carrot, celery, and onion, plus garlic, rosemary, thyme, and oregano.  I started out by “quick brining” my beans, as Cook’s Illustrated recommends.

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French no-mayo potato salad

May 10, 2009 at 6:05 am (Cook's Illustrated, French, Starches, unrated)

Derek picked this recipe out of the Cook’s Illustrated light recipe.  It’s a light potato salad recipe, with a vinaigrette instead of mayo.  Unlike a typical American potato salad, the French version uses sliced potatoes, and is served warmed or at room temperature (never cold).  It’s much more refined and elegant than the typical American mayo-laden, pickle-studded potato salad.

Tips from CI:  It’s important to slice the potatoes before boiling them so that the slices don’t break apart.  Plus the potatoes cook more evenly and you don’t have to burn your fingers trying to cut hot potatoes.   To keep the potato slices from getting damaged over overcooked, CI has you lay the potatoes on a baking sheet and pour the vinagrette over them, and let them cool before moving them to a bowl.  To cut back on oil, CI recommends adding some of the potatoe cooking water which is starchy and so acts as a binding element to hold the salad together and keep the potatoes from drying out.  CI says that white wine can also be used.  They also blanch the garlic to tone down the aggressive raw garlic flavor.

  • 2 pounds medium red potatoes (about 6, 2.5 ounces each)
  • 6 cups of water (1/3 reserved for the salad)
  • 2 tablespoons salt (or reduce a bit if you’re salt sensitive)
  • 1 medium garlic clove, peeled
  • 1.5 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustanrd
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 small shallot, minced (about 2 Tbs.)
  • 4 Tablespoons mixed french herbs (CI recommends equal parts chervil, parsley, chives, tarragon)
  1. Bring the potatoes, water, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan, then reduce to a simmer.  Skewer the garlic on a fork tine and lower it into the simmering water for about 45 seconds, then cool it under cold running water.  Simmer the potatoes uncovered until they are tender, about 5 minutes. (A thin bladed paring knife should slip into and out of the potato slice with no resistance.)  Drain the potatoes, reserving 1/3 cup cooking water.  Arrange the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, ideally in a single layer.
  2. Mince the garlic, and combine in small bowl with the oil, reserved cooking water, vinegar, mustard, and pepper.  Drizzle the dressing evening over the warm potato slices.  Let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Chop the shallots and herbs and toss them together in the vinaigrette bowl.  Move the potatoes to a serving bowl, and add the shallot-herb mixture.  Mix carefully.

My notes:  My potatoes were a bit larger than called for and so my potato slices looked a bit large and awkward.  I misread the recipe and accidentally added 1/2 cup of cooking water, so my salad was slightly wet, but still very tasty.  I had white potatoes not red, and as a result the potato salad was not quite as pretty as it should have been. I couldn’t find fresh chervil or tarragon, so I used a little frozen box of minced “French herbs” that I bought in the grocery store.  I added the herbs to the dressing before drizzling it over the potatoes, which seemed to work fine.  I used a white balsamic vinegar, which tasted fine.  Overall I thought the potato salad was very tasty, although perhaps just a tad too salty.  My friend Alex really liked it–she said it was the best potato salad she’d ever had, and kept “encouraging” me to post the recipe.  Derek and my mother were less enthusiastic.  First of all, they argued that the recipe could not be called potato salad, perhaps because the potatoes were sliced instead of cubed.  Also, they just thought the recipe was a bit boring.  I thought it was delicious, however, and I’ll definitely make it again.

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Think outside the soup: non-standard vichyssoise

May 7, 2008 at 5:09 pm (AMA, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, French, Meyer & Romano, My brain, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, soup, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

When I was growing up my mom would often make a vegan version of vichyssoise. It was a simple soup made with unpeeled potatoes from her garden, leeks and onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. I always enjoyed it, even without the typical additions of butter, cream, and chicken broth. I ate vichyssoise both cold and warm, and only found out last weekend that the name vichyssoise actually refers only to the cold soup. Warm potato leek soup apparently is given a different name.

After seeing nice-looking leeks in the Saarbruecken market last week, I thought it would be nice to make a spring vichyssoise as one course in our Saturday night dinner party. Although the leeks looked good, all the potatoes in the market appeared to be from last fall; they were all shriveled and starting to sprout. My friends Spoons and Kathy suggested I use celeriac instead, since the celeriac looked very fresh. I was hesistant, as I thought that celery root would be a very strong flavor to replace the normally quite mild, earthy potatoes. But they insisted that celeriac can be used anywhere you use potatoes. (I have no idea where the celeriac or the leeks were from, but assumed they weren’t local to Germany in early May.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Celery Root Salad with Apple and Parsley (C)

October 9, 2006 at 1:43 am (Cook's Illustrated, F (0 stars, dislike), French, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Salads, Starches)

Rick at the Oakland Farmer’s Market had one lovely celeriac this week, with the beautiful dark greens still attached. When I put it in my bag the green tops sprung forth out of the bag—I got strange looks on the bus, and when I got back to the office Jacob asked if I had just come back from a farm.

I made a celery root salad from the French Vegetarian cookbook this summer that was interesting. I would have tried it again, but this one from Cook’s Illustrated has apples and parsley, both of which I got in my CSA basket this week.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

Creamy Dijon Dressing
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil , or canola
3 tablespoons sour cream
Salad
1 medium celery root (13 – 14 ounces), peeled and rinsed
1/2 medium tart apple, cored and peeled
2 scallions, sliced thin
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon leaves (optional)
  Table salt and ground black pepper
 
 

For the Dressing

1. In medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, mustard, honey, and salt. Whisk in oil in slow, steady stream. Add sour cream; whisk to combine. Set aside.

For the Salad

2. Remove the top and bottom of the celery root and then use a paring knife to remove the outer layer of flesh from top to bottom. If using food processor, cut celery root and apple into 1 1/2-inch pieces and grate with shredding disc. (Alternatively, grate on coarse side of box grater.) You should have about 3 cups total. Add immediately to prepared dressing; toss to coat. Stir in scallions and parsley (and tarragon, if using; see note above). Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Serve.

Although not always available, fresh tarragon complements the flavor of celery root. If you can find it, stir in 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon along with the parsley. Add a teaspoon or so more oil to the dressed salad if it seems a bit dry.

My Notes:

Cook’s Illustrated makes a big deal about how to peel the celery root. I don’t know what they’re fussing about; I just used my vegetable peeler (which I love, and deserves its own post) and it worked fine. They also say they tried different ways of cutting the celery root to maintain it’s crisp crunch, and liked grating it the best. I’m don’t agree. I liked the julienne of the other celery root salad much better than the grating. The hand-grated pieces seemed softer and less crisp. When you eat this salad you have the disconcerting sensation of grinding your teeth. It’s weird. I used a not too tart apple from my CSA, which I couldn’t really taste it the final salad, although maybe it made it a bit sweeter. I’m not sure I could taste the scallions either. I couldn’t cough up the $2.50 for the tarragon.

For the dressing, I used only 1 Tbs. olive oil and used nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream. It came out pretty well. I don’t think I like it as much as the lemon and mustard dressing I use for Berley’s green bean salad, but it wasn’t bad. It actually tastes pretty similiar to the dip I always improvise when I make baked tofu, except I add garlic, and leave out the olive oil. Altogether this salad was tasty, but not exciting. I think the dressing overwhelmed the celery root a bit?

Update from the next day. I could not eat the leftovers. One bite was all I could stand. Strange.

Update January 2008: I made this recipe for Derek, following the original recipe except for adding an extra apple since mine were small. I even added the tarragon, and grating the celery root in my food processor. Grating in the food processor helps since the pieces are larger and thicker, almost like julienne rather than hand grating. Despite the large amounts of fat in the recipe, I didn’t think it tasted super-rich, and I didn’t think it tasted like the traditional French dressing, I’m not sure why. Certainly the mustard seemed to dominate too much. Perhaps I didn’t use a very good dijon, or Derek added a bit too much when he measured it. The tarragon wasn’t very noticeable. I didn’t really care for this salad, but ate the leftovers at lunch the next day simply because I was hungry and it was what I had. Derek, on the other hand, liked the salad, saying “it’s refreshing.”

Rating: C
Derek: B

Cook’s Illustrated has a number of other variants I want to try. One that is very similiar to this one has you add to the salad:

1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
   

Other variants include pear and hazelnuts, and a version with mint, orange and fennel.

Update Dec 29: I had one small celery root (about the size of a large apple). I julienned it and tossed it with 1.5 Tbs. lemon juice, about 1 tsp. horseradish, 1 tsp. dijon mustard, and 1 Tbs. lowfat sour cream. It was pleasant, and well-dressed.

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Warm fennel in vinaigrette (B)

May 1, 2006 at 8:15 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), French, Georgeanne Brennan, Quick weeknight recipe, Sauce/dressing, Spring recipes)

This recipe is from the cookbook France: The Vegetarian Table, by Georgeanne Brennan. She also suggests using leeks, celery hearts, belgian endive, asparagus, or beets instead of fennel, and garnishing with an herb like tarragon, chervil, chives, or parsley.

4 medium-sized fennel bulbs
3/4 cup mustard vinaigrette or shallot vinaigreete
1 ounce asiago or other hard, aged cheese, shaved into paper thin slices with a knife or vegetable peeler
1 tsp. minced fresh chervil

Trim the fennel bulbs, discarding any tough or discolored outer leaves and cutting away and stalks and feathery tops. Cut the bulbs, from the top through the stem end, into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrance the slices on a steamer rack over boiling water, cover, and steam untnil tender when pierced with the tines of a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove the fennel slices to a bowl.

Mustard Vinaigrette (makes 1 cup):
3/4 cup cold-pressed olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

Pour 3/4 cup of the dressing over the warm fennel, gently turning all the slices to make sure they are all evenly coated. Cover and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

Top with the cheese and serve warm or at room temperature.

My notes: well, I made a very pared down version of this recipe. I didn’t use the cheese or fresh herbs. I did, however, throw in some carrots with my fennel. Wow. I always forget how tasty steamed vegetables are. I could have just eaten them plain. But I made the vinaigrette. It tasted like oil to me. I doubled the vinegar and mustard and it was better, but still very oily. Could there be something wrong with my vinegar that I needed so much more, or is it just a preferences thing? I enjoyed the vegetables with the vinaigrette, but I didn’t need the full amount called for. If I make it again I will add even more mustard and vinegar to the vinaigrette, and using only about 1/2 to 3/4 as much dressing as called for. But I definitely like the idea of steamed fennel with vinaigrette. The fennel had such a decadent mouthfeel to it, and a mild but very distinctive flavor.

Rating: B

This is a nice recipe for late spring, when some of the early vegetables like fennel, beets, and asparagus are just starting to be available.

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Celery Root Salad with Lemon and Cumin Dressing (B-)

April 28, 2006 at 8:59 am (C (1 star, edible), French, Georgeanne Brennan, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads, Sauce/dressing)

I’ve started trying recipes with celery root (also called celeriac) recently, but this is the first time I’ve eaten it raw. This recipe is from the cookbook France: the Vegetarian Table, by Georgeanne Brennan.

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground turmeric
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley
1 large celery root (about 1 pound), peeled

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the lemon juice, cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, and parsley. Set aside.

Finely julienne the celery root. The slices should be no more than 1/16 of an inch thick, if possible.

Add the celery root to the lemon juice mixture and toss to coat well. Serve at once.

My Notes

Although this dressing has no oil and little salt, I thought it was pretty tasty. There was perhaps a bit too much lemon juice, though. This makes 6 small side servings, of a 1/2 cup each.

Rating: B-

Serving Size: 1/2 cup, 1/6 of recipe

Amount Per Serving
Calories 48
Total Fat 1.5g
Saturated Fat 0.2g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 128mg
Carbohydrate 8.9g
Dietary Fiber 1.5g
Sugars 1.7g
Protein 1.3g
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 24%
Calcium 4% Iron 5%

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White Wine and Garlic French-Style Vegetable Medley (B+)

March 29, 2006 at 5:04 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, French, Spring recipes)

At Kaya last weekend we had a “mixed mushroom saute” appetizer that was actually more potato than mushrooms, but extremely satisfying. It had fingerling potatoes, a few different types of mushrooms, little bits of chard, some garlic I think, and lots of white wine, olive oil, and salt. I tried to copy it at home last night, and it came out quite well. Even Derek liked it quite a bit, but he thought it was a little one dimensional, overly wine-y maybe. He thought Kaya’s dish had some other “rounding” flavor that I was missing. Perhaps it was butter?

I didn’t measure but here are the ingredients I used, as I remember them:

White Wine and Garlic French-Style Vegetable Medley

about 4-6 small Yukon gold potatoes, halved then sliced thinly [Kaya used fingerlings]
1 large shiitake mushroom [Kaya used different wild mushrooms]
about 10 large button mushrooms, sliced
1/3 of a large burdock root, cut very thinly along the bias [my own addition]
1/2 bunch of red chard (stems removed) [I used more than Kaya did]
5 medium-large cloves of garlic
olive oil
white wine
salt
black pepper
aleppo pepper [my addition, I don’t think the Kaya dish was spicy]
garlic powder
onion powder

I thought the burdock root added a great flavor, but I should have added it before the potatoes as it wasn’t quite cooked enough. Derek picked out his burdock, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the texture only, or the flavor too. Burdock and white wine… a wonderful combination. The earthy burdock is complemented by the sweet acidic wine so well.

The fresh shiitake was very nice. I should have used more except I was worried that Derek wouldn’t like them, since he’s picky about the texture of shiitake mushrooms. The shiitake wasn’t chewy, however, but quite tender. The button mushrooms were okay, but probably should have been quartered instead of sliced.

Rating: B+
Derek: B

With new potatoes, spring mushrooms like morels or porcinis, and early delicate chard or beet greens, this makes a lovely recipe for late spring.

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