Cauliflower Gratin

March 10th, 2012

Two of my favorite cooks are Ina Garten and Dorie Greenspan.  Imagine taking their recipes for cauliflower gratin and combining them.  You have an immediate winner.  What I love about Dorie’s recipe is the bacon.  Cauliflower is somewhat bland and adding crispy bacon gives it a smoky punch.  What I love about Ina’s recipe is the Gruyere cheese sauce.  Although Dorie’s recipe has Gruyere cheese in it, the sauce is an egg custard and I was looking for more of a white sauce with cheese.

This is definitely a company-worthy dish.  It goes well with grilled meats and fish or simple roasts or chicken.  We have had it for several meals now and it reheats well.  I will be making another gratin next week when our friends are here for a visit.  It is always nice to have a great casserole in your repertoire.

The only thing I will do differently next time is use fresh breadcrumbs instead of whole wheat dried breadcrumbs.  The dried breadcrumbs were too dark and dense.  I think the cauliflower florets would show better with the fresh breadcrumbs.

CAULIFLOWER GRATIN (Adapted from Ina Garten and Dorie Greenspan)

1 head of cauliflower, cut into large florets
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups hot milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
3 to 4 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm.  Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.  Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil.  Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened.  Off the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, the nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere cheese and the Parmesan cheese.

Pour one third of the sauce on the bottom of an 8x11x2-inch baking dish.  Place the drained cauliflower on top and sprinkle the bacon pieces over it.  Spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top.  Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top.  Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned.

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Vegetable Tian

February 26th, 2012

It has been a long time since I’ve blogged about any of Ina Garten’s recipes.  I used to belong to a group called the Barefoot Bloggers and we all chose particular recipes from The Barefoot Contessa and blogged about them twice a month.  The group has disbanded, but I still like to rely on her recipes from time to time.

One of her cookbooks that I never purchased was Barefoot in Paris.  Can you believe it?   I checked it out of the library last week.  Saturday night dinner is usually special in our house.  I was in the mood to cook again and wanted to try something new.  This vegetable tian is so pretty.  It is easy to assemble and cooks simply in the oven.  The only thing you need to be aware of is choosing vegetables that have the same diameter.  The zucchini, potatoes and tomatoes should be about the same size.

Also I am looking for recipes that can be made ahead of time.  Bike week in Daytona is coming up in March and our biker friends will be here for the event.  I always like to have a few dishes stashed in the refrigerator to be easily rewarmed and served.  This tian fits that category beautifully.

VEGETABLE TIAN ( Barefoot in Paris Ina Garten )

Serves 4 to 6 ( I will make a larger one next time to serve 6 )

Good olive oil
2 large yellow onions, cut in half and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled
3/4 pound zucchini
1 1/4 pounds medium tomatoes (I used plum tomatoes)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 tablespoons Panko crumbs (my addition)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush a 9x13x 2-inch baking dish with olive oil.  In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes in 1/4-inch-thick slices.  Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, making only one layer.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper thyme leaves, and thyme sprigs and drizzle with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  Uncover the dish, remove the thyme sprigs, sprinkle with cheese on top, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until browned.  Serve warm.

Can be made ahead of time, refrigerated and reheated at serving time.

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“Retro” Peas Francais

February 5th, 2012

Back in the early years of our marriage, we often had dinner parties.  It was the late 70’s and everyone was doing it.  At the time there were so many “exotic” foods to try;  Coq au vin, paella with that strange and expensive spice saffron, and Beef Wellington.

We had fun in the kitchen.  One of my favorite cookbooks of that time was The Pleasure of your Company by  Diana and Paul von Welanetz.  They were world travelers and cooking instructors from California.  Diana had studied at the Cordon Bleu and the couple loved food of all ethnic origins.  The Pleasure of your Company had recipes for, among many,  A Spanish Paella Party, An Italian Dinner for a Couple or a Crowd, A German Party for Eight or More and An Elegant Dinner Party in the New Orleans Manner.

The menu for the Elegant Dinner Party in the New Orleans Manner was very French.  It included Oysters Rockefeller, Coq au Vin, French-Style Baked Peas, Croissants, French Quarter Ice Cream Torte with Fudge Sauce and Cafe Brulot.  I made it often.

The other night I pulled a package of frozen peas out of the freezer, they being the only vegetable I had for dinner and a light bulb went on in my head.  “What about those French peas I used to make?”  “Where is that cookbook?”  Luckily it was on my cookbook shelf here in Florida and I turned to the much used and stained page.

I am calling this vegetable dish “Retro” because it was something I used to do and because of the casserole I cooked it in.

This Pyrex casserole is 46 years old.  It was a wedding present.  It has a lid and I still love using it.  It is perfect for the Peas Francais.  One of the reasons I love this recipe is that you put frozen peas directly in the oven with pats of butter, chopped shallots and lettuce.  Easy peasy, literally.

The finished dish tastes great.  The bit of sugar, butter, shallots and lettuce make a big difference.  David tasted the peas and said “Ah . . . now I remember this”.  A trip down memory lane indeed.


3 ten-ounce packages frozen peas
1 shallot, or the white part of 2 scallions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or margarine in a chunk ( I cubed it )
1 leaf iceberg lettuce, cut into 1/4 inch strips ( I used romaine )

Place the frozen peas in a 2 to 3 quart casserole with a tight-fitting lid.  Top with all the other ingredients.  Bake covered at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour.  (I cooked it for 45 minutes).  Stir and serve right in the casserole.

To Make Ahead:  Assemble all the ingredients except the lettuce.  Store in the freezer until ready to bake.  Top with lettuce 1 hour before serving and bake as directed.

As an added note:  Diana von Welanetz Wentworth is also the author of  The Chicken Soup for the Soul Cookbook and Send Me Someone, the story of the tragic loss of her husband Paul to cancer and the beginning of her new life with Ted Wentworth.

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Bacon Wrapped Green Beans

November 18th, 2011

We will be having a small Thanksgiving this year.  We plan to spend two weeks with the family over Christmas, so a trip north for a quick Thanksgiving dinner is not in the picture.  But a small Thanksgiving dinner for two doesn’t have to be boring.  There was the year that hubby and I were by ourselves.  I bought a small turkey.  He wanted to do it on the grill.  I wanted it in the oven so I could make gravy.  So with Solomon like judgement we decided to split it in half; half on the grill and half in the oven.  Mine was best.  He disagrees.

I am not sure yet what we will do with our turkey this year, but I know that this is the way I will be preparing the green beans.  I ran across this recipe while on Pinterest.  It has lots of pins and repins.  The recipe came originally from Aubrey of Just Cook Already,  a blog that I had not visited before.  You might want to go on over and check out her original recipe.  I did make a few changes.

This recipe is great on several levels.  The flavor is wonderful.  Anything wrapped in bacon is good.  The sauce with butter, garlic, brown sugar and (my addition) O OLIVE OIL blood orange oil and port vinegar is scrumptious.  The dish can be prepared ahead of time up to the 15 to 20 minutes needed in the oven to crisp the bacon.  You can have it assembled and in the fridge the day before Thanksgiving.  I also loved that it is already portioned out.  If you are having twelve for Thanksgiving you can assemble twelve bundles.  If you are only two . . . well, you get the picture.


1 lb. green beans, tips removed
5 strips of bacon
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon O OLIVE OIL blood orange oil (or zest of 1 orange and 1 tablespoon orange juice)
1 tablepoon O OLIVE OIL porto vinegar (or 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook green beans until tender.  Remove beans to an ice water filled bowl.  Place beans on paper towels to absorb excess water.

Heat butter in a small saucepan.  Add garlic and saute for a few minutes.  Add brown sugar and oil and vinegar.  Stir together and cook for a few minutes.  Remove from heat.

In a large saute pan, cook bacon partially to remove some of the grease.  Do not brown.  Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate.  It should be limp.

Assemble dish.  Cut bacon slices in half.  Line up approximately 8 to 10 green beans and wrap them with the half piece of bacon.  Secure with a toothpick.  Continue with rest of bundles and place in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Drizzle sauce over beans.  (Can be assembled ahead of time to this point).

Place baking dish in preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until bacon is cooked through and beans are warmed through.

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Company Chicken

September 24th, 2011
I have had a lot of company lately.  We have eaten well with everyone pitching in to help.  But I haven’t thought to do a dish such as this.  This is one of those meals that you would serve at a dinner party like we used to have.  I am speaking for myself here.  At the lake we do not have a formal dining room.  We either eat on the screened in porch overlooking the lake or in the kitchen.  But this is also the kind of dish that I still like to make when time permits.  The chicken is not really complicated or time comsuming.  It can actually be prepared ahead of time and cooked when you are ready.  So no more excuses.  I am adding this to my list of company dishes.
The chicken is elegant with a savory stuffing under the skin.  I asked the butcher to bone the chicken breasts for me since it is impossible to find boneless breasts with the skin on.  The fillet strip is ground up in the food processor with spinach, cream, fennel seeds, lemon zest, and nutmeg to make the stuffing.  A spirited sauce is made with Madeira and chicken broth.
With the chicken I served Saffron Rice Timbales and Provencal Green Beans.  The two of us enjoyed it immensely.  Maybe next time I will actually share it with company. 
COMPANY CHICKEN ( Gourmet Magazine 1986)
For the stuffed chicken:
4 chicken breasts, boned but not skinned
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed ice
3 tablespoons chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup firmly packed cooked, squeezed, and chopped spinach (about 1/2 pound fresh)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the sauce:
1/2 cup Madeira
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon arrowroot dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
Arrange the chicken breasts skin side down on a cutting board, making sure the skin is evenly stretched over the breasts, and remove the fillet strip from each breast discarding the white tendon.  In a food processor grind the fillets.  Add the ice, blend the mixture until the ice is absorbed, and with the motor running add the cream.  Add the spinach, the salt, the fennel seeds, the zest, the nutmeg, and the pepper and blend the filling well, scraping down the sides.  Turn the breasts skin side up and beginning at the pointed end pull the skin back carefully, leaving the thin trasparent membranes attached along a long side and leaving the skin attached at the opposite end.  Spread 3 tablespoons of the spinach filling evely over each breast, smoothing it, and stretch the skin over the filling to cover it.  Chill the chicken, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for 1 hour.  The chicken may be prepared up to this point 24 hours in advance and kept covered and chilled.  In a large ovenproof skillet heat the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, add the chicken, skin side down, and season it with salt and pepper.  Saute the chicken for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown, turn it skin side up, and bake it, covered, in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Mine took longer because the breasts were large.  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it stand, covered loosely with foil, for 5 minutes.
Make the sauce while the chicken is standing:  Pour off the fat from the skillet, add the Madeira, and boil it, scraping up the brown bits, until it is reduced to about 2 tablespoons.  Add the broth and boil the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute.  Stir the arrowroot mixture, add it to the skillet, whisking, and simmer the sauce, whisking for 1 minute.
Holding a knife at a 45 degree angle slice the chicken crosswise and arrange the slices, overlapping them slightly, on a platter.  Spoon some of the sauce around the chicken and serve the remaining sauce separately.  Serves 4. 
SAFFRON RICE TIMBALES (Gourmet Magazine 1986)
1/3 cup minced onion
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
2/3 cup long-grain rice
1 1/4 cups canned chicken broth
3 tablespoons drained and finely chopped pimiento
In a small saucepan cook the onion in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until it is softened, add the saffron and the rice, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the rice is coated well with the butter.  Add the broth, bring the liquid to a boil, and simmer the rice, covered, for 18 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.  Stir in the pimiento, remove the pan from the heat, and let the rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes.  Pack the rice into 4 buttered 1/2-cup timbale molds (or small ramekins) and invert the timbales onto heated plates.  Serves 4.
PROVENCAL GREEN BEANS (Provence the Beautiful Cookbook)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound small tender green beans (haricots verts), trimmed
salt and freshly ground pepper
handful of dried bread crumbs
Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic cloves and when they begin to sizzle and color, add the beans.  Cook, tossing repeatedly, for 4 to 5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the crumbs and toss or stir with a wooden spoon only until the crumbs are crisp and begin to color.  Serve.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.