Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Potatoes au Gratin with Chanterelles



I'm not sure just how often you get excited about potatoes, but that is about to change. These potatoes are going to excite you, your family, and your friends in a major way. This past week we had our baseball bud, Lennie, over for dinner. We see Len about three times a month, or more, during the baseball season.

I was in the mood to cook the day he was scheduled to come (fortunate for us both, I think), and began at ten thirty that morning. Instead of trying my usual one new recipe, as I do when he joins us, I was trying four. The main dish was a tried-and-true good one,
Marinated Pork Tenderloin, so I was safe there, and I knew that garden peas with sauteed mushrooms was a winner as well. To accompany this I tried Cannellini Bean Dip for a snack, Marinated Cucumber Salad (good, but still needs some tweaking), Oatmeal Cake for dessert, and a recipe that I had been thinking about at night before I fell asleep (I do that sometimes. Most times. Okay, ALL of the time, if you must know.), au gratin potatoes to which hydrated dried wild mushrooms have been added.

I'll tell you what, when you create something that makes people moan, you know that you have a success on your hands. Lennie said the entire meal was delicious, but that the potatoes were outstanding. My dad, to whom I delivered this same meal the following day, called it exceptional, citing the potatoes in particular. The potatoes! Have you ever had anyone fuss so much about potatoes? You will now.

This recipe is not difficult, but really demands the use of a mandolin. The slices need to be very thin in order to get the proper potato-to-mushroom ratio. Elegant enough for company with its earthy flavor from the chanterelles, and nuttiness from the Gruyere, this is the dish that people will be talking about the next day. Yes, it is that good!

Potatoes au Gratin with Chanterelles

1 .5-oz. pkg.
Melissa’s dried Chanterelles, hydrated, drained, and rough chopped
¾ teaspoon minced garlic
1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup grated Gruyere

To hydrate mushrooms: Empty packet of dried mushrooms into a deep bowl and cover with 1 cup of warm water. Allow to soak for 20-30 minutes until hydrated. Drain mushrooms through a fine mesh sieve 2-3 times in order to remove all grit.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350
ºF.

Peel potatoes and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices (preferably with an adjustable-blade slicer). Bring potatoes, cream, milk, salt, white pepper, nutmeg, and garlic to a boil in a 4- to 6-quart heavy pot, stirring occasionally; remove from heat.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer half of potatoes to a buttered 1-1/2 quart gratin dish, spreading evenly. Spread mushrooms evenly over potatoes, top with remaining potatoes. Pour cooking liquid over potatoes and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake gratin until top is golden brown and potatoes are tender, 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
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Monday, July 27, 2015

Katie's Pizza Cannellini Bean Dip



The first thing I do when I get the Wednesday paper is head for the Food Section, and open it up to the Special Request recipe for the week (a local restaurant recipe requested by a happy customer, and kindly supplied by the restaurateur). A couple of weeks ago the recipe looked rather dull. I sighed. Mr. O-P peered at me over the top of the Sports Section.

"
Is it disappointing this week? he asked.

"
Cannellini Bean Dip,I replied.

"
What's in it? he asked, grumbling over last night's losing score.

"
Essentially beans, garlic, and lemon juice. How can that possibly be any good? The requester said it was 'addicting’."

He pulled a face.
Sounds rather insipid, he offered, and then added, How many cans should I get?"

Am I that transparent? I directed him to get only one can because I had decided to cut both the recipe and my losses in half. This just had to be bland, and I didn't want to waste anything more than was necessary, and I was going to use crackers that I had on hand rather than spring for pita chips, or try to make my own from pizza dough. This recipe, I reasoned, could not possibly be worth the effort to do more.

Boy, was I wrong.  It is delicious, and addicting? Oh, yeah! Frankly, I couldn't believe it. Neither of us could. It was just too quick, too easy, and too inexpensive to be anything exceptional, and yet, it was. Step aside hummus (Unless, of course, it is Basil Hummus!) and make way for Cannellini Bean Dip. Yummy!


Katie's Pizza Cannellini Bean Dip
As seen in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

1 large clove garlic
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon salt
½ tablespoon pepper
Kalamata olives and fresh basil, for serving
Freshly baked pizza points or pitas, for serving (I just used crackers and it was still delish)

In a food processor, mince garlic until fine.  Add beans, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and process until smooth and creamy but still retaining some texture.

Cover and refrigerate to allow flavors to meld for a minimum of 4 hours.

To serve Katie’s Pizza-style, fill 2 small ramekins with bean dip, top each ramekin with 3 kalamata olives and a basil leaf. Place ramekins on each end of a rectangular platter, mounding pizza points between.

Yield: Makes 2 generous cups
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lime Cordial



When Mr. O-P came home with a bag of a dozen large limes, I just looked at him. Not that I don't appreciate limes in mass quantities, but the previous day he had come home with twice as many key limes. That is a lot of limes! Yes, the queen of salsa (cf. this blog post) does use a heck of a lot of fresh lime juice in salsa and guacamole, but, really, a dozen more?

So, I hopped onto the Internet in search of something unique to try, and I found it, and boy is it easy. It is also refreshing and delicious, and positively addicting. As you might imagine, it makes a great accompaniment to chips and salsa, and is not bad at all with a shot of tequila. In fact, added to a pitcher of freshly brewed iced tea it makes a great summer refresher.
Lime Cordial

Lime cordial is a mixture of sweet limeade syrup and beer, club soda, or seltzer, in a ratio of about 3 parts syrup to 1 part beer or soda (the syrup by itself can also be properly called lime cordial). The wonderfully refreshing drink both complements and tames intense spices.

6-1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cup strained fresh lime juice (from 8 large limes)
Beer, club soda or seltzer

Heat water and sugar in a 2-quart saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, then cool to room temperature.

Stir in lime juice and chill, covered, until cold, about 3 1/2 hours.

Pour about 3/4 cup lime cordial in a tall glass filled with ice and top off with beer or club soda.
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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Avocado Salsa Verde



I am queen of the salsas, and what would the week be like without my providing you with yet another must for your repertoire? I don't think either one of us wants to think about that. Today it is salsa verde with the wonderful, creamy, packed-with-nutrition addition of avocado.  Sound good?  It is!  It is also a breeze to make. Whip up a batch shortly after your guests arrive and serve it in the shell of the avocado.  Delicious and great fun!

Avocado Salsa Verde

2 pounds fresh tomatillos, husks removed, roasted*
1 medium Melissa’s serrano chile, seeds removed, minced
1 clove garlic
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 large avocados, diced
Kosher salt, to taste

*To roast tomatillos, preheat your broiler, line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and place the tomatillos on top. Place as near to the broiler as your oven shelves will allow and roast until charred. Flip over to the other side and char. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. You can roast the chile and garlic along with the tomatillos, but watch it as will roast more quickly. Do not remove the charred bits, they add flavor to the salsa.

Place tomatillos, chile, and garlic in food processor. Pulse until a coarse puree forms. Pour puree into medium bowl. Mix in onion, cilantro, cumin, and lime juice. Fold in avocado, and season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; chill in fridge).
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