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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Casseroles

Artist Pete Rumney

It has been very cold the past few weeks in most of the country, including the south. Warm casseroles and spicy dishes can warm you up but you don’t have to turn to macaroni and cheese for that to happen. Combining healthy foods with lots of flavor can do it for you. Try these recipes for a start.

Escarole and Italian Sausage Casserole

I save the ends of the parmesan cheese in a bag in the freezer and use them to flavor soups and stews.

Serve with crusty Italian bread.

6 servings

Ingredients

1 pound escarole, approximately 2 heads
6 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped onion
1 fennel bulb, cored and chopped
1 lb cheese and parsley Italian sausage (or regular Italian sausage), sliced into half-inch pieces
1/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
1 cup cooked cannellini beans
Parmesan cheese rind
Fresh black pepper

Directions

Remove the outer leaves of escarole if damaged or discolored. Cut off the stem ends, wash the leaves twice in abundant cold water and drain. Cut the leaves into two-inch lengths.

In a large Dutch Oven, sauté the garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil until golden but not brown. Add the escarole, salt and red pepper.

Cover and cook over moderate heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the escarole to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, onion, fennel bulb and sausage to the pan; cook until the sausage is browned, stirring frequently.

Add the broth, Parmesan rind, escarole and beans.

Cover; bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 5-10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Beef Burgundy

Like other stews, Beef Burgundy, tastes best when made ahead so the flavors have time to mingle. Serve with noodles, rice, mashed potatoes or cauliflower mash.

Roasted carrots make a nice side dish.

Ingredients

1 (4-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
Salt and black pepper
5 slices bacon, cut into thirds
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour or arrowroot powder
1 (750-ml) bottle good dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 lb mushrooms, trimmed and halved
1-2 cups beef broth
2 cloves garlic head, crushed
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

Directions

Heat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat until the bacon is lightly browned on both sides.

Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate. Break into smaller pieces.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Add the butter to the pan and melt.

In batches, in single layers, sear the beef in the hot pan for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.

Remove the seared cubes with a slotted spoon to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Add onions the garlic to the pan and saute for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour or arrowroot over the onions and stir until no dry flour remains. Whisk in the wine, tomato paste and anchovy paste until combined.

Add the bay leaves, mushrooms and thyme to the pan.

Add the beef and bacon and enough beef broth to come almost to the top of the beef.

Place the pan, uncovered, into the oven and cook until the meat is tender, 3 ½-4 hours, stirring occasionally and adding broth, if needed, to keep the meat half-submerged in liquid.

Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Stew can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Huevos Rancheros

Just a note here that this recipe is my version and not an authentic Mexican Huevos recipe.

For 2 servings

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups jarred salsa
2 seeded and chopped plum tomatoes
1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
1 Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
4 large eggs
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Mexican blend cheese
2 tortillas
1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions

Prepare the tortillas:

Heat the oven to 150° F. Place a pan large enough to fit the tortillas in the oven to heat.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium high, coating the pan with the oil.

One by one heat the tortillas in the pan, a minute or two on each side, until they are heated through, softened and pockets of air bubble up inside of them.

Then, remove them to the pan in the oven to keep warm while you cook the sauce and the eggs.

Make the sauce:

Heat the oil in the same skillet and add the onion, garlic and jalapeno. Cook until tender. Add the salsa, tomatoes, chipotle and roasted red peppers.

Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Return the heat to medium, so that the sauce is bubbling slightly.

Crack 4 eggs into the sauce in the skillet, cover and cook for about 4 minutes until the egg are almost firm.

Uncover the pan and sprinkle each egg with 1/4 cup cheese. Cover the pan and cook for another minute to let the cheese melt and to finish cooking the eggs.

To serve:

Place a tortilla on a serving plate. With a large spoon place two eggs and half the sauce on top. Repeat with the second tortilla and eggs. Serve immediately.

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Pop all the dishes in the oven and dinner will be served. While dinner is baking in the oven, you can do something else during this busy season. I like this kind of meal where all the pots can go in the dishwasher. Besides fried chicken is one of my favorites. I always make extra so there are leftovers for lunch.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Oven Fried Chicken

Serves 4-8

Ingredients

8 chicken thighs
2 cups flour
1 large egg
½ cup milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon paprika

Seasoning Mix

2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Cajun spice

Directions

Use a baking sheet with a rack on top. Brush some butter on the rack so the chicken won’t stick.

In a small bowl, mix together all the seasoning ingredients except for the paprika and then divide in half. Dry the chicken thighs with paper towels.

Add the paprika to one half of the seasoning and mix this well into the chicken pieces. Set aside. Can be done early in the day and refrigerate until cooking time.

Take the other half of the seasoning and mix with the flour in a shallow bowl.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg and milk.

Taking one chicken piece at a time, dip in the egg and milk mixture and coat in the flour mixture and set on a plate. Let the chicken sit for 10 minutes.

Coat each chicken piece in the flour again (not the egg) and place on the baking rack.

Drizzle the melted butter over all the chicken pieces.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the chicken pieces are brown and cooked through.

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 8

Ingredients

8 oz elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch/arrowroot
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon yellow mustard powder
8 oz 2% milk Velveeta cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Grease an 8×12 inch or 7×11 inch baking dish.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard until smooth and then gradually whisk in the milk. Cook until thickened.

Add salt, pepper and Velveeta. Lower the heat and stir until the cheese melts. Turn off the heat and stir in the cooked macaroni.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top with the cheddar. The casserole can be refrigerated if you are not ready to bake.

Bring to room temperature when ready to bake.

Place the casserole in the oven with the chicken, after the chicken has cooked for 25 minutes. The macaroni and cheese will be ready after 20 minutes of baking.

Oven Baked Asparagus

2 servings

Ingredients

½ pound of thin asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Grease an 8 inch baking dish or a dish that will fit the asparagus in a single layer.

Place the asparagus in the dish and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the asparagus in the oven after the chicken has cooked for 25 minutes. Cook for 20 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and drizzle with the lemon juice.


Pot Roast, the ultimate comfort food, when leftover, makes a delicious pot pie. Here is the link to my pot roast recipe. Chicken is a favorite with me, so I have lots of quick and easy ways to fix it. Take advantage of all the fall vegetables in season and add them to your recipes whenever you can. I tried to do that in the recipes below.

Beef Pot Pie

2 servings

Ingredients

1 box of refrigerated (2) pie crusts, at room temperature

Filling
1 cup leftover pot roast gravy
1/2 cup leftover green beans, cut into one inch pieces or use frozen (defrosted)
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced celery
1 cup diced leftover pot roast
½ teaspoon dried thyme

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Combine all the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Divide the mixture between two individual baking dishes.

Unroll the pastry on a cutting board.

Cut a circle from the center of the pastry sheet to cover one of the individual baking dishes with a one inch overhang.

Place the circle on the baking dish. Repeat with the second baking dish and pastry.

Use the leftover pastry for decorations on top of the beef pie or to make cinnamon sugar rolls.

Seal the pastry to the edges of the baking dishes and flute. Cut slits in several places in the crust to allow steam to escape.

Cover a sheet pan with foil and place the baking dishes on top.

Bake 15 minutes. Cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning; bake 15 to 30 minutes longer or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Chicken Cacciatore Over Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients

2 – 4 chicken cutlets (depending on how many servings you want), about 5 oz each
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup diced onions
1 cup diced red bell peppers
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the squash
1 spaghetti squash,about 2 lbs, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

For the squash:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a baking dish that is big enough to hold the squash halves with olive oil.

Place the squash, cut side down in the prepared dish. Bake for 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a sharp knife.

With a fork, scrape the squash strands into a large platter.

For the chicken:

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep saute pan and brown the cutlets for 1-2 minutes per side to brown slightly. Remove to a plate and set aside.

For the sauce:

Add the mushrooms to the saute pan and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Add the sliced onions, peppers and celery to the pan and cook until soft; about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two.

Reduce the heat and add the marinara sauce, seasonings and herbs to the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the chicken cutlets. Simmer the cacciatore for about 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the bay leaf.

Warm the spaghetti squash in the microwave. Serve the chicken and sauce over the cooked spaghetti squash strands.

Stir Fried Cabbage With Smoked Sausages

Cornbread goes very well with this dish.

4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
½ cup diced onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
8 oz natural fully cooked smoked sausage, hot dogs or kielbasa, thinly sliced on a bias
1 small head green cabbage
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, minced

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core the cabbage, then immerse the whole head in the boiling water until the outer leaves begin to loosen.

Remove cabbage from the water and carefully peel away as many outer leaves as will come off easily, usually 8 to 12 leaves are large enough for stuffing. Reserve those leaves for stuffing. Thinly slice the remaining cabbage.

In a large skillet over medium, heat the butter. Add the onion and garlic to the pan. Sauté until onion is soft.

Add the cabbage, paprika, salt and pepper. Toss to mix all ingredients together and coat the cabbage with butter and seasonings.

Cover the pan and cook the mixture until the cabbage is tender.

Add sliced sausage to the pan, cover the pan and cook over low heat until the sausage is hot and the cabbage becomes creamy.

Top with fresh parsley before serving.

Chicken Cutlets In Mushroom Sauce

2 Servings

Ingredients

1 large chicken breast, about 8 oz cut in half lengthwise
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter, divided
4 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
One quarter of a medium onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

Season the chicken breasts with sea salt and black pepper on both sides.

In a large sauté pan, over medium-high heat, pan-sear the chicken breasts in 1 tablespoon butter.

Sear the chicken breasts on both sides until they are a golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side.

Remove the chicken from the pan to a plate.

Using the same pan, reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining butter and the minced garlic. Cook for 1 minute.

Add the sliced onion and mushrooms. Saute for 3-4 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with chicken stock. Using a rubber spatula, scrape up any brown bits in the pan. Add Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to low to simmer. Let simmer 2-3 minutes.

Add heavy cream and allow to simmer 5-10 minutes to allow sauce to thicken. Mix in Parmesan cheese, sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Add the chicken back to the pan. Finish cooking the chicken in the sauce over low heat, for about 10 minutes.


Fall weather makes you think casseroles. I like casseroles to be a little unique and not weighed down with heavy cream sauces. I also like to take advantage of some of the fall vegetables and use them in my preparation. Making a meat stuffing that can work for both recipes saves a bit of time. These dishes can be done ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking. They also hold up well in the freezer. So plan ahead.

All Purpose Meat Stuffing for Vegetables

Ingredients

1 lb organic lean ground beef
1 lb organic lean ground pork
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt
Mexican flavoring, recipe below
Italian flavoring, recipe below

Directions

In a large skillet over medium heat, the heat oil. Add the beef and pork. Cook until brown.

Drain the meat and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic, onion and bell pepper to the skillet; season with salt.

Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetables to the meat and mix well. Place half of the stuffing in another bowl.

Mexican Zucchini Casserole

I saw a video on Facebook from Delish that made zucchini enchiladas and decided to create my own, easy version with more vegetables and a homemade red enchilada sauce.

Ingredients

Half of the meat stuffing recipe from above
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cups red enchilada sauce, recipe below
2 cups Shredded Monterey Jack/Cheddar cheese blend, divided
2 large, long zucchini, halved lengthwise
Sour cream

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Oil a 7×11 inch baking dish

For the Mexican stuffing:

Add the cumin and chili powder to the meat and stir until combined. Stir until incorporated. Set aside.

For the casserole:

On a cutting board, with a sharp knife cut thin lengthwise slices of zucchini.

Place a layer of zucchini slices in the bottom of the dish, about 5 slices per layer, overlapping the slices slightly.

Spoon half of the meat mixture over the zucchini slices. Pour 1 cup of the sauce over the first layer, then sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese.

Repeat with another layer of zucchini and beef mixture.

Spoon remaining enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more or until bubbly and hot.

Serve with sour cream for a garnish.

Red Enchilada Sauce For Mexican Zucchini Casserole

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon minced dried onion
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 whole dried chipotle chile peppers
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon honey or other sweetener
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3 cups unsalted chicken broth
1 bay leaf

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan with a lid. Stir well.

Bring to a low boil, lower the heat to a simmer and place the lid slightly ajar on the pot.

Simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally until reduced and thickened. Remove the dried chipotle peppers and bay leaf.

Taste and adjust the seasonings. If the sauce is a little bitter, add just a touch more sweetener. It will help balance the flavors.

Set aside until ready to assemble the casserole.

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

Ingredients

Half the meat stuffing from the recipe above
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon dried italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups marinara sauce, recipe below
1 large cabbage

Directions

For the stuffing:

Add the egg, Italian seasoning and cheeses to the meat mixture. Add 1 cup marinara sauce and stir well. Set aside.

For the cabbage:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Discard any discolored or broken outer leaves and remove the cabbage core.

Carefully peel off 8 large leaves.

Blanch the cabbage leaves for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (a few at time), until wilted and spread them out on kitchen towels, so that they dry and cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and coat a deep casserole dish with cooking spray.

Make the cabbage rolls:

Lay cabbage leaves on the counter. Place a golf ball-sized round of meat mixture on each leaf.

Fold in the sides of the cabbage rolls and wrap cabbage leaf around the filling. Repeat with remaining leaves and mixture.

Place the cabbage rolls in the prepared dish. Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the cabbage. Cover the dish.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to sit for 5 minutes and serve.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup minced onion
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 – 26 oz containers chopped tomatoes without salt or sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Directions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and onion. Cook over low until tender.

Add the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pan with the lid ajar.

Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, for about two hours until thickened. Adjust seasoning to taste.

 

 


The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients.

Provence is a geographical region and historical province of southeastern France, which extends from the lower Rhône River on the west to the Italian border in the east, and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the south.The area also includes the Côte d’Azur, often known in English as the French Riviera.

The food of Provence resembles more closely the cuisine of Italy, Greece and Spain than typical Parisian fare. Emphasis is on locally grown vegetables, seafood, fresh herbs and olive oil, Provence is the birthplace of three well-known dishes: salade Nicoise, bouillabaisse and ratatouille.

There are many common traits between the French diet and the other Mediterranean countries, not only with regards to food choices, but also in the organization and structure of meals during the day. For example, there is no snacking in France, they eat three meals a-day, each with three courses, they eat together, portion control is common and they avoid “junk food”.

While the French embrace a wide range of foods, they keep things simple and like to use cheese, eggs, potatoes, butter, yogurt, as well as pasta and bread in their meal preparation. France is renowned for some of the world’s best wines and cheeses, and wine and food pairing is taken seriously in France even at informal dinner parties.

Beyond French wine and cheese is a mixture of traditional French dishes, many which come with long histories, regional variations and modern adaptations. The French cuisine is to a great degree a culinary art. Traditional French cuisine relies on basic combinations and together with butter are the basic ingredients for the creation of their well-known sauces, appetizers and entrees. Full fat dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, in combination with small quantities of meat or poultry are the main ingredients in French recipes. Garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and Mediterranean herbs are used to enhance those ingredients. Such recipes often include:

Appetizer Course: Provençal tomatoes, Scallops Provencal, Tapenade
Soup Course: Bouillabaisse, French Onion Soup, Saffron Mussel Bisque
Main Course: Coq au Vin, Lobster Thermidor, Ratatouille, Poulet de Provençal
Dessert Course: Orange Creme Brulee, Plum Clafouti, Poached Pears

Traditional French Recipes

Madame Saucourt’s Ratatouille

Hotel Mas des Serres in Saint Paul de Vence.

Source: Mediterranean Grains and Greens by Paula Wolfert

Ratatouille, from the southeastern French region of Provence, is a stewed vegetable recipe that can be served as a side dish, meal or stuffing for other dishes, such as crepes and omelettes. The vegetables are generally first cooked in a shallow pan on high heat and then oven-baked in a dish. French chefs debate the correct way to cook ratatouille: some do not agree with sauteing all vegetables together, such as Julia Child, and argue the vegetables should be cooked separately and layered into the baking dish. The ingredients usually consist of tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, bell peppers, basil, marjoram, thyme and herbs.

Ingredients

5 pounds eggplant
5 pounds zucchini
5 pounds sweet onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
1 quart extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs: rosemary, savory, peppermint, thyme, and celery
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups dry yet fruity white wine
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and seeded
5 pounds red bell peppers
A few drops of red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs for garnish: basil, parsley, thyme

Directions

Stem and peel the eggplant. Cut the flesh into 1″ cubes and place them in a deep kettle filled with very salty water. Keep submerged with a non-corrodible plate for at least 1 hour

Stem and peel the zucchini. Cut the flesh into 1″ cubes and place in a deep colander. Toss the zucchini with salt and let stand 1/2 hour.

In a very large heavy skillet or heavy-bottomed roasting pan cook the chopped onions in 1/2 cup water and 1 cup olive oil until the onions are soft and golden, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic, chopped herbs, bay leaf, sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the wine. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

Coarsely chop the tomatoes with their skins in the work bowl of a food processor. Add to the skillet and continue cooking at a simmer for 11/2 hours. Whenever the onion-tomato mixture starts to stick or burn, “deglaze” with a few tablespoons of water and scrape with a wooden spoon.

Grill the peppers; when cool, peel, stem, seed and cut into small pieces. Set aside.

Rinse and drain the eggplant and zucchini and lightly press dry with toweling.

Slowly heat the remaining 3 cups of olive oil in a wide pan or fryer until medium-hot. Add the zucchini in batches, and fry until golden on all sides. Transfer the zucchini with a slotted spoon to a colander set over a bowl to catch any excess oil. When all the zucchini has been fried, fry the eggplant in the same manner. From time to time return the drained oil in the bowl to the pan.

Spread the zucchini, eggplant, and peppers over the simmering onion-tomato mixture and pour in the remaining wine. Cover and cook at a simmer for 11/2 hours. From time to time remove the cover to help evaporate some of the liquid.

Place a colander over a large bowl and pour the contents of the skillet into it to drain. Stir carefully to avoid crushing the vegetables while trying to encourage any trapped oil and juices to drain. Quickly cool down the captured juices in order to remove as much oil as possible. If there is a lot of juice, boil it down until thick. Reserve all the frying oil and oil from the vegetables for another use. Pour the juices over the vegetables, taste for seasoning, add vinegar, and carefully stir to combine. Serve hot or cold. Sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Coquilles St-Jacques

“Although coquilles St-Jacques simply means “scallops” in French, in the idiom of American cooks, the term is synonymous with the old French dish of scallops poached in white wine, placed atop a purée of mushrooms in a scallop shell, covered with a sauce made of the scallop poaching liquid, and gratinéed under a broiler. This rich, classic recipe was a signature dish of most of the small French restaurants in New York when I came here in the late 1950s. While working at Le Pavillon back then, I must have made it thousands of times. These days, most chefs, myself included, have moved away somewhat from that dish, favoring lighter preparations. But I’ll tell you one thing: last time I made coquilles St-Jacques, it was for students at Boston University. I prepared two dishes for them: scallops cooked in a modern way, served with a green herb salad, and also the classic, gratinéed version. Now, these were not chefs-in-training; they didn’t know what they were supposed to like. And there wasn’t one student who didn’t choose the old way over the new. It just goes to show: Truly good food never really goes out of style.” —Jacques Pepin, chef, cookbook author, and PBS-TV cooking series host

Serves 6

Ingredients

8 oz. button mushrooms, minced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 small shallots, minced
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoons minced tarragon, plus 6 whole leaves, to garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup dry vermouth
1 bay leaf
6 large sea scallops
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup grated Gruyère
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Heat mushrooms, 4 tablespoons butter, and 2⁄3 of the shallots in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat; cook until the mixture forms a loose paste, about 25 minutes. Stir the parsley and minced tarragon into the mushroom mixture; season with salt and pepper.

Divide mixture among 6 cleaned scallop shells or shallow gratin dishes. Bring remaining shallots, vermouth, bay leaf, salt, and 3⁄4 cup water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add scallops; cook until barely tender, about 2 minutes.

Remove scallops; place each over mushrooms in shells. Continue boiling cooking liquid until reduced to 1⁄2 cup, about 10 minutes; strain.

Heat broiler to high. Heat remaining butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; cook until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add reduced cooking liquid and cream; cook until thickened, about 8 minutes. Add cheese, juice, salt, and pepper; divide the sauce over scallops.

Broil until browned on top, about 3 minutes; garnish each with a tarragon leaf.

French Cassoulet

This hearty dish from southwestern France, known as a cassoulet, is a one-pot meal. A slow-simmered mix of beans, pork sausages, pork shoulder, pancetta and duck topped with a bread crumb crust , takes its name from the earthenware casserole in which it was traditionally made.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 lb. dried great northern beans
10 tablespoons duck fat or olive oil
16 cloves garlic, smashed
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 large ham hocks
1 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1″cubes
1⁄2 lb. pancetta, cubed
4 sprigs oregano
4 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
1 cup whole peeled canned tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
4 duck legs
1 lb. pork sausages
2 cups bread crumbs

Directions

Soak the beans in a 4-qt. bowl in 7 1⁄2 cups water overnight.

Heat 2 tablespoons of duck fat in a 6-qt. pot over medium-high heat. Add half the garlic, onions, and carrots and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add ham hocks along with beans and their water and boil. Reduce heat and simmer beans until tender, about 1 1⁄2 hours.

Transfer ham hocks to a plate; let cool. Pull off meat; discard skin, bone, and gristle. Chop meat; add to beans. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 5-qt. dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown for 8 minutes. Add pancetta; cook for 5 minutes. Add remaining garlic, onions, and carrots; cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Tie together oregano, thyme, and bay leaves with twine; add to pan with tomatoes; cook until liquid thickens, 8–10 minutes. Add wine; reduce by half. Add broth; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, until liquid has thickened, about 1 hour. Discard herbs; set dutch oven aside.

Sear the duck legs in 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat for 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. Brown the sausages in the fat, about 8 minutes. Cut sausages into 1⁄2″ slices. Pull duck meat off bones. Discard fat and bones. Stir duck and sausages into pork stew.

Heat the oven to 300˚F. Mix beans and pork stew in a 4-qt. earthenware casserole. Cover with bread crumbs; drizzle with remaining duck fat.

Bake, uncovered, for 3 hours. Raise oven temperature to 500˚; cook the cassoulet until the crust is golden, about 5 minutes.

Crêpes Suzette

Credit for inventing Crêpes Suzette is claimed by French restaurateur Henri Charpentier, who in 1894, at age 14, while an assistant waiter, accidentally set the sauce aflame when serving this dessert to the Prince of Wales. Once the fire subsided, the sauce was so delicious that the prince asked that the dish be named for a young girl in his entourage, Suzette.

Serves 6

For the Crêpes

6 tablespoons flour
6 eggs
6 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Unsalted butter, as needed

For the Sauce

3 oranges
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
10 tablespoons sugar
7 tablespoons Cointreau
1 tablespoons Kirsch
1 teaspoon orange flower water
5 tablespoons cognac

Directions

Make the crêpe batter:

Whisk together flour and eggs in a medium bowl. Add milk and cream, and whisk until smooth. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Prepare the sauce:

Use a vegetable peeler to remove rind from 2 of the oranges, avoiding pith; mince rind and set aside. Juice all the oranges and set juice aside. In a medium bowl, beat butter and 1⁄2 cup sugar on high-speed of a hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add rind to butter and beat for 1 minute. Gradually drizzle in juice, 2 tbsp. of the Cointreau, Kirsch and orange flower water, beating constantly until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes more.

Make the crêpes:

Heat a seasoned crêpe pan or small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Grease pan with a little butter, then pour in 1⁄4 cup batter. Working quickly, swirl batter to just coat pan, and cook until edges brown, about 1 minute. Turn with a spatula and brown other side for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining batter, greasing pan only as needed.

To serve:

Melt orange butter sauce in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until bubbling. Dip both sides of one crêpe in sauce, then, with best side facing down, fold in half, then in half again. Repeat process with remaining crêpes, arranging and overlapping them around the perimeter of the pan. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Remove pan from heat, pour remaining Cointreau and the cognac over crêpes, and carefully ignite with a match. Spoon sauce over crêpes until flame dies out, and then serve immediately.


Today’s dinner is one of our favorites. I don’t often eat lamb, but loin lamb chops are different. After siting in a marinade and then going on the grill, you couldn’t ask for anything more delicious than this. My market sells organic meats and when the lamb chops go on sale, I buy a few and put some extra away in the freezer for another day.

Red potatoes are in season in my area, so they are plentiful and inexpensive at the farmers’ markets. With the green beans, I got lucky. They are also in season but my batch came from a friend’s garden. He has quite a vegetable garden growing in a corner of his yard and he often shares some of his produce with me. Give this dinner a try, if you are in the mood. Delicious.

Grilled Lamb Chops

2 servings

Ingredients

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
4 lamb loin chops, about 1 inch thick (about 2 3/4 pounds in all)

Directions

In a shallow dish, combine 4 tablespoons of the oil with the garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the lamb chops and turn to coat. Refrigerate for several hours before grilling.

Light an outdoor grill or heat the broiler. Oil the grill grates. Place the chops on the grill and reserve any marinade in the dish.

Grill over high heat or broil the lamb chops for 5 minutes, basting with the reserved marinade. Turn and cook until done, about 5 minutes longer.

When grilling quick-cooking items such as chops, turn them only once.

If you leave the meat alone for a few minutes, it will have a chance to form a nice brown crust. If you move it too soon, the meat will stick, and you’ll pull off the incipient crust.

Once that brown edge forms, the meat is easy to move.

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

Ingredients

White Sauce

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups whole milk

Casserole

2 pounds (about 6 medium) red potatoes, thinly sliced
Half of a medium onion, diced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Salt to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place a saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Using a whisk, add the flour and stir briskly to incorporate the flour and butter. Sprinkle in the mustard, salt and pepper.

Continue to cook for one minute over medium heat. Whisk in the milk and continue to stir, until the liquid comes to a full boil.

Constantly stir and scrape the bottom of the pan while the sauce continues to cook and thicken, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Spray a 1 ½ quart baking dish with vegetable spray. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the white sauce into the bottom of the dish.

Sprinkle lightly with onions. Arrange a layer of overlapping potatoes in the bottom of the dish.

Sprinkle with salt and half of the onions. Pour 1/2 of the sauce evenly over the potatoes.

Sprinkle with half the cheese and some of the thyme leaves. Repeat with a second layer in the same order.

Place the baking dish onto a rimmed baking sheet. Spray a piece of aluminum foil on one side with vegetable spray and place over the potatoes. Bake for 45 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and remove the foil. Continue to bake for an additional 45 minutes.

Lemon-Ginger Green Beans

Ingredients

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger root, grated
3 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

Directions

Blanch the green beans in boiling water for two minutes. Drain.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the beans and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.

Add lemon juice, cover the pan and steam the beans until they are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


 

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This time of year it takes some creativity to cook with seasonal ingredients. There is plenty of cabbage in the market in December and it can easily be used for a delicious main dish. Finding ways to use cabbage is not difficult. Add cabbage to casseroles and soup or sauté it for a side dish. Don’t pass up this healthy, versatile and frugal vegetable when you see in the market.

Italian Style Stuffed Cabbage

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Stuffed cabbage rolls are usually made with rice but I like to use orzo because it has a soft texture and gives the rolls an Italian flair. You can use any type of meat but I like the flavor sausage gives the stuffing for these rolls.

Makes 18-21 rolls

Ingredients

1 large head of cabbage placed in the freezer two days before using and then thawed. (It’s easier to roll wilted leaves and eliminates the boiling step)
8 oz pork sausage, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup diced onion
1 cup shredded carrot.
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon Italian pork sausage seasoning or use a combination of fennel and Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked orzo
Marinara Sauce, see recipe below

Directions

Remove as many whole leaves from the cabbage head as you can. I was able to remove 21 leaves from my cabbage. Cut out the core and discard. Chop the remaining cabbage.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the diced sausage. Cook until lightly brown. Place in a large mixing bowl

Add the vegetables to the skillet and saute just until tender. Add the seasonings and place in the bowl with the sausage.

Add the orzo and ½ cup marinara sauce. Mix the filling until all the ingredients are combined.

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To assemble the cabbage rolls:

In a greased 9×13 inch baking pan, spread one cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish and sprinkle with the chopped cabbage.

Use about 1/2 cup of filling for large leaves and about 1/4 cup for smaller leaves. Place the filling on the base of each leaf, fold in the sides and roll the leaf up to make a tight packet.

As you complete them, place each roll, seam side down, into the prepared baking dish.. Continue until all the filling is used up.

Pour 2 cups of marinara sauce on top of the rolls and spread the sauce to cover all the cabbage rolls.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 2 hours or until the cabbage rolls are very tender.

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Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Half a medium onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
2-26 oz containers of Italian chopped tomatoes (without salt or sugar added, if possible)
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and add the next four ingredients. Saute them for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Partially cover the pan and let the sauce cook for about an hour until smooth and slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.



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