Potato and Porcini Mushroom Gratin

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If there is one ingredient in particular that signifies fall to me, it’s mushrooms. I love them year round, but come October, I start to use more of them in my cooking than usual, especially the dried kind. And no dried mushroom is arguably more flavorful and more prized than porcini mushrooms. Layered between thin slices of potatoes and garlic-flecked cheese, this gratin makes for a decadent side dish to any cold-weather meal.

Potato and Porcini Mushroom Gratin

Ingredients:

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup whipping cream
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Pinch of grated nutmeg
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about 5), peeled, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices

1. Place porcini and boiling water in medium bowl. Place small plate atop bowl to keep covered and let soak 20 minutes. Drain and coarsely chop mushrooms.

2. Melt butter with oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Whisk 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, mascarpone cheese, whipping cream, garlic and nutmeg in a bowl; season with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter wide shallow 2-quart baking dish. Arrange 1/4 of potato slices in bottom of dish. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Scatter 1/4 of mushrooms over. Repeat. Spread half of cheese mixture over, shaking dish to settle. Repeat with remaining potatoes and mushrooms in 2 layers each; spread remaining cheese mixture over. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons Parmesan over. Place gratin dish on rimmed baking sheet.

4. Bake gratin until top is brown and sauce is bubbling at edges, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Let gratin rest 15 minutes before serving.

Endive, Apple and Gorgonzola Salad

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There are a million variations on the endive and blue cheese fall salad theme, but this one is by far my favorite. I’m not crazy about blue cheese, so when I do add it to recipes, I try to balance it out with sweet and bitter flavors to counter the cheese’s pungency. That works perfectly in this salad – a bite of apple here, a taste of walnuts there, and I’m suddenly a blue cheese fan.

Endive, Apple and Gorgonzola Salad

Ingredients:

1/2 cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 teaspoon sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped
4 heads Belgian endive, thinly sliced
1 Fuji apple, cut into matchstick-size pieces
1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted

1. Boil wine in medium saucepan until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool.

2. Whisk in vinegar, rosemary, sugar, and garlic. Whisk in oil and season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Mix in romaine, endive, apple, cheese, and chives in large bowl with dressing. Garnish salad with walnuts and serve.

Aab Doogh Khiyaar

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It’s raining outside and I haven’t seen the sun in what feels like ages, but I’m dreaming of summer. It’s my favorite season, and with Norooz (Persian new year) only a few weeks away, warmer weather is finally beginning to feel like a reality. And with that weather comes cravings for aab doogh khiyaar.

Aab doogh khiyaar is for Iranians what gazpacho is to Spaniards or what somen is to the Japanese. It’s a comfort food for me, evocative of long sweltering days where my family couldn’t be bothered to turn on the oven.

I tried recreating it last summer and it tasted pretty close to the nostalgic aab doogh khiyaar of my childhood.

Ab doogh khiar

Ingredients:
2 Persian cucumbers, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
2 cups plain Middle Eastern or Greek yogurt, beaten
1 handful fresh basil (preferrably Persian), chopped
1 handful fresh chives (preferrably Persian), chopped
2 tablespoons mint, chopped
5 radishes (including greens), chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 cup raisins (preferrably Persian)
2 cups cold water
1 cup ice cubes
2 slices Pita bread (or other Middle Eastern flatbread), toasted and torn into smaller pieces

1. In a bowl, stir cucumbers and green onion into the yogurt. Add the mint, tarragon, chives, walnut, raisins and salt. Mix well together.

2. Stir in water and mix. Adjust seasonings to tasted, and just before serving add ice cubes and bread and mix.

Endive Salad with Anchovy and Caper Dressing

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It can be hard to get enough greens in my diet during the winter, but that doesn’t mean I don’t stop craving them. Endives are in season at this time of year though, and this anchovy and caper dressing stand up perfectly to offset the endives’ mild bitterness.

This easy recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef, which I adore, even though I feel like I shouldn’t, because Anthony Bourdain doesn’t. But hey, the man can cook!

Endive salad with anchovy and caper dressing

Ingredients:

4 endives, cut into eighths
8 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, drained and minced
1 tablespoon capers, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Black pepper

1. In a bowl, whisk minced anchovies, capers, olive oil, lemon juice and pepper to taste.

2. Add endives to bowl and toss with dressing.

Lentil Salad with Browned Sausages

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Lentils have always been a comfort food for me. Adas polo, an Iranian lentil and rice pilaf topped with fried onions, was a dish frequently requested by my sister and I when we were kids. Adasi, or soupy lentils served with olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled with golpar, is one of my favorite meals when I’m feeling under the weather.

A dish of lentil salad with browned sausages that I made recently is French-inspired rather than Iranian, but the comfort factor is still there. With the days getting shorter, darker and rainier, a bowl of well-seasoned lentils couldn’t be a better antidote to the autumn blues.

Lentil salad with browned sausages

Ingredients:

2-3 cups cooked brown lentils
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
1 lb smoked sausage, sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and saute, turning ocassionally until browned, about 10 minutes.

2. In another saucepan, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and carrots and saute until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and remove from heat.

3. While the sausages cook, make the vinaigrette: In a bowl, whisk one tablespoon vinegar with the mustard and a pinch of salt. Whisk in two tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt.

4. If lentils are not warm, reheat them. In a large bowl, toss the lentils with a little salt and remaining vinegar and olive oil. Drain the sausages and add sausages and vinaigrette to the lentils, tossing to coat. Stir in the parsley, onions and carrots and add salt and pepper to taste.