Gratin Dauphinois

Gratin Dauphinois is the French name for scalloped potatoes from the Dauphiné region in southeastern France, or  what is now known as the Grenoble region.  This simple and wonderful side dish is amazingly delicious, whether with a good steak, lamb chops, pork chops, or on its own.  You will definitely notice that as it bakes, the smell emanating from that oven is intoxicating!  I remember making it a couple of years ago for Sunday dinner at my sister’s house.  My parents were visiting from out of town, and  Léna, my sister, made an awesome spread of grilled meats and fish with a zesty salad.  I was in charge of bringing a starchy side dish.  I brought the gratin dauphinois.  It went so well with what Léna prepared.  I even remember my father asking me to leave him all the leftovers … to my husband’s chagrin.

GRATIN DAUPHINOIS

1 tablespoon organic Butter
4 tablespoons Garlic – finely minced
1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh Thyme – finely chopped
7 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 1/2 cups heavy Cream
1 teaspoon Nutmeg – freshly grated
1/2 tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper – freshly ground
1 cup Gruyère – grated

Begin by washing your potatoes and leaving them to the side, while you mince and chop your garlic and thyme.  Slice the potatoes using a mandolin.  Grease an oven safe baking dish with butter, then place one layer of the potato slices to cover the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt, a pinch of freshly ground pepper, a sprinkle of the minced garlic, and a sprinkle of the chopped thyme.  Finish the layer with a fresh grating of nutmeg.  Repeat the layering process until you have layered all the potatoes with the garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Gently add the heavy cream to the potato layers, and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through.  Grate the gruyère cheese, and top the potato gratin with it, then place the gratin back in the oven on broil for about 5 – 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.  The length of time of this last step completely depends on your oven.  So, make sure to watch the gratin, while it is broiling.  You do not want to burn the cheese after all that work you did.  Once you take the gratin our of the oven, leave it to sit and rest for about 5 minutes.  Serve and enjoy.


Mediterranean Shrimp Salad

The flavors of the Mediterranean are so fresh and vibrant.  As I always tend to fall back to my Mediterranean roots, when it comes to food, I decide to make a refreshing and colorful shrimp salad.  You may enjoy this zesty and colorful salad for lunch, dinner, or as an appetizer, if you serve a smaller portion.  I prefer it for lunch with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, while sitting outside on a beautiful sunny day with Kevin and my friends.  I guess that is one way to be transported to the Mediterranean, while staying in Dallas.

MEDITERRANEAN SHRIMP SALAD

THE SHRIMP

1 lb Shrimp 26 – 30 count
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons Corn Starch
6 grinds Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 tablespoon organic Butter
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a bowl, add the salt, pepper, corn starch, and paprika to the shrimp.  Make sure they are coated thoroughly.  In a hot sauté pan, add the butter and the olive oil.  Sauté the shrimp for about 2 minutes on each side, or until it is pink and firm.  Remove the shrimp, and place them on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb the access grease.

THE SALAD

2 cups Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 cup Capers
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives
1 cup Italian Parsley leaves
2 Lemons – zest
1 large Shallot
1/4 teaspoon Salt
12 grinds Black
1 Lemon – juiced – or 2 tablespoons Lemon juice
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil – plus little extra for drizzle finish

Slice the tomatoes and olives in halves, and place them in a bowl.  Finely dice the shallot, and add it to the bowl.  Add the capers, parsley leaves, zest of two lemons, juice of one lemon, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.  With a spoon, gently toss the ingredients together.

It is very important to use very good quality extra virgin olive oil, whenever you are adding it to salads, fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, dressings, salsas, or anything that will not be cooked.

Plate all the salad on a serving platter or a portion of the salad on a salad plate of your choice, then add some of the shrimp on top.  If you want to keep the shrimp very crispy, do not mix them with the salad, because the crispy coating will become slightly soggy.  However, if you want to coat the shrimp with the lemony dressing, then go ahead and mix them with the salad.  Finish the dish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  Pour yourself a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy.


Lebanese Kibbeh – 2rass

Kibbeh is one of those very versatile dishes in Lebanon that can be served as part of a mezze / mezza or for dinner with yogurt, many lemon wedges, tabbouleh, hommos, French fries, or anything you wish.  It can be made with different ingredients and utilizing various different applications and techniques, as in lamb kibbeh, beef kibbeh, fish kibbeh, potato kibbeh, pumpkin kibbeh, raw kibbeh, grilled kibbeh, fried kibbeh, baked kibbeh, etc.  I love it all, but for this occasion, I am making lamb kibbeh for one of my favorite people and wonderful longtime friend, Phillip Anderson.  Phillip LOVES kibbeh!  He orders it every time he goes to a Lebanese restaurant.  The version of kibbeh I am making is traditionally deep fried and served as part of a mezze; however, I am oven “frying” it, or baking it, for a slightly healthier approach and serving it for dinner.

LEBANESE KIBBEH – 2rass

THE FILLING

1 1/2 yellow Onions – finely diced
1 1/2 lbs ground Lamb
1/2 cup Pine Nuts
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tablespoon organic Butter
1/2 tablespoon Salt
1/2 tablespoon Allspice
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg – freshly grated

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small sauté pan over medium low heat.  Add the pine nuts and toast, until they are golden brown.  Please pay close attention to them, as they tend to brown very quickly.  Put them to the side.  In a larger sauté pan, brown the lamb in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter on medium high to high heat.  Remove the browned lamb from the pan, and place in a bowl to the side.  DO NOT clean the pan.  In the same pan that was used for the lamb, add the onions with 2 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Sauté the onions on medium low, until they are caramelized.  Add the browned lamb to the onions, while still on the stove.  Add the salt, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and toasted pine nuts.  Stir to combine.  Tilt the pan to allow the filling to drain a little, so the residual fat can separate.  Do not discard that fat, as it can be used in the place of olive oil in the crust*.  Allow the filling to get to room temperature.

*This is a very delicious thing my mother taught me.  Using the residual fat from the filling in the crust, will yield a much tastier kibbeh.

THE CRUST

2 large yellow Onions – puréed
2 lbs ground Lamb
1 1/2 cups Bulgur – very finely ground
1 tablespoon Salt
2 teaspoons Allspice
3/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg – freshly grated
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil – or 1/4 cup residual fat from filling
1 cup Water
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil – for brushing the kibbeh

Begin by rinsing the bulgur a few times, then draining most of the water.  Make sure to leave some excess water to allow the bulgur to absorb it, as it site for a few minutes.  Place the ground lamb in a large bowl.  Roughly chop the onions, and place them in a food processor.  Purée the onions, then add them to the bowl, along with the moist bulgur.  Add the salt, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and olive oil.  Mix the ingredients until a paste is formed.  Allow to sit in the refrigerator for about an hour, to help the flavors integrate together.

Now comes the challenging part, forming the crust / paste into 2rass.  Find an open surface, such as a kitchen island or a table, and place the bowl with the crust / paste, the bow with the filling, a small bowl filled with 1 cup of water, and a large plate for the kibbeh balls or 2rass on said surface.  Make sure to grease the plate with a little olive oil, to keep the kibbeh from sticking.

Making the 2rass:

You must wet your hands with water EVERY time you start making a kibbeh ball (2ors).  After you have wet your hands, take some of the paste, depending on how large or small you want the 2rass to be, and form it into a round ball.  Push your index finger gently through the center of the ball, to form a tunnel of sorts for the filling.  With a spoon, take some of the filling, and place it in the tunnel you just formed.   Close the opening with the inside of your thumb and the outside of your index finger.  Mold the oddly shaped, stuffed oval into the shape of an American football by smoothing the paste with your fingers.  If you see some cracks forming, wet your fingers with water, and smooth out the crack.  If this process proves to be too lengthy and challenging, then roll them into balls instead.

If you choose to make these the traditional way, bring 2 quarts of grapeseed or vegetable oil to 365 degrees Fahrenheit, and fry the kibbeh until golden brown.  When you remove them from the oil, place them on a rack to drain and cool a bit.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease a baking sheet and place the kibbeh on it.  Gently brush the top of every 2ors or football with olive oil.  Place in the oven for 45 minutes or until golden and delicious.  Remove from the oven and plate.  Kibbeh is always served with yogurt and lemon wedges.  Eat up!


Romaine, Avocado & Cilantro Salad w/ Caesar Vinaigrette & Homemade Croutons

Salads are something I like to make quite often, and I do.  I make them for brunch, lunch, and dinner, but mostly for dinner.  When I come home from work, and I don’t have enough time to make an elaborate meal, I make a salad.  Gladly, my husband and daughter don’t seem to mind.

ROMAINE, AVOCADO, AND CILANTRO CAESAR SALAD

1 head Romaine Lettuce
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives
1 large Avocado
1/2 cup Cilantro leaves only
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 cups homemade Croutons – recipe below

Begin by washing all your produce and drying them thoroughly.  Chop the lettuce or tear it in any way you prefer, and place it in a large salad bowl.  Add the sliced tomatoes, olives, avocado, and grated Pecorino Romano to the lettuce.  Remove the cilantro leaves from the stems, and leave to the side for now.

CAESAR VINAIGRETTE

1 Garlic clove
2 tablespoons Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Orange juice
1 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
2 Anchovy Fillets
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
Pinch of Salt
10 grinds Black Pepper

 

In a blender or food processor, blend the garlic, lemon juice, orange juice, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, anchovy fillets, salt, and pepper together, while slowly drizzling in the extra virgin olive oil, until everything is emulsified .  Add the grated Pecorino Romano and blend one last time.  The result should be a Caesar dressing that has a vinaigrette consistency; in other words, it is not as creamy as the traditional version.  Place the vinaigrette in the refrigerator, until you are done with making the croutons, and are ready to serve the salad.

Traditional Caesar dressing does not have orange juice in it.  I like to use a splash of orange juice sometimes to balance the flavors.  The traditional version, however, has an egg yolk, which I have chosen to omit, as the Dijon mustard will be assisting with the emulsification of the dressing / vinaigrette.

Just a note: since you are using Pecorino Romano, which is a very salty yet delicious cheese, be careful with how much you salt the vinaigrette.  Thus the reason for a “pinch of salt” in the vinaigrette ingredients.  If you choose to substitute another cheese like Parmesan or Asiago, you may add a bit more salt.

HOMEMADE CROUTONS

2 cups cubed Ciabatta loaf 
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette
1 tablespoon dried Italian Seasoning

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a bowl, mix your ciabatta bread cubes with the extra virgin olive oil, Piment d’Espelette*, and dried Italian seasoning, until every cube is thoroughly coded.  If you cannot find Piment d’Espelette, you may use paprika or cayenne pepper as a substitute, or you may omit this ingredient altogether.  Place the croutons on a baking sheet and in the oven for about 12- 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Don’t forget that they will continue to harden, even after they are out of the oven.  Remove them from the oven, and leave them to the side for a minute, before you top your salad with them.

*Piment d’Espelette is a chili from the Basque (Southern Atlantic) region of France.  The chili is dried then ground, and used in many regional dishes.  It is wonderfully DELICIOUS!  

Top the salad with the still warm croutons and the cilantro leaves.  Lightly drizzle the Caesar vinaigrette and toss the salad gently.  You may have this as your main meal by adding grilled chicken, fish, or meat, or you may have it as is.  You may also have it as your appetizer, before you serve a protein and a starch.  Whatever you decide to do, serve and ENJOY!


Oven Roasted Shrimp w/ Cocktail Sauce

My daughter, Amanda, loves shrimp and cocktail sauce!  Actually, she loves all kinds of shellfish, cooked in all kinds of ways.  It makes me smile to watch her face beam with excitement, every time I make her a shellfish dish she loves.  I personally think there is nothing too special about boiled and bland shrimp dipped in store bought cocktail sauce.  So, I set out to make her a slightly better version of the bland classic … or so I think.

COCKTAIL SAUCE

1/2 cup organic Ketchup
1 tablespoon hot creamy Horseradish
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Chili Sauce or Sweet & Sour Sauce
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Salt
6 grinds of Black Pepper

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together, then set aside in the refrigerator.  Now, for the shrimp … If  you are making this dish for adults or guests, I highly suggest buying your shrimp with the tail still unpeeled, and instead of the 27 – 30 count, I recommend the 10 – 12 count.  

OVEN ROASTED SHRIMP

1 lb uncooked Shrimp 27 – 30 count
2 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
10 grinds Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rinse and dry the shrimp very well with paper towels.  Place them in a bowl.  Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and combine them.  Place the shrimp on a sheet pan; make sure to place them far enough apart for them to roast properly.  Roasting them instead of boiling them gives, the otherwise bland shrimp, a much better flavor.  Put the sheet pan in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.  Remove the roasted shrimp and plate them, along with the cocktail sauce, or leave them in the refrigerator, if you prefer them to be cold.  I choose to serve them straight from the oven, as my daughter hovers around me like a 12 year old vulture waiting to strike.  She wants them the minute they are out of the oven.  Since I made them for her, why not?  I hope you enjoy them as she did.