About Jeannine

Hi, I'm the Jeannine behind Jeannine's Cuisine. My blog is all about cooking from scratch with the freshest ingredients available.

Swedish Rye Bread

Rye Bread 1

I learned to bake bread while living in El Salvador, from my supervisor’s wife, who learned the skill out of necessity when they lived in Nepal. It’s a small world, isn’t it?  She hosted some of the Embassy personnel at her house for bread baking workshops.  We would get all the bread doughs ready in the morning, then hang out at the pool drinking ice cold Presidente beer until it was time to bake.  Somehow the bread got made in spite of the copious amount of beer that was consumed.

Rye Bread 2

I came across this recipe while sorting through my card file of old favorites.  I used to make it all the time in El Salvador, and realized I had not made it in many years. I lived in a high rise apartment building along with a lot of the other military personnel who were assigned to the U.S. Embassy at the time.  Since I got off work before my Army buddies, I became the defacto cook for all of us. They bought the groceries, and I did the cooking.  I thought it was a pretty good deal.

Rye Bread 3

When the commissary started carrying frozen corned beef briskets, we decided it was time for Reuben sandwiches, one of my favorites to this day. Somehow we managed to locate almost all of the necessary ingredients. The only problem was where to find the rye bread for the sandwiches.  Well, I’ve never been the type to shrink from a culinary challenge, and rye bread was no different. This is the rye bread recipe I used.

Rye Bread 4

Swedish Rye Bread

2 Loaves

This Rye Bread is a little on the sweet side, but it goes with everything from corned beef to just butter and jam or smoked salmon, Scandi style. I’ve provided the baking time; however the best way to tell if the bread is done is to use an instant read thermometer.  You want the bread to be between 205 and 210 degrees. Always let freshly baked bread cool completely before slicing into it.

1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

1/4 cup warm water, 105-110 degrees

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons shortening

1 1/2 cups hot, but not boiling, water

2 1/2 cups rye flour

3 tablespoons caraway seed

3 1/2 – 4 cups all purpose flour

Soften the yeast by placing it in a small bowl with 1/4  cup water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir and set aside until foamy.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the brown sugar, molasses, salt, and shortening with the paddle attachment. Add hot water and stir until sugar dissolves. Note: the shortening will not completely dissolve in the liquid. Cool until lukewarm to touch, then add the rye flour and beat well. Add the yeast mixture and the caraway seed and mix well. Switch out the paddle with the dough hook. Start adding all purpose flour about a half a cup at a time and mixing it in before adding more. Add enough of the flour to make a moderately stiff dough. The dough will be sticky but not so stiff that the hook cannot get through it. Continue kneading the bread dough in the mixer until the surface is smooth and satiny.  This should take about 5 minutes or a little less. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, turning it over once to oil the surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide it into two portions and shape each into a smooth round loaf. Place both loaves on a half sheet pan, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour. Bake at 375 degrees 25-30 minutes. Place foil loosely over the tops for the last 10 minutes to avoid over baking. Cool on a wire rack.

 

 

 

 

Minty Sweet and Sour Eggplant

The summer gardening frenzy is in full swing and once again I’m asking:  What am I going to do with all this eggplant/zucchini/chard, etc? I never learn.  I didn’t even learn after what my husband calls, “the summer of the eggplant.” Who knew three plants would produce so much eggplant we would be eating it EVERY DAY!? He revolted and refused to eat anymore eggplant, but fortunately not until just before the growing season was over. Actually, that was even a little too much eggplant for me, and it’s my favorite vegetable.

I think I’ve mentioned my 5-year rotation on recipes before. I just like to try a lot of new dishes, especially if there is a unique ingredient or cooking method involved. Not all of these experiments are successful. Creamed chard with xanthan gum comes to mind. I have never tasted something so gross. I think the recipe stated that the xanthan gum thickens the sauce without dulling the flavor. Trust me, stick with béchamel sauce or a cream reduction.

I do, however, have a few recipes that I make over and over again. One of my goals with this blog is to capture those go-to recipes in one location. Easy to share with friends and family, and I can access them easily. This eggplant is one of those go-to recipes. We eat a lot of Indian food, and this is the vegetable side dish I often turn to. The only negative is that this dish, like many made with eggplant, does not freeze well. So, if you make it, plan to eat all of it in the next few days. The good news is that it’s just as good warmed up the next day as the day you made it.

Minty Sweet and Sour Eggplant

6 Servings

This eggplant goes well with any Indian food. It’s combination of sweet, sour, and salty flavors are a great complement to curries as well as grilled meats. The best eggplant to use are the smaller thinner Asian types. If you must use the large globe eggplant, slice it in half lengthwise and then into half moon slices. The eggplant can be broiled and the casserole prepared several hours ahead of time.

2.5 pounds eggplant

6 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil

Coarse salt

Pepper

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves, plus more fresh leaves for garnish

Position a rack in the top rack of the oven and preheat the broiler on high.

Brush a sheet pan with oil. Slice the eggplant 1/3 inch thick or slice into half moons as described above. Place the eggplant in a single layer in the sheet pan. (Note: you may need more than one pan.) Brush the eggplant on both sides with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Turn the slices over and broil the other side, about 2 minutes. Eggplant should be cooked through in the middle, but not falling apart. Remove the pan of eggplant from the oven and set aside. Turn off the broiler and preheat the oven to 350.

Toast the cumin seeds in a small pan until they release their fragrance, about 1 minute. Place in a small bowl with the remaining ingredients.

Place the eggplant slices in a 9 x 12 baking dish, slightly overlapping as seen in the photos. After one layer is in place dribble about a third of the seasoning mixture over the eggplant. Repeat with two remain layers of eggplant and seasoning.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs by Julia Child

 

 

 

Mashed Potatoes – A Tribute

Mash 1

One of my favorite restaurants in the world is L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris. One of the principal reasons for that opinion is the mashed potatoes, which are heaven on a plate. I’m not sure what makes them so good – perfect seasoning, a silky texture like a cloud, or maybe it’s all that buttery, creamy goodness? Either way, they definitely rank way up there on my list of favorites. I have the recipe for those potatoes, and just can’t go there. A restaurant kitchen has an army of commis chefs to do all that peeling, mashing, and, most important, smashing through a strainer, to obtain just the right texture. Yeah, it would probably take my army of one about a week to achieve the same results.

Mash 2

Fortunately we have a solution. In 2004, Chef Anthony Bourdain wrote a French cookbook, Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking,containing French bistro recipes from the New York restaurant of the same name, where he was executive chef for several years. This saucy little book is Bourdain’s personality in print. But more importantly, the recipe for Pommes Pureé in the Les Hallesbook is the closest I’ve found to Robuchon’s potatoes, without all that work.

Mash 3

I followed Anthony Bourdain for almost his entire career – read his books and watched the television shows. I always liked the fact that he was a renegade in the food world. Then, when I bought the Les Hallesbook and made a few of the recipes, I realized that not only was he a great entertainer, but that he had some serious chef creds as well. Anthony Bourdain’s passing was a huge loss for the culinary world. The world will never know what would have been his next food adventure

Mash 4

Mashed Potatoes

8-10 Servings

Do not fear the fat in this recipe. If you are concerned about it, just eat less.  If you really love mashed potatoes, this recipe may yield only 8, or even 6, servings.  We love them too, but we have found that the richness of the dish makes it stretch a lot further than the 6 servings in the original recipe.

6 Idaho Potatoes, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups heavy cream

6 tablespoons butter

freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a large pot with enough cold water to cover them. Add the salt and bring to a boil. Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife.

Meanwhile, while the potatoes are cooking, combine the cream and the butter in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, just enough to heat the cream and melt and combine the butter.  Cream goes from steaming a little bit to boiling over very easily (I know from personal experience), so keep a close watch on it.

When the potatoes are done, drain them and return to the pot. Mash them with a potato masher, or whatever tool you use for mashing potatoes ¾ricer, fork, etc.  Whatever tool you use, do not put the potatoes in a blender or food processor unless you want to make glue. Mashing the potates really well at this stage, results in fewer lumps in the finished dish. It depends on the effect you are after. Sometimes I like them a little more “rustic.”

Begin adding the cream mixture 1/4-1/2 cup at a time, mixing in well and mashing between additions. The potatoes are done when they are creamy and smooth.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking by Anthony Bourdain

 

Skillet Cornbread – The 10-Year Rotation

Cornbread 1

Cornbread is a side dish that’s part of our New Year’s Day dinner table every year. That’s because it goes so well with black-eyed peas, which I have been eating almost every New Year’s Day since I was old enough to hold a spoon. Hoppin’ John, the iconic dish that is supposed to bring you good luck throughout the year if you eat it on New Year’s Day, is a family tradition with my family. I can’t speak to how much good luck it brings – on the few occasions I have not had black-yes on New Year’s Day, I have not noticed that much difference. However, black-eyed peas cooked with a lot of pork are pretty tasty.

Cornbread 2

It’s no secret among my friends and family that I love trying out new recipes. We finally settled on a black-eyed pea recipe several years ago – 1 pound of black-eyed peas, an onion or two, and two pork knuckles cooked together in water until falling apart. This year, however, I decided to mix things up and made something called Hoppin’ Juan from the Local Palate magazine instead. Once in awhile I make a dish that, although it might turn out really good, you’ll never see on this blog. That’s because they take ALL DAY or even longer to prepare. If I don’t have time to do that I know you don’t. The Local Palate is a beautiful magazine that I subscribed to until I realized that almost all of the recipes are the “cheffy” type (and this coming from someone who went to culinary school – life happens) that take too long or that require scores of meticulously prepped ingredients you probably don’t have in your kitchen and will never use again. Well, Hoppin’ Juan was all of that and more. It was composed of Sea Island Red peas (ordered from Anson Mills), cooked with chorizo and Carolina gold rice, and served with a home-made salsa verde. It was delicious. Would I make it again? Probably not, because it was so labor intensive. We’ll be back to our usual next year.

Cornbread 3

I’m still working on finding the perfect cornbread recipe.  My husband jokes about the 10-year rotation we have on recipes. Okay, everyone needs a hobby. One of mine happens to be trying new recipes. This cornbread is pretty close to becoming “the one.” It’s made in a smoking hot cast iron pan greased up with plenty of lard or bacon grease before adding the cornbread batter. The result is a crispy shell with delicious corny cornbread taste. (That sentence would never get past our editors at work, but one of the things I love about blogging is that I can write what I’m thinking, even if it’s not perfectly, grammatically correct.)

Cornbread 4

Skillet Cornbread

6 Servings

I make this this recipe with lard because I always have it on hand. However, you can also use bacon grease, butter, or even shortening. You could also bake it in an 8-inch square pyrex dish if you don’t have a cast iron skillet with good results, but you will not get the crunchy crust on the outside

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 large egg

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons fat of choice (lard, bacon grease, butter, or shortening)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to mix.

Place the egg and buttermilk in a separate small bowl and beat to combine. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Be careful not to overmix. If the mixture looks a little dry add up to 1/4 cup of more buttermilk.

Heat a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet on high heat. Add the lard to the pan and melt. Add the batter to the pan, spread evenly and immediately place the pan in the hot oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Adapted from Saveur Cooks Authentic American by the Editors of Saveur Magazine

 

 

 

Swedish Ginger Cookies

Ginger Cookies 1

Merry Christmas!  It might be a little late in the season for another cookie recipe, but these are so good, you might want to consider making them for a Boxing Day or New Years get together, which is what I did.  Or, there is always next year.

I’ve been on a Scandinavian kick lately.  Maybe it’s our planned summer trip to Denmark and Norway.  Maybe it’s because it is now winter, and I’ve fallen in love with all things hygge, the Danish and Norwegian word for cozy. You know – sheepskin rugs, wooly blankets, steaming hot mugs of coffee served with cardamom sweet buns… Then I wake up and realize it’s just a dream.  Make these cookies and curl up in front of the fire with a cup of tea or coffee, a critter or two and you can live the dream too.

Ginger Cookies 2

The key ingredient in this recipe is the bacon fat.  Make the cookies with butter if you must, but you will be missing out on the vague smokiness that makes this cookie something different.  There is a nice little kick from the ginger and molasses too.  The first time I made these, I realized they were going to have to go into my annual Christmas baking rotation.

Ginger Cookies 3

Swedish Ginger Cookies

3 Dozen

Fry up a pound of good quality bacon, and save the fat for these cookies. Serve with a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea.

3/4 cup bacon fat

1 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup extra for rolling the cookies

4 tablespoons molasses

1 egg

2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the bacon fat and the sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer outfitted with a paddle. The fat mixture will stick to the sides of the bowl.  Just use a spatula to push it back down before adding the molasses and egg and mixing it in. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Ginger Cookies 4

Shape the dough into walnut-size balls and roll in the sugar. Place the cookies on baking sheets covered in parchment and use the palm of your hand to flatten them.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until golden brown and cracked around the edges. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

Adapted from Christmas with Martha Stewart Living

 

 

 

 

Savory Oatmeal with Kale and Mushrooms

Savory Oatmeal 2

Breakfast – for some people it’s as easy as opening a box of cereal and pouring on the milk. For me, it’s never been that simple. For all you cereal lovers out there, I’m sorry, but I just can’t stand cold cereal. It was the breakfast of choice for my busy parents to feed us as kids, but somewhere on the way to growing up, I liked it less and less until it reached the point that I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I decided to rebel.

Savory Oatmeal 4

 

My father and I always enjoyed something else for breakfast on the weekends after watching Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, our favorite cartoon. Breakfast might be Pop Tarts, or toast with peanut butter or Cheese Whiz. It was NEVER cereal. So, that fateful morning I told my mother I was not going to eat cereal, that I wanted something else for breakfast instead. The answer was not what I wanted to hear: my mother told me I would sit at that table until I finished my cereal, “or else.” Well, my dislike for cereal was certainly stronger than my desire to go to school. Duh! So hours later, well after school had started, there I sat in front of a bowl of really soggy cereal. I never ate cold cereal again.

Savory Oatmeal 3

These days I’m always on the lookout for decent dishes to make for breakfast that are relatively healthy and don’t take a ton of work. I still dislike cold cereal, but have gradually started to add hot cereal or grain bowls to my breakfast selections. I’ve always been more about savory than sweet, and breakfast is no different. So when I came across a recipe for savory oatmeal, I had to try it.

This oatmeal is delicious. It really tastes more like a rice bowl than oatmeal. I made it even more so by adding some soy sauce and a splash of Siracha sauce. Yes, I’m weird that way.

Savory Oatmeal 1

Savory Oatmeal with Kale and Mushrooms

4 Servings

The only drawback to this dish is that steel cut oats take a little time to cook. I made this the day before I planned to eat it and it warmed up in the microwave just fine. Oats are supposedly easier to digest if they are soaked even for a short time before cooking them, if not overnight. I soaked them for the time it took me to chop and sauté the vegetables. Place the oats in a bowl, cover with water, add a tablespoon of cider vinegar and soak for the length of time you have available, up to over night. Gomasio is a dry Asian condiment made of sesame seeds, seaweed, and salt. You can substitute sesame seeds of you don’t have it.

1 cup steel cut oats

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

pinch of red pepper flakes

1 bunch kale, stems stripped and discarded and leaves coarsely chopped

1/2 pound shitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps sliced

1/3 cup walnut pieces, toasted

Gomasio or sesame seeds for sprinkling

Place the oats in a large saucepan (preferably non-stick) with 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, 30–60 seconds. Add the kale and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and sauté 6–8 minutes, until tender.

Divide the oats between four bowls. Top with the sautéed vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil. Top with toasted walnuts and sprinkle with Gomasio.

Adapted from Kitchen Matters by Pamela Salzman

Props used in the photos courtesy of Brian & Herma Leak

Salt-Crusted Caraway Rye Bread

 

Rye Bread 1

This year we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving at one of my favorite restaurants, The Inn at Little Washington. Unfortunately, the visit to the restaurant coincided with my recent return from a trip to Africa, where I picked up a pretty nasty bug that accompanied me home, where it continued to wreak havoc on my digestive system for weeks. As anyone who has been there knows, the restaurant is not cheap and is best reserved for special occasions for that reason. So imagine my dismay when I could barely get through the meal. Fortunately the obliging and very well-trained wait staff packed up my Thanksgiving dinner for me to take home. It was just as good the next day, even if I wasn’t eating it in such elegant surroundings.

Rye Bread 4

Fortunately, I could eat bread in spite of being so sick. This bread was served with several others in the bread basket at the restaurant. All were really good, but this one was a standout for both me and my husband. The crunch of the salt and the caraway seeds on the outside was a nice contrast to the currants and nuts in the bread, and butter only made it better. Weeks later, when I volunteered to take an appetizer to a dinner party, this bread with a couple of different spreads was what I chose to take.

Rye Bread 2

 

Salt Crusted Caraway Rye Bread

3 Cocktail Size Loaves

I served this bread at a dinner party as an appetizer with the smoked trout spread from an earlier post and with honey butter, both to rave reviews from the dinner guests. The bread also works well with thin slices of cheese or smoked salmon. It also freezes well, making it ideal to have on hand for unexpected guests.

1 tablespoon yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

7 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds, divided

1 tablespoon salt

2 1/2 cups rye flour

3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

2 cups warm (95 degrees) water

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 cup dried currants

1/4 cup kosher salt

Combine the yeast, sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the caraway seeds, the tablespoon of salt and both flours in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix until thoroughly combined then slowly add the warm water with the mixer running. Continue to mix until the dough forms a ball and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Add the pecans and currants and continue to mix for an additional 2 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a floured board, wipe out the bowl and spray it with cooking spray. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a towel and set in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down, divide into thirds and form each into a slender loaf about 12 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Combine the kosher salt and the remaining caraway seeds in a small bowl. Brush the loaves with water and coat them with the caraway seed mixture, using your fingers to pat as much of the mixture as possible into the dough, as shown in the photo below.

Rye Bread 3

Place the loaves on a lightly greased sheet pan and set in a warm place for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the loaves for 30 minutes, turning the pan every 10 minutes so they brown evenly. Cool on a wire rack.

Adapted from The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook by Patrick O’Connell

 

Smoked Trout Spread – Michigan Style

Fish Dip 1

Today’s recipe comes from historic Fishtown in Leland, Michigan. Fishtown was an active fishing village in Northern Michigan in the early 1900s, and today it remains as one of the only working commercial fishing villages in Michigan. These days, the fishing shanties on the dock are more likely to house chic boutiques and specialty food shops. However, you can still walk along the docks and observe smoke coming from the smokehouses, fishnets drying in the sun, and the fishing tugs coming in. Fishtown was designated as a Michigan State Historic Site in 1973 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Fish Town

One of my favorite places for food and drink in Leland is the Cove, located right at the head of Fishtown, overlooking Lake Michigan. The ambience is great, the food delicious, and the beer is cold. However, the Cove is probably most famous for the Chubby Mary, an over-the-top Bloody Mary with a smoked chub poking out of the glass. Whaaat? Is that a fish in that drink? Trust me folks; the tomato juice, horseradish, lime and lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce soak up the smokiness of the fish, and it’s delicious. Mario Batali, who settled in the area, thinks so too, so it has to be good, right?

Chubby Mary

Another Fishtown special is Smoked Whitefish Spread. Smoked whitefish is a little hard to come by in Northern Virginia, so I make this with smoked trout with excellent results. There are variations of this recipe everywhere, but the foundation is the same for all – smoked whitefish is combined with something creamy and some seasonings to make a spread that will go with everything from tortilla chips to rye bread. It’s the perfect appetizer for your next dinner party. With a salad and some bread or crackers, it also makes a pretty decent lunch or snack.

Fish Dip 2

Smoked Trout Spread

8-10 Servings

You can experiment with various kinds of smoked fish for this recipe. The original calls for whitefish, but smoked trout, mackerel, and smoked salmon would work ask well. I used one package of smoked trout filets with good results. Serve with thin slices of cocktail bread, crackers, or crudites.

4 ounces of cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt

Splash of Tabasco

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Salt to taste

2 scallions

8 ounces smoked trout (or other smoked fish)

Peel the skin off the fish, remove any pin bones and flake into a bowl, using your fingers to break the fish into tiny pieces.

Beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth. Add the yogurt, Tabasco, lemon juice, and salt and stir until smooth and completely blended. Fold in the scallions and trout until distributed completely throughout the mixure. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Fish Dip 3

 

Swiss Chard Gratin

Chard 1

Many years ago, well before I even knew I wanted to go to culinary school, I bought a book called Le Cordon Bleu At Home. It’s a huge book with a series of “lessons” that are supposed to take your cooking from simple to spectacular, Cordon Bleu style. I don’t know about that. Some of the recipes in the first couple of lessons are well above what I would define as beginner level, especially for someone who does not already know how to cook. But I’ve always loved Cordon Bleu cookbooks, for consistently reliable recipes and this one is no different. I make it every year and it has been delicious every time.

Chard 2

My husband often jokes about my 5-year recipe rotation. He’s right. I love experimenting with food and trying new recipes. However, once in awhile a recipe becomes a keeper, and I end up making it frequently.

This is one of those recipes. I grow chard every year and usually have an abundance of it. I’m always on the look out for a new recipe to take chard to the next level. In this case, chard leaves and stems are first blanched then mixed with a creamy béchamel sauce, topped with cheese, and baked until golden and bubbly. Yum, yum, yum!

Chard 3

Swiss Chard Gratin

6-8 Servings

I like to use rainbow chard for this recipe, but any chard will do. You could probably use kale if you prefer. I use a large oval 10-by-15 gratin dish for this, but you can also use a regular 9-by-13 dish. The recipe makes a lot, but it freezes well, so don’t worry about the leftovers.

Salt

2 pounds Swiss chard

4 tablespoons butter, divided

1 pound mushrooms, sliced

white pepper

3/4 cup crème fraiche, divided

1/4 cup flour

1 3/4 cups milk

pinch ground nutmeg

1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 425. Butter the dish you plan to use for the gratin.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the chard leaves from the stalks. Tear the leaves into pieces and set aside. Cut the stalks into 2-inch lengths and add to the boiling water. Return the water to a boil and cook the stalks 8 minutes. Add the chard leaves to the pot cook another 2-3 minutes. Drain the chard and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a frying pan over high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and it has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup crème fraiche and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to make a thick paste. Slowly add the milk a splash at a time, whisking the mixture after each addition. Add salt, pepper, and the nutmeg, and cook the béchamel sauce until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup crème fraiche.

Squeeze as much water out of the chard as possible, roughly chop it and place in a bowl with one half of the béchamel sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Spread half of the chard mixture in the gratin dish. Top with the mushrooms then the remaining chard mixture. Spread the remaining béchamel over the top and sprinkle with the Gruyere cheese. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 10-15 minutes.

Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu at Home by Le Cordon Bleu

 

 

 

Orange-Scented Baklava with Almonds and Hazelnuts

Baklava 1

In about 2 weeks, my husband and I will be departing for Athens, Greece, to explore cruising for the first time. We decided on a week-long cruise that begins in Athens and ends up in Venice, Italy. We’ve also added a few extra days at the beginning and end to extend the trip. It’s a vacation that we have been looking forward to for a long time.

With the Mediterranean on my mind, I’ve been reading a lot of Mediterranean cookbooks lately. The upcoming trip has definitely had an influence on my cooking as well.

Baklava 3

This baklava is a little different than what you typically find in a standard Greek restaurant. It includes the addition of cinnamon, cloves, and orange, which gives it an almost exotic flavor. Additionally, rather than the usual walnuts, it includes almonds and hazelnuts. Do not be put off by working with filo; yes, it can be a little tedious, but the end result is so worth it.

I used Flor di Sicilia in this dessert. It’s an orange and vanilla flavoring available from King Arthur Flour. It’s wonderful in this baklava, and I can’t wait to try it in other dishes. It’s pretty strong, so a little goes a long way.

Baklava 2

Orange-Scented Baklava with Almonds and Hazelnuts

18 Pieces

If you don’t have or can’t get the Flor di Sicilia, you can substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of orange flower water. Allow frozen filo to thaw for 24 hours in the refrigerator. It will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours to bring it to room temperature.

1 cup whole almonds

1 cup hazelnuts

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 pound filo, room temperature

6 tablespoon butter, melted

3/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon King Arthur Flour Flor di Sicilia

Place the nuts in a bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Take out 3 tablespoons of the nuts and set them aside to be used for garnish. Add the spices and the sugar to the nuts in the processor bowl and pulse to blend. Transfer the nut mixture to a medium size bowl.

Remove the filo from the box and trim it so that all the sheets fit in an 8-inch square baking pan. (I used a standard Pyrex one.) Use one of the filo sheets to check the size of your pan. You don’t want it creeping up the sides of the pan. Cover the stack of filo with plastic wrap and a damp towel. You’ll need to make sure you keep it covered as you are working with it, so avoid having it dry out and break.

Place a sheet of filo in the bottom of the pan and brush it lightly with melted butter. The six tablespoons should be just enough butter to assemble the baklava, without it becoming a greasy, soggy mess. Add another layer of filo and brush with butter. Continue until you have six sheets of filo in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the filo with 1/3 cup of the nut mixture. Top with three more sheets of buttered filo, then another 1/3 cup nut mixture. Continue with the three sheets of filo and 1/3 cup nuts until you have used all the nuts. Ideally you will have seven layers of nut filling. Top the last layer of nuts with 6 more sheets of buttered filo as you did in the beginning. Place the pan of baklava in the freezer for 30 minutes. This will make it easier to cut.

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat it to 350 degrees. Remove the baklava from the freezer. The butter is now cold enough to cut the baklava without smashing it or having it bounce out of the pan. If a piece does come out, just place it back where it belongs. Using a long thin serrated knife (a steak knife or a tomato knife is good for this) cut the baklava into thirds all the way through to the bottom. Rotate the pan 90 degrees and cut it into thirds again. You should have nine squares. Cut each square in half on the diagonal. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Turn the oven down to 300 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes more. Allow the baklava to cool.

When the baklava is almost cool, make the syrup by heating the honey in a saucepan on the stove until it begins to simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and add the Flor de Sicilia or orange water. Pour this mixture over the cooled baklava and sprinkle with the remaining nuts. Allow the baklava to sit uncovered at room temperature for at least 2–3 hours; however, 8 hours is best.

To serve run a knife along the cut marks and gently lift the baklava out of the pan. Allow one to two triangles per serving. You can store the baklava loosely covered at room temperature for 5 days. You can also double-wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it.

Adapted from Desserts – Mediterranean Flavors, California Style by Cindy Mushet