Friday, January 21, 2011

Mini Sesame Bagels (Kandil Simidi)




These traditional bagels are freshly baked and sold at bakeries and pastry shops in Turkey only on certain religious days called kandils (kandeels). They are always a real treat, sooo crumbly they melt in your mouth...
And what makes them really authentic and special is that wonderfully aromatic spice: Mahleb (I love you, Mahlep!).
There are so many places in Turkey that make these delicious bagels on kandeels, my mom never needed to bake them at home (however she always made the effort to go to the bakery to buy them on those days). But I'm glad I took on the challenge to learn how to make them in my kitchen in America, since it is so heart-warming to be able to eat them and share them with friends here...


Ingredients: (Makes about 12-16 2 1/2-inch bagels)

  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 egg, yolk and white separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mahleb
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup sesame seeds

Directions:

  • Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, except flour, sesame seed and egg white.
  • Add the flour gradually and knead until you achieve a soft, but non-sticky dough.
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an hour. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400 F.
  • Tear pieces from the dough that are a bit bigger than a whole walnut. On a clean surface, first, roll and stretch them into a stick that is about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thin; then put the two ends of the stick together to build a circle (this gives you a bagel that is about 2 1/2" wide).
  • Dip one surface of the circles (bagels), first into egg white, then into sesame seeds. Put them sesame seed-side up onto a baking sheet (or two) that is lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake the bagels in the oven for 25 min, or until golden brown.

Additional points:

  • Above given amount of flour (1 1/2 to 2 cups) is only a suggestion to give you a head start. Our true reference for this dough is not the exact amount of flour, but the quality we want to achieve, which is a soft, but non-sticky dough. So, depending on a lot of different things, you may need more or less flour than the suggested amount; therefore add the flour gradually and check the status of the dough after each addition: If you add too little flour, the dough will be too oily and sticky to handle/make bagels out of. Stop adding flour as soon as the dough starts not feeling sticky anymore; if you keep adding after that point, you may end up with a tough dough which would not give you crumbly bagels.
  • Rolling the dough and building the rings takes a bit practice first, since this is a delicate dough; but soon you will be more comfortable and having fun with it.

Potato Pancakes



As a potato lover, I am always interested in new potato dishes, since for me potato = comfort food. So I kind of rose to the occasion when my daughter told me she wanted to try potato pancakes and asked me to learn how to make them; and this recipe from Cooking Light quickly made it to our favorites list with some of my own adjustments to make it more simple. These pancakes are so versatile; you can serve them as a side dish with fish, chicken or meat; they can be a fulfilling vegetarian entree with a dollop of yogurt, sour cream or a nice sauce; or they can be a great breakfast item.


Ingredients: (Makes 6 4-inch pancakes)

  • 2 lb.(about 5-6) medium baking potatoes (Idaho, russet), peeled
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter (1+1)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (1+1)

Directions:

  • Shred potatoes and onion. Put them in the middle of a clean kitchen cloth; make a bundle with the cloth and squeeze out all the juices from the potato and onion mixture (you can also do this job with your clean hands by the handfuls); put the mixture into a bowl.
  • Add egg, flour, salt, pepper and parsley to the bowl. Mix well to combine all the ingredients (it may be helpful for the mixing process if you could beat the egg before adding it to the bowl).
  • Heat a 10" or 12" nonstick skillet over medium high-heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add potato mixture in 1/4-cupfuls to pan to form the pancakes, flatten slightly. Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove pancakes from pan, keep warm.
  • Repeat the same steps with remaining 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and potato mixture.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Basic Pancakes



Since weekday mornings are usually very hectic for everybody, my family gets by on just a cup of cereal, maybe some fruit and fruit-flavored yogurt. But for weekends we try to have a long and rich breakfast whenever we can. And pancakes and waffles are sometimes part of the weekend breakfast, too. That way they are more a treat than a boring and unhealthy everyday breakfast item.

Here's a basic pancake recipe that worked for me to achieve tasty and fluffy pancakes which got approval from my family, too.
On a day when I was quite frustrated looking for a solid pancake recipe and tips that really would work, I came across this recipe among the millions(!) of pancake recipes online; check out the whole article and the recipes within this link: Nix the pancake mix for breakfast perfection; it really has all the information you need to make proper pancakes; you can build your own recipe from there, too.
Who knew that proper pancakes are not only about the recipe, but also all about the tools and tips you need to use..:)


Ingredients: (Makes 8 4"-pancakes)

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (if using buttermilk or yogurt)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk or buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter or melted margarine or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Topping options: Butter, maple syrup, honey, jam, chocolate chips, whipped cream, berries or other fresh fruits etc.

Directions:

  • In a bowl, crack the eggs and beat them until foamy. Whisk in milk or buttermilk/yogurt, vanilla and melted butter/vegetable oil.
  • In a separate bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda (if using buttermilk/yogurt). Make a well in the middle.
  • Pour the wet mixture into the well. Stir just until the wet mixture moistens the dry mixture (and there's no dry mixture visible anymore); do not mix any further; the mixture will have lumps and this is normal. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • In the meantime, heat the griddle or the pan. If using electric griddle, set it for 375 F. If using a griddle or pan on the stove top, heat until water flicked on surface bounces, but does not evaporate immediately.
  • Brush griddle or pan with the kind of vegetable oil that has a high burning point, like canola oil (By the way, if you have a good non-stick griddle or pan, you can skip this step).
  • Using 1/4 cup measure for small pancakes (about 4" wide), 1/3 cup measure for larger pancakes, scoop batter from the bowl; and from about 3" above griddle, pour batter in solid stream onto griddle (this will be easy to do if you used milk for your batter). If batter is a little thick, spread it out so that cake is about 1/4' thick/tall (this will be the case if you used buttermilk or yogurt).
  • Watch the cake closely; once the edges are dry and a few dry-edged bubbles have formed on top, check the cake's underside. It should be roughly the color of honey and the color should be even. In that case, flip cake and cook the other side until golden brown.
  • Serve it immediately with above suggested toppings.


Additional Points:

  • You can also add certain ingredients like chocolate chips or blueberries into the batter before cooking the pancakes (or onto the pancakes once they are on the griddle). Use 1/2 cup add-ins for above recipe.
  • If you aim for a fluffy pancake, definitely use buttermilk or yogurt, instead of milk (I do not keep buttermilk as a staple in my fridge, but always have plain yogurt in hand, so I prefer using yogurt; and you would be surprised to see how well it works); and don't skip the step of letting the batter sit for a few minutes. This combination of buttermilk/yogurt with baking powder and baking soda gives you a good fluffiness. If you prefer thinner pancakes, use milk instead.
  • If you make pancakes often and like them really fluffy, I would definitely recommend owning an electric griddle, since the even heat distribution you can get from an electric griddle does justice to this recipe and gives you restaurant-quality pancakes.
  • If you use a stove-top griddle or a pan, above mentioned article gives you a great tip on how to tell when the pan is ready for pancakes: Flick a few droplets of water onto the griddle. If they bounce around, you’re at a good temperature. If it evaporates immediately, it’s too hot, and if it sits there it’s too cold.
  • A cake is beginning to cook when the edges dry, and should be ready to flip once you see dry-edged bubbles holding shape on top. Once they appear, check the underside, and if it’s golden brown, it’s time to flip (a move which you should do only once). If bubbles are dry-edged, but the underside is pale, your griddle is too cool; if the underside is very dark, the griddle is too hot.
  • The best pancake is a fresh pancake, directly from the griddle to the table, so always try to serve them fresh. If you really have to wait, put the pancakes on a baking sheet as a single layer and keep them in 200 F oven until serving time.
  • If you have leftover batter, you can definitely store it in the fridge for another day (For example, you can prepare a big batch of batter on a Saturday morning and use it also on Sunday morning). Just make sure to bring batter back to room temperature before cooking pancakes, otherwise when the pancakes are golden brown on the outside, the inside will still be runny and not cooked through.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Skillet Pastry with Ground Beef (Kiymali Tava Boregi)



In Turkish cuisine Borek is the name of a family of baked or fried filled pastries made out of thin and flaky dough layers or leaves known as yufka (or phyllo). It was probably invented in Anatolia and became popular in Ottoman Empire's cuisine. That's why it is also widely popular in Middle East, the Balkans, North Africa and the Turkic cultures in Asia with regional variations among different cultures. (See: Wikipedia entry)
You can create and use any type of filling you like for boreks, but the most traditional and common fillings used in Turkey are feta cheese, ground beef or lamb, potato and spinach.
Below recipe is just one of those variations; actually it is one that is not baked or fried, but cooked in a pan or skillet on the stove top which is also popular, but not typical. What is typical for all borek types is that the preparation takes longer than the cooking/baking/frying. But the result is worth it.
The typical pastry dough leaves which are used for boreks in Turkey are not as thin as the Greek phyllo dough you will commonly find in the USA; Turks actually use that kind of very thin phyllo dough only for baklava or similar desserts; you can find the thicker phyllo dough in most ethnic supermarkets where they sell Middle Eastern and Greek foods. But if you can't find those, it is also fine to use the paper thin Greek phyllo dough; it is just a bit more delicate to handle.
I hope you can give borek a try and enjoy it as much as we do. This is a comfort food after all...


Ingredients: (Serves 6-8)

  • 1/2 lb. ground beef (preferably 80/20)
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil (depending on the fat amount of the ground beef)
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons plain parsley, finely chopped
  • One 500 g-package pastry leaves/yufka (Recommended brand: Omur; contains 3 26"-wide round pastry leaves) or one 1 lb-package Greek phyllo dough (Recommended brand: Apollo)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (like canola oil or corn oil)

Directions:

  • In a medium-size pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and ground beef and saute together until onion is soft and beef is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Set aside.
  • In a bowl, beat eggs; add milk and vegetable oil and mix. Set aside.
  • On your counter, have egg/milk/oil mixture, sauteed ground beef, pastry leaves, a pastry brush and a 12" skillet (that's been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray or brushed with vegetable oil) ready.
  • Layer one of the pastry leaves on the skillet (do not stretch the pastry, layer it flat, but loosely) letting the edges hang over the skillet. Brush the pastry leaf generously with the egg mixture all over, including the parts that are hanging over; make sure the pastry is thoroughly moistened with the mixture (if you do not have a pastry brush you can also use a spoon to pour and spread the egg mixture over pastry leaves).
  • Tear the second and third pastry leaves into big pieces and layer a few of these pieces side by side, making sure they stay within the skillet and brush them also with the egg mixture; and spread a big handful of filling evenly over this layer of pastry.
  • Repeat the same steps with the remaining pastry pieces and filling until you use them all. (The last layer on the top should be pastry, not filling.)
  • Fold the overhanging edges of the first pastry leaf inward over the top pastry layer; and wet them generously with the mixture.
  • Put the skillet on the stove top over medium-low to low heat and cook the borek until the bottom turns golden brown (we need to cook/brown it slowly, since we want the heat to penetrate to and cook all the layers evenly). Put a plate or a lid that's large enough to cover the top of the skillet; turn the skillet upside down and let the borek sit on the plate. Slowly slide the borek back onto the skillet, so the brown side is now on top and the other side is cooking/browning over the heat.
  • Once the other side is also golden brown, remove from the heat. Let the borek sit for 2-3 minutes; then cut into squares or wedges and serve.


Additional Points:

If you choose to use the paper thin Greek phyllo dough, it may be a bit intimidating to work with at first, but you just need to have all your tools and ingredients ready before you open the phyllo dough package and try to handle it as delicately and quickly as possible. This kind of phyllo dough tends to dry and crumble fast after it gets in contact with air; so while you are working with one layer, keep the rest of the layers to be used covered with a damp kitchen cloth or paper towel (damp, not wet; if you wet this kind of phyllo with water, it turns into wet dough and the layers stick to each other).
You can use half of the package for the bottom layers of the borek and the other half for the top layer. You can even divide the package into three and have three layers of pastry dough and two layers of filling in-between.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mashed Potatoes



People who are close to me know that I am a potato lover. And mashed potatoes are in my list of favorites. 

Although it is such a popular and classic side dish, there are too many ordinary, just "OK" mashed potato recipes and they all claim theirs is the best one to go with. The fact with mashed potatoes is that it is a personal thing and you really need to play with any recipe to achieve the taste and consistency you like. And this is what I did here with my recipe, that's all... 

No offense to all the health conscious people out there, but I believe that when it comes to mashed potatoes, the common expression among professional chefs "Fat equals flavor" is true. If you want really tasty mashed potatoes, then you do need to use butter, whole milk and even heavy cream. Instead of eating a huge portion of light, but flavorless food, I think I would always choose to eat full-flavored food in small portions.


Ingredients: (Serves 2-4) 
  • 6 medium baking potatoes (Idaho/russet), peeled, lengthwise quartered, and quarters cut in half widthwise
  • 3/4-1 cup whole milk (or 1/2 cup heavy cream + 1/2 cup whole milk)
  • 5-6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus 1/2 teaspoon for the boiling water)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  
Directions: 
  • Put the potatoes in a pot and fill the pot with water until it comes 1 inch above the potatoes, add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork or knife without any resistance (do not cook them until they fall apart completely, otherwise you will end up with wet mashed potatoes that have no texture).
  • In the meantime, put the rest of the ingredients in a sauce pan and heat over medium-low heat (do not boil), until the butter and salt are melted and the milk/cream is hot, but not boiling. 
  • Drain the potatoes completely through a sift and put them back into the pot; let them cook for 2-3 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently, to get rid of the excess moisture. 
  • Pour the milk mixture into the potatoes and mix and mash with a potato masher, until you achieve the desired smoothness.
  
Additional Points:
  • To mash your potatoes you can use a potato masher or a potato ricer. When you use a potato masher, mashed potatoes may have a few lumps, but will have more texture. A potato ricer will give you really smooth mashed potatoes with no lumps, but they will be more like whipped potatoes, if that's what you're going for. As I said at the beginning, this is a personal thing...
  • To have garlic mashed potatoes you can add 1-2 minced garlic cloves or 1/8-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder to milk mixture.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mexican Chicken Soup



It is always a good thing to have at least a handful of dependable soup recipes in your portfolio to fall back on (and preferably a few from different cuisines of the world). If you can't cook anything else at all for yourself or your family that day, a hearty home-cooked soup will always save the day and satisfy your stomach.

My dad who is a real soup lover drinks soup almost every day, even for breakfast (that's why my mom has always been coming up with all kinds of soup recipes all these years). This may sound a bit strange to you, but I actually think (most probably because growing up I had my dad's example) having soup for breakfast is a great way to start your day, especially before you go out on those cold winter days; soup is a meal in itself, a package of nutrients.

This soup recipe is originally from Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten with some adjustments of mine.


Ingredients: (Serves 3-4)

  • 1 onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped (1/2 cup); or 1/2 cup chopped cubanelle pepper or another type of sweet green pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 15-oz can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed; or 1 1/2 cups tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 6- or 8-inch fresh corn or flour tortilla; first cut in half, then cut into 1/4" strips
  • Salt
  • 1 cup (leftover) cooked chicken or turkey, cubed or shredded
  • 2-4 tablespoons cilantro or parsley, chopped
  • Grated Cheddar cheese and/or Monterey Jack cheese; sliced avocado; crushed tortilla chips; sour cream; yogurt, for serving (optional)
  
Directions:

  • In a pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery or pepper and saute about 5-10 minutes until the veggies get slightly soft.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until it gets fragrant.
  • Add the chicken stock, tomatoes (with their puree), jalapenos (if you do not want the heat from the jalapenos, just add an extra 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cubanelle peppers at the beginning), cumin, coriander, black pepper.
  • Bring to a boil. Lower the heat; add the tortilla strips (these will slightly thicken the soup and function like noodles) and simmer for about 25 minutes, until all the veggies are cooked (=no more crunchy to the bite).
  • Taste the soup and add salt, if necessary (I personally would not add more salt, since the salt from the chicken stock is usually enough for me). Add the chicken and cilantro or parsley. Remove from heat and serve with above suggested toppings.

Tortilla Chip-Crusted Chicken


Here's a quick and easy recipe from Southern Living magazine with a few adjustments of my own; it is a nice alternative to your weeknight chicken dinner. This crispy chicken needs a wet element to serve it with; Southern Living serves it with Pineapple-Kiwi Salsa; in my family we prefer a generous amount of store-bought picante sauce instead.

This would also be a good option to serve at your cocktail parties as a warm appetizer with the same picante sauce on the side to dip it in; just use chicken tenders, or chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces.


Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • 4 chicken breasts or 1 lb. chicken tenders
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups tortilla chips, crushed (Recommended brand: Mission)
  • Picante sauce, for serving (Recommended brand: Pace) 

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray it with no-stick cooking spray, or brush with some vegetable oil.
  • Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
  • Stir together flour, oregano, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder on a plate. Beat eggs in a shallow container until just foamy. Put the crushed tortilla chips on a plate. Build an assembly line on the counter: 1) Flour mixture, 2) Eggs, 3) Tortilla chips.
  • Dredge chicken first in flour mixture, shake off excess; then dip in egg mixture; then dredge in crushed tortilla chips; try to make sure that both sides of the chicken pieces are coated with chips as evenly as possible. Arrange chicken on the baking sheet.
  • Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown, turning once after 12 minutes. Serve with picante sauce.


Additional points:

  • To crush the tortilla chips, put them in a plastic (Ziploc) bag and crush them with your hands or with a meat pounder or a rolling pin. Do not crush them into tiny pieces; you need the chips to remain as flakes.
  • If you want to use fresh garlic i/o garlic powder, mince 2 cloves of garlic and stir it into the eggs.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chicken Parmesan




Chicken Parmesan is a great Italian classic that is always both fulfilling and satisfying at the same time, even for picky eaters in the family. Although it is a very popular and common dish in restaurants in the USA, you often wonder where exactly that tasty parmesan cheese is on a chunky piece of chicken, lost under so much average tasting sauce and mozzarella...
Ever since I started using this recipe (which I kind of put together myself inspired by different recipes), I stopped ordering Chicken Parmesan at restaurants. Why pay for it when you can make it better at home?


Ingredients: (Serves 4)

For the chicken:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4" thick
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs (preferably seasoned Italian breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons butter (1+1)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (1+1)

For the topping:

  • 1 cup of my Simple Red Sauce, plus extra for serving (and for pasta)
  • 4 tablespoons mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 8 teaspoons parmesan cheese, finely grated

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 F (500 F, if you can).
  • Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides.
  • Put the flour on a plate or shallow container, set aside. Beat the eggs with the water in a shallow container, set aside. Mix the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese on a plate or shallow container, set aside.
  • Line the plates/containers on the counter to build an assembly line in the following order: 1) Flour, 2) Eggs, 3) Breadcrumbs. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour, shake off excess flour. Then dip them in the egg mixture. And lastly dredge both sides in the breadcrumb/parmesan mixture, make sure to cover well. Put the chicken pieces on a separate plate.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saute pan on medium heat. Cook 2 chicken breasts for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the coating gets nice and evenly golden brown. Put them on a clean plate. Repeat the same with the rest of the olive oil, butter and remaining 2 chicken breasts.
  • At this point you can actually serve the chicken breasts as is (without any additional cheese or sauce). I would just recommend serving them with lemon wedges and a freshly-made salad on the side. But if you want to take the chicken to the next level, just go with the following steps:
  • Put the chicken breasts on a large enough baking dish (try not to overlap them). Spoon the Simple Red Sauce over and around the chicken cutlets. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of mozzarella and 2 teaspoons of parmesan over each.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes until the cheeses melt. Serve with your favorite pasta and Simple Red Sauce.

Additional points:

The amount of flour, eggs and breadcrumbs you need depend on the size of the chicken cutlets; so always make sure you have more than the above suggested measurements in hand.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Potato Gratin Dauphinois


This is a traditional French recipe from the Dauphine region of France and is kind of the ultimate potato dish for me. It is so rich that it's really the perfect side dish for your special occasions and always goes great with a rich serving of meat as the main dish, especially with beef tenderloin roast.

I can already tell that most people would agree with me: One of the many times I served this dish for a dinner party, one of our guests took her first bite from the potatoes and, with her mouth full, she said: "This is the best potato dish I've eaten in my life"...

Last summer, my sister and my brother-in-law were talking about their trip to Paris in past spring and all the French food they enjoyed during that time; they specifically mentioned the gratin dauphinois they ate at a restaurant, and it seemed like this was really one of the highlights of their food experience in France.

Well, you definitely do not need to go to France to enjoy it. Below recipe is from celebrity chef Bobby Flay with a few adjustments of mine, and it doesn't disappoint...


Ingredients: (Serves 6-8)

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 6 russet/baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8" slices
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 clove garlic or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated


Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 F
  • In a large pot, bring heavy cream to a simmer.
  • Add potatoes, salt, pepper and garlic powder to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes or until the potatoes get slightly soft. Do not cook for too long, that will cause the potatoes to fall apart.
  • Put the potatoes and cream into a 13 x 9 x 2 (or similar size)-casserole or baking dish, smooth out the top, and top with Gruyere cheese.
  • Put the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake in the oven about 40-45 minutes until potatoes are fork-tender and cheese is golden brown (Start testing after 30 minutes by inserting a toothpick into the potatoes, the toothpick should go in without resistance, once you have achieved that, take it out of the oven, we want the potatoes to be soft, but still keep their shape.)
  • Remove from oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. (You can also bake this dish slightly ahead of time and warm it at a 200-250 F oven before serving.)

Additional points:

  • Gruyere is sort of a "stinky" type of Swiss cheese, but do not be put off by the smell when you first open the package, it is really the perfect cheese for this dish and will not have that strong smell once it is cooked. If you do not want to use it or can't find it, you can definitely substitute with another one of your favorite cheeses; just make sure it is the kind of cheese that melts nicely and easily; aged cheeses, e.g. parmesan, usually do not work for this dish, because instead of melting into the gratin, they just built a hard-to-break crust on top.
  • I believe the traditional way of using garlic in this recipe is to cut the garlic clove in half and rub the inside of the baking dish with it (before putting the potato-cream mixture in) to give the dish a hint of garlic flavor. I prefer to use garlic powder, but you can choose to rub the garlic; or mince the garlic clove and add it to potato-cream mixture.
  • It may be a little hard to slice the potatoes into 1/8" slices by hand, but it is important for this dish that the slices are really thin and equal in thickness, so try to do your best by hand; it is also very rewarding to invest in a kitchen mandoline to make your life easier; there are different varieties and prices on the market, but you do not need to spend a fortune, I had bought mine for about $20 and it works great.
  • Do not rinse the potatoes after slicing; we need their starch for this dish; just be quick to handle them, otherwise they will turn dark being in contact with air.

Grilled Pound Cake with Macerated Strawberries and Mascarpone Cream



An easy and quick, yet elegant dessert: Pound cake, already like a cloud, grilled to have more texture and beautiful presentation; macerated strawberries with a fresh, juicy and slightly sweet bite and mascarpone cream (or should I rather say mascarpone dream) which is, in my opinion, the best topping in the world for most desserts.

Mascarpone cheese is a sweet Italian cream cheese which is traditionally used for Italian dessert tiramisu, but it's got a much more versatile use for sweet or savory dishes and a wonderfully rich dairy flavor that is like nothing else. If you cannot find mascarpone, you can definitely use sweetened whipped cream for this recipe.

Macerating fresh fruit is to sprinkle them with a small amount of sugar and let them sit to release their own juices and that way creating a very light syrup without an overpowering sweetness. And I think it especially works great with strawberries.

By the way, this dessert is just as delicious without grilling the pound cake. In that case, it actually is like a quick version of a strawberry trifle which tastes like the strawberry-cream cakes from my childhood that we used to buy from pastry stores...


Ingredients: (Serves 8) 

  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
  • 6 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 store-bought or home-made pound cake (about 14 oz.)
  • 8 teaspoons butter, at room temperature
  • 8 oz. (1 small tub) mascarpone cheese
  • 3-4 teaspoons honey
   
Directions:

  • Put the strawberries in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and mix well to coat. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, you can prepare the pound cake and the cream.
  • Put the mascarpone cheese in another bowl, add the honey and stir until it is well-incorporated into the mascarpone (Start with 2 teaspoons of honey and taste it. Depending on how sweet you like the cream topping you can add more and keep tasting it, until you reach the desired sweetness).
  • Cut the pound cake into 8 slices. Spread 1/2 teaspoon butter on each side of the slices (1 teaspoon butter per slice).
  • Heat a grill pan over high heat or an electric grill to 425 F (you can also use your outdoor grill, this is a great dessert option for your outdoor parties in summer - just remember: you need to be very gentle with the pound cake when grilling, and grill it on a clean part of the grill where you do not have any meat, oil etc. residue). Grill the pound cake slices for 3-4 minutes on each side, do not flip them over until you achieve those nice grill marks (but also be careful not to burn them).
  • For serving, put a slice of cake on the plate, top with macerated strawberries and cream. This is actually the kind of dessert that your guests can assemble for themselves, topping the cake slice with their desired amount of fruit and cream. One less thing for you to do...