Ham-and-Cheese Strata

June 24, 2007

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Ham-and-Swiss sandwiches for breakfast? You bet! Especially when you bake them like this! You can put together the sandwich part the night before, seal it with plastic wrap, and set it in the fridge. When morning comes, all you have to do is pour on the eggs and cream and pop it in the oven. Not exactly like having someone else do breakfast for you—but it’s close. You know, I’ve been thinking … my next boyfriend had better be a cook! SAM

14 (1/2-inch) slices Italian bread
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 pound honey-baked ham, roughly chopped
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced
2 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
2 green onions with tops, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

Spread one side of the bread with mustard. Arrange half the slices, overlapping, mustard side up, in the bottom of a lightly greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Top with ham, tomato, cheese, and onions. Place the remaining bread slices on top, mustard side down. Combine the eggs, half-and-half, paprika, and pepper and pour evenly over the bread. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 to 50 minutes, until golden brown and puffy. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 servings.

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Breakfast Scones

June 23, 2007

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Please don’t pass this along to Healthier-Than-Thou Tim, but I love whole wheat scones! There’s butter, naturally, in these, and also yogurt, which makes them nicely moist. How healthy is that! If you like your scones sweeter, use sweetened, chopped dates. If you love chocolate, trade out half the nuts for chocolate chips. Roll the dough if you want traditional-looking scones, but here’s a quick tip: use two spoons to drop the dough onto the baking sheet . So much easier! And the scones will have a crisper, more interesting texture. SAM

1 cup pitted, chopped dates
2 tablespoons cognac or water
1 cup unbleached soft wheat flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 tablespoon corn meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons sweet butter, thinly sliced
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup chopped black walnuts
1 1/3 cups plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Combine the dates and cognac in a small bowl, cover, and microwave on high for 1 minute to plump.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, wheat germ, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles very coarse corn meal. Add the oats, dates, and walnuts and blend well. Add the yogurt and stir until just blended. The dough will be very sticky. Turn out onto a floured pastry board and roll to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut out the scones with a sharp-sided 2-inch cutter and place close together on an ungreased baking sheet. Or, with two metal serving spoons, drop the dough onto the baking sheet in 1 1/2-inch dollops. Bake for 25 minutes, turning the baking sheet once. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes about 14 2-inch or 20 dropped scones.


Salmon Pâté

June 22, 2007

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I suppose there are people who would call this a glorified tuna fish salad, and that would be fine with me. Salmon pâté has so many things going for it. You can stir it together in no time at all. It does double-duty as an appetizer and an entrée. It’s chock full of omega-3 oils, which means it’s practically your duty to eat it. Who could ask for anything more? SAM

1 (15 1/2-ounce) can Alaska salmon, drained
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1 medium center rib celery with leaves, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons capers, drained
2 teaspoons dried or 1 tablespoon fresh dill weed
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
Lettuce, avocado, and/or tomato for serving

In a medium bowl, flake the salmon with a fork and stir in the mayonnaise, mustard, onion, celery, capers, dill, parsley, lemon juice, and pepper. Serve on lettuce with avocado and/or tomato slices, or in sandwiches.
Makes 4 servings.


Mushroom Tourte

June 21, 2007

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A tourte is a French pie made of vegetables and/or meat or seafood. There are households in Paris where a good mushroom tourte is the test of a good cook—and it is. The savory crust is from a month ago. As with all mushrooms, you must evaporate the natural liquid, which is quite tasteless. Then you add tasty things like sherry or lemon juice or cream for the mushrooms to soak up. Not only is this a hit the first time you serve it. It makes fabulous leftovers. SAM.

2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced (2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces button mushrooms, brushed, trimmed, and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dry sherry
Juice of 1/2 lemon (1 1/2 tablespoons)
6 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 ounces soft chèvre
4 tablespoons crème fraîche, plus additional for topping
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
1 (9-inch) blind-baked savory pastry shell

Sweat the onions in 1 tablespoon oil, covered, over low heat until translucent, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic. In another pan over medium-high heat, sauté the mushrooms in 1 tablespoon oil uncovered until they give up their liquid. Add the sherry and lemon juice and continue cooking until reduced. In a mixing bowl, combine the onion-garlic mixture, mushrooms, thyme, parsley, eggs, chèvre, crème fraîche, salt, and pepper. Pour into the pastry shell. Sprinkle with parmesan and drizzle on top the remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly touched. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes before serving. Top with additional crème fraîche.
Makes 6 servings.


Artichoke-Potato Gratin

June 20, 2007

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‘Gratin’ is just another word for ‘casserole,’ and a lot of people make casseroles with canned soups. I’m not knocking them—they can be very tasty. Most canned soups, though, are mostly water, cornstarch, and flavorings. I think you’re much better off with your own sauce, like a buttery béchamel or this faux béchamel made of goat’s cheese and water. In baked dishes, I actually prefer the goat’s cheese. Gratins come in almost infinite variety. Once you get the pattern down, there’ll be no stopping you. SAM

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced
4 medium new potatoes (about 1 pound)
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 tablespoon marsala wine
4 ounces log goat’s cheese
4 ounces water
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unseasoned breadcrumbs, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8 by 8-inch baking pan or 10-inch oval gratin dish and set aside.

In a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the onions in 1 tablespoon of oil, covered, until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. In a small stockpot, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Chop roughly. In a small chef’s pan over medium-high heat, sauté the artichokes in 1 tablespoon oil until lightly browned, shaking frequently, about 10 minutes. Add the marsala and stir to mix in anything stuck to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat. In a small saucepan over very low heat, combine the goat’s cheese, bay leaf, and water, stirring until just melted.

In a mixing bowl, combine the onions, potatoes, artichokes, goat’s cheese mixture, and 1/3 cup breadcrumbs. Discard the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Turn into the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake for 50 minutes or until browned.
Makes 4 servings.


Phyllo Chèvre

June 19, 2007

 

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Nuts and honey, sautéed vegetables, cheese, fruit, chicken, fish, bacon, chopped steak … you can wrap anything in phyllo. Keep a box in your freezer and you’ll be minutes away from a creative, tasty tart anytime the mood strikes you. This one is like a little goat’s cheese-and-mustard soufflé wrapped in crisp pastry. The only trick is to keep the phyllo covered with a damp towel while you’re working with it; otherwise, it gets dry and brittle. But even if it shears and breaks, layer it in the casserole anyway. It won’t make a bit of difference to the taste. SAM

PS For hors d’oeuvres, double the recipe in an 8-inch square baking dish and cut into squares.

3 17- by 12-inch sheets phyllo dough
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 ounces soft goat’s cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 7-inch oval baking dish and set aside.

Thaw the phyllo dough, if frozen, and place flat on a pastry board. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap and a damp dishtowel. In a small mixing bowl combine the egg, goat’s cheese, cream, water, mustard, and pepper and mix well. Cut the phyllo sheets in half and place 2 pieces loosely in the baking dish, letting the edges overlap the sides. Brush with olive oil and spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture on the bottom. Repeat layers twice more, ending with cheese. Fold in the edges of the phyllo to cover the tart and brush with oil. Bake for 30 minutes or until browned.
Makes 2 main servings.


Rosemary Pecans

June 18, 2007

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You’ll go nuts over this addictive appetizer/snack. It comes from my dear friend Cindy, a gifted cook, who just spent three weeks hiking in Italy. If you don’t have access to fresh rosemary, cultivate someone who does or plant some in a pot in a sunny window. Cindy also makes a fabulous rosemary shortbread. I’ll see if I can talk her out of that one, too. SAM

PS Feel free to substitute cashews for pecans. I’ve never made this with almonds, but I don’t know why they wouldn’t work. You might want to roast the almonds 4 or 5 minutes longer than the pecans. My favorite source of fresh nuts is the Sunnyland nut farm in Albany, Georgia. Order online and a big box shows up on your doorstep a couple of days later.

1 1/4 pounds fresh, unsalted pecans
2 tablespoons finely chopped, fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

In a 375-degree F oven, roast the pecans until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt, and butter. Toss with the hot pecans.
Makes 1 1/4 pounds.