Artichoke-Potato Gratin

June 20, 2007


‘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



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.

Camembert Salad

June 9, 2007

The only tricky part of this salad is remembering to marinate the cheese. Stick a note on the coffee pot so you won’t forget to do it first thing in the morning. That way, when you get home, everything’s ready for a light summer supper. Maybe serve it with a cold cucumber soup. All you need then is a fresh baguette—or, hey, you could make Last-Minute Dinner Rolls—and best of all there’s plenty of room for dessert! Hmmmm … is there any Carrot Cake left? SAM

PS If all you have in the fridge is brie, go for it. It’ll do just fine.

8 ounces Camembert
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, divided
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 head Romaine lettuce, torn
1 head frisée, stripped of stalks

Cut the Camembert into 4 wedges and split each in half horizontally. Place in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Pour the olive oil over the wedges, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon thyme, cover, and marinate for 4 to 12 hours. Drain the oil and reserve. Bake the cheese at 350 degrees F until softened, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly and cube. In a salad bowl, combine the Romaine lettuce, frisée, and cheese. Whisk together the remaining 1/4 teaspoon thyme, vinegar, pepper, and reserved olive oil and pour over the salad, tossing to coat.
Makes 4 servings.

Salsa Aspic

June 8, 2007


I know salsa is not French, but aspic is, and this fresh-tasting, hot-and-cold, spicy salad is the perfect balance for creamy scalloped potatoes. It’ll be the hit of any luncheon or buffet. Get as fancy as you want with the mold—dress it up with parsley or fresh basil—but I usually serve it in bowl with a big spoon. Cream cheese traded out for the goat’s cheese makes the aspic richer and creamier. But I really like the slightly sour, lighter taste of goat’s cheese. SAM

2 (1-ounce) packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup plus 2 ounces cold water, divided
1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes with juice
8 ounces hot salsa
juice of 1 lemon (4 tablespoons)
5 ounces log goat’s cheese

Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup water and set aside. In a medium chef’s pan over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, salsa, and lemon juice. Roughly chop the tomatoes with a pastry fork or immersion blender and simmer 15 minutes. In a small saucier over very low heat, melt the goat’s cheese in the remaining 2 ounces water, whisking frequently. Temper the gelatin mixture with 3 tablespoons hot tomato juice and add to the melted goat’s cheese. Combine the goat’s cheese mixture and tomato-salsa and pour into a lightly greased 1 1/2-quart serving dish or mold. Chill in the refrigerator until set. Unmold onto a plate or serve in the dish.
Makes 10 servings.

Tomato-Onion Pie

May 13, 2007


A perfect light supper, any season of the year. Sweating the onions makes them really rich and sweet. If you can’t find fresh basil, substitute a couple of teaspoons of dried dill. Use only soft, log goat’s cheese. If it has a crust, it won’t blend properly. Cream is fine if you can’t find crème fraîche, but you can make your own. I’ll tell you how later this week. SAM

2 large onions, thinly sliced (2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes, drained
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 ounces log goat’s cheese
4 tablespoons crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/4 cup loosely packed, fresh basil leaves, shredded
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 (9-inch) blind-baked savory pastry shell
Additional crème fraîche for topping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the onions in 2 tablespoons oil, covered, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic. Raise the heat to medium high and add the sherry. Sauté until reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, goat’s cheese, and crème fraîche. Add the tomato mixture, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Pour into the pastry shell. Sprinkle with Parmesan and the remaining tablespoon oil. Bake 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 4 to 6 servings.