Category Archives: Sides

Cauliflower Gratin

Another nice winter dish, this gratin is easy to make and can be prepared in advance.

1 cup milk
1/2 cup cream (or use 1/2 and 1/2)
2 T. flour
2 T. butter
2 oz. onion (1/4 wedge)
1 clove
1 small bay leaf
5 oz. grated Gruyere cheese (or use cheddar cheese if you prefer)1 large head cauliflower

Begin by making the cheese sauce to top the cauliflower.


Heat the milk and cream over medium heat to a simmer. Combine the flour and butter in a separate pan.


While the milk and cream are heating, cook the butter and flour over medium heat, whisking to combine.


When the butter and flour are simmering nicely, add the hot liquids.


Whisk steadily while all of the liquid is added.


Continue whisking until the mixture begins to simmer and any lumps are mixed smooth. Reduce the heat to a low simmer.


Poke the clove through the bay leaf into the onion quarter, then add it to the pot.


Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove the onion, clove and bay leaf. Whisk the cheese in, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve.


Separate the florettes from the core of the cauliflower.


Cut the larger florettes in half so all pieces roughly the same size.


Boil in salted water until softened, but still firm.


Drain and allow to cool.


Arrange in an oven-proof gratin dish, then pour the cheese sauce over the top. At this point, you can cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate if desired.


Bake at 350 F. until the sauce is bubbling and the tops of the cauliflower begin to brown.

Gigante Beans with Bacon

If  you happened to get some of the Fresh-cut Grass 2014 gignate beans in your Christmas basket, then you might be happy to see this recipe. The portion of beans may look skimpy at only 6 oz. in the package, but they will produce almost four cups of cooked beans!


6 oz.dried gigante beans
water to cover by 3″

1 oz. extra-virgin olive oil
2 oz. bacon, medium dice
1/2 oz. garlic, sliced thinly
1 dried chili (I use dried cayenne chilies. You can use as little or much as you like for heat)
4 oz. yellow onion, medium dice
2 oz. carrot, peeled, medium dice
2 oz. celery, medium dice
1-1/2 c. chicken broth (or use water, but add another slice of bacon for flavor)
1/2 t. salt


Rinse the beans under cold water to remove any chaff, then transfer to a bowl and cover with water by at least 2″. Allow to soak overnight at room temperature. They should more than double in volume as above.


Prepare the remaining ingredients as indicated, then heat the olive oil in a suitable pot over high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the bacon and reduce the heat to medium.


Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon renders and begins to color,


Then add the chili and garlic, and stir to combine.


When the garlic begins to sizzle and the aroma is pronounced, add the other vegetables.


Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to become translucent.


Then drain the soaked beans, and add to the pot along with the chicken broth and salt.


Bring to a boil, then reduce to a very slow simmer, a couple of bubbles every few seconds. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, about one hour at a very low simmer.

Remove from the heat, remove the pieces of chili pod, and correct seasoning to taste. To night I will be serving the beans with braised baby octopus and lacinato kale.

Bon appetit!

Mushroom Risotto for Dad

There are four components used to make the risotto, three of which can be prepared well in advance of serving.

Mushroom Puree (duxelles)
12 oz. sliced mushrooms, crimini have better flavor, but the plain white ones are fine, too
2 oz. sliced shallots
1/2 oz. butter

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Heat a small pot over midium-high heat, and add the butter, when it sizzles, add the shallots, and cook, stirring until the mixture begins to brown.

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Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, stir a couple of times to mix them with the shallots, then cover the pot, and allow the mushrooms to cook. They will very quickly release a bunch of water, so won’t likely burn, but check after a couple of minutes to make sure, and give them a stir.  After about four or five minutes, the pot should be boiling. Remove the cover, and allow to cook dry. Stir once in a while to prevent burning, but browning will add to the flavor depth.

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Transfer the cooked mushroom mixture to a food processor, and process until smooth. This can be refrigerated for several days, maybe a week. It will lose flavor after about the second day.

Mushroom Stock
4 cups chicken broth (or water if you want it to be vegetarian)
12 oz. sliced mushrooms, as above
1/10 oz, about 3 grams dried porcini mushrooms
4 oz. yellow onions, sliced thinly, about half an onion
2 oz. celery, sliced thin
10 black peppercorns, more or lessa bay leaf if you have some
a sprig of fresh thyme, if you have it, otherwise omit. Dried thyme does not taste the same

Combine the whole mess, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for one hour. Strain and cool. This keeps well in the fridge for a week, and freezes well for a long time. Sorry, no photos…

Par-cooked rice
If this part is done correctly, it will reduce the time required to put the risotto on the plate to less than ten minutes.


2 T. butter
8 oz. onion, small dice, about half an onion
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
1 c. dry white wine, cheap, but not undrinkable
1 c. mushroom stock from above

Heat a suitable pot over high heat, then add the butter. When it sizzles, add the onion, and cook until soft and beginning to brown.
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Add the rice, and cook, stirring, until it is hot, then add the wine, about 1/3 at a time, stirring until it is absorbed and the rice dries out. You will know when you can push the rice to one side, and there is no pool of liquid in the center.

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Add the mushroom stock in the same 1/3 at a time way, then transfer to a baking pan, spread out, and allow to cool completely. Transfer to a storage container, and cover if not using right away. Refrigerate for two days without much ill effect.


Making The Risotto!
Finally, you are ready. Prepare the required ingredients, then get ready to dine.

8 oz. of garnish mushrooms. This means mushrooms that will be in the risotto in big chunks for decoration. I usually buy one of the overpriced Chef’s Mix packages at Whole Foods.
12 oz. of par-cooked rice, by weight12 oz. of mushroom  stock
3 1/2 oz. mushroom puree
4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese, the real stuff from Italy. Or use Grana Padano which is more or less the same but less expensive
2 oz. unsalted butter

Start with the rice and 2 oz. of stock, get the rice hot over high heat.



Add the garnish mushrooms, I usually cut the large ones up, with another 2 oz. of stock. Stir.




Add more stock, and stir, then add the puree. Stir. Get it hot, but don’t burn it.



It’s getting close. Keep adding the mushroom stock, a couple of oz at a time, until it’s all in. Then add the cheese, and stir it in.

riso7riso8Finally add the butter and basil, and mix them in. Add pepper to taste, and a little more stock if it seems thick. It should be soupy. When it sits, in the pot or on the plate, it will continue to thicken up.


Serve with a nice pinot noir, like Bonne Mares or Clos de Vougeot. Let me know what time to be there. I don’t want to miss the wine!


Leftover vegetables gratin

I had a bunch of leftover vegetables from the last week of cooking and a chicken. The chicken got salt and pepper, and my mother’s recipe for roast chicken: open oven, insert chicken. The vegetables took more work.


The usual suspects, dried cayenne chilies, garlic and olive oil to start.


Then onions and mushrooms…


Then the rest, carrots, parsnips, turnips, and Brussels sprouts.


Salt and pepper, then a cover to get them all hot.


Then into the gratin dish.


And something to go on top to turn brown…


Ready for the oven.


45 minutes later (I covered it with foil for the first 20 minutes.)


Wish that there were a few strips of bacon on the leftover list… but still pretty yummy!