Three Cheese Root Vegetable Gratin

Thanksgiving week is upon us! I can’t contain my excitement!! My husband, Joshua, just returned home after almost 5 months of traveling to potential residency programs. Finally having him back means I have to start cooking for him again… but I could not be happier about it!!! Life is moving, fast. The older I get, the more real that becomes. Am I right? One day at a time, always. I am doing my best to slow down and enjoy each thing life throws at me. Big and small. Good and bad. All things work together for our good.

My wonderful friends at Sur la Table asked me to shoot a gratin recipe this month. I’ve always wanted to make one of these. All those crispy, cheesy layers. I’ve been itching to use my mandolin and this beautiful Staub pan. We made it happen! This gratin has everything going for it: three root veggies, three cheeses, all together perfect. Boring mashed potatoes, step aside.

Serves 6-8

  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 1 pound large parsnips, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • ½ teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup shredded Gruyère cheese
  • ½ cup shredded white Cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Rub the butter over the bottom and sides of a 2-quart gratin dish.
  2. In a large heavy pan, combine the milk, cream, salt, thyme, garlic and pepper. Place over medium heat and stir for 3 minutes, or until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Add the Yukon Gold potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips. Stir to coat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes, until the potatoes are partially cooked. Remove from the heat.
  3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer half the vegetables to the gratin dish. Sprinkle with half each of the Gruyère, cheddar, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses. Add the remaining vegetables. Use two forks to arrange the top layer of potatoes in a slightly overlapping design, evenly distributing the different-colored potatoes. Ladle the hot cream mixture over the vegetables and sprinkle with all of the remaining cheeses.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a skewer or the tip of a knife and the gratin is bubbling and golden. Let the gratin rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe by Sur La Table & Andrews McMeel Publishing.

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Creamed Beet Greens with Lemon Breadcrumbs

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Have you all been watching Sur La Table’s new show Scraps? If you haven’t, drop whatever you’re doing and head here for full episodes! FYI has partnered with Sur La Table to produce the new series Scraps, where national Sur La Table Chef Joel Gamoran travels cross country creating incredible meals using the things most people throw away: scraps such as bruised apples, shrimp shells and carrot tops. What they’re doing is so creative and inspiring. They’ve taught me to think twice about the things I would normally throw away. You’d be surprised how absolutely delicious something scrappy can be. Save your scraps!

I recently bought beets for a cake recipe. Left over with a bunch of greens, I immediately saw this as an excellent opportunity to get scrappy. I’m a huge fan of creamed spinach. The beet greens and stems have a similar flavor. AND did you know that there’s even more nutrients in the leaves and stems than in the beets? Packed with antioxidants, fiber, zinc, protein, vitamin B6, the list goes on! Paired with a cream sauce and crispy lemon breadcrumbs for crunch, this is a serious keeper recipe. I’m pulling it out the next time I host a dinner party. Scrappy is the new sexy, y’all.

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

 

  • 1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • salt
  • 2 large bunches beet greens and stems, cut into 1/2″-1″ pieces
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium shallot, diced
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine breadcrumbs, oil, and lemon zest on a baking sheet and season with salt. Toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Cook beet green leaves and stems in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 1 minute. Drain and place into a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well and squeeze well between paper towels to remove excess water.
  3. Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots, beet greens and stems. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Top with breadcrumbs just before serving.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.

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Stuffed Mushrooms

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

These are a staple on my family’s table. Mushrooms have that wonderful earthy, deep flavor. Organic white caps are perfect for stuffing. I love a good drizzle of olive oil and a light stuff with cheese, breadcrumbs and fresh herbs. The more cheese, the merrier. Roasted nice and long so that the cheese and crumbs become crispy and golden brown. You can’t have just one.

When it comes to stuffed mushrooms, I like to keep it simple. I’m not into stuffing with crab or extra fluff. Let the mushroom shine. They’ll steal the show.

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Servings: 24 mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 24 large mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (I prefer a 50% parmesan, 50% pecorino blend)
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella for topping
  1. Clean mushrooms under running water to remove all dirt. Carefully remove stems from mushrooms and chop stems.
  2. In a medium skillet, melt butter and add garlic. Add chopped mushroom stems and saute until lightly brown. Add parsley stir, and remove from heat.
  3. Add cheese and stir to combine. Add bread crumbs, stirring until mixture is crumbly.
  4. Lightly fill each mushroom cap with the sauteed mixture, but don’t pack too tightly.
  5. Set on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 400F degrees for about 24 minutes (if they’re smaller caps, check them after 20 minutes).

Recipe adapted from Food.com

Kale + Chickpea Hummus Salad

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Since I’ve been married (it’s already been a year and a half!) I’ve been watching Food Network on television almost solely. So I’m now quite familiar with Bobby, Alex, Scott, Ted, Giada and the bunch of them. I even got to meet a few of them in New York recently which was surreal!! Love them all. When I heard about Giada de Laurentiis’s new cookbook Happy Cooking, I knew I had to get it. She is a little Italian powerhouse. And not to mention that blinding, beautiful smile! This tasty, hardy salad is in her new book. It may look simple, and that’s because it is! Simple yet full of good-for-you ingredients and flavor. It’s basically a hummus vinaigrette coated onto fresh kale and chickpeas. It takes less than 10 minutes to whip up. Not only is it quick, but it’s seriously satisfying for a salad. Don’t let these greens fool you! And, my favorite part: make it one day and have leftovers for lunch the next day. Kale holds up really well in the refrigerator, making it ideal for this. Get your healthy on and get Giada’s new book!


Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 5 cups shredded kale
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup slivered sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
  • Za’atar (optional, see note below)
  1. Warm a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the sliced garlic and cook just until the garlic is fragrant. Allow to cool slightly.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the tahini and lemon juice. Slowly add the warmed garlic oil, whisking constantly. Add the kale, salt, chickpeas, and sun-dried tomatoes, if using, and gently toss together, bringing the dressing up from the bottom to coat everything evenly.
  3. Serve, sprinkled with za’atar*, if desired.

Notes: Za’atar is a popular Middle Easter spice blend. It’s a mixture of herbs (basil, thyme, oregano) sesame and salt. You can also buy it here.

Recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis, Happy Cooking, 2015.

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Roasted Cauliflower Gratin

4Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

This pleasant little dish is all the decadence you want from “macaroni and cheese” without the macaroni. Sub in roasted cauliflower for a gluten-free, vegetarian version. I was also so excited to use these little baking dishes– scored for $2/ea at a consignment shop. Oven-to-table cookware is the best! Cauliflower is such a nice vegetable. The smell of roasting it in salt, pepper and garlic is incredible. Alright: can we pause for a second and talk about gruyere? A Swiss cheese made from whole cow’s milk, it has a pale-yellow color and is wonderfully rich and creamy. It is perfect for melting and often used in fondue. It’s got a great little bite to it which I love. It’s not a exactly an everyday item (I’ve splurged at $19.99/lb for a the smallest block I could possibly find) but, when I have it in the kitchen I could eat it slice after slice till the block is gone. This is a bit like a casserole side dish, but would also make a nice lunch portion. It’s time to get steamy…close your eyes and picture this: you pour that gorgeous melted, creamy cheese over the roasted cauliflower and watching it seep into every nook and cranny. Then, you bake it until the top is browned and the cheese is hot and bubbly. If this doesn’t get your mouth watering I don’t know what will!! Don’t get me wrong: I’m a girl who loves her American mac and cheese. But I’m also a girl who loves roasted vegetables and fancy cheeses. The combo fulfils that guilty pleasure of eating a comforting mac and cheese, but guess what? Zero guilt. Eat your veggies, kids! No one ever said you couldn’t smother them in cheese.


Yield: 4-6 servings (depending on portion) — Prep time: 20 minutes — Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups hot milk
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (panko, plain or Italian)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F degrees. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower, olive oil, salt, thyme, and pepper. Place onto a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 10 minutes, stir, then roast for an additional 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 375 F degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan.  Add the shallot and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the flour to the pan and stir constantly with a whisk for 1-2 minutes, or until the flour begins to turn golden. Pour the milk into the saucepan, continuing to whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, or until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the nutmeg and gruyère cheese, reserving a 1/2 cup for topping.
  3. Spoon a little bit of the sauce into the bottom of a 2 quart glass baking dish (I filled four 6″ oven-to-table dishes). Pour the cauliflower into the dish and top with the remaining sauce. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and the breadcrumbs. Spread evenly over the top and sprinkle with a little salt and freshly cracked pepper.
  4. Bake in the 375 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from The Two Bite Club & Ina Garten, www.foodnetwork.com

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Roasted Cheese Pumpkin Soup

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

A few weeks ago, my mom and I shared a memorable trip to a north shore Long Island, family owned farm. It was a beautiful, crisp autumn day. I went with the goal of finding a good cooking pumpkin to make this soup with. I found a lovely cheese pumpkin, which has been decoration until now (it has a shelf life of up to 1 year!) Today is Halloween, and although I really don’t care for it, it felt like the perfect day to cook my pumpkin. With my husband at school preparing for an exam, I found myself with some quiet time. I finished a few house chores (naturally, my reward is cooking) prepared candy for the trick-or-treaters, put on some old-timey Christmas tunes (don’t you say a word) and lit tea lights around the house. It was so serene. This is how I cook happy.

I learned that the cheese pumpkin is slightly sweet with a firm flesh, making it lovely for roasting, soup making and pie baking. It gets its name for the exterior resemblance to a wheel of cheese. Basically, it makes a wonderful puree. On a Saturday or Sunday when you have a little more time, it is actually very simple to make your own! Trust me. Once the pumpkin is roasted, it practically falls apart. All the good stuff comes right out. And once you’ve made it into soup, the flavor of the final product is subtle, rich, but not overwhelming– it has the smoothest, velvety texture. It is worth every effort. The addition of the coconut milk swirls and roasted seeds adds another layer of texture and interest to the bowl. You’ll also be able to say that nothing was wasted! Those seeds… they are a seriously delicious snack all by themselves. Do not be intimidated! Bask in the glory that is autumn and give this one a try! Sweet November, you are almost here.


(Gluten free… paleo… and vegan!)

Yield: 4 servings — Prep time: 5 mins — Cook time: 60 mins — Total time: 1 hour 5 minutes

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Ingredients:

  • 1 small cheese pumpkin (about 3 – 5 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon chile powder
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut pumpkin in half, discarding the top stem and scooping out the seeds (don’t throw the seeds out!)
  2. Rub 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil on a baking sheet and place halves of pumpkins cut side down on pan. Roast for about 35 minutes, until pumpkin is tender and can easily be pierced with a fork. Don’t be alarmed if the pumpkin looks deflated when it comes out, it gets very soft.
  3. Let pumpkin cool and then scoop out the flesh, about 3 cups. Discard the skin. Once cool, I pureed the 3 cups of flesh until very smooth.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and ginger and sauté for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add the pumpkin flesh, thyme, sage, pumpkin pie spice, chile powder, and stock. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste (I added about 1 teaspoon of each). Garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk and roasted pumpkin seeds*.

To roast pumpkin seeds, first boil the seeds in a small pot of water for 10 minutes. Strain, so you lose any strands of pumpkin, and dry. Place in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Roast at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. When they roast, they turn from a grayish color to a lighter browned color. Crunch away!

79All photo credit: Ashley Cuoco

Soup recipe adapted from In Sonnet’s Kitchen.

A little lesson on other pumpkin varieties good for cooking and baking:

Cinderella Pumpkin: Looking much like the pumpkins that Cinderella’s fairy godmother magically transformed into a carriage, the Cinderella — with a flattened shape and striking red color — carries a strong and sweet flavor.

Long Pie Pumpkin: Also known as “Nantucket Pie,” the five to eight pound Long Pie looks nothing like a standard, round pumpkin. As its name suggests, it has an elongated shape, and its bright orange flesh is smooth and nearly string-less.

New England Pie Pumpkin: Known for making delicious pumpkin soup, the New England Pie has a superior consistency — string-less and slightly less sweet than the Baby Pam — that also makes for a thick filling in pies.

Pumpkin varieties via The Daily Meal, www.thedailymeal.com.

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Spoonbread: it’s a southern American staple. Kind of like savory a bread pudding, kind of like a soufflé, kind of really delicious. Right now I’m imagining the menu for my perfect Thanksgiving Day meal… each guest with a tiny ramekin of this good stuff. I don’t have a big house or a large table to seat my family just yet, but I can dream! I think this is like if your sweet potato mash and cornbread had a baby. It’s soft and has wonderful flavor from the sweet potato and thyme combo. A fine cornmeal gives it just enough structure to hold up. I just love the idea of digging into this with a spoon. Warm, pillow-y goodness. It’s a home-cooked comfort side that’s sure to please!


Yield: 8-10 servings — Hands-on time: 1 hr — Total Time: 2 hrs

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • Pinch of ground red pepper
  • 1 cup plain yellow cornmeal (I prefer the fine grain)
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 3 medium-size sweet potatoes, baked, peeled and mashed
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bring first 5 ingredients to a simmer in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Whisk cornmeal into milk mixture in a slow, steady stream. Cook, whisking constantly, 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture thickens and pulls away from bottom of pan. Remove from heat, and stir in butter. Cool 10 minutes.

2. Place potatoes in a large bowl; stir in cornmeal mixture. Stir in egg yolks and baking powder, stirring until well blended.

3. Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form; fold into potato mixture. Spoon batter into a well-buttered 3-qt. baking dish (or small ramekins!)

4. Bake at 350° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown and puffy. (Edges will be firm and center will still be slightly soft.) Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack before serving.

Recipe courtesy of Southern Living, www.southernliving.com

Roasted Sweet Potato Medallions

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

I love a good sweet potato. Growing up I devoured the traditional orange ones with a nice glob of butter. Got that image in your head? Mmm. Well recently I went to the store and picked up a white sweet yam. The white potato is fairly sweeter than the typical orange sweet potato. The combination of the two makes for a lovely composition. Bake with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and you’ve got yourself a pan filled with fluffy, sweet goodness. A simple and delicious side to any dish!

Servings: 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 large yam (white flesh)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet and rack with parchment paper or spray well with non-stick spray. I prefer Trader Joe’s coconut oil in a spray can.
  2. Clean and scrub sweet potatoes well. Leave the skin on. Cut into 1/2 inch medallions.
  3. Place medallions on lined sheet and brush both sides with olive oil. Be generous with the salt and pepper! Roast for 30 minutes, turning once halfway through. After the 30 minutes, raise the temperature to 400 degrees. Roast for another 15 minutes until the medallions are golden brown and just crispy. Enjoy!

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Balsamic Grilled Eggplant

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Makes 4 Servings  —  Prep Time: 5 Minutes  —  Cook Time: 8 Minutes


I have fond memories of my father making eggplant parmesan on Christmas Day. In warmer weather, these balsamic grilled eggplant slices are perfect on the grill! A fresh side to any dish — in under 15 minutes.

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Ingredients:

1 large eggplant, sliced 1/2″ thick

1 packet Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. water

3/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed

 

Directions:

Wisk together Good Seasons mix, balsamic vinegar, water and olive oil. (This dressing is also great on any salad or as a chicken cutlet marinade). Lightly marinate the slices of eggplant in the seasoned mixture. Place the marinated slices on a warm grill. A Foreman grill or nonstick skillet will also get the job done! Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until you see those nice grill marks. Sprinkle with Himalayan pink salt and ground pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh basil.

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Enjoy!