Oscar Snacks!

Deb Brown's Grilled Cheese Tartines 2After much movie-going in 2012, I’m betting that these will be Oscar winners (in the top five categories) on Sunday night!

Best Picture—Argo
Best Actor—Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Best Actress—Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Best Supporting Actor—Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Best Supporting Actress—Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)

I’d love to hear about your favorites! You can find a ballot here

Regardless of whom you’re rooting for, everyone loves to nibble while watching this mother of all awards shows. Decadently good cheese tartines served with a balsamic dipping sauce would be perfect to put on the menu for the big night.

These miniature grilled cheese sandwiches are the creation of Deborah Snow, the talented chef of Blue Heron Restaurant and Catering in Sunderland, Massachusetts. Deb willingly shared the recipe, explaining that these addictive little morsels were one of her catering firm’s most requested dishes.

Prepared with grated Gruyère and Grafton cheddar (a white cheddar from Vermont) that is mounded between slices of good white bread, these sandwiches are coated with melted butter, quickly sautéed, then placed in the oven for several minutes. Deb cuts the sandwiches into squares or triangles, and serves them with a simple balsamic sauce and some pear puree. I followed her directions, but used only the balsamic sauce as a garnish. Continue reading

A Simple Yet Delicious Winter Soup – Good for Post-Holiday Decompression!

It’s been gray and rainy in Paris for days, so what could be better to counter the overcast skies than bowls of a warm, homemade potage. At the marché this week, I picked up a beautiful cauliflower, some root vegetables, a packet of grated Gruyère, and some hazelnuts—the makings for a soup I had prepared to begin my family’s Christmas dinner just a few week ago. This time, I carefully omitted the cream I had used so liberally in that earlier version, and instead reached for a bottle of reduced fat milk.

In the tiny kitchen of the apartment we rent, I made the soup as I had before, sautéing chopped leeks, carrots, celery, and cauliflower florets in olive oil, then simmering this vegetable mélange until tender in stock. Next the soup was pureed and enriched with milk. And, guess what! The quartet of vegetables provided so much flavor that I didn’t miss the taste (or the calories) of the cream at all. As finishing touches, a small sprinkle of Gruyère, a few coarsely chopped hazelnuts, and some snipped chives made fine garnishes, adding both color and texture. Continue reading

Corn, Leek, and Chorizo Gratin

Here’s a great side dish to use some of that ubiquitous corn which as the lyrics go is “as high as an elephant’s eye” at this time of year. Diced chorizo, the slightly spicy Spanish sausage, fresh corn kernels, and chopped leeks are sautéed, then combined with eggs, half and half, and sour cream. Grated Gruyère and fresh chopped parsley provide more flavor. When baked, the gratin boasts a golden crust that covers a creamy custard mosaically studded with bits of sausage, corn, and leeks. This dish would make a fine garnish to barbecued chicken, grilled steaks, or sautéed pork chops.

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Asparagus and Mushroom Tarts

These elegant tarts look as if they take far more expertise to produce than the simple effort that is required. Using purchased puff pastry is what makes them so easy and quick to assemble. Count on 15 minutes to make the filling, and five for cutting out the puff pastry squares. Both the squares and the filling can be prepared several hours ahead so that at serving time you will need only to spoon the asparagus/ mushroom melange onto the pastries, and then bake them for 20 minutes. Serve the tarts as a first course or offer then with a green salad for a summer lunch or light supper.

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