A gratin that won’t weigh you down.
Usually smothered in heavy cream and copious amounts of melty, gooey cheese, gratins are both comfort food and festive special occasion fare.
They’re also rich, heavy, and total gut-busters.
But what if they could be lightened — without sacrificing the luscious quality we love about them?
Leave it to the geniuses behind America’s Test Kitchen to do just that — at least with cauliflower gratin.
Meet “Modern Cauliflower Gratin,” an inventive take on the classic. It’s one of more than 700 innovative recipes in the new cookbook, “Vegetables Illustrated: An Inspiring Guide with 700+ Kitchen-Tested Recipes” by America’s Test Kitchen, of which I received a review copy.
If you’re familiar with Cook’s Illustrated magazine, then you know all too well how meticulous these recipes have been tested until perfected. Although the book is called “Vegetables” illustrated, it doesn’t mean this is a vegetarian cookbook. While vegetables are dominant, many recipes feature meat or seafood, or make use of chicken broth.
What’s in this bowl? An umami bomb, that’s what.
There are only three ingredients in this recipe and none of them is meat. Yet you won’t believe the powerhouse of earthy, meaty flavors it possesses.
The secret is red miso.
“Seared Miso Mushrooms” is a recipe from the new cookbook, “Feasts of Veg: Plant-Based Food for Gatherings” (Kyle), of which I received a review copy. It’s by Nina Olsson, a Sweden-based photographer and recipe developer who created the blog, NourishAtelier.
The book is a collection of vegetarian recipes that take influences from around the world. Think “Caramelized Onion Tarte Tatin,” “Smoked Tofu Rillette,” “Chipotle Jackfruit Tacos,” and “Sweet Tahini Babka.”
Miso is made from soybeans fermented with rice or other grains. If all you know is the lighter tasting white and yellow varieties, it’s high time you tried its deeper, darker cousin that’s been fermented even longer. It is much more pungent, with a much deeper and stronger earthy funkiness that will give anything it touches a big boost of umami.
High-heat roasting turns eggplant sweet and custardy.
There’s no doubt that London’s Yotam Ottolenghi is prolific.
The chef, who has reinvented Middle Eastern fare, owns a slew of restaurants, including the fine-dining Nopi and Rovi. He’s also the author of six best-selling cookbooks.
As delicious as they are, though, many of the recipes in those cookbooks require a real commitment. They tend to be recipes that a multiple pages long and require several components to assemble. They’re recipes you have to block out a good amount of time on a weekend to do.
His seventh cookbook, “Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy is the antidote to that. Almost every recipe is only one page long. Some of them can be made in less than 30 minutes, and with 10 ingredients or fewer.
Mashed, roasted sweet potatoes get enlivened with miso, ponzu and maple syrup.
Like Madonna and Bono, you know exactly whom I’m talking about just by that first name.
Dorie Greenspan — the incomparable James Beard Award-winning cookbook writer whose fans are legion.
We always want recipes that won’t fail, that can be counted on, that won’t disappoint. But perhaps no more so than during the holidays when we just can’t afford to have a dish fall flat when we’re entertaining big time.
Greenspan’s recipes meet that criteria. And in her newest cookbook, “Everyday Dorie” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), of which I received a review copy, she delivers a slew of recipes for the food she makes most often at home, whether it be in Paris, New York or Connecticut.
These are dishes that she considers basic, meaning they’re uncomplicated to make, but still pack on a real depth of flavor. Best yet, for most every recipe, she gives suggestions on ways to riff on it.
Get to know how good beans can truly be.
I remember there was a time when I found beans utterly ho-hum.
I couldn’t imagine what could be that exciting about them. I was always more interested in what was with them or around them.
That was until I discovered Napa’s Rancho Gordo beans.
That’s when I realized beans could be comforting, surprising, satisfying and with far more flavor and character than I’d ever imagined.
Founder Steve Sando sources astounding heirloom beans with such evocative names as Christmas Lima Bean, Yellow Indian Woman Bean, and Good Mother Stallard Bean.
At least once a year, I make a purchase of an assortment of his beans, most of which carry me through the chilly winter in numerous dishes. But they’re equally delicious when the weather is still warm, such as in dishes like “Alubia Blanca Bean Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette.”
It’s a recipe from his cookbook, “The Rancho Gordo Vegetarian Kitchen,” which he wrote with Julia Newberry last year. As the name implies, it’s filled with meat-less recipes that star all manner of beans.