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.
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.
Wouldn’t these be perfect on your Thanksgiving table?
Are you already planning your menu, and checking it twice?
Then, make room on it this Thanksgiving for “Sweet Potato Orange Cups.”
How adorable and special are these hallowed-out orange halves, filled with coconut-scented mashed sweet potatoes and crunchy pecans?
Sure, you can make a big bowl of sweet potato puree and call it a day. But serving the creamy sweet potatoes mounded in individual orange cups like this just makes it all more fun and distinctive.
The recipe is from the new cookbook, “Celebrations: A Year of Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes for Every Occasion” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. It’s by Bay Area food writer Danielle Walker, founder of the grain-free blog, againstallgrain.com.
The 125 recipes all eschew gluten, dairy and grain. They are arranged by occasion, such as “Game Day Buffet,” “Birthday Party,” and “Christmas Breakfast.”
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t mix and match. For instance, the recipe for “Sweet Potato Orange Cups” is actually listed in the “Easter Brunch” chapter. But I think it’s also ideal for Thanksgiving.
Sweet potatoes make this cake really moist.
Imagine a holiday cake that’s rich in fiber, complex carbohydrates and beta-carotene.
OK, so it does have chocolate chips, too. Plus a wicked chocolate-coffee glaze.
“Spiced Sweet Potato Bundt Cake” has all that going for it and more. After all, it’s the creation of Chef Tanya Holland, who’s famed for her soulful comfort food at her Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland.
This cake is from her new cookbook, “Brown Sugar Kitchen: New-Style, Down-Home Recipes From Sweet West Oakland” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy. It was written with former San Francisco Magazine editor Jan Newberry.
You’ll find all your Brown Sugar Kitchen favorites here, including Holland’s legendary Cornmeal Waffles with Apple Cider Syrup and Buttermilk Fried Chicken. All in all, you’ll find more than 80 recipes from everything from Creole Gazpacho to Smoked Buttered Rum. What’s really special about this book, though, is its sense of place. Holland’s restaurant is an intrinsic part of this West Oakland neighborhood. The book celebrates the people that make this area what it is by including profiles of its entrepreneurs, musicians and community leaders.
Stuffing that doesn’t have to weigh you down.
Think of this as Thanksgiving stuffing-lite.
Oh sure, it still has half a stick of butter in it.
But there’s no sausage in it. Nor any milk, cream or eggs. It gets moistened with chicken broth instead.
It also gets crunch from a profusion of pistachio nuts. And it gets a grown-up touch with dried figs that have been macerated in sweet white wine overnight. But don’t worry, they don’t come out tasting overly boozy. The alcohol tempers the fruit’s sweetness and adds a rounded depth. If you don’t have the Mucscat or Essensia called for in the recipe, you can improvise. I actually ended up using Canadian icewine I happened to have on hand.
The recipe is from one of my favorite cookbook writers, Molly Stevens. It first appeared in the February 2007 issue of Bon Appetit.