Tag Archives: manon

Potato and Leek Gratin

As usual, Manon’s Thursday posts give us a reason to feel hungry and adventurous in the kitchen.  This week, she explores one of her favorite comfort dishes (with a surprise twist at the end), with flavors just right for that post-midterm self-loathing.

When it gets around to being midterm season, I seem to have less and less time to do anything, and with the impending winter season slowly creeping upon us, I am increasingly in the mood for warm, comfort food. So here’s the perfect dish: gratin. Traditionally, these are made with alternating layers of sliced potatoes and cream, topped with freshly grated Gruyère, and then thrown into the oven until the potatoes are cooked through and the cheese is golden and crispy. By replacing the potatoes with other ingredients, many variants are possible, such as cooked pasta, leeks, zucchini, and more. In fact, this is a great dish to make if you have a bunch of leftovers that you don’t really know what do to with. Just throw anything in, pour in some cream, add a pinch of ground nutmeg if appropriate, and grate some cheese on top. It always turns out delicious.

Well, most of the time… I’m used to having my mom or grand-ma’s deliciously rich and creamy gratin, and when they make theirs it always looks so easy. You just throw everything in the dish and then in the oven, and voilà! A beautiful dinner. I soon figured out that it’s not that simple, but this turned out to be the result of some oven temperature confusion. Here’s the full story:

A friend and I had decided to make dinner since the people she nannies for were going to be out of the house that night. I was so excited about the fact that I’d be able to cook in a fully equipped kitchen where I wouldn’t have to worry about the fire alarm going off due to a malfunctioning fan, and then having my whole dorm building evacuate on my account. This was such a perfect opportunity to make something I knew would be delicious. So the menu for the night featured chicken with caramelized onions and a white wine-reduction cream sauce with a potato gratin on the side. The chicken was great. The gratin…

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Culinary Paradise for the Italian Foodophile

Eataly, courtesy of thepeche.com

Manon, Culinary Society President, reviews the group’s recent trip to Eataly (because our picnic in the park was unfortunately rained out!) and describes this delightful downtown heaven.

So what should you do on a rainy day when plans for a picnic had to be canceled? Go to Eataly, a gourmet supermarket specializing in Italian products. Right in the heart of the Flatiron district and next to Madison Square Park, Eataly is an amazing assembly of food stands that sell everything you could imagine, from fresh fruits and vegetables to tiramisu, biscotti to prosciutto, and everything in between. It’s even possible to find fish and several types of honey as well as a few different restaurants right in the middle of the market where you can enjoy a cheese and meat tasting, pasta and pizza, or hot chocolate. One thing’s for sure, browsing through everything Eatly has to offer can be quite overwhelming: there’s a lot to chose from and a lot of people to maneuver around (Eataly seems to have basically become a tourist attraction). That being said, it is still more than totally worth going there to discover the variety of things they carry as most anything you’ll get there is guaranteed to be delicious. It’s a true paradise for any food lover.

The best way to experience Eataly is by going with a group of friends right before lunch. You can reserve a table, enjoy a delicious pizza, and then explore the market on a full stomach (they do say it’s dangerous to shop when you’re hungry, right?). I’ve been to one of the restaurants there twice, and both times I left the table fully satisfied. Our table ordered a few pizzas from the menu and then shared everything. The final verdict was good: the crust is thin, soft, and chewy and ingredients are fresh. It’s a good place to get real Italian pizza. Continue reading Culinary Paradise for the Italian Foodophile

Ushering in the Fall

We’re only four weeks into the school year and already the cold weather is upon us! It’s still September and I’m starting to need a scarf and heavier jacket, and before I know it I’ll be breaking out the boots (I did just get a new pair though, so I’m actually more excited for fall then I might be letting on). In any case, before summer is totally behind us weather-wise, I wanted to make one last salad: quinoa with pear, raisins, scallions, and goat cheese, a totally fancy way to transition into the fall season even though we officially passed that day last week.

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Unglamorous Cooking in College

Manon ushers in the first of her Thursday series as Culinary Society President as she Strives to Become a College Gourmet.  It can be hard to keep up 5 Star Dining even in a dorm, but Manon’s determined to make it work.

So here we are, back in the city, back at school, and for some of us, away from our mother’s fabulous home-cooked meals and fully equipped kitchens with stocked fridges. Cooking and eating well in college is, at least for me, really hard, but it doesn’t mean that I lose the appreciation for good food. True, I won’t be having my favorite roast chicken with stuffing and rice unless I am able to assemble all the necessary cooking material and allocate enough time for the preparation. And even if I did have all the time in the world, I wouldn’t be able to make whatever I feel like having that day unless I am able to fill up my fridge with all the standard ingredients.

No, cooking in college takes careful planning and the ability to adapt to different cooking situations. Although I know that I am particularly lazy when it comes to preparing myself dinner (because I’m one of those people who need all the perfect circumstances to even begin to think about making something), it still isn’t easy. But if you’re willing to eat the same leftovers for a few meals straight, cooking in college can be easier than it looks. Yeah, it can get a little repetitive, I know, but it’s better than it could otherwise be.

During my search for easy, delicious meals I was inspired by different kinds of salads, like rice, quinoa, or pasta. They are easy to make, don’t require a whole lot of cooking material, and keep for a couple days, so if you make a ton you won’t have to go back in the kitchen for a little while (not to make it sound like I don’t like being in the kitchen, because I do!). Plus they’re pretty healthy and filling.

So here is the recipe for my mom’s rice salad. It’s easy to make and tastes delicious, and I love to make it because every bite brings me a little closer to my mom’s home-cooked meals, which as you can probably tell, I miss so terribly. Also, you can make a ton of it and have it last a couple days.

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Almost a Veggie Overload

Manon returns for her second post!  Her story includes the vegetable treasures her mother brought from France, as well as the plethora of recipes they tried out.  Stuffed Eggplant recipe after the jump.

Last week my mom went on a four-day long trip to the south of France and bought a car full of fresh fruits and vegetables on her way back. So for the past week she’s been making apricot, peach, and prune jams, and the freezer is full to the brim with frozen pesto and ratatouille. With the endless quantities of vegetables that still remain, we’ve been making every different vegetable recipe we know. There have, of course, been our old classics: various sliced vegetables tossed in a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and then baked in a hot oven for about 20 minutes, served with couscous or pasta. We’ve also served them cold with a vinaigrette or in a salad. And as my mom is famous for her fruit desserts, there have been quite a few cobblers and tarts as well.

Today though, a brand new recipe entered into our cooking arsenal: inspired by my mom’s magazine recipe binder, we made goat cheese-stuffed eggplant “packages” baked in the oven and served with a fresh green salad and tomatoes. It was pretty great. The outside of the eggplant got crispy and super flavorful, and some of the cheese fell out of the packages and became golden and crispy. Paired with the fresh salad and tomatoes, we avoided having the eggplant become too rich.

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Bacon Gravy, an Ancestral Breakfast of Champions


artwork from magpie-moon on flickr

Manon tells a heart-warming anecdote about heart-stopping bacon gravy.  Recipe after the jump!

Most of what I’ve experienced of my grandparents’ cooking has come from my dad’s retellings of his childhood memories or from his own adaptations of his parents’ recipes. The best one of these recipes is definitely my grandfather’s bacon gravy (though he was not the only one to make it). Coming from a long line of Spanish-California rancheros, this breakfast dish is robust and rustic. And while incredibly unhealthy and promising to stink up the entire house and your clothes with the smell of bacon and burnt butter, it is a delicious meal that keeps you far from going hungry the entire day. Summer figure concerns do have to be put aside for this one.

Over the years, each generation adapted the recipe to their new and evolving tastes. My grandparents for example preferred a smooth and more viscous béchamel, so they would strain out the bacon bits before adding in the flour, and would pour in the milk tiny bit by tiny bit, all the while whisking furiously to avoid any lumps. Today though, we seem to have returned to a more rustic method of preparation: the bacon bits and lumps are left to be. Don’t be fooled though! While these adaptations may appear to result from ensuing laziness, I promise you that they add to the ancestral, ranchero feel of the dish. It is, after all, a down-to-earth and rugged meal, so less refinement adds to its texture and substance.

So, while the ingredient list and serving suggestions may frighten the heath conscious eater, (and understandably so) I can assure you that having bacon gravy for breakfast is well worth the extra workout that eating it calls for. At least you won’t go hungry on your run? Continue reading Bacon Gravy, an Ancestral Breakfast of Champions

Cooking Bug & Crab Cakes

This summer post comes from Manon, the new President of the Culinary Society!  She gives a stellar recipe for crab cakes as well as tells the story of how she became not just a food appreciator, but a food creator.

I have to admit: I’ve always loved eating and talking out food more than anything, but it’s only been a mere three weeks since I’ve finally been hit by the cooking obsession as well. It may seem surprising that it didn’t start earlier, especially given the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by the delicious, home-cooked meals of my grandmother and parents my entire life. So why has it taken me so long to follow suit? I’m honestly more baffled than you could imagine. You’d think a love of eating would go along with a love of cooking, but apparently not necessarily, or at least not until recently.

Perhaps it was just a matter of timing. After a year’s worth of craving my family’s cooking, lacking a normal kitchen, and gawking at the pictures in food magazines and blogs, all I might have needed after all was a functional kitchen within which to channel those cravings. And lucky for me, I now have access to a great kitchen and a receptive, enthusiastic crowd to feed and please. Nothing could be better.

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