I don't recall ever eating gratins at home but my first restaurant taste of one fixed my obsession forever. Rich, creamy, gooey, often cheesy, they were right up there with the best in comfort foods. And so I learned to make them. But seeing first hand how rich they really were, made me rethink them. Oh, not to top eating them...don't be crazy! Just to remake them a bit.
If you're not familiar with this French classic, it's typically a luscious blend of cream cheese and heavy cream, sweetened and topped with a fruit sauce. The French word coeur means heart and this dish (literally "heart of cream") is usually molded in a heart shaped pan, hence the name. And that certainly makes it popular for romantic occasions. Sure, I'm all about chocolate on Valentine's Day but this makes a nice dessert alternative, especially if there's also a box of chocolate candy involved for late evening snacking.
Stuffed cabbage rolls were on my mother's regular meal rotation when I was a kid. And I loved them. Even the cabbage part. As a very young woman on my own, I kept a crazy schedule with a full time job and grad school at night. No time to cook much and mostly what was in my fridge was yogurt. Except on those lovely evenings when I'd get home late, open the fridge and find that my mother had dropped by during the day and left me a pot of her homemade cabbage rolls. She was such a good mommy.
When I was growing up, my father used to eat prunes and tell me they were healthy. But all I saw, when he offered me one, was a wrinkled, shriveled mess. I couldn't image what kind of tree had grown it and I certainly wanted nothing to do with it. And he would chuckle and continue eating his prunes. At some point in my adult life, somebody clued me in that prunes were dried plums. Plums? Really? I like plums. I eat plums. They're really plums, huh? Hmm.
I have a very well stocked pantry with an enviable variety of grains from which to choose when making interesting recipes. The only thing that could possibly be more interesting is if I actually looked in there once in a while instead of just reaching for potatoes. But, it's a new year, a whole new me, a healthy me...OK, I was out of potatoes. But that gave me a chance to reacquaint myself with one of my favorite quick cook grains.
Over the weekend I found myself doing the thousand yard stare into my pantry, trying to decide what to make for dinner. I had some salad ready and some chicken but I needed a side dish. Potatoes, polenta, rice...hmm...I kept coming back to the rice. I guess I like rice with chicken. Except that I'm trying to cut back on the starches for a while and add a few more vegetables. And then it hit me that I could make my favorite non-rice rice!
Let's talk about beets this morning. Come back here! I'm not talking about that mess you got at some school cafeteria somewhere. And when people tell me they think beets taste like dirt, I have to assume a cafeteria is the only place they've tried them. Beets are sweet. Unless they're pickled. Then they're sweet and sour. And good.
OK, I'm officially cold. Somehow the holidays make the weather seem bearable and being outside, among the lights and decorations is festive enough to overcome the chill. But my annual post-holiday intolerance of all things cold, snowy and wintery has set in.