Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Comfort Food: Gratin Dauphinois (French Scalloped Potatoes)

My friend Val reminded me, after I posted the semi-virtuous broccoli salad with bacon recipe, about the Gratin Dauphinois that I made for her when she last came to visit me. This dish is the ULTIMATE comfort food….creamy, buttery, gruyere-cheesy potatoes with garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper. The garlic would be the only ingredient I could wax healthy about, since the combination of all other ingredients reaches artery-clogging on the healthy scale. But, I remind myself that I started blogging to share recipes for both healing and comfort, and there is nothing more satisfying than a lovely, heaping portion of these cream and cheese laden potatoes when you need comfort food.

We will be leaving this week for Megeve, a charming village in the French Alpes, where I discovered this recipe (which I have made and remade for 25 years now!). During the snowy ski season, this and a salad is often our dinner after a chilly day on the slopes. Comforting and delicious, and with Megeve farmers’ crème fraiche and gruyere cheese, it is heavenly to sit down to while the snow falls outside and the fireplace crackles and glows. It’s also delicious in the summer...with your favorite grilled dishes when dining al fresco. Or any other time and place…for that matter!

So, for my wonderful friend Val, a little comfort coming out to you with a whole lotta love…..

Gratin Dauphinois

6–8 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced thin.
4- 6 cloves garlic, chopped fine
salt, pepper and nutmeg
1 stick butter cut into small bits
1 cup crème fraiche (you can make your own by combining equal parts heavy cream and sour cream in a glass bowl, stir and let sit for 1 hour before chilling)
2-3 cups shredded gruyere cheese (you can use comte, or any other good quality swiss/alpine cheese—but gruyere is my favorite)
2-3 cups milk

Generously butter a 9x12 pyrex or ceramic dish. Add a layer of potatoes, slightly overlapping, to the pan, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheese. Dot the top with butter and a few teaspoons of crème fraiche. Continue layering the potatoes and other ingredients, layer by layer, until the pan is full. Cover the potatoes with milk, and add a layer of shredded gruyere to the top of the potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for at least 1 hour or until potatoes are soft when poked through with a knife, increase heat to 425 for the last 15-20 minutes to make a crusty top layer. Serve warm.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Healing and Comfort Food: Broccoli Salad with Bacon

Summertime is salad time. It’s so refreshing to indulge in the many fruits and vegetables of the season in their crisp, raw form. It is also the best way to get all of the healing and nutrient properties from them. Since I am always trying to get my children to eat more of that fabulous superfood broccoli, I am always happy to find tasty and inventive ways to serve it.

While home in Ohio for a family reunion, my mother served this broccoli salad at lunch. It is a nice juxtaposition of sweet and sour, crunchy and creamy, and it includes one of my favorite foods of all time---bacon. Bacon—smoky, salty, and crispy--has long been one of my favorite comfort foods. While not virtuous, when paired with the broccoli, which is loaded with vitamins C, K and A, protein and potassium in healthy doses (and many other nutrients in smaller helpings), this salad is a delicious, satisfying and vitamin charged combination. I like to pair it with a BLT—another great comfort food of mine. After a lunch like that, all is right with the universe….

3 cups broccoli-chopped into small, bit size pieces

1 red onion, chopped

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

6 slices bacon, crumbled

1 cup light mayonnaise

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

Whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar and set aside. Combine broccoli, onion, raisins, cheese, bacon and mix. Stir in vinaigrette mixture. Serve chilled.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Healing Foods: Shrimp Scampi with Brown Rice

Last night, I started cooking for a friend who will be having surgery this week. I began with some healing soups (spring onion, vegan vegetable/barley) and added some crostini toppers (roasted garlic and a tomato/curry/turmeric chutney). My good friend Wendy came over to taste and critique--I know I can always count on her to give her honest opinion about whether it’s tasty or not, and what might make it more flavorful. In the middle of tasting the soup and crostini with a glass of wine, my daughter came in to the kitchen to ask, “Mom, what are WE having for dinner?”

I needed something quick and nutrient rich, since my daughter is studying for year-end exams. I opened my freezer and saw a bag of frozen shrimp, and shrimp scampi came to mind. Since shrimp has more than 100% of the daily value of tryptophan (for calming nerves during test prep), and over 60% of the daily value of selenium, plus vitamins D, B12 and plenty of iron, I knew it would be a healthy choice. And it takes about 10 minutes to make (the rice takes longer than that!), so I could have dinner on the table in under an half hour. This scampi recipe, while improvised, is quite tasty. The lemon zest and lemon juice give it a zip, and the red pepper adds spice. With brown rice it is a lovely, quick weeknight dinner.

Shrimp Scampi

3 tablespoons butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like spicy)

1 pound jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/3 cup chopped chives

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and add minced garlic. Stir until translucent—about 3 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, shrimp, salt and pepper. Stir/sauté about 5 minutes until shrimp turns from pink to white. Add white wine, lemon juice, zest and sauté an additional 3-4 minutes. Add chives and parsley. Serve with brown rice.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Healing Foods: Spinach and Tofu Salad with Sesame Miso Dressing

Last weekend, my husband whisked us away for a lovely, relaxing weekend at Lake George. An idyllic spot in the Adirondacks, it has breathtaking lake and mountain views all around. I realized while packing that this was my first time in a bathing suit for the summer season, and I wasn’t exactly feeling that the soothing, gentle yoga stretches I had been doing were doing much to build muscle and give me rock hard abs. So, instead of grabbing my jump rope and running shoes and heading outside, I went to my computer to look on a few of my favorite food and recipe sites. A comfort food meal may not help my figure, but it would certainly make me happy!

I went to one of my new favorite food and recipe sites, www.rasamalaysia.com, which features cooking from all over Asia that is both easy to prepare and incredibly delicious. I love looking at the beautiful food photography and reading Bee Yinn Low’s amusing food and cooking anecdotes.

I came across a Spinach and Tofu Salad with Sesame Miso Dressing, and thought that was just the ticket to heading into the weekend on a healthy note. Spinach leaves and tofu bites in a refreshing salad with creamy miso dressing was both virtuous and yummy. Tofu provides the low fat protein, while spinach is packed with superfood nutrients (see the post "Popeye Had The Right Idea!). I asked Bee if I could post this recipe for readers looking for a nutrient dense complete meal that is both healing and comforting. She graciously agreed. So with gratitude to Bee Yinn Low and her inspiring, spicy Rasa Malaysia site, I am happy to give you a great salad recipe (and her beautiful photo of it!) for summer eating….


1 pack organic baby spinach

1 pinch sesame seeds (for garnishing)

1/2 block tofu (cut into small cubes)


1 tablespoon white miso

1 tablespoon ponzu sauce

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon sesame seeds (ground with mortar and pestle)
1/4 cup water


Mix the sesame miso dressing ingredients until well blended. (You can heat up the dressing in a small sauce pan and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before use.)

Wash the baby spinach and drain excess water. In a salad bowl, toss the baby spinach with tofu and sesame miso dressing. Serve cold.