Savory galette makes a fantastic meal


Happy new year! Last month I treated myself to a new cookbook: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Smitten Kitchen blog, it’s a great one, filled with well-composed photos and recipes that are manageable for the average cook. Sometimes I head there when I’m looking for inspiration.

The first recipe I tried from the cookbook was the recipe for a Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette. While the galette didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped—I halved the recipe and forgot to use half the olive oil, so that overpowered the flavors and made it oily—I loved the recipe for the pastry part. It had a lovely flakiness about it. Since I still had half of it in the fridge, I decided to make my own combination with leftover chicken, spinach, and Parmesan. It was fantastic.

I’ve never had a savory galette before, but I figured the pastry wasn’t sweet and could be used with a different set of ingredients. In all honesty, I liked my combination better than the one with butternut squash because it wasn’t as heavy or sweet.

Keep in mind that I mostly cook for myself, so this galette could serve up to three — or you could have leftovers, which is what I did. I enjoyed every bite.Savorygalette010415

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons ice water

In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

One chicken thigh, baked with lemon, chopped
1 packed cup of fresh spinach, torn into smaller pieces
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface or between two pieces of parchment paper, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread filling over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the edges of the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. If you want to give it that shiny edge, you can make an egg wash by whisking one egg and two tablespoons of water together and brushing the mixture over the top of the pastry.

Bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

Fold your way to fresh spanakopita


I learned how to make spanakopita a few weeks ago. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s a Greek recipe in which a spinach mixture is folded into phyllo dough and baked into a crispy little triangle of deliciousness.

My mom and I both like the frozen spanakopita from Costco but, as with most of the foods I purchase and enjoy, I wanted to learn to make it at home. So I did.

Spanakopita051114-1This recipe makes about 10 large triangles but, if you’re planning to serve this as an appetizer, I’d recommend cutting the phyllo into quarters. You’ll need a pastry brush and a bit of patience, but the great thing is that you can add whatever you want to the mix, so long as it doesn’t get too watery and make the phyllo soggy during baking. The dough was tougher than I expected it to be — not to say mine didn’t rip at all in the process — but, because it’s folded so many times, you can easily cover up any tears.

I also used fresh spinach on my first attempt, and it required more work, because I had to sauté it to get rid of all the moisture. Next time, I will definitely use frozen spinach to prevent extra steps.

I was happy that this was simple to do at home. It is a nice recipe to have in the mix for when I need to bring an appetizer to a party.

1/2 pound of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
4 sheets of phyllo dough, defrosted and cut lengthwise into thirds
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
1 tablespoon of fresh, chopped dill
1/4 cup packed fresh basil, chopped
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons butter, clarified and cooled

Spanakopita051114-2 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, feta, parmesan, dill, basil, lemon juice, and nutmeg. Add egg, and salt and pepper to taste.

Stack the phyllo dough next to a wooden cutting board situated with the shorter end facing you. Place one strip of phyllo on the board and brush the dough with the clarified butter so the entire strip, especially the edges, are moistened. Then, take up to two tablespoons of the spinach mixture and shape it into a triangle in one of the bottom corners of the dough. Then, fold the dough, starting with the long side of the triangle. continue to fold until the entire strip of dough is folded around the mixture. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining mixture and dough.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Serve hot.

Potato salad fit for summer


The warmer weather in Tahoe has me thinking about being outside — and the food that comes with it.

Summer is a time for barbecues and picnics, and potato salad is one of the first dishes that comes to mind when I think of eating outside.

Champagne vinegar and dijon mustard are the dominate flavors in this version of the dish. The first time I used champagne vinegar in potato salad was after watching an episode of the Barefoot Contessa in which Ina Garten made this French Potato Salad. I hadn’t considered the combination before, but it has since become my go-to ingredient.

The recipe below is based on Garten’s recipe. I didn’t have all of the ingredients her recipe called for, so I improvised. If you’re looking for an alternative to your mom’s potato salad recipe, this is a great option.

1 1/2 pounds baby gold Yukon potatoes
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons chicken broth
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
10 leaves of spinach or basil, ripped into small pieces
A small bunch of chives, cut into small pieces
Dash of salt
Dash each of garlic powder, onion powder

Boil the potatoes in a pot of water for 20-30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain pot. Let potatoes cool for about 10 minutes. Cut into quarters and place in a medium bowl. Add vinegar and chicken broth. Toss gently and let sit until the potatoes have soaked up the liquid.

Once the liquid has been absorbed, add the mayonnaise, dijon mustard, chives and spinach or basil. Mix and add salt and spices to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Not your average baked potato


Baked potatoes are good, but sometimes twice-baked potatoes are better. This was the first recipe I tried from the Williams-Sonoma Cookbook that my brother bought me for my birthday a few years ago. It’s probably one of the more decadent baked potato recipes you’ll ever make. One of these could be a meal in itself, but they also go well with salmon or steak.

I like this recipe because it’s straightforward, and the ingredients are something most people have on hand. If you don’t have one of the ingredients, it’s easy to substitute or just do without. This recipe can easily be halved or doubled, depending on the number of people you’re serving.

The one warning I have is that the cheese can make it oily after it bakes. I recommend either using less cheese or using a harder, aged cheddar instead. If you don’t like cheddar, you can use whatever you’d like.

4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and patted dry
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
2 bunches fresh spinach leaves, tough stems removed and leaves rinsed well
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup firmly packed shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Prick the potatoes with a fork and place them directly on the oven rack. Bake until tender when pierced with a small knife, about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté until the shallot is translucent, about three minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the spinach, and toss until wilted but still bright green, about four minutes. Transfer the spinach mixture to a sieve set over a bowl and press all the liquid out of the spinach.Twicebakedpotatoes3

Using a serrated knife, cut a slice 1/2 inch thick off one long side of each potato and discard. Scoop out the potato flesh into a bowl, leaving a shell 1/4 inch thick. Add the sour cream, salt, pepper and the remaining 4 tablespoons butter to the potato flesh and mash with a potato masher to blend. Stir in 2/3 cup of the cheese and then the spinach. Spoon the potato mixture into the potato shells, mounding it high. Press the remaining cheese on top of the filling.

Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. To test for doneness, stick a small knife into a potato and leave it there for about 15 seconds. Remove the knife and feel the blade; if it is hot, the potatoes are ready. Serve immediately. Serves 4.