There are few dishes in the world more deeply satisfying than a perfectly made Potato Gratin. And by perfectly made, I mean the potatoes are cooked just until tender (not falling apart), are enveloped in a creamy (not curdled) sauce, and are well-seasoned, (not bland). Of course, it goes without saying that you should use a copious quantity of cheese and it should be excellent quality and aged to boot. In a dish this simple, each ingredient counts.
Croque Monsieur is the ultimate ham and cheese sandwich. It’s just the kind of indulgent, comfort food you start yearning for when spring is on hiatus somewhere else and you suspect summer may never come.
And yet, for all it’s decadence, it’s a simple sandwich really—bread, ham, cheese, and the kicker—a creamy, dreamy Gruyere cheese sauce. How could it get any better?
The Northwest farmers markets are overflowing with field-grown rhubarb. And the bounty will extend well beyond the time the large commercial growers call it quits for the season. This is because small local growers have taken up the cause and have discovered that they can keep rhubarb growing about as long as customers show enthusiasm for buying it. My own enthusiasm never seems to wane. The absence between October and February just makes the heart grow fonder.
On the LunaCafe Facebook page recently, I bemoaned the fact that this is an atypically chilly and dreadfully dreary May in the Northwest. By chilly, I mean most days are in the 50’s, which forces me to put on three layers of everything just to step out the door. This is not the kind of weather that makes me all dreamy-eyed about eating cold, composed salads, no matter how much I will crave them once summer finally kicks in.
Instead, I find myself jotting down ideas for Moroccan tagines. Why? Because they are hot, spicy, succulent, and so damn delicious that not even the weather can bring me down when I’m eating one.
I think of myself as a component kind of cook. Just as I prefer a wardrobe full of separates that I can mix and match as fancy strikes, I also like to mix and match culinary components. What I learn from one dish always has ramifications to another dish later.
Take this new salad for instance. I am in the lingering thrall of the Lemon & Thyme Marinated Artichokes posted last week. They were so good that I can’t get them out of my mind. We had barely finished the first batch of artichokes, and I had another batch marinating in the fig.
Years ago in Sedona, Arizona, a dish titled Fire-Smoked Lemon and Herb Marinated Artichoke caught my attention. I asked the server how it was prepared, and she said the artichokes were marinated for days in a lemon, garlic, olive oil, and fresh herb vinaigrette, then grilled over mesquite. She said they were to die for. They weren’t. In fact, I could barely discern the marinade at all.