Loaded Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback potatoes are a type of potato dish, not a variety of potato. In their simplest form, hasselback potatoes are nothing more than whole potatoes cut in such a way as to resemble a fan or accordion when roasted. The outside of the potato becomes crisp and brown while the inside is soft & creamy.

This Swedish dish gets its name from Hasselbacken, the Stockholm restaurant where it was first served. You might say, they are a cross between baked and roasted potatoes. What distinguishes the two is the way the potato is prepared for roasting. The potato, which may or may not be peeled, is cut into very thin slices but without completing the cuts, leaving all slices connected along the bottom of the potato. As the potato cooks, the individual slices separate slightly and give the finished dish its distinctive look. The original recipe drizzles them with melted butter and seasons with salt & pepper which creates their crispy exteriors.

Over time, many variations have been made and are simply products and preferences of the individual preparing them. It is the slicing and roasting that distinguish the dish as hasselback potatoes rather than the variations on seasonings or toppings.

Today, I’m doing a ‘loaded’ version, taking it from a side dish to the main course.

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Loaded Hasselback Potatoes
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Instructions
Potatoes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Make a row of deep cuts in each potato from end to end, they should be just under 1/4-inch apart. Take care not to cut the potatoes all the way through. See 'Recipe Notes' below.
  2. Place the potatoes in a casserole dish, brush them with melted butter & sprinkle with salt & pepper on top. Bake potatoes for an hour OR until TENDER but crispy. Allow potatoes to cool a little then place a small piece of cheese in each gap. Set casserole with potatoes in it aside.
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp oil & add onions & garlic; saute for a few minutes then add beef & continue to cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain any extra oil/fat from saucepan. Stir in tomato paste (if using) & beef broth; simmering until liquid has been reduced so only a small amount remains.
Bechamel Sauce
  1. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour & cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Add hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring to a boil; add salt & pepper to taste, lower the heat & cook, stirring 2-3 minutes more. Remove from heat.
Assembly / Baking
  1. Divide the filling between the potatoes, which should still be in the casserole dish. Pour the sauce evenly on top & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place the casserole back in the oven (350 F) for another 30 minutes.
Recipe Notes
  • The secret to making hasselback potatoes is to use a large wooden spoon. Place the potato onto the spoon & cut thin slices across the potato. The edges of the wooden spoon will stop the knife from cutting all the way through the potato.

German Potato & Cauliflower Salad

When I think back to my childhood days, I have a very fond memory of my mother’s potato salad. This is probably the case with many people, but one has to be careful. Trying to create the taste of childhood is a slippery slope filled with our adult expectations. Time and distance change many things such as memory, experiences and knowledge.

Potato salad is widely believed to have originated in Germany and was brought to America by German immigrants. The thing I remember most about my mother’s potato salad was that it consisted of only a small ingredient list and had a nice slightly sweet but tart dressing. If I’m not wrong, I believe she used a bit of juice from her bread & butter pickles in the dressing. The other magic ingredient was some of her new potatoes from the garden. As the saying goes, it was ‘to die for’.

I’m not sure how popular potato salad is anymore but since its the season, I wanted to share a couple of salad recipes.

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German Potato & Cauliflower Salads
Instructions
Potato Salad
  1. In a large pot, cook potatoes in salted boiling water. Cool, peel & cube. Boil eggs & coarsely chop. In a saucepan, fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pan & blot on paper towel reserving bacon drippings for dressing. Crumble bacon. Slice green onion & radishes. Place everything EXCEPT the radishes in a large bowl.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together reserved bacon drippings, light salad dressing, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, celery seed & dill weed. Blend well. Pour over potato mixture & carefully combine well. Cover & refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  3. Just prior to serving, add radishes & add more salt if necessary. Carefully combine & serve.
Cauliflower Salad
  1. In a saucepan, fry bacon until crisp, Remove from pan, reserving bacon drippings.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & coat with cooking spray. Spread cauliflower florets on foil; sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cauliflower begins to brown slightly. Remove from oven & cool slightly.
  3. While the cauliflower bakes, saute the onion in bacon drippings until tender. Set aside. Cook, peel & cube potatoes.
  4. In a small dish, combine salad dressing, cider vinegar, sugar, mustard & garlic salt. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, cauliflower, sauteed onion & dressing. Fold together & taste to see if more salt is needed. Serve as is or chilled.
Recipe Notes
  • I found, if you add the radishes just before serving keeps them crisp & prevents them from 'bleeding' their color into the salad.
  • In regards to the cauliflower salad, I have also made it leaving the cauliflower RAW & substituting the white onion for green. I liked that added bit of 'crunch'.

Ravioli di Portobello Casserole

I guess its my German heritage that gives that love for anything that resembles a dumpling. Whether sweet or savory doesn’t seem to matter, filling between two thin layers of pasta or dough is just plain good to me.

Around the world, Italian ravioli has many culinary ‘sisters’ in other cultures. Kreplach, in Jewish cuisine, is a pocket of meat filling covered with pasta. In India, the dish Gujiya, has a sweet filling, rather than savory. There are many similarities between Italian ravioli and certain Chinese dumplings as well.

Although ravioli can come in many shapes, including circular and semi-circular, the traditional form is a square. The word ‘ravioli’ comes from the Italian riavvolgere, which means ‘to wrap’.

Not being someone who enjoys to eat ‘out’, its a rare occasion (when we do), for me to be really happy with my meal. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I cooked a lot of ‘commercial’ meals in the food service industry years back. I guess I just got ‘burn out’ to that kind of cooking you might say.

Nevertheless, whenever we have chosen to go to the Olive Garden Restaurant, there is a meal I really do enjoy. It’s called ‘Ravioli di Portobello’. Today, I am re-creating those flavors in a casserole and adding some ground chicken to make it a little more interesting from Brion’s perspective.

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Ravioli di Portobello Casserole
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Course Main Dish
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Ingredients
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Instructions
Ravioli Filling
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute onion until soft. Add mushrooms & saute for two minutes. Reduce heat & let simmer for 5 minutes or until liquid has evaporated & the mushrooms are fully cooked. Add seasonings. Set aside.
Ravioli Dough
  1. In a bowl, combine dry ingredients with eggs. Add water a little at a time, while stirring, until it forms a soft dough. Dough should be soft but not sticky. Roll out the dough, on a floured surface, into a rectangle that is 1/4-inch thickness. Place 1 teaspoon of filling about an inch apart in even columns & rows to cover half of your dough rectangle.
  2. Before adding the top layer of pasta to the ravioli, moisten the dough around the filling dollops. Carefully fold the dough (without any filling on it) over the half with the filling dollops. Using the side of your hand, press the dough together between the dollops, accentuating the pockets of filling in each ravioli. This is very important step to ensure your ravioli will not leak while cooking.
  3. Using a pastry cutter (or a pizza cutter), cut straight lines through the pressed down sections between the filling dollops. In a large kettle of boiling water, drop ravioli in a few at a time, being careful that they do do touch the kettle. When the raviolis float to the top, boil for one minute & then remove them with a slotted spoon. Keep warm in a covered dish, drizzling a tiny bit of butter or oil over them to prevent sticking until you are ready for them.
Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
  1. In a skillet, melt butter & saute garlic, seasonings, sun-dried tomatoes for a few minutes. Add chicken broth & half & half; bring to a boil & continue to stir until thickened & creamy about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside until ready to use in casserole.
Assemble Casserole
  1. In a skillet, brown ground chicken until no longer pink; drain & place in a bowl. Add salt, garlic powder & pepper. In the skillet, melt butter, add onion & zucchini; saute until tender crisp. Stir in sun-dried tomato sauce.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a buttered 9 X 13-inch baking dish, spread 1/4 of sauce, layer 1/2 of the ravioli, another 1/4 of the sauce, half of the chicken & half of the cheese.
  3. Repeat again except OMIT cheese. Cover & bake for 35 minutes. Uncover & sprinkle with remaining cheese. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. If you wish to garnish, chopped green onion & diced tomato are nice.

Mashed Potato-Meat Cups with Cheese ‘Gravy’

There is no one way to create ‘meatloaf’ and it is precisely this capacity for re-invention that has allowed meatloaf to maintain a continued place on our dinner tables. The limitations for the iconic dish are none. The criteria is ground meat primarily and whether it is beef, pork, chicken, turkey or a blend of, doesn’t matter. The meat must be cut with a filler or the loaf becomes to dense. Bread crumbs, oatmeal, crackers, Japanese panko crumbs, rice, minced vegetables are all good choices. Egg and/or dairy of some kind is essential to bind and moisten. Seasoning is definitely a personal choice. The loaf shape is classic but the top can be glazed, sauced, as is, or baked with strips of bacon over it.

At one time, trying to find a casual restaurant that didn’t serve meatloaf would have been like an Italian one that didn’t serve pasta. Some believe meatloaf was born during the Depression of the 1930’s. To stretch the small amounts of meat people had, it was ground and mixed with stale bread crumbs. At times, these loaves actually contained more ‘loaf’ than meat.

Whether you love meatloaf or hate it, the fact that it is still around after all these years is incredible. Today’s entree puts another spin on this old classic. This a recipe that was published in a  Better Homes & Gardens  magazine in the 70’s. Interesting!


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Mashed Potato-Meat Cups with Cheese 'Gravy'

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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, German

Servings


Ingredients
Meat Cups

Mashed Potatoes

Cheese Sauce

Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, German

Servings


Ingredients
Meat Cups

Mashed Potatoes

Cheese Sauce

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Instructions
Meat Cups
  1. In a skillet, heat oil & saute onions & garlic until translucent. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, Parmesan, parsley, cooled onions & garlic, egg, breadcrumbs & milk. Combine well.

  2. On 4 squares of waxed paper, shape into 4 patties with a 5-inch diameter. Shape each over an inverted custard cup; discard paper. Chill about an hour.

Mashed Potatoes
  1. Peel & cook potatoes. In a large bowl, combine cooked potatoes, butter, seasonings, Parmesan & a splash of milk. Mash & add more milk gradually until potatoes are desired texture.

Cheese Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter; whisk in flour, salt & pepper until smooth. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil; cook & stir while adding cheddar cheese. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened. Cook frozen peas.

Baking & Serving
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place inverted meat cups on a shallow baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until meat is cooked. Lift baked meat cups from custard cups & turn upright; fill with mashed potatoes. Place on serving plates, spoon cheese sauce over filled meat cups & top with green peas.

Scalloped Potato Roll

I guess this meal could be classed as making the most of a traditional comfort food. Scalloped potatoes seem to feed both stomach and soul. Maybe that comes from so many of us having childhood memories of this dish. It seems most of the recipes now contain cheese. From what I remember, it was basically thin sliced potatoes and onions placed in a baking dish alternated with flour, butter, hot milk, salt & pepper and topped with buttered bread crumbs. It tasted so creamy and good!

Meatloaf and scalloped potatoes seem to be synonymous with each other. When I saw this recipe for scalloped potato roll on the internet, I felt it certainly kicked the two up a notch. You can use whatever ground meat that you prefer. I like a combo of beef, veal and pork. Beef is necessary for texture as well as flavor, veal contains a high level of gelatin keeping meat tender and the pork adds flavor. Just a little side note for what its worth — if you only have ground beef on hand, add half a teaspoon of unflavored powdered gelatin to 454 gm. The gelatin will act much like veal, keeping the texture softer and moister.

This meal looks like a lot of work but it really isn’t. The combo of roasted potatoes, ground meat, three cheeses and spinach or chard is excellent.

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Scalloped Potato Roll
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 11 X 7-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese evenly over parchment. Peel & slice potatoes 1/8-inch thick. Rinse & pat dry on paper towels. Place the potatoes over the Parmesan so each potato is overlapping the previous potato both vertically and horizontally. Continue until the entire pan is filled with potatoes. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan evenly over the potatoes. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Bake 30 minutes, until golden. The potatoes should be slightly crispy & flexible .
  2. In a saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil & saute onions until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add ground meat, scramble fry with onions. Mix in tomatoes, 3 Tbsp parsley, paprika, 1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir, cooking until meat is browned & cooked through. Remove from heat & place in a bowl.
  3. Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to the saucepan. Add spinach (or chard); cook until wilted. Add 1 tsp of salt & the garlic; stir to combine then remove from heat. Combine ricotta with spinach mixture & spread evenly over potato 'sheet' followed by the meat mixture & then topping all with the mozzarella.
  4. Take one end of the potato sheet, holding the parchment paper begin rolling upward, making sure the ingredients are not coming out the ends. Once the filled potato sheet is completely rolled, arrange it in the center of the parchment on the baking sheet & bake for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley & a bit more cheese if you wish.

Roasted Beef Stuffed Cauliflower

You know the saying, ‘what’s old is new again‘ is one that seems to fit cauliflower. What used to be considered a boring vegetable, less colorful and less delicious than its cousin broccoli, is now an ‘it’ vegetable. I mean, its everywhere — cauliflower rice, pizza crust, roasted, in sandwiches, main entrees, etc. etc. The versatility of this humble veggie has boosted its popularity to become big business for growers and grocers.

Whole roasted cauliflower is an unusual presentation. Cauliflower’s inherent earthy sweetness becomes more pronounced as the moisture inside is drawn out.

January is always a good month to get creative with oven meals. I love the idea of a whole roasted cauliflower with cheese sauce drizzled over it. Although, stuffing it with meat is not a new concept, I, myself have not made it this way. So today’s meal is a nicely seasoned ground beef filling baked inside of a whole cauliflower and topped with a Parmesan cheese sauce. The result is real good! 

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Roasted Stuffed Cauliflower with Beef
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
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Beef Stuffing
Parmigiano-Reggiano Sauce
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
Beef Stuffing
Parmigiano-Reggiano Sauce
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Instructions
Stuffed Cauliflower
  1. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato paste, tomato, egg, pepper flakes, oregano, basil, sage, pepper & salt until well incorporated. Set aside.
  2. Remove the whole stem from the cauliflower making sure to leave the head fully intact. In a large pot, boil cauliflower for 8-10 minutes until fork tender. Remove from the boiling water & place on paper towels to drain for a few minutes then carefully remove any remaining stem to make space for the filling.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Fill the head of cauliflower with ground beef mixture making sure to press the filling into the head. Place inverted head of cauliflower on a buttered, foil lined baking sheet; cover with another sheet of foil & bake about 30 minutes or until beef is cooked through.
Cheese Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter add flour, stirring until light brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in milk & allow to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add grated cheese, salt & pepper & mix until fully incorporated & thickened.
  2. Adjust heat to broil. Remove foil from stuffed cauliflower & cover with cheese sauce. Broil about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Classic Beef PLov

‘Plov’ originated from Uzbekistan (a landlocked country in Central Asia), centuries ago. It has become known and loved throughout Central Asia as well as being a staple dish in Russia.. This meal differs according to the occasion: a wedding plov is the most magnificent, a holiday plov a bit less exotic and there is even an everyday plov. These vary both in cooking technique and ingredients. Traditionally, plov is made with mutton, rice, carrots and spices and involves three main stages.

There are over sixty different plov recipes in Uzbek cuisine. In every area it is cooked in a special way. To an experienced gourmet, it would be easy to recognize its origin from what I’ve read.

Time has changed and refined plov recipes with more ingredients being added. Plov is usually served on big ceramic or porcelain plates.

This turned out to be a very nice meal. As usual I always enjoy food history as much as trying the recipe. I hope you found the blog interesting and the plov tasty if you had a chance to try it.

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Classic Beef PLov
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine European, German
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Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine European, German
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Season cubed meat with salt. In a large skillet, heat a splash of olive oil & add meat cubes; brown well. Remove meat from skillet. To the same pan add onion, carrot & garlic. Saute until golden brown. Return meat to pan & add broth, seasonings & stir together. Cover; reduce heat to low & simmer for 1 hour or until meat is tender.
  2. When plov has finished simmering, add garbanzo beans. Sprinkle uncooked rice evenly over the meat & broth. DO NOT stir the rice & meat together, simply arrange it so it submerged under broth. Season with fresh ground pepper, cover & continue to cook over a low heat. DO NOT stir the rice during cooking time to create light & airy rice that is not mashed together. When rice is cooked THEN stir together & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • Traditionally, plov is accompanied by salads made of fresh or marinated vegetables - tomatoes, cucumbers, radish & fruits & herbs such as pomegranate, dill or basil.

Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant

It goes without saying, eggplant is beloved in many cuisines. It has been considered the ‘queen of the garden’ with it’s almost purple-black, glossy skin and cap-like crown.

Eggplants are bitter when raw but develop a savory and complex flavor when cooked. The texture of the flesh is meaty and easily absorbs sauces and cooking liquids.

Native to the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayan area, they have been cultivated in Southeast Asia since prehistoric times. Cultivars in the 18th century were white to pale yellow in color and resembled hen’s eggs which explains the reason this fruit is called ‘eggplant’. There are dozens of eggplant subspecies grown throughout the world in many shapes and sizes. 

The most popular one we see here in North America is the dark purple ‘globe’ eggplant which ranges in weight from 1-5 pounds. When buying them, look for ones with smooth, firm, unwrinkled skin and a fresh looking green stalk or cap. Eggplant is commonly used in ratatouille, pasta dishes, spreads, dips, moussaka or stuffed and roasted.

Today, I’m making a stuffed version with an interesting fresh basil-chicken filling.

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Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise; carefully hollow out each half. Roughly chop the removed flesh.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil & saute onion until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant, mushrooms & garlic. Cook until eggplant is tender, about 7-8 minutes. Add ground chicken, oregano, salt & pepper. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in in roasted red peppers, cooked rice & fresh basil; remove skillet from the heat. Place eggplant halves in a baking dish & fill with chicken/rice mixture. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds; drizzle with remaining olive oil & bake 30-35 minutes until tender.
  4. Remove eggplant from oven & top with grated cheeses.

Vegetable Spaghetti (Squash) with Beef & Tomatoes

At the heart of our Autumn cuisine is the squash. The signs of fall are all around us — cool, crisp mornings, the leaves have started to wear their autumn colors and winter squash is appearing in the farmer’s markets.

Winter squash are harvested late summer through fall, then ‘hardened off’ or ‘cured’ in the open air to toughen their exterior. Spaghetti squash is known for its unique flesh that separates into pasta-like strands after it is cooked. These squash are not particularly sweet but have a mild flavor that takes to a wide variety of preparations.

Native people considered corn, beans and squash three inseparable ‘sisters’. They planted the three crops together to create a more nutritious, sustainable soil with the exchange of nutrients between them.

Spaghetti squash has also been called ‘vegetable spaghetti’. In this recipe I’m serving it with tomato-beef meat sauce. Some fresh, homemade, Parmesan bread sticks should make a nice compliment to this meal.

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Vegetable Spaghetti (Squash) with Beef & Tomatoes
Instructions
Squash
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Microwave squash for a few minutes to soften shell. Cut lengthwise & remove membrane & seeds. In a baking dish, place cut side down & bake for 45 minutes until tender. Remove from oven & cool until it can be handled. Using a fork, run it inside the squash to create spaghetti 'noodles'.
Meat Sauce
  1. In a large saucepan, brown ground beef, onions, garlic & mushrooms. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes, green pepper & spices. Reduce heat & simmer for 10 minutes.
Serving
  1. Divide spaghetti noodles between 4 serving plates & top each with a quarter of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan & serve with fresh bread sticks.

Turkey Taco Stuffed Avocados

Using creamy avocados instead of tortilla shells puts a healthy twist on tacos.      Most people think guacamole when they hear the word ‘avocado’. True, guacamole is great but that’s just a mere beginning of their potential. Avocados can stand in for mayo, replace butter in baked goods and even become a creamy base for ice cream or smoothies. Beyond that, you can grill, stuff, batter and fry them or turn them into cake frosting. For many people, avocados make everything they just a bit better.

Avocados are a fruit that ripen off the tree so they are often sold unripe. The tree carries two crops on them at a time, and on average an avocado will stay on the tree for 12-14 months.

This versatile fruit is a true Mexican staple, bringing flair to practically any dish its used in.  If you enjoy tacos and avocados, this is just a great, easy lunch or light supper.

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Turkey Taco Stuffed Avocados
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, stir-fry ground turkey & onion until turkey is no longer pink. Stir in spices & add refried beans; combine well.
  2. Top each avocado half with a squeeze of lime juice. Divide turkey mixture evenly into each halved avocado. Top with shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream & cilantro (if using).
Recipe Notes