One of the most interesting, versatile spices is the earthy nutmeg. It is the kernel of a fruit grown in the Spice Islands and the outside lace covering is called mace. It enhances egg dishes, sweet baked goods, sauces, Jamaican/island recipes and is a key ingredient of the centuries old Middle Eastern spice blend, raz al hanout. In Europe, particularly Italy, this nutty spice it is added to wilted leafy greens to offset any bitterness. No doubt, freshly grated nutmeg just adds dimension to recipes like no other.
As we anxiously await the first green shoots of spring, I admit I have entirely lost my excitement for root vegetables. So in this “in-between” month of March, I look to the Belgian endive to tide me over. A classic French bistro dish of Gratin d’Endives au Jambon just hits the spot. TheComte cheese gives it the mouth feel of a comfort food yet the dish is lighter due to the vegetable base. The salty ham layer adds the meaty bit needed. And talk about the fresh nutmeg balancing out the bitter roasted endives! The simple 5 minute prep and quick unattended oven time make this dish a winner in this busy mom’s recipe book. Enjoy it today.
Recipe for Gratin d’Endives au Jambon
4 large Belgian endive, sliced in half lengthwise
4 slices of Comte or Gruyere cheese, 4-6 oz
4 slices boiled ham
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a gratin dish, add melted butter plus 1/2 cup of water. Add endive halves cut side up. Season with pepper. Cover and bake for 20-25 minutes until the endive is tender but still firm. Layer the ham on top then add the cheese layer. Liberally grate fresh nutmeg on the top. Bake uncovered for approx 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serves 4
Note: For a more decadent version, add a bechamel sauce layer after the endive is roasted (prior to adding the ham and cheese).
After enjoying a lovely holiday respite on Florida’s Gulf Coast, I am now rejuvenated and excited to share more family recipes with you all!. I love making this tart in the winter. It’s so satisfying as a main course and it’s just perfect for company. Add a nice green salad and serve wih a crisp rose wine or Alsatian white. Should you like a vegetarian version, simply omit the bacon.
Recipe for Endive, Goat Cheese and Bacon Tarte (Serves 4)
6 medium/large endive – cut in half lengthwise 2 tbsp butter 1/4 cup orange juice 1 tbsp S&T orange sugar or honey Salt and pepper cayenne pepper 5 oz aged bucheron goat cheese, crumbled 3 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled one sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
Melt butter in large oven proof skillet. Place endive halves face down in skillet and cook on medium high heat 2 minutes. Cover and bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. turn endive halves over, add salt and pepper. Then cover and bake again for 20 minutes. Flip endive halves face side down again. Add orange juice and sugar/honey and cook on medium high heat for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Distribute goat cheese evenly on top. Place the thawed puff pastry on top of the endive and skillet, tucking in the corners if needed. Bake in 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes as per puff pastry baking instructions. Place a large serving plate on top of the skillet and carefully (but quickly) invert the tarte onto the plate shaking it lightly to release the tarte. Serve topped with bacon crumbles.
Few things are better than tucking into a nice bowl of pasta, preferably in Rome. But no need for airfare! Simply prepare this classic from Abruzzo and bring Italy home to your family. Do seek out the flavorful guanciale and bucatini shaped pasta (all available at Grand Central Market). They make the dish authentic and inexplicably good.
Recipe for Bucatini All’Amatriciana
1/2 lb of guanciale (pork jowls), cold and chopped 2 tsp Sel de Guerande 1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes 1 tbsp fennel seeds
Pulse the above ingredients in a food processor a few times to incorporate. Let cure for an hour (or preferably overnight in the fridge).
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 2 large onions, diced 1 large carrot, grated 4 cloves of garlic, minced 1 tsp crushed rep pepper flakes 1 tbsp dried thyme 2 – 28oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand (discard any skins) 1 tbsp sugar 1lb bucatini, cooked (undercook by 2 minutes) Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano for garnish Chopped Italian Parsley for garnish
Heat olive oil in large, deep saucepan. Add guanciale mixture and cook until all fat is rendered. Add onion, carrot and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic plus thyme and saute for 2 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer for about 1 hour. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add cooked bucatini to the sauce and incorprate thoroughly.