Oven Baked Paneer and Vegetables

One of our favorite party time appetizers is to make grilled paneer and vegetables we reserve some of the marindate and serve it with the paneer as a chutney as well. Its surefire hit with your friends!

Greek Salad

My sister Savithri is another fabulous cook in our family in addition to being a baker extraordinaire. She loves salads and made this fresh and juicy greek summer salad for our 'sisters spa day'.  We spent a wonderful evening doing yoga, drinking refreshing hydrating teas, watched a couple of chick flicks, and eating this healthy salad.  The main ingredients for this salad are juicy tomatoes, fresh cucumbers, lemon juice, feta cheese, black olives, and chopped mint. We added red peppers to this version, you can make several variations on this salad by adding chickpeas, other colored peppers inlcuding hot peppers or banana peppers. It was filling, super healthy, low in calories, and delicious. Taking time out to relax, breathe deeply, and eat healthy are great ways to manage the overwhelming pressures of a busy life. I'm noticing the positive impact already! 

2 large tomatoes (or 1 package cherry tomatoes), 1 medium cucumber, 1 heart romaine lettuce, 5 black olives, 1/2 medium red onion,  1/4 pound feta cheese, 1 tsp fennel fronds,  handful of chopped mint, 1 tsp lemon zest, juice of 1 lemon, Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Rough chop the tomatoes, cucumber, romaine lettuce, black olives, and red onion into medium chunks. (We also added red peppers to our salad, but its optional)
2. Assemble all the ingredients into a large salad bowl and mix. 
3. Crumble the feta cheese last so it doesn't disintegrate into the salad.

Potato Dauphinoise (aka potatoes with cheese sauce)

A couple of years ago Shankar made a delicious potato dish knowing that his wife loves potatoes in any shape or form.  He used a French method of baking potatoes in milk (often including cream) and cheese called 'dauphinoise'.
The result was individual stacks of potatoes, sliced thinly, layered with a delicious mornay sauce, baked to perfect crispiness on top and oozing fromage inside.  Back then, we had no discipline and our cheese budget would rival our weekly meal budget.  Shankar might have been inspired to make this with the blocks of gruyere, havarti, and various other high brow fromages in the cheese drawer of our fridge.
The pictures have been tantalizing me since. Here is the recipe loosely based on the preparation because it has been so long we can barely remember what we did.  But I do remember it was a memorable night with friends over to enjoy the cheesiness of course!

Potatoes Dauphinoise

2 tablespoons butter
3  cups whole milk or half-and-half
1 cup shredded Gruyere Cheese
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
2½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced, rinsed, and patted dry

Mode d'emploi: 

Step 1: Make the Mornay Sauce (Bechamel with Cheese)

  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan (or microwave it until its steaming). 
  2. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Once the butter melts add the flour and cook until the flour lightly browns.
  3. Add the milk to the butter and flour in a stream while continuously whisking.Whisk until the sauce thickens and you can draw a line across the spoon coated with the sauce. 
  4. Add the cheese (grated, and reserve some for the topping) and mix in until its melted.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  6. Add the potato slices to the sauce and stir to coat. Carefully arrange the slices in individual ramekins and ensure you add some sauce in between layers.  Sprinkle the reserved cheese on top and dot with butter. Set in the oven. Raise the heat to 400°F and bake for 1 hour. 
  7. Remove from the oven, let it cool. You will then need to loosen the edges of the potato and then invert the ramekin on a plate. Flip your potato stack over and voila, individual potato dauphinoise.