My mom is visiting from California and she is one of the two women who have influenced my culinary life. France, my wife, is, of course, the other. The other day, after we’d been up at the mountain skiing all day, the three of us tag teamed a fantastic dinner: Lamb Chops with Minted Pesto with Mashed White Beans and Sweet Potatoes, and a Roasted Beet Spinach Salad.
Oh, the hardships of my life.
France came up with the idea for a minted pesto, which I’d never made before, and I was responsible for making it happen. A little of this and a little of that, toss it in the food processor, and bam, we had ourselves a delightful sauce to top off the lamb chops.
It’s a real treat being able to spend time with my mom since we live so far away from each other. She, and most of my family, live in San Diego. It’s a long ways from Vancouver Island and we don’t get to see each other nearly as often as I’d like. It’s even more special to be able to cook with her since I wasn’t much of a cook growing up. Whenever, we get to cook together, I feel like I’m getting to know a side of her that I never fully knew all those years.
That said, I have lots of fond memories of my mom cooking up something delicious in the kitchen. I can remember rocking out to the oldies station in the kitchen of our Oklahoma home (that’s where I’m originally from), while Mom cooked up an amazing meal, the smells making us all salivate.
It’s funny to think how much of our lives, the conversation, and connections with our families happen within the tiny space of a kitchen. There’s something special about the act of creating food and breaking bread together, whether you’re actively involved in the process or not, that allows us to connect with the ones we love in a uniquely freeing kind of way.
What are your favorite memories of cooking with those you love?
1 cup mint, packed
1/2 cup cilantro, packed
1/4 cup parsley, packed
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until it is well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve on lamb, grilled veggies and polenta or as a yummy sandwich spread. Leftover mint pesto could also be used instead of chimichurri to make this fabulous Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich.
One of the things I love about getting inspiration from other foodie bloggers is coming across new baking ingredients I hadn't tried before or, in some cases, had never even heard of until I read about how someone used it for baking. And, thanks to my Amazon.com patronage (obsession), I can usually find it there and put it on my Amazon "wish list" to remind myself to order it or try to find it locally (Trader Joe's, Sur La Table, World Market, and Williams Sonoma are good sources for instant gratification).
My Amazon wish list used to be full of books – now it's full of ingredients I want to try or have already tried and would reorder:
Salted Caramel (I found a jar at Trader Joe's)
Biscoff Spread (TJ's also has a knockoff version called Speculoos Cookie Butter)
Chocolate Peanut Butter
Black Cocoa Powder
Coconut Oil (bought it on Amazon, have a recipe teed up which uses it)
Fleur de Sel
To dress up this brownie, I dropped dollops of salted caramel between two layers of brownie batter. I love caramel brownies. I'm picky though in that I always put the caramel within the brownie and am careful to cover it all with brownie batter.
While it's always pretty to see swirls of caramel atop a brownie, the reality is when caramel is exposed to high direct heat, it'll bubble and cook further. When your brownie cools, the caramel hardens and sometimes becomes too brittle or chewy to really enjoy. You don't want that. Also remember when you bake with caramel within your brownie, it makes it more moist – you have less risk of overbaking but you also don't want to underbake too much or it'll be too gooey rather than perfectly fudgy.
This was a great brownie recipe with the fudgy texture I prefer in my brownies. I think I could've had a heavier hand with the salted caramel layer but otherwise, this turned out really well. Cut the pieces small, though, as they're pretty rich. I had one and that filled my chocolate quotient for the day.
Brownies with Salted Caramel
4 ounces (1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter; more for pan
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4-1/2 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven; heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square pan, line the pan bottom with parchment, and then butter the parchment.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium metal bowl, set over a pan of simmering water. Let the chocolate cool slightly before stirring in the sugar, salt and vanilla.
Add the eggs one at a time, stirring each time until blended. Add the flour and cocoa and beat until the mixture is smooth, 30 to 60 seconds. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is uniformly colored with no indentation and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean, with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 45 minutes.
Set the pan on a rack until cool enough to handle. Run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan, and then invert the pan onto a flat surface and peel off the parchment. Flip the baked brownie back onto the rack to cool completely. Cut into squares.
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This is a classic Korean soup, and there are more complicated and caloric ways to make it. It's often made with pork belly (yum!), but the point for me is usually to have something quick and healthy. I can make it for myself in 10 minutes for a working lunch at home. It takes that long to make a sandwich, for gracious sake.
Of course, this would be impossible without my pantry. When Armageddon comes, feel free to hole up with us. We might have brown rice and kimchi for months on end, but we won't run out of food. If we're really desperate, we could probably live on Asian condiments for a week or two.
Here's my dream (Westernized) Asian pantry. Sheepishly, I should admit that this dream is a reality most the time. Even though we've moved out of our Asian-Market-on-Every-Corner Seattle neighborhood, I have my ways:
- Sesame oil and sesame seeds (white and black)
- Hoisin sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Rice vinegar
- Soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Mirin (sweet rice wine)
- Toasted seaweed sheets
- Sriracha (hot sauce)
- Sambal (hot sauce)
- Furikake, a few different kinds (Japanese seasoning shakers, usually containing seaweed, sesame seeds, and dashi)
- Miso paste
- Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang)
- Peanut or vegetable oil
- Fresh ginger and garlic
- Napa kimchi
- White and brown rice
- Rice noodles
- Coconut milk
- Red curry paste
Most of these things keep indefinitely at room temp or in the fridge once opened. If you live in the Seattle area, H Mart in Lynnwood will make you lose your mind. They have an entire aisle of Korean hot paper paste, about 10 million kinds of fresh noodles (soba, udon, etc.), and their cooler of braising greens will make you cross-eyed. If you live in an area that doesn't have Asian markets, Cash and Carry is great for pantry items – a big bottle of sweet chili sauce, for instance, at a fraction of the price the "Asian" aisle at the grocery store will charge.
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups napa kimchi, chopped
2 tablespoons Korean hot pepper paste
2 tablespoons miso paste
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
12 ounces soft tofu
Green onions, to garnish
Sesame oil, to garnish
Heat peanut or vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan. Briefly saute 1 minced garlic clove. Add coarsely chopped napa kimchi with its juice, Korean hot pepper paste, miso paste, rice vinegar. Stir constantly and saute for another minute.
Add the softest tofu you can find and enough water to barely cover everything. Simmer for 10 minutes until warmed through. If you want to get fancy, you can add lots of fresh veggies – spinach, kale, or chard at the end, or finely sliced zucchini, cabbage, or julienned carrots at the beginning.
Garnish with sliced green onions and a drizzle of sesame oil.
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This salad is about my favorite thing in the world lately. I made it up (though I'm sure lots of other people have, too) which gives me a special feeling of pride about how good it is.
It started with the sauce. It's so simple yet so delicious – just mayonnaise, lemon juice, fresh dill, garlic, salt and pepper. It only occurred to me as I sat down to write this post that it's actually an aioli...
Then I was thinking about potatoes and green beans. Then I thought, what if I mixed the sauce with those two things? It sounded promising...
So I steamed some Yukon Golds and blanched some green beans and tossed them with the sauce and voila, my new favorite salad was born! It's a great dish for spring and will be an even better one for summer when fresh beans and new potatoes are coming right out of the garden or the farmers' market.
One of the things I love about this hearty salad is the relative ease of putting it together but if you are in a slow food mood and have a little extra time, you could take it one step further by making your own mayo for the aioli.
Green Bean & Potato Salad With Lemon-Dill Aioli
Serves 4 as a side
For the salad
4 cups of fresh green beans, rinsed with the ends trimmed off
3 large or 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into equal-sized cubes (I like Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn for this salad)
Tray or two of ice cubes and lots of cold water
For the aioli
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2-3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed (go heavy if you like garlic, light if you don't!)
3-4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice3 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped
Make the aioli by combining all the sauce ingredients and stirring well. Taste and adjust the flavors as needed. It's okay if it seems a bit salty and garlic-y – remember, this is going to cover a whole lot of unseasoned vegetables.
Place the cubed potatoes in a steamer pot over an inch or so of water and steam, covered until tender when pierced with a fork, roughly 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the cubes.Then remove from the pot and allow to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Then add the green beans and blanch then until they're just a little bit tender but still bright green – probably 3-4 minutes or so. While they're cooking, prepare a large pot of very cold water mixed with ice cubes so that you'll have it at the ready to put the blanched beans in - this is important so that you can stop the cooking process (otherwise, they'll continue to cook and end up overdone).
Once the beans are done, remove them from the water with a slotted spoon or by pouring them into a colander, then place them in the ice water bath for 5 minutes to ensure that the cooking stops.
Combine the steamed potatoes, blanched beans and the sauce, stirring with a large spoon to ensure that everything gets well-coated with the aioli and serve.
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We brought in Easter morning with these decadent pancakes. It’s taking every bit of my self control not to whip up another batch right now … well, that and the absence of a few crucial ingredients.
These pancakes combine the flavors of a classic carrot cake with the feel of traditional pancakes for a really tasty breakfast treat. You could go heavier on the sugar and carrots for a sweeter, cakier result, but for me, these are just perfect. They’ve got the right balance of flavors and sweetness to remind you of carrot cake, while still maintaining the overall feel of a breakfast pancake. A simple cream cheese icing provides the perfect finishing touch.
And they’ve got carrots in them … so they must be good for you, right??
Carrot-raisin pancakes with cream cheese glaze
2 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
1-1/2 cups carrots, finely grated
1/2 cup golden raisins
Butter, for pan
Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir with a fork until the ingredients are evenly dispersed. Add the milk, eggs, and vegetable oil (or melted butter). Whisk until combined. Stir in the grated carrots and raisins. Melt a little butter in a pan over medium heat.
Add about 1/3 cup of the pancake batter to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Flip the pancake and cook for another minute or two on the other side, until cooked through.
Drizzle with cream cheese glaze before serving.
To make the glaze: Combine 4 ounces of softened cream cheese with about 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Then, add a bit of milk, a tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches your desired consistency.
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I remember seeing this dish in a food magazine years ago and it was one of those images that stuck in my head. The winter version of this dish isn’t a colorful or particular beautiful dish (beauty really is in the eye of the beholder), but to me it was gorgeous and extremely rustic. This is the type of food Jonny and I love to eat the most even though we may showcase some of our more daring dishes on We Are Never Full.
Last September, we traveled to Maine for a long weekend, one our first times away from our then 11-month old. We had a ball (as you can imagine) even though it rained virtually the whole time. In our last hours in Portland, we ran to seek cover from the rain into a place we had been eyeing up for days – Rabelais book store (we later discovered it was a pretty darn famous and beloved place) – a store dedicated to out of print and hard to find (and easy to find) food and drink books.
We must’ve been in that book store for hours and were very close to spending more money in that shop than we had on the whole Maine trip. After begrudgingly putting away 12 cookbooks we just couldn’t afford to buy, we couldn’t let go of Puglia in Cucina. We had to pay the conversion of euros to dollars and knew this would be a pretty pricy purchase (say that 10 times fast) but we couldn’t let go of it.
The photos are amazing and the loosely translated recipes are simple and super authentic (Donkey Stew, anyone?). On page 88 was the recipe I had burned in my head from years ago – Fave e Cicoria (Fava beans and chicory). Well, favas are in full swing right now and it was the perfect time to make a fresh version of this traditional Puglian dish.
This dish is normally made with dried fava beans and is actually a winter dish, made when the chicory is able to be freshly picked. We decided to try it with fresh fava beans and, wow, I could eat the fava puree as a dish by itself. This would make a really elegant first course to a spring-centric meal.
I think using frozen fava’s would work well after fava season is long gone. Use reconstituted dried fava beans for a traditional touch. Because we do not grow Italian-style chicory, I used escarole (which is a form of chicory) and it worked well. If you have never tasted Italian chicory, know that the flavor is heads and shoulders above what we offer here. It’s called puntarelle and is actually the new/young/tender chicory shoots. It’s unbelievably delicious and I so wish we could easily buy it here. It is often used to make another traditional Roman dish, aptly titled “puntarelle” which is sauteed greens with a garlic and anchovy sauce.
Give this beautiful seasonal and spring dish a shot at home while fresh favas are still available. You will not be disappointed and will be licking the sides of your blender as if you just whipped us some cookie dough!
Fresh Fava Bean Puree and Chicory (Fave e cicoria)
Serves 2-3 as an ample appetizer
2 lbs. of fresh fava beans
Extra virgin olive oil
3-4 finely minced garlic cloves
1 teaspoon peperoncino (hot pepper flakes)
1 head of chicory/escarole
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare your fresh fava beans by shelling, blanching and removing each bean. Drain and put in a blender.
Add about 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil to a pan and, on low-medium heat, add 1 or 2 cloves of minced garlic to the pan and slowly soften. You do not want to get much color (if any) on the garlic, just soften it while also softening the taste. After a few minutes of softening the garlic, add it to the blender with the fava beans. Begin to puree. Add more olive oil and a bit of water (maybe only 1/4 cup at first – this all depends on the amount of fava beans used). You want a puree that is thick-ish and not thin. Add a pinch of salt and taste – add more to taste. Set aside.
Boil some water. Chop the bottom off the escarole and add it to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Drain in a colander and set aside. In a separate pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and add the shallots. After a minute, add the last of the garlic – allow to saute for a minute. Add the drained escarole, a pinch of salt and a pinch of peperoncino and saute for an additional minute or two.
Prepare your dish by spooning enough fava bean puree on to a plate and top with the sauteed escarole. Serve with a piece of crusty bread. Enjoy!
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As a kid I took my waffles with a chocolate chip in each divot and drowning in syrup. My sister was/is the family’s designated wafflemaker – most weekend mornings she could be found presiding over the iron, a double batch of batter in the bowl beside her, making waffles for the week.
Alas, this sister is far far away in California, but luckily I have another friend nearby to provide for my waffle needs who took waffles to a whole new level recently. She by-passed the chocolate chip distribution step entirely and just made straight up Chocolate Belgian Waffles.
They’re crispy on the outside and satisfyingly chocolate-y on the inside. Surprisingly these waffles aren’t overly decadent. Chocolatey? Yes. But not too sweet or too rich. We ate them with butter, syrup, and strawberries. Delish!
Notes before you begin:
- The special ingredients (pearl sugar and Hi-maize) are totally worth it
- I did add espresso powder.
- Substitute for Dutch-process cocoa: 1/2 cup regular cocoa powder with a bit under 3/8 of a teaspoon baking soda (the ratio is 3 tablespoons cocoa to 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 cup is 8 tablespoons and not 9 tablespoons).
- The batter has to sit for an hour!
- Make a full batch and keep them in a 200 degree F. oven until you're ready to serve.
Chocolate Belgian Waffles
Hands-on time: 30-40 minutes
Total time: 1 hrs 45 minutes
Yield: eight 7-inch to 8-inch round or heart-shaped waffles
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2-1/4teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Hi-maize Fiber or unbleached all-purpose flour*
1/2 cup Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
1 teaspoon espresso optional
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup (4 ounces) semi-sweet mini chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate chips
1/4 cup pearl sugar, optional*
*Using flour instead of Hi-maize and omitting the pearl sugar will yield a less-crisp waffle.
Stir together the starter ingredients, and let rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
Combine the flour, Hi-maize, cocoa, espresso powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
When the starter is ready, mix in the eggs, melted butter, and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
Add the dry ingredients, chocolate chips, and pearl sugar, mixing to combine. Let the batter rest, covered, for 60 minutes. Preheat the waffle iron to the setting of your choice during the final few minutes of the batter's resting time. Stir down the batter, then scoop a heaping 1/4 cup onto the hot waffle iron.
Close the lid and cook until the waffle's done; irons vary, so we can't give a specific time here. Transfer the finished waffle to a ready plate, and serve with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, if desired.
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I've got an easy, crowd-pleasing little savory bite here, and not much else to say except that I am, still and again, so grateful for my life.
If you're a mom, you've probably seen this post going around – about how our kids need us and not expertly executed birthday parties, cute Easter crafts, or the stress of living up to the curated perfection of Pinterest. And if you're not a Mom, the same is true – the people in your life need YOU, your presence, the way you show up, more than anything you produce or any ideal you uphold.
And I want to show up--with children, husband, strangers, clients, friends – in a way that's open to outcome, drawing from energy deeper than mine, and ready to give and receive. I do that better some days than others. Some moments that have helped me out lately:
- A family outing to Vancouver, where we played on the beach, ate lots of sushi, went on long bike rides, and enjoyed the miracle of being a foursome in the world
- Sun!! Not oodles, but enough to remind me that orb is still in the solar system
- Loretta practicing her letters all the time, on every scrap of paper in the house
- Wyatt winning a ribbon at the science fair and constantly thinking in fractions
- Starting to work on the house again
- Wyatt coming home from soccer, covered head-to-toe in mud
- Walking the labyrinth at my church and feeling renewed my calling as a peacemaker
- Spring cleaning and tossing things I don't love or need
- Aerobics with Liz, bopping to the '80's with some really fit 70 year-olds
And these biscuits. It's not warm here yet despite the fact that it's technically spring. So we're still having soup and biscuits for dinner. It could be worse.
Cornmeal Biscuits with Ham and Cheddar
Adapted from Gourmet. I usually have some proscuitto around, which is the "ham" in these biscuits. I buy the German brand of proscuitto at Trader Joe's, which is very reasonably priced and has a good balance of saltiness and fat. If you want, you can add chopped chives, fresh thyme, or green onions. These couldn't be easier – one bowl, a wooden spoon.
2 cups flour
1/4 cup. cornmeal
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1-1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped proscuitto or cooked ham
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Butter a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cheddar and ham. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined.
Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart onto baking sheet. Bake until golden, 15-20 minutes.
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One of my food goals for 2012 was to try my hand at making gnocchi from scratch. I love these little potato dumplings, whether served with a simple marinara sauce, sage and browned butter, or lamb ragu. I bought a gnocchi board just to encourage myself, but it languished in the pantry for a few months awaiting the right opportunity. Last weekend, that opportunity came.
I spent a recent weekend with my friend Christie in Eastern Washington, and Saturday was gnocchi making day. We went over to the home of her friends Pete and Jewel late in the morning. Jewel is a cook of extraordinary calibre, and was gracious enough to teach us how to make Pete’s mother’s gnocchi, also known as Cavatele, or “sinkers” – a reference to the lead sinkers put on fishing lines. Gnocchi can have that effect, filling the tummy surprisingly quickly.
Jewel had done some advance work in the kitchen. A crockpot of sauce burbled on the counter. A cauldron of potatoes boiled on the stovetop. And the large center island was already stacked with eggs, flour, bowls, and utensils.
When the potatoes were done, we peeled them while they were still hot, then shot them through a ricer into a bowl of flour. We sifted and stirred this mixture with our hands until the potatoes were incorporated into the flour and cooled enough to not cook the eggs. Jewel warned us not to mash the potatoes into the flour, so we tried to use a light touch.
She dumped this mixture onto the counter, created a well in the center, and cracked eggs into it. After salting the eggs she stepped back and let us mix the eggs into the flour with our hands, smashing and kneading until we had a ragged but cohesive pile.
Then it was our turn to step back while Jewel kneaded the dough until she judged it smooth enough, but not too stiff. The dough rested under a bowl for half an hour, while we rested on stools around the counter and engaged in the sort of relaxed conversation that happens best in a warm kitchen during the pauses in a cooking project. Kitchen wisdom was shared. Ideas were batted back and forth.
Soon the dough was ready and we began by rolling it into snakes, then cutting these snakes into inch-long nuggets. I felt my brow furrowing and my tongue poking out between my teeth as I tried to follow Jewel’s swift movements. She took a piece of dough and, pressing two fingers into the middle, gave it a sort of roll and a flick on the counter top, set aside a gnocchi with the characteristic dimple in the middle, then made another and another. My hands struggled to copy her practiced motions, but after a few tries, using the gnocchi board for assistance, I had it – more or less – and began to produce a series of irregular dumplings.
Jewel started boiling the gnocchi while Christie and I made more. When she decided that they were perfect – plump and firm but no longer chewy – she drained the gnocchi and mixed them with sauce. We all got a little sample bowl of gnocchi and one of her meatballs to enjoy. Our gnocchi were good, but I nearly burst into applause after my first bite of meatball. Truly, it was worthy of a standing ovation. But this was only a teaser to whet our appetites for later.
We returned that evening for dinner, to gather around a long table set with a big pan of saucy gnocchi, meatballs the size of my fist, Italian sausage, garlic bread, grated cheese, and an extra pitcher of sauce. We laughed, and talked, and ate. I felt proud of our efforts, as I slowly savored the pillowy gnocchi. Everything on the table was incredibly delicious, but more than that; it was made and served with love.
“Do you ever write about how food is more than just food?” Pete asked as he gazed down the loaded table in my direction.
May I never write about anything else.
Jewel’s Cavatelli (Gnocchi) Recipe
3 to 5 medium red potatoes
3 to 5 cups flour
3 to 5 eggs
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon salt
Start with cold water. Boil 3 to 5 medium red potatoes with skins in unsalted water for 25 – 30 minutes. Peel potatoes while still hot.
Place 3 to 5 cups of flour in kneading bowl. Rice the skinned potatoes into flour bowl and slowly add flour. Sift potatoes and flour through fingers until cool; do not mash together.
Add 3 to 5 unbeaten eggs to well made in mixture after cool. Salt eggs. Knead until smooth.
Cover 1/2 hour. Roll out into a snake 1/2-inch thick. Cut 1 inch long pieces. Press with two lightly floured fingers in center and roll open like large macaroni to form cavatelli, little hot dog bun-shaped dough rolls
Let dry 10 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon salt to boiling water. Drop the cavatelli in large pot of rapidly boiling water, boil for approximately 30 minutes. Add a handful at a time so the water keeps boiling. If you let the water cool down they get gummy. Be sure to use lots of water when you cook and stir gently but often.
Drain and mix with spaghetti sauce and serve or keep warm in oven until ready.
Serve with spaghetti sauce and meatballs.
From the first time I made macaroni and cheese, I’ve used this basic recipe, with the sauce you simply stir up. We were not a big macaroni and cheese family, and never had any version from the box until college, when the hot pot was our main cooking apparatus and I had an ingenious roommate.
I think I might have originally found the recipe in a kids’ cookbook, but I don’t really remember. The recipe served me well for years, particularly in a poorly equipped kitchen in graduate school. And I just thought this was how mac and cheese was made. It was years before I learned that most macaroni and cheese recipes start with a roux made into a cream sauce.
As I progressed in the kitchen, I started working on recipes made with béchamel sauce, white wine based sauces, an onion soubise, exotic cheeses and the like. But for simple meals, I always came back to this method. And I’ve really decided I like it better. It’s very creamy, very cheesy, and of course could not be simpler. So now I make it with cheese only, or flavorful add-ins.
This version is my favorite, and based on a macaroni and cheese served at a favorite restaurant. I am sure they use a great more expertise and skill in making it, but I manage to get the flavors I love spot-on. I like corkscrew-y cavatappi pasta, but regular macaroni, or shells, or farfalle work equally well. Once you have this simple, basic recipe down, you can alter it however you please – with different cheeses, added spices, bacon or roasted chicken … the possibilities are endless.
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese with Country Ham and Leeks
Serves 6, 8 as a side dish
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup white wine [editor's note: substitute cooking wine or chicken broth of the same amount]
8 ounces uncookedelbow macaroni or cavatappi noodles
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces white cheddar cheese
4 ounces fontina cheese
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces country ham, finely diced
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 2 quart baking dish well.
Slice the white and palest green parts of the leek in half lengthwise, then slice into half-moons. Rinse the leeks very well in a colander under cool running water and shake to drain. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat and add the leeks, with a little water clinging to them, and stir to coat. Pour in the white wine and 1/4 cup water, cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until the leeks are wilted, transparent and soft, about 20 minutes. If needed, add a bit more water to prevent sticking.
Meanwhile, cook the macaroni according to package instructions in well-salted water. Drain and return to the pan off the heat. Stir 2 tablespoons butter into the pasta to melt and coat to prevent sticking. Leave to cool.
Grate all the cheeses and toss together. In a bowl, whisk together the milk, flour, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Shake well for at least a minute until the flour is completely mixed with the milk.
Toss together the cooled pasta and the most of the grated cheeses, reserving a few handfuls for the top of the dish. Stir in the leeks and diced country ham until evenly distributed. Pour over the milk mixture and stir thoroughly until well mixed. Spoon into the buttered dish and spread out to create an even surface. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden on top and bubbling and heated through.
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