Comfort food

The attractive nuisance has a big day tomorrow, so I fired up some comfort food in his honor, namely mac and cheese and chocolate chip cookies. (“Soft,” he requested. “And no Chips Ahoy.” Are you flippin’ kidding me? Chips A-flippin’-hoy? Not in my house!)

After much investigation, I settled on this sinful version of Mac and Cheese, courtesy of Martha Stewart by way of Smitten Kitchen. Wow. Halved the recipe and still have tons to look forward to. Polished off my homemade bread to make the croutons, which tasted quite amazing. (And we did have both salad and sugar snap peas, for the record.)

(Please: no comments about the shimmer on the plate. I know. Butter.)

Martha Stewart’s Creamy Mac-and-Cheese (Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics

Serves 12

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyère (or 1 cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.

5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyère (or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano), and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes (though we needed a bit more time to get it brown, but your oven may vary). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

 

And while we were on a Martha kick, I went with her “Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies.” See, attractive nuisance, soft and chewy. Halved this one, too. (Fortunately it calls for two eggs. Not sure I want to figure out how to halve three eggs…)

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (Martha Stewart)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (about 12 ounces) semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  2. Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

 

Go attractive nuisance! Woohoo!

Spread

I recently made risotto that didn’t “spread” on the plate. (I learned that this quality is important from watching “Top Chef.”) It was very tasty, but clearly I still have a lot to learn about making risotto. I figured it was worth another shot.

This recipe was super good. I subbed blanched kale for the spinach, which tasted great. The dish went very nicely with our new favorite caesar salad… with croutons made from my homemade bread!

Tomato and Sausage Risotto (Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food

Serves 4

  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf spinach (10 to 14 ounces), washed well, tough stems removed, chopped (about 7 cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.
  4. Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).
  5. Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach, Parmesan, and butter; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.

Eggless Caesar Salad (Anne Burrell)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano, plus a block for shaving
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 or 4 anchovy fillets
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 to 4 slices day old rustic Italian bread, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 hearts romaine lettuce

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor add the 1 cup of cheese, the lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, the mustard and the anchovies. Turn the machine on and let it run for 15 to 20 seconds. As the machine is running, drizzle in 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil. Let the machine run for another 15 seconds after the oil has incorporated. Season, to taste, with salt.

Coat a large saute pan generously with olive oil. Smash 2 garlic cloves and add them to the pan over medium heat. When the garlic cloves have become golden and are very aromatic remove them and discard, they have fulfilled their garlic destiny. Stir in the bread cubes, season with salt, to taste, and saute them until they have absorbed all of the oil and are crispy, but still slightly pliable.

Break apart the lettuce leaves. Swish them in cool water, then pat them dry. In a large bowl toss the leaves with the dressing. Arrange the leaves on serving plates and sprinkle with the garlic croutons. Shave some Parmesan over the salads and serve.

Check out that spread!

No need

Bittman’s No-Knead Bread? No need to buy bread anymore!

This was crazy easy and tasted awesome.

No-Knead Bread (Mark Bittman)
Adapted from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery, this foolproof method of baking bread is striking on several levels. It requires no kneading. It uses no special ingredients, equipment or techniques. And it takes very little effort.

Ingredients
Time: About 1 1/2 hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

Preparation

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.

 

 

Green taters

I’ve been eyeing this one since I bought the new Barefoot Contessa book, How Easy Is That?.
Since I had buttermilk in the fridge, I used that. I also used a masher instead of a mixer. (Lazy.) Turned out quite tasty, but I can see how following the directions exactly, they may have been even better.
Green potatoes? Here we go:

Potato Basil Puree (Barefoot Contessa)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 2 pounds large Yukon Gold or white boiling potatoes
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and fill a bowl with ice water. Add the basil leaves to the boiling water and cook for exactly 15 seconds. Remove the basil with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge the leaves into the ice water to set the bright green color. Drain and set aside.

Peel the potatoes and cut them in quarters. Add the potatoes to the same pot of boiling water and return to a boil. Cook the potatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, until very tender. Drain well, return to the saucepan, and steam over low heat until any remaining water evaporates.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the half-and-half and Parmesan cheese until the cream simmers. Place the basil in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree. Add the hot cream mixture and process until smooth.

With a handheld mixer with the beater attachment, beat the hot potatoes in the pot until they are broken up. Slowly add the hot basil cream, the salt, and pepper and beat until smooth. If the potatoes need to be reheated, cover and cook gently over low heat for a few minutes. Pour into a serving bowl, sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese, season to taste, and serve hot.

Eat Real Food

I sure do love Mark Bittman, especially after reading this great piece in his new NYT column: Eat Real Food. We are so livin’ la vida Bittman!

But I have to say, this Eggless Caesar Salad dressing recipe worked better for us. Thanks, Anne Burrell!

Eggless Caesar Salad (Anne Burrell)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano, plus a block for shaving
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 or 4 anchovy fillets
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 to 4 slices day old rustic Italian bread, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 hearts romaine lettuce

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor add the 1 cup of cheese, the lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, the mustard and the anchovies. Turn the machine on and let it run for 15 to 20 seconds. As the machine is running, drizzle in 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil. Let the machine run for another 15 seconds after the oil has incorporated. Season, to taste, with salt.

Coat a large saute pan generously with olive oil. Smash 2 garlic cloves and add them to the pan over medium heat. When the garlic cloves have become golden and are very aromatic remove them and discard, they have fulfilled their garlic destiny. Stir in the bread cubes, season with salt, to taste, and saute them until they have absorbed all of the oil and are crispy, but still slightly pliable.

Break apart the lettuce leaves. Swish them in cool water, then pat them dry. In a large bowl toss the leaves with the dressing. Arrange the leaves on serving plates and sprinkle with the garlic croutons. Shave some Parmesan over the salads and serve.

Super Veg Night!

Had a whole lotta veg from the farmers. So I whipped up some old favorites with a new one.

A quick note about the magical Momofuku Roasted Brussels Sprouts: I make these all the time. I have made the rice krispie topping once, and it was good, but you can certainly throw this dish together without it and be blissfully happy.

Just noticed that this is my 100th post. Wawaweewa!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (David Chang, Momofuku)

For brussels sprouts:

  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Asian fish sauce (preferably Tiparos brand)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro stems
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (1 1/2-inch) fresh red Thai chile, thinly sliced crosswise, including seeds

For puffed rice:

  • 1/2 cup crisp rice cereal such as Rice Krispies
  • 1/4 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend)
  • Garnish: cilantro sprigs; torn mint leaves; chopped scallions

Preparation

Roast brussels sprouts:
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in upper third.

Toss Brussels sprouts with oil, then arrange, cut sides down, in a 17- by 12-inch shallow baking pan. Roast, without turning, until outer leaves are tender and very dark brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Add butter and toss to coat.

Make dressing:
Stir together all dressing ingredients until sugar has dissolved.

Make puffed rice while sprouts roast:
Cook cereal, oil, and shichimi togarashi in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking skillet and stirring, until rice is coated and begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally.

Finish dish:
Put Brussels sprouts in a serving bowl, then toss with just enough dressing to coat. Sprinkle with puffed rice and serve remaining dressing on the side.

 

Braised Kale (John Besh)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 3 pounds kale, stems and inner ribs discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. In a very large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, then add the kale in large handfuls, letting it wilt slightly before adding more. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over moderate heat until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

 

Polenta (Cookus Interruptus)

  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon + 1-2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil or butter
  • 1 cup polenta or corn grits
  • 4-6 tablespoons asiago or pecorino cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Bring stock and water to boil in a heavy stock pot. Add salt and 1 tablespoon oil or butter. Slowly add polenta, stirring continuously with a whisk. Turn heat to low and continue stirring in a clockwise motion with a wooden spoon for 30-40 minutes, adjusting heat to maintain a soft puckering of the polenta. The goal is a smooth and thick polenta that looks creamy, grains are less individual.

Stir in the cheese and corn kernels a few minutes before you pour out the polenta.  Lightly oil a pie plate or 8×8 baking dish.  Pour polenta into pan and smooth the top.  Polenta must be completely cooled to set properly.  This will take about 45 minutes to an hour (depending on the room temperature).

Serve polenta at room temperature or re-heated. To re-heat, preheat broiler.  Brush top of polenta with a little olive oil and broil 3 minutes.  This re-heat may also be done on a grill (yum).

Preparation time: 50 minutes plus cooling time
Makes 8 slices

 

Sauteed Green Beans with Shallots

No real recipe, but since it’s in the picture: just sauteed in olive oil with shallots, salt, pepper, and red chile pepper flakes.

Risott

We had the most amazing risotto (among many other treats) at Giorgio Baldi the other night when we celebrated the attractive nuisance’s birthday. Holy $*#&! This, of course, was after risotto played a major role in last week’s Top Chef. Got me dreaming about risott…

Went for something simple: Lemon Risotto from Bon Appetit courtesy of my favorite, Smitten Kitchen. Still need to master the technique of making it “spread” on the plate, but practice sure tastes good!

Lemon Risotto (Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2002

Makes 6 first-course or 4 main-course servings.

  • 6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Bring broth to simmer in large saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; cover to keep warm. Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until tender, about 6 minutes. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add wine and stir until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add 1 1/2 cups hot broth; simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently. Add remaining broth 1/2 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until rice is creamy and tender, about 35 minutes. Stir in cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Season risotto with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.

 

Also had some artichokes from the farmers market, so I tried her favorite preparation for artichoke hearts (at the bottom of the page). Very tasty. Next up, trying that Asparagus, Artichoke, and Shiitake Risotto.

Artichoke Hearts (Smitten Kitchen)

Remove all the outer leaves, choke and stem of a whole artichoke, leaving just the heart.

Cut the heart into 1/4 inch slices and toss it immediately in a bowl filled with the juice of one lemon.

Make sure each and every edge, angle and side of the hearts gets coated in lemon juice, or they will brown very quickly.

In a small pot, boil water with a good glug or two of white wine, a splash of white vinegar and if you’re feeling fancy, a smashed garlic clove and/or a bay leaf.

Drop in the artichoke hearts with all of their lemon juice, and simmer them for about 10 minutes, or longer if needed for them to become tender. Drain and set them aside.

 

And also made the Snap Peas and Pancetta from the new Barefoot Contessa book. This was a big hit on New Year’s Eve. Another great success!

Snap Peas with Pancetta (from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?)

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound sugar peas, trimmed
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, sliced
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 5 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring 2 to 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Fill a large bowl with ice water and have a sieve or colander ready in the sink. Put the snap peas into the boiling water for only 10 to 15 seconds, drain, and put immediately into the ice water. Cool completely and drain. Cut each snap pea in half lengthwise and place in a large bowl.
Meanwhile, place the pancetta and 1 tablespoon of water in a medium saute pan and cook over medium heat until the pancetta is browned and crisp, tossing occasionally to brown evenly. The water will evaporate and the pancetta will render some of its fat. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to cool.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar. Pour enough vinaigrette on the snap peas to moisten. Add the red onion, crumbled pancetta, Pecorino, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper.  Toss well, season to taste, and serve.