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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Now that the weather has cooled, it’s officially fall, no matter what the calendar says. And fall means I finally rise out of my heat-induced torpor and get interested in food again! Last night, I had a real bee in my bonnet, and made this Spicy Mac & Cheese that I have been promising my boo for a while now, as well as roasted broccoli and some baked goods to bring to work today! (More on the bread later). The mac ended up absolutely deliciously.

Ingredients! And we’re not even missing anything, I don’t think! Progress.

This mac & cheese (or maybe I should call it gemelli & cheese?) is a pretty standard mac & cheese recipe, with a few great additions. The first step calls for sautéing onions (or, in my case, shallots, as always), jalapeño(s) (I only used one because of the pepper jack that went into the sauce), and roasted red peppers until they’re soft. Then, you cook the pasta – whatever small shapes you have, I used gemelli because it was on sale and I had never used it before! – and make your cheese sauce. It starts, like almost every cheese sauce, with a roux of flour and butter, with milk added once the two are combined. A lot of times, my cheese sauce on homemade mac gets grainy, but this time, I made sure to whisk really well, and cook the milk a little longer than I usually do. This made it perfect! Once the time came to add the pepper jack and the cheddar (what I had around – the original recipe called for cheddar and jack cheeses), the sauce was thick, creamy, and rich. Mix the cheese sauce with the cooked pasta and vegetables, put some breadcrumbs on top (again, the recipe called for homemade breadcrumbs, but I had some in the pantry that were begging to be used up), and pop it in the oven! It comes out hot, rich, and a little spicy – perfect for me! If you’re really into spicy, I would use two jalapeños.

I was in total mom-mode, so I had to make some vegetables to go on the side. I used my standby roasted broccoli recipe, the so-called “best broccoli in the world,” which actually is really damn good. My fiancee was bananas over this broccoli, possibly even more than the mac & cheese! Thank goodness the time for roasted vegetables is here again.

Spicy Mac & Cheese (adapted from Annie’s Eats original recipe)

4 cups pasta shapes
3 shallots, finely chopped
1/3 cup roasted red pepper (jarred or home roasted), finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
6½ tbsp. butter, divided
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2½ cups milk
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
8 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz. breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  When the water boils, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  In the meantime, melt ½ tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots, red pepper and jalapeno to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until fragrant and tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.  Once the butter is completely melted, whisk in the flour.  Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it turns a light golden brown color and begins to foam, about 2 minutes.  (Be careful not to burn!)  Whisk in the milk until well blended.  Cook the mixture, whisking or stirring frequently, until it begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Whisk in the spices.  Add the cheeses to the mixture and whisk until completely melted and well incorporated.  Remove the mixture from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Grease a 2-quart casserole dish.  Return the drained pasta to the large pot.  Add in the cooked vegetables and the cheese sauce, and mix until well blended.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs in an even layer on top of the pasta.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until the mixture is heated through and the topping is golden brown.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

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For my slow battle against the laziness that has stopped me from making any food of note lately, I decided to tackle this Pad Thai I found floating around the internet. It was an easy choice, since I love Thai food (we order it a lot!), and I love recipes that can be described as “easy with a capital E.” I honestly wasn’t expecting very much from this recipe, since it seems, well, too easy, but it was seriously as delicious as any Pad Thai I’ve had delivered lately – way less greasy and cheaper, too! Definite thumbs up, bookmarking this for another lazy day.

(Missing from the cast of characters – because I haven’t quite gotten the hang of these ingredient photos yet, I guess – are my peanuts! A vital ingredient, for sure.)

Round up the ingredients, most of which, aside from the rice noodles, I already had in my pantry. Although the recipe doesn’t call for it, I added a dash or two of vegan oyster sauce that I picked up in Chinatown recently, which I think gave the sauce a little more depth. Definitely not necessary, but a nice choice!

Basically, all you have to do is soak your rice noodles in hot water – I used half this box for two of us, and it was two good dinner-sized portions – and while that’s happening, make up the sauce with the soy sauce, brown sugar, juice of 1 lime, and the “oyster” sauce. Scramble your eggs with the garlic and white parts of the green onion, stir fry the softened noodles with the rest of the green onions, add back the eggs and the sauce, and you have it! Serve with cilantro and peanuts on top. The longest part of this recipe by far is soaking the rice noodles. I can totally deal with that, no matter how lazy I am.

I served the noodles with a little salad, using spring mix, baby cucumbers (the best part of late summer produce!), and pepitas, which I picked up an entire bag of at Trader Joe’s recently, and am still trying to figure out how to use them up (perhaps a brittle? Pepita experiments in this space soon, I’m sure!). I dressed it with this balsamic glaze I also got from TJ’s, which was really nice. The entire, lazy meal was surprisingly delicious! I love when that happens.

Easy Pad Thai (originally from Everyday Food magazine, originally posted at Brownies for Dinner)

8 ounces dried, wide and flat rice noodles
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 squirt (about 1/8 teaspoon) Sriracha (optional)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 scallions (green onions), white and green parts, separated and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large eggs, light beaten (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts

  1. Soak noodles according to package instructions. Drain.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, lime juice, soy sauce, and Sriracha.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Add scallion whites and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add eggs and cook, scraping skillet with spatula until eggs are almost set (about 30 seconds). Transfer eggs to a plate.
  5. Add noodles, scallion greens, and sauce to skillet. Cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are soft (about 1 minute). Add egg mixture and toss to coat, breaking eggs up gently.
  6. Serve noodles with lime wedges, topped with cilantro and peanuts.