Monday, November 24, 2008

Some things never change.

I used to love Giada DeLaurentis. Then, much like Rachel Ray, she overstayed her welcome. She accumulated several ridiculous television shows no one could bare to watch. We met her husband. She stopped cooking Italian and started cooking "Italian inspired". It was disappointing. So I started watching Ina, the Barefoot Contessa.

Giada still holds a special place in my heart (and stomach) though, simply because of the following recipe (and the lentil soup that Fiddler cast members like so much). I made it for the first time a few summers ago, and two of us barely made a dent. The plan for this batch of Giada's Mac and Cheese was to have a bunch of people eat it. Unfortunately, it took four of us two days to destroy this pan (I think I actually ate it three nights in a row). This Mac and Cheese is rich, heavy, and everything you'd want in a recipe calling for a half pound of Fontina.

Tealye, my sister, just happen to be passing through the weekend I made this. It was perfect
considering Mac and Cheese is her favorite food (surprisingly, she is no longer 10--she just turned 16). I was delighted to present her with this upscale version of her beloved blue box variety, which she really seemed to enjoy.

Some things never change.

Giada's Mac and Cheese
Honestly serves around eight, six if they're hungry.

Butter, for greasing dish
12 ounces wide egg noodles
2 cups heavy cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta water
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (packed) grated Fontina
3/4 cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan
3/4 cup (packed) grated mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Butter a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Drain well, but do not rinse.
Whisk the cream, milk, flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl to blend (season this dish well!). Stir in 1 cup Fontina, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Add the noodles and toss to coat (you can also do as I did and pour the mixture over the noodles and stir it around). Transfer the noodle mixture to the prepared baking dish. Toss the remaining 1 cup Fontina, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1/4 cup mozzarella in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the noodle mixture (I uh...forgot that part, which is probably why mine isn't that pretty).
Bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese melts and begins to brown on top, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving (the standing is really important here, and if not for the melted cheese's sake, then for your tongue's).

And because I now have the seminary reading my blog:


So many tears behind these words.
Love hones like that--
perfects and

St. Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Noodle Nests.

So tonight I ventured into unknown territory.

Let me preface this by saying I love Indian and Thai food--more than I can say, really. One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday is go to Reading Terminal Market, buy myself a plate of Chika Masala and a back issue of Gourmet, and have some "me time" ("me time" also usually includes a stop at Rosie's and H&M, just to be clear). Also, one of my fondest memories of this summer was when we deposited the large Indian food warmer in my apartment living room (empty, of course) and I came back and the entire apartment smelled like Indian food. I was overjoyed. I have never slept better. India keeps creeping into my life, too. Last semester I read "The Namesake" (which I'd recommend--its a quick read) and this semester my Development and Globalization class is focused on Indian development.

I had a block of tofu in my fridge for about a week and after seeing Heidi's Slurp-tastic Noodles, I knew what had to be done. I bought a can of red curry paste just out of curiosity and thought it might be fun to search for the spinach noodles. The above was what I came up with, after improperly mixing the coconut milk and deciding green onions were enough herb for me. I have to say-- I was not disappointed.

The best thing about this dish had to be the color. Here was this creamy orange broth with flecks of herb, almost sweet with a serious kick, and bright green noodles.

The noodles also came in a flat box in little nests--little noodle nests. How adorable.

Top Chef has returned and I felt inspired to experiment later this evening, with some peanut butter apple frozen yogurt. I made a brown sugar simple syrup, which may have been a wrong move, as the syrup is likely to turn icy. I'm also not a huge fan of frozen yogurt to begin with, I think its too tangy unless you pair it with an acidic fruit, so this was a leap of faith.

Speaking of faith, it has been awhile since we heard a witticism from an early Christian mystic:
(This is one of my favorites and, especially as I continue to study eschatology, a great comfort)

bloomed in Spring.

Our bodies
are the leaves of God.

The apparent seasons of life and death
our eyes can suffer;

but our souls, dear, I will just say this forthright:
they are God

we will never perish
unless He

St. Teresa of Avila

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A belated fixation with orange.

A roasted butter squash and caramelized onion galette, Courtney's cat, and homemade pumpkin ice cream.

Ice cream making is difficult. This past summer I made three different kinds in one day (one with fresh strawberries, one with fresh mint, and a cop-out chocolate). I was confident in my custard making abilities, which is the base of all good ice creams, from making lemon custard in The Kitchen (meaning Catering by Karen Hunter's kitchen). A good custard takes constant attention, a really even-cooking pot, and a quick hand.

Or a very fine sieve.

A custard is just an egg and cream sauce, but when you heat eggs, they tend to scramble unless they're really well mixed. There are lots of techniques online that talk about tempering the eggs slowly, but this recipe didn't ask me to do that. I thought I could just get by on my quick hand.

I scrambled the eggs. But luckily, even if you do this, you can grab a fine sieve (its like a very fine wire mesh strainer) and pour the custard through (most recommend this even when you've done a good job). Usually the more steps involved in making a custard, the safer the technique.

I substituted brown sugar for regular and mixed around the cinnamon/nutmeg combinations. I would also recommend using pumpkin pie spice if you have it on hand.

Pumpkin Ice Cream
2 eggs
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup canned pumpkin

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk milk, sugar and eggs, stirring constantly to make a custard (check online for more info). Cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes (it should coat the back of your spoon). Remove from heat. Whisk in cream, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Throw it in your ice cream maker.

Oh, you don't have an ice cream maker?

The best technique I've tried is to pour the mixture into a pyrex casserole dish that's been in the freezer for awhile, and every half hour for six hours or until frozen, take a whisk to it (the sides in particular). It takes some dedication but the result is a super creamy ice cream.

I had only tasted ice cream "batter" (so to speak) when I left, so I texted Courtney and asked how it was:
"The texture was hard due to our freezing issues [the KitchenAid, while beautiful, is not the best ice cream maker] but the taste was slammin."

The butternut squash and caramelized onion galette has got to be one of my new favorites. I love galettes, and though the dough is unconventional (sour cream?), it was so tender and flaky I couldn't believe it. I skipped the sage and skimped on the fontina (saving it for Giada's mac and cheese later this week) and it was still just heavenly.

I also planned for vegetarian chili tonight, and, as previously mentioned, Giada's Mac and Cheese.

Cooking has helped me get back into the swing of things after a terrible week. It appears that while everything in the outside world may seem miserable, there is a 12x9 or so space in my apartment where healings and miracles happen everyday.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Two, because the weeks grow longer.

Origami Emotion
Elizabeth Barrette

Hope is
folding paper cranes
even when your hands get cramped
and your eyes tired,
working past blisters and
paper cuts,
simply because something in you
insists on
opening its wings.

from The New York Poem
Sam Hamill

...a mute sadness settles in,
like dust, for the long, long haul. But if
I do not get up and sing,
if I do not get up and dance again,
the savages will win...

I'll be back with a pumpkin ice cream recipe for you soon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Someone should scold me.

I am kind of busy.
No excuse, but you should see my to-do list.

All I want to do is crawl into bed and read a novel.
Since I last posted, I made a dish that included meat--not just any meat though, a lovely chorizo sausage. This is SmittenKitchen's Sweet Potato Sausage Soup. The only thing I did to liven up the broth was add a little adobo sauce.
I've also made an apple galette, a few loaves of bread, some more Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, chocolate fondue and plenty of tofu stir-fries. Nothing too exciting, really. I've been waiting for a recipe to grab me like so many did in the fall, but the simple fact-of-the-matter is I am tired. Maybe its just this week, with all the excitement and travel Friday and Saturday (Cleveland), but I cannot get back into the swing of the anything--including the kitchen.
My theory is that if I clean my desk, the bathroom, do my laundry, and cross at least half the things off my to-do list, I might be able to start next week with something really spectacular. Like this escarole orzo soup I've had my eye on.