Monday, October 25, 2010

Baked Mac and Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes

Another confession: I love mac and cheese out of a box. Particularly if it's shaped like Scooby or Spiderman. I can, and often do, eat the whole box myself and in one sitting.

But this mac and cheese, that I present to you here, is different. This has complex flavor profiles from the smokiness of the cheese to the acidic zip of the tomato--sweet and sultry from slow-roasting.

I did this on-the-fly one evening, replacing the fontina and gruyere with a smoked gouda. I was shopping at the PathMark near where I work, which is cheaper, but not that well stocked in terms of cheese. This mac and cheese would be an incredible side to fried (or baked) chicken, though it does quite nicely alone. The tomatoes also are great alone, or in salads, sandwiches, and other pasta dishes.

Baked Mac and Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes

6 small tomatoes, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Coarse salt
8 ounces dried elbow macaroni
6 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for baking dishes
1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
5 ounces smoked Gouda cheese
6 ounces extra-sharp white-cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups), 1/3 cup reserved for topping
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (1 cup), 1/2 cup reserved for topping
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1. Roast tomatoes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomato slices on rimmed baking sheets in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil; season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Transfer to oven and roast until softened and browned in spots, about 20 minutes.

2. Heat oven and boil pasta: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add salt generously and cook pasta 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's instructions (the outside should be cooked but the inside underdone. Transfer to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.

3. Meanwhile, make bread crumbs: Tear bread into large pieces and pulse a few times in a food processor to form very large crumbs. Transfer to a bowl, and add melted butter. Toss evenly to coat.

4. Prepare baking dishes: Butter eight 6-ounce shallow baking dishes or one 1 1/2-quart baking dish.

5. Make cheese sauce: Melt butter in a 4-quart pot over medium heat, add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until bubbling but not browning, about 45 seconds. Add milk and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon (scrape across the bottom and around edge of pot to prevent scorching), until thickened, about 4 minutes. Add gouda, 1 2/3 cups grated cheddar, and 1/2 cup Parmigianno-Reggiano, stirring until completely melted and sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper, add cayenne and nutmeg, and stir to combine.

6. Assemble and add cheese topping: Add pasta to sauce and stir to thoroughly combine. Pour into prepared baking dishes and sprinkle evenly with the reserved cheeses, followed by the bread crumbs. If using, top with roasted tomato slices and thyme.

7. Bake: Place dishes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until bubbling and cheese is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More Tomatoes: Simple Roasted Tomato Sauce

I literally just sliced up the tomatoes, drizzled them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and popped them in a 400 degree oven with a clove or two of garlic for a little while. Once they were good and melty (about 20 minutes), I took them out, mashed them up, and used them to top linguine.

Served with a side salad and balsamic, it was a quick weeknight dinner for us.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More Tomatoes: Pasta Bake

Okay, so after I gave a big speech about my tomato conversion, I have another confession to make. I hate oregano.

This presents a problem when making the following dish, a recipe from Giada, with a quarter cup of oregano. As any good cook would do (I assume), I just left it out and relied on the fresh tomatoes from my dad's garden to shine through.

But as any great cook would do (I would know), I took it a step further. I added cheese.

This is a great baked pasta dish, with plenty of fresh tomato flavor. It's quick and easy, too. Julia and I enjoyed it immensely.

Pasta a la Formiana
Serves 4

Butter, for greasing dish
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound (8 ounces) mezze penne or other small pasta
1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 to 5 very ripe, extra-large or beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.
Using a food processor (or your potato masher, as I did), combine the garlic and crushed tomatoes. Pour into a medium bowl and add the uncooked pasta, 1/3 cup olive oil, half the cheese, salt, and pepper. Toss until all the ingredients are coated.
Line the bottom and sides of the baking dish with tomato slices. Pour the pasta mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Arrange the remaining tomato slices in an overlapping layer on top of the pasta mixture, making sure the mixture is completely covered. Drizzle with olive oil and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake until the tomatoes are slightly crispy and the pasta is cooked, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fresh Tomatoes.

Growing up, I loathed tomatoes. You couldn't get me near one. Every raw tomato--sour, grassy and filled with with goop and seeds. I remember picking them off of sandwiches, eating around them if they'd show up in salad.

My dad, of course, grew them in our backyard. Back then I wondered why you'd waste half a garden on them, but now I'm glad that whenever I visit, I get to bring a few dozen home. Obviously, I've collected a few tomato recipes that might help you use up the last of the tomato crop.

At the beginning of the summer though, making these BLT's was all about the cheese--not the tomatoes. I read "smoked blue cheese" and nearly lept out of my chair running towards DiBruno Brothers.

"BLT" here does not mean "Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato". The bacon in this recipe has been replaced by Rogue River Smokey Blue Cheese, making it a "Blue-Lettuce-Tomato". I know that many of you may think that there is just no replacement for bacon, but the smokey qualities of this cheese makes it hearty enough to stand in, and perhaps even supersede bacon. The blue cheese, which can be a difficult sell due to its intense creaminess and pungency, is well balanced by the freshness of the tomato and the lettuce.

And have I mentioned the mayonnaise? It's rosemary--and good on slathered on everything. We used the leftovers in pasta salad, but I imagine it would be great in chicken salad, too.

This week I'm attempting to post all the tomato recipes I have on hand--and feature two summer desserts that, if you're lucky at the produce stand, you could make this weekend.

Smokey "BLT"
Makes 4 Sandwiches

4 tablespoons Rosemary Mayonnaise, (see below)
8 slices bread (we split good baguettes)
5 ounces Rogue River Smokey Blue cheese
1/4 head romaine lettuce
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 8 slices

1. Spread a tablespoon of the Rosemary Mayonnaise on 4 slices of bread. Slice the cheese into 1/3" chunks and stack with the lettuce and tomatoes. Top with another piece of bread and enjoy.

Rosemary Mayonnaise
Makes 1 cup

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon grated garlic
3/4 cups mayonnaise (we like the Olive Oil kind)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Combine the oil, rosemary, and garlic in a small pan over low heat, stirring occasionally and cook until garlic begins to sizzle--about 5 minutes. Remove from heat to cool completely.

2. Stir the mayonnaise, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Whisk the lemon juice and the olive oil mixture into the mayonnaise until smooth. Stores refrigerated up to 5 days.