Classic Macaroni & Cheese with Sourdough Bread Crumb Topping

This cheesy pasta lived up to its title as “classic.” The combination of cheeses gave it the perfect velvety texture. We ate it as part of my husband’s birthday feast this year. Everyone loved it!

The recipe was adapted from The New Best Recipe All-New Edition from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated. The original recipe also notes that the recipe can be halved and baked in an 8-inch square baking dish. Great.

Yield: one 9×13-inch casserole: Serves 6 to 8 as a main course or 10 to 12 as a side dish

For the Bread Crumb Topping:

  • 6 slices (about 6 ounces) good-quality white sandwich bread, torn into rough pieces (I used Trader Joe’s Sourdough sandwich bread)
  • 3 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

For the Casserole:

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • salt
  • 5 T unsalted butter
  • 6 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 5 cups milk (whole, low-fat, or skim okay)(I used 3 cups whole and 2 cups low-fat)
  • 8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)

To Prepare the Bread Crumbs:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the bread and butter until the crumbs are no larger than 1/8-inch, about 10 to 15 pulses. Set aside.

To Prepare the Pasta & Cheese:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the broiler.
  2. Place a 9×13-inch broiler safe baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. (I also covered the enameled handles of my baking dish with foil to protect them from the heat of the broiler.)
  3. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and stir to separate the noodles. Cook until the pasta is tender (NOT al dente).
  4. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water (for reheating leftovers). Drain in a colander and set aside.
  5. In the now-empty Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium-high heat until foaming.
  6. Add the flour, mustard, and cayenne; whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until the mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. (I used a flat whisk.)
  7. Whisking constantly, gradually add the the milk; bring the mixture to a boil. The mixture must reach a full boil to fully thicken.
  8. After the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes.
  9. Remove from the heat and whisk in the grated cheeses and 1 teaspoon of coarse salt. Whisk until the cheeses are completely melted.
  10. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is steaming and heated through, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  11. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and sprinkle the top evenly with the bread crumbs.
  12. Broil until the crumbs are deep golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary for even browning. (I set my oven to Broil+Max @500 degrees.) Cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Savory Butternut Squash Crumble

This is another lovely seasonal side dish. I received a lot of butternut squash in my CSA share this season and kept looking for new ways to enjoy it. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories by David Lebovitz. I modified the proportions. It would be a great side to serve as part of a Thanksgiving feast.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

For the Squash Filling:

  • 1 T unsalted or salted butter
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 3/4-inch (2 cm) cubes
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup peeled and thinly sliced shallots (I used 1 large shallot)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T (52.5g) fresh or dried bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (35g) stone-ground cornmeal or polenta
  • 1/4 cup (22.5g/.75oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 T minced fresh sage leaves
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt
  • 2 T (1oz/27.5g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 large egg
  1. Preheat the oven to 375ËšF (190ËšC), preferably on convection.
  2. Generously butter a shallow 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish with softened butter. (I used a round ceramic baking dish.)

Make the Filling:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the squash and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the squash pieces begin to brown on several sides.
  3. Add the shallots and cook for another few minutes, until they’re softened.
  4. Add the stock and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring, to reduce the stock a bit and heat everything through.
  5. Scrape the squash mixture into the prepared baking dish; stir in the parsley. Press the mixture into a relatively even layer.
  6. Cover the dish snugly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, until the squash is pretty soft when poked with a paring knife or fork.

Make the Topping:

  1. While the squash is baking, combine the bread crumbs, cornmeal, Parmesan, sage, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. (Alternatively, the topping can be made by hand in a large bowl, using a pastry blender.)
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is completely incorporated.
  3. Add the egg and pulse a few more times until the mixture just starts clumping together in bits.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Remove the squash from the oven, remove the foil, and cover with the topping.
  2. Decrease the oven temperature to 350ËšF (180ËšC) ad return the dish to the oven.
  3. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown, and serve.

Note: If doubling the recipe, use 1 egg.

Traditional Ukrainian Easter Bread Podil’ia Style (Podil’ska Paska)

Happy Belated Easter! We were very lucky to enjoy beautiful weather yesterday. 🙂

I like to bake new Easter breads to serve for our holiday breakfast. This year, I looked through my Ukrainian cookbook collection for a paska (Ukrainian Easter bread) recipe.

My mother-in-law has given me several Ukrainian cookbooks and there were many variations of paska to choose from- all quite different from one another depending upon the region of their origin. Traditionally, a paska or babka is an essential part of an Easter breakfast. Many are beautifully decorated with a cross, braid, or birds. This version is more of a cake, with batter, and did not have dough that could be used to decorate the top.

The recipe was adapted from Festive Ukrainian Cooking by Marta Pisetska Farley. According to the book, this paska recipe, from the northwest province of Podil’ia, is at least a hundred years old! It is a golden paska, reminiscent of the sun, and is similar to a sponge cake.  It was very rich and indulgent.

Yield: One 9 or 10-inch cake

  • 1 cup dry white bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 10 large or extra-large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 to 4 T powdered sugar
  1. Line the bottom and sides or a 9, 10 or 12-inch springform pan with parchment paper. (Because I used a 9-inch pan (smaller than the original recipe suggests), I cut 7-inch tall pieces of parchment paper to line the sides of the pan, buttered on the portion lining the walls of the pan and sprayed with cooking spray above the walls of the pan.)
  2. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  3. Sift the bread crumbs until fine, then sift again with the flour baking powder, and spices.
  4. Add the grated lemon and orange zest.
  5. Separate the eggs.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg yolks with the granulated sugar until thick and pale, about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the vanilla and beat again.
  8. Fold the bread crumb mixture into the egg yolk mixture.
  9. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the batter until no white streaks can be seen.
  10. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until set or a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour. (I was afraid that the cake would fall if I checked it too early- and baked it for 1 hour.)
  11. When fully baked, keep the cake in the oven with the door ajar, and allow to cool slowly. (The cake may fall slightly. Mine did!)
  12. When cool, remove the parchment paper and sprinkle the top with powdered sugar. Serve.

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta & Balsamic Vinegar

Brussels sprouts are an essential part of my Thanksgiving weekend menu because my mom and mother-in-law are here to gobble them up with me. 🙂 In this dish, they are sweetened- and darkened- with balsamic vinegar.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Amanda Hesser. I significantly reduced the amount of breadcrumb topping. It was a nice side dish to serve on Thanksgiving because it comes together quickly and requires minimal oven time.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, preferably fresh
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 2 lbs baby Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed (cut larger ones in two)(I used an entire stalk of sprouts)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces pancetta in small dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 T minced shallots
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup veal stock or rich chicken broth, more if needed
  • 2 T chopped parsley, for garnish
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. In a bowl, mix bread crumbs and thyme with 2T olive oil, and spread on a cookie sheet. Toast, tossing frequently, until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Heat butter and remaining 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until foamy.
  4. Add brussels sprouts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté, tossing frequently, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add diced pancetta, and sauté, tossing frequently, until sprouts are well browned and softened slightly, and pancetta is crisp, about 10 minutes more.
  6. Reduce heat, add shallots and garlic, and sauté until fragrant, 2 minutes.
  7. Increase heat to high, add balsamic vinegar and stock, and cook, tossing frequently, until sprouts are glazed and tender, about 10 minutes; add more stock if needed.
  8. Taste, adjusting seasoning if necessary.
  9. Transfer to a warm serving bowl and scatter bread crumbs and chopped parsley on top.

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

This quick cooking side dish is perfect for Thanksgiving or any other large holiday meal because it is prepared on the stove top when the oven is often too busy for another pan.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Suzanne Goin. According to the Times, braised vegetables are a hallmark of Goin’s cuisine. It was described as a “marvelously flavorful dish, rich with garlic and salty pancetta.” A keeper! I completely agree. Simple and perfect.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Time: 30 minutes

  • 1 ½ cups fresh bread crumbs (I used prepared bread crumbs)
  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaves
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds baby brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed (cut larger ones in two)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces pancetta in small dice (1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots, more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup veal stock or rich chicken broth, more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix bread crumbs and thyme with 1/4 cup olive oil, and spread on a cookie sheet. Toast, tossing frequently, until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (I substituted prepared bread crumbs.)
  2. Heat butter and remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until foamy.
  3. Add brussels sprouts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté, tossing frequently, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add diced pancetta, and sauté, tossing frequently, until sprouts are well browned and softened slightly, and pancetta is crisp, about 10 minutes more.
  5. Reduce heat, add shallots and garlic, and sauté until fragrant, 2 minutes.
  6. Increase heat to high, add balsamic vinegar and stock, and cook, tossing frequently, until sprouts are glazed and tender, about 10 minutes; add more stock if needed.
  7. Taste, adjusting seasoning if necessary, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Transfer to a warm serving bowl and scatter bread crumbs on top. (We had bread crumbs on the side.)

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Ina Garten’s Provencal Tomatoes

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In the summer, my husband takes care of the tomato plants at his boss’ house for a week while she and her family are on vacation. If we are lucky, we are rewarded with delicious tomatoes that happen to ripen under his watch. 🙂 This year we were so fortunate! The classic combination of tomatoes with herbs and cheese in this side dish was the perfect use for our special tomatoes. I think it would be great with Parmesan cheese in lieu of Gruyere as well. This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style, via foodnetwork.com. We ate it with pulled chicken sandwiches and corn on the cob- so summery and tasty!

  • 6 tomatoes (2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (from 5 slices of bread, crusts removed)
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
  • 2 T minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place bread slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast bread in oven until dry and crispy, about 5 minutes. Pulse crispy bread in a food processor until coarse bread crumbs are formed. Set aside.
  3. Cut cores from tomatoes, removing as little as possible. Slice tomatoes in half crosswise and remove seeds. Place tomato halves in a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  4. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, scallions, basil, parsley, garlic, thyme, and 1 tsp of coarse salt.
  5. Sprinkle the tomato halves generously with salt and pepper.
  6. Using your hands, fill the cavities and cover the tops of the tomatoes with the bread crumb mixture.
  7. Bake the tomatoes for 15 minutes, or until tender.
  8. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 2 to 4 minutes more, until cheese is melted and lightly browned.
  9. Serve hot or at room temperature.

IMG_9701

One Year Ago:

Raw Baby Red Kale Salad with Chiles & Pecorino

thebrookcook.wordpress.com

I was so happy to receive my first CSA box of the season. It has been such a LONG six months without a surprise box of fresh vegetables to look forward to every week! My box was loaded with tender spring greens including beautiful baby red kale- perfect for this salad and perfect for my guest post for Sonal of simplyvegetarian777. Sonal is my oldest friend in the blogosphere and is also one of my biggest supporters. She is always there with a “like” and a complementary comment on my posts- She is so kind to me!

This salad made a beautiful lunch that I thoroughly enjoyed. 🙂 This recipe was adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite: 150 Recipes & Stories About the Food You Love by Melissa Clark (my favorite New York Times contributor).

The guest post along with the lovely remarks Sonal said about my blog 🙂 can be found here. Healthy & Delicious!!

  • 1 small bunch Tuscan kale (for ex: black or laminate) or Red Kale
  • 2 thin slices country bread, 1 slice whole wheat bread (crusts removed), or two handfuls good, homemade coarse breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 large garlic clove or 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
  • 1/4 cup (or small handful) grated pecorino cheese, plus additional for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice (from a generous half of a large lemon- about 3 T)
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Trim the bottom few inches off the kale stems and discard. Slice the kale into 3/4-inch ribbons. You should have 4 to 5 cups. Place the kale in a large bowl.

2. If using the bread, toast it until golden brown on both sides and dry throughout. Tear into small pieces and pulse in a food processor until the mixture forms coarse crumbs, or crumbs to your liking.

3. Using a mortar and pestle or a knife, pound or mince the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a paste.

4. Transfer the garlic to a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup cheese, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, pinch of salt, pepper flakes, and black pepper and whisk to combine. Pour the dressing over the kale and toss very well (the dressing will be thick and need lots of tossing to coat the leaves).

5. Let the salad sit for 5 minutes. Serve topped with the bread crumbs and additional cheese.

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