Ina Garten’s Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes

Once again, Ina did not disappoint. 🙂 This classic baked macaroni and cheese recipe incorporated two of my ultimate favorite cheeses and was upgraded with a colorful tomato topping. It was really delicious- a new favorite!

This dish was part of my husband’s birthday feast this year. I was able to assemble the dish the day prior to baking it which was very helpful. I actually grated the cheeses two days in advance- which would be completely unnecessary if making this dish on its own, of course.

The recipe was adapted from FoodNetwork.com, contributed by Ina Garten. I modified the method and used Campari tomatoes and panko in the topping.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8 as a main dish or 10 to 12 as a side dish

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound (16 oz) elbow macaroni or cavatappi (I used 17.6 oz Gigli pasta)
  • 4 cups (1 quart) milk (I used whole milk)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (about 4 cups)(I used Swiss Raw Milk Le Gruyère aged over 120 days from Trader Joe’s)
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)(I used Cabot 3-year extra-sharp white cheddar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 Campari tomatoes or 4 small tomatoes (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (I set my oven to convection.)
  2. Grate the cheeses with a food processor, if desired.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain well. Reserve the pot for the sauce.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it.
  5. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in the large pot (the pasta cooking pot) and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk.
  6. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth.
  7. Off the heat, add the shredded Gruyere, cheddar, 1 tablespoon coarse salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  8. Add the cooked pasta and stir well.
  9. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish. (I chose a shallow baking dish to increase the surface area for tomatoes and crispy panko topping.)*If making in advance, cover and refrigerate after this step.
  10. Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. (I sliced the tomatoes about 1/4-inch thick.)
  11. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine with the panko, and sprinkle on the top.
  12. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on the top. 

Note: To make ahead, put the macaroni and cheese in the baking dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake. Put the tomatoes and panko on top and bake for about 40 to 50 minutes.

Shrimp & Grits with Garlicky Roasted Poblano-Jalapeño Sauce

Annually, we treat ourselves to Southern shrimp and grits over Easter weekend. This year, I served the special dish using purple “unicorn” grits from Millers All Day in Charleston, South Carolina. Festive!

This version was topped with a spicy and garlicky roasted poblano-jalapeño sauce which had a terrific balance with the rich, cheesy grits. The shrimp was also cooked in garlic oil. It was a great variation to try for the garlic and sauce lovers in my house. 🙂 The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Marc Meyer. I modified the method and proportions.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk 
  • coarse salt 
  • 1 cup stone-ground white grits (I used stone-ground unicorn grits)
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (1/2 cup) 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 jalapeño chile 
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 5 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced 
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 T freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1/2 an orange)
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp, patted dry (I used 21-25 count per pound)
  1. Place oven rack in the highest position and set to broil. Place the jalapeño and poblano chiles on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Broil until blackened all over, about 3 minutes per side.
  2. Remove from the oven and wrap in the foil. Allow to steam and cool for 10 minutes, then rub off the skins. Stem and seed the chiles.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil with a pinch of salt. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  4. Whisk in the grits and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until the grits are tender and very thick, about 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the milk, cheese, and butter. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. (I used about 1/2 tsp salt.) Cook for an additional 5 minutes, then keep warm.
  6. In a small skillet, cook the garlic in the olive oil over moderate heat, stirring, until the garlic is softened and very lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a blender. Add the chiles and the orange juice and puree until smooth. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and puree until creamy. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. (I used a Vitamix.)
  8. Pat the shrimp dry and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of garlic oil. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  9. Heat a very large skillet until very hot, about 2 minutes.
  10. Add the shrimp in a single layer and cook until browned and just cooked through, about 45 seconds to 1 minute per side.
  11. To serve, spoon the grits into bowls and top with sauce and shrimp. Serve additional sauce at the table.

Corn, Bacon & Cheddar Pie

I do have a few more desserts to share, but I am interrupting those posts to share this amazing savory pie. It was ridiculously good. Worth every calorie in every indulgent bite. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark.  I incorporated whole wheat pastry flour in the cornmeal crust (delicious) and adapted the method.

I made it with fresh sweet corn but I can imagine it would also be wonderful with frozen corn. We ate it with roasted potatoes and a giant green salad- a very satisfying meal. Fluffy and fabulous!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Crust:

  • 1/2 cup/65 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 cup/65 grams whole wheat pastry flour (can substitute all-purpose)
  • 1/4 cup/40 grams cornmeal or polenta/grits
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup/115 grams cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cubed
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 large or 1 small red onion
  • 1 T fresh lime juice, plus more to taste (from 1/2 lime)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • pinch of granulated sugar
  • 4 ounces bacon (4 slices), diced
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (from 2 ears if fresh)
  • 2 T chopped pickled jalapeño, plus more slices for topping (I used Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted Green Chilies)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup coarsely shredded sharp Cheddar (3 ounces)
  • 3 T chopped parsley

To Prepare the Crust:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, or in a large bowl, pulse or mix together flour(s), cornmeal and salt until combined.
  2. Add butter, and either pulse or use your finger to smoosh it in until butter is the size of lima beans.
  3. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse or mix just until dough comes together. There should still be large flecks of butter left in dough.
  4. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. (At this point, I placed the disk in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.)
  5. Between 2 layers of plastic wrap, or on a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 12-inch circle.
  6. Transfer dough to a 9-inch deep pie plate; trim and crimp edges. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before baking. (Dough can be made up to 5 days ahead.)(I made the dough the night before.)

To Make the Filling and Finish the Pie:

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Place the pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Prick the bottom of the pie crust with a fork. Line with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Bake for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove foil or paper and pie weights or beans. Bake until pale golden and dry to the touch, about 4 to 7 minutes more.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  5. While crust is chilling and baking, prepare the filling: Cut red onion in half across the equator (not root to stem), then from the center, cut out two very thin, round slices. Separate onion slices into rings and put them in a bowl with lime juice and a pinch each of salt and sugar. Set aside while you assemble the rest of the tart. (I used half-moons because I used 1/2 of a red onion.)
  6. Coarsely chop remaining onion and set aside. (I used half-moons in the filling as well.)
  7. Scatter diced bacon in a cold 12-inch skillet. (I used a cast iron skillet.) Turn heat to medium, and cook until the bacon is golden and the fat has rendered, 8 to 14 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate. Leave fat in the skillet.
  8. Stir chopped onion into pan with bacon fat and place over medium heat. Sauté until golden-edged and translucent, about 6 minutes.
  9. Stir in corn, 1/2 teaspoon salt and chopped pickled jalapeño. Cook until corn is tender, 2 to 5 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat and scoop 1/2 cup corn mixture into a blender. (I used a Vitamix.)
  11. Add cream, sour cream and eggs. Blend until you get a purée.
  12. Using a spatula, scrape corn purée back in pan with whole corn kernels.
  13. Stir in 1/2 cup Cheddar, the parsley and the cooked bacon.
  14. Scrape mixture into the baked pie shell.
  15. Top filling mixture with pickled red onion slices and jalapeño slices. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Cheddar.
  16. Cover the edge of the pie crust to prevent over-browning.
  17. Bake until puffed, golden and just set, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Savory Smoky & Cheesy Cookies

Making these savory cookies was more of a risky endeavor than trying a new type of soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day. I was happy with the results! They were flaky, cheesy, and biscuit-like.  Lovely served as an appetizer with a glass of wine or beer.

A friend commented that they shouldn’t be called “cookies.” I absolutely agree, but it’s hard to argue with Dorie Greenspan. I’m also not sure what to call them instead. They were too cookie-like to call them crackers and too cookie-like to call them biscuits… too savory to be “cookies” though!

This recipe was adapted from Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan. I refroze the cut shapes prior to baking. I weighed all of the ingredients and the texture was perfect. The shape could be adapted for any holiday or cut into simple circles for any occasion. Nice!

Yield: about 22 shamrock cookies

  1. Combine cold butter, Gouda, cheddar, sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a food processor; pulse until butter is in bits and the mixture forms small curds.
  2. Add flour; pulse until dough looks moist and forms large popcorn-sized curds.
  3. Turn dough out onto a flat surface; knead gently just until it comes together and you can shape it into a ball. Divide into 2 pieces. Pat each piece into a disk.
  4. Place 1 disk between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Roll to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Repeat with second disk.
  5. Stack sheets of dough on a baking sheet. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 1 hour. (I froze the dough overnight.)
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), preferably on convection.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  8. Peel parchment paper/plastic wrap off 1 sheet of frozen dough. Cut into cookies using a 1 1/2-inch-diameter cutter, or cookie cutter of choice (my shamrock cookie cutter was larger). Stack the cut shapes with plastic wrap between each. Refreeze for 15 minutes prior to baking.
  9. Arrange 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the second sheet of dough.
  10. Bake cookies in the preheated oven until lightly golden on the bottom, about 15 to 16 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Cookies are done when bottoms are golden brown and tops are lightly golden.
  11. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 10 minutes.
  12. Gather dough scraps, roll to a thickness of 1/4-inch, and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Cut into cookies, refreeze cut shapes, and bake on a cooled baking sheet.

Note: The rolled-out dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; cut and bake directly from the freezer.

The baked cookies can be kept in a covered container for about 4 days at room temperature, or wrapped airtight for up to 2 months in the freezer.

One Year Ago: Easy Churros

Two Years Ago: Samoa Brownies

Three Years Ago: Apple Biscoff Crumble

Four Years Ago: Asparagus Mimosa and Rutabaga Oven Fries

Five Years Ago:

Greens & Cheese Quesadillas

I have received an exorbitant amount of Swiss chard in my CSA box so far this season. It’s a good thing that I absolutely love it! and… Who doesn’t love chard when it’s combined with fabulous cheese?!?!

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Gabriela Camara. I have made these quesadillas a couple of times with my CSA greens, using both raw milk extra (extra) sharp yellow cheddar (from Trader Joe’s) as well as Cabot extra sharp 3-year aged white cheddar. I have also used combination of greens including Swiss chard, turnip greens, beet greens, as well as baby bok choy.

I adapted the recipe by increasing the garlic as well as using a red onion, whole wheat flour tortillas, and chipotle salsa, avocados, fresh lime, and sour cream, for serving. I also microwaved the assembled quesadillas for a quick dinner! We ate them with refried beans on the side. Delicious.

Yield: Serves 4 for dinner or up to 8 as an appetizer

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as canola
  • ½ medium white or red onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 10 ounces Swiss chard, ribs and stems removed, or a combination of greens including beet, turnip, or bok choy, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • coarse salt
  • 6 ounces Toma cheese or sharp cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 8 whole wheat flour tortillas
  • Salsa Roja, Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa Verde, or Trader Joe’s Chipotle Salsa, for serving
  • avocado slices and lime wedges, for serving, optional
  • sour cream, for serving, optional
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 6–8 minutes.
  2. Add greens a handful at a time, letting wilt slightly before adding more. Pour in ½ cup water and cook, tossing occasionally, until greens are tender, 6–8 minutes.
  3. Add lime juice; season with salt. Transfer to a plate; let cool.
  4. Assemble the quesadillas: Place on tortilla on a large plate. Mound grated cheddar on top and spread evenly. Top with sautéed greens and another tortilla.
  5. Microwave for 1 minute, 35 seconds on high.
  6. Remove and slice into pieces. Repeat until all filling is used.
  7. Serve immediately with sliced avocado, prepared salsa, and sour cream, as desired.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Super Creamy Macaroni & Cheese

Well, here it is. I know you all have been waiting for this recipe to complete my husband’s coke-brined fried chicken with biscuits and gravy birthday meal. 🙂

This is the most indulgent, rich, super creamy, super cheesy macaroni and cheese ever. So much so that I could only bring myself to make one half of the original recipe. It was more than enough- especially because we ate it as a side dish! :/ It would also be a wonderful main dish with a huge green salad. (Half of the original recipe would still easily serve at least 4 people as a main dish.)

This recipe was adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics, via Smitten Kitchen. HBD Mr. Brookcook! ❤

Yield: Serves 10+ as a side dish or 4+ as a main dish

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
  • 3 to 4 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn or cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces (I used Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane)
  • 2 3/4 cups milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for water
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups (about 9 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated Gruyère
  • 1/2 pound short pasta such as campanelle or elbow macaroni

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F on convection. Butter an 8×8-inch (or equivalent), 2-quart casserole dish; set aside. (I sprayed my dish with cooking oil spray instead.)
  2. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a medium bowl, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the microwave. Add the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.
  3. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. (I warmed it in the microwave instead -one less pot to clean!) Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  4. 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.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, and 3/4 cups Gruyère; set the cheese sauce aside.
  6. 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.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup cheddar cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Gruyère on top. Sprinkle the reserved breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the grated cheeses.
  8. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes on convection (or up to 30+ minutes in a standard oven). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

Also- an update!

No ducklings yet… I guess we’ll have to welcome the goslings for now… 🙂

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Shrimp with Fresh Corn Grits

We eat Southern Shrimp and Grits every year on Easter- it reminds us of our time in the beautiful sunshine while we lived in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s such a flavorful dish that isn’t popular here in New York. This year we branched out and ate this dish on Easter Eve… such a break from tradition. :/ Still wonderful! 🙂

The fresh corn in this version puts it over the top. SO good. The grated corn in the grits makes them thicker and the sautéed kernels sprinkled over the top provide wonderful texture. This recipe is from Bon Appetit, contributed by Dawn Perry. I added more fresh corn and garlic to the topping as well as sharp cheddar-gruyere melange cheese to the grits. Festive & Amazing!

Yield: Serves 6

  • 5 (small) ears of corn, husked
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup grits (not instant)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (I used a sharp cheddar-gruyere blend), optional, to taste
  • 5 T olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ to 3/4 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika or ½  to 3/4 tsp. smoked paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left intact
  • chopped fresh chives, for serving

IMG_3423

  1. Grate 3 ears of corn on the large holes of a box grater over a medium bowl, catching as much juice as possible; set aside. Cut kernels from remaining 2 ears of corn into another medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Bring broth, milk, and 1½ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat so liquid is at a simmer and gradually whisk in grits. Simmer, whisking often, until grits are very tender, 20–25 minutes. Mix in butter, cheese (if using), and reserved grated corn; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Fifteen minutes after you have added grits to saucepan, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic, oregano, and paprika, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reserved kernels and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and beginning to pop, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add shrimp and cook, tossing occasionally, until cooked through, about 4 minutes.
  5. Serve shrimp and corn over grits topped with chives.

One Year Ago:

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