Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Roasting.

My excitement over being allowed to post on a food blog is overshadowed by one simple fact: I'm here for the comic relief. Not so much funny haha but rather, "funny, you don't cook." What I have going for me is the zeal of a beginner, and a good friend and neighbor who enjoys teaching me things like egg-boiling and chicken-breading.

I'm pleased to meet you, blog readers.

Lisa and I ventured into new territories this fall by signing up for Arganica Farms. I'm doing it mostly so that I have no excuse but to eat my vegetables. I was scared to order any meat, being an ex-vegetarian who still dabbles, but I ordered an organic chicken. At $4, this is a steal.

Unfortunately, at $4 it also had...a neck. Gobble gobble.

I called my mom for help, who told me to chop "it" off, but I just couldn't bear it. I pretended "it" did not exist. I added a little olive oil, some salt and pepper and threw that bad boy in the oven with some butternut squash and potatoes. It came out great - super juicy and delicious. I immediately took every scrap of meat off the bone and threw out. So what? (This is where Lisa heaves a sigh at the loss of a beautiful pot of chicken stock).

Mara's Badass Chicken (with Neck)
1 organic chicken, about 4 lbs.
1 neck (ignore)
4 white potatoes, peeled and chopped large
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped large
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Rub everything with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350, add chopped veggies to the pan, and continue roasting until chicken is cooked, about 45 more minutes, or until the internal temperature is 165 and juices run clear. Rest for 20 minutes before carving. ( I did that).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Cookies

Please don't blame me. I take no responsibility for the following recipe. Blame the 16.4 inches of snow and the resultant three days I was stuck in my house surrounded by naught but butter, sugar and chocolate.

On Saturday, chocolate chip cookies sounded like a tasty prospect; gooey chocolate brownies were a necessity on Sunday, but an attempt that was left half baked and in an unattactive, over-gooey heap thanks to an unexpected dinner escape to Commonwealth. But come Monday night, I was standing over the pan eating the crumbly bits (no calories!), feeling not a little sad at the prospect of throwing away such delicious, if undercooked brownies, when I realized that the bits looked an awful lot like chocolate chips. Hey, chocolate is chocolate, right? So with a little further crumbling, a lot more baking, and the promise of sexual favors if my husband would run to the store for more sugar, brownie cookies were born.

Crazy? Maybe. Overly decadent? Perhaps. Worth being stuck in our itty bitty apartment for three blizzard-filled days? You bet.

Brownie Cookies
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup butter flavored Crisco
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups leftover brownies - the more underbaked the better - crumbled into bits (homemade recipe below, but box versions would be just as good)

Set the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375.

Mix the flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a large bowl or mixer, beat together the butter, both sugars and the vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add in the flour, a cupful at a time, until fully incorporated. Stir in the brownie bits by hand.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 11-12 minutes (cookies will be slightly underdone but will firm up as they cool).

Outrageous Brownies
Recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra large eggs
3 tbsp instant coffee granules
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 cups chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter and flour a 12x18x1-inch baking sheet.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder and salt. Add the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hail to the Sheep

I have long been turned on to the magic that is goat's milk cheese. Whether its fresh chevre in a salad or the tangy hint of goat cheese in a luscious berry topped cheesecake, call me a fan. But though I frequently peruse the myriad cheese plates gracing our local restaurants' menus, I didn't fully appreciate just how darn good sheep's milk cheese can be until this weekend.

While wandering around the Dupont Farmers Market - my favorite Sunday morning pastime - I saw a stall I hadn't really noticed before, Everona Dairy, where they were handing out delicious samples of their farmstead sheep's milk varieties left and right. Not only did I walk away with a hefty hunk of nutty Piedmont, their signature cheese, but I also got a tub of their Rapidan spread, a tapenade-style dipping 'sauce' that's got the Piedmont cheese mixed right in. Dolloped into a pot of hot orzo with some fresh basil and chopped heirloom tomatoes thrown in for good measure, we had one of my favorite meals of the summer. Yay sheep.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Skinny Beach Fare

Here's a super quick weeknight dinner that's easy and - surpise! - actually kinda healthy. Well, maybe not healthy, per se, what with the mayo-based dunking sauce, but I figure baking and not frying the shrimp allows for some wiggle room. Add a big, summery salad and you've got a beach-worthy feast - sans the guilt.

Unfried Shrimp
1 lb medium shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper
Cayenne pepper
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 450. In a shallow bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, and salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. In another shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Toss the shrimp in the cornmeal first, shaking off the excess, then dip in the eggs and back in the cornmeal, again shaking them off. Place the shrimp on a lined and oiled baking sheet and bake directly under the broiler for 5 minutes. Turn each shrimp over, cook another minute, then pile on a platter, sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the remoulade.

Spicy Remoulade
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp ketchup
Several dashes of hot sauce
Several dashes of Worcestershire sauce
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together.

Friday, July 3, 2009

What Are You Doing for Labor Day?

Nothing like planning for the last summer holiday before the first is even behind us.

In addition to its ever popular Oyster Riot, Old Ebbitt Grill is launching another annual soiree - its First Annual Labor Day Block Party, to be exact. From 6-11 PM on Saturday, September 5, the swath of street in front of the historical restaurant (and down the street from the White House) will be roped off for food, libations, and live blues by Mudcat and headliner Bruce in the USA, the #1 Bruce Springsteen tribute band. Wonder if Obama is a Boss fan...

Pre-sale ticket price is $65 ($75 after July 31), which includes admission to the event, five of Ebbitt's classic menu items (think crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, bratwursts & burgers), and five drinks.

For more info or to purchase tickets, visit

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Crust Convert

I have never been what you would call a "crust person." Though the delicious berry and fruit pies of summer sit near the very top of my favorite desserts list - second only to an ooey gooey chocolate cake, of course - I've never been able to get excited over the requisite bland casing holding my slice together. Frankly, it's never tasted like much to me, and - as I've always told myself - if I skip all that fat and flour, pie is downright healthy!

Enter Julia Child.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that Baking with Julia has been my go-to baking bible. And lo and behold, when I returned home from the 14th and U Farmers Market with a fridgeful of glossy cherries and an intense desire for a big slice of freshly made cherry pie, a quick flip through her pages revealed what Ms. Child declares as "the classic dough that earns blue ribbons at country fairs and stars at esteemed pastry shops." Skeptic though I was, I gave it a try. And you know what? It was buttery and flaky and tender and awesome. Count me among the Crust Converts. (And so much for my healthy pies).

This recipe makes enough dough for four 9- to 10-inch tarts or open faced pieces, or 2 double crusted pies. It's super easy, too - just remember to keep everything cold and not to overmix. It also freezes beautifully for up to a month, so you might as well make the whole batch - after all, there are a lot of summer fruits to look forward to.

Perfect Pie Crust
from Baking with Julia
5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled (I used butter-flavored)
1 cup ice water

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter, and using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs (this will take a little while). Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl, working it in with the pastry blender or your fingers until small clumps and curds form. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate it. Turn the dough onto a work surface and fold it over itself a few times, just til it all holds together. Don't overwork it!

Divide dough into 4 equal pieces, shape into flat disks, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or as long as 5 days. The dough can also be frozen for up to one month - just thaw completely in the fridge before using.

And, because I can't show you this delcious pie without giving you the recipe...

Best Ever Deep Dish Cherry Pie
2 dough disks, recipe above
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 quart whole pitted sour cherries
1 quart whole pitted sweet cherries
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 tbsp milk

Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Stir in cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla; set aside.

Roll out one dough disk on a floured surface to a 12-inch round, lifting and turning frequently so it doesn't stick. Transfer to a 9-inch deep dish pie dish by wrapping it around your rolling pin, and gently work it into the pan - don't pull or stretch it. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Chill crust while you finish preparing the pie.

Whisk sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large bowl. Stir in cherries, lemon juice and vanilla; set aside.

Roll out the second disk to a 12-inch round. Using a pastry wheel with a fluted edge, cut ten strips from the dough round.

Transfer the cherry filling to the dough-lined dish, mounding slightly in center. Dot with the butter, then arrange the dough strips on top of the filling, forming a lattice. Trim the dough strip overhang to 1/2 inch and fold the bottom crust up over ends; crimp the edges to seal. Brush the lattice crust (not the edges) with the milk and sprinkle lattice with a tablespoon of sugar.

Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown, about an hour longer. (During baking, cover the edges with a foil collar if browning too quickly). Transfer the pie to a rack and cool completely. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Shrimp Noodle Curry

As I'm sure I've mentioned before in this space, Regent has long our hands down favorite Thai restaurant in DC proper. The food is great, the dark wood and tinkly fountains are lovely, and - thank goodness - we can walk to it in ten minutes. Although the menu features a long list of delicious options, we always find ourselves ordering the same comfort-inducing dishes - red curry for Rory, drunken noodles with seafood for me. So when I was trying my hand at homemade Thai, I decided to mix our two favorites. (Although I admit that, having nothing but somen noodles in the house, the dish took on a decidedly Japanese accent). Do try to make it with Thai-style rice noodles if you can...or nix the noodles altogether and just serve it over rice. Rory would approve.

Drunken Curry Noodles with Shrimp
2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1 lb. large shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions, finely sliced, white parts only (reserve a few tablespoons of chopped green tops)
2 tbsp red curry paste
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
4 heads baby bok choy, rough chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges

Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large pot or dutch oven over high heat. Add the shrimp and saute until almost cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. Remove shrimp; set aside. Lower heat to medium. Add the second tablespoon of oil and when hot, add the ginger, garlic and green onions and sweat for several minutes until softened and fragrant. Add curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce, and tomatoes, along with half the tomato sauce from the can, and stir to incorporate, mashing the tomatoes as you go. Season with salt and pepper to taste, bring to a simmer, then add bok choy.

While the bok choy is cooking through, cook the noodles according to package instructions, removing 1 minute before complete cooking time. Add noodles to curry sauce, then add shrimp just before serving to finish cooking through. Serve with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Well how about that - Dish-trict turned 1 yesterday! How time flies.

To celebrate, I thought I'd share with you some of my personal favorite dishes over the past year.

Thanks so much for reading. Here's to many more delicious dishes!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Brainfood Grill-Off - Tickets Still Available

Attention all food lovers: there's still time to get your tickets to tomorrow's Brainfood Grill-Off.

Brainfood, a DC-based non-profit that uses food and cooking to teach healthy living and life skills to DC youth, is hosting its third annual competition tomorrow, June 11th, at the Decatur House from 6:30-9:30. This is a high spirited event in which top local chefs - including Tony Chittum (Vermilion), Cedric Maupillier (Central Michel Richard), Shannon Overmiller (The Majestic), Bryan Moscatello (Zola), and The Next Food Network Star finalist Teddy Folkman (Granville Moore's) - will team up with amateur cooks and Brainfood graduates to compete against one another in a grilling showdown. In addition to the grill-off, there will be hors d’oeuvres, an open bar and a live auction. Tickets are $75, all of which goes to Brainfood's after-school and summer programs.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Trifling Dessert

Ah, late spring/early summer. It's one of my very favorite times of year. And for me, one of the happiest places to be at this exact time of year is at a farmer's market. Walking through the throngs of smiling Sunday morning people, my thought process goes something like this - "Strawberries! And asparagus! And peas! And strawberries! And green stuff!...And strawberries!"

Yes, with row after row of those insanely sweet smelling and juicy strawberries on display right now, I would be remiss if I didn't offer at least one sigh-inducing dessert showcasing these little beauties. So, other than suggesting you eat them right out of the carton in the middle of the market, I give you Strawberry Trifle Cake, a riff on a delicious trifle my parents like to serve. You can make it quick with box mixes and ready-made pudding, or you can go old school and make each part from scratch. Either way, it's one of the best desserts I've ever had. (Seriously, I'm thinking about making another one right now). So enjoy, and please share any favorite strawberry dishes you have with me - I will try to keep my hands off my newest batch long enough to try yours out!

Strawberry Trifle Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, divided
2 tbsp sugar
2 8-oz packages cream cheese
4 3-oz cups vanilla pudding
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

Pour cake batter into two greased 8-inch cake pans. Cook according to package instructions. Turn out onto wire racks and cool completely. Meanwhile, place half the sliced strawberries in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar, stir to combine and place in fridge while cake is cooling.

For the icing: In a stand mixer or large bowl with a handheld mixer, beat together the cream cheese and pudding until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar, being sure to break up any lumps. Add the vanilla extract; stir to combine.

Place one cake round on a cake plate. Smooth a cupful of icing over the top. Cover with a layer of the unsweetened sliced strawberries. Top with second cake round and finishing icing the top and sides of cake. Let chill for several hours.

To serve: Mash up the chilled sweetened strawberries with the back of a fork until a thick sauce forms. Slice the cake and serve with the strawberries.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

For Your Consideration

As we are all quite aware, now is the time to get your hands on some delicious spring asparagus. The farmers markets are overflowing with them - literally - and the freshly picked local stuff is so much better than the supermarket version trucked in from who knows where that you'd swear you're eating a totally different vegetable. Steam it, nuke it, roast it - you can't go wrong. I particularly love mine folded into fresh pasta. And while you certainly don't need to go to the trouble of making your own pasta from scratch, it is totally worth it in the taste department - and the pat-yourself-on-the-back department, once you see that your golden strands can hold their own against most of the area restaurants' "house-made" versions.

While this pasta/asparagus combo would be equally good dressed simply with melted butter and a dusting of parmesan, I decided to go the robust route. Gremolata sounds awfully fancy, but it's really just a pretty word for a chopped herb condiment, usually made from parsley, garlic and lemon zest - all things that I happen to find delicious in my pasta bowl. Gremolata is super versatile, too. While its traditional purpose is to accompany a big plate of osso buco, it's also great with fish and seafood, and even sprinkled over crisp french fries, a la Cork's version. While the raw flavors of gremolate can be a bit assertive, I find that the smooth creaminess of the ricotta balances them out nicely.
So here's a slew of ideas for you, all in one little post. Put them together, try each out on its own - just get that asparagus!

Fresh Pasta with Asparagus, Ricotta, and Hazelnut Gremolata
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
Hazelnut gremolata (see recipe below)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb of fresh fettuccine noodles (see recipe below)
1 lb. fresh asparagus, washed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. In a large bowl, mix together ricotta cheese, gremolata and olive oil. Set aside.

Drop pasta into rapidly boiling water. Stir to loosen strands. After 2 minutes, add the chopped asparagus to the water. Cook for 2 more minutes, or until the pasta is done to your liking. Remove the pasta and asparagus and transfer to the bowl with the ricotta mixture; add 1/4 cup of the cooking water to the bowl. Toss the noodles to coat in the cheese sauce. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.

Fresh Semolina Pasta
2 1/2 cups semolina flour
4 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt

In a large bowl, pour the flour into a mound, making a well in the center with your fingers. Add the remaining ingredients to the well. Using a fork, slowly begin incorporating the flour into the eggs, until a rough dough forms. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 4-5 minutes (you can also let the dough hook of your stand mixer do this for you). When the dough is smooth and elastic, cover with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into four pieces. Pass each piece through the widest setting on a pasta maker, or the pasta sheet attachment of your stand mixer. I do about 10 passes, folding the dough a few times at the beginning to get it uniformly smooth. Switch to the next smallest sheet setting and pass the pasta through another 10 times. Repeat on the next setting. The dough should be about 1/16th-inch thick. Dust the sheets with plenty of semolina flour to prevent sticking, then fold them over themselves and place on parchment paper while your finish the rest.
Switch to a fettucine attachment to cut the sheets into strands. Place serving size mounds of pasta on parchment. You can either cook the pasta right away, or chill it overnight. (I place the extra in plastic baggies and store in the fridge to use later in the week)

Hazelnut Gremolata
2 tbsp crushed toasted hazelnuts
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl mix gremolata ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Welcome Back

Gah! Where have I been? A looong vacation + no internet access sure makes for a dull blog. Sorry about that.

I hope with this tasty posting you'll welcome me back with open arms. This is the perfect dish for a lazy day - the kind that requires minimal prep time, few ingredients, and a long, lazy soak in the oven, during which you can lie on the couch and catch up on missed American Idol episodes. Oh, and did I mention beer is involved? Pair it with something creamy and something green (I went with polenta and swiss chard), and you've got one of the best - and easiest - comfort dishes around.

Beer Braised Beef Short Ribs
2 pounds beef short ribs
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 11 oz. bottle of your favorite beer (mine is Hoegaarden)
2 cups of beef/veal stock
1 large onion, chopped
1 sprig of rosemary
4 large garlic cloves, crushed

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat. Sprinkle the ribs on all sides with salt and pepper. When the oil shimmers, place the ribs into the pan. Sear on all sides until deep brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Pour the beer into the pot and stir to loosen up any browned bits. Let the alcohol cook off for about 1-2 minutes, then add the stock. Stir to combine, add the rosemary and garlic, then place in the oven, uncovered. Braise for about 3 hours - covering halfway through - until the meat falls off the bone.
Remove the meat; set aside. Discard the rosemary sprig and puree the sauce, if desired. Serve short ribs over polenta or mashed potatoes and drizzle with sauce.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Celebrate Spring at Poste

FINALLY. The chill of winter is (slowly) dissipating, the flowers are blooming, and (yay!) restaurant patios are opening once more. Why not thank the good earth for the return of spring with a garden party at one of the best restaurants in town?

On April 22 - Earth Day - Poste Brasserie will officially re-open its popular courtyard, dubbed "The Garden," with an outdoor soiree honoring FRESHFARM Markets. A $5 admittance fee lets you enjoy wine tastings from regional wineries (Poste is launching an all-Virginia wine list in The Garden - very exciting), cheese tastings from Cowgirl Creamery, a host of tasty punches, and samples of the truffle frites and warm gougeres from The Garden's new small plates menu. The cherry blossoms are great and all, but free food and outdoor drinks are pretty hard to beat.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sweet and Tart

Do you like going wine tasting in Virginia? I sure do. And do you find yourself in the same predicament as me, in which you get so caught up in the fun of wine tasting and the atmosphere of wine tasting and the, well, wine of wine tasing that you find yourself back at home that evening with a bunch of wine you wouldn't normally have bought and you don't really know what to do with? Good, I'm glad it's not just me.

This particular predicament is the cataylst behind this posting. I have gone to Linden Vineyards more times than I can count. I love the place, the people, and, usually, the wines. Linden makes a wonderful dessert wine, the Late Harvest Vidal, and while I am not really a dessert wine person - they usually taste like syrup to me - this one is extremely good (Linden says it has "dense, opulent and warming flavors of sweet nectar and persimmons"...ok). What's more, in the past they've served a gorgonzola tart alongside the wine to showcase how different it can taste when eaten with a more savory, cheese-focused dessert. It was a bit of a revelation to me, realizing how un-syrupy and complex a dessert wine can be when paired with the right foods. So of course I had to buy a bottle. And of course it's sat on my counter for a year, because when am I going to make a gorgonzola tart to un-syrupify it?

Well, I finally got motivated after another trip to Linden several weekends ago and tried my hand at a cheese dessert to go with my dear old Vidal. I added a bit of fig jam for sweetness, a bit of ricotta to mellow the flavor, a bit of pecans for crunch, and presto! A delicious pairing...though I don't think I'm going to wait for another dessert wine to collect dust on my shelf to make this tart again.

Gorgonzola Fig Tart

For the crust:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 tbsp pieces
1/4 - 1/2 cup cold water

For the filling:
1/2 cup gorgonzola
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
2 large egg yolks
Dash of pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried fig jam
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, add the flour, salt and sugar and pulse a few times to mix. Add in the butter and pulse a few times until the mixture looks grainy. Slowly, while pulsing, add the water until the mixture becomes dough when pressed between your fingers. Press the dough into a buttered tart pan and bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the cheeses, egg yolks, and vanilla. Fold in the nuts. Set aside. Spread half the dried fig jam over the bottom of the cooled pie crust, then pour in the cheese mixture, smoothing the top. Drop dollops of the remaining jam in several concentric circles over the top of the filling. Then, using a knife or toothpick, drag through each circle in alternating directions in order to form a pretty patten (see above). Bake in the middle rack of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the filling remains firm when jiggled. Let cool, slice and serve.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Art of Compromise

My dear husband is a bit of a mystery to me. If you forced him to pick a favorite food, there is no doubt in my mind that he would say cheese. (I’m betting that spending some formative toddler years in cheese-snob Switzerland has something do with it). Gooey brie, smoky gouda, creamy mozzarella – we’re talking a serious cheese love affair here. And yet, impossibly, he hates, HATES my childhood favorite, macaroni and cheese. How there isn’t a special place in his heart for that blue box is beyond me…though I suppose it has something to do with appreciating real cheese versus mystery powder. Whatever.

In any case, I decided to employ that time-immemorial tool of a happy marriage and compromise: make macaroni and cheese, but fancy-style, sans box and neon orange glow. It may not look or taste like the mac I know and love, but after a bowlful (or two or three) I’ve decided there’s room in my heart for the grown up version, too.

Grown Up Mac and Cheese
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
3 cups whole milk
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
¼ tsp nutmeg
4 oz. fresh goat cheese
4 oz. gruyere, cut into small chunks
6 oz sharp cheddar, cut into small chunks
1 1b. elbow macaroni or cavatappi
½ cup panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot, bring salted water to boil. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the flour; whisk to incorporate and cook the flour, about 2 minutes. Add the milk, salt, peppers, and nutmeg, and continue to cook, whisking often, until the mixture thickens to the point where it coats the back of a spoon. Reduce the heat to low and add in the three cheeses. Stir often to fully melt and incorporate.

While the cheese is melting, add the pasta to the boiling water and par-cook, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and pour into a large casserole dish. Pour the sauce over the pasta, stirring to fully coat each noodle. Add salt and pepper to the panko crumbs to taste and sprinkle over the top of the pasta. Place on middle rack of oven and bake til heated through and the top is golden and crispy, about 20 minutes.