Stick-to-your-ribs Mac’n’Cheese

I made this the other night and my husband didn’t even miss not having meat at dinner since this mac’n’cheese is so substantial.  It’s a great opportunity for a vegetarian dinner or you could even mix in some faux meat and still keep things kosher.  I mixed grilled bell peppers into ours and served it with crusty whole grain garlic bread.  (Clearly, this is not kosher for Pesach!)

What you need:

1lb. box of elbow macaroni (if you use whole grain, you will have to boil it slightly longer)

1/3 cup kosher unsalted butter (I like to control the salt in my food)

2tsp. black pepper

1 1/2 tsp. kosher sea salt

1tsp. hot Hungarian paprika (optional – regular paprika also works well and gives a nice colour)

5 cups whole milk (just do it!)

1/4 cup flour

2tbsp. cream cheese

2 cups grated extra sharp white Cheddar cheese

2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and follow the instructions for boiling your macaroni, except that you will want to pull it out and drain it a minute or two earlier than the package says (about 7-8 minutes at a good boil).  In the meantime, melt your butter in a large saucepan.  Once the butter has melted, sprinkle in the flour and mix well with the butter (this part is called “making a roux”).  Cook the mixture until it’s just a golden blonde colour (DO NOT WALK AWAY WHILE YOUR ROUX IS COOKING!!!!  People who say a roux is hard to make are people who walked away and burnt theirs.).  Add the milk and start whisking vigorously.  Keep on whisking until all of the roux is dissolved in the milk.  Whisk some more (but not quite as vigorously) until the mixture has thickened into a gravy-like texture (Mazel tov!  You’ve made a béchamel!).  Season with salt, pepper, and optional paprika.  Melt in the cream cheese.  Begin adding the white Cheddar about 1/4 cup at the time.  Make sure each time that the cheese you’ve added is melted before you add more or you’ll end up with a big stringy ball.  Next, add 1 cup of the regular Cheddar 1/4 cup at the time and then add the Parmesan.  Once all the cheese has melted into the sauce, combine your drained pasta, cheese sauce, and any mix-ins (veggies, fake meat, real meat, etc.) together in a large casserole dish.  Top with the remaining 1 cup of Cheddar cheese.  Bake until the cheese on top is melted and bubbly (about 20-25 minutes – longer if you have mix-ins that need to heat up, just cover it with foil to keep the cheese from burning).  Let cool slightly before serving because it will be like molten lava when it comes out of the oven.  Enjoy!

So yummy! (Yes, I know I need a food stylist.)

 

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Cold Borscht? It’s better than it sounds…

It’s hot here – like really, really, really hot.  It’s too hot to slave in the kitchen all day for a hot Shabbat evening meal.  I found a recipe for cold borscht on Haaretz and thought what a great alternative to the gazpachos everyone goes crazy for in the summer (especially since I have yet to be convinced that there’s a difference between gazpacho and a really good salsa).  I’ve tweaked it a little since the original recipe was a little plain.  You could serve this with some some grilled white fish and grilled potatoes/veggies for a complete meal.  And did I mention that beets are good for you?

Here’s what you need:

5-6 medium beets, peeled

4 cups water

1tsp kosher salt

1/4tsp Hungarian hot paprika (I can’t say enough how much I love this stuff, and it’s packed with Vitamin C)

1tbsp sugar

1tbsp kosher balsamic vinegar

1tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2tsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp black pepper

In a pot arrange the peeled beets in water. Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the beets are fork-tender.  Remove the beets and purée.  Add black pepper and lemon zest to the beets and freeze into ice cubes.  Vigorously blend the salt, sugar, paprika, vinegar, and lemon juice into the remaining beet juice.  Chill for at least 4 hours and serve cold.  I recommend serving it in a fancy glass with the beet ice cubes mentioned above and a dollop of sour cream on top.

Healthy, pretty, and great in soup!

Pumpkin Pie Pain Perdu

I love anything pumpkin, and it’s got lots of vitamins in it too.  There isn’t too much sugar in this recipe since it relies mainly on spices.  If you’ve got leftover challah, this is perfect.

3/4 loaf of challah, chopped into 1″ cubes (or about 6 cups of another bread cubed)

1 small can of pure pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie filling)

2 cups whole milk

1tsp. vanilla extract

1tsp. cinnamon

1/2tsp. ground nutmeg

6 eggs

1/4 cup granulated sugar

A pinch each of ground allspice and ground cloves

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Place the bread cubes in a lightly greased casserole dish.  In a medium bowl, whisk together vigorously the milk and eggs.  Once these have combined, add the pumpkin and again whisk vigorously as you add the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.  Everything should be well-blended and look like creamy pumpkin pie filling.  Carefully pour this over all of the bread cubes, making a special effort to get in all of the nooks and crannies.  You might have to do one round, wait for that to soak in, and then pour over the rest.  Place this in the oven to bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Serve with warm maple syrup and hot coffee (or white hot chocolate, I love white chocolate and pumpkin together).  Enjoy!

So yummy!

Ultra-Decadent Strawberry ‘Shortcake’

Growing up in Central California, I ate a lot of strawberries.  There were strawberry festivals and pick-your-own stands galore.  Here in NC, it’s near impossible to find good strawberries.  But, if you can find just one carton of really good strawberries (or high-quality frozen ones), you should give this a try.  It’s my version of a gourmet strawberry ‘shortcake.’

What you need:

4 1″ thick slices of brioche

2tbsp. Turbinado sugar

1lb. strawberries, sliced (not too thin)

1/2 cup Port wine

1tbsp. granulated sugar

1tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a saucepan, add the Port, strawberries, granulated sugar, balsamic vinegar, and vanilla.  Simmer on low until it reduces to a syrup-y consistency.  Sauce should coat the back of a spoon.  Lay out your slices of brioche on a broiler pan or other fire resistant surface.  Sprinkle the tops with the Turbinado sugar and then run over the sugar with a kitchen torch (or place under the broiler, but be careful!) in order to “brûlée” the sugar.  Don’t burn it!  (Burnt sugar= yuck!)  Serve strawberries over the crunchy side of the brioche in a bowl (the syrup will spill over the bread, soaking into the bottom as it sits, but the top will still stay slightly crunchy).  Top with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or Marscapone cheese.

Ananas et choucroute – the kosher way

I love sauerkraut (choucroute), and I love pineapple (ananas).  Perhaps it’s my Eastern European ancestry, but I just can’t resist the sour goodness of purposely spoiled cabbage.  I can’t explain the pineapple thing.  In any case, both sauerkraut and pineapple are pretty good for you.  This dish packs a massive dose of Vitamin C and is another of my kosher ‘translations’ of a recipe I found elsewhere...it’s the perfect mix of sweet and sour!

What you need:

2 small white onions, chopped

2tbsp. kosher olive oil

1 large can kosher sauerkraut (or a 1.5lb bag)

1/2 cup kosher white wine

2tbsp. sugar

1tsp. kosher sea salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 can pineapple chunks, unsweetened

1 Granny Smith apple, finely chopped

2 oz. bacon alternative (turkey, lamb, duck, beef, etc.)

Sautée your bacon alternative in a large sauce pan on medium heat until crisp.  Remove and set on paper towels to drain.  Roughly chop or crumble (different bacon alternatives cook up slightly differently).  Add the olive oil to the fat left in the sauce pan and add the chopped onions. Season with salt and pepper.  Once onions have softened, add apple pieces and let soften slightly.  De-glaze the pan with white wine and then add in bacon alternative bits, sauerkraut, and sugar.  Reduce the heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes, add the pineapple, and then simmer for another 20 minutes.  There you have it.  Delicious, kosher, and good for you (minus that bacon alternative part!).

To make this extra festive for say, Shabbat dinner (hint, hint, it’s Friday today), you could cut the top off of a pineapple, hollow out the pineapple using a good knife, fill the pineapple with the sauerkraut, and if you want, put the top back on for a surprising serving dish!

 

Easiest Recipe I’ll Ever Post

This is by far the easiest recipe ever.  The key is presentation, and it tastes delicious.

Summer Squash Bake:

What you’ll need:

2 large heirloom tomatoes sliced thin, then cut the slice in half (or Beefeaters, but the heirlooms come in lots of different colours which adds even more wow)

2 zucchini, washed well and sliced thin

2 large yellow squash, washed well and slice thin

1 tsp. kosher sea salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 tbsp. kosher olive oil

1 round glass pie or other round baking dish

This dish relies almost entirely on presentation for it’s real wow-factor; otherwise, it’s sort of just roasted veggies.  So, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and start with either the zucchini or the yellow squash.  Alternate the two with a slight overlap around the outermost edge of the pan.  Once you’ve finished going around once, do the next circle inside, and then the next, etc. until you can no longer make a circle.  I find the deadspace in the middle of this first layer a good place to pile in the tiny slices from the skinny end of the yellow squash (they’ll get hidden in the end).  Most likely, you will be able to do a second layer, repeating the overlapping circles pattern.  Finally, arrange the tomato slices on the top.  If you have enough you can overlap them, or do any pretty design you can think of so long as they cover most of the squash underneath.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes.

I think putting the tomatoes on top makes the flavour of the entire dish better since the salt really helps their juices drip down into the rest of the veggies.  It’s so simple and when I took this dish to a beach outing, I got a ton of compliments.

Coconut Grouper with Orange Marmalade Sauce

This is really just an adaptation of a Paula Deen recipe for coconut shrimp, but obviously, shrimp are not kashrut.  I thought grouper would be a good substitute with the caveat that you need to handle it a little more gently when frying.

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Grouper

  • peanut oil, for frying
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup coconut water
  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 lb grouper*

Directions:

Dipping Sauce:  Add all dipping sauce ingredients to a pot on a low temperature. Heat for 10 minutes, making sure you stir ingredients every few minutes.

Grouper: In a large, heavy pot, heat 2-inches of the peanut oil to 325 degrees F.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Add the coconut water and whisk until smooth.  Let the batter stand for 15 minutes.  In a wide, shallow bowl or plate, toss the coconut and bread crumbs together.  Carefully put the grouper into the batter. Remove the grouper and dredge in the coconut mixture, pressing to help the coconut adhere. Fry the grouper in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes per side or until brown. Use a slotted spoon to carefully transfer the grouper to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Serve the grouper with the dipping sauce.

It’s not a pretty fish, but it sure tastes good!

*Some tips for buying fish: Buy from reputable fish mongers (preferably kosher ones and always watch for ‘species substitutions’).  If it smells like fish, it’s not fresh.  Fresh fish doesn’t smell like fish.  Look for clear eyes and firm flesh.  If the eyes look cloudy or the flesh is squishy, the fish is probably as old and nasty as it looks.

Fettunta with Deconstructed Greek Bruschetta

These sound really sophisticated, and yet, they are really simple, delicious, and make great appetizers or hors d’oeuvres.  Fettunta is basically garlic bread and the deconstructed Greek bruschetta is really a pile of delicious Greek-inspired ingredients that turn a simple slice of baguette into a tower of mouth-watering awesome.

What you need:

1 12″ baguette (the skinny ones will leave less bread and more toppings which is of course, yummy)

1 large clove of garlic, peeled and split in half lengthwise

1/4 cup kosher olive oil

3tsp kosher sea salt

2 8oz packages of goat cheese (should be in log form), sliced relatively thin but not as thin as the tomatoes

2-3 heirloom tomatoes (find pretty ones to really jazz up this dish), thinly sliced

1/2 cup olive tapanade*

Slice your baguette into 24 1/2″ slices on the bias.  Grill either on an outdoor grill or on a grill pan on your stove (or using your broiler if you’re in a pinch).  Immediately rub each slice with the cut side of the garlic clove (use each half for 12).  Brush lightly with the olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  If you stopped there, you’d have traditional fettunta, but we’re going for gold!  So – place a slice of tomato on the bread, top with a slice of goat cheese, and then top with your olive tapanade.  Ta-da!  I told you it was easy.

*You can use store-bought tapanade, but I also really like making my own.  I take Spanish olives, Kalamata olives, and a much smaller proportion of black olives and mince them finely or throw them in the food processor with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt, and pepper.  For a little extra bite, you can also toss in a few capers.  A Kalamata olive tapanade recipe can be found here or you could use Emeril’s much more complicated recipe.

Simple Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

Tried this one out tonight and I think it passed the test kitchen approval process.  Granted, we really love mushrooms at our house.  It’s a pretty simple recipe, especially considering the store-bought add-ins.  (This recipe is kosher-dairy.)

What you need:

1lb rough chopped mushrooms (at least some of these should be a meatier variety like Baby Bellas)

3 tbsp kosher olive oil

1tsp kosher sea salt

1/2tsp black pepper

1/2tsp garlic powder

1tsp red pepper flakes

15oz jar of good Alfredo sauce (kosher or not)

12oz. package of lasagna noodles

10oz. chopped spinach, drained well

2 cups ricotta cheese

2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses (save time by buying the pre-shredded blend)

Begin by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.  Next, parboil your lasagna noodles.  I’ve found that even the ones that say “oven ready” really aren’t, so I would recommend throwing them in some boiling water just for a few minutes (don’t completely cook them).  Drain your noodles when they’re done and set aside to cool so you can handle them in a minute.  In a large skillet, heat your olive oil and then add all of your rough-chopped mushrooms.  Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Let the mushrooms soften.  It should take about 15 minutes.  Once softened, add the Alfredo sauce and lower the heat just to keep the mixture warm.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta cheese, and red pepper flakes.  Be sure to stir well in order to evenly distribute the spinach throughout the cheese.

Time to assemble!  I used a 7×11″ glass baking dish, but I think this is probably flexible depending on how deep you want your lasagna and what you have handy (the glass does seem to keep the cheese from sticking better).  In the bottom of the pan, make your first layer of lasagna noodles (a 7×11″ pan will take 3 noodles laid length-wise for each layer).  Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles carefully.  Top with 1 cup of your shredded cheese blend.  Add your next layer of noodles.  Spread half of the mushroom and sauce mixture over this and top with another layer of noodles.  Repeat the cheese layer, add another layer of noodles, and spread on the remaining mushroom mixture.  Top with the final 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.

I already snagged my piece…yum!

Bake for approximately 45 minutes.  I like the cheese on top crusty so I didn’t cover it, but if you wanted it less brown on top, you can cover the lasagna with aluminium foil for 30 minutes and remove it for the last 15.  Serve with garlic bread and a crisp white wine!

Pinot Grigio, Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna, and a 1/2 Bolillo roll turned into garlic bread

 

Sweet ‘n Spicy Whole Grilled Chicken

I tried this out over the weekend just to make sure it would work on an entire chicken (I had done a similar recipe with chicken thighs in a slow cooker), and it turned out great!

What you need:

1 whole kosher chicken

1 cup orange marmalade

1/4 cup spicy brown mustard

1tsp red pepper flakes

1 brick wrapped in heavy duty aluminium foil

Birds under Bricks

Best picture I could get with my camera phone.

The hardest part of this recipe is butchering your chicken.  After removing any included giblets, etc., sit the bird up on its behind and begin running a very good knife from the top down one side of the back bone.  If your knife gets stuck, you might have to wiggle it a little to break through any cartilage.  Repeat down the other side of the back bone so that you can remove it.  Slice about 1/8″ into the top of the breast plate and flatten the chicken out.  The sternum (I guess that’s what it’s called in a chicken…just think of where it would be on yourself) should be removed to make it flatten evenly.

Next, in a bowl whisk together the orange marmalade, spicy brown mustard, and red pepper flakes.  Pour this marinade over the chicken and preferably, let it sit for at least 4 hours.

When you’re ready to grill, put the chicken with the inside facing down on the grill first.  Place your wrapped brick on top (over the thighs mostly) to help it cook evenly.  Cook for about 15 minutes, remove brick, flip, place brick back on bird, and cook for another 15 minutes.  The juices should run clear at that point and you have a delicious grilled chicken.  The meat comes out tender and flavorful and the skin gets charred and spicy.

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