Monday, November 16, 2009

Food for thought

As we approach the holiday season... some food for thought.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Comfort Food-- Macaroni & Cheese

I love Macaroni and Cheese-- It's classic, simple and delicious! Sure, every cook has their favorite recipe. My Mom's Friday nite standard was made with Velveeta and tomatoes. Today, I can't believe I use to look forward to that meal.. and forget the blue boxed deal. Kraft may sell a million plus boxes of their macaroni and cheese daily--heck, why not? Aside from it's affordability and quick prep time-- I'll pass on this one too.

Everyone knows Martha has a serious following for her famous dish, and though it's tasty.. I still prefer my own. I don't make this one often, but savor every bite when I do. It's rich, creamy, cheesy and simply delicious. With the chillier days arriving, for me, a hot serving of macaroni and cheese with mushrooms, herbs and a crispy crumb top is my idea of comfort food.

Macaroni & Cheese

2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 TBLS olive oil
4 TBLS unsalted butter
2 TBLS white wine
3-4 TBLS flour
2 1/2 cups milk
3 oz fontina cheese, grated
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
3 oz parmigiano reggiano
3 tsp total minced thyme, rosemary & sage
panko crumbs
penne pasta
sea salt & ground pepper

While you cook your pasta, preheat the oven to 375F. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain it, but reserve a half cup of the cooking water and set aside. In a separate saucepan, add olive oil. Saute mushrooms until just browned.Add white wine and cook down until the mushrooms are beginning to carmelize. Season with sea salt and ground pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

Making the cheese sauce:

Add butter to a medium-sized sauce pan. Once melted, on low heat slowly whisk in the flour to make a roux. Whisk until all the flour is dissolved in the butter. Don't scorch this. Begin pouring in the milk while whisking continuously so there will be no lumps. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens a bit. If the sauce is too thick {it should be pourable} add the reserved pasta liquid an ounce at a time to thin. Add to the sauce all the cheeses and herbs. Stir continuously until cheese has all melted. Take the sauteed mushrooms and add these to the sauce pan. Blend well.

In a large bowl tossed the cooked penne with the cheese sauce. Season to taste and pour the macaroni and cheese into a vegetable sprayed baking dish. Sprinkle top with crushed panko crumbs and a bit more parmigiano. Bake uncovered 35 minutes or until lightly browned on top and bubbly. Enjoy!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Moms Fig Jam

I just love, like, enjoy many things in this life but there's one thing that I live for--the fig. I simply adore them. So when I spotted them at the market, I just had to grab a few boxes. My Mom was passionate about making her fig squares, an old New England recipe passed down to her from my grandmother that I have to admit, were the best I've ever eaten. I could always tell we were going to have a tray of warm fig squares as soon as I came into the room and smelled her jam simmering on the stove.

I also want to make some fig cookies for the holidays that I've never tried before, an apple, pomagranate and fig galette recipe that's been sitting on my recipe box for weeks now, and a recipe I saved that fellow blogger Linda of Ciao Chow Linda's posted a few weeks back for her fig frangipane tart.. as I'm a pushover for frangipane and hers looks too tempting not to try. I love topping my apple tarts with a glaze of figs.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Before I can make any of these wonderful recipes I needed to make some fig jam. My Mom always added a bit of chopped dates to her fig jam, but I omit them from mine. She also never added any brandy to her recipe, but I added some homemade Beach Plum brandy to mine. The recipe gave me four pint jars with just a little berry sized bowlful that I drizzled warmly over vanilla ice cream and dove in. Yum!

Fig Jam -- adapted from my Mom

4 cups diced figs, stems removed
zest of one orange
1 orange, peeled and diced small
1/4 - 1/2 cup water--enough to just cover cut figs
2 cups sugar
3 TBLS lemon juice
3 TBLS Beach Plum brandy *optional
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 package Certo Sure-Jell liquid fruit pectin

Wash and trim figs and cut into bite sized pieces. Pour in the sugar and orange zest and toss well In a large pan add figs,orange pieces, lemon juice and just enough water to cover fig mixture. Bring this to a boil a few minutes and stir well until figs begin to soften. I like my figs chunky, so I don't mash them as they cook down. Add spices, brandy.. stir well and add fruit pectin. Allow it to gently boil 3-4 more minutes and ladle into prepared canning jars. Cover and water bath process 15 minutes if you are planning to store this jam. This recipe may easily reduced by half and eaten within three days,{though it would never last that long around here :)} refrigerator stored, if not processing. Then use your imagination on how you plan to use this delicious jam. Enjoy!