Monday, September 28, 2009

Mac and Cheese (or Cheese and Mac?)

Mac and cheese is an ultimate comfort food. I like mac and cheese from a box (Annie's) but homemade mac and cheese is soooooo much better. This recipe is not actually mine. It's written down in this little recipe notebook I have. I wrote it down my junior summer in college when I worked at Moosilauke, and I'm pretty sure that it's from a giant green binder of recipes that landed at the lodge from AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) huts' kitchens.

I think it's okay for me to share it because it's not a published recipe and I also usually don't follow the recipe exactly, I'll explain how under the recipe in the variations section.

8 ozs. pasta (macaroni, shells, anything small)
1/4 c. butter
2 eggs
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/2 lb. cheese (what kind? discussed below)
12 ozs. evaporated milk

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Boil mac according to package directions, err on the side of al dente since you'll be baking it a bit more.
3. Toss w/butter in an ovenproof casserole.
4. Mix in the rest of the stuff.
5. Top with breadcrumbs.
6. Bake for 20 minutes.
Cheese - 1/2 cheddar and 1/2 Swiss is a fantastic combo, and is what I usually make. But I can also think of a lot of other good ones too.

As is, this mac and cheese is incredible, but yeah, 1/4 c. butter and 1/2 lb. cheese is not so good for you.

Variation - healthier version, pictured in the photo
8 ozs. whole wheat pasta (macaroni, shells, anything small)
optional: up to 8 ozs. veggies (leftovers are great, or veggies that you can throw in with the pasta while it's cooking! Here, I used about 8 oz. green beans, cooked with the pasta)
1.5 - 2 T. butter
2 eggs
1/2 t. dry mustard
scant 1/2 lb. cheese (~3/8 lb smoked gouda, ~1/8 lb asadero)
12 ozs. skim milk
whole wheat breadcrumbs

Follow the same directions as above, remember to throw the veggies in the pasta if you want! There's still a lot of cheese in the recipe, but that's the way mac and cheese, or cheese and mac should be!
Other veggies that would be great: broccoli, peas, or chopped hearty greens cooked in the boiling pasta water. Sauteed peppers, onions, spinach, or snow peas. Any leftover grilled veggie like eggplant or zuchini!
(And yes, I did eat half of this for dinner... by myself!)

Eggplant dip/spread

I love having lots of different things in the fridge for sandwiches. Yesterday I had a lone eggplant from last week's CSA that needed to get eaten since today (Monday) is when we pick up this week's box. So here's a quick and easy recipe for a dip/spread that is great on sandwiches, and would be just as tasty as a dip for crackers, pita chips, or veggies.

1 medium eggplant (or other size, adjust other ingredients accordingly)
1 clove garlic
1/4 c. pine nuts
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
small handful fresh mint
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse eggplant and put on a hot grill, or in a 35o degree oven. Rotate it every 8 minutes or so, until it's very soft. At least 20-25 min. on a grill, or maybe 50-60 min. in the oven.
2. When it's cool enough to handle, scoop all the insides out of the eggplant into the work bowl of a food processor.
3. Add all the other ingredients, and process till it's smooth!

That's it! If you want this as a dip, you might want to add a little more liquid to make it thinner. Olive oil, yogurt, or tahini could all be used. My sandwich for lunch today was a pita with this eggplant spread, Cabot cheddar (Hunter's extra sharp), avocado, and tomatoes and spinach (which is the tastiest spinach I've ever had) from the CSA. And check out the carrot in the picture - that's from the CSA today - who's ever seen a carrot that's red on the outside and orange on the inside?!