This is the story of how a typo turned into an entree. In Whatsapp group of fellow moms, coordinating the dishes of a potluck, someone offered up a Samoa cake. Misreading that for “Samosa Cake” many of the moms jumped at the prospect: “Samosa cake?! What’s a Samosa Cake?! I want to try it!!”. After clarifying the mix up, some ideas were thrown around as to what a samosa cake would look like. I immediately thought of layers of phyllo dough stacked with a samosa meat mixture, baked and cut in slices. When I looked up for recipes that would meet these requirements, I pulled together elements from a Borek recipe (Turkish layered meat pastry), an Egyptian meat pie, and the filling from a Yemeni Samboosa. There are cubanelle or italian frying peppers here for flavor, often seen in Turkish recipes. There’s tomato paste from the samboosa recipe, an ingredient that is necessary for any red meat dish, in my humble opinion. And the whole layering and baking technique pulls from Egyptian meat pie recipe.
It’s January and I know many of us are trying to find ways to eat healthy. I’ve had a little extra time on my hands so I’ve been coming up with different ways to eat healthy/less meat/fewer carbs. Not exactly low fat though. Kale caesar salad. Chana dal with veggies and coconut milk. Tomato soup. Today I whipped up this salmon and mixed vegetable sauté. Follow along for inspo on my Instagram!
I’m calling this my #baesic salmon because even though it’s a basic way to cook it, it’s bae in my recipe book. I’ve tried cooking salmon just on the the stovetop, and it just burns on the outside before cooking through on the inside. If you lower the heat too much you don’t get the nice crust. This way, if you sear it on the stovetop, finish it off the oven, you get the best of both worlds. I wasn’t sure if it would be done actually, but when I dug into it, it was juuuuuuust slightly pink and rare in the middle. If you prefer it cooked well through, leave in for 2 more minutes.
I know we all tryin’ to eat more nutritious food, less meat, fewer carbs. And I know salmon isn’t exactly the best option either. It’s overfished, not sustainable. But I for one need to change things up from beans, lentils and eggs. We still do chicken once a week or so. Red meat once a month maybe. Baby steps.
For the mixed vegetable sauté:
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 5 organic carrots (they’re smaller, so if using big carrots, use 3-4)
- 1/2 large onion or 1 medium onion
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 oz cauliflower florets, or from 1 head of cauliflower
- 12 oz broccoli florets, or from 1 large head of broccoli (I had two small heads of broccoli)
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- more salt and pepper to taste
For the salmon
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 2tbsp unsalted butter
- 12 oz salmon fillet
- salt and pepper
- a squeeze of lemon
- For the vegetable sauté: heat up oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add carrots, saute for 2-3 minutes, then add onions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the garlic, then broccoli and cauliflower florets. Add butter and more salt and pepper. If the veggies are starting to brown too easily on the bottom, reduce heat to medium. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until veggies are crisp tender, 10-15 more minutes. Taste for seasoning.
- For the salmon: Preheat oven to 350F. Score the skin side of the salmon – about 3 slits diagonally. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Melt butter and olive oil in at least a 9in round french or other ovenproof skillet. When bubbling stops, add the salmon, skin side down. Don’t touch it for at least 2 minutes. When there’s a nice crust, it’ll lift off easily. Flip over carefully, minimizing splatter of hot oil, using two spatulas if necessary. And cook for an additional 2 minutes. Then insert in preheated oven for 7-8 minutes.
- Remove from heat, finish with a squeeze of lemon and let rest for a few minutes before serving. Serve alongside steamed quinoa or brown rice.
Ramadan is halfway over, but there’s still time to make some of my favorite recipes for this time of year! Going clockwise from the top left:
Citrus Quinoa Salad with Dates, Almonds and Mint – we consume a lot of dates during Ramadan. This recipe uses up any extra dates you may have in a salad you can feel good about eating at the end of a long fast!
Meyer Lemon Strawberry Lemonade – I know sugar is the devil. I know. But you have to try this lemonade. It is light years beyond any bottled strawberry lemonade you can find. Recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman.
Basil Smoothie – a surprising staple in many homes I’ve introduced this smoothie to. Basil, yogurt, sugar and ice makes for an unexpectedly refreshing drink.
Tandoori Chicken – an easy, make ahead dish. When you’re fasting, you’re low on energy. So the less time you have to spend on your feet in the kitchen, the better. These chicken legs get a quick marinade of yogurt and spices. Then about 45 minutes before eating, pop them in a hot oven. That is all.
Mint Limeade – aka virgin mojitos. The refreshing flavors of lime and mint make this the perfect compliment to your break-fast meal.
Haleem – a protein packed Ramadan must. It’s one stop, one pot iftar. Stewed meat, grains and lentils combine to make the most filling, comforting dish possible. Can probably make this in your slow cooker as well.
Fruit Chaat – refreshing and easy. Simply combine your favorite fruits – try to ensure varying textures and levels of sweetness. Try apples, grapes, kiwis. Or pineapple, cantelope, raspberries. Or mango, blueberry, nectarine. Leave the yogurt/chaat masala dressing on the side, or mixed in, for a variation of your favorite fruit salad.
Banana Date Nut Bread – another healthy way to use up dates. The potassium from the bananas and dates combined with the fiber from the whole wheat make this bread great to have on hand when you’re short on time for your pre-dawn meal. Can bump up the fiber content with flax seeds, chia seeds, etc.
Aloo Chop (Fried Mashed Potato Balls) – not the healthiest thing on the list, but a comfort food must for many of us South Asians. Mashed potato balls stuffed with bits of hard boiled egg, breaded and fried. Yum!
Ramadan is coming up! I figured I should add a few more Ramadan friendly recipes to the blog, for those of us who are looking to depart a bit from the usual fried foods iftars. During these long summer days when we’re denying ourselves food and liquid for 15 hours straight, we need to treat our bodies well! This is a dish you can feel good about eating, that’s not going to make you crash before the long night of ibadah (prayers) you have lined up.
This recipe is based on one from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. I know a quinoa salad is not the first thing you think of when you consider French cuisine, but she’s filled her cookbook with things she makes for her family, without strictly adhering to a particular cuisine. In our hyperconnected world, it’s kind of impossible to resist influences from other regions. She’s got a Moroccan Tagine and carrot salad, small plates from her American upbringing, French pastries and traditional stews from her current residence. And she’s kind of an authority when it comes to food so I trust her with my quinoa!
I’ve taken a lot of liberties with her recipe though. First was to change the prep method for the quinoa. For some reason the package directions always tell you to cook it covered over low heat for about 15 minutes. That always gave me soggy quinoa. My way gives perfectly cooked and fluffy quinoa every time. Second, I nixed the ginger powder for cinnamon since I hate ginger and thought cinnamon would compliment the citrus. Third, I increased the fruit to nut ratio for my sugar loving palette. She suggests using any kind of dried fruits, nuts and herbs. I combined the dried fruits, nuts and herbs I thought would work best (dates, almonds and mint). You could also do raisins, pine nut and parsley. Or apricot, walnut and cilantro. It’s a vibrant, tasty way to prepare your quinoa that uses up the plethora of dates we often have lying around during Ramadan.
- 1 1/2 cups quinoa
- 1 cup medjool dates, pitted and diced small (about 7 dates)
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- salt and pepper
- juice of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 orange
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (recommended: Trader Joe’s California Estate EVOO)
- In a small saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to boil. Add quinoa and lower the heat to medium low. Cook for 12 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. After the 12 min are up, turn off the heat and put the lid on. Let steam for 3 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Set aside.
- Toast the almonds on a dry skillet over medium heat. Stir occasionally. When the nuts are light brown and fragrant, take off the heat and let cool.
- Chop the mint and combine with the dates and nuts in a large bowl.
- Make the vinaigrette: combine the orange juice, lemon juice, cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and olive oil in a jar. Put the lid on and shake vigorously.
- Add the quinoa and vinaigrette to the large bowl. Combine everything and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper as needed.
The first thing I do when someone sneezes in the house, is submerge a chicken in a pot of boiling water to make chicken stock for soup. That’s a normal, knee-jerk reaction, right?
Ok, perhaps I exaggerate. But there’s just something about the thought of clear, warming chicken noodle soup that makes me feel like it will banish all the ickiness of a cold away. And while the classic has a special place, this tomato paste and spice spiked version will carry you over from your sick days to your top o’ the mornin’, heel clickin’ days. Because for some reason, the weather is still dipping below freezing here in NYC in the middle of spring and the kids have caught strep throat while the hubby and I work our way through the common cold. Un-believable.
Back to the soup. It was the perfect dish for my crusty-bread obsessed husband to dip his baguette into. It was the only thing my preschool aged son has ever declared his love for, apart from trains and well, me. And it was one of the few items I did not have to struggle to finish from the fridge as a leftover.
If I make my own chicken stock, I usually boil away chicken with veggies (onion, garlic, carrot, celery), aromatics (parsley, dill, thyme, bay leaf) and seasoning (salt, whole peppercorns). However, unlike most, I take the chicken out about an hour into the process, strip the meat off the bones, and re-submerge the carcass. That way the bones continue to flavor the stock for about 2 more hours and I don’t have to waste the meat. Does that make me crazy?
If you are using store bought stock, it comes together SO fast. When I don’t have homemade on hand (which is quite often) I use Saffron Road Halal Artisan Chicken Stock. Awesome flavor and deep golden color. You can tell it’s not just one of those salt water in a box chicken stocks. And if you want to make this vegetarian, use vegetable stock and chickpeas in lieu of the chicken. The tomato paste and spices are magical in how they liven up pretty much anything.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
- 2 carrots, diced small
- 2 celery stalks, diced small
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp each of cumin, coriander and paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp salt plus more to taste
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
- 14 oz crushed tomatoes (if you have a 15 oz can that’s fine)
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup shredded chicken
- 1/4 lb spaghetti or noodle of choice
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Saute for 4-5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic and spices (cumin, coriander, paprika, salt and pepper). Cook for 2 minutes more, allowing the vegetables to get more tender and the spices to toast up a bit.
- Add the tomatoes, broth, chicken and pasta. Cook for 9 to 10 minutes, depending on the package directions of your pasta.
- Add the cilantro and taste for seasoning.
One of my first cookbooks ever was Giada De Laurentiis’s “Everyday Italian“. From it, I made my first pesto, marinara sauce, bolognese, vegetable bolognese, her fabulous balsamic roasted chicken, and many other Italian classics. For that reason, it will hold a special place in my bookshelf. One thing I noticed though, was that many of the tomato based sauces required celery, onion, and carrots as the base. While I always have onion on hand, the times I bought celery and carrot for those specific recipes, it was a pain to try to finish them off. I’m not a big celery-snacker. I might make a salad out of the celery and carrot (though I much prefer carrot and mushroom salad). So while I appreciate the flavors attributed to the classic mirepoix (sweet onion, sweet earthy carrots, licoricey celery), I needed one that suited my family’s needs and my grocery habits.
Enter My Go-To Bolognese. Olive oil. Onion. Garlic. Beef. Tomato. Seasonings. Almost all of these things I have on hand – I don’t even bother with the fresh herbs. Dried oregano. Basil already in the canned tomato. Done. Deal.
I amp up the flavor with crushed red pepper flakes. I add tomato sauce along with the crushed tomatoes – something I picked up from watching Pioneer Woman. It adds moisture and flavor to the sauce. And the best part is…
It gets better the longer it sits in the fridge. The first day you taste it, you’re like yeah, it’s good. But the second day you taste it and you’re like wow where did this meaty flavor come from?! And because my family is relatively small (both kids under 6), I can get away with freezing half and thawing it out later in the week when I’m knee deep in frosting for a cake order! One of the few things I don’t mind eating out of the freezer.
And the cinnamon! It’s my not-so-secret-anymore ingredient. Ever since I made Ina’s Pastitsio, I fell in love with the flavor combination. It makes you go “hmm what is that?!” – in the best possible way.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 1/4 tsp salt plus more to taste
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 15oz can tomato sauce
- In a medium saucepan, warm olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and ground beef. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and the meat is no longer pink. Add the seasonings: garlic, oregano, salt, both peppers, cinnamon, sugar and bay leaf. Stir until fragrant – 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. When the sauce comes to a boil, lower the heat to low and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 to 45 minutes.
- Taste for seasoning and serve with pasta of choice and a grating of fresh parmesan.
I had a hankering for warm, comforting American dishes the other day. Creamy tomato soup. Potato leek soup. Corn chowder. Pan seared scallops. Flat bread dotted with goat cheese and herbs. Just things I wouldn’t usually make since there isn’t a huge appetite for these things in our household. Take exhibit A: potato leek soup. Despite my daughter’s proclamation that she LOVED THIS SOUP and my husband’s accolade, “this soup’s good, Jaan!”, they each had just one serving. Just one. So guess who else had ALL the remaining servings?Yours, truly, of course. When I was a work study (undergraduate doing an on-campus job) at Columbia Business School, I would go down to the cafeteria and scope out what I could afford. Back then, a small soup with crackers cost about $4.75. With tax, it came out to almost $6. Which was a lot for me to fork over for lunch. But a girl’s gotta eat. Neither the $3.50 muffin nor the $12 sandwiches weren’t good alternatives.
I looked at a bunch of different recipes before diving into this. I knew I wanted to caramelize the leeks a bit. I knew I didn’t have chicken stock on hand, and not even the full amount of vegetable stock needed for this amount. I knew despite all the different herbs I read people used, I wanted to use dry thyme (one of my favorite pantry items since it adds such a lovely aroma and flavor and I could sense my kids associating its scent with my cooking), and rosemary. Finally, I knew I didn’t want to have a big huge batch because something told me I’d be eating 90% of it.
So I halved the amounts I read in other recipes, I sautéed the veggies a bit longer, and I used a combo of vegetable stock and water. Depending on the type of vegetable stock you use, your color will vary. Mine was the low sodium one from Trader Joe’s. Made from carrots, tomatoes, among other vegetables. Thus imparting an orange hue to a normally off-white soup. The type of vegetable stock you use will also affect the seasoning required, so make sure to add just enough salt and pepper until it’s really really tasty. I didn’t put rosemary in the soup directly. I thought the presentation and flavor would be more pronounced with an infused oil added at the very end. Take that, winter.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 leeks, dark ends trimmed
- 4 Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 pound), diced into large chunks
- 1/2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock*
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup cream
- 1 tbsp creme fraiche (optional)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 sprig rosemary
- Slice ends off of leeks and slice down the middle lengthwise. Rinse well to get rid of the dirt in between all the layers. Thinly slice into about 1/4 strips. Heat oil in a large pot (stainless steel or enameled both work) over medium high heat. Add leeks and dried thyme. Sauté until leeks are softened (6 to 8 minutes). Add the potatoes, salt and pepper. Stir to coat all the vegetables in the seasonings. Add stock, water and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, put the lid on and cook for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
- Once the potatoes are tender, turn off heat and remove the bay leaf. Purée the mixture with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. Put the pot with the puree back on medium heat. Add the cream and creme fraiche if using. Stir. When mixture comes to a boil, stir and taste for seasoning. Add more seasoning as required and remove from heat.
- Make the rosemary garlic oil: in a small saucepan, combine olive oil, garlic clove (smashed with the palm of your hand or side of a knife) and rosemary. Cook over low heat, allowing the garlic and rosemary to gently infuse the oil. Remove from heat when fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Ladle the soup in a shallow bowl. Drizzle with a bit of oil and a dollop of more creme fraiche, if desired.
*Can use chicken stock. Can nix the water and use all stock instead. One and half cups was how much I had on hand, so that’s what I used.
I invited my childhood friend, Aileen Olmedo of TheStyleBoro, over for breakfast this past weekend. Her blog is a fun destination for the unequivocally stylish and youthful city dweller. Youthfulness is a state of mind folks, not a number. Rather than prepare traditional brunch items she could enjoy at a number of NYC spots (e.g. eggs benedict, waffles, french toast) I thought I’d make her a spread reminiscent of my beloved babymoon in Istanbul.BTW, Zeynep if you are reading this please don’t hate me if I butchered an authentic Turkish dish. I know you’re supposed to use Turkish peppers, not jalapeno or Chinese peppers. I know you’re supposed to use onion not scallion. And any other changes I made, I only made to make this wonderful breakfast dish a bit more accessible to the average American home cook!I love how the colors pop in a Turkish breakfast spread. White cheese, green cucumbers, red tomatoes, rich Soujuk (Turkish sausage), black olives, fresh squeezed orange juice. Makes for a dramatic presentation. If you can find apple tea and borek (cheese or meat pastry), those are also wonderful additions. Even if you aren’t looking for an all out breakfast extravaganza, you can enjoy the recipe below for Menemen – eggs scrambled with peppers, tomato and onion until they are just barely set. A wonderful change up from your usual eggs and toast breakfast.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 long green pepper (I used the Basque Fryer, but feel free to use a deseeded jalapeno), thinly sliced
- 1 Roma tomato, diced
- dash of cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 6 eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add scallions, tomato, pepper and cook 4-5 minutes, until soft. Add cayenne, paprika and salt and cook for until tomatoes break down and onions get super soft, another 2-3 minutes.
- While the veggies cook, crack eggs into a bowl. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper and whisk with a fork. Whisk well – until the eggs look like a uniform yellow mixture. Pour into skillet and lower the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggs just start to set. Turn off the heat and add the parsley. Give it a final stir and serve with warm bread.
I was going to write about how comfort food for me is not cream laden, starch based dish. About how I would be disappointed during weekend lunches when my mom would bring out a pot of fish curry yet when I moved out to my dorm it was those memories that comforted me during cold, dark and lonely weekday nights. And one of the few things that connected me to my childhood as a married woman cooking for her own family. But I realized I’ve written all of that before. And as touching as it is, I can’t dwell on it. Not with all that’s going on. I am sick of the vitriol being spewed from my screen. From fellow commuters. From people I’ve shared a hometown with for years. But I’m emboldened by the acts of good among all the recent backlash against my community. The little Texan boy that donated his savings to a mosque in his neighborhood that was vandalized. Brandon of HONY, who appeared on Fareed Zakaria, pleading the case of the Syrian refugees. Justin Trudeau and the choir that welcomed refugees with a rendition of Tala Al Badru Alayna – the song that the people of Medina sang to receive the Prophet Muhammad and his followers when they left Mecca due to persecution.Scapegoating, racism, xenophobia – these are nothing new to mankind. But social media is. So I ask you, during these historic times, will we find ourselves as complacent as the citizens of the world during WWII? Will we let the negative news saturate our feeds? Or will we use the platforms we’ve been given to help our neighbors, speak the truth and contribute to the forces of good?
- 2 tilapia filets (about 3/4 pound total), cut widthwise into 1/2 in to 3/4 in pieces*
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp light olive oil
- pinch anise seeds (optional)**
- 1/2 large onion (or 1 medium one), sliced
- 1 Roma tomato, sliced into half inch slices
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeno, tip cut off and sliced down the middle
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp salt
- dash cayenne pepper
- 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, with the tail on
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Season tilapia with turmeric and salt – rub to coat the fish with the spices.
- Heat oil over medium high heat in a large wok or fry pan with high sides. Lightly fry the fish about 2 minutes on each side to get a nice golden brown crust on them. I like to use tongs for this. Do this in two batches. Set aside browned fish on a plate or bowl.
- In the same oil, add the anise seeds and onion and cook until onions are translucent – about 4 minutes. Next add tomato, garlic, and jalapeno. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add cumin, coriander, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine then add 1/2 cup of water to allow the spices to cook down. When the water is almost fully evaporated, add shrimp and stir with the vegetable and spice mixture. Allow to cook for 1 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup more water, the tilapia and bring to a boil. When it reaches a boil, put the lid on and the heat low and allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.***
- Meanwhile chop cilantro. When the shrimp and tilapia are cooked through and the broth looks like a broth (homogenous in appearance, not like water with bits floating in it), then turn off the heat. Add the cilantro and taste for seasoning.
*Cook’s note: you can substitute about 2-2 1/2 pounds of bone-in, gutted and de-scaled fish that have been cut into thirds (e.g. porgy, whiting, buffalo). You can skip the shrimp in that case. We’re looking for flavor here (bones of the fish or tails of the shrimp).
**You ever notice that the French use Pernod (anise liqueur) to bouillabaisse (fish stew) and Italians add fennel to cioppino (fish stew). There’s just something about the combination of anise flavor with fish that just works!
***I know most recipes warn of overcooking shrimp but my personal taste is – I like it with a bit of a bite to it!
Anyone else find themselves questioning their life choices? First world problems, right? I’ve got a roof over my head, food to eat, a wonderful family – so much to be grateful for. But I’m feeling sorry for myself because I haven’t “made it” yet or didn’t pursue one of the more conventional paths of engineering, medicine, or law (not that I have a litigating bone in my body). Of course this comes at a time when most of my high school and college classmates are receiving their secondary degrees and the grass is looking greener on the other side. But I’ve been trying to embody the saying I’ve read recently, “The grass is greener where you water it”. I love my family and would be so empty without them. But I need to reach my professional goals as well. Would love to grow this blog or my little side hustle (custom cakes) but I feel like I’m lacking some guidance. Is it my content? My outreach? Help me out, guys!! Granted I have two little ones, one who is isn’t in school yet, so my resources are limited. Speaking of little ones, for years I lamented that despite my efforts to make mac and cheese from scratch, my kids preferred the stuff from the blue box. Relieved, since dinner could be ready in a snap if I had the blue box on hand. Affronted, as well. So I sought a solution. The problem was the traditional mac and cheese recipes I followed were quite cheesy. Resulting in a strongly flavored and thick sauce.So, I thought I’d make a bechamel sauce, add in a little bit of cheese at a time until it had just enough thickness and was mildly flavored enough for my kiddos, and voila! I made something that my 3 1/2 year old would lick clean off the plate. This comes together so quickly, you’ll be like, blue box, who? Granted you have pre-shredded cheese. I use the Trader Joe’s blend of mozzarella, cheddar and jack cheese. It’s wonderful in omelettes, grilled cheese, etc. Throw in some frozen peas with the pasta during the last minute of cooking to make it a complete meal. Or shredded beef/chicken. The sky’s the limit. I just keep the chicken broth on hand in case it gets too thick. Make this once and you’ll never go back to Panera’s mac and cheese! Feel free to double the recipe if you have more mouths to feed!
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup grated cheese (cheddar or I use a combo of mozzarella, cheddar and pepper jack)
- 3/4 tsp salt plus more to taste
- dash black pepper
- dash cayenne pepper
- 1/2 pound elbows or small shell pasta
- In a medium to large pot, heat about 4 quarts of water over high heat. Let it come to a boil while you prepare the other ingredients.
- When it comes to a boil, add a teaspoon of salt and the pasta to the water. Give it a stir and set the timer to 8 minutes (check the time on the box for shells since I used elbows).
- Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk together. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes. Next, slowly pour in the milk, while whisking. Continue whisking, taking care to get all the bits of flour and butter from the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to a simmer a let cook for 5 minutes. It won’t thicken fully at this point. Make sure the mixture is not boiling otherwise the cheese will curdle*. Turn off the heat (and the heat of the pasta if the timer is up). Add salt and pepper and stir to combine.** Add cheese and stir – now the sauce should be sufficiently thick to coat the pasta.
- Strain pasta and add it to the cheese sauce. Serve immediately.***
*I learned this the hard way after ruining two batches during our suite’s Thanksgiving potluck in college.
**Congratulations, you’ve just made bechamel sauce!
***To reheat, add a bit of chicken broth to a saucepan and warm over medium low heat until heated through.