Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mac and Greens - Love in a single dish

Love. There are few things in life that that come close to feeling as good as love. Food, another four letter word, can spark us to wax poetic about our connection to something apart from ourselves.

Dinner tonight was the food equivalent of a crush. 

Our CSA share yielded a very tasty...but spicy bunch of purple mustard. (I ate one large leaf raw and it made my eyes water and nose itch.) It occurred to me that most Macaroni and Cheese concoctions use dry mustard power in the roux. Why not use sauteed mustard greens instead? (Okay, I realize this is not a novel idea. Someone can probably Google an entire website dedicated to mustard-pasta-cheese dishes.) Nonetheless, I was inspired.

The Method (Mac, Greens, and Cheese)
  1. Steam then sautee 8 C. raw, chopped purple mustard leaves until al dente. Set aside.
  2. Cook 1# short pasta (We used fusilli)
  3. Riffing on Alton Brown's M&C recipe, prepare a roux of 3TBs each flour and butter. Cook 5 mins.
  4. Add minced onion, paprika, 3 C. milk, cayenne pepper, bit of dry mustard, and a bay leaf. 
  5. Cook 10 mins or until thickened.
  6. Season with S&P.
  7. Stir in 1 1/2 C. grated cheese (We used Super Sharp Cheddar, Grana Padano, and regular cheddar)
  8. Once the cheese is incorporated, add in the sauteed mustard leaves.
  9. Pour mixture over cooked pasta spread in a baking dish.
  10. Cover with 1/2 C. grated cheese.
  11. Cover with slices of "real" tomatoes
  12. Cover with 1 C. crushed cheezit-type crackers (We used TLC brand) mixed with 3 TBs wheat bran and 3 TBs melted butter.
  13. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

The Method (Arugula and Strawberry Salad)

Again, inspired by a recipe found on the Orchard Pond Organics (our CSA) website, I decided to return to a raw salad approach to arugula. 

  1. Roughly chop a large bunch of arugula (We each ended up with massive portions)
  2. Slice into this a pint of fresh strawberries
  3. Add cubed feta cheese (although goat's cheese would be an excellent choice)
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and balasamic.

The Result

Words fail when trying to describe how decadent this meal was. First, it was not overly cheesy. There was enough sauce to coat everything, yet not enough to sufficate all the other flavors and textures. The greens blended creamily with the cheese, but kept a little body - a terrific complement to the al dente pasta. Their spiciness was very muted, but infused the dish. Tomatoes as a topping? We decided this tasted like an amazing grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.

This was definitely a - Where have you been all my life - dish!

The salad, too, was gorgeous! Five, fresh, bright flavors set against the melded (and melted) mac and cheese. The roughness of the arugula leaves contrasted with the soft pasta and greens. Strawberries peeking above everything with their tart fruitiness. Another winner. 

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Kudya Bwino Bwino (Eating Well) © 2009