Thursday, January 29, 2009


Growing up, we didn't eat lasagna very much. I'm guessing it had something to do with those thick noodles that broke during boiling and required a great deal of counter space to lay out. I think, too, manicotti made from homemade crepes or ravioli--back in the day we had Star Ravioli right in Englewood Cliffs--held greater appeal. When I began making my own pasta and then later when I discovered places that sold wonderful homemade pasta sheets, I began to make lasagna on the holidays. What really revolutionized lasagna and made it a weeknight meal, however, was the introduction of the no-boil noodles back in the 90's. I much prefer the taste of these thin sheets of pasta to those thick, curly-edged noodles of my childhood.

While I've frequently "lightened" lasagna made with tomato sauce, I haven't tried too many lightened versions of bechamel-dressed lasagna. In an old Cooking Light annual review, I found this recipe for chicken florentine lasagna. I've made a bechamel-like sauce before using evaporated skimmed milk and was generally pleased with the results. This lasagna was very tasty. I will make it again but will add some mushrooms and some part skim ricotta to fill in those layers. It would be equally tasty as a vegetarian dish; just eliminate the chicken and add some roasted red peppers and mushrooms to the spinach.

This is a great weeknight meal. It goes together in about 10 minutes and cooks in 30 minutes. It is also light in calories and fat, so fits into my more healthy eating commitment.

Serves 41 1/2 tbs butter
3 tbs flour
2 (12 oz) cans evaporated skim milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
cooking spray
6 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 6 oz)
1 (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3/4 cup (3 oz) part skim mozzarella, shredded

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for about 30 seconds. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Stir in the salt and nutmeg and cook until thickened. This could take from 5-8 minutes,

Spray an 8 inch square baking dish. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom. Arrange 2 noodles on top of the sauce. Top with half the chicken and half the spinach and 3/4 cup of the sauce. Repeat layers, ending with noodles. Spread remaining sauce over the noodles, covering them completely. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the cover and top with the mozzarella. Bake 5 minutes more. Let stand about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


To turn a phrase of Dr. Oz's, "Me on a Diet" is the name of the game. It's not my first attempt to shed some weight and will likely not be my last. It may, however, be my smartest since at the ripe old age of 59, I finally believe that it won't come off as fast as it went on. has been a wonderful (free) tool to analyze what I eat and how and when I exercise. My own common sense and large collection of cookbooks enables me to cook and eat delicous food while shedding pounds.

Losing weight doesn't have to be painful if you stay away from processed and pre-packaged food. My attempt to jump start my weight loss a few years back lead me to what I affectionately called the dog food diet. That's because I wanted to howl and bark each time I opened one of the packets. I never ate the soup packets as soup; rather, I made "chips" out of them. The "delicious" shakes were like chocolate snow cones--yuk! The chili truly smelled like canned dog food. It called to mind the scene in The Prince of Tides when mom, chastised by her brutish husband for her high-falutin food, opens a can of dog food and heats it up and Voila! hash.

With pre-packaged food firmly behind me, I decided to try a recipe I had seen prepared on the Food Channel in combination with a recipe from Weight Watcher's New Complete Cookbook. I'd never seen the show Ask Aida before and probably won't tune in again, but she was preparing shoyu chicken, something I lived on each time I visited Hawaii. I cut her recipe in half since I'm only feeding 2 and I still have plenty of leftovers. For the vegetable fried rice, I made a few substitutions and added a shot of low sodium soy sauce.

Both recipes are very straightforward. There is prep work, which is typical of any Asian meal, but the actual cooking time was minimal. Both recipes got a "10" (and, yes, I do score each new recipe I try and write down my comments and scores; it helps me remember what to put in the rotation and what to ditch permanently).

Recipe for Shoyu Chicken
3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/8 cup mirin
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and smashed
3 tbs corn starch dissolved in 3 tbs water
3 thinly sliced scallions, for garnish

Combine all ingredients except cornstarch and water and scallions in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Turn occasionally.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Remove the garlic and ginger and discard. Bring the sauce to a boil, skim off any excess fat, and cook about 10 minutes, until slightly reduced. Mix the cornstarch and water together, then whisk into the pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, dd the chicken, and turn to coat. Serve with the sauce and the scallions.

Recipe for Vegetable Fried Rice - 6 servings (3/4 cup each)
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup water chestnuts, sliced into small matchsticks
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 scallions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups cooked and cooled brown rice
1-2 tbs low sodium soy sauce

Spray a large nonstick skillet or wok with nonstick spray and heat over medium high. Stir-fry the carrots, mushrooms, water chestnuts, garlic, and scallions about 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Transfer to a bowl.

Spray the skillet with more nonstick spray. Add the eggs and cook, stirring until eggs are set, about 2 minutes.

Add the vegetables, rice, and soy sauce to the eggs and toss to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, until heated through.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meatballs and Spaghetti the Barefoot Contessa Way and Stuffed Artichokes

Those of you who visit The Food of Love regularly know that I have been drawing on two of Ina Garten's cookbooks for a great many of my recent posts. Up to this point, she'd been batting a thousand. While her recipe for meatballs and spaghetti wasn't bad, it just couldn't compare to my usual Sunday gravy and meatballs. She is upfront about the fact that this isn't something her mother made and goes on to reveal that she did some research for her recipe. She discovered an old trick that we use to keep the meatballs moist and fluffy--the addition of water. Unfortunately, no one told her that you need to use some grated onion and minced garlic to give the meatballs some flavor. Her meatballs used the same proportions of beef, veal, and pork that I always use. While she used fresh white bread crumbs, she neglected to soak them in milk for added richness. The addition of a scant amount of nutmeg really didn't affect the taste one way or another. If you don't like onions and garlic, you may prefer Ina's meatballs.

Her sauce recipe was a bit more successful, but only as a quick sauce. I also believe the good result was for two reasons. First and foremost, I never use any canned tomato unless it is from San Marzano. Second, I had no other red wine in the house other than a port. This turned out to be a happy thing because it imparted an additional sweetness to the sauce which, otherwise, would have been rather bland.

So, while I wouldn't condemn Ina for her attempt at Italian food, I'd recommend that you go to my sidebar and use my own recipe for meatballs and tomato sauce (located under Pasta Recipes and within "Never Say Basta to Pasta).

Ina's Meatballs - 16 meatballs
1/2 lb ground veal (I had to grind my own since no markets around do it)
1/2 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs--4 slices, crusts removed
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tbs fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I prefer Locatelli)
2 tsp salt (I recommend using just 1 tsp because of the cheese)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
vegetable oil
olive oil

Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 1/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combne very lightly with a fork. Use your hands to lightly form the mixture into about 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable and olive oil int a large skillet. Heat the oil, then carefully place the meatballs in the oil, in batches, and brown well on all sides. Remove to a plate covered with paper towels to drain. Discard the oil, but don't clean the pan.

Ina's Tomato Sauce
1 tbs olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup red wine
1 28 oz can plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tbs chopped parsley
1 1/2 tsp salt (I prefer 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the 1 tbs olive oil in the same pan in which the meatballs were fried. Add the onion and saute about 8 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up the brown bits, until almost all the liquid evaporates. This step is critical to get some flavor. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper. Return the meatballs to the sauce. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes. Serve hot over cooked spaghetti and pass the grated cheese.

The sauce had a decent flavor and is something I would make again for a quick mid-week meal. With the spaghetti and meatballs, I served some stuffed artichokes. Again, I used a new recipe and it was tasty, but not as good as using a stuffing similar to what I use for my Thanksgiving bird. The recipe was on the side of the can of artichoke bottoms.

Stuffed Artichokes
2 cans artichoke bottoms (I used Cento)
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 tsp butter
4 oz pancetta, diced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups flavored bread crumbs (these are drier than freshly made)
3/4 cup grated cheese
4 tbs garlic
3 tbs freshly chopped parsley
2 tbs freshly chopped basil
1 tsp freshly grated black pepper
juice of 1 lemom

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Soak the artichoke bottoms in cold water.

Saute the onions in the butter until tender. Set aside. In a small sauce pan, cook the pancetta in 1 tbs olive oil.
In a large bowl, combine the onion, pancetta, and all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the olive oil and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese.

Remove the artichoke bottoms from the water and pat dry. Put a drop of oil in the center of each and stuff generously with the mixture. Place bottoms in an oven-proof casserole and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and bake for 15 minutes.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cook the Books Reads The Language of Baklava

What can be better than having friends who share your passion for books and food? Thanks to Cook the Books (, a food blog created by Debbie of Kahakai Kitchen ( , Rachel, The Crispy Cook ( , and Jo of Food Junkie not Junk Food (, I have been introduced to several wonderful texts that I might otherwise have missed. Our current selection, The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber, is one of those books that I just can't let go of. Unlike most of my books which I donate when I'm finished reading them, this volume is stashed away among my cookbooks.

" dad says cooked cabbage should be like a lady's skin," I say, then catch myself, distressed that I've actually quoted Bud.

But Mr. Basilovich is pleased by these thoughts of a kindred spirit. "Yes, of course, like the softest skin. The butter, how it works through the cabbage leaves! And the taste of the lamb comes next--he looked delicately at his wife--"like a kiss."

Olga looks away, embarrassed by her father, who has gone in one moment from intellectual and aloof to too sensual and nakedly emotional. "Dad, come on, don't talk about food like that," she says, and folds her arms. "It's just food."

This passage, and so many others in Diana Abu-Jaber's memoir The Language of Baklava, resonated with me. They immediately called to mind passionate, emotional conversations I have shared with family and friends about the foods we love. Our unabashed moans and squeals of delight as we've licked the spoon clean of dark, creamy voluptuous chocolate or described a meal or a particular food as better than sex belie Olga's belief that "it's just food." These visceral emotions about tastes and smells and cooking and food weave throughout the stories that Abu-Jaber spins about her brash, but lovable father Bud, a Jordanian immigrant for whom food evokes the memories of his homeland.

As I read about first one and then another of Bud's schemes, most revolving around opening a restaurant, I remembered my maternal grandmother and the wonderful, if short-lived restaurant she opened. Too used to feeding family, it was difficult for her to treat the restaurant as a business instead of as an extension of her kitchen.

The scene where Bud and his brothers struggle to butcher the lamb reminded me of stories of my paternal grandmother, who died when I was just 3. She would don an old fur coat that hung inside the chicken coop before wringing the chicken's neck and plucking it clean for dinner. No one ever explained to me why she wore the fur coat or if it were only during the winter that she wore it. It was just another of our family's many tales of remembrance, many of which revolved around food.

By the time I'd read halfway through the book, I felt as if Bud were another of my many cousins or uncles and I dreaded the time when I'd get to the last story.

On a different note, Abu-Jaber's memoir made me realize more fully how incredibly brave people must be to emigrate from their homeland. Being a third-generation American of Italian descent, it is difficult to imagine having to give up everything that is familiar and to replace it with that which is different or strange or, at the very least, inexplicable. The struggle between the lure of his new country and the memories of all that was dear to Bud could only be quieted by his recreating the scents and tastes that he grew up with in his new land. Food is the tie that binds most of us to our family traditions and memories.

Initially, I worried about what dish to cook from this wonderful memoir. I don't eat lamb and I haven't prepared many middle eastern dishes. I wanted to recreate something from the book itself instead of just a dish reflective of the Jordanian culture. I finally decided upon Bud's special rice and grilled chicken. I confess that I was thinking these would be rather pedestrian dishes, so I figured I'd spice things up by making maple-roasted butternut squash as an accompaniment.

I needn't have worried. Larry took one bite of the chicken and pronounced it fantastic. I had to agree. As for Bud's special rice, although I lightened it up a bit, it was still incredible. I felt like a doubting Thomas for having wondered if cinnamon and rice in anything but rice pudding could work. I can guarantee that both dishes will be included in my rotation and that I will serve them both next time I host a buffet.

Bud's Special Rice (with some healthy alterations) - Serves 4-6
4 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 cups brown rice
3 tbs butter, divided
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the water, 1 tbs butter, and salt to a boil, add the rice, and boil for 2 minutes. Turn to low, cover the saucepan, and simmer for 25 minutes, until the water is absorbed. As the rice cooks, melt the remaining butter and saute the pine nuts until they are golden. Place the rice in a serving dish, sprinkle with the toasted nuts and butter, and sprinkle with the cinnamon and pepper.

"Distract the Neighbors" Grilled Chicken - Serves 4
2 tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
juice from one lemon
3 tsp brown sugar
3 sprigs rosemary, chopped (must be fresh, not dried!!)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs

In a gallon bag, mix the oil, garlic, lemon juice, brown sugar, and spices. Add the chicken, stirring to coat with the marinade. Seal bag after removing the air and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, turning occasionally.

Place the chicken on a hot grill and grill 6-7 minute on one side. Turn over and grill an additional 3-5 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Serve with Bud's special rice.

If you love to read and love to cook, please drop by Cook the Books. I can't wait for our next journey.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bubble, Bubble, Toil, and...Double

With apologies to the Bard for taking license with his verse, today I have a double post. First, I'd like to share some exciting news about a must-have cookbook that is in the making. If you don't know about BloggerAid ( click on their logo on my sidebar, it's a wonderful venture by 3 dedicated food bloggers--Ivy of Kopiaste ( ), Giz of Equal Opportunity Kitchen ( ), and Val of More Than Burnt Toast ( to bring attention to world hunger. Among their many projects is an incredible fundraising venture whose profits, 100% of them, will be donated to the World Food Program, A U.N. Frontline agency. They are being assisted in this worthy cause by Gloria of Cookbook Cuisine ( and a cadre of like-minded food bloggers. There are many ways to help out as you will discover when you visit BloggerAid. One of them is to submit an original recipe that has not been featured on your blog to date. All the information for participating is laid out at BloggerAid.

My own recipe submission is a favorite cold-weather dish, one that we enjoyed earlier this week, Slow-cooked Tuscan Pork with Beans. This ain't your daddy's pork and beans. It's a hearty, earthy dish that is as flavorful as it is economical. It can easily serve 8, but if you're lucky enough to have leftovers, it reheats well with the addition of some broth, or just shred the pork and add some of your favorite sauce for a great sandwich. Please visit BloggerAid to see how you can help this wonderful initiative.


I have a wonderful recipe to share that produces 2 completely different soups. I can live on soup in the fall and winter and try to make a pot every week or so. This beef soup is simple, but has an incredible flavor thanks, in part, to the soup bones and marrow. The vegetable puree is made with the vegetables that simmer in the beef broth so nothing is wasted. The beef soup will serve 6 generously; the vegetable puree serves 4. Both soups freeze well, but why would you want to?
2-3 beef soup marrow bones, sliced (see photo)
1 lb beef chuck
1 (8 oz) can tomatoes, squeezed to break into small pieces
3 large carrots, peeled and halved
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 large potato, peeled and quartered
3 celery stalks with leaves, halved
3 parsley sprigs
salt and pepper to taste
8 cups water
1/2 lb acini di pepe, cooked and drained just before soup is ready to be served
freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese for garnish

Place the soup bones in cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse well.

Place the washed bones, beef, vegetables, and seasonings in a large soup pot. Add 8 cups of water and slowly bring to a boil, skimming off any foam
Simmer, covered, for 3 hours, stirring from time to time.

Remove the bones, meat, and vegetables. Shred the meat and reserve. Strain the vegetables and set aside. Strain the broth into another large pot** and return to the heat.

Cook the pasta and strain. Add the shredded beef and the pastato the broth and heat through. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with grated cheese.

**in truth, I like to make this soup the day before or early in the day and place the strained broth in the refrigerator. Chuck has more fat than most beef and in this way the fat solidifies and I can scoop all of it off the broth before continuing; it's delicious with the fat, but more healthy without it

Vegetable Puree
You can make this at the same time so the flavors can meld or refrigerate the vegetables and make the next day. Place all the vegetables (even the parsley) in a blender or food processor. Add 1-2 cups low sodium chicken broth--I prefer a thicker puree so used just one. Blend until completely smooth. The flavor of the beef with the pureed vegetables is just wonderful.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lemon Artichoke Chicken

We all know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Nowhere is that truer than here in food blog territory. The other day I was longing for taco hamburgers for dinner when I discovered that I'd neglected to buy ground round. Nor did I even have ground chicken or turkey in the freezer. As we all know, when the going gets tough, the tough go blog-hopping and off I went. It wasn't too long before I popped into Debi's Kahakai Kitchen( where I saw this recipe for Lemon Artichoke Chicken. Debi had found it in a magazine called Clean Eating, one I hadn't heard of before. If the recipe hadn't already sold me, her photo of the chicken served with pasta would have. Fortunately, I had everything on hand and dinner was saved. (One unfortunate speed bump was that my bunch of fresh parsley had died; next time I will definitely have this on hand as dried parsley just doesn't do it for me.) I made virtually no changes to the dish other than to use some leftover flour mixture to further thicken the sauce.

This dish is extremely low fat and low calorie, but it definitely gets high marks for taste. In fact, the next day I heated a portion just enough to take the chill off and served it over a tossed salad and it was equally delicious. I served it with rice, but next time will try it with pasta "Kahakai Kitchen" style. Oh, and did I mention it takes about a half hour to prepare? This is definitely in the rotation and I think it would be delicious with shrimp or fish as well as chicken.

Serves 4
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tbs dried oregano
freshly grated black pepper
1/4 cup Kosher salt, plus additional to season to taste
1 lb thinly pounded chicken cutlets
olive oil cooking spray
1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 (14 oz) can artichokes, drained and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Combine the flour, oregano, pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt
Dredge each chicken cutlet in the mixture and place on a plate (save any remaining flour mix)
Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray
Heat on medium to medium high so skillet is hot, but not smoking
Add 1/2 the chicken cutlets at a time and cook 3-5 minutes on each side, until browned
Cover plate to keep cutlets warm (I put them in a 200 degree oven)
Heat oil and saute onion for 5-6 minutes, until golden
Add garlic and saute 1 minute more, stirring to keep garlic from burning
Sprinkle remaining flour mixture over veggies and saute 1 more minute (I added this step)
Pour in chicken broth and bring to a simmer (the flour thickens it a bit more)
Add artichokes, lemon juice and zest and simmer another 2-3 minutes to heat through
Season to taste
Pour over warmed chicken cutlets
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve

(N.I. for 4 oz chicken and 1/2 cup artichoke mixture is 220 cal, 4.5 g total fat, 1g sat fat, 65 mg chol, 20g carb, 2g figer, 2g sugar, 27 g protein)

This is a very zesty and flavorful dish and one that I will be making again very soon. Thanks again, Debi.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Dragon. Thanks to those of you who commented. Dragon, if you'll e-mail me your snail mail address, I'll put the trio of little black books in the mail to you. I can't wait to buy a new box of aluminum foil so I can try out the roll blocker.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Let me begin by telling you that I am 59 years old and I have been cooking seriously for the last 40 years. I guess you could say I know my way around the kitchen. You COULD say that, but in this instance you would be wrong. I discovered something today via an email that I simply cannot believe I never noticed or heard about.
As I was reading the email, I had to go into the kitchen and check it out for myself. Now, I'm not trying to make excuses, but would ever look at the end of an aluminum foil or plastic wrap box? Not me.

You know when you try to pull some foil out and the roll comes out of the box? My box below had to be taped together because it finally broke from having the roll fall out so often. What I'm going to share with you may not cure the common cold, but it is startling, nevertheless. At the end of the box it says, "Press here to lock end." Okay, did you just run to the kitchen to check your own boxes? As you can see, my foil is not the nationally-known brand and it still has this message. How long has this little locking tab been there? My box of plastix wrap has one, too! I can't count the number of times the plastic wrap roll has jumped out when I was trying to cover something up.

Am I the only one who didn't know this? I'd love to hear from those of you who visit The Food of Love. Please leave me a comment before midnight EST this Friday, January 9, 2009 about this startling discovery of mine. I will randomly select a winner, who will receive this trio of "little black books."

Who says, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks?"

Monday, January 5, 2009


Does anything signify the New Year more than taking down the Christmas tree and undecorating your house? I decided that this would be the year that I went through the many boxes of decorations that I don't use and get rid of them. I also decided to repack the decorations differently and label them clearly. The first step was bringing up the many boxes, bags, and containers. What lessens the load, of course, is having able helpers. As you can see, "Mother's Little Helpers" had ideas of their own about how best to accomplish this task

Along with cleaning out the Christmas decorations, I thought a personal inventory was in order as well. While I've been fairly consistent with my efforts to exercise, using a combination of walking, yoga (on hold right now due to some vertigo issues), and strength training, I'm been more ambivalent about what I've been eating. As promised, you'll be seeing an emphasis on healthy eating on The Food of Love in upcoming days.

For those of you who've made a resolution to eat more healthfully and to exercise more faithfully in the New Year, you might be interested in a helpful site that I've resumed using. I have a bit of experience using different sites to journal my food and exercise, and I find that offers the best since it allows you both to focus on nutrition and exercise as well as offering lots of advice and motivation. If that isn't enough to "spark" your interest, it's absolutely FREE.

So, I just finished a Jillian Michael's power sculpting routine, I have my menu and shopping list made out, and I'll be walking the village streets later this afternoon. My hope is that there'll be less of a healthier me come spring. Want to join me?

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Today's post rings out the old year--I know, I 'm a few days late. It's a decadent, comfort food, based on another Ina Garten recipe. It's by no means a healthy choice unless you're somehow able to eat a half cup portion, and I'd like to meet that person. What elevates this mac n' cheese above others is the addition of Gruyere cheese and freshly-made bread crumbs. Of course, you can use all cheddar cheese, if you're a purist, but I recommend breaking out of the box and using a heady Gruyere.

Be forewarned, friends in Foodieland, that Monday begins a new focus for The Food of Love. Or, should I say, a return to a healthier style of eating. Undoubtedly, there will be exceptions, but I hope to at least begin the New Year with good intentions. Yes, we all know where that road leads...

Meanwhile, this mac n' cheese can stand on its own, or it makes a wonderful accompaniment to a spiral ham.

Serves 6 - 8 (very generously)
Kosher salt
vegetable oil
1 lb pasta (I love these spirals or cavatappi)
1 quart milk
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
12 oz grated Gruyere cheese
8 oz extra sharp grated cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp freshly grated black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups fresh, white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

**In Barefoot Contessa, Family Style, Ina Garten's recipe calls for 3/4 lb small tomatoes, sliced and arranged on top under the breadcrumbs; I omitted this step because the tomatoes available now would dessecrate this dish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling, salted water

Add the pasta and cook according to package directions (cook al dente)

Heat the milk in a small saucepan (do not boil)

Melt 6 tbs butter in a large pot and add the flour

Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, whisking the whole time

While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for another 2 minutes until thickened and smooth

Remove from the heat and add the Gruyere, cheddar, 1 tbs salt, pepper, and nutmeg

Add the cooked and drained pasta

Stir well

Pour into a 3 qt shallow baking dish

Melt the remaining 2 tbs butter

Combine with fresh bread crumbs

Sprinkle over pasta

Bake 30-35 minutes

Sigh, savor, sin!

Thursday, January 1, 2009


I'll be making a spiral ham with Ina Garten's mac n' cheese later in the day, but for now I wish all my foodie friends and readers a Happy New Year filled with good health. It's a winter wonderland outside our cabin again and the village idiot (me) won't be walking outside this First Day of the New Year.