Corn Cacio e Pepe

IMG_20190714_175312.jpg

Happy Mac n Cheese Day! When we realized that was today, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity! We love mac n cheese around here – from the classic Kraft blue box to the most upscale restaurant variation. The dish we made tonight falls somewhere in the middle. The pasta did come from a box – sorry, way too hot and pregnant to make my own pasta tonight – but cacio e pepe always seems a little fancier than American mac n cheese, just by virtue of its non-English name! In reality, Cacio e pepe is just as simple and homey to Italians as our American mac n cheese is to us, but we can always pretend to be fancy! (PS: you can check out our other mac n cheese creations too on this important day of celebration – Summer Mac n Cheese and Goat Mac). This recipe is courtesy of Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, one of Selim’s favorite blogs, who now has a column in our favorite magazine, Bon Appetit! This variation adds corn for a sweet, summery update. If you check out our previous attempt at a classic Cacio e Pepe, we followed some very specific instructions to make our cacio e pepe not fall victim to clumpiness, which worked beautifully. Deb’s recipe is simpler, without additional fat of butter and/or oil, so we decided to try her way this time. It’s not quite as silky as our other recipe, but definitely wouldn’t call it clumpy! Happy with the result and the saving of a few calories. Our only change from her recipe was to add a little Aleppo pepper, which I really enjoyed.

 

IMG_20190714_180244.jpg

Corn Cacio e Pepe

(Adapted from Bon Appetit)
Ingredients: 
  • 16oz medium sized pasta
  • 3 ears corn
  • 8oz Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, grated
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • [Reserved pasta water]
Instructions: 
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the ears of corn for ~5 minutes and then remove to the side. Once cool enough to handle, slice the kernels off of the cob.
  2. Return the water to a boil and add salt liberally. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  3. Drain and set the pasta aside in a large bowl. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid.
  4. While the pasta and corn are cooking, combine the cheese and peppers in a medium bowl. Mash together with the 1/3 cup cold water until a thick paste forms.
  5. Combine pasta, corn kernels, and cheese paste. Toss together. Slowly add pasta water, stirring continuously until you reach your preferred sauce-like coating consistency.
  6. Serve topped with additional cheese and pepper as desired.
Serves ~4

A Brand New Kitchen!

 

One thing is for sure, 2019 has definitely not be the most prolific year of blogging for us! We already explained our absence in the late fall of last year and winter of this year. (For those who missed it, short version is: the first trimester and half of Ally’s pregnancy involved a lot of nausea and not a lot of eating, which translated into very little cooking and recipe experimenting for us.) Good news is that luckily we got past that and started eating again! But then we bought and eventually moved into our new house… where we’ve been renovating the kitchen for the past 4 or 5 months! (By we I mean that Ally’s uncle and cousin, our general contractors, and their sub-contractors have been renovating our kitchen – we have definitely not been doing it ourselves!) Our kitchen renovations have been extensive, involving knocking down a wall, closing off an exterior door, adding a new window, and completely redo-ing the entire interior! And it is finally pretty much done!

We are SO excited about how it’s come together! We’ve still have a few touches here and there to go, and we’re going to update some appliances from functional to a little bit fancier throughout the rest of the summer – so more pictures to follow! But I’m really excited to share what we have! It’s bold and gorgeous (if we do say so ourselves!) and just what we envisioned!

Highlights: 

Our new 6 burner gas range! Selim has been dying to get back to gas cooking for the past few years of apartment living. (He’s almost as excited about the industrial strength vent hood above it…)

kitchen3

 

Our big old farmhouse sink – Selim won the battle of textured vs smooth front and it’s been met with rave reviews from our visitors, much to Ally’s chagrin.

kitchen4

 

THE TILE. The entire kitchen was designed around this tile! It’s a “Tulip & Reed” Ottoman motif, and the tiles did come all the way from Turkey!

kitchen2

 

Windows / natural light and tons of counter-top and cabinet space. We’ve been living in apartments for the past several years, none of which had any windows in or near the kitchen. We just want to see the sunlight!! Similarly, now that we have a real grown-up house, we wanted tons of counter-top and cabinet space. These are custom-made and both the counters and therefore the cabinets are several inches deeper than standard!

kitchen5

And just for comparison – here’s what the kitchen used to look like:

 

Summer Mac n Cheese

IMG_20190611_161200.jpg

There are some dishes that just scream a certain season to me. A big pot of chili or anything involving a gourd in the fall. Hearty, meat-heavy dishes that are roasted or stewed or crockpot-ed in the winter. But summer… Probably the most seasonally iconic dishes are summer ones! There are just so many – burgers on the grill, corn on the cob, popsicles, salads topped with fruit, triangles of juicy watermelon, and a newspaper-covered picnic table with Old Bay seasoned whole crabs piled on top! Right up there at the top of the summer food list is caprese salad. Fresh, cool, and best with ripe summer tomatoes, caprese salad is definitely quintessential summer fare. So today when coming up with this dish, I thought that the mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil of a caprese salad would make for an interesting summery twist on Mac n cheese!

IMG_20190611_155604.jpg

We have a caveat to our post today though. Neither of us actually ate this dish. I made it for our friends who just had a new baby! They swear it was good, so we’ll just have to take their word for it. Relatedly, the base Mac & cheese recipe here (also the base for Goat Mac), is a great option if you want to make something ahead to bring to someone! You can make it up until the last baking part and then whomever you bring it to can bake it for the appropriate length of time later (which you may need to increase by 10 minutes or so from the immediate baking time as below).

img_20190611_161153.jpg

Summer Mac n Cheese

  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 5 cups dry small pasta (penne, farfalle, elbows, etc)
  • 16oz mozzarella cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • ~10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Instructions:
  1. Pre-heat the oven 400 degrees.
  2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until very lightly simmering. Meanwhile, bring a large pot over water to a boil.
  3. Once the large pot of water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  4. In another saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. When the butter has melted, begin to slowly whisk in the flour. When the flour is absorbed, remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Meanwhile, place the grape tomatoes in a bowl and toss them with the olive oil, 3 chopped basil leaves, and salt & pepper.
  6. Roast them on a small sheet pan for ~15 minutes, until they are just starting to wrinkle and split. Remove from the oven.
  7. Moving back to the stove, slowly whisk all of the milk into the mixture. (It will initially get incredibly thick, then begin to thin out.)
  8. When all of the milk has been added, return the pot to medium heat and whisk continuously for ~3 minutes.
  9. Now add in the cheese and continue whisking.
  10. When sauce has come together, combine the sauce with the pasta and place in baking dish. Top with the tomatoes and remaining basil.
  11. Bake for just an additional 10 minutes, so it all firms up.
Serves 6-8

Herby Stuffed Dates

stuffeddates2

I think Selim has a new favorite herb. Recently he’s been gravitating towards tarragon whenever it is a possible option to add to whatever we’re making (see our last post – Easy Herbed Ham & Cheese Quiche). So when I said I wanted to make some herby, savory stuffed dates, that’s what he suggested. I was inspired by Alia’s easy Ramadan date recipes, where she used chives in a similar manner.

stuffeddates

Awhile back somehow we learned about the use of dates in Middle Eastern culture during pregnancy. Dates are healthy and good source of energy. But also, tradition holds that eating dates towards the end of pregnancy eases labor. The medical community has noticed – several studies have supported the idea that date consumption late in pregnancy decreases the duration of labor, lessen need for labor augmentation, and increases the likelihood of spontaneous labor. These studies are small and not randomized, so not perfect by any means. But given that there’s no harm in date consumption – we’ve decided to try to incorporate them into our diet a little more at the end of Ally’s pregnancy. Hence, we were inspired to bring a date appetizer to our family’s gathering this weekend!

Familyedit
Ally’s grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins, and their kids – all together to celebrate the 80th birthdays of the matriarch & patriarch!

Herby Stuffed Dates

Ingredients: 
  • ~50 large pitted dates
  • 1/2 lb feta
  • 1 tbsp of the feta brine
  • 5 turns of fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
Instructions: 
  1. Open up all the dates halfway. If you bought already pitted dates, this shouldn’t be too difficult.
  2. Place the remaining ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth.
  3. Stuff the feta filling into each date. We found that using a butter knife was easiest, though a piping bag would probably be even easier than that!
  4. Refrigerate until serving.

Easy Herbed Ham & Cheese Quiche

IMG_20190512_094442.jpg

Why is it that it seems like everyone does brunch or breakfast for Mother’s Day? Growing up, we always made Mom breakfast in bed. Reservations for Mother’s Day brunches fill up quickly. Do moms prefer breakfast? Don’t they like dinner too? Who knows… Either way, we stuck with the cliche and made a nice Mother’s Day brunch for Ally’s mom with the rest of her family. We’ve had a hectic few weeks (moving, growing a human, working a ton, traveling almost every weekend, etc), so we were looking for some quicker and easier ideas that would still be fancy enough to honor Mom’s special day. (So sadly, doughnuts and bagels were out…)

In the end, we decided to throw together a simple quiche, made easy by the use of store-bought pie crust. It feels a little fancier because, well French words always sound fancier and because we went heavy on the herb! Tarragon was a nice choice and definitely an underutilized herb in our kitchen. We didn’t use fresh tarragon, another nod to our attempts to simplify our morning, though certainly that would probably only improve the dish. Other herbs would be nice here too – I’m thinking sage or rosemary. This quiche was only part of our brunch, as you can see in the pictures of our spread. Unfortunately our monkey bread, while tasty, wasn’t good enough to share just quite yet. We’ll keep working on it!

IMG_20190512_095054.jpg

Easy Herbed Ham & Cheese Quiche

Ingredients: 
  • 1 store-bought pie crust
  • 1/2 of a small onion, diced
  • 1 cup ham, cubed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 1 tbsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • {Oil if needed}
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a pan over medium heat, brown the cubed ham. If the ham is fatty and releases fat (our was), you may not needed any oil in your pan. If not, add a little bit of oil in here.
  3. After 2-3 minutes or so, add in the onions. Toss to coat in the fat/oil. Saute until softened and fragrant, another 3-4 minutes, and then add the garlic. Cook just another 2 minutes and then set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, milk, tarragon, salt, and several turns of fresh black pepper.
  5. Press the pie crust into a pie pan. Pour the ham, onions, and garlic into the crust, followed by most of the cheese. Top with the egg mixture. Top with the last bit of cheese.
  6. Bake for approximately 35 minutes.
  7. Slice & serve!
Serves 6-8

Rainbow Rice Krispie Treats

rainbowRK2.jpg

Shout out to all the moms out there who have their kids duped into thinking the Rice Krispie treats they make them are such labors of love. (I’m trying to be you one day!) Best joke ever – Rice Krispie treats certainly are delicious, but SO EASY to make! (Don’t worry if you were fooled; I’m sure your mom would labor over a hot stove any day for you…) We adapted these for spring with bright colors, only varying from the original Rice Krispie Treat recipe a tad!

RainbowRK.jpg

We’re bringing these treats to our work spring potluck lunch, but they’re perfect for any spring gathering or just to have around the house as you welcome spring with it’s beautiful flowers and warmer temperatures! Also, Easter is fast approaching and if you want an easy dessert, sure to please the adults and kids alike, here you go!

rainbowRK3.jpg

Rainbow Rice Krispie Treats

Ingredients: 
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup spring colored (pink, green, yellow) mini marshmallows
  • 4 cups Rice Krispies
  • 2 cups Fruity Pebbles
Instructions: 
  1. Melt butter over low heat in a large pot.
  2. Once the butter is melted, pour in the first 4 cups of marshmallows. Stir, still over low heat, coating the marshmallows with butter and continuing until they are completely melted.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the colorful marshmallows and cereals.
  4. Grease a 9×13 glass pan. Pour the mixture in and press down (with a greased spatula or wax paper over your hand) until smooth.
  5. Allow to cool and then cut and serve!

 

Spring Pasta with Brie, Ham, and Peas

FB_IMG_1555075074060.jpg
Photo credit for this and those below to Matt Riley – UVa Sports photographer, via Facebook

Who doesn’t love spring? Flowers blooming, weather warming up, and March Madness! Ally loves March Madness every year, but this year was extra special. She, along with all the rest of the Cavalier faithful, had incredibly high hopes for redemption for this year’s team. And they DID IT! Monday night, way past our bedtime, the Virginia Cavaliers won the NCAA men’s basketball title game!

Since Ally made/ate this pasta on game night, we definitely have to document it, so she can superstitiously eat it for years to come. I’ve had the idea of making a light sauce with melted Brie floating around in my head for awhile now and am pleased how this turned out. It’s simple enough for a weeknight (or while nervously pacing, waiting for a championship game to start…) and light enough to welcome spring, despite what you might assume from the ingredients. It’s also a great use for leftover ham! By thinning out the Brie, you end up just lightly coating the pasta, so it doesn’t eat like a heavy Mac n cheese or something similar.

springpasta.jpg

Spring Pasta with Brie, Ham, & Peas

Ingredients: 
  • 1 tsp neutral oil
  • 8oz ham, chopped (leftover or otherwise already cooked)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups (dry) bowtie pasta
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 4oz Brie cheese, rind removed
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 2 large basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Heat oil in a large pan over low-medium heat. (If you have some fatty pieces of ham, you may be able to skip this step.) Toss the ham and minced garlic into the pan and cook until ham is warmed and garlic is fragrant.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil and cook pasta per instructions. Drain and set aside.
  3. Remove ham to the side for the moment. Whisk the Brie and chicken stock together; lower heat if needed. Allow these two ingredients to come together over the low heat for the next approximately 5 minutes. Stir in the peas at this time as well.
  4. Return the ham to the pan, along with the pasta. Toss together to coat the pasta with the Brie sauce. Top with pepper and salt as needed.
  5. Serve, topped with fresh chopped basil.
Dinner for two!