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!
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).
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
Pre-heat the oven 400 degrees.
Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until very lightly simmering. Meanwhile, bring a large pot over water to a boil.
Once the large pot of water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
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.
Meanwhile, place the grape tomatoes in a bowl and toss them with the olive oil, 3 chopped basil leaves, and salt & pepper.
Roast them on a small sheet pan for ~15 minutes, until they are just starting to wrinkle and split. Remove from the oven.
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.)
When all of the milk has been added, return the pot to medium heat and whisk continuously for ~3 minutes.
Now add in the cheese and continue whisking.
When sauce has come together, combine the sauce with the pasta and place in baking dish. Top with the tomatoes and remaining basil.
Bake for just an additional 10 minutes, so it all firms up.
Happy March! We hope this will be a great month for everyone. We’re really excited about March, because we closed on our house on the first! We’ve spent much of this weekend over at the new house, planning our renovations, picking colors, and generally being proud homeowners! We made these potatoes when we got home to accompany some meatloaf. They’re so easy – perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. The cooking time is about an hour, but your hands-on time is less than 10 minutes! Easy to put together, with just a few ingredients, and delicious! What else can you ask for??
2 Russet potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp truffle oil
1 tsp truffle salt
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp granulated onion
10+ turns fresh black pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice potatoes fairly thinly.
Stir together the oils, salt, garlic, onion, and black pepper. Toss the potato slices with the oil mixture.
Stack the potato slices horizontally in a glass baking dish and roast for 1 hour.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. Return for just another 2 minutes to melt the cheese.
Growing up, when we were having a special treat or the whole extended family was together, my grandmother would make us her ‘sticky buns.’ Now that she has passed away, my mom thankfully has taken on the responsibility of the sticky bun making! It was only after I was probably in my mid-20s that I realized what we called Grandmom’s sticky buns was what most people call monkey bread. You know what I’m talking about… those sweet, sugary, pull-apart balls of doughy deliciousness that taste of cinnamon and frequently have chopped nuts attached! (This is a point of contention in my family – nuts or no nuts?! The two parties are bitterly divided and therefore Grandmom and Mom make one dish with and one dish without the nuts. I’m on Team Nuts, for the record.) As I was writing this post, I decided to look up the history of monkey bread. Fun facts for your bank of useless knowledge:
Monkey bread was termed such because we eat it using our fingers, pulling apart each chunk, which was thought to mimic the way monkeys eat.
Alternative names include: monkey puzzle bread, sticky bread (I guess this is where we got our sticky buns moniker!), pinch-me cake, bubble bread, and Hungarian coffee cake.
The origin of this treat is probably the Hungarian-Jewish arany galuska, brought to this country by Eastern European immigrants in the late 1800s.
American monkey bread differs from arany galuska as each dough ball is dipped in butter, which was not part of the original recipe.
So there you have it – more knowledge than you ever knew you needed about monkey bread! Now this version is a savory adaptation of the sweet breakfast tradition. The base concept is the same; dough balls, dipped in the butter, stacked haphazardly prior to baking, and eaten pulled apart with fingers. While I love the original, this cheesy, herby version is amazing! It’s an amazing alternative to regular bread to accompany dinner, but it definitely would still work as a breakfast dish.
Cheese & Herb Monkey Bread
(Adapted from Home Skillet, by Robin Donovan)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted & divided
1 cup warm milk
1/3 cup warm water
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp yeast
3 1/4 cups AP flour
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups Asiago cheese, shredded
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
3 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
In a large bowl, combine 2 tbsp of melted butter, milk, and water. Stir in the sugar and yeast. Let the mixture sit for ~10 minutes, until frothy.
Stir in the flour and salt. As it comes together, switch to kneading the dough with your hands. Once you have a dough ball, place it in a clean bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise for 90 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together the two cheese in another bowl. Remove 1/2 cup to another small bowl.
Add the garlic and herbs to the main bowl and toss together.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface until roughly 1/8th inch thick. Spread the cheese mixture onto half of the dough and then fold the other half over top.
Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into small squares. Roll each square into a ball.
Using the remaining melted butter, brush butter on all surfaces of your cast iron skillet. Then dunk each ball into the butter prior to placing in the skillet. Layer the balls across the bottom of the skillet and then stack into further layers as needed.
Sprinkle the dough balls with the reserved cheese.
Bake for 40 minutes in the oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes prior to eating. Run a knife around the edges and then flip the skillet over onto your serving platter.
After making Minty Watermelon, Cucumber & Feta Salad last week, we had some leftover mint. By “some leftover mint,” I really mean, “Did this package of mint grow exponentially more mint?” I feel like it’s pretty much impossible to use all the mint in a package and even more impossible to use all the mint that most people grow. We didn’t want to waste any of the fresh herbs, so I was exploring Pinterest this weekend for a dish that would put these ingredients to good use. After awhile I found this recipe that not only required minimal shopping, using up the mint and feta, but also a mostly hands-off and healthy dinner for tonight! We were really happy with how this turned out. It’s light, but filling and flavorful! Thanks Pinterest (and Live Eat Learn) 🙂
I, like most other people I know, love a juicy summer watermelon. It is just so refreshing and delicious! I remember that my grandfather always used to (and probably still does) put salt on his watermelon, which I thought was absolutely crazy. I thought that salt would ruin the sweet taste. Through the years, I’ve come to realize that a lot of people like salty touch with their watermelon. If so many people like salted watermelon, there’s got to be something to it right? And then I realized that the salty watermelon thing was taken to the next step with feta and watermelon salads. This combination is all over Pinterest and summer restaurant menus. And logically, I understand that salt balances sweet and brings out brighter flavors. Yet for some reason, I still never tried it. Well that mistake is over. I didn’t know what I was missing.
The watermelon is still the star of this salad, but it doesn’t taste like just a fruit salad with some feta on top. It’s a little more savory than expected. The mint flavor is strong and makes it nice and herbaceous. Don’t worry about the vinegar on the cucumbers either – it’s not overwhelming at all. Overall a great salad for summer! 😎
Minty Watermelon, Cucumber & Feta Salad
~1/4 cup white wine vinegar
5 cups watermelon, chopped
3/4 cups feta cheese, diced
~10 leaves fresh mint, chopped
Peel the cucumber, then slice it length-wise. Scoop out the seeds. Slice into half-moons.
Marinate the cucumbers in the white wine vinegar, topped with a few turns of fresh ground black pepper, for at least an hour.
Chop the watermelon into bite-sized chunks. Chop the feta a little smaller, more of a dice (can you dice something that’s not a vegetable??). Tear or chop the mint leaves. Combine all of these in a large bowl.
Drain the vinegar from the cucumbers. Add the cucumbers in with the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine.
As promised, here’s the recipe for the gorgeous salad hidden in the corner of one of our pictures from Saturday night’s Patatas Bravas with Super Garlic Aioli! Ally’s cousin Emily is responsible for this dish, and we’re hoping this is the first of many of her creations we’ll share on here (you should see some of the incredible desserts she makes). This salad is beautiful for your eyes and your taste buds – I mean, you can’t really go wrong with cheese, summer peaches, and prosciutto! The ingredient amounts are easily adjustable for different numbers or preferences of diners. Basically framework for a beautiful summer dish! Emily mentally combined a few recipes she’d come across to yield the final result of this one – inspiration from here, here, and here.
This salad came together, in part because of the THREE MASSIVE BAGS of fresh, juicy summer peaches that my aunt/Emily’s mom brought home from Saunders Brothers. August is National Peach Month, and we definitely know why! ❤ ❤
Peach & Burrata Salad
3-5 peaches, peeled & sliced
2-4 balls of burrata, cut into chunks
6-8 slices of prosciutto, torn into bite-sized pieces
Fresh mint, chopped
Balsamic glaze (homemade or store-bought*)
*If making your own balsamic glaze, reduce balsamic vinegar with brown sugar in a 4:1 ratio (ie: 1 cup vinegar to a 1/4 cup sugar) at a simmer until thickened and syrupy.
Assemble salad by placing mixed greens on a platter or in a large bowl. Top with the remaining ingredients.
If you’re anything like me, when eating at a Spanish tapas restaurant you can’t pass up thequintessential tapas dish – patatas bravas. These little potatoes are a little spicy and a little tomato-y and just perfect dipped into a classic garlic aioli! We made a super garlicky aioli to go with ours, and it was delicious! Traditionally, these potatoes are fried and then topped with a spicy tomato sauce. But tonight we roasted our potatoes, after they had been tossed in the tomato sauce. The results were crispy and flavorful, with a soft interior to each bite. This is a great side dish for a group and is a pretty convenient dish to have to make when entertaining guests. So much can be done in advance – the potatoes can be chopped and tossed in the sauce well before cooking, and if you want to make an aioli (hint: you do!) that can also be done in advance.
We had ours tonight with a less traditional accompaniment – steamed Chesapeake Bay blue crabs! Don’t be skeptical… they worked perfectly together! We ate this delicious summer smorgasbord with Ally’s aunt, uncle, and cousin. Up next we may just share the gorgeous summer salad you see in the corner of the picture below, courtesy of Ally’s cousin Emily!
Roasted Patatas Bravas
4 Russet potatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tomato paste
1 tbsp paprika
1 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp dried thyme
15 turns fresh ground black pepper
1+ tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Chop potatoes into bite-sized chunks.
In a large bowl, stir together all of the remaining ingredients.
Toss the potatoes in the bowl and coat with the sauce.
Spread the potatoes out on a cookie sheet (or two), avoiding overcrowding. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, flipping them over roughly halfway through.