Aaron was out of town for business on Sunday and I had to work overnight at the hospital, so I was looking for something that I could throw together quickly. On Sunday morning I woke up extra early so I could take a nap in the afternoon. I decided to go over to the Studio City Farmer’s Market near our house. It is an awesome little farmer’s market. Has anyone heard of the actor Ed Begley, Jr.? He’s been in a lot of movies/TV shows and he’s one of Hollywood’s leading proponents of living a “green lifestyle.” He lives in Studio City and he has a booth set up every week at the farmer’s market selling his environmentally friendly cleaning products called “Begley’s Best”. It’s kind of funny. It was such a nice morning—it was slightly cool and foggy (which is a nice change from the always sunny southern California weather)–trust me, it gets annoying, especially at this time of the year. I went over to the market and got a croissant from the local French bakery that sets up a stall—-a legitimate Parisian, flaky croissant, and a fresh squeezed lemonade from another stall—it was heaven! I sat and people watched for awhile and then got some of my shopping done—both for dinner Sunday and for Thanksgiving. There are a ton of vendors: fruits, veggies, pastas, baked goods, pre-prepared meals, jewelry, handmade soaps, clothing, etc… They even have animal rides and little kids rides—it’s really cool–and every Sunday year round.
On to my meal—sooooo good!
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
An especially good rendition of a timeless classic. The sauce can be made ahead and blended with just-cooked noodles before baking, or the entire casserole can be assembled a day in advance (I prepared it in the morning and baked it after I woke up from my nap)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 1 1/2-quart deep baking dish. Bring to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan:
6 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Add and cook just until tender:
2 cups elbow macaroni (8 ounces)
Drain and remove to a large bowl. Have ready:
2 1/4 cups grated sharp Cheddar or Colby cheese
Melt in a large saucepan over medium-low heat:
2 tablespoons butter
Whisk in and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Gradually whisk in:
2 cups whole or skim milk
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
Simmer gently, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in two-thirds of the cheese. Season with:
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Stir in the macaroni. Pour half of the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese. Top with the remaining macaroni and then the remaining cheese. Melt in a small skillet over medium heat:
1 tablespoon butter
Add and toss to coat:
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni. Bake until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
It didn’t look quite as blurry on my camera–oh well.
This can be chunky or smooth. A blend of 2 or 3 apples makes the best-tasting sauce. Begin with a tart-sweet apple like Gravenstein or Newton-Pippin, then mix in spicy McIntosh with Gravensteins or winy Staymans with Pippins. Golden Delicious adds sunny sweetness to any blend. This recipe doubles easily (this makes 4-6 servings):
Place in a large, heavy skillet or saucepan:
3 pounds cooking apples, peeled if desired, cored, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 to 3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice, depending on tartness of apples
1 large cinnamon stick
Cover and simmer, stirring often, over low heat until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Stir in:
Scant 1/2 cup white or turbinado sugar or 6 tablespoons mild honey (I used white sugar)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground ginger (optional–I omitted)
1/2 teaspoon ground mace (optional–I omitted)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Cook, stirring, until the sweetener is dissolved and blended about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Discard the cinnamon stick. For chunky applesauce, break up the apples with a wooden spoon. For medium texture, crush with a potato masher. For smooth sauce, pass through a food mill or coarse sieve. Serve warm or chilled. I sprinkled cinnamon on top.
Again, I need to work on the close-ups.