Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Roasted Tomato Mac & Cheese

If there's one recipe I really learned to appreciate only recently, it has to be mac & cheese. I had never heard of the dish growing up in France and then only tasted the boxed version in my freshman year of college. This was now a handful of years of ago, and to be honest, I had never really wanted to try it again since. Call it French snobbery, but that processed orangy cheese never suited my palette. After a recent trip to the local farmer's market, I found myself coming back with more cheese than would be healthy to munch on by itself... and a homemade mac & cheese found its way into my kitchen. Topping it with a sweet roasted tomato really brings this over the top. For an indulgent night, it's really quite perfect!

Mac and cheese, although one of the quintessential American favourites, beings with one of most classic French sauces- bechamel.This sauce is wonderfully creamy and easy to make. It starts with a classic roux (a mix of butter and flour) which helps thicken the sauce once milk is added. This is also a perfect sauce to use in lasagna as a alternative to tomato sauce. I like to use it when I make vegetarian lasagna, and ladle it in between layers of goat cheese, mushroom, spinach and silky lasagna pasta.

Roasted Tomato Mac & Cheese

1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
14 ounces mild cheese, grated (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 ounces strong cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
6 ounces of cooked macaroni pasta (make sure to under-cook the pasta by 2-3 minutes as it will continue to back in the oven)
1 tsp of paprika
2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
2 tomatoes, finely sliced
1 tsp of dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a saucepan, add the butter. When it starts to melt add the flour and stir until the mixture is homogeneous. Add the milk and stir until the mixture starts to thicken (about 4-5 minutes). Add the grated cheese, reserving 1/4 cup to top the macaroni.

Once the cheese has started to melt, add the cooked macaroni and stir. Add a good pinch of salt, pepper and the paprika. Transfer to a greased oven-proof dish. Top with the reserved 1/4 cup of cheese and top with the breadcrumbs. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 375F. On a parchment or silicon lined baking sheet, lay out the slices of tomato. Season with salt and pepper and the dried oregano. Bake until the tomatoes slightly wrinkle, for about 8-10 minutes. Top the mac & cheese with the tomato slices and serve. Enjoy!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Green Market Baking Book Giveaway!

I have a wonderful giveaway this week on Chocolate Shavings - the Green Market Baking Book! This beautifully illustrated cookbook presents 100 recipes from different chefs and bakers across America offering alternatives to baking with refined and artificial sugar products. In an effort to eat more wholesome foods, Laura C. Martin's book gives great insight on how you can substitute white sugar for more healthy natural sweeteners such as agave nectar, honey or brown rice syrup.

I don't think I could ever completely give up on using white sugar in baked goods, but this book does give plenty of ideas to not use it all the time. The recipes are filled with natural, fresh produce that will make you want to take a trip to the local market at any time of year. The Asparagus-Ricotta Tart with Comte Cheese, Fig and Basil Muffins and the Plum and Walnut Upside-Down Cake are on my to-do list already!

To win a copy of the book, leave a comment on this post or write a comment on Chocolate Shaving's facebook page. You can write a comment on both and your name will be entered in the contest twice. Just let me know if you have any experience using alternative sweeteners in your baked goods, and if so which recipes you've really enjoyed. The contest ends on March 28th, at midnight and you must be a Canadian or American resident to enter. I will draw the winner at random. Good luck!

And if you're looking for a quick and easy recipe to make for last minute entertaining, check out my Ice Cream Sundae recipe on Style at Home. If you're inspired to try some ice cream recipes without using refined sugar, you will find a few in the Green Market Baking Book!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Shard Cookies

There are dozens and dozens of chocolate chip cookies recipes on blogs, food-related websites, and cookbooks. So who needs another one? Well, I do. I wouldn't bring you a chocolate chip cookie recipe if it wasn't absolutely amazing. My loyal readers will know that one of my favourite cookbooks is Good to the Grain. This whole wheat chocolate chip cookie recipe is straight from the book, and perfect, just the way it is. As a recipe developer, it's really part of my nature to want to tweak recipes when I feel that they could be more flavourful or have better texture. These were really just right and besides taking out a couple teaspoons of white sugar, I can't think of a way to make these better.

I really love experimenting with different types of flour. Flour is a necessary component of a lot of baked goods but while flour really does not have much intrinsic flavour. Baking with whole wheat, buckwheat or barley flour really adds a special, more interesting flavour to what you are baking and often means that you don't need to add as much sugar. These cookies really benefit from the whole wheat flour, which gives them a more complex and interesting texture. I also love using shards of dark chocolate as opposed to chocolate chips when making cookies. The shards break beautifully into different sizes of rich chocolate and make for a more rustic cookie, full of specks of chocolate as well as larger melted chunks. It doesn't get much better than that, don't you think?

Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Shard Cookies
Adapted from Good to the Grain

Dry Mix:
3 cups of whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Wet Mix:
2 stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces chocolate, chopped into shards

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on low speed until the butter and sugar are just blended, about 2 minutes. You can also use a hand mixer. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, until just combined. Mix in the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients in two batches until just combined. Finally, fold in the chocolate shards making sure they are evenly distributed in the batter.

Scoop balls of dough that are approximately 3 tablespoons worth and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 3 inches between them, or about 6 per sheet. Bake for 16-20 minutes, rotating the pans half-way through.

Once the cookies are baked, let them cool for a few minutes and transfer them to a cooling rack. These are best eaten warm from the oven or later the same day but they will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tomates Provencales

This dish is the ultimate reminder of the food I grew up eating in France. When baked, tomatoes become incredibly sweet. These are filled with breadcrumbs and herbs which complement the juicy tomato flesh. I like to serve these alongside roast beef, braised lamb or lemon sauteed sole. This dish is best enjoyed when tomatoes are at their peak, and with homemade coarse breadcrumbs... but realistically, you can't always make that happen. They are also delicious with store-bought breadcrumbs, and, in the middle of the winter, it's a nice reminder that spring is just around the corner.

This photo was taken before these tomatoes went in the oven... and once cooked they disappeared before I had time to shoot them!
Tomates Provencales
Serves 2-4

3 large plump tomatoes, halved
3 garlic cloves, crushed and finely diced
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375F. Lay out the tomatoes seed side up, in a large oven-proof baking dish. Scoop out some of the seeds to make more room for the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, garlic and parsley. Using a small spoon, fill the tomatoes with the breadcrumbs mixture. Drizzle with some olive oil and bake for 30 minutes or until the tomatoes are softened and the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
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