Mountain Macaroni

Recipe: Mountain Macaroni, from Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson

Ingredients:
1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
Salt
1 pound penne pasta
2 teaspoons olive oil
12 ounces cubed pancetta or bacon
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
7 tablespoons dry white wine
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
Nutmeg
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (or use another cheese, if you like)

Preheat oven to 425F.

Place potatoes in large pot and add the amount of water you would use to cook pasta in. Add salt. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Add penne to pot and cook until the pasta is a little less done than you’d like to eat it. Reserve a cupful of the pasta water and drain the potatoes and pasta, before adding them back to the empty pot.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a Dutch oven or another pan that can go into the oven later. Add the cubed meat and cook for about 5 minutes, until the fat begins to render. Add the thyme and shallots and cook another 5 minutes. Add the wine and let it cook off a little. Add the cream and a pinch of nutmeg, then take the pan off the heat.

Pour the pancetta-shallot mixture over the pasta and potatoes, adding some of the pasta cooking water as you mix it together. Add half of the cheese, toss, and then add all but a handful of the remaining cheese and toss again. Pour the mixture back into the pan you cooked the pancetta-shallot mixture in.

Sprinkle the last of the cheese on the top and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes: I’m sure that the tastiness of this increases with the quality of the meat and cheese used, but it was delicious and satisfying when I made it even with supermarket bacon and a block of generic swiss cheese.

Coconut Lime Bars

Recipe: Coconut Lime Bars from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

Ingredients:
8 tablespoons butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
Pinch salt
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
3 eggs
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Cream the butter with 1/4 cup sugar and pinch of salt. Mix in 1 cup flour and zest to make a dry crumbly mixture, and pat into the greased pan. Cook for 20 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Let cool a little while you make the topping.

Place the eggs, lime juice and remaining sugar in a bowl and beat together until thick and light. Mix in remaining 3 tablespoons flour and baking soda. Pour over the cooled crust.

Sprinkle coconut on top and cook in oven for 25-30 minutes, until set but still a little jiggly in the center. Let cool completely before cutting.

Notes: I didn’t notice until I was typing up this recipe that this is exactly the same flavors as the last dessert I made, the Florida Pie from March. I know what I like, I guess?

Butternut Squash with Blue Cheese and Pecans

Recipe: Butternut Squash with Blue Cheese and Pecans

Notes: I love butternut squash, and this is probably my very favorite way to eat it. I’ve made this recipe several times, though at this point I don’t bother to measure out the amounts, and just do the proportions as what looks good at the time. I like to stick the squash under the broiler for two or three minutes at the end of the cooking, just to get the edges a little crispy. 

Creamy Baked Polenta

Recipe: Creamy Baked Polenta

Notes: Probably I’m way too excited about this, considering that this is literally a recipe for cornmeal mush, but it’s so good and so easy! The “cooking in the oven” part takes out all the stress and fuss and annoyance that usually keeps me from making polenta. My only adjustment was to use cheddar cheese instead of provolone/Parmesan, simply because that’s what I had on hand; I’m sure it would be good with any cheese.

Crunchy Pork Kimchi Burgers

Recipe: Crunchy Pork Kimchi Burgers

Notes: Our freezer stopped working earlier this week, and I happened to have a pound of ground pork that had to be cooked right away. When I was looking for something to make with it, I found this – and since I happened to already have kimchi and panko around, it seemed perfect. What I didn’t have were scallions, spinach or sesame oil, but even without those ingredients, these were delicious.