Creamy Chickpea Pasta with Garlic-Rosemary Oil

Aunt Suzy says . . .

We’ve started something new here at Sweet and Savory Kitchens – Pasta Wednesdays. The idea is something quick and easy to make on a weeknight without sacrificing freshness and deliciousness. I got the idea when I made the Garlic and Kale Linguine a while back, so technically that could be considered our first Pasta Wednesday post. While this recipe (from last month’s Bon Appetit) isn’t quite as fast, it definitely fits. It caught my eye because I had some Garlic-Rosemary oil in the fridge left over from when I last made this soup. The quantities in that recipe always make more of the oil than we use at the time so I was happy to learn of a good additional use for it. And this is good! This can be a weeknight main dish or you can serve it, as we did, as a side to roast chicken or fish. Delicious with a creamy Italian white wine.

Margaux says…

I’m loving Pasta Wednesdays! Mainly because it helps give me a sort of direction when I’m meal planning for the week. We do Meatless Mondays at my house, so that’s two days now that I have narrowed down a little more. Now maybe I should add a pizza night in there, to make my job even easier…

This dish is fantastic…even my finicky 4-year-old gave it a thumbs up. We ate it as a main dish, with plenty of leftovers (which I love…makes lunches easy!!) I made it with white beans and penne pasta (as seen on Smitten Kitchen…see cook’s notes below). The white beans because that’s what I had on hand, and the penne because that’s what my son chose, and these days I’ll make anything he picks just so he’ll eat what I make for us. I probably would have chosen rotini, because i like the way sauces like this stick to the pasta. It was really great with the white beans, but next time I’m going to try it with the chick peas, which sounds really fantastic.

Use this recipe to make the Garlic-Rosemary Oil

1 medium onion, cut in chunks
1 medium carrot, peeled, cut in chunks
1 celery stalk, cut in chunks
4 whole garlic cloves
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
10-ounces small pasta shapes (I used Lumachine – see Cook’s Notes)

Place the first 6 ingredients into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Place into a bowl and clean the food processor bowl. Set both aside. Alternatively, if you do not have a food processor, you can finely chop these ingredients and then blend together in a bowl.

Place the olive oil into a large heavy pot or skillet (I used a saute pan) over medium heat. Once shimmering add the chopped vegetables. Saute for 10 or so minutes, until golden, stirring regularly. Meanwhile, stir the tomato paste into 1 cup of water to blend. When vegetables are cooked, add the tomato water and blend thoroughly, scraping up any bits stuck to the pan. Let simmer until liquid has almost disappeared, 5-8 minutes.

Creamy Chickpea Sauce

Add the chickpeas and 2 cups water to the pan. Stir to blend and then simmer for 15 minutes covered and 5 or so uncovered. Put 1 cup of this mixture into the food processor and puree. (You could use a blender for this in the absence of a food processor.) Add back to the pan and stir to blend. Taste and add salt, if needed. I did not add salt to the sauce – even with rinsing, there was plenty of salt in the chickpeas.*

Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente according to directions. I emphasize al dente because otherwise I think you could end up with a gloppy mess. Part of the goodness of this dish is mouth appeal, and you do not want to lose that with overcooked pasta! Reserve a cup of pasta water before draining. Add drained pasta and 1/2 cup pasta water to the chickpea sauce. Stir to blend, adding more pasta water if necessary to coat the pasta and attain a creamy consistency. Pass the Garlic-Rosemary oil so it can be drizzled on individual servings. Don’t hold back on this key component of the finished dish!

COOK’S NOTES: I was looking at Smitten Kitchen the other day and saw something that looked similar to this except with white beans and penne pasta. On closer look, it was her take on the Bon Appetit recipe. (You can check it out to see several great photos of the cooking process.) Regarding the pasta, the original recipe called for a full pound of Ditalini and suggested elbow macaroni as a substitute. I think any small pasta shape would work well. I cooked the whole pound as instructed, but felt that it was way too much pasta and didn’t stir it all into the sauce. I will definitely make this again and try whole wheat pasta, thinking it will add to both taste and texture.

*Margaux’s note on the salt…my boys like their food on the saltier side, so I definitely needed to add more salt. I added about a teaspoon of it.

Garlic and Kale Linguine

January 18, 2013

Garlic and Kale Linguine

Aunt Suzy says . . . .

The basis for this dish is a great recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for classic spaghetti with garlic and olive oil which I made recently.   Last week I saw another recipe for spaghetti and kale with similar ingredients but without the scientific technique of the CI recipe.  Randy and I both agreed that with or without the kale, the CI dish is outstanding.  The kale makes it just that much better and healthier!  This could be a main dish or a side.  Shown is a main dish portion, and we have also served with sauteed boneless/skinless chicken breast.  Either way, an Italian white,  Orivetto or Pinot Grigio, is a great accompaniment!

Makes 4 main dish or 6-8 first course servings

4 garlic cloves, peeled and processed through a garlic pressOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1 teaspoon water

1/3 cup high quality EV olive oil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional or to taste

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 bunch lacinato kale, tough stems removed and cut into ribbons

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted in a skillet

1/2-1 cup grated Parmigiana Reggiano (omit for vegan)

3/4-1 pound whole wheat, regular or GF linguine or spaghetti

Place processed garlic in a small bowl and add the teaspoon of water.  Heat the olive oil to a little over medium in a saute pan.  Add the garlic, optional pepper flakes and kale and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly until garlic is golden and kale is soft.  Set aside.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry small skillet over medium heat.  Shake the pan regularly and watch carefully so they don’t burn!  At today’s prices especially that would be a shame. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente according to package directions.  Before draining, save 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.  Drain the pasta and rinse briefly.  Put the pasta back in the pot it was cooked in and place over medium heat.  Add the reserved kale mixture along with part or all of the pasta water and toss to combine thoroughly.  Heat through, stirring.

Place on individual plates and top with a little cheese, if using, and some pine nuts.  Alternatively, if you will be eating all of what was cooked, you can stir the cheese into the pasta before serving.  Then top with the pine nuts.

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

This past week, the New York Times had a group of risottos in it’s “Recipes for Health” column that combined different grains or rices with the traditional risotto rice, Arborio.  They all caught my eye, but I started with this one because I have wanted to make something with farro for a while and have not.  This dish is a WOW!  The herbs and lemon add freshness to the taste and the farro creates a wonderful  chewy mouth appeal.  We served with an Italian Orvieto white wine and a green salad.  This falls into the “easy” category except for the need to stand at the stove and stir for about 40 minute.  Totally worth it!

NOTE:  I like this blog post from The Chef In You about farro and how to cook it.  I found “pearled” farro in bulk at our local coop.  It also comes in semi-pearled and non-pearled varieties, the latter of which needs to be pre-soaked. If you can’t find it locally, you can order from Amazon or here.

Makes 6 servings

6 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock (I used chicken)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed thoroughly of sand

Salt to taste

2 plump garlic cloves, minced

2/3 cup Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 cups cooked farro (1 cup uncooked)

2 cups chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, basil, chives, thyme (I used a cup of parsley, a cup of basil and 2 tablespoons lemon thyme)

Freshly ground pepper

2 ounces grated Parmesan (1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cook the farro according to directions and set aside.

Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan, then turn the heat to low.  Make sure this is on a burner handy to the main pan you will cook the risotto in.

Heat the oil a large saute pan or heavy saucepan on medium heat.  Add the leeks and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add a generous pinch of salt, the garlic and the rice. Cook, stirring, for about 3 more minutes.

Stir in the wine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until absorbed and almost evaporated. Next, stir in a ladleful or two of the simmering stock – enough to just cover the rice. The stock should bubble slowly (adjust heat accordingly). Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, not too fast and not too slowly, stirring often and adding more stock when the rice is almost dry, for 15 minutes.

Stir in the farro and more stock to cover and continue to cook, adding more stock as necessary and stirring often, for another 10 minutes or until the rice is cooked through but al dente.   If it is still hard in the middle, you need to continue adding stock and stirring for another 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasonings.  NOTE:  Make sure you watch for dryness and stir often as the mixture tended to stick once the farro was added.

Stir in the herbs and fresh pepper (be generous), add another ladleful of stock and continue to cook, stirring, for a minute.  Finally, add the Parmesan and the lemon juice, stir together and remove from the heat. The risotto should be creamy; if it isn’t, add a little more stock.  Stir once, taste and adjust seasonings, and serve.  Prepare for your taste buds to be delighted!

Aunt Suzy says . . .

When I lived in Boston in the 80’s, this dish was served in many restaurants in the North End Italian neighborhood.  This simple, yet flavorful pasta dish  was new to me.  I immediately loved it and ordered it often.  One of my favorite restaurants, L’Osteria, made the best rendition so I asked them for the recipe.  It’s so simple!  Olive oil, garlic, red peppers, chicken, pasta and cheese.  I see that L’Osteria is still open and still serves this dish, Chicken Maccheroni & Broccoli.  So if you are in Boston, I recommend that you check them out.  But if  not, you can make this dish easily and authentically following my recipe. Excellent with a fruity Pinot Grigio or a light Italian Red, like a Valpolicella.

Serves 4 as a main dish and 6 as a first course (quantities easily adjusted up or down)

1-2 chicken breasts, depending on whether you want more or less chicken

4-6 cups broccoli florets

3/4-1 pound medium pasta shapes, (like the rigatoni shown or ziti, rotini, radiatore, cavatappi, etc.)

1/4 cup EV Olive Oil

2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste

1/2-3/4 cup shredded cheese, Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano

Season the chicken with salt and pepper only or also with your choice of herbs/spices.  I use Italian Street Fair, a blend of smoked peppers, onion, garlic, fennel and spices.  Cook the seasoned chicken breasts until just done, 4-6 minutes a side, depending on thickness.   I used my stovetop panini press, but a grill pan, broiler or gas or charcoal grill would work.   Set aside to cool slightly.  When cooled, slice the chicken in roughly 1/4 x 1 1/2-inch pieces.

Steam the broccoli to al dente and set aside.  Cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions.  Before draining, save 1/2 cup pasta water.  Drain the pasta, rinse and set aside.

Heat a large dutch oven over a medium burner.  Add the olive oil and heat till shimmering.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Saute for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn.

Add the chicken and broccoli and stir to thoroughly blend and heat.

Add the pasta and pasta water.  Stir to blend.  Place the lid on the pot and heat for about 5 minutes until all is piping hot.  You can serve as is and pass the cheese or for a creamier dish, you can add the cheese and stir to blend till melted.  I recommend stirring in the cheese only if you don’t anticipate left-overs.  If you know you’ll have left-overs, it’s easier to heat up the dish later without the added cheese.

COOKS NOTES:  Many recipes suggest you cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and cook along with the garlic and hot pepper and then add the cooked broccoli.  I think this makes for rubbery chicken pieces, but if you’re in a hurry this could be an option.  I used 1 1/2 chicken breasts this time and thought this was a perfect amount.  I had 4 cups of broccoli and wished it would have been 5 cups.  This dish definitely stands up to whole wheat pasta.  While I think Parmigiano is more authentic, I prefer this dish with the earthier and creamier sheep’s milk Romano.  Don’t be daunted by all the steps.   This is a great weeknight recipe that comes together really fast.  This is also served in restaurants with shrimp or vegetarian/no meat or seafood.

Pasta e Fagioli

December 31, 2011

Margaux says…

I think I’ve had enough meat and potatoes to last me a lifetime. I can’t believe those words are coming out of my mouth…I’m a total meat-and-potatoes kind of girl. But we had the most rich food over the holidays (like, for example, potatoes whipped with a stick of butter, 8 oz. cream cheese, and a cup of sour cream!), and then had them as leftovers, and I think I’ve really had enough.

I found this recipe last year on Food 52, and have made it a couple of times. It’s quick and easy, and very heartwarming. And you can easily make it vegetarian by omitting the bacon,  instead using 2 tbsp olive oil to saute the veggies, and vegetable broth or water in place of the chicken broth. We’re definitely going to be eating things like this for the next several weeks!!

Pasta e Fagioli
adapted from “Jenny’s in the Kitchen” blog on Food 52
serves 4-5

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small stalks celery
4 cups chicken broth
2 cans cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dittalini
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
grated Parmesan

1. In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over moderate heat, stirring until crisp. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and transparent. Add celery and cook another couple minutes. Add broth, salt and oregano and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

2. In a bowl mash 1 cup of the beans, then stir them into the onion mixture along with the remaining whole beans, tomatoes, and pasta. Simmer the soup, covered, for 15 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Then remove from heat and let stand, still covered, for 5 minutes.

3. Stir in parsley and grated parmesan (I used about 1/4 cup). Serve with crusty bread.

Aunt Suzy says . . . .

I saw this recipe in Food & Wine this month and since it has fall vegetables paired with some of my favorite aromatics and ingredients, I thought I’d give it a try.  I thought it sounded good, but was delighted by how delicious it was – it way outstripped my expectations!  Of course, I made adaptations – I can’t help but tinker!  I thought this would be too difficult to eat with bucatini, so instead used a my favorite small pasta shape, fusilli bucati.  I think other small pasta shapes would be excellent, or you might want to try the bucatini of the original recipe.  (Actually, I think this would make a great side vegetable dish without the pasta.) You might be inclined to skip the toasted breadcrumbs, but I would advise against this.  They added both flavor and texture and, to me, really made the dish.  A bonus is that this took only about 30 minutes start to finish!  We served this with roasted salmon and an Italian Orvieto white wine.  I will definitely make this again!

Ingredients

The Bread Crumbs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
The Pasta
3/4 pound small pasta shapes
1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
The Vegetable Mixture
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound cauliflower florets, cut in 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
3/4 pound brussels sprouts, halved or quartered if large (about 3 cups)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, finely diced
2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme
Finishing
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving

Directions

In a small skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 1/4 cup of the oil on medium-high heat in a large saute pan. Add the cauliflower and brussels sprouts and season with salt and black pepper.  Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly charred and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the oil to the skillet along with the onion, garlic, crushed red pepper, rosemary and thyme; cook, stirring, until the onion is slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Cover and cook over low heat until the cauliflower and sprouts are tender, about 3 more minutes. Keep warm.

Add the pasta and reserved cooking water to the vegetables and cook over moderate heat, tossing, until the water is nearly absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir in the 1/2 cup of grated cheese.  Serve the pasta in wide bowls, passing the bread crumbs and additional cheese at the table. (Alternatively, you can skip stirring the cheese into the pasta and add it instead to individual servings along with the bread crumbs.)

Kristi’s Ratatouille

October 16, 2011

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I love stocking my freezer this time of year with goodies made from the abundant produce available.  One of my favorites is ratatouille.  It freezes well and there’s nothing like thawing and heating up a batch in the dead of winter to get a hit of late summer goodness!  I’ve made ratatouille for this purpose for many years, but I wasn’t ever 100% satisfied with the results.  While the flavor was always delicious, the end product was mushier than I like.  A few years ago I was talking with friend Kristi Mattson about making ratatouille – she has a big garden and was also making some for the freezer.  She shared her method of roasting some of the vegetables before putting them in the pot to cook the ratatouille.  This was the solution to getting both outstanding flavor and texture.  The ingredients are the same, but this method makes a big difference!  In addition to serving this as a side dish to grilled salmon or roast/grilled chicken, we love tossing it with pasta with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese!

Ingredients

Olive oil for tossing with each vegetable
5 medium bell peppers, mixed colors, cut in 1-inch squares (I used 2 red, one orange and 2 green)
6-7 small-medium zucchini and/or yellow squash cut in 1-inch cubes
7-8 small-medium eggplants, cut in 1-inch cubes
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil, for sauteing
5 medium onions, cut in 1-inch chunks (I like a mix of red and yellow)
6-10 garlic cloves, minced (depending on size)
20-ish plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped (totaling 4-5 cups after chopping)
1/3-1/2 cup fresh oregano, chopped (I particularly like Greek oregano in this recipe)
2 tbsp fresh lemon thyme
Fresh basil and/or parsley, chopped,  for serving
Salt  and Pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  You will roast the bell peppers, zucchini/yellow squash and eggplant.  First, toss each vegetable lightly with olive oil and turn into a foil-lined jelly-roll or large roasting pan.  Roast  for about 12-17 min, stirring half-way through.  The vegetables will be done when they are just starting to show a few browned spots.  (I found that I needed 2 pans for the eggplant and 1 pan each for the peppers and zucchini with the above quantities.)  Turn onto a large platter or oblong glass baking dish. Set aside and cool.

In large stockpot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until beginning to brown, about 10 or so min on med-high heat.   Add the garlic, oregano and thyme and sauté until fragrant, about a  minute.   Add the roasted peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and the tomatoes and their juices.  Stir just to combine.

Bring all to a bubble, then turn down heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.  Take the lid off the pan, turn up heat slightly and simmer, uncovered, for an additional 30-45 minutes, until the liquid reduces.  During this time, check every 10 minutes to make sure the bottom layer is not burning.  Stir a little, but don’t over-stir in order to preserve the shape of each vegetable.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Right before serving, stir in the basil and parsley.   If freezing, omit the basil and parsley step and put in containers and place in the freezer.

When using later after thawing, stir in a gremolata of the following, right before serving.

2 tablespoons finely minced fresh basil and/or parsley, 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, 1-2 finely minced cloves of garlic. Adjust amounts to how much ratatouille you have.  This can be used even when not freezing – it brightens the flavor but is especially fabulous when using frozen/thawed ratatouille.

COOK’S NOTES:  This method is a 3-4 hour project, but is definitely worth the time.  The quantities given made a little under 4 quarts finished product.  This is a recipe where you can definitely adjust the quantities to your taste or need for amounts.

Aunt Suzy says . . . .

For all you eggplant lovers out there, this is one tasty dish!  And young, tender eggplants are everywhere in the farmer’s markets right now.  The original recipe for this called for the elongated Italian ones, which we don’t see typically in our markets.  I have used small globe eggplants in the past and this time I used the long slender Japanese variety.  Both have worked well.  While this recipe calls for cheese, it can easily be omitted with equally delicious results.  Serve with a salad, baguette and white or red Italian wine, and you’re all set for a great late summer meal.

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, medium dice

8 large cloves garlic, sliced

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

pinch of sugar

4 medium globe or 6-7 Japanese eggplants, totaling about 2 pounds or so (2-3 Italian eggplants if you find them)

1/3 cup each chopped fresh mint, basil and flat-leaf parsley

3-4 ounces fontina or provolone cheese, sliced 1/4-inch thick and cut into pieces

Prepare the eggplants by first rolling them on a flat surface to soften the insides.  Cut slits in the eggplants.  These will naturally be shallower with the Japanese variety and should be a couple of inches deep in the globe or Italian eggplants.  Stuff the slits with half of the garlic slices and pieces of the cheese. Work to close the slits and set aside.

To prepare the braising mixture, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or Dutch oven.  Add the onion and cook, covered, for 5 minutes until it softens.  Add the half the garlic and cook another 2 minutes until the onion starts to brown a little.  Add the tomatoes, chile flakes and sugar and cook, covered for about 5 minutes. Place the prepared eggplants on top of the tomato mixture.  Sprinkle with half the herbs.

Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the eggplants, cover the pot and braise for 60-90 minutes depending on how big around the eggplants are.  Check every 30 minutes and baste the eggplants with the tomato gravy.  They are done when very soft but not falling apart.  Remove the eggplants to a platter.  The sauce should be moderately thick, so if it’s watery, turn up the heat and cook, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened. Stir in remaining herbs. Return eggplants to sauce and heat briefly before serving.

I always cook an amount that will result in leftovers because this is great served with pasta as a second meal.  Just cut up the eggplants, heat in the sauce and then toss with your favorite small pasta shapes.  Serve with or without grated Parmesan or Romano.


Margaux says…

This is the ultimate mac n’ cheese recipe for everyone in my family.  Well, at least for me and my siblings…I suppose I shouldn’t speak for everyone, and I know my dad is really fond of his stove top recipe that he has perfected over the years.  But for me, nothing else compares, and I know many of my family members will agree.  It’s the quintessential comfort food, and always reminds me of my childhood when I make it.  Not only that, but it’s easy, cheap, quick, and is a crowd-pleaser no matter who the crowd is!

This macaroni and cheese recipe is a baked version, so it gets all crispy and cheesy on top.  You can serve it as a side dish with a roast or something for a Sunday dinner, or as the main course on a weeknight.  Double the recipe for a crowd and bake in a 9×13″ dish…this recipe serves 4-5 people.  I always serve it with a salad and a vegetable…usually frozen peas!  That makes it really feel like home. I usually use sharp cheddar, but this time I used a mix of colby and monterey jack, and it was really good. Granny always used medium cheddar.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I love this recipe for mac ‘n cheese!  Even though it’s quite familiar to our family, I’ve never known anyone else who makes it this way.  I have experimented with other approaches over the years – primarily substituting a white sauce for the butter/milk before baking – but  I keep coming back to what I grew up with!   Back when I was at home and Granny was my Mom, we had this as a main dish with canned green beans (!).  But when Margaux and her siblings were growing up, Granny/Mom would serve it with meatloaf (plus a salad and vegetable).  For some reason, the marriage of the meatloaf and the mac ‘n cheese is perfect to me.  This makes me think we need to make and post Granny’s meatloaf recipe!

Granny’s Macaroni and Cheese

2 cups macaroni
1 cup (or so) shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp salted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have an 8″x8″ glass baking dish ready.
Bring medium pot of water to a rolling boil. Boil macaroni for 5 minutes, drain.
Pour drained macaroni (still hot) into baking dish. Stir butter and salt in until butter is melted completely. Stir in half the cheese. Pour milk over the mixture. Top with rest of cheese (I usually use a little more than a half a cup). Bake for 30-35 minutes, until top is starting to brown and is crispy.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I noticed this recipe in our newspaper a while back and then forgot about it because I couldn’t find Arctic Char at the time.  (Yes, I still get and read the newspaper!) But this fish showed up at our local co-op last week and I remembered the recipe. I’d never cooked with Arctic Char before – we thought it was delicious!  It looks a little like salmon, but has a more delicate flavor and a creamier texture.  This recipe is fast and easy to make, and the noodles can be served hot or at room temperature.  We served it with Corfu Salad and a rose wine. I think it would also be good with a side of asparagus.

NOTES ON INGREDIENTS:  If you can’t find soba noodles (Japanese noodles made of buckwheat and wheat flour), I think thin spaghetti would work.  And if you can’t find Meyer lemons – it’s getting very late in the season – you can use regular lemons.  The original recipe called for 6 tablespoons of olive oil, but we thought that a bit much.  Adjust to your taste.

• 6 – 8 ounces soba noodles

• 1/4 cup pine nuts

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

• 1/4 teaspoon pepper, plus more for seasoning

• 1/2 – 1 teaspoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest

• 2 teaspoons fresh Meyer lemon juice

• 4-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

• 1 tablespoon cumin seeds

• 4 arctic char fillets (about 8 oz. each), preferably center-cut pieces

• Meyer lemon wedges, for serving

• Chopped fresh cilantro or mint, for tossing and serving

Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Rinse and drain well.

Finely grind the pine nuts.  You can do this with a few pulses of a food processor or use a nut grinder.  You could also chop them finely with a knife.  Scrape the ground pine nuts into a large bowl. Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and lemon zest. Whisk in the lemon juice. Slowly whisk in 2-3 tablespoons oil to taste. When the noodles are finished cooking, toss them with the dressing while hot even if you will serve them room temperature.  Add mint or cilantro at this point if you’d like, although the original recipe called for using the herbs just as garnish.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil.

Set a small skillet over medium-high heat and allow to heat up, about 1 minute. Add the cumin seeds and sizzle until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and add remaining 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Allow to cool slightly.

Season the fish with remaining salt and a pinch of pepper and place on the baking sheet. Spoon the cumin and oil evenly over the fillets. Roast to desired doneness, about 5-7 minutes for medium rare depending on thickness of the fish.  Our fish was thin and done after 5 minutes.

Divide the noodles among four plates and place the fish beside the noodles. Garnish with the lemon wedges and cilantro or mint.