What’s been for dinner lately:
Sheet pan pizza with prosciutto, Parmesan, and white sauce. The crust is from America’s Test Kitchen’s “Pizza al Taglio with Arugula and Mozzarella,” but I baked it with a Parmesan/garlic white sauce, fresh mozzarella, baby spinach, and prosciutto. [There’s a paywall on this site.]
Beef stir fry. This is just a version of the one I make on the grill in the summer, with more veggies. I used some steamed frozen broccoli to avoid the longer cooking that fresh broccoli requires.
Rigatoni and butternut squash casserole with pancetta and Parmesan. Just like the one I’ve made before with bacon, but I find the pancetta to be milder and less overpowering than the bacon.
Boston Cream Pie—made this for my husband’s birthday. Specifically the Wicked Good Boston Cream Pie from America’s Test Kitchen. One word of caution: The written recipe omits the most important line from the video. When making the pastry cream, you don’t stop when bubbles break the surface; you continue whisking until the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the pan, sort of like when making jam. Otherwise the pastry cream will be runny. It’s a delightful cake. [There’s a paywall on this site.]
I’m violating my own idea of a gratin here. Mine is of a shallow vegetable dish with a light topping of breadcrumbs, fine breadcrumbs. Maybe cheese in the topping or sauce. Still, this venison gratin, as I’m calling it, is shallow, made in a cast iron skillet. The crumb topping, however, is rougher, more rustic, almost like those leftover stuffing toppings you make after the holidays. I think I could have kept the food processor going longer for a finer crumb, but I guess I was in a rustic mood. So, like I said in the title, do you have any leftover garlic bread? With the flavors of your garlic bread already in place—garlic, olive oil or butter, herbs, and maybe some Parmesan—you have the makings of a flavorful topping for a gratin.
torn up garlic bread
Preheat oven to 350º; if using a separate casserole dish, butter the dish. A large (12″) cast iron skillet works great because you can cook the filling in it and then pop it in the oven with the crumb topping on.
- 1 lb venison cut in 1/2″ cubes
- 1 medium onion cut in small dice
- 1-2 cups mushrooms (I used cremini) cut in small dice (so your picky eaters won’t pick them out)
- 2 large carrots cut in 1/2″ dice
- olive oil for browning meat and vegetables
- 2 cups broth (I used beef)
- beurre manié of 4 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons flour
- leftover garlic bread, pulsed in food processor
- olive oil or melted butter to moisten crumbs
Basically, I prepared a little stew, then topped it with the crumbs and browned it in the oven.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons oil to a hot skillet and brown the venison over medium-high heat. Remove to a platter.
- Add onions and mushrooms to the hot skillet and continue to cook until lightly browned.
- Return venison to the skillet with the carrots. Add the broth. Cover and simmer until the meat is tender, about 30 minutes.
- Over medium heat, stir in the beurre manié until distributed. Continue to stir until the broth is thickened. Remove from the heat.
- Moisten your garlic bread crumbs with olive oil or butter, just enough to lightly moisten without becoming oily.
- Sprinkle the crumbs over the top all the way to the edge.
- Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
I tried to get the essentials into the title—roasting, garden harvest, classic panzanella, and pasta. From the garden, I’m roasting tomatoes and green beans. My husband doesn’t care for tomatoes, but he tends the garden—sometimes you have to eat what you sow. The green beans are meant to draw him into the dish. I’m going to roast the bread cubes, as well, instead of toasting the bread in a skillet. Then it’s just a matter of making the right dressing and tossing it all with pasta and cheese curds. I know mozzarella is traditional, but I’m in love with Yancey’s Fancy® Fresh Cheddar Cheese Curds, and I think they will be perfect.
I’m going to use rice vinegar in the dressing, because it’s the mildest of the vinegars. I’m also going to seed the tomatoes before roasting and add all that liquidy stuff to the dressing, straining out the tomato seeds. But olive oil will be the star. The bread cubes, green beans, and tomatoes will all be tossed with extra virgin olive oil before roasting, and then some more will be in the final dressing.
I’m roasting more ingredients than I will use, but nothing is lost. The extra roasted tomatoes, beans, and bread cubes, will probably end up in lunches or snacks.
Seeding the tomatoes
Strain seeds out of dressing
Roasted Garden Panzanella Pasta
- 2 cups cubed crusty bread, such as from a batard or baguette—I toasted the whole loaf, but only used 2 cups in the dish
- enough tomatoes to make about 1.5-2 cups—use any type of tomato; mine were Early Girls, the first to ripen here. I roasted 10 tomatoes, but used only 4 in the dish.
- 1.5 cups fresh green beans
- 4 oz. pasta cooked according to package directions—I used whole wheat penne
- 6 oz. cheese curds—mine were fresh cheddar, which is much more mild than aged cheddar
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil for dressing
- 4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for roasting vegetables
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar or other mild vinegar
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely grated
- salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 425º; line 2-3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Bread: Toss bread cubes in large bowl with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil—I used 3 for the whole loaf—don’t overdo it. Spread on one of the baking sheets and toast in oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and set aside 2 cups for the dish.
- Vegetables: Core and seed the tomatoes, reserving the tomato seeds and pulp for the dressing—I had about 1 cup of liquid from the tomatoes. Place the halved tomatoes, cut side up, on one of the lined baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper.
- Toss the green beans with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread on the second lined sheet; salt and pepper.
- Roast the vegetables on separate racks in the oven, about 15 minutes for the green beans and about 30 minutes for the tomatoes. I like a little caramelization on the tomatoes.
- Dressing: In bowl with reserved tomato seeds and pulp, add the 3/4 cup olive oil and vinegar. Whisk until combined, then pour through strainer to remove seeds—whisking helps to separate the gel from the seeds before you strain them out. Whisk in garlic. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more oil or vinegar to taste.
- Panzanella: In large bowl toss pasta, bread, vegetables, and cheese with dressing until well coated. Set aside and allow the dressing to be absorbed by all the ingredients. Serve at room temperature.
We also had a roasted pork tenderloin, but that was really just a bonus for the gardener, who did eat a few of the tomatoes.
You can never have too many mac and cheese recipes.
Sometimes you might be in the mood for a sharp cheddar or a nutty Gruyere or even a little blue, but you just about always want a creamy texture, not one that separates, leaving an oily trail and little curds of cheese—well, I would eat that, too. The following recipe starts out with this one from Kraft and adds whipped ricotta to the sauce, so that it’s extra creamy. I am not adding any cheddar to the top of the casserole, just a panko topping. I like to get a little crust on my mac and cheese, but sometimes you just want to eat it out of the pan, so skip the crumb topping and baking if you like.
The base recipe starts out with a very thick white sauce, into which cubes of Velveeta® are stirred. I usually make my white sauce with 2 tablespoons of flour per cup of milk, but this one uses 4 tablespoons per cup. Like any other cheese sauce, you need this flour base to keep the cheese from separating. I’ve tried that recipe making the rounds, where you use only evaporated milk and cheese, and it does not hold up—beware fads.
Notice the whipped ricotta
Stir in Velveeta
Stir in whipped ricotta
Thick and creamy sauce
Just eat it like this…
…or bake it
Ricotta-Velveeta® Mac 'n Cheese
Preheat oven to 350°; butter a 2-quart casserole dish.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 8 oz. original Velveeta® cheese, cut into cubes
- 8 oz. whole milk ricotta, whipped in a food processor until smooth and fluffy
- 8 oz. macaroni or other pasta shape—I used whole wheat fusilli
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Boil the pasta according to the package directions while making the sauce. Drain the pasta and place in casserole dish.
- In a small saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until fully combined. Stir in milk and continue stirring until smooth and thickened.
- Stir cheese cubes into thickened white sauce until all the cheese is melted. This takes a few minutes.
- Stir whipped ricotta into cheese sauce until combined.
- Pour sauce over pasta and stir to combine. You could serve it at this point without baking, or go to the next step.
- Combine panko crumbs and 2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle over macaroni. Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly.