Sunday, June 13, 2010

Stovetop Mac 'n' Cheese & Blackberry-Studded Salad

Poor stovetop mac 'n' cheese, I almost forgot about you! A travesty!


I was chatting with a co-worker (also a food fanatic) about my plans to make macaroni and cheese, and he asked if I was making a baked one or a stovetop version. Being from the south, my inclination is always to bake it, casserole-style. But now that we're (finally!) in the summer months, cranking up the oven is becoming more and more of a chore. And I've done baked mac 'n' cheese on this blog before - more than once!


I thought a stovetop version sounded like a fantastic idea. However, I wanted to make it a.) healthier than your typical mac 'n' cheese (there is a time, a place, and a recipe for the heart-attack version, but a weeknight dinner is not it), and b.) more interesting than a homemade version of the blue box classic. A quickly dying loaf of whole wheat bread inspired me to make a Mediterranean(ish) breadcrumb and red pepper topping, which really took the dish to the next level (and added some veggie goodness - yay!). Sticking with the Mediterranean "theme," I added a can of chickpeas to the pasta to pump up the protein, stretch the dish, and make it even more nutritious (you know I love my chickpeas).


Nothing complements a big bowl of cheesy pasta better than a fresh (guilt-mitigating) salad. And with blackberries on top? Mmmmmm. One disclaimer: I made this several weeks ago and forgot to post it, so the recipe might not reflect exactly the way I made it, but reflects how I'd attempt to make it again. I used a blend of cheeses that I'd picked up from the farmer's market. Of course, any melty cheese would work fine here, although I think the sharper, the better (goat cheese, come to think of it, would be rad).

It's really nice when a comfort food classic not known for its healthiness can get a figure-friendly (to borrow a Rachael Ray phrase) makeover! Hope you're all enjoying your summers, and look out for more posts soon!

INGREDIENTS

1 lb. whole wheat rotini pasta
3 T. butter
2-3 cloves garlic
2 medium shallots, minced
2-3 T. flour
1/2 c. white wine
about 1 and 1/2 cups milk
salt and pepper
lots of (1-2 cups) grated cheese (I used grated sharp white cheddar, a couple slices leftover American, and some other cheese I can't remember - just cheese it up! Use whatever kind(s) you like)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs (about 2 cups - I just made mine from some oldish bread)
2-3 T. butter
about 2 roasted red and/or yellow bell peppers, chopped (I used the jarred kind)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes


SALAD:

baby greens mix
several handfuls fresh blackberries
lightly toasted almonds
lemon juice/honey/olive oil/dijon mustard/salt and pepper for the dressing (or any jarred vinaigrette you like)

STEP 1:

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. When it boils, salt it and add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, in another large pot, melt the butter. Cook the shallots until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Whisk in the flour to make a roux, then cook for a couple minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time. Add salt and pepper. Add the cheese, a handful at a time, and stir until mixture is thickened. Stir in the pasta and chickpeas. Keep warm and gooey until ready to serve.

STEP 2:

Assemble the salad and whisk the dressing together. Set aside (don't dress the salad until right before you serve it). In a pan, melt the butter for the breadcrumbs. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the breadcrumbs and chopped bell peppers. Season with some salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Add the parsley and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the breadcrumb mixture has dried out a bit.

STEP 3:

Serve the mac 'n' cheese in bowls topped with a few spoonfuls of the breadcrumbs. Serve with the salad. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading! Eat well and live life, friends :-)
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