Broccoli with cheese sauce

The other day I was feeling nostalgic for a recipe that was my job to make as a kid: cheese sauce for steamed broccoli. With pride, 10-year-old me stirred up chunks of Velveeta and mixed them with milk until I had a creamy sauce. When I think about all the things I grew up cooking, this one stands out as a favorite.

So it was a funny coincidence when my mom, who is visiting this week, pulled out this recipe card from my childhood.

Isn’t that hilarious? I admit I cringed a bit with my spelling of you’re.

I tried to recreate the sauce, sans Velveeta, and it was pretty good. It still seems like a great companion for broccoli. You just make it like your classic bechamel. Recipe below:

Cheese sauce for steamed veggies
Serves 4
Creamy bechamel sauce with cheddar.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  2. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  3. 3 tablespoons AP flour
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper if you like it
  5. 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat the butter over medium until it melts.
  2. Stir in the flour, then whisk in the milk and cook until thick and bubbly. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

 

Blue Bottle waffles, take 2

A while back I attempted to make waffles similar to the handheld ones Blue Bottle Coffee sells alongside their tiny, expensive, and totally awesome coffees. 😉  

They were tasty, but not quite right. I learned I had bought the wrong kind of pearl sugar to go inside the waffles. So I ordered some Belgian pearl sugar chunks, and they were just right.

I gave myself enough time to let the batter rise overnight and used this recipe for liege waffles.

In the morning the batter had puffed up and was nice and airy.

I dropped in the chunks of pearl sugar and let them soak in the batter for 15 minutes.

The batter was so sticky that it just sort of plopped onto the waffle maker and was really easy to work with. I didn’t try to spread it out, so some of the waffles had those signature rough edges. Definitely closer to the originals!

The waffles got better as I made more, and some of the sugar chunks melted onto the waffle maker.

My only complaint is that the waffles tasted kind of eggy. Which is not surprising since the recipe calls for 5 eggs! There was also a recipe on the sugar box that only called for 2 eggs, so I might try that next time (or a combination of the two).

I suppose it would help to have an actual Belgian waffle maker, but we are so out of space in our kitchen!

Vanilla bean ice cream

I fiddled with the recipe for vanilla mint chip ice cream to come up with a simple vanilla bean ice cream that would be perfect for any occasion when you want to top some fabulous dessert with a scoop of vanilla. I love that the recipe uses honey for the sugar and that it’s so simple to make. But I don’t love the fact that the eggs aren’t cooked at all. So I sort of combined the recipe with the technique from the Bi-Rite ice creams I’ve made in the past — this will allow you to temper the eggs before you put the mixture into the ice cream maker. The result was just what I was hoping for — thick, creamy, and studded with flecks of vanilla bean. 

I’m sorry I don’t have photos of the process, but I will add them to this post in the future if I get some taken. 

Vanilla bean ice cream
A simple vanilla ice cream for all occasions. Makes 1 quart.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups heavy cream
  2. 1 cup whole milk
  3. 1/2 cup honey
  4. Scrapings from 1 vanilla bean
  5. 2 egg yolks
Instructions
  1. Whisk the cream and milk together in a saucepan set over medium-low heat. When the mixture begins to bubble ever so slightly at the edges of the pan, stir in the honey until it dissolves. Then whisk in the vanilla bean scrapings.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Carefully scoop out 1/2 cup of the milk/cream and very slowly pour it into the bowl of egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Repeat with another 1/2 cup of milk/cream.
  3. Now slowly pour the egg yolk mixture back into the heated pan, whisking as you pour. Continue cooking the mixture until it thickens slightly, maybe 2 more minutes. It should coat a spatula.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat. Pour it over a fine mesh strainer into a big bowl. This will remove any bits of egg that tried to scramble.
  5. Let the mixture cool down before you cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  6. When the ice cream is nice and cold, pour the mix into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Mine took about 25 minutes.
Notes
  1. If your ice cream seems like it still has some lumps after you cooled it in the fridge, go ahead and put it through the strainer one more time.
Adapted from Nourished Kitchen
Adapted from Nourished Kitchen
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Roasted brussels sprouts

Recently I discovered that I love roasted brussels sprouts. The first few times I tasted a brussels sprout I really didn’t like them. Like, so bad I spit it out. And that’s kind of strange because I really like cabbage. But I guess those experiences made me rule out liking brussels sprouts. 

But in the last few years they’ve really made a comeback. I see them all over cooking store catalogs and foodie blogs. So I decided to try making them myself. I used this recipe from Real Simple, and lo and behold, I loved it! 

Roasting the brussels sprouts really deepens the flavor, and you get little crackly caramelized leaves here and there. Plus, there’s a kick of spice from the jalapeno, and the dip in honey at the end gives the sprouts sweetness and a little extra moisture. 

I’ve made these a few times now, and I found that if I strayed from the recipe (used more sprouts, subbed sweet peppers for jalapenos) they weren’t as good. The only thing I left out for good was the ginger because it’s not my favorite thing. But I’ll definitely be keeping this recipe in my book and using it when brussels sprouts are in season. It was so fun to buy one of those stalks full of cute little sprouts! (FYI, one of those provides enough for 2 batches). 

 

Homeroom mac ‘n cheese

Maybe you remember a while back I mentioned trying mac ‘n cheese at a few restaurants in the east bay. One of the places I mentioned was Homeroom, which is a restaurant dedicated to mac ‘n cheese. And their version is great — rich and creamy and even good reheated.

I’ve tried many times to recreate this type of mac ‘n cheese at home, but I’m never quite successful. My guilt-free recipe is great, but I don’t have one for when I want the laced-with-guilt version.


My adorable assistant.

The recipes I’ve tried, even ones with tons of whole milk and cheese come out lumpy or lack the creaminess I see in restaurant macs. So I was really excited when I saw that Joy had posted a recipe from Homeroom’s cookbook for their classic mac ‘n cheese. 

I tried it the other day and it was great. It seems that the secret is more butter and more flour in your roux. When you use their measurements, the sauce cooks up in minutes, so it’s not even hard to prepare. 

I decided to add some bacon to mine, just to make it a little more special. Two big slices, cut in half, cooked, then chopped into little pieces.

I mixed it in right before I put the mac in the oven so the breadcrumbs could toast.

I love panko breadcrumbs, but I think they might toast even a little better if you added a drizzle of butter on top before toasting. Then your mac will become truly evil. 

This recipe is a great base, and you can certainly add whatever other toppings you like, or change the types of cheeses to your liking. We were thinking more cheddar might make it more like the color of traditional mac ‘n cheese.

Guest recipe: Mike’s eggplant parm

This photo does not begin to do justice to my husband Mike’s eggplant parmesan. It’s transcendent, as food bloggers love to say. Instead of just baking the eggplant slices, which often leaves them undercooked and tough, he adds cornmeal to the crust and deep fries them. They end up silky soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.

You can even eat the eggplant slices plain like a fried green tomato, before you put them in the casserole dish with the sauce and cheese. That would be a great appetizer for a football viewing party, with some marinara on the side for dipping. 

I’m an impatient cook, so I don’t often make recipes that require triple dipping and deep frying at a specific temperature. Too much precision, too big of a mess to clean up. But once in a while it’s fun to make something that takes a little more effort. And trust me, you’ll be rewarded with this recipe. 

Here it is, with Mike’s signature humor. 

Mike's What Once Was Baked Has Now Been Fried Eggplant Parmesan
Serves 8
The best eggplant parm you'll ever have.
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Ingredients
  1. 2 medium to large eggplants, peeled and sliced into just under 1/2-inch rounds
For dredging
  1. 2 large eggs
  2. All-purpose flour
For coating
  1. 3/4 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
  2. 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
  3. 1/2 cup corn meal (more or less if you want, adds crunch)
  4. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  5. 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  6. Coarse salt and ground pepper
For topping
  1. 48 oz jar of tomato sauce
  2. 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
Instructions
  1. Congratulations, you have decided to spend your afternoon on eggplant.
  2. Slice eggplants and lay out on cookie sheets. Sprinkle salt liberally onto the slices, let sit for 15 minutes to draw water and bitterness out of the eggplant. Pat thoroughly dry, flip them over and salt the other side, 15 minutes again, dry them. Look, they need to be dry, ok?
  3. Set up three bowls or trays with high-ish sides for breading the eggplant. Put flour in one; beat the eggs in the next; mix breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan, corn meal, oregano, basil, salt and pepper into the third.
  4. Heat oil (olive oil will not work well for this: it has too low of a smoke point) in a cast-iron skillet to 375 degrees for deep frying. Use a candy or probe thermometer -- keeping the temp between 350 and 400 is important.
  5. Now bread the eggplant slices, 3 or 4 at a time, however many will fit into your skillet at one time. Dredge in flour, shake off excess. Dip in egg, let excess drip off. Dredge in breading, shake off everything that's loose. There's a lesson here about shaking off excess. Pause to ponder. Then slide slices carefully into the oil, and fry on each side until golden-brown. An Asian-style wire frying basket works well for turning the eggplant. After frying on both sides, place on cookie cooling rack to drip.
  6. Fry all them eggplants. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Spread a layer of sauce on the bottom of a deep lasagna-size dish. Arrange a layer of eggplant on top of the sauce. Cover with more sauce, then half the mozzarella. Repeat: eggplant, sauce, mozzarella. Add Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is appropriately melted/browned to satisfy your particular innermost desires.
  8. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/
 

Buttermilk skillet cornbread

The other night when I was making Shipwreck Stew, I remembered that we always used to make it with cornbread. So I decided to whip up a batch in one of our cast-iron skillets. I combined a couple recipes I had saved in my recipe book, and I thought it turned out really well.

My skillet was 8 inches in diameter instead of 9, so it made a really tall cornbread, but that’s OK. Next time I would actually use frozen corn instead of fresh off the cob. The fresh stuff was so watery it didn’t have much flavor when it baked.

So here’s what I came up with:

Buttermilk skillet cornbread
Serves 6
Soft and slightly sweet cornbread that pairs well with comforting stews.
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Cook Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups AP flour
  2. 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  3. 3/4 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  8. 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  9. 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  10. 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch skillet and place it in the oven to preheat.
  2. In one bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and oil.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and corn and stir it all together.
  4. Remove the hot pan from the oven (carefully) and pour the batter in. Return to the oven and bake for one hour, or until the top is browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Notes
  1. I found that frozen corn worked better than fresh in this recipe.
Adapted from The New York Times Magazine
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Blue Bottle waffles, first attempt

After we got the waffle maker, I was wondering if I could recreate the amazing hand-held waffles at Blue Bottle Coffee.

They have this nice crunch of caramelized sugar on the outside, so you don’t need any toppings. After a bit of online research I found this recipe for Belgian liege waffles that seemed like it would work great.

They made it clear that you need to have pearl sugar to get the authentic crunchy sugar bits within the waffle. I looked everywhere, but could not find it (there is something the Berkeley Bowl doesn’t have?!). So eventually I just ordered it online.

The morning I decided to make the waffles I realized too late that I didn’t have enough time to make the yeast batter. So I thought I would just go ahead and use my go-to waffle recipe with the Belgian waffle technique. You mix some pearl sugar into the batter.

Then after you put the batter in the waffle maker, you sprinkle on some granulated sugar that will caramelize the outside.

We realized that the best waffles had tons of sugar on the outside and were nice and crispy.

Our waffles were really tasty, but they didn’t really resemble the Blue Bottle ones. So I went back to the Internet for more advice and discovered that I bought the wrong kind of sugar! I bought the Swedish pearl sugar, but I should have bought the Belgian pearl sugar, which comes in much bigger chunks.

So I guess it’s back to the drawing board, and we will just have to make waffles again.

Vanilla mint chip ice cream

As I mentioned before, Mike got me an ice cream maker for Mother’s Day, so I was really excited to try it out. We’ve experimented with a few different ice creams, with varying results. But this recipe was a total winner. I’m thinking I could use it as the base for a lot of other ice creams (with fruit, nuts, caramel, really any toppings).

This is one of those recipes that succeeds because it’s simple and uses high-quality ingredients. We’ve found that even though it’s a little scary, it pays to use egg yolks in your ice creams to achieve that authentic creaminess.

The recipe I used comes from the Nourished Kitchen, a site that my yoga teacher has recommended several times. The flavor of the fresh mint comes through without being overpowering and the flecks of vanilla bean add that classic vanilla taste.

The only thing I changed was to add 1/2 cup of Scharffen Berger chocolate chunks so it became mint chip ice cream. I didn’t think you could have mint ice cream without the chocolate, and we just happened to have that bag of chocolate chunks in the cupboard.

The technique is pretty simple. You heat the cream and milk just until they start to bubble and then you stir in some honey to sweeten it up. Isn’t that awesome? No refined sugar, just honey.

Then you add in your mint leaves and vanilla bean and let that steep for 20 minutes.

Then you strain out the leaves and refrigerate the cream for at least two hours. After that, you whisk in the egg yolks so it becomes nice and thick.

Then you’re ready to add it to the ice cream maker. Ours makes ice cream in about 20-30 minutes.

We usually put our ice cream back in the freezer for another hour or so to let it harden before we eat it. This batch turned out perfectly after a little extra freezing. I think we will be eating this all summer!

No. 32 Red Curry with Tofu

I’ve been trying to perfect a veggie curry recipe for a while without success. But I think I finally got it right. Mine is kind of a combination of Heidi Swanson’s weeknight curry recipe and the red curry from the Thai place down the street from our house, which I love and order often.

The Thai restaurant always deep fries their tofu, so it has a texture that stands up to being soaked in sauce. And I like that they add bamboo shoots. Theirs are more like thin sticks, so I took the canned bamboo shoots and cut them in half lengthwise.

The other thing I figured out is that it’s better to use coconut cream instead of coconut milk because the extra water from the veggies and tofu tends to thin out the sauce.

No. 32 Red Curry with Tofu

1 10-ounce package firm tofu, pressed and thinly sliced
Olive oil – enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet
1 red or orange bell pepper, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
2 cups fresh green beans, ends cut off and snapped in half
1 onion, sliced
1 can coconut cream
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, sliced in half lengthwise
brown rice for serving

Start by frying the tofu slices. You want to heat enough olive oil in a large skillet to just cover the thin slices, somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inch.

Fry the slices until golden on one side, then flip them over to cook the other side. When they’re done, drain them on a paper towel. You can use the remaining oil to cook your veggies.

Saute the veggies until they soften and the onions are translucent.

Next mix the curry paste with a couple tablespoons of coconut cream in a bowl.

Add this mixture to your veggies and stir until they’re all coated. Add the tofu and bamboo shoots to the pan and then stir in the rest of the coconut cream.

Let the curry simmer on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Make sure you taste the curry before you serve it. You may want to add a little salt or more curry paste. I usually end up adding some of both. The curry paste adds more heat, too.

When it’s ready, serve the curry over brown rice. Or, if you’re like us, leftover takeout rice. 🙂