MELISSA CLARK IS ONE OF US. The prolific cookbook author and “The New York Times” food columnist has a homegrown Dahlia (her young daughter); knows a rutabaga from a turnip (so many people don’t!), and is intrepid in harvesting year-round farm-and-garden gleanings—if not in her own backyard, then in Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza Farmers’ Market, where she has been a year-round customer for years, come hell or ice age. With her latest, “Cook This Now,” the hard part will be figuring out which of 120 recipes to start with. Win one of two copies I’ve bought to share—and get her recipe for Carroty Mac and Cheese right now.
As was the case with “In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite,” published last fall, I can be happy just reading a Melissa Clark cookbook, both for flavor ideas and for the charming anecdotes she always layers in—the provenance and food memories associated with each recipe. This one follows the year of outings to her local farmers market, where what’s available dictates what her family will eat each week.
Clark is just so practical—she’s highly expert, of course, but it’s the sensible, can-do voice that I get inspired by. Her recent Thanksgiving countdown column in “The New York Times” is a good example; so are the tips under a heading “What Else” that follow each recipe in the new book—like how to turn her Shaved Zucchini and Avocado Salad With Green Goddess Dressing into a dip, for instance (swap sour cream for the buttermilk). There are so many more tips:
Like how she quarters, instead of slices, the apples in her Baked Apples with Fig and Cardamom Crumble to get around the too-mushy applesauce-like glop that’s often beneath the topping of a typical apple crumble. Or how she makes split pea soup seem fresh—which even I, a split pea soup lover, will admit can get a little overly familiar tasting by midwinter. Clark’s suggestion: add ginger and coriander to the ingredient mix.
Or how she—in her role as Dahlia’s mother, seeking to add vegetables to the menu—made delicious room for shaved carrots in a crusty casserole of mac and cheese, which I share here from “Cook This Now.”
Carroty Mac and Cheese
Makes 6 servings
2 cups whole wheat macaroni
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated carrot (about 8 small)
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400°F and grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Arrange a rack in the top third of the oven.
2. Cook macaroni according to package instructions in a large pot of salted boiling water; add carrot 3 minutes before pasta is finished cooking; drain well.
2. While pasta is hot, stir in all but 1/2 cup of the cheddar and the butter. In a bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, salt, mustard powder, and pepper. Fold mixture into the pasta.
3. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and the parmesan over the top. Bake until the casserole is firm to the touch and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
- If you’re grating your cheddar cheese in the food processor, you don’t have to wash out the machine before grating the carrots. Or vice versa.
- This is one of those macaroni and cheeses with an eggy custard base that puffs as it cooks, and is cut into squares to serve, like a casserole, as opposed to that gooey, creamy, stove-top béchamel sauce version. I know that some people have strong opinions about proper mac and cheese (I’m an equal opportunist myself), but thought I’d let you know what you’re getting.
- Feed this dish to the kids as is; grown-ups should indulge with a squirt of fiery Sriracha or other hot sauce all over the top.
- You can vary the cheese to give this rather plain (if tasty) dish more personality. Gruyère, aged Cheddar, pecorino, and aged Gouda will all add a sophisticated allure that will raise it above mere kids’ food.
(From “Cook This Now” by Melissa Clark. Copyright © 2010, Melissa Clark, Inc. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.)
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How to Win a Copy of ‘Cook This Now’
IBOUGHT TWO EXTRA COPIES of Melissa Clark’s “Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make” to share with you. To enter, just comment below by answering the question:
Which is the seasonal produce that you look forward to most–and miss when it’s out of season? I don’t eat asparagus, for instance, except when it’s locally available (mostly from my own garden, April to June), so that would be right up there with flavors I get really excited about when another crop rolls around.
Feeling shy, or just don’t have an answer? Simply comment with “Count me in,” or “I’d like to win” or some such, and you entry will be registered. I’m not too tough to please!
I’ll draw two winners at random after entries close at midnight Wednesday, November 23, using the tool on random [dot] org. (Disclaimer: Books purchased from Amazon links earn me a small commission, which I use to buy books for future giveaways.)