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There’s one dish that will always and forever have a place in my heart (probably literally and figuratively at this point!)—macaroni and cheese. To give you a clue as to just how much I love mac and cheese, for my 30th birthday my husband took me out to a well-known restaurant in Ann Arbor, MI, where I was in graduate school at the time, and ordered a flight of four different kinds of made-to-order mac and cheese. Six years later, I still remember it as one of my most favorite meals.
So when it comes to hosting a vegetarian friend for a Shabbat meal, I see it as an opportunity to embrace my mac and cheese side. I like to get creative and go bananas with mac and cheese. For Sukkot one year, I had some friends over for a mac and cheese bar that included every kind of vegetarian-friendly topping you can think of, and about four different kinds of hot sauces. It was awesome! But when I want to bring out a showstopper, the recipe below is the one I go for. The balsamic vinegar pairs perfectly with the cheeses that have been kissed with a hint of mustard. Plus you can never go wrong with a beautiful, colorful topping like tomatoes, basil and Parmesan. And if your kids don’t like greens or vegetables of any color touching their mac and cheese, you can give them the “untouched” pasta on the side. Everyone wins!
Bruschetta Mac and Cheese Recipe
Mac and Cheese
1. In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir, lightly frying for about a minute, removing before the garlic gets too brown (it can be golden). Pour into a mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.
2. Add tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, basil and salt and pepper to the bowl. Toss to combine, then taste and add more basil and salt, if needed. Cover and set aside.
Mac and Cheese
1. In a large stockpot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.
2. While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and started to bubble, whisk in the flour; cook for 1 ½ minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk until no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook milk mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens and bubbles, about 8 minutes.
3. Remove saucepan from the heat, and by the handful stir in the cheeses, allowing all of the cheese to melt into the sauce before adding more. Stir in the mustard and salt. Return the saucepan to the heat and stir in the pasta. Be sure to stir up the sauce from the bottom of the pan and thoroughly coat all of the pasta with sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat until heated through.
4. Once complete, either spoon all of your mac and cheese into a serving dish and serve with artfully placed bruschetta topping (this is what I recommend for the wow factor!) or spoon into individual bowls and add toppings.
Sukkot is synonymous with fall fruits and vegetables which are often used to decorate the sukkah. No specific foods are required but using the abundance of our local harvest replicates the Israelites bringing some of the bounty of their harvest to the Temple in Jerusalem. Making the long trek to the city, the travelers dwelled in temporary huts, or sukkahs, at the base of the Jerusalem hills.
It is customary to sleep and eat in the sukkah for eight days. In many climates this is not advisable, but eating in the temporary hut that has a lattice roof through which to view the stars was mandated in the Talmud on this holiday. Mandate aside, it is customary to invite friends and family to partake of a meal in your own sukkah (or to visit friends who have built one).
Dishes that are easily transported from your kitchen to the table outside are preferred and, of course, including nature’s fall produce is a must. Here is a side dish that can be made dairy with butter or parve (no milk or meat products) if anyone in your sukkah keeps kosher. It is Caribbean in origin, an area of the world where many Jews settled 400 years ago. You can, of course, bake your own sweet potatoes and small pie pumpkin to mash for this sweet potato pumpkin cazuela, but to save time and even allow your young children to help you make this recipe I call for canned pumpkin and sweet potatoes in light or no syrup.
One word of warning: This dish is so very delicious that I would double or triple the ingredients if you are making it for more than four people. And don’t forget Thanksgiving. But, please, hold the marshmallows—this is not a dessert, but could be served with any number of other dishes.
Sweet Potato Pumpkin Cazuela
1. Place the butter or coconut oil in a 2-quart Pyrex bowl and microwave for 45 seconds.
2. Whisk the sugars, flour and salt into the butter to combine.
3. Whisk the coconut milk into the mixture until thoroughly blended. Add the eggs and combine.
4. Add the pumpkin puree and the mashed yams and whisk until a smooth batter is formed.
5. Combine the water with the spices in a small glass cup and microwave for 3 ½ minutes. Let the spices steep for 5 minutes. Strain the spiced water through a fine mesh strainer into the pumpkin-potato mixture and stir to incorporate.
7. Butter a 2-quart casserole and pour the mixture into the prepared dish.
8. Bake covered in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 1 hour. Serve hot out of the oven or reheated warm or hot.
Sugar pie pumpkins are about 1 ½ pounds and very rounded. Always use them when a recipe calls for cooked pumpkin. Larger pumpkins are more watery.
Coconut milk is not milk or dairy. It is the liquid formed from ground, fresh, hydrated coconut.