Oof: Red Hawk Macaroni with Prosciutto and Raspberry Jam

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

-Utter deliciousness in a bowl.-

During the writing of Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, Stephanie and I had to deal with a small little problem. The food.

We were eating gourmet pasta and cheeses nearly every single day for a year. Testing mac and cheese, after mac and cheese, after mac and cheese. Both of our cholesterol levels didn't just shoot through the roof, they went further than any probe ever sent into deep space by NASA. It was utterly brutal.

The weight gain was equally trying. My whole life I maintained a slim build my brother once lovingly called, "Heroin chic." I was practically a collection of organs bound by skin and held up by bones.

Eating mac and cheese practically every single night for a year drastically changed that. Since then my metabolism has sputtered more than my Dad's old Jaguar and I can no longer eat and drink to my struggling little heart's content. The weight gain was intense, to say the least. About twenty pounds for me, and Steph saw a significant gain to her tiny frame as well.

Steph and I did our best to fight this off by eating a lot of salads and trying to put away more fruit than a Farmers' Market. Still, it was a losing battle when your intake is so staggeringly high.

Since the book came out I've been doing my best to exercise when I can and eat far more fruits and veggies. It seems to have worked. My jeans aren't so tight anymore so, you know, progress.

Heck, this last Halloween I saw friends I hadn't seen in over a year since the book come up to me with a, "Wow, you lost a lot of weight!" I wasn't sure whether to slap a bitch or take the compliment because it wasn't until that I didn't realize just how big I had gotten. Looking back at pictures it's a bit daunting. Given, I was probably at an unhealthy underweight before, but when you've been that way your whole life and quick gain is shocking. Still, at book release I was sporting a extra chin that complimented by original chin strikingly well.

This isn't to say I no longer eat mac and cheese. Far from it. We eat it probably once a month or so. After all, it's delicious and moderation is key. The only reason you should ever eat mac and cheese every night is if you're writing a cookbook on a deadline.

So now things have taken a turn in a rather very different direction. I've taken on a job working for About.com on a brand new channel: Fruits and Vegetables. This produce-focused channel is a place where I'll be writing about the mythology, history, science, and fascinating varieties of produce out there - from tubers to pommel, nuts to herbs! Of course, there will also be plenty of engaging and easy to make recipes that you won't find anywhere else.

The channel will post ten times a month with two pieces of produce being the focus each month. For November I decided to start with some of my favorite fall fruits: cranberries and persimmons. We looked at the history of cranberries in Thanksgiving and how they were harvested, to how persimmons can be used to predict the weather. Naturally, some of my favorite fall recipes went up: persimmon oat scones and cranberry applesauce.

-And you will notice that pictures there are not via Instagram for you food porn geeks.-

I do hope you'll make the Fruits and Vegetables channel one of your go-to food sites. Vanilla Garlic will still be posting so no worries there. You'll still find essays and certainly more baked goods here in the future.

And for good faith, I'm sharing one of my favorite recipes from Melt. I hope you enjoy it (preferably with a salad).

Giving In: Gruyère and Emmentaler Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Ham and Cubed Sourdough

Saturday, November 8, 2014

-This utterly sexy photo by Matt Armendariz.-

So I'm giving in this year.

Admittedly, it's not something I usually do, let alone admit to. I'm what many call stubborn, though I prefer stalwart. But after complaints, begging, pleading, and even a bit of polite asking I'll bend for once.

This year I'll make stuffing for Thanksgiving.

Now, admittedly, this probably sounds odd. Can one have a Thanksgiving without stuffing?

Yes. Yes you can.

Usually, I make blue cheese biscuits, cheddar crackers, homemade olive bread, or some epic macaroni and cheese where the cheese sauce bubbles over the sides and the house smells like warm feelings and comfort.

Last year, I crafted a wild rice stuffing studded with feta, roasted chanterelles, toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries, and the finest mince of scallion.

What did my guests say? "Oh, it's good. Delicious, in fact. I just miss real stuffing."

One even had the gall to ask if I wanted him to run out and grab a box of *shudder* Stouffer's. After beating him unconscious and leaving his corpse on the street I went back to my apparently simple rice stuffing and spooned in onto the unappreciative plates of my so-called loved ones.

So, this year, I'll make stuffing. I plan to use sourdough, cherries, sage, hazelnuts (or, perhaps, pecans), and plenty of turkey sausage. That should shut them right up.

However, if you're looking for something hearty for Turkey Day but don't want to do stuffing, might I recommend the following?

This is another popular recipe from my cookbook, Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese. If sitting by a warm fire in Europe has a flavor I imagine this to be it. It'll put meat on your bones, no doubt, but think of it as protection from the cold or perhaps a return on investment when you ate nothing but salad last summer.

It uses ham, but feel free to omit it and use roasted cauliflower instead.

Another option is leftover turkey because fuck yes leftover turkey mac and cheese.

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