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.
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).
Red Hawk Macaroni with Prosciutto and Raspberry Jam
Red Hawk, perhaps the most popular cheese made by California’s Cowgirl Creamery, is a mellow and complex washed-rind cheese. While it deserves its moment in the spotlight, it doesn’t fare well with complicated pairings; rather, this triple-cream appreciates a modest presentation that allows its pungent, meaty notes to speak for themselves. For this macaroni and cheese dish, we decided to let Red Hawk’s heartiness take center stage, accompanied by only a bit of salty prosciutto and a touch of tart jam. You’ll be surprised how these two ingredients accentuate what makes Red Hawk so beloved—an understated intensity that puts it at the top of many cheese lovers’ top 10 lists.
8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
1 full wheel Red Hawk, rind intact, chopped into chunks
4 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons raspberry jam (plus more per your indulgence)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
2. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain through a colander and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, mix pasta, cheese, and prosciutto. Sprinkle with salt and a few good turns of the pepper grinder. Toss until well combined.
4. Lightly oil four 8-ounce ramekins and fill them with equal amounts of the pasta, cheese, and prosciutto mixture. Add a scant ½ cup of cream to each ramekin.
5. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place your ramekins onto the sheet.
6. Slide into oven and bake for 35 minutes, or until the cream has thickened into a nice gratin. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes. The cheese is supposed to bubble over the edges of the ramekins—that’s part of the charm of this dish. And it’s why you lined the baking sheet with foil.
7. Top each ramekin with 1 tablespoon raspberry jam before serving. Add more spoonfuls of jammy goodness if you see fit.