Wednesday, September 26, 2012

good things

So this happened last week.

Can you see the look of intense concentration on my face? I am whisking a pot of béchamel, trying to make sure I am whisking at approximately the same speed as Martha, praying she will not scold me in a room full of people, like she does to Marcus Samuelsson in that Macy’s commercial. I love that commercial, and I love Martha. But I really didn’t want a scolding.

I guess I should backtrack. This photo was taken at an editor’s event for a new show Martha is launching on PBS. It’s a back-to-basics style cooking show called Martha Stewart's Cooking School, where she demonstrates fundamental techniques and recipes, like béchamel sauce, which we turned into a cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese. I was asked to do a cooking demo with her, and when Martha calls, you say yes and freak out later.

Thankfully, everything went smoothly -- I didn’t screw up, I didn't splatter myself with cheese sauce and Martha was so kind, even complimentary about my mac and cheese. Although she did scold me a bit for leaving some grated cheese in the bowl. Wasteful! We also made a basic vinaigrette -- 3 to 1 ratio, people. (That's oil to vinegar.) Martha likes a mix of grapeseed oil and olive oil with rice wine vinegar, in case you were wondering. Personally, I find that fascinating.

(I will also add that she wore a very chic leather dress and leggings. Lady is badass.)

A few days later, Dan and I had some friends over for our very first dinner party in the new apartment. I was still coming down from my I-Cooked-With-Martha high, so what else could I make? Our mac and cheese. Yes, ours.

But when I searched for the recipe, it was nowhere to be found. I tried “Martha béchamel mac and cheese,” “Martha stovetop mac and cheese” and finally settled for generic “Martha mac and cheese,” which produced lots of recipes, all with tiny variations. None were exactly like what we had made. What was going on? Was it all a dream?
In the end, I went for the widely popular "Martha's Perfect Macaroni and Cheese" that everyone and their mother has blogged about, pinned, stumbledupon and whatever else we do with recipes these days. It’s a damn good mac and cheese, tangy from lots of extra sharp cheddar and with a layer of toasty, buttery croutons on top, instead of breadcrumbs. If you have not tried it yet, you should.
To counter all that cheese, I made a salad of shredded kale, roasted butternut squash, apples and spicy candied hazelnuts in a vinaigrette. The kale makes you feel very virtuous, but the other ingredients add enough flavor and texture to keep things interesting. Best of all, it doesn’t wilt like the usual lettuce-based salads, so it’s great for entertaining. Or eating the next day out of a Tupperware.

Dinner was by no means fancy, but sitting around our new round dining table in our much roomier dining room felt like a triumph. After all the schlepping and unpacking and poring over Ikea furniture instructions and not remembering which cabinets contain which dishes, finally, it all felt right. All it took was a big bowl of mac and cheese and some people to eat it with, some flowers, a dog begging underfoot, music on the stereo – all the good things that make a house feel like home.
Fall kale salad
I used this Food + Wine recipe as my jumping off point and then did everything differently. You can use any type of kale for this; I chose lacinato. Some shaved parmesan would be great on top as well.
(Serves 6 people as a side dish)

1 cup chopped hazelnuts (or walnuts or pecans)
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
5 Tbsp. olive oil, plus 1 Tbsp.
Black pepper
1 large bunch kale (about 8 oz.)
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and julienned
1 cup butternut squash, cut into small cubes and roasted

Preheat your oven to 350°. Place the hazelnuts in a sieve and run some water over them in your sink until they are wet. Shake off the excess water. In a small bowl, combine the confectioner’s sugar, cayenne and 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the hazelnuts and toss. Transfer to a (dry) sieve and shake off the excess coating. Arrange the pecans on a parchment or foil–lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the sugar is lightly caramelized and the pecans are golden. (The nuts might be sticky at first, so let them cool before removing from the sheet. They should peel off fairly easily.)

To make the salad: In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, soy and honey. When combined, slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Shred the kale into fine strips. Place the kale, roasted butternut squash, apples and hazelnuts in the bowl and toss until lightly coated with dressing, then serve.


Laura said...

I've been waiting for a good Lisa tested Kale salad recipe! I made a roasted butternut squash salad last night that was meh (esp. after grating the ginger and marinating the squash for an hour, not worth it)

Anne said...

OMG - Martha!

Daniel said...

"Whisking at the Speed of Martha" is great title. Of what I'm not sure...

Chris said...

I can't believe I missed this for so long! You met Martha. That is awesome.


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