Peanut butter, Almond, and Pine Nut Slab Cookies

Peanut butter, almond and pine nut slab cookies

It’s cause I was sick.  I needed cookies.  I had the cookie monster on my shoulder saying, COOKIE…COOKIE….YOU WANT COOKIE!  COOKIE IS GOOD FOR YOU  WHEN YOU SICK.

So I listened.  And I made these three nut cookies.  Just cause I love peanut butter.  And almonds.  And pine nuts.  So why not all three in one?

Also, slab or log cookies are perfect.  You don’t have to make 36 of them and then you either eat them all in one go….or they go bad.  Slab cookies you can chill, cut the amount you want to bake, and then freeze the rest of the dough.  How great is that?

So I hope you give in to your inner cookie monster and make these COOKIES NOW!

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from “bigfatcookies” by Elinor Klivans

1 cup unbleached flour

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup peanut butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup coarsely chopped and whole pine nuts

Sift the flour, almonds and baking soda in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the peanut butter and butter until smooth and blended together.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat until blended, about 30 seconds.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute.  On low-speed, add the flour mixture and blend until just incorporated.

Form the dough into a rough rectangular slab.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes, to firm the dough up a bit.

Check the dough and reshape into a “nicer” rectangle.  Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.  Or you can freeze it for a month; thaw in the fridge before using.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F (175 C).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Unwrap the dough and slice into 1/3 inch slices.  (Slice as many or as few as you need).  Press the pine nuts into the cookies.  Bake for 14 minutes.  Cool them for 5 minutes on the same sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

From my kitchen to yours,


And now for something completely different.

Karla and Juleisy

A couple of days ago a friend of mine said I should do a post on what NOT to do in the kitchen.  I thought it was a great idea, and said I would start thinking about things that I could put on that list.

Then yesterday, a friend of mine posted a hilarious video on his FB page.   It is so ridiculous, and hilarious, and perfectly describes what you should never do in the kitchen.  Shot by some fellow Miamian’s, taking the piss out of themselves and “cooking shows”.

If you are offended by some NUDITY (Hey!  Shout out to my friend at Sybaritica and his extremely funny post!) then don’t watch.

So here goes, what I think you should never do in the kitchen!



Cooking with Hialeah’s Finest


“Spanish” Onion Soup

The first time I ever had French Onion Soup was in 10th grade.  Our French teacher took us on a cultural field trip to a French restaurant, and one of my friends ordered it.   I would not have been so adventurous.  She told me to try it, and as an obliging teenager who only trusts her friends, I did, and it was a taste revelation!  I just couldn’t get enough of the gooey cheese, the crusty bread, and then hidden underneath it, that dark, caramel broth filled to the brim with soft, caramelized onions.  Heaven.

Cut to last night.  I have wanted to make this soup for ages.  But I had to wait until I got some earthenware that I could use in the oven to melt that amazing cheese.  So a couple of months ago I purchased two Le Creuset soup bowls, not only are they functional, they are pretty gorgeous too.  (I love Le Creuset by the way, but this isn’t a post about them.)

Also, as I have mentioned before, I have a gazillion cookbooks, and hardly ever get to use them.  So I adapted the French Onion Soup recipe from my Williams Sonoma Comfort Food cookbook.  But I didn’t want just a French Onion Soup.  I wanted the depth of Spanish ingredients.  First of all, I took the time to make my own stock, but instead of making a plain beef one, I did a Chorizo Stock.  This gave the stock a more golden reddish hue.  And as I caramelized the onions, I added a heaping tablespoon of pimenton, Spanish Paprika, to give it a smokiness that is missing from the delicate French version.  And lastly, I used Jerez, or sherry, instead of the wine.  In the end, I think it was a total success, the new version had levels of flavour, from the warmth of the chorizo and pimenton, and then a unique nuttiness imparted by the Jerez.  I hope you’ll be adventurous and trust me on this and try it at home!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from Williams Sonoma Comfort Food

Ingredients for French Onion Soup

2 tbsp Unsalted Butter

2 1/2 lbs. Onions, yellow, white, red….go crazy!

1 tbsp pimenton or smoky paprika

1 tbsp All purpose flour

1 cup Jerez (Sherry) or dry white wine

Chorizo Stock (recipe follows)

2 tsp minced Fresh thyme

1 Bay leaf

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1 Crusty baguette

2 2/3cups shredded Gruyère Cheese

For the stock:

3 tbsp olive oil

1 lb marrow and beef bones

1 spanish chorizo sausage

2 celery ribs, including leaves, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 leek, sliced

1 swede or rutabaga, chopped

2 tsp salt

1 bay leaf

1 large sprig of thyme


In a large stockpot, add the beef marrow bones and the chorizo and cook over med-high heat, for about ten minutes or the chorizo starts to lose some fat and color the oil.  Add all the veggies, salt, bay leaf and thyme.  Stir to coat and cook about 5 more minutes.  Add the water, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer vigorously for 30 minutes.  Switch off the heat, cover and let steep for a good 2 hours.


To make the soup, in a large heavy bottomed stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions, stir well, cover, and cook for 5  minutes.  Uncover, add the paprika, and reduce the heat to medium low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and deep golden brown, about 30 minutes.


caramelized onionsSprinkle the flour over the onions and stir until combined.  Gradually stir in the wine, then the stock, and finally the thyme and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer, uncovered, until slightly reduced, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Discard bay leaf.

Spanish onion soup


Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.  Have ready eight 1 1/2 cup broilerproof soup crocks.  Cut the baguette into 16 slices, sizing them so that 2 slices will fit inside each crock.  Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet and broil, turning once, until lightly toasted on both sides, about 1 minute total.  Set the slices aside.  Position the oven rack about 12 inches from the heat source, and leave the broiler on.

Ladle the hot soup into the crocks.  Place 2 toasted bread slices, overlapping if necessary, on top of the soup and sprinkle each crock evenly with about 1/3 cup of the Gruyère.  Broil until the cheese is bubbling, about 2 minutes.  Serve at once.


Naples and The Amalfi Coast Pt. 2

Neapolitan Food

Eating in Italy is a religious experience.  Eating in Campania, well…..let’s just say it is one of a kind.  What is great about the food in Naples and it’s surroundings you say?  Wellllllll…….Let’s start off with the basics.  Tomatoes.  The best tomatoes in the world come from this area.  Namingly, the “Pommodori di San Marzano”

Tomatoes, Italy, Campania, San Marzano

This is the queen bee of sauce tomatoes.  Much like the roma, or plum, it is slightly longer and thinner, and juicy so perfect for that “Marinara” sauce on your pizza, or pasta.

Then there’s “Mozzarella di Bufala”.  This also hails from this region.  Delicious, sometimes tangy taste of pure Buffalo milk.

Mozzarella Cheese, Bufala, Italy, Campania

And then of course there’s “Pasta di Grangnano  trafilata al Bronzo”…..which is basically, excuse my home region of Emilia-Romagna, the best dry pasta, or Pasta Asciutta, your money can buy.

Faella, Pasta, Grangnano, Italy, Campania

And of course, I cannot forget all the seafood.  From squid, mussels, clams, octopus, and the queen of the sea, Ricciola, or Greater Amber Jack as we would call it.

But there is also the lemons….to make Limoncello, Granita, Salads, Lemonade……it is really a rich and diverse food basket that serves all of Italy, and the world.

Well, you know that one of the main reasons I went there was to eat.  So eat we did.  Here is the best of the best that we found in Napoli and around!

Our first night we were basically directed by a young lad to try “Oste Pazzo” restaurant, near the Lungomare and right below the “Castell dell’ Ovo”.

The waiters basically harassed (well, not too much, I mean, in terms of food you really don’t have to push me too far) to try the “Antipasto Tipico Napoletano”  This was basically comprised of a few octopus and squid salads with the typical “Fritti misti di pesce”.  That is mixed fried seafood.  I love me some fried food.  And it was awesome.

Fried Mixed Seafood, Italy, Naples

On the left is fried baby squid, quite like what we get here in Spain, but they were absolutely tiny and tender, and the batter was crazy good, crunchy, just a tad spicy, perfect.  In the middle we had two fritters with “neonati”, basically little fish in a delicious parsley spiked batter.  And on the right, fried white anchovies.  Paolo, my sweetie, wasn’t a big fan of these, he thought it was too fishy.  I however, loved it.  Something about munching on these, or any anchovy, is truly delicious.

Next up on the friend band wagon, is the Arancini.  I love arancini, and have featured them before on my blog.  But I have always eaten the Sicilian variety.  Never had I tried the Neapolitan ones.

Arancini, Fried Rice Balls, Italy, NapoliOn the left is the anemic looking “Arancino Bianco”, or white arancino, and on the right is the, you guessed it, “Arancino Rosso”, red arancino.  I was in for a huge surprise.  What looked like the bland, plain white arancino, turned out to be the tastiest one!  The white one stuffed with a pork sausage type of filling, and the rice was chock full of pepper and cheese.  It was absolutely amazing.  The red one, on the other hand, was more balanced, but also, less flavourful.  It is red because they cooked the rice with tomato sauce, and then it stuffed with a tomato meat sauce.  Both were delicious, but the white one won!

Neapolitans love their fried food.  Nary a street corner or restaurant menu that wasn’t filled with these guilty pleasures! Even for breakfast.  Upon arriving to the hotel we were instructed to go to a café called “Scaturchio”, a hundred year old café that has some pretty amazing pastries, and Napoli’s most famous, the Sfogliata.  Sfogliata is a filo-type pastry filled with sweet ricotta and candied fruits.  And one of the bonuses, is it’s served warm!

Scaturchio, Pastries, Naples, Italy

The pastry selection at Scaturchio

Sfogliata Pastry

Sfogliata Pastry from Scaturchio

It was delicious!  Crispy and buttery on the outside, warm, dense and moist on the inside.  Perfectly warm, so all you had to do was enjoy it without letting a drop of the ricotta fall!

In Capri, I mentioned we had a lunch with a view.  But obviously one of the things I wanted to eat in Capri was the Caprese Salad…..I mean, that is its birthplace!  So simple, but let me tell you, it was the best Caprese I have ever had.

Caprese SaladGorgeous, juicy, vine ripe “Cuore di Bue” tomatoes, with perfect spheres of “Mozzarella di Bufala”, accompanied only by a bit of rucola, extra virgin olive oil, and some salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Perfection on a plate!

We also enjoyed the “Insalata di Polipo con Agrumi”.  Octopus salad with citrus fruits.  This dish was made for summer in Naples.  Meaty, tender octopus bathed in lemon juice.  So refreshing for the unbearable heat!

Octopus salad with lemon dressingPaolo decided to go for the pasta, which was equally delicious, but I was trying to be “good” that day.  He had a very typical pasta that I have only tasted on this trip, called Sciallatielle.  This is a thick, flat, medium long noodle.  This pasta had been made fresh that day, and topped with Shrimp and cherry tomato sauce.

Sciallatielle Pasta with ShrimpThe shrimp in Naples are less briny than our mediterranean counterparts, equally delicious, but sweeter, and it complements the absolute star of this dish, the tomatoes.  Bursting with flavor!

Now the dessert here at Punta Tragara deserves special mention.  I was not very impressed by the title, Almond Crumble with Limoncello pastry cream.  But Holy Moses!!!!!  What an incredible dessert it is!  It is part lemon meringue, part lemon curd, part cheesecake crust!  All topped with the most beautiful and colorful summer berries.

Almond crumble with Limoncello Pastry Cream

In Positano, we went to a restaurant called “Le Tre Sorelle” that a friend of mine recommended.  It was a perfect beach-side lunch.  Although, Paolo chose the better (in terms of beachy-ness) option, but I just couldn’t be that close to Sorrento and not have “Gnocchi alla Sorrentina” which has to be one of my favorite dishes in the world.

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina is gnocchi with a tomato and mozzarella sauce.  But this was definitely the best I have tasted.  Again, it comes down to the tomatoes my friends……I am having withdrawal symptoms already.

Paolo ordered the fish, with an “Aqua Pazza” Sauce.  The fish was perfectly cooked, fork tender and juicy.  Again….with amazing tomatoes and this time, potatoes!

Fish with Aqua PazzaThe presentation is gorgeous too, I have to say.


Oh my goodness….I can’t believe I forgot our starter at Tre Sorelle…..Zucchini Flowers stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto.  Just sublime.  I mean, it doesn’t get any better than this lunch.  Until the next one I guess.  Ok, I am a sucker, they are all really good.

Zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto


And on our last night, we went uphill in one of Naples’ ritzier and more residential areas to a restaurant called “La Sacrestia”.  The menu looked amazing, the views were breathtaking, of the bay and Vesuvius.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a good picture of the view, because the sun had already set….but here’s one so you can imagine!

Bay of Naples Also unfortunately, the restaurant was due to close the next day for holidays, so they didn’t have many of the dishes on the menu.  One of the dishes I wanted to eat was the Ricciola, the fish I had spoken about before.  But instead, they brought out a little tasting dish of pasta that really amazed me!  And I ended up recreating it at home.  I was really, really surprised because when they described it, it just sounded, well, blah.  It was Pasta with Mussels, Cherry tomatoes, Pepperoncino and Pecorino.

I loved it.  Obviously, the ingredients are the best of the best, so why bother adding more things that are unnecessary?  Gorgeous.

Well kids, I hope you enjoyed my culinary extravaganza of a trip through Campania.  Tomorrow…….PIZZA!




My very first award!

Now, after my whole kitchen fiasco, I am so pleased and flattered that Acorn in the Kitchen has nominated me for

It just brightened up my whole day!  Ok, so I will have to abide by the rules, (which I didn’t know there were)

Here are seven things about myself:

1.  I talk to my dogs.  (And I think they understand me.)

2.  I actually majored in Art History and Theater before becoming a Chef.

3.  I secretly wish I could sing better, and belt out tunes whenever anyone will let me.

4. I am dreaming of opening up my own bakery.

5. I have never been to Asia.  (Unless you count the Asian side of Istanbul)

6. I don’t own a car.

7. I’m afraid of Ferris Wheels.  But I LOVE Roller Coasters.

Ok, so on to the next part, my nominations for versatile bloggers are as follows:


Girl in a Food Frenzy


Travelling Foodies

Things My Belly Likes

Deux Chicago

Finger, Fork & Knife

Marinating Online

The Daily Norm

Chilli Marmalade

Ok, I apologize if I haven’t done this correctly, but congratulations to all my nominees!  Apparently I have to add a link to this page as well:

Versatile Blogger Award Rules

Woot woot!




A Swiss-Italian Weekend – Chocolate Almond Date Cake

20 years ago I graduated from high school in Lugano, Switzerland. The time I spent there was one of the most memorable in my life, where I made some of my best friends, who are still in my life to this day.  I feel very lucky and privileged to be able to have returned there for our reunion, and have shared this wonderful weekend full of food, friends and fun.  Here are some of the things that we ate and prepared throughout the weekend:

The view as I was landing in Milan

Typical Italian breakfast: Cappuccino and Chocolate “Brioche”

The church next to my old school

Having fun with my salmon bruschetta

Cicche del Nonno- Translates to “Grandfather’s Pillows” but they are spinach gnocchi… favorite.

Dates brought specially from Dubai so I could make my Chocolate Almond Date Cake!


From Top to bottom, left to right:  Crescenza cheese, mixed olives and mushrooms, green figs, Porchetta and in the middle, tuna stuffed spicy peppers.

Parmesan with Balsamic vinegar

Our table with a view

My friend Miki preparing the Okonomiyaki

So this is my Chocolate Almond Date Cake, and the only thing I cooked this weekend (Ok, I also did the Summer Cherry Tart).  This cake is so moist and luscious… really should try it.  You’ll find the recipe below.

Radishes at the local market in Lugano

Giant Salami hanging in the streets of Lugano

The olive stand at the local market in Porlezza, Italy

Beautiful Lake Lugano

The goodies in my kitchen……6 kilos worth of food!

From Left to right:

Top Row:Culatello and Lardo (yes, it is lard, but amazing on toasted bread) 2 packets of buckwheat polenta, a box of spinach lasagna.

Middle row: 1/2 kilo of Speck, 2 Salami Cacciatorini, Fresh horseradish! 1/2 kilo of pumpkin gnocchi, 1 kilo of Parmesan Cheese, 1/2 Kilo of Appenzeller Cheese.

Bottom row:  Guanciale, a package of Trofie Pasta, and Pancetta Romana!

Dinners are going to be awesome.

And now, for the recipe:

Chocolate Almond Date Cake

For the cake:

1 1/4 cups water
22 pitted medjool dates, plus 4 more for garnish
3 tbsp sweet Marsala wine (or brandy)
2 tbsp strong brewed coffee
4 tbsp good quality cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
12 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp. plus more for pan
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (preferably 61% cacao), finely chopped
1/4 cup almonds, slivered (non salted)

For the glaze

4 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cups light brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup ( light or dark- I prefer dark)
1 tbsp water
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp heavy cream
4 oz. bittersweet or milk chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp hazelnut liqueur
1/4 cup toasted and salted Marcona almonds, coarsely chopped

1. For the cake: preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Butter 9×3 inch cake pan, line with parchment, and butter parchment.
2.  Combine water, dates, Marsala, coffee and 2 tbsp of cocoa powder and bring to a boil.  Take off heat, and let cool.  Puree cooled date mixture in a food processor or with an immersion blender.  Place 3/4 cup purée in a small bowl, and press plastic wrap directly on surface; reserve.  Place remaining purée in a large bowl.
3. Whisk flour, salt, cinnamon, and remaining 2 tbsp cocoa in a bowl.
4. Beat butter and brown sugar with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition (batter will look curdled).
5. Stir baking soda into date purée.  On low-speed, beat flour mixture into egg mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the date mixture.  Beat in chocolate.  Mix in slivered almonds.  Transfer batter to prepared pan, smooth top.
6.  Bake until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour.  Let cool in pan on top of a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen, and invert cake onto rack.  Remove parchment, turn cake right side up, and let cool completely.  (cake can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temp for up to 2 days.)
7.  Make the glaze:  Bring butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, water and salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium low heat, stirring occasionally.  Boil 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in cream, then hazelnut liqueur.  Add chocolate, whisk until smooth.  Let cool until thickened, about 15-20 minutes.
8. Assemble the cake:  Using a serrated knife (or my handy-dandy little trick, non minted dental floss to cut the top of cake, just cut a tiny piece at one end, insert the floss tightly wound in your fingers, and drag it across the top of the cake and slice the top off!) trim the rounded top off so it is flat.  Spread remaining date purée on top, then pour the glaze over top, letting some drip off the sides.  Garnish with halved dates and salted toasted Marcona almonds.

From my kitchen to yours,





VILA VINITECA: My little slice of paradise in Barcelona

I recently moved into an area in Barcelona called the Born.  It is one of the oldest neighborhoods, with gorgeous cobblestone streets, lively bars, a simply awe-inspiring church, and my favorite part, the most decadent delicatessen and wine shop.  Whatever I am saving on rent from my previous apartment, I am spending it in here!  And you can also have lunch, or a snack in the store, and sample all the gorgeous cheeses, “jamones” and just about anything else they have in stock……which is a lot.

Recently I went in and grabbed a bite, ok a big bite, to eat.  And I was in heaven.  The menu is basically a list of cheeses, cured meats, some seafood (all canned, but the best quality) and a few salads.  I can never decide on the cheese, so I always ask for the 5 cheese sampler.

But I also wanted something fresh, so we asked for a plate of their tomatoes and tuna belly (ventresca)

In Spain, the canned tuna is exceptional.  It is nothing, I mean nothing compared to what I used to get in the USA when I lived there, that was this dry, sand-papery kind of thing that you had to add mayonnaise to it.  And the tomatoes!!!  Look at them, my mouth waters just from thinking about it.  It was a plate of “Corazon de Buey” or Bull’s heart due to their shape, which is large and full of ridges, and Kumato tomatoes.  The bull’s heart are a fleshier, jucier more delicate type of tomato, whereas the Kumato is round, small, and has a greenish-brown tint, and has a more pronounced flavor.  I prefer the Kumato.  All drizzled with some extremely high quality extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkled with some salt from Ibiza, you can see it in the background in the light blue tin.

Then, of course we had some ham, “Joselito” ham to be exact.

This is not your normal Iberian ham.  It is truly a gift from the Gods, or from some very delicious piggies.  If you aren’t familiar with “Jamon de Bellota”, it is ham made from Black pigs, that are only fed acorns.  And it produces this beautiful dark red hue, with just the perfect amount of fat on it.  When you put it in your mouth, it basically melts and delivers an incredible “umami” sensation.  It is best eaten with “pa amb tomaquet” which is country bread spread with tomato, olive oil and salt.

Then on to our cheese plate…..EUREKA!!!!!  I love cheese.  If I were stuck on a desert island, I hope there are some goats or sheep or cows, cause I need to have my cheese.  As I said, we chose the 5 sampler plate.

From the bottom to top :

Tou de Tillers – A mild and creamy (delishhhhhhhh) cow’s milk cheese from the Catalan Pyrenees

Tome des Coucherins – a firm, mild cow’s milk cheese from France.  This one was just ok, but hey, they all can’t be stars!

Comte- a strong, firm cow’s milk cheese, aged from 2009, from France.  I really liked this one, but you can’t have too much, it really has a pronounced flavor.

Tome de Savoie- this was a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese.  I really enjoyed this one, it had a more pronounced flavor than the first one, and it paired really well with the jam that they gave us, which I will tell you about later.

And last but not least, or basically my favorite,

Shropshire Blue- This is the king of all cheeses.  The big kahuna.  The bees to my knees.  Ok, it’s a cheddary-blue cheese from England, reminiscent of Stilton, but softer, more melt in your mouth feel.  This is my go-to cheese.  I absolutely could eat this everyday.

And all of this accompanied by this incredible violet jelly.  I was a bit unconvinced at first.  I have tried cheese with rose petal jelly, but never violet.  It was delicious.  It wasn’t as “perfumey” as I thought it would be.  It was a very delicate taste, and it combined perfectly with the fattier cheeses, giving it a completely balanced taste, none of the flavors overpowering the others.  And it was so beautiful to look at too, it’s pinkish-lavender hue looked extremely beautiful on the white cheeses.

If you are ever in Barcelona, and you want a fabulous glass of wine to wash down all this food glory, or just do some shopping to take back home, you need to make your way to Vila Viniteca.  It’s just perfect.


Vila Viniteca

Carrer de Agullers, 7

+34 902 32 77 77


Leek and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

This recipe I am posting for my friend Miki, who doesn’t like Mac ‘n Cheese.  But she seems to be convinced she would like this one, and I am sure, no, TRIPLE sure that she would.  If she would just make it.  She says that she rather me come over and make it for her, and I would, except she lives in Italy… and I alas, am in Spain.

I love macaroni and cheese.  My love affair began as a wee tot, when my parents prohibited everything that was processed, in a box, not home-made, yada yada yada……. Then when we moved to the Bahamas, I tried my first box of Thrifty Made Macaroni and Cheese, courtesy of Lisa Donaldson, after a loooong night out at Waterloo, the local, em….watering hole.  We had a disgusting habit of polishing off a box after our nights out “dancing” with a can of Blue Bird Pineapple Juice.

Now cut to years later.  Centuries later, it seems.  I make the homemade versions now, since I am a much more sophisticated person.  (Yes you can laugh, and yes I still do enjoy a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Some habits are hard to break.)  The first homemade version I made was from Martha Stewart’s “Comfort Food” cook book, which called for a bechamel sauce, 3 different cheeses and a buttered, crustless white bread topping.  Since then, I have been experimenting, a la my American chefs have, with all sorts of added ingredients to make it even more delicious!  So, two more things I can’t live without…..

1) Bacon.  I could eat bacon everyday.

2) Leeks.  I have recently become obsessed by that indecent large variant of the onion.

So, here I give you my Leek and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese recipe:  Simply irresistable. Yes, I am reminiscing about the 80’s.  Ha ha…and now you’ve got that song in your head too.

Leek and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb pasta, rigatoni, penne, shells, fusilli…..anything that catches the cheese in its lovely curves.

3 tbsp olive oil

1 leek, thinly sliced, white and light green parts only, with a handful reserved for topping

4-5 slices of bacon, chopped

1/8 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

1 cup cream

2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

4 tbsp butter

8 – 10 cherry tomatoes, halved

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).  In a large stockpot, bring water with a tbsp of salt to a boil.  When boiling, add the pasta and cook 2 minutes less than package instructions.  Drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over med heat, add the olive oil and bacon.  When the bacon starts to cook, add the leeks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the flour, and mix well, and cook it for about 2 – 3 minutes.  Do not let it brown.  Add the milk and cream, and stir until thickened.

When it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat and add the cheeses.

Mix well, until all the cheese has melted and you have a smooth, unctuous sauce…..and yes, you may dip your finger in it and sample a bite.  Or two.

Now, add your drained pasta, and mix well, until all those wonderful pasta curves are filled with cheese. Place in a baking dish, set aside. Try not to eat it now, it’s not ready yet!

You still have to make the topping.  The topping makes the dish.

In a small frying pan, over medium heat, add the butter.  When it is melted, add the reserved leeks, and turn the heat up to high.  When the leeks are getting nice and golden, add your bread crumbs and thoroughly mix, until they are all coated with the butter.

Now scatter the bread crumbs and leeks over the pasta, and top with the halved cherry tomatoes.  Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until bubbling.  Wait 15 minutes before serving.  Yes, I know it’s torture….but if you don’t it will be even more torture when you’ve burnt your tongue and can’t fully taste it…’s mouth watering!

From my kitchen to yours,