Pumpkin Macaroni & Cheese

Fall has become synonymous with pumpkins – anything and everything pumpkin imaginable. There are many other flavors and foods I enjoy in the fall months but the obsession with pumpkin does hearken to seasonality. Not only are pumpkins in season but so are brussels sprouts, carrots, sage, rutabagas and a myriad of squash and gourds. Early fall is a time for a shifting of gears from tomatoes, cucumbers and the like to the fall crops.

That being said, I do love pumpkin. We tend polarize it more than other squash varieties by relegating it to pies, breads and lattes; rather than restricting this gourd, we should let it’s versatility shine. Many years ago, I remember watching Food Network’s Ellie Krieger put together a beautiful macaroni and cheese in which she incorporated squash puree to sneak in vegetables. After stocking up on pumpkin puree this dish came to mind and I decided to try my hand at a pumpkin macaroni and cheese. With classic Southern mac & cheese in mind, I put together what I thought would a full-bodied pumpkin version and I was not disappointed. The result was deliciously creamy, cheesy and rich albeit not low in fat by any means but that’s okay with me;

Finished Product (2)

Ingredients

10 oz whole wheat elbow macaroni or mini penne
1 1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/2 c dry white wine
1/4 c unsalted chicken stock
1 c milk
1/2 c cream
2 oz. pancetta, choppped
1/2 shallot, chopped
1/2 c ricotta
1/8 t cardamom
1 t dijon mustard
1 pinch salt
1/4 t chili powder
1 t rosemary, finely chopped
1 c sharp cheddar, finely grated
1/4 c Jarlsberg, finely grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 c shaved Parmesan
2 slices deli cheese, provolone or swiss

Instructions

Heat oven to 375F.

Cook pasta until al dente, drain and set aside.

In a small pan, saute chopped shallot and pancetta. Set aside.

Chopped Pancetta Chopped Shallots

In a large saucepan, bring white wine and chicken stock to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir in pumpkin, milk, ricotta, shallots and pancetta. Allow to cook over medium for about 15 minutes; stir in cardamom, dijon, rosemary, chili powder, salt and pepper. Temper beaten eggs with sauce (so as not to scramble); then add to sauce.

Tempering Eggs

Slowly stir in sharp cheddar and Jarlsberg until combined. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce.

Adding Cheese to Sauce

Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Set aside. Pour pasta and sauce into a 9×9 baking dish. Tear apart slices of deli cheese and add place on top of pasta. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and Parmesan over top.

Cheese Breadcrumb Topping

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and golden. Serve hot.

Finished Product

Servings Given

Gaulart & Maliclet Fast & French

I have to brag on my favorite little place to grab a bite in downtown Charleston, Fast & French. Mon favorit petit café is now 30 years old. It’s a bit of a hole in the wall and yet well-known enough to be packed every time I go. I would eat there every day if I could and with their prices, it wouldn’t be unreasonable if I lived or worked downtown. One of the great things about it is the crowd. College of Charleston students, lawyers, businessmen/women, locals, Europeans, any person imaginable. They can all be found here.

Panoramic

My poor attempt at a panoramic shot.

Don’t go expecting the average American dining experience. This is a quintessential European nook on Broad Street. The seating is communal and servers are not there to be your buddy but are still plenty cordial. Go to enjoy some simple yet delicious café food. The lunch special is always to die for and comes with a glass of house wine (or other beverage). When available, I highly recommend a bowlful of their vichyssoise but all of the soups are delightful. I used to hate mushrooms with a raging passion but this place helped change my mind with their earthy pâté.

While the overwhelming majority of reviews are raving, I’ve read some of people complaining that the food is bland and poorly prepared – I couldn’t disagree more. They use fresh herbs and ingredients and offer flavorful simplicity. Not to mention the outstanding prices. On my most recent visit, my bill was ~$23 for a soup & sandwich, lunch special with wine and a dessert. Pas mal, n’est-ce pas?

Lunch Special

Lunch Special 8-16-14 : Seafood Creole with aioli, melon, cheese, baguette.

Wine

The house white wine – crisp, dry sauvignon blanc.

 

Peach Almond Tart

Dessert. Peach Almond Tart. This was orgasmic and had the best crust I’ve ever had on pie or tart.

Meal Inspo

 

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If you can’t tell, I adore peaches. Peaches encompass all the goodness and sweetness I associate with summertime. I’ll bet you didn’t know that South Carolina is the #1 peach producing state in the country. (If you’re including commercially grown peaches, California tops the list.) Historically, I am not a fan of canned goods of any sort, preserves/jams/jellies included. However I’ve recently had a change of heart and have developed a great appreciation for homemade preserves and I couldn’t resist snatching up these spicy peach preserves from the Waxhaw farmers market. This jar of tantalizing goodness inspired last night’s supper. I cook our supper every night (at least on weekdays, weekends we scrounge or eat out) and I’m not one of those foodies who puts a gourmet meal on the table every night. But what I fix is always well thought out and pretty darn delicious. Last night was one of those unspectacular evenings. I seared and sautéed a few thick, lean pork chops (seasoned with herbes de provençe and salt) in olive oil, roasted carrots and turnips with orange peel and fresh oregano and served up leftover Brussels sprouts and brown rice (garlic and chile powder) on the side. And to top it off, I added the spicy peach preserves to the pork while it rested in a covered pan. Let me tell you, the peach preserves and the pork chops? SO GOOD. The spice in the preserves was perfect with the chile powder and garlic in the rice and the bitterness of the Brussels sprouts balanced it all out so nicely. The carrots were key because pork and root vegetables are classic.

Although it wasn’t an exciting meal full of brilliant culinary innovations, it was balanced and satisfying and isn’t that the goal for every home cooked meal? I’d say it is.