Friday, June 17, 2011

Carrot Macaroni and Cheese

Would you believe this dish contains almost a full pound of carrots??

I've made macaroni and cheese with squash before, but never with carrots, so this was definitely a first for me. Whenever I swap out cheese for vegetables in these kind of makeover mac and cheese dishes, it's best for me to think of it as a standalone baked pasta dish, because it will never compare to the classic ooey-gooey mac and cheese that will always hold a special place in my heart. When you aren't trying to think of it as a substitute for the real thing, you are free to enjoy the dish for what it is, which in this case, is bright in both flavor and color, creamy, and delicious. I loved the combination of orange, tarragon and carrots. As I was making the sauce I was struck by how vivid the color was - it reminded me of the orange powdered cheese sauce you get with boxed mac and cheese, except there was nothing artificial about this color.

Before I go into the recipe, let me quickly recap week 2 of our CSA. Here is what we got this week:

One cucumber, one bok choy, two pounds purple viking potatoes, a pint strawberries, 3/4 pound sugar snap peas, one bunch garlic tops, one pound carrots, 1/2 pound salad mix.

The garlic tops, sometimes called garlic scapes, were probably our favorite item in the box this week. They have a mild garlic flavor and can be treated as tender spring veggies like green beans or asparagus. Our CSA newsletter said they would be great steamed and then dipped in hummus. So along those lines I decided to make a baked white bean dip recipe that I discovered over at Pinch My Salt. We loved eating this dip with cucumber slices, steamed garlic tops (cut into 2-3 inch pieces), snap peas, and pita chips.

A few nights later we made a yummy stir fry with the rest of the garlic tops and snap peas. We added some shrimp, some jarred black bean and garlic sauce, and served everything over white rice. Black bean sauce is awesome!

For the bok choy we simply sliced it into thin strips and sauteed it in a little olive oil, and actually if I remember correctly, we made hot dogs to go with it, because we're just so fancy like that.

We devoured the red ripe strawberries right out of the package, and made salads for lunches with the salad mix.

The purple viking potatoes are brilliantly purple on the outside, white on the inside, and can be used just like red potatoes. So we used half of them to make this awesome potato salad by Mark Bittman with shallots, capers, and whole grain mustard and served it alongside some of our Bald Hill T-bone steaks. The rest of the potatoes and some leftover steak (the T-bones were huge!) were used to make our favorite hash which was perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast.

The carrots, obviously, were reserved for this mac and cheese.

Carrot Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from the Food and Wine website
serves 4

3/4 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Zest and juice of one naval orange, zest removed in long strips with a vegetable peeler (you'll fish them out at the end, so you want them to be in big enough pieces that you'll be able to find them)
3 cups uncooked penne (9 ounces)
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3 ounces)
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
Freshly ground white pepper (I forgot to use white pepper and instead just used regular black pepper out of habit; it was fine)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Combine the carrots, zest, juice, 1/4 cup of water, and a little bit of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the carrots are very tender. Discard the zest. Transfer the remaining contents of the saucepan to a blender or food processor and puree until very smooth.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the penne. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Return the pasta to the pot. Add the carrot puree and the reserved pasta water. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring gently. After about 5 minutes of cooking, the sauce should have thickened a bit and should coat the pasta. Stir in about 3/4 of the cheese and stir as it melts, another 2-3 minutes. Stir in the tarragon and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the mixture into a 9x9 baking dish and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

1 comment:

  1. This looks delicious! It will be a great way to help remedy our over-abundance of carrots situation we have going on at the moment! Thanks for the idea!


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