Fuji Apple Mac N Cheese with Apple & Gouda Cheese Sausage

1 12 2013

I made up this dish as I was making it. I had an opened package of sausages in my fridge that needed to be used as well as some apples. I was inspired by some mac & cheese with apples that I ate in 1988 in Switzerland. Yes, I still was thinking of it 25 years later…. Being the first of December it was feeling firmly mid-autumn on the California Central Coast, and this seemed like a seasonally appropriate dish. The organic Fuji apples were grown at Bellvue’s See Canyon Farms 1-1/2 miles down the road from our house; you can barely get any more local than that!

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This recipe is for 4 servings, and is hearty enough to eat on its own.

From Trader Joe’s:

  • 16 oz. package of organic brown rice penne pasta
  • 1/2 lb. block of English cheddar with caramelized onions

From New Frontiers:

  • 4 sausages with apples & gouda cheese
  • 3 Bellevue’s See Canyon Farms organic Fuji apples, chopped in 1/3″ cubes
  • 2 cups 2% or whole milk, depending on how rich you want the sauce to  be. You could even use cream.
  • 4 T. unsalted organic butter

From my pantry:

  • garlic powder (you can use fresh garlic, which could be sauteed with the roux)
  • sea salt
  • ground cinnamon

1. Fill a large non-stick pot with water, add about 2 tsp. salt, and bring to a rolling boil.

2. While you’re waiting for the water to boil preheat a cast iron skillet on medium high.

3. Wash, dry, and chop the apples.

4. Add 2 T. butter to the cast iron skillet, and just as it melts add the apples and stir immediately to coat the apples with the butter.

5. By now the water should be coming to a rolling boil. Add the pasta, and set a timer for 7 minutes (for perfect al dente texture). Stir the pasta immediately a few times, and then stir it before you drain it. This is so it doesn’t stick to the pot or clump together.

6. Stir the apples frequently so they don’t burn, and that they start to lightly caramelize evenly. Don’t let them get past medium caramel. Remove the apples and put them in a bowl. Actually, I did this, because our daughter is a vegetarian, so I needed to keep the apples and sausage separate. If no one minds the apples and sausage mixing, add the sausage to the apples just when they barely start browning, and finish browning them together in the cast iron skillet.

7. In a large glass measuring cup measure 2 cups milk and microwave for 3 minutes.

8. Right when the 7 minute timer for the pasta rings drain the pasta in a colander and immediately rinse with cold water to arrest the cooking.

9. In the same non-stick pot used to cook the pasta place on medium high heat and add 2 T. butter and 2 T. flour to form a roux. Stir while cooking for a few minutes just until the roux turns very pale straw/brown.

10. Add the hot milk 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well between additions and smashing any clumps with the back of the spoon to form a smooth sauce. Before adding each addition 1/2 cup of milk let the sauce heat up again when it just starts to bubble (this happens quickly).

11. Add cinnamon, garlic powder, and salt to taste. I used about 2 tsps. cinnamon, 1 tsp. garlic powder, and 1 tsp. salt.

12. Once all the milk is incorporated to the roux let it simmer for a few minutes, then add the grated cheese and stir continuously.

13. Once all the cheese is melted, and the sauce is smooth add the caramelized apples and pasta and stir well.

14. Serve in pasta bowls, and top with the browned sausage (if it isn’t already mixed into the pasta with the apples).

15. Add freshly ground pepper if desired.

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Full of Life Flatbread, Los Alamos, California

17 07 2012

Full of Life FlatbreadChalboard Menu of the DayFront Porch Dining 1Front Porch Dining 2Indoor Lighting Detail Over the BarFresh Flowers 1
Fresh Flowers 2LGTeddy Bear SunflowerBicolored SunflowerFoodie FriendsFront Porch Dining 3
Reflecting on the GardenDelicious Salad SpecialCavalo Nero SaladSunday DriveWood Fired Local Sand DabsChalk Board Special Flatbread
Roasted Summer Squash & Eggplant FlatbreadBoth of the Daily Flatbread SpecialsHoney Pot de Crème with Lemon Infused Summer BerriesAlmond Crusted Blueberry Tart with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Headed out a couple of weekends ago with LG and @LuvenRN to Los Alamos on another foodie adventure at one of our favorite dining destinations…….





Fresh Lychees

13 07 2012

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Fresh Lychees, a set on Flickr.

One day on Facebook a good friend posted something about fresh lychees being so delicious. The only time I had eaten lychees was as a child, and they were out of a can. I had remembered not liking them at all. I thought to myself “Since when was anything very good out of a can?” So the next time I saw fresh lychees at Trader Joe’s I decided to purchase them and give them a try. I must admit I wasn’t in love after the first bite; my negative memories of them surely were tainting my experience. I wanted to give them a fair chance, so I continued to eat them. They had a very different exotic and perfumy flavor. It was a bit of an acquired taste, but by about the fourth lychee I actually liked them, and I like them more the more I eat them!





My New Photography Web Site

20 06 2012

It’s fairly basic, but my new professional photography web site, Michelle C. Torres-Grant Photography,  is up & running!





San Miguel, California

14 05 2012

So after 4 straight days of being on-the-go I’m taking a break in the middle of my east coast vacation and working on some old photos (I’m always backlogged!). This set was from almost a year ago. After hiking the Balconies cave and cliffs loop at Pinnacles National Monument, we stopped in San Miguel for a quick visit to Mission San Miguel and dinner at the Basque Tenth Street Cafe. Click here to see my complete Flickr photo set.





Lunch Break at Jack Ranch Café ~ Chalome, California

27 03 2012

Today, my work took me out into the roads of eastern San Luis Obispo county. I had previously stopped a couple of times at the James Dean Memorial in Chalome, which is 24 miles east of Paso Robles on Highway 46, but I had never stopped to dine in the little cafe next to the memorial. So I decided this was as good a day as ever to try it out. It’s a little diner that is housed in an old building that has served food since the early 20th century. I seated myself at a booth in the really casual, old style roadside diner, and asked the waitress what the best thing on the menu was. She suggested the bacon cheeseburger. For the sake of health I usually avoid such an item, but I figured I was way out there, and wouldn’t be back anytime soon, so I may as well get the best thing! I ordered it, without pickles as per my usual, and I added grilled onions and peppers. I had meant the ortega chiles that I had seen on the menu, but I guess I didn’t say that specifically, and I got jalapeno peppers instead. It was just as well, as it turned out to be one of the most scrumptious burgers I ever had! All the contents of the creation tasted very fresh, and both the burger and the bacon had a nice, slightly crisp texture. Juicy and not too greasy! The only thing I regret is not having paid fifty cents extra for the free range organic Hearst Ranch beef. I didn’t notice that option until my order was almost ready! Served along with my burger were some mighty delicious seasoned fries. The portion of fries was generous, but I could only eat a handful before I was full, and I took the rest home. I highly recommend a stop at the Jack Ranch Café, and especially if you’re a James Dean fan as well. The memorial is of a tasteful and minimalist modern design.





Patina Restaurant & The Walt Disney Concert Hall

26 10 2011

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We were staying in downtown Los Angeles because my husband was attending the Urban Land Institute Fall Meeting and Urban Land Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. As is usual on my husband’s business trips, I accompanied him. My job is to make his business fun by planning social engagements, activities and interesting culinary adventures as a break between his many business obligations.

The first evening I decided it was a perfect opportunity to use the gift certificate we had obtained by using our American Express Membership Rewards points at the acclaimed fine dining establishment, Patina, located within the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex. I was just a little concerned, because a few weeks before I had read on my FB feed that someone had less than a stellar experience at Patina. I already had the gift certificate, however, and so I decided we may as well use it and form our own opinion of the restaurant. As I often do, I made my reservation through OpenTable.com (more points earned!) and called ahead to see if it was okay if we brought our own bottle of wine. We were in luck; normally they charge a corkage fee of $30.00 (the highest I’ve ever encountered), but Tuesday evening there was no corkage fee whatsoever! Things were going in the right direction already.

I won’t go into greater detail here ~ I’ll let the photos tell the story ~ but our dining experience there was top notch. We received courteous, attentive, competent, yet unobtrusive service. Everything we ate was creative, artistically presented, absolutely fresh and delicious. Kudos to executive chef Tony Esnault and general manager Christian Philippo. Mr. Philippo came to our table several times throughout the meal to make sure everything was perfect…and it was!

Los Angeles, California ~ 25 October 2011








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