Mac Attack

That looks like a proper mid-century meal, right? Be not fooled by the plate’s low-profile appearance: this dinner was inarguably beautiful.

I am not typically a “mac and cheese person,” which is to say I only eat cheese & macaroni when it’s prepared by someone else. This has always been the case, from the time I was a tot to the current day. Furthermore, I have limited experience with homemade macaroni and cheese, which (as I discovered this week) is an entirely different animal than its boxed mutation.

When he returned from Amsterdam, Amadeo brought Alex a selection of fabulous cheeses — gouda and pesto-infused varieties among them — from the city’s famed market. What to do with all that cheese? Alex wondered. The answer presented itself, as it often does, in the form of a Mark Bittman recipe. (Note: here is a link to Bittman’s recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese.)

Alex making roux: yeah, yeah!

From-scratch macaroni and cheese isn’t as difficult to make as you might think. True, it requires one to boil water, grate cheese, and make roux (a tricky but not impossible task). Even so, it’s totes manageable for a weeknight.As Alex prepared the mac, I took over salad prep. Above, you’ll see the salad (undressed): a simple assemblage of butter lettuce, English cucumber, halved tiny tomatoes, and paper-thin radish slices for pepperiness. In an old jar, I mixed a simple vinaigrette: oil and vinegar and Maldon salt and fresh pepper and lemon juice and a wee bit of fresh maple syrup, for the tiniest hint of sweetness. Fresh vinaigrette — so easy and so satisfying — is one of my current favorite things. In fact, I think I’ll make some this evening, just because.

Note: We didn't have any bread with dinner. In fact, this is Sam's loaf of bread, but Alex also got a loaf from Josey. At any rate, I thought you all would enjoy this photo of a beautiful, craggy loaf.

Macaroni and cheese with a fresh green salad: right now, I can’t think of a pleasanter, more balanced meal. With a dish as rich as the mac, you have to serve the lightest side dish; the tossed salad, with its oh-so-delicate butter lettuce, fit the bill. The relative acidity of the salad was a nice foil to our creamy main. When all was said and done, I didn’t even crave dessert; that’s the sign of a wholly satisfying meal.

I’m definitely coming around to macaroni and cheese — not that I had beef with it before, but it never fully registered in my food consciousness. Now, though, it has taken up permanent residence there, interrupting my daily thoughts with reminders of how good baked pasta and breadcrumbs are together.

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