From Macaroni and Cheese: 52 Recipes, from Simple to Sublime
by Joan Schwartz
An amazing dish with lively colors and textures, this suggests a Greek salad transformed. Chef Pouillon of Nora and Asia Nora, in Washington, DC, uses only organic ingredients here in all the food she cooks, and they are worth seeking out when you shop. Feta contrasts with the sweet, juicy tomatoes and fresh spinach, and the herbs sing of Greece.
1 pound macaroni
1/2 pound spinach, washed and stemmed
1 1/2 pounds crumbled feta cheese (about 6 cups)
2 1/3 cups whole milk
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2/3 olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3/4 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 cup pitted and coarsely chopped black olives
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mixed chopped fresh herbs
1.Preheat oven to 350F
2.Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl.
3.Blanche the spinach: Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Have ready a large bowl of ice water and slotted spoon. Add the spinach to the simmering water (in three or four batches) and submerge it. Let it cook for about 15 seconds, remove with the slotted spoon, and plunge into the ice water. Let the spinach cool completely, drain it, and squeeze out the excess water. If the leaves are large, chop then into bite-size pieces. Reserve.
4.In a blender or food processor, puree the feta cheese with the milk, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Blend in two batches, if necessary. This will not be completely smooth; there will be very small chunks of cheese remaining. Stir the cheese mixture into the cooked pasta, then add the minced rosemary and thyme, the garlic, red pepper flakes, olives, cherry tomatoes, and blanched spinach.
5.Place in a 9 by 13-inch baking pan and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese and the mixed herbs. Bake on the middle shelf until the pasta is heated through and the top is slightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.
Excerpted from Macaroni and Cheese by Joan Schwartz Copyright 2001 by Joan Schwartz. Excerpted by permission of Villard, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.