Katherine Hall Page’s Veggie Mac ’n’ Cheese
Today I’m excited to have a guest post from Katherine Hall Page, author of the Agatha Award-winning mystery series starring amateur sleuth and caterer Faith Fairchild. Katherine introduces us to her new novel, The Body in the Boudoir, and shares a recipe from the book—Faith Fairchild’s delicious Veggie Mac ’n’ Cheese!
Although it’s the twentieth book in the series, The Body in the Boudoir is a prequel in which the reader finds Faith in her native Manhattan pursuing her career as a caterer in 1990. On the job at a wedding, she doesn’t realize that the handsome man she meets while replenishing the buffet has just performed the ceremony, changing from his robes into a suit for the reception. It’s one of those rare love-at-first-sight moments. By the time Faith discovers his occupation—as a daughter and granddaughter of clergy she has sworn to avoid this fishbowl existence—it’s too late. The journey to the altar turns treacherous, however, and Faith almost doesn’t make it…
The Reverend Thomas Fairchild’s parish is in a suburb west of Boston. When Faith goes to see where she will be living, the parsonage kitchen is almost a deal-breaker, as are the contents of Tom’s fridge—nil. The dish she prepares for them, true comfort food, cheers her up, and eating it with him in front of a roaring fire, she knows she’s found true love. Mac ’n’ Cheese can perform magic.
Veggie Mac ’n’ Cheese
The red peppers in this mac ’n’ cheese give the sauce a bright color, and the smoked paprika, widely used in Mediterranean cooking, adds a subtle flavor as well as more color. The cauliflower supplements the pasta, so there is less starch. You may also serve the sauce over pasta without baking.
- 2 red bell peppers, diced
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 5 cups cauliflower florets
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 ounces penne, ziti or elbow macaroni, cooked according to the package directions
Place the peppers and garlic in a saucepan with 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, turn the heat to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft.
Meanwhile, in a pot fitted with a steamer, steam the cauliflower for 10 minutes, or until soft. Transfer it to a bowl and mash it roughly—you want some texture.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place the peppers, garlic, and any pan liquid, the butter, and the milk in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.
In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower, all but ¼ cup of the shredded cheese, the paprika, salt, and drained cooked pasta. Stir until the pasta is coated evenly.
Pour the mixture into a large casserole and top with the reserved ¼ cup cheese. Bake until nicely browned and bubbling, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Note: You can make a tasty, easy soup with any leftover cauliflower florets (if the head is a large one) and stems. Simply chop the cauliflower roughly and put it in a saucepan. Add a small sliced yellow onion and cover with chicken broth, your own or store-bought. Bring to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to the saucepan and stir in 1 cup half and half or milk and 3/4 cup grated white cheddar cheese. Add a pinch of salt if your broth was no-salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the cheese is melted, then serve or freeze. A curry spice blend is also nice in this. (Faith, and I, hate to waste food. You can use this recipe for broccoli stems and other vegetables as well.)
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