For Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we had a bit of a conundrum: could we try to acknowledge such an important man and movement with food? And how could we pull it off without seeming shallow or stereotypical? A quick search revealed that King’s favorite dishes were traditional Southern ones: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and pecan pie. But a couple of white girls from Brooklyn making fried chicken and collards for MLK Day made us cringe. What we do know for sure is that MLK’s extraordinary commitment to equality and justice inspire us every day. So in addition to revisiting the “I Have A Dream” speech we’ll be celebrating this day with our less traditional version of a tried-and-true crowd-pleaser, macaroni and cheese, and then we’re spreading some serious love with these rich chocolate “world peace” cookies.
Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower and Pancetta
2 cups cauliflower florets
8 ounces pancetta, diced
4 scallions, sliced thin
1 lb pasta, cavatappi, rotini or conchiglie
3 tbsp flour
3 cups milk
Pinch of nutmeg
½ cup mozzarella, grated
½ cup provolone, grated
½ cup asiago or fontina, grated
Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss cauliflower with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet until tender, around 20 minutes.
Heat a large ovenproof pan over medium high heat then add diced pancetta. Cook, stirring often until it crisps, add the whites of the scallions and cook for a couple minutes more. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, leaving rendered fat in pan.
Melt 3 tbsp butter in same pan over medium heat, add flour and cook until the mixture bubbles. Slowly whisk in 3 cups of milk. Bring to a boil then lower heat and let simmer until mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Remove from heat and stir in the mozzarella, provolone and asiago.
Meanwhile boil a large pot of water for the pasta and cook pasta until very al dente as it will finish cooking in the oven. Add cooked pasta, cauliflower and pancetta to the cheese sauce in the ovenproof pan, stir to combine. Grate some parmigiano reggiano over the top and bake in oven for about 10 minutes, or until sauce begins to bubble. Garnish with the rest of the sliced scallions and some freshly grated parmigiano.
Serves 4-6 as a main course.
World Peace Cookies
These cookies are more than the sum of their parts. With a sandy sablé texture, deep cocoa flavor, and dotted with heaps of best-quality chocolate, they definitely bring people together.. We have been become converts to using a scale to measure ingredients: it saves time and improves precision.
1 ¼ cups/170g all-purpose flour
⅓ cup/28 g unsweetened cocoa powder: use the best quality you can find
½ tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into pieces
⅔ cup/134g packed light brown sugar
¼ cup/50g granulated sugar
½ tsp flaky salt or ¼ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 oz/142g best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl.
In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat together butter and both sugars until well combined, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add dry ingredients and pulse several times to start mixing. Watching out for flying flour, mix on low until dough just comes together. Add chocolate pieces and mix for a moment until combined.
Turn dough out of bowl and knead it together. Divide in half and roll each half into logs about 2” in diameter, making sure to try and eliminate any air pockets. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for at least two hours or refrigerate for at least three hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325℉ and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Carefully and with a sharp knife, slice logs into ½” rounds: if dough cracks or splits, simply push them back together. Place on sheets with about 2” between cookies, then place one sheet in the fridge. Bake first sheet for 12 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and let them rest until they are barely warm before you try to remove (or eat!) them. Repeat with second sheet.