Smoky Eggplant and Tomato with Herbed Bulgur

A few weekends ago, I visited my parents in Kentucky while Garriy spent some time with an old friend in Knoxville. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting my Uncle David’s amazing farm, which is practically bursting with produce at the moment. Kale, chard, tomatoes, red and green cabbage, eggplant, corn, peppers, chiles, butternut squash, zucchini–he truly sent me home with a veritable feast.

Our garden is only producing herbs and chiles at the moment, as our swiss chard fades out, and our tomatoes and bell peppers get ready to ripen, so I couldn’t have been happier for the bounty.

I love eggplant, but prefer it smoky and broken down into a silky texture rather than in big chunks. Also, I didn’t want to make an eggplant dip (though that’s one of my favorite things in the world…), but I wanted to use blackened eggplant to get the smoky, meaty flavor that imparts. I came up with this. It’s definitely Paula Wolfert and Yotam Ottolenghi (Naomi and I are clearly on the same page) inspired, but I didn’t use an existing recipe. I thought we’d have leftovers for lunch, but Garriy and I both gobbled it up. This one’s a keeper for sure.

The directions look long, but don’t pay attention to that. It’s easy to roast the eggplant while making the bulgar, and to saute all of the veggies together into a jam-like consistency in a manner of 15 minutes. Also, microwaving coarse bulgar to make sure it’s cooked through is my favorite method, but you can also just follow the simmering or soaking directions here, which are perhaps more traditional methods. If you use fine bulgar, you cut your steps in half–all you need to do is cover the bulgur with boiling water and let it sit till the water is absorbed, as there’s no need to cook it further.

Eggplant with Bulgur

Smoky Eggplant and Tomato with Herbed Bulgur

  • 1 eggplant
  • 3 Tb. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small fresh red chile, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper or 2 small, diced
  • 1 large ripe tomato, diced
  • 1 Tb. pomegranate molasses
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 C. coarse bulgur
  • boiling water
  • large handful each of fresh flatleaf parsley and basil, minced

Prick the eggplant several times with a fork, and then put the eggplant over an open flame on your gas stove and patiently wait while it blackens. Turn with tongs until it blackens on all sides (alternatively, you can blacken it under the broiler). I recommend letting it char a lot. When the eggplant is uniformly blackened, place it in a bowl or on a plate to steam for a moment and to let the skin loosen.

In the meantime, just cover the bulgur with boiling water and a pinch of salt in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a lid or a plate. Let the bulgur absorb almost all of the water. Once the bulgur water is mostly absorbed, cover the bowl and microwave the bulgur for 5 minutes to finish the cooking. Set the bulgur aside to sit and steam while you continue to cook.

While the bulgur is sitting, heat the olive oil and add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the chile and the red bell pepper. Stir occasionally over medium heat until the bell pepper is extremely soft. Cut the eggplant in half, and using a spoon or a dull knife, scoop out the flesh. Chop the eggplant coarsely and then add, along with the diced tomato, to the bell pepper. Add some salt and pepper and turn heat to low and simmer. Once the mixture is tender and has melded together, stir in the pomegranate molasses. Taste for salt and pepper.

Stir the herbs into the bulgur, along with a glug of olive oil. Serve the eggplant mixture over the bulgur.

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Roasted Grapes with Goat Cheese & Rosemary

Hanging out in Colmar, France

Hanging out in Colmar, France

What a whirlwind it has been since we returned from our trip to Europe. We had a great time in Basel, Colmar, and Stockholm. But thing thing Garriy and I both took back home with us, as usual, is that it is the people that make the place.

The view from Aya and Kileken's balcony in Basel

The view from Aya and Kileken’s balcony in Basel

AyaandCatOur favorite part of the trip was being with Aya and Kileken in their lovely home in Basel, cooking dinners with them, drinking too much wine together, and getting lost while biking through vineyards with them in the Alsace in France (more on that in the next post!). As you know, Aya and I met studying together in Morocco–and one of the reasons we hit it off so well is because I think we travel and approach the world in a similar way. Our most recent trip only underlined that.

Aya spoiled us with lots of meals that we should try and post (including moules in wine sauce, which entailed lots of YouTube videos about how to debeard mussels), but we all cooked some amazing meals together as well.

This is a simple appetizer I made during our visit that I love and I learned from my friend Trish. It’s so easy to put together, which makes it all the better. If you decide you don’t want it as an app, the grapes on their own are also great as a side (especially roasted pork, or a polenta and veggie main). Miss you A&K!

Grapes and goat cheese

Roasted Grapes with Goat Cheese & Rosemary

  • 2 or 3 bunches of green grapes, taken off the stem
  • 2 Tb. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced rosemary
  • ground black pepper
  • coarse sea salt
  • 1 log of mild goat cheese
  • baguette, cut into rounds

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the grapes, olive oil, rosemary, and pepper and toss to coat. Put the grapes on a baking sheet or in a baking pan and place in oven. Roast for 20-30 minute or until grapes begin to burst and put out their juices. When done, sprinkle on a generous amount of coarse sea salt to provide a nice crunch. Serve with the goat cheese and baguette.

Chipotle Pumpkin Enchiladas with Greens and Beans

You know those times when you have a random can of something on your shelf, and you’re like, what in the world am I gonna do with that? This recipe was borne out of that recent situation: a lone can of organic pumpkin puree sitting in my pantry.

Foodily, my go to recipe search engine when I need inspiration, spit out multiple variations of a pumpkin enchilada sauce, but this version, come across via One Hungry Mama, appealed for its simplicity.

I also happened to have most of a pot of simple Rancho Gordo pinto beans in the fridge, and I knew that they would be great filling. Now let me tell you, I’ve always been skeptical of those who insist that paying a premium for dried beans, the Queen of cheap foods, was a good idea. But I received two bags of beans as a gift from someone, and I was blown away by the quality. And while I won’t be shelling out for shipping on these puppies very often, I can tell you that those Rancho Gordo pintos were amazing: creamy, fat, sweet, and fast-cooking as well. I made a big pot simply with onion, salt, bay leaf, and a pinch of dried oregano to eat with cornbread and then pureed the leftovers with some spices to make the filling for these enchiladas. Seriously though, treat yourself one of these days to some heirloom dried beans…

My modification of the recipe has multiple steps, mainly because I had leftovers that would work as great filling in the enchiladas, but the good news is that canned refried beans or whole black beans, as well as whatever veggies you have in the fridge (greens, carrots, potato) or freezer (corn) would substitute in well. The pumpkin sauce turned out really well–rich, but not heavy, healthy, and a welcome alternative to metallic-tasting canned enchilada sauce.

(Now listen, I know my sloppy plating and photo below aren’t the best, but I challenge you to prettily plate enchiladas without cilantro on hand!) Hope you all enjoy!

Pumpkin Bean Enchiladas

Chipotle Pumpkin Enchiladas with Greens and Beans

  • 1 can pumpkin puree, about 2 cups
  • 1 1/4 C. water or vegetable stock
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper, plus a few teaspoons of adobo sauce
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • dash cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 Tb. olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large bunch of swiss chard or other greens, chopped coarsely
  • 1 C. refried beans (either canned or made by pureeing pintos with salt, a bit of olive oil, cumin, and chili powder)
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1/4 C. feta cheese and/or white cheddar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the pumpkin puree, water or stock, chipotle, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste in the food processor. Whir until thoroughly combined. Taste the puree for salt, vinegar, and chipotle, adding as needed, and mixing again. Heat 1 Tb. olive oil in a small saucepan and add the pumpkin mixture. Turn on low and simmer.

In the meantime, heat the remaining 2 Tb. olive oil in a pan and add the onion. Saute 5 minutes and then add the garlic. Saute over medium until the onion is transclucent–about 5 more minutes. Add the greens and saute for 5 minutes and take off flame..

At this point, the enchilada sauce will have simmered for about 15 to 20 minutes and may be taken off the flame if it is thickened and tasty.

Coat a square Pyrex dish with olive oil or Pam and set aside. Pour 1/3 of the warm sauce into the bottom of the pan. Heat up the tortillas in a water-soaked kitchen towel for 1 minute in the microwave to soften them. Remove, careful of the steam. Fill each generously with some refried beans and greens, roll, and place seam-side down in dish. Pour the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas. Top the enchiladas with cheese, and then place in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbling and cheese is melted. Serve, ideally with cilantro sprinkled on top, and extra hot sauce on the side.

Bulgar with Arugula Pesto, Beet Stems, & Poached Egg

After a month (really?) in our new home, we finally feel like we’re settling in. We’ve painted almost every room in the house, hung new lighting in almost every room, finished a bathroom renovation, and most importantly for me–finished a kitchen renovation (better pics to follow). (And PS, if you ever renovate a kitchen, let me save you some trouble with your appliance/hardware source list…)

New Kitchen

The new kitchen at night

We love the hardworking kitchen counters (leathered granite)–so much better than our past poorly sealed concrete counters that bubbled up at the suggestion of water–and I love the light that streams in through the windows during the day.

Lilies in our back yard

Lilies in our back yard

Our little garden has also taken off, and it has been great to come home after work and weed, haul dirt, and mow. Like yoga, hard manual labor in the yard is a great segway between work and computer time during the day, and the rest of the evening. It forces you to stop. Stop thinking. Just do stuff and enjoy the smells and sounds of the outdoors (including a neighborhood mockingbird that mimics an alarm clock. Seriously. And starts chirping at 2 am. But that’s another story.)

I’m still getting the hang of what to plant in our raised beds. The arugula did well for about a month, but then quickly bolted, so last night I bit the bullet and trimmed off the woody leftovers for pesto and pulled them out by the roots to fill that space with something new. I’m thinking okra, which is perfect for hot weather planting and grilling, but I’m open to suggestions.

As you may know, it is my feeling that there’s little that isn’t made tastier by arugula pesto and a poached egg. So here’s an impromptu dinner made last night with the last of the garden’s arugula (until fall), and other bits and pieces in the fridge. I made this recipe with walnut arugula pesto, but you can see in the past I’ve also made arugula pesto with pumpkin seeds.

Bulgar with Arugula Pesto & Beets

Bulgar with Arugula Pesto & Beet Stems

Bulgar with Arugula Pesto, Beet Stems, & Poached Egg

  • 1 very large bunch arugula
  • 1/2 C. walnuts
  • juice of two lemons
  • 1/4 C. olive oil + 1 Tb. olive oil, divided
  • salt and peper
  • 1 bunch of beet greens and stems, cleaned well, and chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 C. bulgar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 C. feta cheese

Bring a kettle of water to a boil and pour over the bulgar in a large ceramic bowl, just covering the grains with water. Cover the bowl with a ceramic plate or plastic wrap and cook in the microwave for four minutes.

In the meantime, make your pesto. Make sure the arugula is well-rinsed and toss it in the food processor. Pulse it until it is chopped. Add in the walnuts, lemon juice, and a bit of salt and blend. With the motor going, slowly drizzle in the 1/4 C. olive oil till emulsified. Taste for salt, and then set aside.

Heat 1 Tb. olive oil in a pan, and add the garlic. Cook 30 seconds, or until fragrant and then add the beet greens and stems. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.

While the greens/stems are cooking, toss the bulgar with the arugula pesto, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To poach the eggs, either do it on the stove, or as with my favorite method, pull out a mug. Fill 3/4 full with water. Add 1 tsp. cider or white vinegar. Crack a raw egg into the mug and then microwave the egg and water/vinegar for 1 minute. Pull the mug out and drain the cooked egg. Cook the next egg in the same manner. If you’d rather, you can instead soft boil or fry the eggs.

Place some of the pesto bulgar in a bowl and top with the sautéed greens and stems. Top that with a cooked egg, and then sprinkle with feta. Serve with Aleppo pepper flakes or harissa, and enjoy. There should be plenty of bulgar leftovers for a lunch salad the next day.

Ramp Risotto with Lemon, Peas, and Radishes

Ramp, or

Ramp, or “Wild Leek”, CC: Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, Courtesy Wikimedia.

We are almost there–T minus four days until move in and much of our big renovating will be done as of tomorrow. We will be living without kitchen counters for a couple of weeks once we move in, as well as without a stove and sink for a while, so this may well be the last blog post I write for a bit as I see Co-Op deli dinners and eating out in some of our future. But we’re excited to create this new home together, and hopefully to have all of you there eating meals around a table together in the near future!

Today we were at the house after work checking out the kitchen progress. As always, I was wondering what I might be able to cook with little food in the cabinet, and most of our pots and pans packed away. A few days ago, while tilling our second raised bed, I pulled out what I assumed were irises so I could transplant them elsewhere, but quickly found that I’d pulled up some kind of onion. They looked like really large green onions, with a leek-like stem, and leaves like irises. They wer actually ramps.

Ramps are kind of an Appalachian thing–people down here eat them with beans and cornbread or sauteed with bacon grease. Now I’m wishing I didn’t pull all of them, because I should definitely plant some more for next season–apparently they’re actually a protected species in some places! Anyhow, with my surplus of ramps, and some radish plants still needing thinning, I figured I’d make some kind of risotto–my go to “everything but the kitchen sink” solution.

Ramps & Radishes

Ramps & Radishes

Of course, I realized once we were home that we didn’t have any white wine in the house, so I figured I’d try gin–why not, and the juniper/herbally flavors I thought might be nice with spring onions and radishes. We also didn’t have any cheese, which is all the better since I really shouldn’t eat it, so the key to cheeseless risotto is adding butter at the end–what the French call monter au beurre–in order to emulsify everything and give it some rich mouthfeel. Frozen peas (one of my favorite go to pantry items) and lemon juice rounded it out.

I’m excited to have put this together on a whim, and look forward to taking advantage of more Appalachian indigenous ingredients, like ramps. Enjoy!

Ramp Risotto

Ramp Risotto with Lemon, Peas, and Radishes

  • 1.5 C. Arborio rice
  • 5.5 C. veggie stock
  • 1/2 C. gin
  • 1 Tb. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. butter, divided
  • 1 large bunch ramps
  • 1 large bunch of radish greens and baby radishes, chopped
  • 1/2 to 3/4 C. frozen peas
  • Zest and juice of one lemon

Heat the veggie stock in a large pot. In the meantime, heat the olive oil and 1 Tb. of the butter in a heavy pan over medium. Clean the leeks well of any dirt and chop off most of the green leaves. Cut off the bottoms, and similarly to leeks, peel off the outer layer and rinse well to get rid of dirt. Chop ramps fine. Saute the ramps in the olive oil and butter over medium until tender. Add the rice and stir, coating well, for 1 minute. Add the gin and stir until absorbed. Start adding in the stock, about a cup or so at a time. Simmer and stir, adding more until you’ve used a little more than half of the stock. Stir in the radishes and radish greens.

When you’ve added in your last ladle of stock, stir in the frozen peas and cook slowly till most of the stock is absorbed. Add in the lemon juice and zest and stir. Add in the remaining Tb. of butter and stir till melted. Serve hot with plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Serves 4-6.

Vegan Chipotle Squash & Carrot Soup

So today I should be working on my (last?) paper and presentation for med school, on prescription drug costs or something like that. So what better time to put that off and write up a recipe I’ve been sitting on for a few weeks?! Exactly.

Image

All I’m saying about this one is that the doll really liked it, ok?

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 5 carrots
  • 1C cooked black beans
  • 1 head garlic
  • 6oz firm or extra firm tofu
  • 2 chiles in adobo sauce (adjust for preferred spiciness)
  • 4C vegetable stock (adjust for preferred viscosity)
  • 1 C chopped cilantro
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Directions:

1. Turn oven to 450. Peel the carrots and slice them ¼ inch thick. Pierce the butternut squash in several places with a knife. Cut the top off the head of garlic.

2. Oil half of a cookie sheet. Place the carrots and the head of garlic (cut side down) on the oiled side, and the whole squash on the non-oiled side. Bake in the oven until the veggies are all squishy, 40-50 min. Keep an eye on the garlic to make sure it doesn’t burn.

3. While the  veggies are in the oven, make the tofu croutons. Squeeze out the excess water in the tofu and cut it into ½ in cubes. Heat a non-stick pan with olive oil and fry the tofu cubes, flipping half way through, so that all sides are a nice, crunchy golden-brown.

3. Remove the veggies from the oven. Carefully cut the squash in half and spoon out the flesh, tossing the seeds or saving them to make a snack. Put the stock, 4 or 5 roasted cloves of garlic, carrots, squash and chiles into a food processor and puree. Add salt to taste. Adjust the amount of stock depending on how thick you want your soup.

4. Add the beans at the end and mix them in, then drop the tofu croutons and cilantro on top. Yum! Vegan.

Quinoa with Lemon and Radish Leaves

What a month. Renovating, packing, moving, and disasters here at home, and around the world. Everything has been feeling a bit frenetic and all mixed up. For me, it has been a month of perspective taking: remembering that what’s really important is what I have in front of me: a husband I adore, family, friends, and a way to make a living in a field I believe in. The rest is just details–sometimes I just need to remind myself of that more frequently.

One nice thing we’ve done recently is plant a garden in the little raised bed behind our new house. We started with lettuce, arugula, and radishes, and I look forward to adding more. Because my years being forced to weed my mother’s garden and my casual coming and going from the Dartmouth Organic Farm apparently did little to instill actual gardening skills in me, I planted way too much of all of the seed. Now that the glorious spring has erupted here in Tennessee, the plants are going gangbusters. So, the other day I tried to thin them out (after having done battle with cat shit–we have a huge population of feral cats in the hood. Side note for gardeners: if you put a grid of chicken wire right on top of the dirt, cats won’t use your garden as a litter box, which is a good thing, since their “fertilizer” is actually really dangerous). I was left with a really cute pile of radish greens, which I did not want to compost because a) they looked so fresh and delicious and b) because we literally had no veggies in the fridge. Thus, this simple recipe was born of desperation, deep gratitude for spring, sun, and life, and things that I had in my cabinet.

I recommend adding protein by plopping a poached egg on top. We had ours with a butter bean and beet salad (canned butter beans, leftover roasted beets, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper). The dukkah (read more on this amazing Egyptian spice in the link below) really adds a little pizazz, so I strongly encourage you to make some (or apparently Trader Joe’s carries it too…).

Quinoa with Lemon

Quinoa with Lemon and Radish Leaves

  • 1.5 C. quinoa
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • bunch of radish leaves (or other young green leaves: spinach, chard, etc.), chopped coarsely
  • 3 Tb. olive oil
  • 1/4 C. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Chopped almonds or a few Tb. of dukkah (promise I’ll post a recipe soon!)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the quinoa. Combine the lemon juice, zest, and olive oil together. When the quinoa has boiled for 15 minutes, drain well in a fine mesh strainer and toss with the dressing, and plenty of salt and pepper. Toss in the chopped greens, feta, and green onions and serve warm or room temperature, garnished with some nuts or dukkah. Add a poached egg on top for some delicious protein.

Soba Noodles with Tahini Miso Ginger Sauce

Wow, has it really been that long since we’ve posted!?! I’m sorry that I’ve been so out of touch here. Between residency placement, school, worldwide travel, and on my end, the much more mundane 8-5 and remodeling of our new house in every spare moment, I know we’ve all been crazy. So, creative cookery hasn’t quite been at the top of my list.

Nevertheless, I miss you all and wanted to reinvigorate the blog again, so I figured I’d post on last night’s slapdash meal of Soba Noodles with a variant on my ubiquitous tahini dressing. There’s something about it that I can’t get enough of, and it’s eternally modifiable for Asian, Middle Eastern, or “hippy” flavored dishes.  It’s all eyeball measurements, so please taste the dressing (which is the key to this meal) as you go for optimal flavor. And if you haven’t ever had ichimi tagarachi, or shichimi tagarachi, you should. The former is simply Japanese chili flakes, and the latter has orange peel, sesame seeds, and other goodies mixed in. They’re great to have around for noodle bowls or grilled veggies, etc. Same thing with furikake–there are dozens of varieties of this Japanese condiment, but my favorite has nori, sesame seeds, salt, and sugar.

Enjoy!

Tahini Soba Noodles

Soba Noodles with Tahini Miso Ginger Sauce

  • two bundles of buckwheat soba noodles
  • 1/4 C. fresh tahini
  • 2 Tb. red miso paste
  • 1/4 C. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tb. finely grated ginger
  • dash of mirin or pinch of sugar
  • warm water, to taste
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • dash of soy
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets and bite-sized pieces
  • two large handfuls of spinach or mixed greens
  • optional: cilantro, ichimi tagarashi (Japanese chili pepper), furikake (Japanese sesame seed condiment)

Bring a salted pot of water to a boil. In the meantime, put the tahini, miso paste, and vinegar in a jar and shake vigorously till combined. Add in warm water, a tablespoon at a time, and shake, combining until the consistency is a thick paste. Add in the sesame oil, ginger, the mirin or sugar, and the soy, and shake again till combined. Taste and add vinegar or water, to taste, until the sauce is of pourable consistency, and set aside.

Add the soba noodles to the boiling water and set a timer for 6 minutes. When 3 minutes remain, add the carrots and broccoli to the water with the noodles. At 6 minutes, taste the noodles for doneness and when cooked, take off the heat. Add the spinach or greens to your colander and drain the noodles and veggies over them to wilt the greens. Toss the noodles and veggies with the tahini sauce and serve warm.

Garnish at the table with cilantro and any of the Japanese condiments.

Pea and Mint Soup

Splendid Treasures of the Turkomen

Today marked the opening of my first exhibit at my new job–Splendid Treasures of the Turkomen Tribes from Central Asia. It has been exciting to work on this show, to delve into a crash course on Turkmen (as they are known today) people, clothing, carpets, and jewelry. And I have to admit, it’s nice to see an “Associate Curator” credit at the entrance with my name next to it.

The view from my museum office.

The view from my museum office.

Unfortunately, a few hours before the opening, a snow storm hit Knoxville. And while 2 or three inches of snow is nothing in Chicago, in a hilly town like Knoxville with snow plows few and far between, it means a complete and utter meltdown. Only four guests showed at the opening, so we had a lot of Turkmen food to get through. And while it was delicious, it’s quite pastry and meat heavy, so once I finally walked through the slush and back home, something hot and lighter was in order. All I had in the fridge were some leftover green onions, and some frozen veggies. Fortunately, this soup came to the rescue. This recipe is an old standby–you can make it when you literally have nothing in your home, and it is comforting and fresh at the same time. While “pea soup” doesn’t sound too promising perhaps, I promise this is great, and it comes together in 15 minutes or less.

Pea Soup

Pea and Mint Soup

  • 1 large bunch of green onion + 1/2 a yellow onion OR 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 Tb. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried mint
  • 1 tsp. dried dill
  • 16 oz. bag of frozen organic peas
  • bouillon cube (enough for making 2 C. stock) and water OR veggie stock
  • fresh ground pepper
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of half a lemon
  • goat cheese or Greek yogurt to garnish (optional)

Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium until it starts to wilt and/or turn translucent. Add the dried herbs and saute for another minute or so. Stir in the frozen peas, breaking them up. Barely cover the peas with water and add the bouillon cube, or simply cover the peas with stock and don’t add the bouillon. Bring the mixture to a simmer and add some fresh ground pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes or so until the peas are tender. Remove from the head and add the lemon zest and juice. Puree with a stick blender or in a food processor till smooth. Serve immediately, and serve hot, with an optional dollop of Greek yogurt or some crumbles of goat cheese.

The Best Pimento Cheese Ever…Seriously

Happy New Year everyone!

Other than eating too much, we had a wonderful holiday, but are now glad to be settled back down in Knoxville after lots of travel.

If you’ve ever visited my parents’ house in Kentucky, you’ll know that there’s always a big container of pimento cheese in the fridge. No matter what. And no matter how many times I say my lactose-intolerant self won’t take a bite, I always do, which is why I wanted to share this family favorite recipe with you all.

Pimento cheese has had an in-vogue moment again, at least here in Knoxville, along with deviled eggs, homemade pork rinds, and all kinds of other bad-for-you Southern food that trendy “locavore” restaurants here help eaters justify since the ingredients are easily sourced from nearby farms. I mean who can resist free-range deviled eggs with sriracha and homemade chowchow?

I’m glad Southerners are finding their groove and celebrating their food culture (even if it might give us all a heart attack). For one, it means that people are learning not to do sacreligious things, like pureeing one’s pimento cheese in the food processor, or God forbid, adding something sweet, like Miracle Whip, to it. Nevertheless, pimento cheese is one of those things you just don’t want to mess with. So, please don’t add jalapenos, or barrel-fermented organic pickles, or what have you to this. Just stick with the basics and keep it simple, simple, simple.

The trick here is to start with good ingredients, making sure to especially use good mayo (I always use Hellman’s) and good cheese (Cabot cheese is the best–I’m looking at you, Sara). My family always uses sharp white cheddar and roasted red peppers, which might sound kind of shishi, but fresh roasted peppers are a lot better than the little jars of pimentos that sit mouldering on the back shelf of your Piggly Wiggly (plus, you can’t even find pimentos usually up North or in Europe). The other trick is to absolutely not add too much mayo. The mayo should just barely bind everything together. Other than that, when serving it’s best with bland crackers. Saltines, water crackers, or Melba toast are all great options, but just make sure that your saltines aren’t fully salted, or the end product will be too much of a salt bomb.

Hope you enjoy!

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The Best Pimento Cheese Ever

  • 1 lb. or so sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 large roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 C. or so mayonnaise (Hellman’s or similar suggested)
  • 1 Tb. grated yellow onion
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper

Grate the cheddar cheese using the grater fitting on your food processor, or by hand. Grate the onion and add to cheese, making sure to include any juice. Sprinkle in the diced roasted red pepper. Gently fold in the mayonnaise a bit at a time, adding more or less, just until the mixture binds together. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Chill and serve with bland crackers or make sandwiches (tomato is nice on a sandwich with pimento cheese).

PS- Big thanks to Rita and Mom for teaching me this recipe…