Perfect Pimento Cheese

perfect pimento cheese

To quote from the immortal words of Minnie Pearl…howdy, how you all’s?

It feels like ages since we chatted.  So pull up a chair and I’ll fix us a little snack.  I made this pimento cheese for New Year’s Day and liked it so much that now it has a permanent place in my fridge.  In a world of cramped refrigerator quarters, that is no small commitment.  But this pimento cheese can go from being spread on crackers or bread to melting into the most perfect grilled cheese that ever existed to looking all fancy piped into celery stalks.

Or simply licked off a spoon, if that’s your thing.

Perfect Pimento Cheese

Adapted from Demaris Phillips

BAH Note: Ms. Phillips advises you to gently stir the roasted red pepper into the mixture by hand.  I let the mixer do all the work for me.  You do what feels right to you.  Want to turn up the heat?  Add a wee dash of smoked paprika or cayenne.  I bet some soft, roasted garlic would melt beautifully into this cheese…..and give it nice little je ne sais quoi.

  • 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese, preferably sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 8 ounces gouda, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 roasted red pepper, diced

Combine the cream cheese and mayonnaise on medium speed in your stand mixer until smooth.  Reduce the speed to low and add the cheddar and gouda and mix until nicely combined.  Add the roasted red pepper and mix until you’re happy with how it looks. Add kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

{printable recipe}

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Black Bean and Zucchini Quesadillas

I know what you’re thinking, “Here she goes with the black beans again.  I thought she said that she DOESN’T like black beans all that much.  Make up your mind lady.”

What can I say?  This recipe meets all my bonus point criteria.  In addition to black beans it has zucchini, cheese, sour cream, and avocado.  And it’s also crowd friendly since you finish the quesadillas off in the oven, letting you make a bunch at once.

If you need any more reasons to convince you to give these a try, email me.  I’ll have you over the next time these go on the menu.

Black Bean and Zucchini Quesadillas

Adapted from Pam Anderson’s Meatless Meals

BAH Note:  I typically make four quesadillas in a batch and have a bit of filling left over, which I add to a bunch of mixed greens for an easy salad another day.  If you’ve got a few more mouths to feed, make a couple of more quesadillas to use all of the filling.

BAH Tip: I have bad luck with fresh cilantro.  Even though I store it in a glass of water in the fridge, it always goes bad before I use it all.  My solution is to buy the tube of cilantro from the grocery store.  It’s not as good as using fresh but I don’t end up wasting a bunch of fresh herbs.  If you go the tube route, just be mindful of how you’re going to use it.  I wouldn’t recommend it as a finishing herb but in applications where you cook the herb into the dish, I consider a tablespoon or so to be an acceptable alternative.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 (8 inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (see BAH Tip above)
  • sour cream
  • 1 avocado, diced (optional)

Set an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Set a cooling rack into a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan set over medium heat.  Add the zucchini and cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until softened.  Add the cumin and oregano and cook another minute.  Stir in the black beans and cilantro and cook until the filling is just dry.  Transfer the filling to a bowl and wipe the frying pan out with a paper towel.

Return the frying pan to the stove over medium high heat.  Working one at a time, add a tortailla to the pan and cook until the bottom just begins to brown.  Carefully turn the tortilla over and cook for about 30 seconds until the tortilla puffs a bit and begins to brown on the other side.  Transfer the tortilla to the prepared baking sheet and immediately fold it in half.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Once all the tortillas are warmed, open each tortilla and place 1/3 cup of the filling mixture on the bottom half of each tortilla.  Top each with approximately 1/4 cup of grated cheese, fold the tortillas back in half, and press lightly.

Bake in the oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until the tortillas are crisp and the filling is warm.  Serve with sour cream and diced avocado.

{printable recipe}

Shrimp and Black Bean Wontons

Black beans are one of those foods that has taken me a while to warm up to.  A long while.  Whenever I wander into Chipotle, I always get my burrito bowl sans beans since I don’t load up on the other fixings that could distract me from the fact that THERE ARE BLACK BEANS IN MY CHICKEN AND RICE.   Good Lord, if that doesn’t make me sound like a picky eater I don’t know what does.  But at least I don’t have any restrictions on letting my foods touch.  That has to be its own special kind of hell for parents of picky eaters.

So yes, distraction is my way of coping with black beans.  If a recipe calls for beans, I look to see if there are enough other ingredients that will provide camouflage.  Or strong flavors.  Major bonus points if both other ingredients and strong flavors are present in the recipe.  Sorry black bean burgers, you will never earn those bonus points in my grade book.

Despite my pickiness, I am slowly beginning to make my peace with black beans.  I don’t have a lot of recipes in my repertoire that use them but at least now I don’t turn my nose up at the rows of black beans lined up like soldiers as I walk through the grocery store aisles.  And occasionally, I even reach up and grab a can or two.

Shrimp and Black Bean Wontons

Adapted from My Morning Chocolate

BAH Note: I had more wontons than I had filling, so I baked some up like chips.  You could, if you were so inclined, deconstruct this recipe so that the wonton filling is baked up in a dish like a dip and served with the wonton “chips”.  Either way, black beans + shrimp + cream cheese + strong flavors = major bonus points.

  • 1/2 can black beans
  • 1 cup cooked shrimp, tails and shells removed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon corriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • wonton wrappers

Rinse and drain the beans and place them in a large mixing bowl.  Chop the shrimp roughly and add it to the bowl of beans.  Add all remaining ingredients other than the wonton wrappers, stir to thoroughly combine, taste and add more spices or salt as necessary.  Cover the bowl and set it aside.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees and line two half sheet pans with parchment.

Place 10 – 12 wonton wrappers on each pan.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling onto each wonton, not quite in the center.  Use a wet finger to moisten two sides of each wonton, fold each wonton in half to form a triangle, and press the edges with the tines of a fork to seal.

Brush the tops lightly with olive oil and bake for 10-12  minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until the edges are browned and crisp.

{printable recipe}

Braised Onion Tart

Do not be fooled by my crappy photo.  There’s a lovely picture of Braised Onion Tart in February’s Bon Appetit.  If you want the glamour shot, look there.

Note to self: Check the ingredient label the next time you think of buying store brand puff pastry.  It wasn’t until I took my box of Giant brand puff pastry out of the freezer that I noticed it was made with margarine.  Who the hell uses margarine in puff pastry?  I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t happy with the flavor or the texture of the pastry.  It also didn’t brown well.

But I am confident that those shortcomings were the result of my poor, generic puff pastry choice and not of the onion tart itself.  The 59 cents, or whatever it was, that I “saved” by choosing the store brand was no savings whatsoever.

So what’s the take away here?

  1. Fancy cameras do not ensure you won’t have a crappy photo.
  2. Bargain puff pastry is no bargain.
  3. Splurge on the good stuff and then make a braised onion tart.

Braised Onion Tart

Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2011

BAH Note: There’s a whole component in the BA recipe for roasting onions to use for the tart.  While that’s great, it also adds nearly 90 minutes to the process.  I elected to use some of the Braised Onions that I had stashed away in my freezer.  I thawed them in the fridge, then while my puff pastry was thawing on the counter I heated the thawed onions in a skillet until most of the liquid had evaporated.

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 cup Braised Onions
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the puff pastry on a sheet of parchment to a rectangle approximately 14×10. Fold a 1/2 inch edge in towards the center on all sides to form a 13×9-inch rectangle. Transfer the pastry (on the parchment) to large rimmed baking sheet. Press firmly on the  pastry edges with fork to form a rim.

In a small bowl, mix the crème fraîche, salt, and pepper. Using the back of a spoon, or an offset spatula, spread the crème fraîche mixture over the crust to the folded edges. Arrange the apple slices on top of the crème fraîche and then top with the onions.

Bake until the crust is light golden brown and the crème fraîche topping is bubbling, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme and serve.

{printable recipe}

Bruce and Mark’s Roasted Shrimp with Herbs

Bruce and Mark are beyond busy.  They write cookbooks… lots of cookbooks. They develop content for magazines and national websites.  They blog.  And they get nominated for James Beard awards.  In the name of full disclosure, I follow Mark on Twitter (and you can too) and I had no idea that this recipe I pulled out of Fine Cooking was his and Bruce’s until I started cooking.  It was then that I noticed the credit at the very bottom of the page.  Ain’t it funny how our worlds sometimes collide?

So then I started conversing with Mark about having made this dish and asking permission to reprint.  Our 140 character or less conversation went something like this:

@bonappetithon: I made the roast shrimp that was in FC this month. Would love your permission to post w/out adapting since there’s not a whole lot to adapt

@markscarbrough:Absolutely. Believe it or not, the recipe is actually an adaptation from our COOKING KNOW-HOW. It’s so easy–perfect summery deck food, no?

@bonappetithon: Greatly appreciated. Was super freaking easy. Perfect for a tasty weeknight dinner.

@markscarbrough: In COOKING KNOW-HOW, we vary the herbs et al endlessly. For example, with Sichuan peppercorns and garlic, then rice vinegar at the end.

So there, from @markscarbrough himself is some additional ways to change up Roasted Shrimp with Herbs.  My apologies to the boys for not capturing a glamor shot to rival what I saw on page 20 of Fine Cooking April/May 2011.  I was hungry and there was roasted shrimp with herbs to be eaten.

Bruce and Mark’s Roasted Shrimp with Herbs

Reprinted with permission

  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs, halved
  • 1 1/2 pound extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Pour the oil into a 9×13 baking dish.  Add the thyme, rosemary, and pepper and bake until the oil is fragrant, about 12 minutes.

Add the shrimp to the dish and toss with tongs until coated.  Bake the shrimp until pink and firm, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the vinegar and salt to the shrimp, toss to combine, and let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes for the oil to cool slightly before serving.

{printable recipe}

Rushed

Mustard Roasted Shrimp

The following originally appeared on 5/27/09 at Exit 51.

Rushed

Despite my best efforts to the contrary, there are just days when time is not on my side.  I’ve got too much to do and not enough time to get it done.  Or cosmic forces conspire against me and suck huge chunks of time out of my grasping hands, never to be seen again.  A trip to the grocery store that should take 30 minutes turns into an hour.  Too bad life doesn’t come with rollover minutes, like in the AT&T commercial.  I’d definitely pay for that upgrade.

The problem with poor time management is that something ultimately suffers.  You cut corners, trying to wedge a square peg into a round hole, and the end result isn’t exactly the right fit.  It will do in a pinch but you know you could do better.  That’s how I feel about Mustard Roasted Shrimp.

The clock was already ticking when I set out to make the shrimp.  Dinner had to be done and I had to be out the door in little more than an hour.  So the notion of marinating the shrimp in mustard, olive oil, and tarragon for an hour in the fridge was immediately dismissed.  And soaking bamboo skewers so that the shrimp could be  broiled?  That would have to wait for another day.  These need to be in the oven NOW.

Did you ever notice that when you’re trying to hurry, even the simplest tasks get complicated?  Like peeling shrimp.  Sure, the package says EZ Peel but should it really take twenty minutes to peel two pounds of large shrimp?  In tv land there would be an assistant to instantly transform them into peeled and cleaned morsels.  In my kitchen, there’s just the cat sitting there looking mildly interested in me dropping one of those morsels on the floor.

By now, my hour is down to about 40 minutes.  Sorry shrimp but the best I can offer you at this point is a short stay in the marinade out on the counter.  The oven gets heated, sheet pans get prepped, and the timer ticks down to less than 30 minutes.

Finally, the shrimp go in the oven.  At this point, I stop looking at the clock.  It will take as long as it takes and since my superpower to stop time has yet to develop, clock watching isn’t going to do me any good.  As soon as I start to smell the aroma of hot mustard, it’s time to turn the shrimp over.  Tick-tock, tick-tock, I can’t turn the clock in my head off.

At last the shrimp is bright pink and the mustard marinade is just starting to brown on the sheet pans; time to come out of the oven.  Sprinkle a quick pinch of salt and onto the plate we go.  In the five minutes or so that I have to actually eat, I keep thinking how this is ok but it could be so much better.  Each bite mocks me with flat flavor.  Even the next day, the leftovers lay there on the plate, not living up to their full potential because of me.

I take full responsibility.  I rushed what could have been a very good thing.

Broiled Shrimp with Mustard and Tarragon

Adapted from Bon Appetit: Fast, Easy, Fresh

  • 1/3 cup dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 wood skewers, soaked for 30 minutes

Whisk first four ingredients in a medium bowl to combine.  Add shrimp; toss to coat.  Chill 1 to 3 hours.

Heat broiler and line sheet pan with foil.  Thread shrimp onto skewers.  Season with salt and pepper.

Broil shrimp until cooked through, approximately 2 minutes per side.

BAH Note: I’m including the comments from the original post as well.

on 2 June 2009 at 6:13 pm missmobtown said:
I blame Bon Appetit — labeling something as “fast, easy, fresh” when it needs to sit for an hour? Or three? Come ON.

on 3 June 2009 at 7:04 am pmf1852 said:
Indeed, not the quickest meal in the book. We made it again last weekend. Oddly enough, letting it sit longer really didn’t make it taste much different. I think the key is to definitely cook it with high heat. I may have to get over my fear of the broiler and see if that turns up the flavor.

on 27 July 2009 at 8:28 pm Lara said:
Ok, I tried this tonight and both my husband and I thought it was very good but the flavor almost overpowering. Next time I will use less mustard and perhaps half of the marinade recipe. A good make ahead and a great little appy!

on 28 July 2009 at 6:59 am Wendi said:
Would you say it’s a happy appy? Definitely play around with the ingredients to get the taste you like best.

Boathouse Roma Tomato Jam

I  have an affinity for the idea of southern living.  I don’t know if I would enjoy actually living down in Dixie but in my perfect world, life is full of southern grace, charm, and food.  I think it would really depend on where in the south I happened to find myself.

I don’t think I could take the heat and humidity that seems to thrive down south (not that Maryland is any picnic in the summer).  And then there’s the whole tornado thing.  Maryland isn’t much of a tornado alley so the notion of storm cellars and twisters that can level entire neighborhoods makes me kind of uncomfortable.  Maybe it’s just that I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz and Twister too many times not to have a prejudiced notion of what it means to live with the possibility of these storms…god forbid somebody drops a house on me. And then there’s the bugs.  Fire ants, palmetto bugs, and mosquitoes the size of buzzards. My perfect world of southern living does not make accommodation for these pests.

So maybe actual southern living is not for me.  Perhaps I am better served by small doses of southern charm during long weekends away from the Free State. Regardless, thanks to my friend who let me borrow her copy of The Boathouse cookbook, I can bring a taste of that southern food into my own kitchen.  And right now, the south tastes like tomato jam. I wish that I did have a big cellar so that I could make big batches of this and can it for proper long term storage.  In my mind, that’s what my basement is for. Not for seeking refuge from the storm.

I am entering this recipe in the Get Grillin’ Event run by Family Fresh Cooking and Cookin’ Canuck, sponsored by Ile de France CheeseRösleEmile HenryRouxbe and ManPans. This week’s theme is appetizers.  Check out all the entries and submit one of your own!

Roma Tomato Jam

Adapted from The Boathouse

BAH Note: I’ve used this as a sandwich condiment, as a topping on flat bread, and on wee rounds of toasted baguette.  I bet it would be fantastic on a grilled pizza with some lovely, salty feta.

  • 1 container roma tomatoes (I guess there were about 6 or 8 tomatoes), coarsely chopped
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add chopped tomatoes and onion and saute over medium high heat for about 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium low and add the balsamic and brown sugar.  Stir to combine and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 30 minutes or until a jam-like consistency is reached.  I turned off the heat when a spatula run through left a clean trail in the pan.

Serve at room temperature.  Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator.

{printable recipe}