My perfect pimento cheese

My perfect pimento cheese

I’ve risen from the dead y’all.

Pimento cheese may be one of my favorite foods in the world. I’m typically the first one running to the sign-up sheet before a pot luck because it gives me a grand excuse to make it. I need to curb my opportunities to group settings, otherwise I would just make it for myself all the time, which would result in my drunk eating it by the spoonful in refrigerator light at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday.

Anyway, I make mine with roasted red peppers. Don’t be mad. I’m in Boston and pimentos are hard to find since Trader Joe’s stopped carrying their little jars of roast piquillos. Albert Burneko does an excellent job taking the blame defending the use of roasted red peppers for pimento cheese. Except he recommends you roast the peppers yourself for optimum payoff.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Well, onto the good stuff:

Pimento cheese (without the pimentos)

4 cups shredded cheese (I like to use a mix of fine and medium shred sharp cheddar. Literally every version of this recipe you will ever read will damn the use of pre-shred, bagged cheese and demand that you box shred yourself. I’ve used both. We cool.)

Best quality mayo you can find (No low-fat/light bullshit. And don’t even talk to me about Miracle Whip.)

One jar of roasted red peppers, finely chopped, juices reserved

Salt, pepper, cayenne

In a giant bowl, add half of your cheese and mix in your chopped peppers. Give it a good stir and add in a heaping spoonful of mayo. Mash with a fork (this is important) until it has the effect of a paste. Add in the rest of your cheese, a few splashes of pepper juice, and another spoonful of mayo. Mash. Check consistency? Spreadable? No? Add another spoonful of mayo. Mash again.

The important thing is to not get greedy. Mayo can become extremely overpowering and is basically just invited to the party to give the mixture some grip.

Once you’ve reached spreadable consistency, give it a good healthy shake of cayenne. I like a lot. You might like a little. Or maybe you like none at all — you baby.

I also like a good cracking of salt and pepper, but it’s entirely not necessary. Then into the fridge it goes.

Wait a few hours (or days, whatever) and bask in the glory of the great culinary minds of the South.

I like it spread on Ritz crackers or as a dip for pretzel slims. Or in a grilled cheese sandwich. Also, good on celery stalks if you want to take one of the world’s only calorie burning foods assault it with cheesy goodness.

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Italian braised shredded beef

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A few weeks ago I was in Connecticut visiting my parents and my mother made a “Greek Pot Roast” (I have no idea what made it “Greek” but that is what the cookbook said.) It was good. I’m not a huge pot roast fan, so I fairly indifferent, but it was good.

She insisted I bring a serving back to Boston and I obliged, still indifferent. It hung out in my fridge for a day or two but after a long work day, I decided to give in and heat it up.

With a crusty piece of fresh warm bread — Oh my god. There was nothing better.

Stewed beef just tastes better the next day. I don’t know why. (I’m sure Alton Brown does.) But it just DOES.

So when I spotted one gorgeous top round roast hanging out in the butcher’s department at the grocer yesterday, I knew it was fate. I had to do something with it.

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I first ate my creation for dinner, in a bowl, with a few pieces of crusty bread to soak up the tangy tomato sauce. I threw in some whole garlic cloves during the braise and as I learned from my milk chicken, they turned to butter and were easy to spread over the bread. Delicious.

Today, I decided to make a sandwich on a soft torpedo roll with melted provolone cheese. As anticipated, it was even more delicious the second day. A fork and knife kind of a sandwich, for sure. And I barely made a dent in the massive amount of beef I have left. Not that I’m complaining.

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Italian braised shredded beef

1 — 4 lb. top round roast, trimmed of fat
1 — 28 oz. can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 — 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
10-12 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 can low sodium pitted black olives, drained
1 bell pepper, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 white onion, minced
2 sprigs of rosemary
Italian seasoning
Cracked black pepper
Coarse salt
EVOO

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Liberally salt and pepper roast, rub on Italian seasoning. Heat EVOO in a Dutch over over high heat. As soon as it smokes, add your roast, sear on each side for 4-5 minutes each.

Remove roast and drain out most of the fat and oil, leaving behind approx. 1 Tbs. Lower heat, add onions, and cook until lightly browned.

Add tomatoes (and all their juices), garlic, olives, and bell pepper in with onions. Stir.

Place roast over vegetables and spoon sauce over the top. Tuck in rosemary.

Roast, covered, for 3.5 hours. Remove and test roast to see if it shreds easily with a fork. If not, cook for another 30 minutes.

Shred meat with forks and mix with sauce. Raise heat to 325 and cook for an addition 30 minutes.

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I spooned mine over rolls and added some cheese. Perfection, right?

Not yet. Something’s missing…

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Crushed red pepper! Of course! Mmm… Next time, I would add a few shakes during the braising process so the spice melds in with the roast.

Tomorrow I might mix my massive amount of leftovers with orzo and stuff some beautiful bell peppers. Bake them with a crispy Parmesan topping. Oh, the mind reels.

But for now, there’s this. Enjoy!

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recent recipes: caprese quinoa, crock pot buffalo chicken, and levain chocolate chip cookies

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I’ve been very busy but don’t worry. I’ve been cooking and eating. Plenty. Here are some quick updates.

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I’ve been on a quinoa kick (with the rest of the health conscious world) and this was such a great, easy recipe. Shauna made it first and I couldn’t get it out of my mind so I found a close recipe that I tweaked to my taste. A little less oil and a quick drizzle of balsamic. Delish.

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So, this was much more unappealing than it looks. Which is hard to believe, I know. This is the very blog-famous crock pot buffalo chicken. Simple as pie! Chicken breasts, a bottle of hot sauce, and a packet of ranch dressing mix. I should have known better … how could this possibly turn out good? Well, easy: It didn’t. I added a dollop of sour cream and some chopped scallions to try to break up the saltiness of this dish and ate it open-faced on a soft bun. Still awful. Sorry.

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And finally, I attempted to make the Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookies for my co-worker’s last day. This is definitely one of those recipes where you really come to acknowledge the concept that: cooking is more of art, while baking is more of a science. Yes, it certainly is. And my two batches came out completely different. I pretty much followed this recipe (subbing the 1 cup of light brown sugar for a 1/2 cup light and a 1/2 cup dark) without the walnuts. The only difference between the left and right above being the right were scooped out with ice cream scooper and the right were hand-formed. I used an entire 5 lb. bag of chocolate chips in the making of these. Totally worth it.

Posted in fall 2012, food | 1 Comment

jamie oliver’s cherry tomato and sausage bake

cherry-tomatoes

I love Jamie Oliver. I loved Food Revolution and I especially loved it when he cried, which was quite often. He was so passionate about getting the unfazed children and their pink slime-loving parents in Huntington, West Virginia to get their vegetables. He was fairly successful for the most part — they did eat their vegetables. But did they eat their vegetables after he left? Nahhh… chicken nuggets 4eva!

Maybe he should have made this dish: sweet cherry tomato and sausage bake.

I made it last night for girlfriends and served it with a scoop of creamy fresh ricotta and a lemon-parm arugula salad. I also threw in a bag of frozen fire-roasted peppers and onions that I had from Trader Joe’s that rounded out the vegetables nicely. Sorry, Jamie. Convenience (in this case) totally rules.

jamie oliver sweet cherry tomato and sausage bake

I’m not a huge fan of Italian sausages but someone in my building makes sausages with peppers and onions every Sunday and I felt inspired. Or maybe my stomach just felt inspired. However, whenever I make sausage and peppers (the EVOO-based kind, not the tinned tomato kind), it just turns into a big greasy unappetizing mess.

But this was a happy medium and was so crazy delicious. We devoured it with big glasses of wine before going out for the evening. So good. All I wanted to do was buy a huge loaf of crusty bread and mop up the sweet vinegary sauce but I plan to take my leftovers and toss them with some whole wheat pasta tonight for dinner instead. Priorities, Rachel.

Make it tonight. Seriously.

Posted in recipes, summer 2012 | 1 Comment

scallion-cilantro quinoa with pulled chicken

scallion-ombre

No secret — I love scallions. Love them chopped in with ginger, love them braised with lemons, love them any capacity.

So when I found Jessica’s recipe for Toasted Sesame Quinoa with Chicken on her blog (How Sweet It Is – one of my faves), I knew I had to make it.

I made a few alterations based on my tastes (CILANTRO!!!) and pantry stock but it was just deeeee-licious.

scallion sesame quinoa

Scallion-cilantro quinoa with pulled chicken
adapted from How Sweet It Is

3 chicken breasts, poached and pulled (I use this method sans the bay leaf)
1 cup quinoa, rised
1/2 cup shelled edamame
3 Tbs. EVOO
2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. sweet soy sauce
2 tsp. seasoned rice wine vinegar
9 scallions
a handful of cilantro, chopped

Cook quinoa according to package instructions in well-salted water.
Put 6 of your scallions a food processor and finely chop. Add cilantro, chop. Thinly slice the rest of your scallions into rounds.
Mix scallions, edamame, quinoa, and chicken in a large bowl.
Whisk oils, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. Pour over and mix well.
Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes so flavors meld before serving.

Posted in food, recipes, summer 2012 | Leave a comment

happy 4th folks

I’ll be staying close today — since I have to say my living room window happens to a choice indoor viewing spot for the Boston fireworks extravaganza — but safe travels to anyone with a further destination for festivities. Hope you all enjoy. xx

Posted in summer 2012 | Leave a comment

crispy pan fried tofu

So I have a confession — I’m really, really excellent at taking things that are supposed to be healthy and turning them into things that are totally not. For example — X, Y, and Z.

Tofu is no different. I looooove tofu. But I love tofu when it’s drowning in spicy greasy goodness and pork fat in ma po tofu or fried and stuffed with sweet vinegary rice. I love that tofu. I love that tofu a lot.

Years of disgusting, grease-soaked tofu failures at home have driven me to only ordering (fried) tofu while out until I discovered a few extremely simple precautionary measures needed to make the absolute perfect crisp crust that can stand its own when tossed in a sticky, sweet sauce. (I told you this was unhealthy.)

And because I love you all so much — I’m going to share it with you. (Or you could just Google it — but since you’re here already …)

crispy-pan-fried-tofu

Crispy pan fried tofu

1 block extra firm tofu
2 tbs all purpose flour
1 tbs corn starch
salt
fresh ground pepper
3 tbs safflower or grapeseed oil

Create a press: Line a plate with several layers of paper towels. Place tofu block on plate and add a second layer of multiple paper towels. Add second plate and some weight (I used a jar of tomato sauce). Allow tofu to drain for 10+ minutes. Remove and cut into 3/4 inch slices (or cubes if you prefer.)
Mix flour, corn starch, and ground pepper and generously dredge each tofu slice.
Heat your oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat until it begins to shimmer.
Add your tofu — don’t crowd the pan — and reduce heat to medium high.
Cook for 6-7 minutes and flip when the edges begin to brown.
Generously salt. Drain on paper towels.

I like mine with a few shakes of crushed red pepper and sweet chilli sauce. Add some sliced green onions and cilantro if you’re feeling fancy. Mmmm….

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