Showing posts with label cheese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cheese. Show all posts

28 October 2017

Exploring Melt: The Art of Macaroni & Cheese

For September's library cookbook club, one participant brought "Roaring Forties with Honey Roasted Delicata Squash, Sage Butter, and Rotini" from Stephanie Stiavetti & Garret McCord's Melt: The Art of Macaroni & Cheese (Little, Brown, & Company, 2013). She'd checked out the book, completely enamored with the gooey cheesiness on the cover, but then been kind-of turned off by most of the recipes in the book as they were not "mac and cheezy" enough for her -- the cookbook is a very "gourmet" take on macaroni and cheese, using many pricey, artisanal cheeses. Anyway, she did not think much of the rotini recipe -- felt in needed bacon and a different cheese, but brought it along anyway for us all to try.

Overall, we found the dish unmemorable ... a bit dry and the flavors didn't meld together, but it wasn't bad in any definable way ... just rather meh. We all agreed the addition of something (probably bacon or pancetta) might have improved it. Admittedly, the cook had substituted butternut for delicata (couldn't find delicata at the shops) and another blue for the Roaring Forties (ditto). And the dish sat for an hour or so at room temperature before the cook book club sampled it ... so its meh-ness was not entirely the recipe's fault.


I ended up bringing Melt home with me after the meeting and kept going back to the rotini recipe, wondering if I could do better with the correct ingredients. Then I looked around on the Internet for Roaring Forties cheese and found that it was a fancy Australian blue cheese that retailed for $38/pound. Well, I thought, that's a clear nope.


Ah. But then ... delicata squash appeared in my CSA share and I decided, what the heck, I would give the recipe a try. An entire rainy afternoon lay open before me, rich with possibility, so I cracked open a bottle of red and went to work. [While no one recipe step is difficult or fiddly, so much of the dish is prepared separately, only to be brought together at the end, that it feels as if the recipe is taking an inordinate amount of time to make. Therefore, I really recommend you make this dish when you're feeling totally mellow and chillaxed about cooking, with lots of time on your hands, and (definitely) an open bottle of red to keep you company].



First, you make the sage butter by heating butter, fresh sage, sea salt, and honey over low heat. Then you pour it over the chopped delicata squash and toss it until everything is coated and roast the squash for an hour. (The recipe said to use a 8-inch square baking dish, but no way were my two chopped squash going to fit in that pan. And then, since there was extra room in the 13x9, I added one large diced sweet onion).


Then, you cook the pasta until al dente and set it aside. (I used 100% whole wheat rotini, because I hoped -- rightly it turned out -- the firm texture and nutty, grainy flavor would benefit the finished dish. I also tossed the cooked pasta with a little unsalted butter before setting it aside, because butter is flavor and dried-out noodles are just sad).

Then, you toast the pecans in a skillet until fragrant and set aside. (I have a horror of burning nuts so I may have under-toasted mine, but they were still delicious).


Then, you add the pasta and blue cheese (Litehouse Simply Artisan Reserve Blue Cheese Crumbles, because I wanted an affordable mild, creamy blue) to the squash pan and give everything a good stir, garnish with toasted pecans, and eat ... except I was like "To hell with garnishing!" and stirred the pecans in with the pasta, squash, and cheese. It might not have been so photogenic, but I liked that the pecans became coated with the melting cheese and pan juices.

Eaten straight from the baking dish, this rotini was really good. The onion and extra butter definitely helped, I think, as did using a soft blue that mostly melted into the dish. The flavors really came together and I loved the sweet caramelized delicata squash. Definitely didn't need any bacon! 13/10 would make again.

Next, I think, I'll try Melt's "Pastitsio with Kefalotyri and Lamb," because I love a good pastitsio/pastichio. But, yeah, it's going to be even more time consuming. Wine will help, no doubt.

31 August 2017

Easy Cheesy Cauliflower

Had ten people over for grilled cheese, cake, and Secret Hitler last weekend, you see, and bought enough cheese for fifteen. Or twenty. Probably, twenty. I clearly am not good at estimating cheese portions. On the other hand, if you enjoy cheese, I'm the woman to party with.

So, I had cheese. And I had cauliflower. Cauliflower cheese, please, said my greedy tummy and who was I to disagree?


If you make this dish, be sure to drain the cauliflower very well before adding the cheese mixture. I did not drain mine very well and the cauliflower cheese came out of the oven rather soupy. However, it did set up quite well as the dish cooled so ymmv.


Easy Cheesy Cauliflower

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 16 oz cauliflower florets
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded or chopped into small pieces
  • 4 Gruyere slices
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend
  • ½ Tbsp roasted garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Put the cauliflower and water in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with cling wrap and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Drain well and set aside.
  3. Put the cream cheese, cream, and cheddar in a microwave safe bowl and cover. Microwave on medium about 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Additional time may be needed if sauce remains lumpy.
  4. Stir in the seasonings. Add the drained cauliflower and gently stir until well coated. Top with the Gruyere and bake at 400°F for 15 minutes or until bubbly and golden.

This would also work with mix of cauliflower and broccoli as well as any semi-firm cheese, such as cheddar, Swiss, Fontina, or Jack.

08 June 2017

Improv Cooking Challenge: Jalapeños & Cheese

After much indecisiveness, I decided to experiment with jalapeño and cheese corn muffins for June's Improv Cooking Challenge. Unfortunately, the first batch was nearly indelible -- astonishingly hot, much too dry, and a little tough. However, I tried again -- adding more liquid, reducing the amount of dried jalapeños, and stirring less -- and eventually arrived at a moderately zippy, tender muffin.


I used Cabot's Jalapeno Jack, a creamy cheese generously studded with fiery jalapeño pieces. It's a flavorful cheese, with plenty of spice, but doesn't set fire to the back of my throat. Really, though, any spicy semi-soft cheese you like will work in this recipe. Just as you should only cook with wine you like to drink, you shouldn't cook with cheese you don't want to surreptitiously nibble.

If you can't find plain kefir at your market, buttermilk or soured milk will work in a pinch. I used kefir simply because I almost always have a container of kefir in my fridge and running to the shop to purchase a container of buttermilk that would end up going off before I could use it up was just ... nope.



Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 3 oz canola, plus extra for greasing the muffin tin
  • 5 oz white whole wheat flour
  • 5 oz cornmeal
  • ⅛ tsp mustard powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tbsp dried crushed jalapeños
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 9 oz plain low-fat kefir
  • 4 oz whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 pickled jalapeño slices

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Brush a 12-hole muffin tin with neutral cooking oil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, mustard powder, baking powder, cheese, crushed jalapeños, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the kefir, milk, oil, and eggs together.
  4. Fold the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, working swiftly yet gently to avoid tough muffins.
  5. Divide the mix between the 12 oiled muffin wells (they will be quite full) and top each with a jalapeño slice. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when tested.
  6. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Serve warm with whipped butter.

For anyone new to my blog, the Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the second Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.





27 April 2016

Ham & Cheesy Chicken Breasts

This was my first attempt at prosciutto-wrapped, cheese-stuffed chicken breasts for April's Improv Challenge. While it came out well, I didn't think it came out quite well enough for the Challenge -- the spreadable cheese was both too mild to stand up to the stronger flavors of the prosciutto and too soft as it ran out of the chicken has it baked. Still, this was my first attempt and I thought it came out pretty well, so I'm leaving it here for kicks.

You can see the (better) prosciutto-wrapped, cheese-stuffed chicken breasts recipe I actually submitted for April's Improv Challenge here. The cheese still escaped, but the flavors were better.


Ham & Cheesy Chicken Breasts

Yield: 2

Ingredients

  • 4 thin slices prosciutto de parma
  • 4 tbsp soft spreadable cheese like Boursin or Aloutte
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 plum tomatoes, halved
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the prosciutto in pairs on the baking sheet.
  2. Slice each chicken breast in half, almost-but-not-quite all the way through, so it is falls open like a book.
  3. Stuff each breast with half of the cheese, then gently smoosh together to close. Place each breast cross-wise on a slice of prosciutto. Fold the prosciutto over the chicken and tuck the ends under.
  4. Arrange tomatoes around the chicken. Drizzle both with olive oil and balsamic. Sprinkle with lots of pepper.
  5. Roast for 20 mins until the chicken is golden around the edges and the tomatoes look a little shriveled.

21 April 2016

Improv Challenge: Ham & Cheese

This my second attempt at cheesy ham-wrapped chicken for April's Improv Challenge. The first time, I used a soft, spreadable cheese that ran out of the chicken as it baked and was also a little overwhelmed by the sweet, salty, prosciutto. For my second attempt, I turned to a firmer cheese -- Gruyere -- whose sweet, salty, creaminess balanced a little better with the prosciutto. As I've used it in grilled cheese and paninis, I knew it would also melt better.


But it still tried to escape from the chicken! How do you keep the cheese inside the chicken? Should I have frozen the cheese first, the way you can freeze butter for chicken kiev? Seared the chicken to seal it shut? Using less cheese isn't an option, as I'd say that even with an ounce of cheese per breast, there was still not enough cheese!


Ah, well, what is cooking for if not to master new things? Slowly. With many redos!

If you want to skip the cheese and tomatoes altogether and tweak the cooking times, chicken tenders wrapped in strips of prosciutto are delish on a salad.

Why roast tomatoes, anyway? Why not? Roasted grape tomatoes are one of the most delicious things on Earth. The tomatoes roast down to an excellent jam-like state and their bright, sweet-sour tang goes really well with chicken.

Fancy Ham & Cheese Chicken Breasts

Yield: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts [Coleman organic]
  • 2 oz Gruyere, thinly sliced [Boar's Head Blanc Grue]
  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto de parma [Boar's Head]
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Cut a deep pocket in each chicken breast, going almost-but-not-quite all the way through.
  3. Stuff each breast with half of the cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, then gently smoosh together to close. Wrap each breast in two slices of prosciutto, tucking the ends underneath like a blanket.
  4. Arrange tomatoes around the chicken. Drizzle both with olive oil and balsamic. Sprinkle with lots of pepper.
  5. Roast for 25-30 mins -- until the chicken has reached 164°F, the prosciutto is golden around the edges, and tomatoes have collapsed in on themselves and look a bit charred.




30 October 2015

Chicken Thighs Breaded With Flax & Almond Meal

I was craving oven-fried chicken, but breadcrumbs seemed ... boring. Nutritionally unadventurous. I'd breaded chicken with almond meal before, but was always a little disappointed in the texture. What about adding in some flax meal? Flax has a nutty flavor that should pair well with the almond meal and, maybe, give the breading a little more body?


"Breaded" Chicken Thighs

Yield: 2-4, depending on appetite

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup flax meal
  • ¼ cup almond meal
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Place a cooling rack on a half sheet pan (13"x18").
  2. Beat egg in a shallow dish like a soup bowl or pie plate.
  3. Combine meals, Parmesan, and seasonings in another shallow dish.
  4. Dip chicken in egg, allowing all excess to drip back into dish, and then thoroughly coat with the meal mixture.
  5. Place chicken on the cooling rack and bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is 165°F.


Overall, I think this was a good start. Next time, I might reduce the amount of flax by a tablespoon or two, because The Husband thought the texture was a little "weird." I liked the texture just fine, but thought the chicken was just a bit ... bland ... so lashings of cheese and seasonings next time, too!

24 September 2015

Broccoli Mac

I'd overbought fresh broccoli and undercooked for the week, so this morning I was faced with a bag of fresh broccoli florets and a desperate need for two day's worth of work meals. I considered a broccoli pasta salad verrrry briefly, realizing the other ingredients I wanted to add to it -- artichoke hearts and sun-dried oil-packed tomatoes -- were not to be found in my kitchen. Some kind of broccoli and pasta hot dish, then? I did have surfeit of pasta, after all. Broccoli mac?! Broccoli mac!


I used my standby recipe for quick macaroni and cheese -- Campbell's Kitchen's "Fastest Homemade Mac and Cheese" -- as it was only five ingredients (if you count water as an ingredient) and the pasta cooks in the sauce. It is the fastest (nonbox) macaroni and cheese I've ever made and there's only one pan to clean up.

I steamed the bag of broccoli florets in the microwave according to the directions on its packaging, using the minimal time so the broccoli retained a little bite, and then coarsely chopped the cooked florets so they'd distribute more evenly throughout the cheesy mac when mixed in.


Because I had several open containers of pasta, I used a mix of small shells and elbows. The cooking times listed on their boxes were the same, so I knew they'd be okay together in the pot.

The cheese is a mix of leftover house brand shredded "pizza blend" and Cabot Sharp Light Cheddar. The "pizza cheese" blend melted wonderfully (as expected) and helped give the mac the delightful gooeyness I crave in macaroni and cheese, while cheddar added a sharp bite.


After I'd stirred everything together, I found the cheesy mac -- while certainly creamy and cheesy -- was still a little lacking so I added roasted garlic powder, black pepper, and a generous squeeze of sriracha. Instant yum!

09 September 2015

Cheesy Salsa Chicken

I've owned a Calphalon panini pan for yonks now and only very recently discovered the blessed thing is oven safe to 450°F. Do you know how liberating that is? No more transferring of ingredients to a baking dish. No, just grill the whatever, add the other ingredients to the pan, and whack the whole thing in the oven. Granted, it might look nicer at the table in a baking dish, but this isn't a nice-enough-for-company meal, anyway. It's an UGH-I-am-so-tired-what's-easy meal.


Creamy Salsa Chicken

Yield: Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 tsp fajita seasoning [Penzeys]
  • 1 cup roasted garlic salsa [Green Mountain Gringo]
  • ½ cup plain Greek yoghurt
  • 2 slices pepper jack cheese [Cabot]
  • Guacamole, as desired

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. While singing "Les Poissons," pound the chicken flat with a mallet. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with fajita/taco seasoning.
  3. Grill the chicken until it develops some nice color and grill marks. Mix the salsa and yoghurt; pour over the chicken and top with cheese.
  4. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until chicken has reached 165°F and cheese is melted.
  5. Top with guacamole, as desired, and serve.

23 June 2015

Quick, Convenient Burritos

I'd cooked a pound of ground beef ahead of time for slow cooker recipe, but it turned out I didn't have quite all the ingredients on hand to make ... so I ended up making something completely different! The cooked beef went in the fridge, with the idea I would use it for tacos, and then it seemed we had suddenly the end of the week, I was driving home from work, and realized I owned neither taco shells nor tortillas. A quick detour to the grocery store and ...


Behold, burrito fixings! These burritos were so easy to make, reasonably healthy (or, at least, healthier than delivery) and full of flavor. The Husband took no issue with the filling which, thanks to the Birds Eye blend, contained things like lentils and whole grains. (Quite probably, considering the amount of cheese and sour cream involved, he couldn't even taste them).


I heated up the Protein Blend and then mixed it with the ground beef and about 4 oz of shredded Cabot light pepper jack cheese.


Warmed up some tortillas and spooned a half cup down the middle of each before folding them up into little bundles.


Spritzed them with a little cooking spray and baked them at 375°F until they were golden brown on top.


Served them with shredded lettuce, sour cream, and salsa. Yum!

I imagine these would be equally good with chopped grilled chicken, instead of beef, or no meat at all. My "recipe" made a lot and I don't know how well these would freeze, but they keep fine in fridge for the two days it took us to finish them. I reheated them by wrapping them individually in foil and tossing them, as needed, in a 375°F oven for about 20 minutes or until heated through.

27 March 2015

Homemade Spudulike: Tuna & Sweet Corn Stuffed Baked Potatoes

While I've made baked potatoes stuffed with Tuna Sweetcorn Mayonnaise before as a homage to the Spudulike jacket potatoes I can't buy stateside, it's been a while. Happily, while I'm still not 100%, baked potatoes are definitely something I can handle and everything I needed to make them was already in the house.


Tuna & Sweetcorn Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Yield: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 baking potatoes
  • olive oil, as needed
  • sea salt, as needed
  • oz can solid white albacore tuna, well drained
  • 1 oz thawed frozen corn, well drained
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbsp light mayonnaise
  • Dried parsley flakes, as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, if desired
  • 1 oz shard cheddar, shredded [Cabot Seriously Sharp]

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Clean potatoes, pat dry, rub with olive oil, sprinkle all over with sea salt, place on a small baking tray and bake for 1 hr.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients (except cheese!) in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. When potatoes are done, remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes or until the are easily handled.
  4. Split potatoes, spread with butter, stuff with tuna mixture, top with cheese, and pop under the broiler for 5 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

24 March 2015

Sautéed Baby Greens & Eggs

I had some surgery last week and haven't been up to cooking or even standing up until the past day or two. And now I'm suddenly at that very restless stage of recovery, where I'm tired of being housebound, but also don't really have the energy necessary to function outside the house. Yesterday, I needed to get a prescription filled so I thought I'd pick up some groceries at the same time, but I didn't even get through the produce section before my body told me I needed to go back to the car and sit down or it was going to lay me down on the floor next to the sweet potatoes and wouldn't that be embarrassing?

Good times!


But, then I made this earlier today so I feel a bit better about myself. Granted, it probably took me way longer than it would you healthy folks, but I made food. Hurrah.

Sautéed Baby Greens & Eggs

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup diced onions
  • 2 oz baby kale, spinach, & chard medley [Earthbound Farm Organic Power blend]
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 oz sharp cheddar, diced small [Cabot Seriously Sharp]

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat until fragrant. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to brown a bit.
  2. Add baby greens and cook, stirring, until wilted. Crack eggs over greens, sprinkle with cheese, and cover. Cook until eggs are set and cheese is melted.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 1 serving

You could use whatever greens or cheese you have on hand, really, as this is a very forgiving recipe. The only thing you really need to pay attention to is the eggs as mine seemed to go from too runny to too firm in the blink of an eye! Still delicious, though.

24 November 2014

Feta & Tomato Beef Patties

Sunday was the day of "OH MY GOD THANKSGIVING IS UPON US! Why aren't these household projects done yet!? People are coming to our house!!" so cooking took a backburner. Which is not to say I didn't cook, but that it was just something I threw together so we would be properly fortified to do battle against The Dread Wall-Mounted Toilet Paper Holder and its friends The Pictures That Have Yet To Be Hung.

So I made this:



And it was yummy. And took 30 minutes at most. Huzzah. (Yeah, I know they're more ball-shaped than patty-like, but that's because they shrink and plump up a bit in the oven).

Feta & Tomato Beef Patties

Yield: 5 patties
Prep Time: 10 mins.
Cook time: 20 mins.
Total time: 30 mins.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 cup crumbled feta
  • ½ cup minced sun-dried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup minced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend, divided [Penzeys Tuscan Sunset]
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 1 Tbsp sun-dried tomato paste [Amore]
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  1. Add beef, feta, tomatoes, minced red onion, and half the seasoning blend to a large bowl. Mix well to combine.
  2. Shape into five similarly-sized patties (a half cup measure is useful for this).
  3. Place patties on a small rimmed baking tray and bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.
  4. While patties cook, sauté the mushrooms, peppers, and onions in olive oil until tender. Stir in tomato paste and remaining Tuscan Sunset seasoning blend.
  5. Serve patties topped with pepper mix.

When I make the black bean and beef patties, the recipe yields six patties ... but this recipe only yielded five. Same amount of beef. Wouldn't expect the feta and tomatoes to squish down more than the beans. I don't know. They were delicious, anyway.

07 November 2014

Savory Salmon Muffins

Linda's "Tuna Or Salmon Muffins" are a great "in a pinch" recipe. You know, one of those recipes for when you "forgot" to go grocery shopping because you were too busy reading or gardening or whathaveyou and now it's supper time and you're vaguely hungry but don't know what to do. Or does that only happen to me?


These fishy muffins also have the benefit of being low carb, if you're into that. I just liked that they sounded fast, easy, and used things I always have on hand. I used two 6-oz cans of Wild Planet Wild Alaska Pink Salmon, Cabot Seriously Sharp, and a generous amount of Penzeys salt-free Tuscan Sunset in addition to the salt and pepper. When I make these again (quite possibly TOMORROW) I will use even more seasoning as I found the muffins a little bland. The fabulous roasted garlic aïoli I served them with made up for that, but I feel a dish shouldn't be dependent on its sauce for flavor.

Had intended to cook up some steam-in-bag frozen asparagus to go with these muffins, but then I realized the fresh steam-in-bag broccoli florets I'd bought Wednesday night had a best-used-by date of Thursday. Yes. What was I thinking? I distinctly remember looking through all the bags for one dated as far in the future as possible ... and yet that bag is not the one that came home with me.

I microwaved the broccoli for 3 of the 3½ minutes directed by the bag and then tossed the cooked broccoli with olive oil, lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper, and Boxed Goodes' Allium Salt. Currently, this is my favorite way of preparing fresh or frozen steam-in-bag broccoli and, prepared this way, I can easily eat a bag that should serve four in a day!

22 June 2014

Cool, Crisp, Refreshing ... Radishes

I've had Kalyn's recipe for "Cucumber and Radish Salad with Feta, Red Wine Vinegar, and Buttermilk Dressing" pinned since last spring when I had a tremendous radish harvest and not a lot of good ideas for what to do with them. While I never got around to making the salad last spring, it was the first thing I thought of when I harvested this spring's massive radish crop. Seriously, we're a two person household and only one of us really likes radishes so why do I keep planting so many? Because they're pretty! And easy! And I never think that so many will many to survive the weather, cats, chipmunks, and bunnies.

"Easter Egg" Radishes

Kalyn's recipe calls for one teaspoon fresh thyme, but I used a handful of fresh dill as my dill plants are growing like weeds and will soon get out of hand if I don't start using them more. Fresh oregano would probably also work well with the cucumber-feta combination.

This salad is a cool and refreshing summer side dish that would be perfect with Greek marinated grilled chicken breasts or shrimp skewers. Or just by itself with in a lettuce cup with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh cracked pepper on top. If you're not that keen on radishes, there's no reason why you couldn't make this without, adding a little red onion or shallot in for kick. (And when I make this again, I will probably halve the amount of radishes, because The Husband picked most of his radishes out).


We ate ours with grilled chicken kabobs (from Whole Foods, because I couldn't be arsed) and it was the perfect lunch for the Second Day of Summer.

20 February 2014

Improv Challenge: Bread & Butter

I first made this one Monday night when I realized that, while I was the only one home for supper, a bottle of moscato and movie did not supper make. But throw in some bread and cheese and it's an elegant evening at home? Why, yes. So, when I saw February's Improv Challenge ingredients were bread and butter, I knew I had to write this dish up and share it with the world.

Honey & Herb Crostini

The buttery, crunchy bread. The creamy, slightly tart cheese. The sweetness of the honey. The heat of the pepper. The subtle, earthy thyme. Just fabulous. I've made this for myself three times since and, each time I make it, I am amused by just how tasty buttery toast and cheese can be!

I suspect fresh lavender, tarragon, and dill would work well in place of the thyme and I look forward to making many versions of this dish in the spring ... when my garden is not covered in a mound of ice and snow. Blech.

Honey & Herb Crostini
Serves 1 with wine

Ingredients
1 small baguette (baton)
2 Tbsp good quality cultured butter, melted [Vermont Creamery]
4 oz tub spreadable goats' cheese [Vermont Creamery]
Fresh thyme, for garnish
1 Tbsp honey, for drizzling [Cracovia Linden Honey]
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions
Cut 8 thin slices from the baguette and set the rest of the baguette aside for another day.
Step 1

Brush both sides of the sliced baguette with butter and place on a baking tray.

Step 2

Broil for 2 minutes or until lightly browned, flip, and broil the other side.


Step 3

Spread each piece of bread with goats' cheese and sprinkle with pepper.
Step 4

Garnish each pieces with thyme and drizzle with honey.

Step 5

Arrange on a pretty plate and serve immediately with a bottle of moscato and episodes of The Great British Bake-Off.

Honey & Herb Crostini



16 January 2014

Improv Challenge: Crackers & Cheese

It's a new year for the Improv Challenge and we're starting the year with crackers and cheese! At first, my brain was all canapécanapécanapé, but then I read an article about German cooking and fell in love with the idea of Käse Schnitzel, a schnitzel covered in melted cheese. Surely, I could use crushed crackers to crust the schnitzel and then drizzle it with drown it in cheese sauce.

Käse Schnitzel II


I used Club Minis -- a bite-size buttery cracker -- that I chucked in food storage bag and bashed with a meat tenderizer until they were acceptably crumby. Any buttery cracker would work, I'm sure, and you could even use cheesy ones and omit the cheese powder. I used Club Minis simply because they are my addiction and I welcome any excuse to bring more of them into my home.
Cheesy Fried Pork Cutlets
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 lb boneless pork cutlets
3 Tbsp flour [King Arthur Flour White Whole Wheat]
½ tsp teaspoon salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp paprika [Penzeys Hungary Sweet]
1 large egg [Farmers' Cow]
3 Tbsp milk
2 cups crushed buttery crackers [Keebler Club Minis]
2 Tbsp cheese powder [King Arthur Flour Vermont Cheese Powder]
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more as needed


Directions
Set oven to warm or whatever is your oven's lowest temperature setting.

If your cutlets are not very thin, you will need to pound them until they are about ¼-inch thick.

Set out three pie plates. In one, combine the flour, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and pepper. In another, combine egg and milk. Mix crackers and cheese powder in the last pie plate.

Dredge meat with flour; dip in egg mixture, then dredge with cracker mixture. Arrange the pork cutlets on a baking sheet or platter and let stand for 5 minutes.


Heat oil in a large skillet. Cook cutlets in batches (I could fit 2 in my skillet at a time) for 3 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3. Remove to the warm oven and continue with remaining cutlets. You may need to add more oil between batches.

Frying Cracker-Coated Cutlets

Beery Cheese Sauce
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 10¾ oz can condensed cheddar cheese soup [Campbell's Healthy Request]
⅓ cup pale lager [Foster's]
2 oz cheddar cheese, shredded [Cabot Seriously Sharp]
¼ tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp paprika [Penzeys Hungary Sweet]
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

Directions
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine soup, beer, cheese, mustard, paprika, and worcestershire. Heat through, stirring frequently, until shredded cheese is completely incorporated.



I served the cutlets with broccoli and buttered parslied noodles (and cheese sauce over everything, of course). The cutlets were pretty fab -- crunchy and moderately cheesy even without the sauce -- and I cannot wait to make them again. I tried another version of this recipe with baked cracker-crusted turkey cutlets and, while it was pretty good, the cutlets weren't nearly as crunchy and the overall flavor was a bit bland. Healthier, no doubt, but simply not as tasty.

The cheese sauce was pretty fab, too. Creamy and sharp with just a touch of heat from the mustard and pepper ... I'll be making it again just to pour over broccoli or cauliflower! I used Foster's in the pork version and Heineken with the turkey with good results -- you want to taste the beer behind the cheese, but not go "hey! beer sauce!" (unless that's your taste preference, of course).

Käse Schnitzel II


10 January 2014

Cheese Sauce On Everything, Please

I bought some cracker meal while playing around with recipe ideas for January's Improv Challenge and, while I instinctively knew it would work best for frying, I tried to be healthy and used it to bread baked turkey cutlets. While the results looked good, they tasted a bit meh.

Cheesy Turkey Cutlets

Cracker meal is just what it sounds like -- finely ground crackers. I bought mine from Nuts.com, but you can certainly make your own if you have access to a food processor. Bashing a bunch of crackers with a rolling pin will work, but the cracker crumbs need to be very fine and uniform, so you may have to go at it for a while. (I admit it's an excellent way to work out a case of the angries and the stuff keeps forever in a tightly sealed container so ... may I suggest diy cracker meal as some fine kitchen therapy?)

I served the cutlets with broccoli and mashed potatoes (and cheese sauce over everything, of course). While the cutlets were certainly edible, I know they would have been better pounded a bit thinner and friedfriedfried (and my final version does use very thin fried pork cutlets). They lacked crunch, color, and flavor. If not for the cheese sauce, they would have been completely forgettable.

Truly, the cheese sauce stole the show. Creamy and sharp with just a touch of heat from the mustard and pepper ... I'll be making it again just to pour over broccoli or cauliflower! It's a complete cheater sauce as it's just canned condensed "cheddar" tarted up with (real) shredded cheddar, dry mustard, paprika, and black pepper. Oh, and beer. Because beer is cheddar's BFF.

There's a restaurant the next town over that makes a cheddar ale soup I really want to clone. Except then I would eat nothing but cheddar ale soup and toasted baguettes and that way lies madness.

17 November 2013

P/F/G Challenge: Easy Cheesy Salsa Chicken

I threw this together the other night when I realized there was more cheese in the cheese drawer than there was actually "proper food" in the rest of the fridge ... not an unusual occurrence in this household, you know. Probably I should be embarrassed, but ever since we started watching Pushing Daisies, I've thought this every time I opened our fridge:


If you haven't seen Pushing Daisies (get thee to Netflix), let me just say that two of the characters really love cheese. So much so that their fridge contains nothing but cheese and their niece spendt years thinking that's all the appliance was for and was, indeed, called a "cheese box."

While, for all my talk of cheese, this isn't a super-cheesy dish, it is quite fast and satisfying. We always have extra beans and salsa in the cupboard, because you never know when you'll need them. I guess it's like other people's need to always have an extra jar of peanut butter jar on hand.

Cheesy Salsa Chicken

Cheesy Salsa Chicken
Serves 2 generously

Ingredients
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded flattish
2 Tbsp taco seasoning [Penzeys Arizona Dreaming]
½ cup low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup frozen fire-roasted corn, thawed
½ cup garlicky salsa [Green Mountain Gringo Roasted Garlic Salsa]
2 oz shredded cheddar[Cabot Seriously Sharp]

Directions
Rub breasts with seasoning blend. Cook in a hot oven-safe skillet for about 5 minutes per side or until breasts are a lovely brown on each side and cooked through.

Pour black beans, corn, and salsa over the chicken and top with cheese. Pop skillet into the oven and broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

Serve topped with sour cream and more salsa, if desired.
You could serve this over rice, if you were so minded, but it's pretty filling on its own.

19 September 2013

Improv Challenge: Pasta & Cheese

My participation in the 2013 Improv Challenge has, sadly, been a bit sporadic. Many of the 2013 ingredient pairings have struck me as more sweet than savory and I just haven't been in the mood for sweet. Happily, September's ingredients are "Pasta and Cheese." Other than a lokshen kugel (noodle pudding), I don't know how pasta and cheese could be anything but savory! (Prove me wrong, Improv-ers).

Because we are supposed to be eating more healthfully here at Chez Savory Tart, I did not whip up a beautiful bacon-wrapped meatloaf stuffed with macaroni and cheese, but made a pretty (and decidedly more healthful) warm pasta salad using whole wheat pasta, blue cheese, beets, arugula, and pecans.

Warm Pasta & Arugula Salad

While I recommend using a mild blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola or Danish Blue, feel free to substitute fresh goat cheese if even the merest thought of blue cheese gives you the horrors.

If you don't have flax seed oil, olive oil will do fine. I just find flax seed oil gives greens a lovely nuttiness.

And, yes, feel free to go Martha and roast your own beets!
Warm Pasta and Blue Cheese Salad
Serves 2

Ingredients
4 oz whole wheat penne
3 oz fresh arugula
1 oz mild blue cheese, crumbled
[Gorgonzola or Danish blue]
Half 8 oz pkg cooked beets, drained and diced [Melissa's or Love Beets]
1 oz pecans, crushed
1 Tbsp flax seed oil [Barlean's]
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Put the arugula in a large bowl and set aside.

Cook pasta until al dente (or however you like your pasta). Drain pasta and pour, still hot, over arugula. Toss until arugula wilts a bit. (If your arugula looks like it isn't wilting, cover the bowl with a tea towel and go away for a few minutes).

Add blue cheese, beets, pecans, olive oil and balsamic, and toss again.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide between two plates. Nom.

Warm Pasta & Arugula Salad




21 July 2013

Cheese, Vermont: The Vermont Cheesemakers' Festival

We went to the Vermont Cheesemakers' Festival and, while The Husband amused himself petting adorable kid goats, I sampled and bought many kinds of cheese ...

Cheese Cooler, The Second Trip

And then the cooler was pretty full, so I forced myself to stop buying cheese and started collecting business cards, instead. Because it's 2013 and many cheesemakers have websites from which I can buy their cheeses and they will ship it to my house. (I also tried not to buy cheeses I knew I could easily buy elsewhere -- Vermont Creamery products, for example, are readily available at Whole Foods).

Altogether, I (only) bought nine cheeses. I think that shows a lot of restraint, don't you?

Cheeses!
  • Cricket Creek Farm Town Meeting: raw cow's milk, aged 60+ days (Williamstown, MA)
  • Crowley Old-Fashioned Aged Colby: cow's milk, aged for 2+ years (Mount Holly)
  • Franklin Food's Green Mountain Farms Cucumber Garlic Tzatziki Savory Yogurt Dip: cow's milk (Enosburg Falls)
  • Sage Farm Goat Dairy Belvidare: goat's milk and Jersey cream, aged 3-4 weeks (Stowe)
  • Spring Brook Farm Reading: raw grass-fed cow's milk, aged 3-5 months (Reading)
  • Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise: raw grass-fed cow's milk, aged 10-12 months
  • Vermont Shepherd Invierno: raw sheep's and raw organic Jersey cow's milk, aged 5-9 months (Westminster)
  • Von Trapp Mad River Blue: organic unpasteurized cow's milk, aged approximately 3 months (Waitsfield)
  • Woodcock Farm True Blue: raw cow's milk (Weston)

Green Mountain Tzatziki

This lovely lady here was selling Franklin Foods' Green Mountain Farms Cucumber Garlic Tzatziki Savory Yogurt Dip, one of the few cheeses The Husband and I both agreed on, but it is not sold in Connecticut so Woe Unto Us, etc. We will just have to make our eight ounces last.