Easy Homemade Pimento Cheese Recipe

Homemade Pimento Cheese

Homemade Pimento Cheese

This past weekend, I had the honor of witnessing my sister Claire receive an MBA from Yale School of Management, marking her secondpost-graduate degree. (Can you tell I’m proud?) It was a whirlwind of a weekend in New Haven, but one of my favorite experiences of the trip was a quiet, homemade afternoon snack on Claire’s balcony: pimento cheese and mint juleps.

Claire’s partner Mary Katherine is from the South, and monogrammed mint julep cups are a traditional graduation gift in her family. In need of a Southern snack to accompany our libations, they came up with the brilliant idea of making pimento cheese, which MK blushed to admit she usually buys in a jar. As it turns out, there’s no reason to eat the canned kind, since it’s pretty darn easy to assemble and pretty darn hard to mess up.

While some of these ingredients I tend to shy away from (mayonnaise, canned peppers), they are essential to the traditional recipe. Once combined, the whole is much, much greater than the sum of its parts. Spread on a thin slice of baguette, with an ice-cold beverage, on a sunny day? A little slice of Southern heaven.

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Easy Pimento Cheese Recipe

  • 10 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 7 oz jar of pimento (pimiento) peppers, finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Combine mayo with cayenne and salt and pepper to taste. Stir together with diced peppers and grated cheese until evenly combined. Can be made ahead of time and kept in an airtight container (refrigerated), but keep in mind that it will become spicier the longer it sits.

dividerVariations

  • A low-fat pimento cheese could be made with reduced-fat mayonnaise and 2% sharp cheddar.
  • Also, if you prefer a more homogenous texture, simply grate your cheese more finely, or briefly run it through a food processor with the seasoned mayonnaise before mixing in the pimentos.
  • No pimentos? We made an equally-delicious version with roasted red peppers, which you can buy in a jar or make at home!
Mint Juleps and Pimento Cheese

Mint Juleps and Pimento Cheese

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Meatless Monday: Tofu Salad with Blood Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

In my quest to discover and invent delicious, healthy recipes, I have come to love tofu.  I used to think that it was bland, cardboard-like, or when uncooked, an undesirable texture. But as I have started to experiment, it’s really amazing how much you can do with tofu.  While I know I have only scratched the surface of tofu possibilities, one my favorite things to do with it is to lightly brown it.  It takes almost no time at all, and will take on the flavors that you cook it with.

In this recipe, I browned tofu on top of a bed of arugula and other mixed greens with a few of my favorite salad additions.   The toppings combinations are endless, but I found the crunch of cucumber, and green onion with the soft avocado made a lovely texture combination. The blood orange juice is a nice alternative to the usual suspects in a Japanese inspired dressing, but in a pinch, orange or lemon juice would also provide a nice balance to the sesame oil and white balsamic vinegar.

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Tofu Salad with Blood Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

  • Juice from 1.5 medium sized blood orange
  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 large garlic clove pressed
  • 2 tbs “shoyu” (unpasteurized soy sauce)
  • 2 inch chunk of ginger grated
  • 2 tbs White balsamic vinegar
  • pinch of paprika
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tbs Canola or other cooking oil
  • 2 14oz packs of extra firm tofu
  • 1 large bag of arugula or other desired salad green
  • 1 bunch of green onions, finely sliced
  • 1 cucumber, sliced in thin rounds and then halved
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 small handful of sesame seeds (optional)

Whisk together the first nine ingredients in a large bowl; taste and season as needed.  Prepare cucumber, avocado and green onion and set aside.  Remove excess moisture from tofu and slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Place the cooking oil, with salt and pepper in a large saute pan and bring to medium heat.  Saute tofu until golden brown on both sides *NOTE depending on size of saute pan, may need to cook tofu in multiple batches.  Meanwhile, toss the salad greens, green onions, cucumber, and avocado in the large bowl with the salad dressing.  Once the tofu has reached the desired color on both sides, remove from heat and cool for a few minutes. Add the room temperature tofu to the salad mixture and toss until all ingredients are evenly coated. Add sesame seeds last on individual portions.

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If you like this salad but want to try something different next time, instead of sauteing the tofu, caramelize it.  There really are so many ways to do tofu well.  So if your only experience of tofu so far has been as a bland, mushy, inferior meat substitute, give this recipe a try and see if you too become a tofu convert.  Happy Meatless Monday!!

Potato-Leek Gratin with Gruyere and Thyme

If I could only eat one cheese for the rest of my life, it would have to be Gruyère.  Earthy, sharp, and complex, an aged Gruyère is the perfect addition to a nice macaroni and cheese, a gourmet panini, a creamy soup, or showcased in a fresh spinach salad.  It’s also ideal for one of Brendan’s very favorite dishes: potato gratin.

Potatoes gratiné, or “scalloped potatoes” as Americans know them, are made of up layers of cheese and thinly-sliced potatoes, covered in cream.  The starch released from the potatoes combines with the milk and cheese to make a custard-like filling that cushions the tender potato slices in a bed of yum.  It’s a dish that’s already impossible to dislike, but use a sharp Gruyère, sautéed leeks, and some fresh thyme, and you raise the experience to a whole new level.  Just be sure you serve everyone a piece that includes some of the crispy cheese “skin” that forms over the top — it’s everyone’s favorite part.

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Pomegranate Spinach Salad

I love baby spinach salads, the possibilities are endless and the leaves maintain their texture better than your average lettuce. The goal with this recipe was to create a light, healthy side for Thanksgiving. My turkey and stuffing are going to be heavy in truffle butter (shocker, I know), so I wanted to have a tart dish on the table, other than cranberry sauce, to cut through that flavor.

This recipe is incredibly easy and simple. The only trick is getting the seeds out of the pomegranate, for which my mom taught me an effective technique when I was young. The pomegranate is sweet but a little tart, and this perfect little goat cheese (again, surprise, surprise) compliments the flavors beautifully.

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Roasted Butternut Squash- My First Thanksgiving Recipe Invention

I am definitely a new cook. Don’t get me wrong, I could sauté since I was 10, but I almost never did anything outside of the stove top until this last year. However, in this short year, I have been trying to really make up for lost time.  I’ve been constantly trying new things, often texting Maddie to make sure that I’m going to be doing it right or to run a recipe idea by her. Long story short: I really have tried to break out of my ‘I only make pasta’ shell.

In culmination and as a final exam, if you will, of this fabulous year of culinary exploration, I am making the entire Thanksgiving dinner this year.  Ambitious you might say, but I am determined and very stubborn, so bring it on.

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Healthy Potato Salad With Mustard-Vinegar Dressing

Historically, I’ve had something of an aversion to mayonnaise.  I first inherited it from my mother, but what began as simple dislike grew into its own beast as I struggled with an eating disorder in my teens.  These days, it just seems rather pointless to me.  It’s creamy, but without adding any real flavor.  Thus, I’m not a big potato salad fan — at least in the American style.  German potato salad is much more to my tastes.  The bite of vinegar and mustard give way to the soft comfort of a well-cooked potato, making the perfect accompaniment to a rich, juicy burger or a sweet glazed pork chop.

Traditional German potato salad calls for bacon, but we don’t buy bacon very often, so I don’t include it in my recipe.  Also, if you’re making a big batch for a picnic, you want a dish that can be enjoyed by everyone.  Without bacon, it appeals to the vegetarian, the vegan, the pork-abstinent, the cholesterol-conscious, and the paranoid-about-eggs-or-meat-in-sun crowd.  But if you don’t fall into any of those categories and you’re cooking just for yourself, be my guest.  Just toss it in, crisped and crumbled, at the very end.

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Brown Sugar Brussels Sprouts That Even You Will Like

I understand that not everyone thinks they like Brussels sprouts.  If you’re one of those people, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.  This recipe makes Brussels sprouts (yes, that’s what they’re really called… none of that “brussell sprouts” nonsense around here!) not only edible, but delicious.

Now, I’m famous for disliking anything overly sweet.  I often have to modify my recipes to add extra sugar for company, because when I cook for myself, I prefer to rely more on… you know… real flavor.  (Ooooh, burn!)  The point is, when I eat brown sugar or maple-glazed Brussels sprouts at other people’s houses, I often find them too sticky and sickly-sweet.  The idea is good, especially with the addition of some salty ham or bacon, but in practice I often find it isn’t balanced.   Thus, in my own version I add a little apple cider vinegar.  It burns off by the time you serve, but leaves a nice tangy, tender sprout to balance out the buttery (or bacon-y) sweet-and-salty in which it’s candied.

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