Archive for the ‘cheese’ Category

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Super Sunday Snacks


I don’t watch a lot of football, baseball is really more my game of choice. However, I do make an exception for the Super Bowl.

Of course the Super Bowl is just barely about football. It’s about the ads, and the halftime show, and, of course, the food. I’ve got a few suggestions for what to serve at your party.


If you’re looking for a Super Bowl snack that is a little more upscale, try my take on classic Buffalo Wings with this Buffalo Wing Rillettes. It taste great and can be prepared in advance (in fact it will taste even better if it sits for a couple of days) freeing you up for more game-watching enjoyment.



I like to put several bowls of snack mix all around the party room so that tasty treats are never too far away. If you fill them up with my Sriacha Soy Chex Mix plan to refill bowls a couple of times because from my experience, this gets gobbled up pretty quickly.



Lastly, I’ve never been to a Super Bowl party where a cheese ball wasn’t welcomed and devoured. This one features sharp cheddar cheese, pancetta, smoked paprika and pumpkin seeds. Here’s the ingredients.

To start, saute the pancetta until it is good and crispy.


Remove the pancetta from the pan, leaving behind the rendered fat, and add the pumpkin seeds. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until the are toasty brown and start to pop.


Remove them from the pan and sprinkle them with a little salt, then set them aside for the time being.

Next, in a medium-size bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, crispy pancetta and green onions.


Stir it well to combine.


Then turn it out onto a piece of plastic wrap.


Gather the edges of the wrap to force the cheese mixture into a ball. Put the ball into the fridge for at least one hour.


When you are ready to serve, chop up the pumpkin seeds then combine them with the remaining smoked paprika.


Remove the plastic from the cheese ball and roll the ball in the pumpkin seed/paprika mixture.

Arrange the finished cheese ball on a plate with some crackers and enjoy.


Smoky Cheddar Cheese Ball
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
If you don't have pancetta feel free to substitute bacon. Or, leave it out entirely for a vegetarian option.
  • 2 ounces pancetta, chopped small
  • 4 ounces pumpkin seeds
  • 6 ounces whipped cream cheese at room temperature
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3-4 green onions. chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika, divided use
  1. In a saute pan, cook the pancetta until it is crispy. Remove the pancetta from the pan, leaving behind the rendered fat, and add the pumpkin seeds. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they are toasty brown and starting to pop. Remove them from the pan and sprinkle them with a little salt, then set them aside.
  2. In a medium-size bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, crispy pancetta, green onions and two teaspoons of the smoked paprika. Stir well to combine, then turn the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap. Gather the edges of the wrap to force the cheese mixture into a ball. Put the ball into the fridge for at least one hour.
  3. When ready to serve, chop up the pumpkin seeds then combine them with the remaining smoked paprika.
  4. Remove the plastic from the cheese ball and roll the ball in the pumpkin seed/paprika mixture.
  5. Arrange the finished cheese ball on a plate with crackers and enjoy.


Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Grilled Vegetable Chopped Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

So far this summer, my trips to the farmer’s market have been largely uninspiring. With the cool, wet weather that we are having in Seattle, summer produce is late arriving. My most recent trip, however, brought a wealth of inspiration. This particular farmer has been using a greenhouse to help summer along so I was able to find my first “warm weather” produce.

I decided to take advantage of one of our few sunny days and do some grilling. This, combined with some leftover chicken and a couple of ingredients from the pantry produced a wonderful main dish salad. Here’s the ingredients.

To start, I cut the bell pepper into quarters, removing the seeds and what not and then cut the eggplant and zucchini into planks about 1/2″ thick. Then I cut the sweet onions into quarters and pushed them, as well as the garlic, onto skewers. I rubbed everything down with olive oil and then seasoned them all with salt and pepper.

I started the onions and the garlic on the top rack of the grill and then walked away … for too long. Sigh. Burned. That’ll teach me for trying to do three projects at one time. I forged ahead and put the rest of the veggies on the hot grill. Flipping them as they browned …

… and removing them as they cooked through.

I decided the garlic was a goner (and it ended up being unneeded), but went ahead and peeled the charred layers off of the onions so that I could use them. I chopped everything into 1/2″ pieces, including a couple of the greens off of the sweet onions.

I stirred together the pesto, lemon juice and mayo and chopped the chicken. Finally I combined all the ingredients in a large bowl and tossed the whole mix together.



serves 2 generously

This salad can easily be made with prepared pesto and mayonnaise. However, if you have the time, take it and make a batch of pesto and homemade mayo. Put any leftover pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze. That way you’ll have a tasty touch of summer all year round. I used two “ice cubes” worth of pesto in the dressing. Mayonnaise from scratch might sound hard, but it’s easier than you think (especially if you have an immersion blender) and totally worth it. I like to use Alton Brown’s recipe (which I’ve added below) and Chef John’s method (here’s a link). If you can’t find new sweet onions, use a sliced mature sweet onion (for the bulb) and scallions (for the greens). I used leftovers from a rotisserie chicken to keep my kitchen cool.

1 zucchini, cut into 1/2″ planks
1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2″ planks
1 red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
6 new sweet onions, bulbs quartered, some of the greens chopped
10 cloves garlic (optional)
1/4 cup pesto
1/2 cup homemade mayonnaise (see recipe below)
juice of 1/2 lemon
6 ounces cooked chicken, chopped
2-3 ounces Parmesan cheese
4-5 leaves romaine lettuce, chopped

Prepare grill for cooking. Grill all the vegetables, flipping as they brown, until they are softened and cooked through. Cool, then cut into 1/2″ pieces.

Stir together the pesto, mayonnaise and lemon juice.

In a large bowl, toss together the cooled and chopped vegetables, onion greens, chicken, lettuce, cheese and dressing. Divide between plates. Enjoy!


Alton Brown’s Mayonnaise

1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 pinches sugar
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup oil, safflower or corn

In a glass bowl, whisk together egg yolk and dry ingredients. Combine lemon juice and vinegar in a separate bowl then thoroughly whisk half into the yolk mixture. Start whisking briskly, then start adding the oil a few drops at a time until the liquid seems to thicken and lighten a bit, (which means you’ve got an emulsion on your hands). Once you reach that point you can relax your arm a little (but just a little) and increase the oil flow to a constant (albeit thin) stream. Once half of the oil is in add the rest of the lemon juice mixture.

Continue whisking until all of the oil is incorporated. Leave at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours then refrigerate for up to 1 week.


Friday, May 27th, 2011

Loaded Potato Salad

Though the weather here in Seattle has yet to show it, Memorial Day generally signifies the start of summer. And of course the start of summer means the start of summer parties.

Next time you need a side dish to take to your friends barbecue try this easy potato salad. It’s all the good stuff about a loaded baked potato without the time (and hot oven use) involved in baking the potatoes.

Make this in the morning (or the day before) so the flavors can marry. It’ll be tastier.

Here’s the ingredients.

You’ll also need a dog (who is flirting the bounds of the “out of the kitchen” rule) in case you drop any cheese.

Okay, you don’t really need the dog, but he is nice to have around.


Boil the potatoes in salted water until they are cooked through (this will take about 10 minutes).

Once the potatoes are cooked drain them and then return them to the hot pan. Immediately pour the vinegar over hot potatoes and stir.

After a minute or so, pour the potatoes into a large dish so that they are more or less in a single layer (this will help the potatoes cool faster).

Then step away. Step away from the potatoes. Seriously, let them cool completely before proceeding or else you will end up with a cheesy, melty mess.

While the potatoes are cooking and cooling saute the diced bacon until it is cooked through and crisp.

Then set it aside to cool.

Once the potatoes are cool place them along with the remaining ingredients in a bowl (reserve a little of the bacon and chives to sprinkle on the top).

Gently stir to combine. Stash this in the fridge until party time.

When it’s time to serve, move the potato salad to a serving bowl and then sprinkle on the reserved bacon and chives.

A seriously tasty side dish that would be great served with grilled steak (you know, a place where a baked potato might be traditional) or even burgers and hot dogs.


serves 6

I used fingerling potatoes because that is what I happened to have on hand, but any potato would work. However, if you do not use a thick-skinned potato (such as a russet) you will want to peel them before proceeding.

1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
2 tablespoon white wine or cider vinegar
4 ounces bacon, diced
2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 cup sour cream

Boil the potatoes in salted water until they are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot pan. Pour the vinegar over hot potatoes and stir gently. After a minute, pour the potatoes into a large dish so that they in a single layer and allow them to cool to room temperature.

While the potatoes are cooking saute the diced bacon until it is cooked through and crisp. Then set it aside to cool.

Reserving some of the bacon and chives for topping, combine the cooled potatoes with the remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir gently to combine completely. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

When it’s time to serve, move the potato salad to a serving bowl and then sprinkle on the reserved bacon and chives.

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Chorizo and Potato Tacos

I haven’t cooked in days.

No. Actually, I haven’t cooked in weeks.

Sure, I’ve kept us fed. Sandwiches, scrambled eggs and the like. But I’ve done more reheating then cooking lately.

My drought of cooking started at the beginning of April. A glorious week in Hawaii. And while we were staying in a condo with a full kitchen, the last thing I want to do while on vacation is cook. When we returned home the fridge was barren and I was hesitant to shop because we would be heading to Portland in just a few more days. So, we had a few days of take-out and frozen meals.

Then I got sick. Yes, before we went on vacation to Portland I got sick. I suffered through a respiratory infection the entire time we were away . My hopes of eating my way through all the awesome restaurants in Portland were smashed. I rallied in time for a busy week of catering, cooking for clients, two foraging classes and a full evening of volunteering at the Art of Dining event in Seattle. I was so busy there wasn’t time for cooking. So a few more days of take-out.

Then I got sick. Yes, again. In fact, I’m still sick. For the last nine days it has felt like I’m swallowing glass and I’ve been completely wiped out. Thankfully the husband has been awesome at keeping me fed and watered.

However, with the Charcutepalooza deadline looming I decided I better suck it up and cook.

The challenge this month was to make either Mexican Chorizo (a pork sausage) or Merguez (a lamb sausage). Since Chorizo is one of my very favorite things, that is the direction I decided to take.

I followed the recipe for Mexican Chorizo in Charcuterie. I’ve made sausage before, so I found the recipe easy to follow. The whole process took less than an hour (and I was lollygagging). The only ingredient that I didn’t have was hot paprika so I substituted regular paprika instead. Since I knew this would affect the heat level of the sausage a bit I decided to add just a bit more of the ancho chile powder.

Upon frying up a test patty I declared the Chorizo delicious, portioned it into 1-pound packages (four of which I stashed in the freezer). Then decided to take a break (being sick is exhausting).

Once I had worked up some new energy I decided to tackle dinner. I wanted to make tacos, and I wanted to keep them simple so that I could really show off the Chorizo. I settled on a play on tacos de papa (potato tacos) but instead of cooking the potatoes with onion and spices, I would use the chorizo to season them. Here’s the ingredients.

I started by browning the Chorizo over high heat. Meanwhile, I cooked the sliced poatoes in the microwave for two minutes so that they were just about cooked through.

When the Chorizo was just about cooked through, I added the potatoes to the pan and continued cooking until the potatoes were browned and cooked through completely.

While the Chorizo and potatoes were cooking I heated the tortillas so that they were flexible. I like to just throw them directly onto the gas burner on our stove (using tongs of course), but they can also be done in a pan or in the oven.

Once they were all warmed I laid them out on my counter so that I could fill them all at once. I added a couple of tablespoons of the meat and potato mixture to one side of each tortilla.

Then sprinkled each one with some Cojita Cheese. It’s important not too overfill the tacos or the filling leaks out while they are frying and it’s a big mess. Plus any leftover filling is totally delicious scrambled with eggs the next day, so it won’t go to waste.

Time to fry. I put about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet and added the tacos, three at a time to the oil. When the first side was crispy, I carefully flipped them with my trusty tongs so the second side could fry.

As the tacos were finished I moved them to paper towels to suck up any extra oil and then started a second batch of three.

I served the tacos with some quick-pickled radish slices (slice radishes, squeeze lime juice over the top, sprinkle with salt, let sit for 15 minutes), fresh lime and my favorite hot sauce.

Muy delicioso. The potatoes got kind of creamy which was an awesome contrast to the crispness of the tortilla shell. And the home made Chorizo was just spicy enough. I ended up slipping my radish slices into the tacos but the husband didn’t care for that idea.

I’m looking forward to making these again when it isn’t excruciating to swallow. I imagine they’ll be even tastier.


makes 6-8 tacos (enough for 2 people)

Sometimes Cotija cheese can be hard to find, so if you can’t, Parmesan makes a good substitute (but really, most any cheese will work). If you don’t want to take the time to make your own Chorizo feel free to substitute one from a reputable butcher.

8 oz Chorizo
6 fingerling potatoes, sliced 1/8″ thick
3-4 ounces Cotija cheese
6-8 corn tortillas
vegetable oil for frying

Cook the potatoes for 2 minutes, or until they are just tender, in a microwave, set aside. In a medium-size skillet, brown the chorizo, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. Just before the Chorizo is completely browned, add the potatoes and continue to cook the mixture until the potatoes are cooked through and browned.

Warm the tortillas until they are soft and pliable. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the chorizo-potato mixture on each of the tortillas, sprinkle each one with cheese then fold each in half.

Pour about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Heat oil until it is shimmering then carefully add the 3-4 tacos to the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry until tortilla is golden brown then flip each taco and brown on the second side. Move the finished tacos to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat until all tacos are cooked.

Serve with fresh lime, taco sauce, sliced radishes, sliced cabbage, sour cream…


Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Potato Skins

Back in the day (I can say “back in the day” now that I am officially over 40) I bussed tables at Sea Galley. If you don’t know what Sea Galley is, picture Red Lobster with a 40 item salad bar (which sounds great in theory, but actually sucked because it was up to the bus people to fill).

They had a little song on their commercials with the lyrics “we’ve got crab legs” – and they actually had crab legs. I mean, they actually had foam rubber crab legs that the hostess would have to put on and venture out to the street to drum up business when the restaurant was slow (there was also a slightly inappropriate Christmas party that involved half a santa suit and said crab legs.

They were one of those “would you like rice, french fries or baked potato with your entree” kind of places. I noticed they did something kind of ingenious. At the end of the night, any left over baked potatoes (the ones that had been cooked but not served) were split open and prepped to be used for potato skins. The inards that had been scooped out were then used in the clam chowder. Thus, no potato waste.

This story really has nothing to do with my recipe, other than the fact that my love of potato skins was developed, and perfected, during my tenure at Sea Galley. Really, it’s hard to find a bad potato skin, I mean, what’s not to like? You’ve got potato, cheese and bacon, it’s really hard to go wrong. However, there are levels of “good” and I think these potato skins are exceptional. Mine have, of course, bacon (I happen to have used my own home-cured bacon but any good bacon will do), and really sharp cheddar. But they also have a layer of sauteed red onion to amp up the deliciousness.

Here’s the ingredients.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter in a small sauce pan then add the garlic and smoked paprika.

Give it a stir and leave it on the stove so that it stays warm.

I like to cook the onion in a bit of bacon fat, so once the bacon has been cooked crisp, remove it from the pan, reserving a bit of the fat, then toss in the onion. Let it cook at medium heat until is is soft and translucent.

While the butter is melting and the onions are cooking, prep the potatoes. Cut each in half (if they are really thick you may want to cut a little out of the center of each one so that each half is about 3/4 inch thick). Then, using a spoon, scoop out most of the potato from each half.


Leave enough potato so that each half will keep it’s shape when you pick it up.

Put the potato halves on a baking sheet (I like to line mine with foil) then brush the skin sides with the butter mixture.

Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Take them out and flip the potatoes over and brush with more butter (don’t get to carried away, if lots of butter pools in the potato half the potato skins will be greasy). Bake for another 8 minutes. This helps to make the potato skin crispy before the toppings are layered on.

Once baked, spoon about a tablespoon of cooked onion into each half.

Then layer on the cheese and the bacon (I seemed to have got excited about the prospect of potato skins at the point because I forgot to take a picture).

Return the baking sheet to the oven and cook for another 5 minutes to melt the cheese, then sprinkle on a few chives.

Um. Yum.

The smoky paprika and garlic add a nice flavor to what might be a rather bland skin. The onions add a lovely sweetness that is a great contrast to the tang of the sharp cheddar. I like to leave the sour cream on the side so it doesn’t get melty on the warm skins.


Of course, now you’ve got a bunch of potato guts on your hand. You could do what they did at Sea Galley and use them in soup. Or, you could combine the potato, along with any leftover onion, a little of the extra cheese, maybe a teaspoon of the butter mixture and a dollop of sour cream…

…and put it in a little baking dish (and top with a little more cheese).

Then bake it at 350 degrees, covered for 40 minutes, then uncovered for 15 more to make a delicious potato casserole for lunch the next day.

Almost as good as the potato skins themselves.


serves 2-4

Russet potatoes work exceptionally well in this recipe, however, if you would like smaller, two bite, potato skins, feel free to substitute small red potatoes. You will need two or three red potatoes for every russet potato called for.

4 russet potatoes, baked
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
4 ounces bacon, chopped and cooked crisp, fat reserved
1 red onion, chopped
6-8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 Tablespoon chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and stir in garlic and paprika. Heat for 15 seconds to cook the garlic, then turn off the burner.

In a skillet, heat the reserved bacon fat. Add the onion and saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent. Set aside.

While the onion cooks, prep the potatoes. Cut each potato in half to approximately 3/4 inch thick. Using a spoon, scoop out the cooked potato, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato in the skin.

Place potato halves skin side up on a baking sheet and brush with the butter mixture. Bake for 8 minutes then remove from oven. Using a spatula, turn each of the potato halves over and brush lightly with more of the butter mixture. Return pan to oven and cook for an additional 8 minutes.

Into each potato half, layer about a tablespoon of sauteed onion followed by cheese and bacon. Bake for 5 minutes until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle potato skins with chives and serve with sour cream.

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Broccoli, Corn and Cheddar Soup

I, unfortunately, continue to be under the weather. I’ve had two trips to the doctor, a host of medications and I still continue to be unable to breathe easily. Everything seems like such an effort. I’m even getting winded doing laundry.

Since I am feeling so wimpy, I, once again, decided to make a big pot of soup that we could make at least a couple of meals out of. A check of the fridge produced two ears of corn (that had seen better days) a bit of broccoli and some cheese. I decided to make a riff on a corn and potato chowder that I cook for clients on occasion.

Here’s the ingredients.

I started by dicing the bacon and then cooking it over medium heat until it was cooked crisp.


I removed the cooked bacon and all but about a tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan.

I returned the pan to the heat, added a bit of butter and then stirred in the onion.

Once the onion was translucent and soft I added the garlic and the flour to the pan and cooked it, stirring often for a couple of minutes to make a roux.

I added the broth, stirring to make sure that I didn’t get any lumps and then added the corn and broccoli to the pan.

I brought the soup to a boil, then turned it down to simmer until the broccoli was soft and cooked through, about 15 minutes.

I added the cheese to the soup a handful at a time and then stirred in a wee bit of cream and the crispy bacon.

This warm, cheesy soup sure did hit the spot (and even though it had broccoli in it, the husband liked it). Hopefully I’ll be up to cooking something more substantial in the coming days, but until then, try this tasty soup.



serves 4-6

If fresh corn if unavailable feel free to substitute frozen corn. This recipe makes use of both the florets of the broccoli as well as the often discarded stem.

6 slices bacon, diced
1 onion chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon flour
3-4 clove garlic, minced
4 cup chicken stock
2 ears corn, kernels removed (or 1 1/2 cup frozen corn)
1 large broccoli, head cut into small florets, stem peeled and chopped
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 – 1 cup cream

Cook bacon in a stock pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp.  Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Add butter and onion to fat in pan and cook, stirring, until onion is softened. Add garlic and flour and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Whisk in broth and bring to a boil. Add broccoli and corn and simmer until the broccoli is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in cheese a handful at a time. Add cream and bacon and return to a simmer. Taste for seasoning and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Roasted Pepper and Cheddar Pie

As I think back on this summer, I realize that for me, it was all about getting better. I mean that literally of course as I refer to my recovery from ankle surgery. But I also invested quite a bit of time to make myself, my blog and even my cooking better.

Most recently I attended the International Food Blogger Conference which was held right here in Seattle. Two full days (and two evenings) chock full of panels, new (and old) friends and lots of tasty food. My favorite session was an inspirational slide show and talk from photographer Penny De Los Santos. She just made me (and I think everyone else there) want to be better. Because of her, you’ll probably be seeing a few more photo essays on the blog (much like this one from last Saturday) as I self-assign new photography projects for myself.

My other big summer project was a 5-week class series at Cornish College for the Arts called the Art of Food. Here’s the description:

A series of evenings in which different aspects of food + art get explored: food AND art, food AS art, artists and their food practices, food blogging, food as a medium for leading a creative life, food photography, the creative practice of gardening, art + food + sustainability. Participants include author and master forager Langdon Cook, Chef Becky Selengut, “Top Cheftestant” and artist Robin Leventhal, photographer Clare Barboza, food writers Molly Wizenberg and Shauna James Ahern, and Delancey owner and composer/dancer Brandon Pettit.

My favorite weeks were the two that were focused on photography with Clare Barboza and food writing with Molly Wizenberg and Shauna James Ahern. I’ve really been trying to improve my food photography over the last year and it was great to have input from a professional. Here’s a couple of the photos I took at class:


You can see the rest at my Flickr site here.

I also really enjoyed the week focused on food writing. I am always a little nervous about my writing and I am really trying to improve this as well. During the class we read examples of several popular food writers, Frances Lam, Jonathon Gold, MFK Fisher, Laurie Colwin and others. The piece from Laurie Colwin was titled “Tomato Pie” from the book More Home Cooking. It was a beautiful description of a recipe for Tomato Pie.

“I have never yet encountered tomatoes in any form unloved by me. Often at night I find myself ruminating about two previously mysterious tomato dishes, which I was brazen enough to get the recipes for. One is Tomato Pie and is a staple of a tea shop call Chaiwalla, owned by Mary O’Brien, in Salisbury, Connecticut. According to Mary, the original recipe was found in a cookbook put out by the nearby Hotchkiss School, but she has changed it sufficiently to claim it as her own. The pie has a double biscuit-dough crust, made by blending 2 cups flour, 1 stick butter, 4 teaspoons baking powder, and approximately 3/4 cup milk, either by hand or in a food processor. You roll out half the dough on a floured surface and line a 9-inch pie plate with it. Then you add the tomatoes. Mary makes this pie year round and uses first-quality canned tomatoes, but at this time of year 2 pounds peeled fresh tomatoes are fine, too. Drain well and slice thin two 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, then lay the slices over the crust and scatter them with chopped basil, chives, or scallions, depending on their availability and your mood. Grate 1-1/2 cups sharp Cheddar and sprinkle 1 cup of it on top of the tomatoes. Then over this drizzle 1/3 cup mayonnaise that has been thinned with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and top everything with the rest of the grated Cheddar. Roll out the remaining dough, fit it over the filling, and pinch the edges of the dough together to seal them. Cut several steam vents in the top crust and bake the pie at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. The secret of this pie, according to Mary, is to reheat it before serving, which among other things ensures that the cheese is soft and gooey. She usually bakes it early in the morning , then reheats it in the evening in a 350 degree oven until it is hot.

It is hard to describe how delicious this is, especially on a hot day with a glass of magnificent iced tea in a beautiful setting, but it would doubtless be just as scrumptious on a cold day in your warm kitchen with a cup of coffee.”

Her description was so lovely that I knew I just had to cook this dish. I made it for brunch for a group of friends (several of whom are, or used to be, fellow personal chefs) and it received rave reviews. Basically the pie was  tomatoes, cheddar cheese in a biscuit crust (and really, how could that combo not be good). It was obvious that this recipe was ripe for adaptation.

After the last class (the food photography session), many of the props (read leftover food) were divided among the students that had stayed to help clean up. I ended up with 2 mini cupcakes, one tomatillo, a lime and a bunch of bell peppers and hot peppers. So, after I ate the cupcakes, I decided to get to work on turning the peppers into something delicious. Of course, I would roast the peppers and make a version of that delicious pie.

Here’s the ingredients for the filling:

And for the crust:

I started by roasting the peppers. I roasted mine right over the flame on my gas stove, but they can easily be done on a grill or under the broiler. Just cook the peppers until they are blackened then through them in a covered bowl and let them sit for at least five minutes.

Once they are cool enough to handle the skins will peel right off. Try to keep the seeds out of the peeled pepper pile and no matter how much easier it would make things, do not run the peppers under water or all the roasty-toasty goodness will go right done the drain. Oh yeah, and notice the gloves, gloves are a must when you are seeding really hot peppers (because if you don’t wear gloves you will invariably touch your eye and then pain will ensue).

I cut the bell peppers into strips and then diced the smaller peppers (I wasn’t sure just how hot they were and I didn’t want to end up with a huge bite of “burn your mouth” hot pepper in the finished dish). Then I set this aside to work on the crust.

The crust comes together very easily in a food processor. Just whir together the butter, flour and baking powder until it looks a bit like fine sand. It doesn’t take long, maybe 10 seconds.

I added the milk and then gave it another whir. It will come together as a dough fairly quickly.

At this point I moved the dough to a very well floured work surface. This dough is very sticky so flour is your best friend. Flour your hands, flour the rolling pin, flour the work surface, trust me.

I divided the dough into two halves and rolled one of them out until it is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. In addition to being sticky, this dough is also very forgiving. Holes can be easily smushed back together.

Once the bottom crust was in the pan I laid in the peppers, the tomatillo (which didn’t add much to the mix so I’ve left it out of the recipe below) half the cheese and the chopped scallions.

I stirred together the juice of a lime and 1/3 cup of mayonnaise and drizzled this over the pie.

Then I added the rest of the cheese and topped the pie with the second half of the biscuit dough, trimmed off the excess dough, pinched together the edges and then cut a few vent holes in the top.

Into the oven (I used my toaster oven) for 25 minutes until the crust was golden brown and delicious and the pie was warm and toasty inside.

While I adored the tomato version of the pie that Laurie Colwin write so beautifully about this version was another lovely take. Sharp from the cheddar and tangy from the lime with a beautifully crisp and tender crust.

My friends who were over for yet another potluck (and belly dancing, but we’re not going to talk about that) all agreed it was delightful as well.

Next up I think a sweet version of this pie is in order. I think berries with goat cheese might be nice but it’s a little past berry season. Maybe plums…



2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cut into cubes
2/3 cup milk

4 bell peppers
5-6 jalapenos, serranos or other hot peppers
1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
6 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise
juice from one lime

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roast and peel the peppers and hot peppers. Cut the peppers into strips and dice the hot peppers. Stir together then set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup stir together the mayonnaise and lime juice.

In the bowl of a food processor pulse together the flour, baking powder and butter (it should resemble dry sand). Add the milk and continue to pulse until the dough come together. Divide the dough into two pieces. On a well-floured surface roll out half the dough and line a 9-inch pie plate with it.

Cover the bottom of the pan with the pepper mixture. Sprinkle on half of the cheese and all of the scallions. Drizzle the mayonnaise mixture evenly over the  scallions then sprinkle on the remaining cheese.

Roll out the second half of the dough, lay it on top of the filling, trim off the excess dough and pinch the edges of the dough together to seal them. Cut several slits in the top crust to vent.

Bake the pie for about 25 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is warmed through.

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Cucumber-Mint Tea Sandwiches: A Tribute to Betty

As a personal chef I am often alone in the kitchen. Many times I will meet a new client, spend 45 minutes talking to them about their food needs, get a key to their house and then never see them again. I had a client for a while that even though I had been in their house every two weeks for over three years, I had only seen them twice.

However, on occasion, my clients are home when I am in their kitchen. They might work at home or be a stay-at-home parent but usually they are elderly.

I cooked for Betty almost every week for five years. When I was there I could always count on two things. One, the kitchen would be a little messy when I arrived and two, the TV would be on and tuned to either the news or a judge show.

Over the years we talked a lot. At first it was mostly about food, where we had eaten over the weekend, what she might like for me to make the next week. In time we started talking about more, politics, vacations, Project Runway, the big news story of the day. Her favorite topics, however, were gardening, her pets and especially her family.

In the summer, we would go out together into her garden so that I could harvest fresh vegetables to use for her meals. She was always concerned about my safety as I stepped over fences (designed to keep the rottweilers out of the garden) to pluck tiny carrots from the ground.

When we met, Betty was in fine health. I watched over the years as her legs started to fail her, going from needing a cane, to a walker until she eventually needed a scooter to get around. I never once heard a complaint. I could always tell when she was anxious about something because she would “pace” in her scooter, rolling from the back door to the living room over and over again. I always wondered how long she could keep that up before she would have to plug it back in.

One of Betty’s favorite things was throwing a party. Any excuse to have her family over (especially in the summer so they could be in the garden) was welcome. Often, rather than making meals for the week I would make hors d’oeuvres for an upcoming party. One of her favorites to include was tea sandwiches, specifically cucumber-mint tea sandwiches. Over the years my recipe changed a bit, honed for her tastes. The recipe started with all butter, went for a time to all cream cheese before finally settling on a combination of the two.

Betty passed away last week at the age of 91. As I sat, thinking about our time together, I was reminded of a time when she told me that the day after her last party she had enjoyed leftover cucumber tea sandwiches and a martini for lunch. I loved seeing the absolute glee in her eye as she described this slightly naughty thing she had done.

So today, as I reflect on, and write about Betty, I am munching on her favorite, Cucumber-Mint Tea Sandwiches. And of course, toasting her memory with the perfect vodka martini. Cheers to you Betty, you will be missed by all who knew you.



C U C U M B E R – M I N T   T E A   S A N D W I C H E S
Makes 4 sandwiches (16 triangles)

Tea sandwiches are not tea sandwiches if you don’t cut the crusts off of them. While this may seem wasteful, I can admit to making more than one lunch out of tea sandwich crusts. If you make these in advance be sure to cover them well as they will dry out if they sit for too long.

4 Tablespoon butter, softened
4 Tablespoon cream cheese, softened
4-5 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint
8 slices potato bread
1 cucumber, sliced thin

Stir together butter, cream cheese and fresh mint. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of salt (or two) if necessary. Spread the mixture on all eight slices of bread. Distribute cucumber slices evenly over four of the pieces of bread and then top with a second slice of bread to make the sandwich. Carefully cut the crusts off of each sandwich then cut each sandwich diagonally into quarters.

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Eggs Baked with Prosciutto and Gruyere

One of my favorite breakfast places in Seattle is Le Pichet (well, technically it’s just one on my favorite places, because their roast chicken at dinner is the bomb). They have the kind of breakfast I really like. The husband and I will start with a plate of charcuterie and some bread, then move on to a shared plate of eggs. Sometimes we’ll finish with a sweet pastry. The meal is, of course, enjoyed with copious amounts of coffee and usually takes two hours to complete.

It’s been awhile since we have made it downtown for breakfast, but I still remember those delicious eggs. I decided to try making a version of the dish at home. I had ordered some duck eggs from Spud and thought they would be delicious here. I also decided to make this for dinner because A: breakfast for dinner is delicious, and B: I usually have more time for dinner cooking than breakfast cooking. One of my favorite salads would round out the meal.


Here’s the line-up for the eggs.

P.S. I did not use all of the butter or cheese in the photo (that would have been way to much). See the recipe below for amounts.

Since I don’t have the cute little baking dishes like they have at Le Pichet, I decided to use one dish for all four eggs.

I started by buttering the dish.

Next I lined the pan with prosciutto.

At Le Pichet, they use a thicker cut of regular ham, not prosciutto, but I had proscuitto in the fridge so that is what I used (and let me tell you it worked out just fine).

I cracked in each of my eggs

Aaagh, I broke a yolk. Oh well, happens sometimes.

Next a sprinkle of cheese.

I also added few turns of the pepper grinder, but no salt. I figured the salt in the ham and the cheese would be salt enough.

I put the pan into a 350 degree oven (I used my toaster oven) and baked for 12 minutes. The whites were still jiggly (and there is almost nothing worse than undercooked egg white, gross) so I left the pan in the oven, checking it every couple of minutes. It ended up taking about 20 minutes for the whites to set completely.



While the eggs baked I put together a salad. The first of this summer’s nectarines arrived in the box last week so I decided to put together one of my favorites. Usually I make it with peaches and often I’ll add some fresh mozzarella and/or prosciutto to the mix as well (but since the eggs had prosciutto and cheese in them already that seemed like it would be gilding the lily).

Here’s the line-up.

I juiced the lime into a bowl and then whisked in a couple of teaspoons of honey, a tablespoon or so of olive oil and some salt and pepper. I pulled the leaves off the mint and some fresh basil (that I found after the photo was taken) and tossed them, along with the rest of the greens in the dressing. This went on to my plate and was topped with the nectarines (and some chive blossoms, just because they are pretty).



This was a delicious dinner, perhaps as good as Le Pichet. I think I may need to invest in a couple of cute little baking dishes so I can make this all the time. It came together rather quickly so I could easily see making this on the weekends for breakfast too.



E G G S   B A K E D   W I T H   P R O S C I U T T O   A N D   G R U Y E R E
serves 2

I used duck eggs but chicken eggs would work just fine, just be aware that the time in the oven will be on the lower end of the times given.

1-2 teaspoons butter
2-3 ounces prosciutto
4 eggs
1-2 ounces Gruyere cheese

Butter a 9″ pie plate or other oven safe baking dish. Line the dish with the prosciutto slices, being careful nut to overlad them to much. Break each of the four eggs into the dish. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the eggs and top with a generous amount of black pepper. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-20 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked through.

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Stack-ups, The First Thing I Cooked

I saw a tweet from Shauna a.k.a. @glutenfreegirl yesterday, “Just a quick reminder: many of us are doing blog posts tomorrow on the first food we cooked when we were kids”. Immediately I started thinking. As a youngster I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. We had an open kitchen so even when I was coloring, watching tv or doing my homework, I was most likely sitting at the bar, kitchen adjacent.

When I was little my mom was in nursing school and then working as a nurse with crazy hours so I remember my dad doing most of the cooking. The times that I remember in the kitchen with my mom it was always a baking project.

One time we made Pfeffernuesse for a class project where I was supposed to cook a recipe that represented where I was from. I’m of mostly German decent and the recipe belongs to my great Aunt Bernice. Unfortunately this is when we found out that I was allergic to Anise. While shaping the cookies to bake I broke out in a terribly itchy rash up to my elbows. I didn’t even get to eat any of the finished cookies for fear that I would have another allergic reaction.

I remember another occasion when we cooked together for a girl scout badge (but I don’t remember what we made) and then there is this awesome cake that my friend Chrissy and I made and decorated for a cake walk at our school carnival (we went to Mckinley and Vikings were our mascot).

I mean, look at the craftsmanship, how did I not go into cake decorating? Ice cream cones for horns and black licorice for the beard, genius.

So as far as I remember, my dad was in charge of most of the meals at my house. For breakfast that meant instant oatmeal (brown sugar and cinnamon flavor), some kind or sugary cereal or, if I was really lucky, Pop-Tarts (the frosted kind of course).

I can remember watching with great fascination as my dad made Minestrone. The recipe went something like this: brown one pound of hamburger then add a can of peas, a can of corn and a can of green beans (with their liquid). Then add a large can of tomato juice and some elbow macaroni and simmer until it’s dinner time. Now this is a version of minestrone I can’t even imagine making these days. Mine would be full of seasonal fresh vegetables and probably vegetarian. And canned peas, well there is just no reason for canned peas. However, I happily slurpped it up at the time.

In addition to spending time together in the kitchen we also we spent time together in the garden. I think we’re tending strawberries in this one (and you can see that I am a lot of help).

And here is evidence that we at least tried to grow lettuce, radishes and carrots.

The garden must not have worked out though since all the veggies in the minestrone were canned.

The meal I remember most (and the one I still make to this day) is something that (as far as I know) my dad invented, he called them Stack-ups. It starts with a layer of rice which is then topped with a slightly sweet tomato and beef sauce (made with tomato sauce and ketchup), then peas, then cheese (American cheese to be exact).

Over the years I’ve tried making changes to the recipe. For a while I tried onions in the sauce, then I tried adding oregano, then cayenne. I even tried making it vegetarian for a while. None of the changes made the cut. In an effort to be healthier, I used brown rice instead of white. I liked this change, but the husband said it needed to go back to white. The only change that has stuck over the years is a shift from American to a sharp cheddar cheese (I really like the Tillamook extra sharp white cheddar so I usually use that).

I started making stack-ups again in college (because they are dead easy and pretty cheap) and I still make stack-ups once every couple of months. This is by no means a fancy or gourmet meal. It’s simple and pleasing.

After I lost my dad in 1996 this became one of ultimate comfort foods. It reminds me of home. I reminds me of my dad. It makes me happy.


S T A C K – U P S
3-4 servings

1 cup white rice
1 pound ground beef
6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 to 3/4 cup ketchup
1 1 /2 cup frozen peas
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Cook rice according to package instructions. While rice cooks, brown ground beef in a large saute pan. When it has browned add tomato paste, 2 cans of water (12 oz total), and 1/2 cup ketchup. Season with salt and pepper and taste for sweetness. If a sweeter sauce is desired add additional ketchup. Simmer sauce until rice is cooked, stirring occasionally. When 5 minutes is left in rice cooking time heat peas for 3 minutes in the microwave (or until cooked through) or on the stove top according to package instructions.

In a shallow bowl or on a plate layer rice, sauce, peas and cheese. Enjoy.


About Me

I'm a personal chef living happily with her picky-eater (but willing to try anything) husband, neurotic black lab and a red heeler puppy.

I watch way too much TV and enjoy hip-hop more than any reasonable grown-up should.

I'm an avid swimmer and sometime triathlete (whenever I'm not nursing an injury).

Find out more about me here.

About This Blog

I started this blog at a time when my personal chef business was quite slow and I needed to keep my mind busy and my skills sharp. But now, business is booming so I've had to put the blog on the back burner. So, no new recipes for now, but please enjoy my archives.

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