Pimento Cheese

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There is something so comforting about having a crock of pimento cheese in my refrigerator.  It’s great for a quick lunch with a few carrots and cucumber sticks or served with toasted French bread and cold beer.  You can go totally decadent and gooey and make a killer grilled cheese.  This version has just a touch of heat from green Tabasco sauce – use a good sharp cheddar cheese, as the ingredients are few in this recipe and quality matters.

8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

16 ounce jar roasted peppers, drained (blot dry with a paper towel) and diced

1/2 teaspoon green Tabasco sauce or to taste

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon each salt and fresh ground black pepper

  • Combine all of the above ingredients and mix well
  • Store the cheese in the refrigerator, it keeps well for about a week
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Skillet Peach Cake

I know there is not a decent peach to be had in the produce isle in February, but thanks to the smoothie craze that has swept this country, the frozen fruit section always has them in season.  By using a cast iron skillet and dusting it with a bit of sugar, the outer crust of this cake takes on a divine sugar cookie taste right out of the oven –  frozen peaches just got an upgrade.

4 tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature plus 1 tablespoon for the skillet

3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons for the skillet

1 cup all purpose flour – you can substitute a cup for cup type of gluten free flour mix successfully

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup buttermilk

10-12 pieces sliced frozen peaches – no need to defrost

Cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar

  • Butter a 9″ cast iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of butter and dust with 2 tablespoons of sugar and set aside
  • Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside
  • In a mixer cream the butter and sugar together until light
  • Add the egg and beat until well combined
  • Add the vanilla to the buttermilk
  • Alternate adding the buttermilk and flour mixtures to the bowl, beating well after each addition until it is all incorporated
  • Pour the batter into the prepared skillet
  • Decorate with the peach slices in a circular pattern with a few chunks in the center
  • Dust with cinnamon sugar
  • Bake in a 375 degree pre-heated oven for about 35 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden brown and starts to pull away from the sides
  • Cool slightly and dust with powder sugar and serve

the prepared cast iron skillet

 

Ready for the oven

 

 

 

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Honey Roasted Tomatoes with Pancetta

These perfect little tomatoes are a lovely side dish and because vine ripened Campari tomatoes are always available, you don’t have to wait for summer tomatoes.  They are also nice on top of simple dressed greens for an elegant first course salad.

Serves 12
18 Campari tomatoes, cut in half and seeds removed
1-2 tablespoon honey
Salt and pepper
1 pound pancetta, cut into a small dice
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons minced rosemary
1 ½ cups Panko bread crumbs
4 tablespoons melted butter
½ teaspoon paprika

• pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees
• Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper
• Place the tomatoes on the parchment and drizzle the tomatoes with the honey and season with salt and pepper
• Heat a large sauté pan to medium high heat and sauté the pancetta until crisp
• Fill the tomatoes with the pancetta (about 1-2 teaspoons each)
• Stir the rosemary, paprika and bread crumbs, into the melted butter until well combined
• Top each tomato with the bread crumb mixture
• Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft and the bread crumbs have browned
• Serve warm

 

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Chocolate Soufflé Cakes

These little cakes are not as fussy as a classic soufflé, in fact they can be done well ahead and refrigerated, just bring them to room temperature before baking.  I make them and keep them on the counter, and put them in the oven when dinner is winding down.  Once they are baked though, you will want to eat them while they are hot, and why not?

10 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, plus extra for preparing baking cups

1 tablespoon Chambord Black Raspberry liqueur

3 whole eggs and 3 yolks

4 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus extra for preparing baking cups

1 tablespoon flour

Vanilla ice cream and fresh raspberries for serving

  • In a double boiler add the chocolate, butter and Chambord and heat until just melted and stir to combine (or use a heavy sauce pan over low heat). cool slightly
  • In a standing mixer, add the eggs, egg yolks and 4 tablespoons of sugar and with the whisk attachment, beat the mixture for 8 minutes until it is pale yellow and light
  • Mix the flour to the cooled chocolate mixture
  • Combine the egg mixture and chocolate mixture by folding gently until well combined
  • Prepare 8 ramekins by coating them with butter then adding 1 1/2 teaspoons of granulated sugar per cup and coating the bottom and sides, there will be a bit extra in the bottom of each cup
  • Divide the batter evenly among the cups
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment and place the cups on top
  • Bake for about 13 minutes or until the edges are puffed and the center still moves slightly when shaken
  • Remove from the oven, dust with powdered sugar and serve with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and raspberries if desired

 

This is what the eggs look like after eight minutes whisking

Ramekins coated with butter and sugar ready for the souffle mixture

Ready for the oven

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Parsnip Soup with Corned Beef and Cabbage

 

Soup is a great way to ease into lighter eating but not give up the warmth we still crave.  This recipe uses classic ingredients of a St. Patrick’s Day meal.  The corned beef can be purchased from the deli, just ask for it unsliced in a single chunk.

1 pound parsnips, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 cups onions, chopped (I use frozen)

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cups of chicken stock (more for thinning if necessary)

2 bay leaves

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

¼ pound corned beef, cut into matchstick pieces

3 large savoy cabbage leaves, center rib removed and shredded

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Heat a stock pot to medium high heat and add the onions and the oil
  • Saute until the onions become translucent and just starting to lightly brown
  • Add the parsnips, chicken stock and bay leaves and bring to a boil
  • Simmer until the parsnips are very tender, about 10 minutes
  • Remove the bay leaves and with an emersion blender, blend the soup until it is smooth.  Be very careful blending hot liquids.
  • Add the cream and more broth if needed for desired thickness
  • Heat a saute pan to medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the corned beef
  • Saute until lightly browned
  • Divide the soup among the bowls and top with the cabbage corned beef combination
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