Pimento Cheese Sliders and Other Great Ideas

Pimento Cheese Sliders

Much of the nation is suffering with exceptionally hot weather this summer.  No one wants to turn on their oven and it’s hard to want to go outside to use the grill.   Instead of serving big meals,  we’d rather have something cold and tasty ready to eat for snacks.  Pimento Cheese is the perfect summer staple to keep in the fridge!  Never heard of Pimento Cheese?  Your momma didn’t grow up in the South like mine did!

Southern Roots

Every two years our family of  6 would pile into the sedan and drive from Vermont to Mississippi to visit my mother’s family.  While we were in Tupelo, we would be invited to a tea party at “Miss Susie’s House”,  which meant we would be expected to dress up to visit a sweet elderly lady for some real Southern gentility and hospitality.  I have to credit our mother for teaching us to be gracious and to use our manners in a situation that was not typical of  our life in rural Vermont.

  As children,  we knew that customs were a bit different there,  and expectations of proper behavior were explained before each social encounter.  Say “thank you, Ma’am” and be extra well behaved at the table.   We were happy to comply because we knew that there would be pimento cheese sandwiches, served on white bread with the crusts cut off,  along with small tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad.  I’m sure there must have been pound cake or coconut cake on the table as well,  but I honestly don’t remember much besides those tangy-cold-creamy-sweet pimento cheese sandwiches.

Rediscovering Pimento Cheese: On a Biscuit!

Pimento Cheese Biscuit

We sat on a short wall in front of a shop to eat our biscuits. So good!

Last fall I rediscovered my love of Pimento Cheese when I was in Charleston, SC for the Les Dames D’Escoffier conference with Mary Platis of California Greek Girl.   We walked for many blocks to find Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit (and it was hot that day!) but OH how tasty was that flaky buttermilk biscuit filled with   creamy pimento cheese!

Vermont state Capital

I took this photo with my phone from the car as we drove by the state capital. I think it’s the prettiest one in the country!

Down Home Kitchen in Montpelier, Vermont

Imagine my surprise and delight to discover that Pimento Cheese has arrived in Montpelier, Vermont – the  capital of the Green Mountain State!  This is the town where I was born,  where real maple syrup is served with pancakes.  The buildings and streets haven’t changed much since I was a preschooler,  eagerly expecting a lollipop every time we went to the bank.  Right around the corner from that old bank building is a  new eatery  called Down Home Kitchen.

Down Home Kitchen Montpelier, Vermont

“Real Southern Soul Food – Scratch Made with Love”  is the perfect description for Down Home Kitchen.  Meet  Mary Alice Proffitt (coming through the door) who established this charming restaurant  after renovating an building that had housed a bookstore for many years.

Down Home Kitchen renovation

This is our daughter Marianne! Through the window you can see Mary Alice serving some customers outside.

We enjoyed looking through the photo album of the renovation while we were waiting for our food in June,  and Mary Alice plopped herself down on a chair to visit with us for a few minutes.   She explained that she hoped to get a grant to help recover the costs of the renovations.  We had our picture taken together to put into the grant application!    As customers came through the door, it was easy to see that she has established a family-friendly, community-minded treasure in downtown Montpelier where locals and tourists alike  can enjoy homestyle southern  breakfast, lunch, dessert or a beverage and snacks – wholesome food with quality ingredients.   We hope she gets that grant!

Down Home March 2016

photos taken in March 2016 Montpelier, Vermont

We had been to Down Home Kitchen once before,  on a chilly March morning,  when they were very busy serving hearty breakfasts.  We could have ordered pancakes with real maple syrup or an omelet,  but the Blue Plate Specials were calling our names.  Check out their menu here and see if you wouldn’t have a tough time making a choice!

pimento cheese finger sandwich

This pimento cheese has a little dill in it!

Every Fridge Deserves a Bowl of Fresh Pimento Cheese

Did you happen to see the Pimento Cheese finger sandwiches on the menu?   When Mary Alice heard that my mother came from Tupelo, Miss.  and that we grew up eating Pimento Cheese sandwiches in central Vermont,  she had a taster plate sent to our table — and Oh was it good.  Not only is it good in a finger sandwich,  but Mary Alice serves a burger that includes a generous layer of Pimento Cheese as a condiment! Now we’re really talking comfort food!

Are you convinced yet that every refrigerator deserves to have a bowl of fresh Pimento Cheese ready to serve?   How about a grilled Pimento Cheese sandwich!  How about Pimento Cheese with crackers!    Pimento Cheese quesadillas with sliced avocado!  Tiny fresh peppers stuffed with pimento cheese!  Celery sticks stuffed with pimento cheese!

Mimi Avocado’s Recipe for Pimento Cheese

By now I’ll bet you are wondering how to make your own pimento cheese!   There are plenty of recipes online with instructions for using several kinds of cheese,   a dash of Worcestershire sauce,  a little red pepper, sometimes even cream cheese or sour cream, and one even adds pine nuts — and I’m sure those are very good.    The Pimento Cheese we know is the simple kind, so I’m going to share that  recipe  here – there’s no reason not to make some when the ingredients are already in the pantry!   Note:  keep a small jar of red pimentos in your pantry at all times!

Pimento Cheese Sliders and Other Great Ideas
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Dip or Spread
Cuisine: Southern
Make a batch of this tangy pimento cheese and keep in the fridge for sandwiches, snacks, topping a burger, or stuffing into celery, small peppers, or tiny tomatoes.
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. block sharp cheddar cheese
  • ⅔ cup good Mayonnaise
  • ½ jar sliced pimentos, drained
  • dash of lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Grate the cheese yourself. (Packaged cheese won't taste the same.)
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the grated cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos, and lemon juice.
  3. Refrigerate for several hours to let the flavors blend.
  4. Options: use different combinations of cheeses, add your favorite seasonings, herbs, a little dijon mustard, or subsititute sour cream for the mayonnaise. Be creative!

The World Needs More of This

As we were leaving Down Home Kitchen,  we stopped to watch as some children were playing a game of hopscotch on the sidewalk next to the restaurant.   Me:  “Wow!  That’s the biggest hopscotch I have ever seen!”   Child (overflowing with delight and self-satisfaction) “It goes all the way to 86!!”

And look: it’s Mary Alice trying out the hopscotch board!

hopscotch

If you travel to Montpelier,  Vermont I hope you’ll stop in for a meal at Down Home Kitchen and tell Mary Alice that Mimi Avocado says Hi!   Try the old fashioned  homemade banana pudding!

Homemade Carnitas Tacos with Avocado for Cinco de Mayo

Carnitas Tacos with Avocado from MimiAvocado.com

When I think of comfort foods,  I remember coming home from school activities to a house filled with the delicious aroma of roasting pork.  As soon as the weather turned cool,  we could look forward to roast pork with apple sauce.  In those days,  roast pork meant a nice tenderloin roasted in the oven.  Now that I live in California,  I’ve learned to make a different kind of roast pork for tacos or burritos called Carnitas.

Carnitas means “little meats” and usually refers to braised pork that melts in your mouth.   Traditional Carnitas is a Mexican dish that originated in the state of Michoacan, where the pork is simmered in lard with salt, chili, cumin, oregano or Mexican oregano, marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, and crushed garlic cloves.

I’m going to share how I make Carnitas for these tacos,  seasoned  with a homemade tomatillo sauce.  You won’t believe how easy it is to do, and how tasty it turns out!  Just in time for Cinco de Mayo too! Continue reading

Book Review: Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex

 

Enchiladas cookbook

Ever since I moved to California in the late 1970’s,  I have been wanting a really good cookbook for Mexican food.  I don’t mean just a few recipes, but a reference book that explains all the key ingredients of Mexican cuisine, like tomatillos, Mexican cheeses, and  fresh and dried chilies.  Who would expect that a book named simply “Enchiladas” would fulfill all these wishes?  This one does.

Cappy Lawton and Chris Waters Dunn have teamed  with chefs from some of San Antonio’s best Mexican restaurants to produce Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex, published by Trinity University Press.

ingredients

This isn’t just a book about enchiladas,  but a primer on all the basic techniques of the Mexican cochina,  including homemade tortillas, queso fresco, crema Mexicana, and chorizo.  This definitive cookbook explores the enchilada through the history of the Mexican people over thousands of years.

fundamentals

Not only are there sixty traditional and contemporary enchilada recipes, but there are recipes for salsas, salad, and sides to accompany them.   Ever wanted to make really tender pot beans or savory refried beans?  How about perfect Mexican rice,  six different ways?   This book explains how to prepare beautiful  slow-cooked  and perfectly seasoned meat fillings,  as well as  seafood and vegetable options.  Now we can try making corn tortillas from scratch, even the colorful flavor-infused ones!

This book captures the love of Mexican food,  with expertly crafted recipes,  beautiful photographs, and historical details.  Just what I have always wanted:  a book that teaches the essentials of Mexican cooking. There is plenty of good reading material and fabulous photos that make this a great coffee-table book.  The instructions and recipes are done in  simple and easy-to-follow detail, so that home cooks like me will be able to make homemade enchiladas with all the fixings for family dinners.

As a blogger who lives on an avocado farm,   I thought this book might be something my readers would also enjoy.  I love this book, and I’m pretty sure anyone who loves  avocados (and we all do, don’t we!) will love this book.  (Wouldn’t it be the perfect gift along with a box of fresh California avocados?)

Order directly from the book’s website http://www.enchiladasbook.com, and a portion of every sale will go to Lighthouse for the Blind, San Antonio.   I’ve never been to San Antonio,  but after visiting the websites for the authors’  restaurants,  I think it’s high time for a trip!

I have permission to share a recipe from the book with you, so I chose one of my favorite enchiladas:  Enchiladas Suizas.  This is the basic recipe from the book,  but there is also a second recipe for the La Fonda Enchilada Suizas that the authors serve in their three restaurants,  La Fonda on Main, Cappy’s, and Cappyccino’s in San Antonio, Texas.  I’m thrilled to share that recipe with you here as well!

Enchiladas Suizas  (from Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex)

Yields 12 enchiladas / Serves 4-6

 Enchiladas Suizas was invented in 1950 at Sanborn’s in the historic Casa de Aulejos (House of Tiles) in Mexico City, Suizas or “Swiss,” refers to the dairy in the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

For the sauce:

  • 1 pound (454 grams) tomatillos, husks removed, cored
  • 1-2 serrano chiles, destemmed
  • ½ medium white onion, peeled, coarsely chopped, and root end removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¾ bunch cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (237 ml) crema Mexicana
  • Kosher salt to taste

For the filling:

  • 2 cups (260 grams) poached and shredded chicken

For the assembly:

  • 12 white corn tortillas
  • Vegetable oil as needed for softening tortillas
  • 2 cups (240 grams) queso asadero or queso Chihuahua, grated

For the garnish:

  • 1 cup (237 ml) crema Mexicana
  • White onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Cilantro leaves
La Fonda Suizas

The La Fonda On Main Enchiladas Suizas is garnished with a romaine salad!

Enchiladas Suizas, La Fonda on Main

Yields 12 enchiladas / Serves 4-6

 In La Fonda’s version of this classic enchilada recipe, pepitas add a nutty flavor to the sauce, and the enchiladas are topped with Swiss cheese and garnished with a refreshing Romaine Lettuce Salad.

INGREDIENTS

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup (47 grams) white onion, diced
  • 2-3 cups serrano chiles, destemmed and chopped (see note)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ½ cup (65 grams) raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 pound (454 grams) tomatillos, husks removed, quartered
  • 1 cup (237 ml) crema Mexicana
  • 1 ½ tablespoons (14 grams) kosher salt, or to taste

For the filling:

  • 2 chicken breasts (approximately 1 pound, 454 grams), poached and shredded

For the assembly:

  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Vegetable oil as needed for softening tortillas
  • 2 cups (240 grams) Swiss cheese, shredded (or substitute asadero or Chihuahua)

For the garnish:

  • Romaine Lettuce Salad

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 large leaves romaine lettuce, ribs removed and shredded
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored, deseeded, and chopped
  • 1 small serrano chile, destemmed, deseeded, and minced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • Cilantro sprigs to taste
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vegetable juice
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  • Toss lettuce, tomatoes, serrano chile, green onions, and cilantro sprigs together. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
  • Whisk the lime juice and oil together until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
  • Just before serving the enchiladas, pour the lime juice and oil dressing over salad and toss to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Disclosure:  I’m grateful to to have received a signed complimentary copy of this book to review.

Quiche with Roasted Cipolline Onions

Roasted Onion QuicheHave you tried cooking with Cipolline onions?  These cute little onions are perfect for roasting,  caramelizing to become beautiful little orbs that add homemade flavor to stews, sauces, or salads.  Yesterday  I put together  a Roasted Onion Quiche with bacon, cheddar, sautéed mushrooms, and some sliced roasted Baby Gold potatoes.  Aren’t those little onions pretty on top?  They’re full of sweet onion flavor too. I’ll share how to make them, and the recipe for this gorgeous quiche with you now. Continue reading

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin pie

It has been a long time since I have made homemade pie with homemade pie crust.  Sometime between college and raising four children I got into the habit of using frozen pie crusts or just buying the pies from a favorite restaurant.  This week I was inspired to try my hand at making homemade pie from scratch like my mother used to do.   Continue reading

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