Appetizers

Cashew Dill Cheesy Spread

Cashew Dill Cheesy Spread

I’ve messed around with making a variety of alternative cheeses, but I’m just not a fan of ingredients like tapioca flour or agar agar powder, etc. This recipe is my latest obsession because it’s so simple and incredibly delicious. Adding a bit of brine from your favorite fermented vegetable gives it a dose of healthy probiotics, too. To get the super creamy texture, however, you will need a bad ass blender like BlendTec or a VitaMix. If you try making it in a food processor or a normal blender, the result will still be tasty, but the texture will be a bit grainy.

Super Simple Romesco Sauce

Super Simple Romesco Sauce

I’ve been making variations of this succulent sauce since 1997. Romesco sauce is from Catalonia and is usually served over fish or other meat. It is frequently made with both almonds and hazelnuts as well as stale bread crumbs. My version is slightly different, but still hits those same taste notes. I usually serve it over grilled veggies, spread on tortillas topped with avocado and salad greens, dolloped on top of slices of baguette, thinned out and drizzled over orzo, etc.
I nearly always have everything for this in my kitchen, which means that even though we’ve been pretty homebound these last few months, I can usually make this without a trip to the store. In my freezer I always have almonds (if you don’t already, do store your nuts in the freezer to prevent them going rancid) and bags of red bell peppers that I roasted and froze the previous summer. If you don’t have sherry vinegar, substitute a light balsamic. If you don’t have smoked paprika, just use regular paprika.

Artichoke Dip 2020

Artichoke Dip 2020

Growing up in Missouri in the 1970s I went to a lot of potlucks. A lot. Most were filled with things like Swedish Meatballs, Three-Bean Salad, Macaroni Casserole, Watergate Salad, Jello Everything, and of course, buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. My mother would get so annoyed at those who brought KFC. She would mutter under her breath, “Why the hell did I go to all the trouble to make something from scratch if others are just buying fast-food?” And people wonder where I get my attitude…

All of this to say somewhere embedded in my taste memory is a fondness for another 1970s favorite: Artichoke Dip. A dollop on a Triscuit was my favorite snacking comfort food. While I still think Triscuits are the greatest cracker ever invented (no judgement, please), I have outgrown the mayo-heavy, bland artichoke dip of my youth. Below is a recipe I started making nearly ten years ago. It’s a tiny bit more sophisticated but still pretty comfort food-y. The other day I also realized that if you pick up a can of artichoke hearts (in water, not oil) on your next COVID-19 grocery run, chances are you might have all the ingredients on hand for that night when your neighbors wanna come over for some Driveway Drinking. This also makes a wonderful spread for a sandwich or wrap filled with avocado, cucumbers and a slice of sharp cheddar…

Fromage Fort or Tiny Fondue

Fromage Fort or Tiny Fondue

This might be one of my favorite recipes. It’s ridiculously delicious, simple to make, freezes beautifully, and most importantly uses up bits and pieces of cheese that you might have otherwise thrown out. I discovered it back in the early 2000s and have been making it about once or twice a year ever since. It’s from Jacques Pepin, who adopted it from his own father’s recipe. My father, who recently died in January, loved to gift us with wedges of cheese when he would come over to our house several times a week for dinner. While we loved the cheese, sometimes we just didn’t get around to eating it all. As a result, a couple of times a year I would gather all the “old” cheese and whip up a batch. Moldy cheese? Don’t worry, as my mom used to always say “Just cut off the mold. It’s still good!” when I would pull out a hunk of cheese that was past its prime.

Quarantine White Bean Dip

Quarantine White Bean Dip

If you’re cooking and adding beans to everything these days like minestrone, soup, stews, etc., this is a great way to use up the extras. If you don’t have tahini, just use a tiny bit more olive oil. The fat from the olive oil and/or tahini is what makes the dip a little more decadent. Specific quantities are listed below, but just adjust to what you have on hand and your taste. FYI: this also works with canned beans.

How I Cook

How I Cook

Long, long before COVID-19, or as I refer to it BC (Before Corona), I began thinking about writing this post. It’s not meant to tell people what to do, but rather just a document that captures how I cook. It’s basically my guiding rules, equipment, […]