Tag Archives: cheese

A summery twist on caprese salad: Peach, Watermelon and Tomato Salad with Fresh Mozzarella

A summery twist on caprese salad: Peach, Watermelon and Tomato Salad with Fresh Mozzarella

Peach Watermelon Salad 2

If the sweltering summer heat has you cringing at the thought of slaving over a hot stove or dreading turning on your oven, then I’ve got the perfect, no-cook side dish recipe for you.

This summery take on a caprese salad is a light, refreshing side dish that showcases some of the best flavors of this season: savory tomatoes, sweet watermelon, juicy peaches and bright, verdant herbs. The best part: no pots, pans or hot ovens needed to throw this together. All you need is a cutting board, knife, whisk and a couple of bowls.

Perfect for picnics, dinner parties or a quick, weeknight side dish, this salad with white wine vinaigrette and herbs can be whipped up in a jiffy, a day ahead or à la minute. It can also be changed to your tastes — ditch the basil and add add tarragon or thyme, swap out the mozzarella for goat cheese or feta (or leave out the cheese altogether).

Keep your cool when cooking this summer and try out this sweet, savory, tangy and herbaceous side dish that I guarantee you’ll be making a staple in your kitchen.
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BBQ Patty Melt with Smoked Cheddar and Caramelized Onions

BBQ Patty Melt with Smoked Cheddar and Caramelized Onions

Stubbs Patty Melt

The next time you’ve got a craving for a juicy burger, give it a BBQ flavored twist and take it up another notch by ditching the boring old bun and making it a pressed patty melt.

To set it apart from the standard patty melt, I gave it a BBQ-inspired makeover my mixing ground beef and pork along with Stubb’s Original Bar-B-Q Sauce in the patty mix. I also put Stubb’s Bar-B-Q sauce on top of the cooked patties in the sandwich and added sweet caramelized onions and savory smoked Cheddar. This patty melt is like a barbecue sandwich, burger, and gooey grilled cheese all in one! Just like Texas BBQ tradition, serve it with pickles tucked into the patty melt or on the side.

Great for any time of the year, this can be made on your stove top, as no grill is needed to create this quick and easy comfort food classic.

Check out the recipe on Stubb’s Legendary Bar-B-Q’s website!

Savor summer’s end: Savory heirloom tomato cobbler

Savor summer’s end: Savory heirloom tomato cobbler

Proving that tomatoes can turn a classic dessert into a savory delight.

Even though turning on the oven in the middle of August isn’t on the top of most people’s list, there are a few dishes that are worth the extra mercury on the thermometer. Tomato cobbler is one of them.

“Cobbler? But that’s a dessert!,” is the reaction of most folks. Not in this case. This cobbler is a savory take on the classic sweet dessert and uses fresh and juicy summer tomatoes in place of the fruit (though, technically, tomatoes are also considered to be fruit).

Why tomatoes, you ask? Sure, you could throw them in a nice, cold salad, but have you ever popped them in the oven and baked them until they burst? Their natural sugars are enhanced with the application of heat and roasting them brings out their sweetness and even more flavor over eating them raw. In short, roasted tomatoes are a-mazing. If you have access to heirloom tomatoes, splurge and use them in this dish as they have even more “meat” and flavor to them than most tomatoes in the market.

To make this easy tomato cobbler, the vegetables (or “fruit and veg”) are cooked in a pan and poured into a baking dish over a cornmeal batter. To give it an even more homey and rustic look, use an ovenproof or cast iron pan to cook, bake and serve it in. And if you get the hankering for this savory side dish and tomatoes aren’t in season, simply use drained, canned tomatoes (the no-salt added kind). It tastes great when served fresh out of the oven, but tastes even more heavenly if it is allowed to sit and cool a little while and served at room temperature. It also makes fantastic leftovers when reheated and served the following day.

Grab the sumptuous flavors of late summer while you still can, crank up that oven, and make this mouthwatering cobbler as soon as humanly possible.
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Roasted grape, goat cheese, and walnut tart

Roasted grape, goat cheese, and walnut tart

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The word “tart” is probably one of the most used homonyms in culinary terms. First of all, “tart” used as an adjective has to do with taste — like bitter, sour or acerbic. But today I’d like to focus on “tart” the noun. This kind of tart can come in many, many forms: sweet, savory, shortcrust based, puff pastry based, fruit-filled, custard-filled, cheesy, etc., and is usually served as either an appetizer or dessert.

The tart I’ve decided to whip up this week is a mix of sweet and savory — roasted grapes and goat cheese — on a bed of flaky puff pastry crust. It’s an easy-to-prepare, classy appetizer that’d be perfect for a fête during any season.

So why did I pick puff pastry over a short crust pie dough? Honestly, I’m a lazy baker and puff dough is as easy as grabbing from the freezer, thawing then baking. It’s also a party food lifesaver and should always be kept onhand for last-minute appetizers, main dishes accoutrements and desserts. For flavor, always choose puff dough made with butter, not vegetable shortening, as it will give you a buttery, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth product versus one with a weird aftertaste. Another cook’s tip: an egg wash (see recipe below) will give puff pastry a golden-brown kiss of color.

Try out this sweet, savory, and not too tart (the adjective) tart recipe that’s topped with roasted grapes, goat cheese, walnuts and fresh rosemary. It’s a breeze to bake up and your party guests will surely be impressed.

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Eat Your Suds: Beer bread and spreadable beer cheese

Eat Your Suds: Beer bread and spreadable beer cheese
Incredibly easy recipes for all you beer (and carb) lovers.

Incredibly easy recipes for all you beer (and carb) lovers.

Confession: I love craft beer and I’ll drink just about any kind, but I also enjoy eating my suds. No, not in a bowl with a soup spoon, but actually in food. Beer can be used in cooking, much like wine and spirits, to add flavor to dishes. Braising, stewing, poaching — you can really do just about anything in the kitchen with beer. And believe it or not, you can even bake with it.

I was recently looking for a new vehicle in which to enjoy my suds and came across a recipe that uses beer in a bread recipe. Not being an avid baker, I usually steer clear of recipes that require lots of exact measuring and mixing, but this dish caught my eye as it only requires a few ingredients and very little mixing. This beer bread is very similar to Irish soda bread: soft on the inside with a flavorful, crusty exterior. I recommend using a strong-flavored beer for this recipe, like a stout or porter, so that the flavors in the beer can really shine through.

After baking the bread I realized that it needed an accompaniment: beer cheese! Creamy and dreamy with a hint of beer flavoring, this condiment is also incredibly easy to make and the only special equipment needed is a food processor. I recommend using a lighter beer for this one, like a pilsner, wheat beer or low IBU pale ale, as you don’t want the cheese’s flavor to overpower or clash with the strong notes in the beer bread.

My biggest piece of advice when making these recipes: Please, do yourself and your guests a favor and don’t use crappy beer. You wouldn’t use a foul-tasting wine or spirit to cook with, right? (Your answer should be “no”.) Then steer clear of using any macro brews (e.g.: fizzy yellow water type beers).
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Sinful Sides: Indulge in this creamy kale and butternut squash gratin

Sinful Sides: Indulge in this creamy kale and butternut squash gratin

Your waistline may hate me, but your taste buds will thank me.

Forget the lean turkey and ham, the holidays all about the tasty, rich side dishes. These are some of the only days of the year that most folks let themselves indulge in rich, indulgent foods without a second thought on the calorie count (until the following day). Even healthy vegetables like sweet potatoes, green beans and kale get an oleaginous makeover with additions of bacon, butter and cream. Why? Because they make foods taste better!

If you’re going to load up on calories, it had better be worth it and taste amazing, and this following side dish is just that. So don’t even bother trying to make a “lightened up” version of this butternut squash and kale gratin with skim milk and light butter spread, go all the way with whole milk, cream and good quality cheese. Your waistline may hate me, but your taste buds will thank me.
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Savory makeover for a Thanksgiving classic: Sweet Potato and Smoked Gouda Gratin (with a secret ingredient)

Savory makeover for a Thanksgiving classic: Sweet Potato and Smoked Gouda Gratin (with a secret ingredient)

Cheesy, smoky, creamy and downright delicious!

Many people associate sweet potatoes as a sugar-sweet side dish for Thanksgiving — swimming in butter and brown sugar, and topped with marshmallows. While this classic dish is fantastic, I decided to give it a savory makeover this year with the help of a secret ingredient.

Instead of boiling and mashing the sweet potatoes, I went for a twist on the classic baked gratin dish. I thinly sliced the raw sweet potatoes into 1/8″ thick rounds (a mandoline would make this job even easier) and layered them in a baking dish, scattering grated smoked Gouda cheese in between each layer (ending up with three layers of potatoes). For a typical gratin, cream is poured over the layered potatoes before baking. To spice this up a bit, I added chopped garlic and Stubb’s Pork Marinade — which contains spices garlic, lemongrass and ginger — to the cream.

The result: a tasty casserole that’s cheesy, smoky, creamy, slightly spiced and with a hint of sweetness from the sweet potatoes. After tasting this, I may never go the typical brown sugar and marshmallow route for Thanksgiving again.
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East Meets West: Enjoy a twist on a classic with these Indian-inspired enchiladas

East Meets West: Enjoy a twist on a classic with these Indian-inspired enchiladas

Not the prettiest enchiladas, but the bold flavors make up for its looks.

Experimenting with food and flavors is a passion of mine and I love to “explore” the globe through its cultures and their cuisines. Sometimes, I like to be region-specific with my cooking, and other times I, in the immortal lyrics of Fleetwood Mac, like to “go (my) own way” by using a basic flavor profile and letting the creativity flow.

This past week, my culinary journey was at a fork in the road. You see, I had a craving for cheesy Mexican enchiladas with tomato sauce, but also had the itch to experiment with some Indian flavors and wanted make the dish a little healthier. Thus, these vegetarian, gluten-free Indian enchiladas were born. I used a few basic spices that can be easily found in the spice aisle at most grocery stores — save for the Indian chili powder that can be found at an Indian grocer or easily substituted with regular chili powder — and some easy-to-find ingredients commonly found in most Indian cuisines, like butternut squash, chickpeas and tomatoes.

Paneer cheese, a fresh farmer-style cheese that doesn’t melt, is a star ingredient in the filling. It holds up to high heat cooking and adds both bulk and protein to the filling. Paneer can be found at specialty and Indian grocery stores, but can be easily substituted with firm tofu (this would then make the dish vegan as well).

Even if you’ve never cooked Indian food before, this recipe is very approachable and can be adjusted to your taste and spice level: leave out the spicy chilies for a milder sauce or add more if you’re a heat-seeker, substitute the kale with spinach, and you can even use different types of winter or summer squash in the filling if you please.
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Shrimp and grits with a smoky, spicy twist

Shrimp and grits with a smoky, spicy twist

 

There’s nothing like a ending a weekend with an indulgent brunch, be it sweet French toast, savory quiche, or a simple yet hearty meal of scrambled eggs and bacon (and mimosas, of course). A Southern gal by birth, I have to say my all-time favorite go-to for brunch is shrimp and grits. I’ll take them any which way you serve ’em — with a creamy gravy, Creole-style or even in casserole form — and at any time of the day.

Living deep in the heart of Texas, where breakfast tacos and scrambled egg migas reign supreme, I rarely see this dish on restaurant menus, so I end up having to make it myself. If you’ve read any of my recipes, you know that I have a penchant for taking standard dishes and putting my own spin on them. So when I recently had a craving for shrimp and grits, I wanted to include another favorite ingredient of mine: barbecue sauce. (Trust me, it works.)

Hence, I ended up with this smoky, spicy and slightly sweet Texas twist on shrimp and grits. The sweet and spicy barbecue sauce — in this case, Stubb’s Sweet Heat — adds an added layer of flavor that takes the dish to the next level, and it’s further enhanced by the addition of the smoked cheese, Serrano pepper and smoked paprika. For an added Texas influence, replace the shrimp with smoked brisket or pulled pork. And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can always make a batch of your own ’cue sauce.

So the next time you’re in a brunching mood — whether it be noon on Sunday or 7 p.m. on a Tuesday — whip up this satisfying, simple-to-prepare dish. It’s written for two but can easily be multiplied to feed 20, and you may want to make extra because I guarantee you’ll want a second helping.
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Purée genius: Kabocha squash and apple soup

Purée genius: Kabocha squash and apple soup

The onset of fall brings an array of gorgeous items to our local farmers’ markets and produce aisles, and that bounty includes squash. The orange, yellow and green-hued vegetable makes for great eats during the autumn and winter months and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Baked, braised, sauteed, steamed — you name the cooking technique and it can be applied to these members of the genus Cucurbita.

Squash is also a great addition to a healthy diet, as it’s a good source of fiber, vitamins A, B and C, iron and beta carotene, and is low in calories. It also makes an excellent lower-carb replacement for starches on your dinner plate.

The most common squashes used in cooking during this time of year are butternut and pumpkin. But c’mon folks, get a little more creative here — there are so many other types of squash to try!

That’s why I went with the kabocha (aka “Japanese pumpkin”) for the following soup recipe. The kabocha squash looks like a small green version of the common pumpkin. It’s a pain in the ass to peel, but definitely worth the effort as its meat is a bit sweeter than that of a pumpkin or butternut squash.

The kabocha squash pairs well with the flavor of apples (another fab fall fruit) so I decided to add some Gala apples, hard apple cider and Calvados (apple brandy) to the mix — because everything tastes better with booze.

Typically, you’ll see cinnamon used in this type of soup, but the often overlooked coriander and nutmeg make excellent flavor enhancers, balancing out the sweet notes with touches of savory ones.

As for garnish, I quickly caramelized some chopped Gala apples with brown sugar and cinnamon in a pan and sprinkled them on top. And forget drizzling cream or creme fraiche to finish it off (which is so overdone); sprinkle some crumbled blue cheese, like Maytag, on top. It pairs well with all of the warm flavors in this soup and lends it a tangy kick.

Get creative and experiment with different squashes in your cooking this season. From buttercup to delicata, from “Cinderella” to “Lunch Lady” varieties, there’s a world of flavors waiting for you in your produce aisle.
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