Archive for the ‘ Cheese ’ Category

CINCO DE MAYO RECIPES

If you celebrate Cinco de Mayo the way folks around here do, you’re going to need some serious grub to soak up the booze. The following recipes will not only satisfy any Mexican cravings, they’ll also lay down a base coat before your night gets going. Best of all? They can pretty much all be scaled up to feed a crowd. So enjoy responsibly and leave other Cinco de Mayo menu ideas in the comments.

TACOS, TOSTADAS, APPETIZERS

Tacos de Barbacoa

Chile-Braised Pork Tacos

Tacos de Cochinita Pibil

Red Chile Beef Tostadas

Taquitos

SALSAS & DIPS

Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

Guacamole

Habanero Hot Sauce

Chipotle Bean Dip

Crema Mexicana

ON THE SIDE

Smoky Chipotle Black Beans

NICE & REFRESHING

Agua de Horchata

JALAPEÑO POPPERS

If you are looking for a jalapeño popper that looks like this, then sadly, this recipe is not for you.  If, however, you are a popper purist looking for the authentic, crispy-fried variety, then you have come to the right place.

I’ve been looking for a good jalapeño popper recipe for some time now, and, after several failed attempts to find anything I could truly be proud of, I’ve finally cobbled together a version that lives up to the high bar set by frozen versions sold in bars around the country.  I tried everything: versions with fresh jalapeños, versions with cream cheese, fine breadcrumbs and egg batters.  These same iterations, were either raw, greasy or simply exploded in the frying oil. My winning version utilizes a combination of quality pickled jalapenos, a combo of cheddar and jack cheese, hot sauce and a buttermilk/panko batter.  Served alongside some buttermilk dip, and you have a appetizer that has few equals in the fabulous world of fried food.

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SPINACH, FETA & KALAMATA OLIVE STROMBOLI

I should start by saying that I’d never actually eaten stromboli before making this recipe.  After seeing a rendition on TV, I set out to make one in the style of Stuff Yer Face in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  Where most versions seem to be rolled into a pinwheel-like log, this version is more like a burrito — er, Hot Pocket.  Not quite a pizza, almost like a calzone, stromboli seemed like a perfect hand-held version of one of my favorite foods.  Then again, I’m the kind of person who likes to fold my pizza slices in half before biting into them — there’s just something so satisfying about biting into gooey cheese surrounded by crisp then chewy dough.

Sure enough, the ‘boli satisfied this particular craving. Cheesy, salty with tart feta cheese, chalk full of wilted spinach and steaming hot, if you even kind of like pizza (and who doesn’t?), then you’re going to like biting into one of these. Plus, if you have the dough on hand already, they’re easy enough to put together for a lazy weeknight dinner.

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SPINACH-GORGONZOLA PASTA

I should start by saying that this dish is rich — certainly not for those still trying to stick to their New Years resolution.  While cream sauced pasta might always be an off-limit item for calorie counters, it’s the Gorgonzola, ricotta and Parmesan cheese that makes this dish especially decadent and delicious.  It’s this same indulgent quality that has people lined up around the block at Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria, a neighborhood fixture in a small beach town called Capitola, a few miles south of Santa Cruz in Northern California.

I visited Gayle’s for the first time in college on an adventure to find a solid, quality meal and a break from the less-than inspiring food of the dining hall.  Craving something comforting more than anything, I felt right at home in front of their massive rotisserie and deli case packed with roasted chickens, slow barbecued ribs, potato salad and sandwiches.  The place was bustling with business and food was flying out the door but nothing seemed to be selling faster than the humble looking spinach-gorgonzola pasta.  As I remember it, not one customer left without ordering some.  So, like any smart food explorer, I did as the locals did and took some to-go.  After a few bites, it was obvious what all fuss was about.

Having moved away from Santa Cruz, I’m no longer able to take part in what became a near-weekly trip to Gayle’s for some of their signature pasta.  So feeling especially deprived of late, I searched for the restaurant online and was lucky enough to find that they’ve been giving out the recipe to their customers for years.  After making the dish at home this past weekend, I’m happy to report that it’s as soul-satisfying as I remember it.

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THAI CHICKEN PIZZA

Thai Chicken Pizza

When I told everybody I was making a barbecue chicken pizza for my website, people asked me why I wasn’t making Thai chicken pizza instead.  Truthfully, I didn’t realize it was such a beloved item on the California Pizza Kitchen menu.  I’ve always loved them — in fact, I almost ate my weight in the frozen version while I was in college — but I never realized that other people shared my same propensity.  For me (and apparently pretty much everyone else), there is something undeniable about the combination of aromatic peanut sauce, green onions and carrots, all  piled high on a chewy crust and topped with cheese. Not at all Italian, totally un-Thai, just “American” grub at its most adaptive.

The best part of making this particular pizza at home is you can get as creative as you want. I left off the usual bean sprouts, but you could certainly add them for extra crunch. And no need to break out the crushed red pepper flakes.  Here I use sriracha chili sauce to add a little bite, but of course, if spicy’s not your thing, feel free to leave it off. A sprinkling of freshly chopped Thai basil in addition to or in lieu of the cilantro (for those cilantro-haters out there) would be a perfect compliment to the sweet, salty flavor of the peanut sauce. No matter how you top it, if you like peanut sauce, you’ll love this pizza. Plus, no tipping necessary when you’re cooking out of your own kitchen.

Continued reading Thai pizza recipe . . .