Labneh is All You Need

I’m always a girl who needs something creamy in her meals, whether that’s a gooey cheese, a dollop of sour cream, or a soup finished with a little half and half. It’s what makes food sumptuous, and my favorite way to combine all of the luscious ingredients I just mentioned is labneh.

Labneh is a super-strained yogurt that is firmer and more flavorful that your standard Greek yogurt. If strained for more than a day, you actually end up with a product that’s closer to paneer than it is to its original iteration.

You can make your own or buy some from your local Mediterranean market–the Mersin brand is my favorite–but you’ll want to use it in everything once you have it on hand.

The Breakfast

One of my favorite ways to eat labneh is with a fried egg and some pita in the morning. The hot egg yolk paired with the cold labneh creates a lovely temperature sensation to enjoy with some toasted pita.

Add some kabseh or zaatar spice blends to top off the egg, the labneh, or both, and then give a drizzle of good olive oil. For this version, I also added chopped cherry tomatoes and pea shoots. It’s beautiful, wholesome breakfast in five minutes.

The Snack

Again, let’s start by toasting a little pita (though toast points would be great too!) and smearing a goodly amount of labneh on a plate. Top the labneh with a chili paste or oil of your choosing, though I definitely recommend the Trader Joe’s fermented Calabrian chiles. (Their harissa is also an excellent choice.)

Then you can add whatever else you’d like for color and texture. I fried these chickpeas in olive oil on the stovetop for five minutes and then topped with radish sprouts. Honestly, though, you can just add some spices of your choosing and some olive oil and call it snack o’clock!

The Side

Labneh is also a way to sexy up your roasted vegetable dishes. Roast your veggies as you normally would (usually about 20-25 minutes on 425). Once you remove the veggies from the oven, smear a nice coat of labneh on a serving plate. Top with your veggies, a little dried chili pepper of your choosing, and some fresh herbs. This pairing helps to brighten up root vegetables by adding a pop of acid to the dish.

Above, I’ve roasted carrots and topped the dish with Aleppo pepper and chopped carrot top greens and served with some sliced lemon.

The Showstopper

This year’s Christmas dinner was a roasted poussin, or a young chicken similar to a Cornish game hen, served over labneh. If you’d like to make something similar, rub your small bird down with a mixture of olive oil, room temperature butter, salt, ground black pepper, and any herbs of your choosing making sure to get under the skin. Roast in the oven at 400 for approximately 50 minutes or until the bird registers at 160.

Like some of the previous dishes, I use labneh as a base or sauce onto which I add the rest of the dish. Because I also love the way that labneh takes both spicy and herbal notes, I’ve roasted the bird with a garlic oil and finished the dish with an Urfa chili-infused olive oil and topped with chives and parsley. But this is where you get to make things your own though.

I hope you come to love labneh as much as I do. It’s an amazing way to make any dish feel extra special.

Veganize that Ramen!

A few months ago, Erin showed you the wonders of homemade Ramen. Her recipe is traditional and beautiful, and I highly suggest you read over it before we get to this vegan iteration I came up with.

Traditional Ramen has a lot of non-vegan elements to it (bone broth, some toppings, eggs too!), so I decided that I was going to give my newly vegan self a little challenge and base a Ramen variation off of Erin’s traditional recipe. Again, if you want the real secrets of Ramen, read Erin’s post! But if you’re vegan and would like a really nice substitute, I’ve got you covered.

INGREDIENTS

  • two large shitake mushrooms
  • veggie bullion or broth, or (my personal favorite) Vegetable Better Than Bullion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • one whole yellow onion
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of mirin
  • 1/2 cup of Bragg’s liquid amino
  • 3 tablespoons of miso paste
  • several packets of store-bought Ramen noodles (I personally like the brown rice/millet ones!)
  • your choice of toppings (I did miso-ginger roasted baby carrots, sunflower seeds, chopped cashews, and vegan chicken)

THE PROCESS

Thinly slice your onion. Put your olive oil in a large sauce pan, and add the onion. Cook low and slow for about 45 minutes until the onions are caramelized.

While you’re caramelizing your onion, thinly slice your mushrooms and mince your garlic. Add about two quarts of veggie broth (or water with veggie bullion) to a large pot. Add the mushrooms, garlic, mirin, liquid amino, and miso paste. Bring to a boil. I suggest boiling it the whole time it takes to caramelize your onions. Taste as you go, adding more of the elements as you see fit. (Remember, savory cooking is all about taste, not precision, so you’re the expert on what you want in terms of how much or little of the tare.)

While you’re caramelizing and boiling, get a little miso paste, a touch of water, and some ginger powder. Whisk together. Put your baby carrots on a baking sheet and cover them in it. Roast at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Heat up your vegan chicken patty.

When your onions are caramelized, add them to the broth and continue cooking for about 10 – 15 minutes. A serious, deeply flavored Ramen broth can take hours, but here’s the slight cheat we’re using: after you add your onions and simmer the flavor into the broth, we’re going to strain the broth into a large bowl. See all those solids left over? Put them and about a cup of broth into your blender and process. Add back to the broth. This gives you a flavor-punch, and makes your broth creamy. This is probably not traditional, but I guarantee you it’s delicious!

Boil your noodles in a separate pot of water for about 3 minutes. Take out of water, place in a bowl. Cover in broth and then add your toppings. Note! These toppings were just what I had on hand that were vegan, but if you want to go all-out, again, check out Erin’s post on Ramen!

That’s it, my dears! A vegan iteration of your Ramen noodles that you will not be disappointed by!

Fancy Butter

You well know that I love a fancy thing–whether that’s munching on homemade potato chips and cheap caviar or chopping up some beef for a tartare, I’m definitely a bougie bitch. But a bougie bitch who also loves cheap short cuts.

One of the my favorite of these is a compound butter, which is basically butter mixed with other ingredients therefore making it fancy. This is an easy thing that you can do to add instant flavor to meats, veggies, or, in this case, pasta.

The Ingredients

This iteration uses somen noodles, spinach, my homemade candy roaster miso, green onions, butter, and eggs.

For this recipe, I decided to make a miso and green onion butter, but honestly, you can make whatever combo you like. The classic one is thyme and lemon, but I’ve made ones with roasted garlic, with soy sauce, with all sorts of fresh herbs. The options are endless.

The Process

The first thing you need to do is to take your butter out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. (You can microwave it to soften it a touch if you’re short on time, but watch it closely…this won’t work if it’s melted.)

Finely chop whatever ingredients you’re adding to your butter. I tossed mine into my spice grinder, but you can do a fine chop in whatever way you’d like. (If you’re making a lot, a food process would work for this.)

You can also just chop the green onions like a normal person.

From there, you’ll want to add your softened butter and basically smash it all up until it’s thoroughly mixed either with a potato masher or in a food processor. After that, lay it on a piece of parchment paper (or plastic wrap) and roll it into a pretty log.

Sloppy butter log.

That’s it! If you don’t count the time it takes to soften the butter, this all comes together in under five minutes. Now store it in your fridge and use it on everything for the next week!

The Recipe

So now that you’ve got your compound butter, what do you do with it? My favorite is a take on buttery noodles. It’s simple and incredibly wholesome. You’ll feel like a kid again but without all that childhood trauma.

I like to use somen, a thin Japanese noodle, for this recipe, but honestly, you could use whatever you have around. (Angel hair would be a great substitute.)

You’ll also want a green thing. I had spinach from the farmer’s market on hand, but it would also be greeat with kale, radish greens, or bok choy, though if you’re using a heartier green, you’ll want to blanch it first.

I love a real spinach, not that tiny baby stuff.

Cook the noodles per the box instructions. Drain and then add in your greens to partially wilt. Then add one tablespoon of the compound butter per serving and mix well.

This one was made with my soy sauce compound butter so it’s a bit darker than the one I just made.

If you want to make this a more robust meal, fry an egg to top the whole thing off with. You could also add grated Parmesan at this point or a bit of diced green onion. It’s endlessly reworkable. This final version was served with a duck egg, sesame seeds, and garlic chili oil.

Final product.

Mix all of your ingredients together gently until the butter is melted. Then eat while warm. You’re going to love it.

Feeling Lazy? Amp Up Some Sandwiches!

If you’re like me, you love cooking, you love good food, but sometimes…sometimes…the thought of doing your dishes, cooking, eating, and doing your dishes again is just more than you can handle. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with these simple hacks that amp up your sandwiches!

VEGETARIAN HUMMUS-FETA SANDWICH

A NOTE ON BREAD

If you’re going to make a sandwich, make it count. The first thing you’ll need is good bread. Now this is a lazy-time hack, so I’m no recommending you make your own bread (though homemade bread is baller, and you should make it sometime if you haven’t). What I’m suggesting here is that you get yourself a great bread from a local bakery, or even a pretty-good loaf from your local grocery store. Don’t do sliced white bread, for the love of god. Get a full loaf, throw it in your oven for a few minutes to recrisp the crust and re-moisten the crumb. Yes, this is an extra step, but you will not regret it, and it takes minimal effort.

SANDWICH ONE: VEGETARIAN HUMMUS SANDWICH

This is by far my favorite healthy sandwich. I’m 95% vegan now, so I use vegan feta, but that’s not necessary for a healthy, tasty sandwich. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Homemade Hummus (Erin’s favorite hummus recipe is here. I like to add a little Sriracha for a kick, personally.)
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Shredded Carrots
  • Sprouts (bean, broccoli, alfalfa)
  • Avocado
  • Feta Cheese, Vegan or Regular (If you use vegan, this recipe will be entirely vegan)

DIRECTIONS

Take your oven-warm bread out and slice it. Put a generous amount of your homemade hummus on the bottom slice. Cut kalamata olives in half, place on hummus. Add shredded carrots next, then sprouts. Top with feta, and place top slice of bread on top of that. Slice down the middle and enjoy.

SANDWICH TWO: FAWNCY GRILLED CHEESE

Grilled cheese is hard to top. Well, you’ll never want to eat Kraft singles and white bread again after you taste this fancy version of grilled cheese.

  • Mayo
  • Goat Cheese
  • Thinly Sliced Granny Smith Apple
  • Honey

DIRECTIONS

Spread the mayo on the outside parts of your bread. You’ll be using this instead of butter. If you haven’t tried this grilled cheese hack yet, let me tell you: it’ll give you an even toast, and it won’t change the flavor much.

Spread the inside of the bread with a generous amount of goat cheese. Put a thin layer of green apple slices on the bottom slice of bread, and top that with a drizzle of honey. Assemble and toast as you would a normal grilled cheese, until the goat cheese is warm and melty. I love to serve this with a cold cucumber soup in the summer, which you can make by blending yogurt, de-seeded cucumbers, and dill, with some salt and pepper.

SANDWICH THREE: SPICY TUNA SALAD

Do you like a good tuna salad, but feel a little sick of mayo and tuna? Here is the hack you need: wasabi paste! This alone will amp up the flavor of your tuna salad, but we’re adding some fresh veggies, too.

  • Wasabi Paste, to taste
  • Mayo
  • One can or individual packet of tuna fish
  • shredded carrots
  • sprouts
  • sliced cucumber

DIRECTIONS

Put your tuna in a medium bowl and mix with your desired amount of mayo and wasabi paste. Spread on the bottom piece of toasted bread. Top with sliced cucumber, then top that with shredded carrots and sprouts. Voila! Healthy, protein-rich, and a little kick. Perfect lazy, tasty lunch!

If You’re Difficult Like Me, Maybe Go Vegan Just in Time for the Holidays

Quinoa, my gosh-darn favorite versatile super-food.

If you’ve been following along with this blog, you know I go back and forth between really healthy eating and not-so-healthy eating. Because I’m just a difficult person, I’ve decided my latest attempt at veganism is going to be just in time for the generally meat-soaked holidays (yeah, I used the term “meat-soaked”!). To get things right, and to give myself a wide variety of choices for meals, I stocked the heck out of my pantry and my refrigerator for some vegan feasts like vegan pizza, vegan mac and cheese, vegan scrambles, grade-school-style chik’n patties (made with chickpeas!), and more. In this post, I’m going to walk you through some of the things you want to stock up on if you want a wide variety of vegan meals at your fingertips. I mean, we all know produce and a variety of spices are the best, healthiest, tastiest way to go, but if you add these non-perishables or long-keeping items to your kitchen, you’ll have so many solid foundations to work from for a vegan diet.

TOFU

Well, yeah, tofu is going to be a no-brainer, because it’s so versatile. You can make cashew cheese, stir fries, creamy dips, and many many other things with this generally neutral soy-based product. I highly recommend, if you are using it in stir-fries or scrambles, to cut it into thin rectangles, and squeeze it between two paper towels and two cutting boards for at least 24 hours. Once you squeeze out the water and season it, you will be amazed at the firm texture and how it picks up the flavor of whatever you throw at it.

MISO PASTE

Not only will this other wonder soy product make a great base for soup, you can also use it in salad dressings to pack a huge flavor punch, or make an incredible sandwich spread with tahini, miso paste, and some water to thin it out a bit that will make any sandwich 1000x better (I had some beet burgers in my freezer that I hated — this spread was so good that I ate the rest of the box!).

NUTRITIONAL YEAST

Full of cheesy umami flavor, this flaky condiment is a go-to if you want to replicate mac and cheese, or just add some flavor to any vegan dish. It’s not active yeast, like you bake with, so don’t feel guilty about just sprinkling it!

WHEAT GLUTEN

If you’re going to make fake meat, from seitan to chik’n patties, you’re going to need some wheat gluten. It’s definitely not for gluten-sensitive people, but it will hold your meat substitutes together so well that you’ll forget your vegan.

NUTS

If you want to replicate the meaty filling to stuffed peppers or cabbage, or you want to make a vegan-style beef wellington (which I’m making for Thanksgiving!), you’re going to need a combination of nuts and mushrooms and onions, no question about it. Walnuts, almonds, and cashews all have a ton of nutritional value, are whole and healthy foods, and, when ground, help you make veggie burgers or other kinds of “ground meat” like meals.

QUINOA

Yes, I have sung the praises of quinoa before, I know it. But, seriously, this super-food is so healthy and good for you that you could literally live on it for a while if you had nothing else. You can add it to blends, or substitute it for white rice in stir-fries. It’s mildly nutty, and, I personally think, has more flavor that white or brown rice.

BRAGG’S PRODUCTS

Okay, I’ll admit I’m a bit of a devotee of the Bragg’s food products. Liquid Amino (which is like a healthier, lower sodium soy sauce), their nutritional yeast, their apple cider vinegar, their spice blend — these are all things I cannot live without in my kitchen, especially when I’m attempting veganism.

Pandemic Thanksgiving: Brining and Breaking Down a Turkey

Is it just you and the immediate fam for Thanksgiving this year? Thinking about skipping out on the turkey? Why miss an opportunity for $0.47/lb meat! (Seriously. That’s what it’s going for at my Kroger this week.)

In this pre-Thanksgiving installment of #apocalycious, I’m going to teach you not only how to brine a bird, but also how to take it down into more manageable portions so you can feast all through the winter.

The Brining

Brining was all the rage in the mid-00’s with every Food Network star telling you how to carefully mix your salt/sugar mixture for everything from turkey to pork chops. As a then-faithful follower of this cable cult, I too started to brine my turkey each year. And honestly, I’ve never overcooked a bird with this method.

To start, you’re going to need to clean out some space in your fridge. Enough space to put a 10 gallon bucket, which means eat up all of your goodies in advance of this project.

You’ll also need:

  • 1 10-gallon bucket
  • 1 trash bag (unscented)
  • 1 defrosted turkey
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Getting the bird bath together.

Put the trash bag into the bucket then put the turkey into the bag. Add your salt and sugar. At this point, you can just add water and call it a day. But I like to add other things to make my brine more flavorful. Sometimes this is quartered citrus and peppercorns. Other times it’s whatever beer or wine I have in the house with some fresh herbs. Below is a list of actual things I have previously put into my turkey brine–go wild!

  • White wine
  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Old English 40’s
  • Peppercorns
  • Bay leaves
  • Miller Lite
  • Rosemary (fresh or dried)
  • Sage (fresh or dried)
  • Parsley (fresh or dried)
  • Garlic (fresh or dried)
  • Onions (quartered)
  • Jalapeños (sliced)
  • Dried reaper peppers

Whatever you add is going to impart flavor and make the bird even more delicious. I recommend some mix of acid (wine, beer, or citrus), herbal (anything from Scarborough Fair), and allium (garlic, onions, shallots).

Oranges, lemons, bay leaves, onions, garlic, peppercorns, and jalapeño went into this one!

Add these in with your turkey, then fill it with lukewarm water so that the water comes just above the bird. Tie the garbage bag, and put the whole thing in the fridge for 3 days.

When you’re ready to cook the turkey, just remove it from the bag and gently rinse it off. At this point, you can roast it whole or take it down into its components.

The Butchery

For this process you’re going to need the following:

  • A large sharp knife
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Either a vacuum sealer and bags OR gallon-sized freezer bags

Give your turkey a little pat down beforehand to make it less slippery. Then pull one of the legs away from the breast. Take your knife and cut through the skin and meat to the bone. For smaller turkeys, you may be able to find the joint and cut through. For larger ones, sometimes you need to pull the leg away from the body until the joint snaps. Once you have a place to cut through, remove the leg and set aside.

Repeat this process for other leg and both wings.

At this point, the thighs will basically be dangling off. Go ahead and trim those off so all you’re left with are the two breasts.

Once you’ve removed the wings, legs, and thighs, you’ll need to break out the kitchen scissors and use them to cut along both sides of the spine. This is pretty easy going until you get to the tailbone, which you may need to use your knife to work through. This process is called spatchcocking. (Teehee.)

Be sure to save the spine to make stock later on! (If you make broth in the Instantpot, I’d go ahead and use a cleaver to whack this into two pieces since the whole thing will not fit.)

The final step is to cut along the breastbone in order to separate the breast into two pieces. This can be done with just the knife.

And there you have it! A whole 14-lb pre-brined turkey in pieces! Now you can make fried turkey legs for your quarantine Renaissance Faire, smoked turkey wings for a sports ball night, roasted turkey thighs for a real treat (seriously!), and of course a baked turkey breast that you can use for sandwhiches, soups, etc. Also consider tossing one of those breasts in the InstantPot with some water for 30 minutes and then pull the turkey and freeze it in separate containers for soups!

There’s no reason you can’t enjoy turkey on Thanksgiving this year just because you don’t have 10-20 people to feed it to. You just need to be 10 people over the coming months as you eat through your $7 holiday bird!

Treat Yourself – An Intro to Steak & Fries

As you’re probably aware, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I get bored with certain foods easily, and I am always hunting for my new favorite recipe. However, sometimes there’s nothing better than a simple steak. No fancy toppings. No herbed butter sauces. Just meat and salt. And you know, some sexy steak frites.

The Steak

Other than salt and pepper, this is literally all that goes into this meal.

Sure you can go wild with how much you spend on a cut a beef, which can also making cooking steak intimidating and feel like it’s something you need a special occasion for. Remember, YOU are the special occasion, and you deserve it.

I’ve had *very* expensive steaks before. I’ve cooked wagyu and kobe at home. I’ve grilled a two-pound cowboy cut of prime beef. But honestly, what I love the most is a good skirt steak. These cuts are always well-marbled (fat is flavor), quick to cook, and require almost no thinking.

When steak shopping, looking for something that has a decent amount of fat, not on the cap but running through the meat. This fat will melt as you cook it, making sure your steak is juicy and tender. Most skirt steaks are already there by the nature of the cut, but you can definitely take a minute to find the best one. You’re treating yourself. Don’t try to go lean.

If you like your steak on the raw end of rare, like I do, make sure to bring your meat to room temperature before you cook it. This will mean that the rarer bits won’t be cold. Some folks will tell you to salt your meat beforehand, but I like to top mine with a crunchy sea salt for texture, so I leave this step out entirely.

Look at all that sexy marbling. Also, I have a grill on my stove, so I just threw it directly onto that bad boy.

Before you grill your steak, take a paper towel and lightly dry the meat off. This will keep the moisture from coming out into the pan and preventing a good crust while also steaming (ick) your meat.

To cook, turn on the broiler in your oven, then heat your grill pan (it needs to be something that can go in the oven, so no plastic handles) to smoking. No need for oil or butter or anything. When everything is ready (this process goes fast), just drop your steak on the grill and transfer to under the broiler. Depending on the thickness of the steak (and how rare you like it), you’ll cook it in the oven for 3-4 minutes then flip it over for another 2-4 minutes. Because you are using the direct heat of the broiler, you can leave the oven cracked to keep an eye on it.

When it’s cooked to your liking, remove the steak onto a plate and tent it with aluminum foil for at least 5 minutes so that the meat can reabsorb its juices. To plate, cut the skirt steak into strips about one inch wide. Serve with choice of sides, freshly ground black pepper, and crunchy sea salt. (I like this one.)

The Frites

When making fries, if you have the option of using Kennebec potatoes, DO IT! They are the absolute best potatoes for frying. Watch for them at your local farmer’s market.

If you haven’t yet invested in a mandolin yet, it will definitely make your fry-making easier. However, if you don’t have one, try to cut your potatoes into fairly consistently sized strips. (If using the fancy cutter, put on the larger of the two blade types.) Once you’ve cut your potato, put the future fries into a bowl of ice water for at least 30 minutes. This will draw out the starch and make for crispier fries.

But like seriously, use the hand guard.

While these are soaking, go ahead and make your aioli. You can make one from scratch, but you can also be lazy like me and just mix together some kewpie mayo (the most superior of mayos!) and finely minced garlic with a pinch of salt and whatever else you’d like to add! Mix well and pop in the fridge until dinner.

I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again, just go ahead and buy that deep-fryer. Look, you’re not going out and those fries don’t just make themselves. Fryers are safer than doing the same work on the stove, and you can reuse the oil, which means they will save you money in the long-run. You can set temperatures more consistently, which will be helpful for this recipe.

Turn your fryer to 325 degrees. While the oil is heating, drain your fries and pat them dry. (If they’re wet, the oil will spatter, and trust me, you do not want that.) Once the fryer is at the right temperature, drop the fries for six minutes. Then remove and drain. Work in batches as necessary.

Turn your fryer up to 360 degrees. When the temperature is right, drop your fries for a second cooking for two minutes. When they are done, drain them, salt them, and eat immediately with your steak and maybe a nice glass or two of the wine of your choosing, because you are treating yourself after all.

Okay, so I made a little salad too. We’ll get to that!

Caribbean Chowder

It curious to me that chowder became associated with winter foods since all of the items traditionally in a chowder–corn, potatoes, onions, tomatoes (if you’re a heathen)–are all summer vegetables. And there’s no shame in loving a good soup year-round.

If you want to make the most of the last of the corn at the market while also enjoying the first day of fall, this is the chowder for you!

The Ingredients

I missed the corn at the market last week, so frozen will do.

If you’re making seafood-centric iteration of this dish, I recommend a seafood stock (here I have crab stock because I’m a bougie bitch who doesn’t throw anything away, but you can also use a chicken broth or bouillon), coconut milk, and whatever seafood you have laying around–shrimp, fish, a can of smoked oysters, doesn’t matter. If you want to make this vegan, which is super easy to do, just bulk up your veg with more corn and maybe some zucchini or summer squash, and trade out the seafood stock for vegetable stock..

You’ll also need the chowder basics–corn, potatoes, onions, garlic–and I like to bulk mine up a little with some other vegetables, here carrots, celery, and a fresh cayenne pepper. I love paprika and thyme in this dish as well, but you can play around with other options. If you’re out of garlic or don’t have a fresh pepper, dried is fine.

The Process

Make sure our veg is bite-sized if background items. If you’re going vegetarian, chunkier bits are fine.

Dice all of your vegetables along with your potato and then sauté in the oil of your choosing with a good pinch of salt on medium for 3-5 minutes until the onions begin to sweat. Add your dried spices (again, paprika and thyme are my go-to) and cook a minute longer. Then add the stock (and a bay leaf if that’s your jam) so that it covers your vegetables by about two inches.

Bring to a low boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Just bubbling along.

While the soup is simmering, chop your seafood into bite-sized pieces, if necessary. If you’re going vegetarian, you can skip this step.

Chopped shrimpies.

When the soup is done simmering, add in 1/4 of a can of coconut milk per serving. (This variation here was made for two people, so I used 1/2 of a can.) Bring back to a low boil. At this point, you’ll want to taste your soup to make any adjustments for salt, spice, and other seasoning. You can also add a splash of hot sauce if so desired.

Creamy and delicious.

Now add your seafood and simmer until just cooked through, about two minutes.

To serve, add to bowl and top with fresh herbs of your choosing. I personally recommend cilantro and green onion, but basil or fresh thyme would be equally lovely.

And now you’re living that sweet sweet island chowder life. Close your eyes. It’s like there’s an ocean somewhere, making ocean sounds.

Mmmmm. Chow-dah.

Seafood Chowder! Chowda!

The cold weather is starting to set in, and that means it’s time for even more comfort food. This week, Erin and I will be bringing you two iterations of chowder. I’m going to start off with a creamy seafood chowder with salmon and scallops. This recipe is simple, delicious, filling, and comforting, perfect for the early stretch of fall when the days are getting cooler.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • a four quart pot
  • seafood broth or water
  • celery
  • carrots
  • onion
  • garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a quart of whole milk or cream
  • half a stick of butter
  • 1/2 a cup of flour
  • a bag of frozen scallop pieces
  • 2 frozen salmon filets

To start, you’ll want to fill a four-quart pot with water or seafood broth. No worries if you can’t find seafood broth, we’re going to make this soup either way!

Next, you’ll finely dice your onion, carrot, and garlic. Put them in the pot of boiling water or broth, and let them cook for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until soft.

Next, you’re going to add your frozen salmon. You want to cook it until it flakes apart with a fork and imbues the broth with its flavor.

Okay, here’s the part that’s partially up to you: do you want a very heavy, rich broth, or are you going to go a little lighter? Either way, while you decide, you’ll melt your butter in a sauce pan and make a roux with the flour. You do this by mixing in the flour and stirring consistently until it thickens and browns slightly. After this, you’ll take your whole milk or cream and add it to the roux, stirring constantly until it becomes thicker.

Now that your thickened cream is ready, put the frozen scallop pieces in the pot of boiling broth. They’re a little more delicate than the salmon, and you’ll want to cook them less time, just until soft. I use the pieces for this recipe because they’re already broken apart, and less expensive, but you can use whole scallops, as well.

When your scallops are just about cooked and your salmon is flaking apart, you’ll add the thickened cream to the broth. Note here: if you use milk, you may have to thicken the brother to your liking — you can do so with flour and hot water made into a paste and stirred slowly into the broth, or by adding some sour cream. If you use the heavy cream, you should get a nice, thick consistency.

Pimento Cheese, Please

If you’re not from the South, pimento cheese may be a mystery to you. Is it a cheese that you buy in a block? Is it a cheese that comes in a jar? What the heck is a pimento anyway?

Pimento cheese is a cheese spread that you can put on crackers or Alex’s homemade baguettes, that is creamy and, for me, a bit spicy. And honestly, it’s so much better homemade that you’ll never buy one of those scary orange tubs again.

The Ingredients

Mayo, sharp cheddar, hot sauce, dried pepper, onion, fresh pepper, garlic.

The most important trick to making your own pimento cheese is that you MUST GRATE THE CHEESE. Do not skip this step by using pre-grated cheese, which has a floury coating on each strip to keep it from sticking to the other cheese pieces. If you use pre-grated cheese, your dip will have a grainy, unpleasant texture that you’re definitely not looking for.

You’ll also need mayo (which works as the binder), onion of some sort (I usually use 2 green onions, but whatever is handy), a fresh pepper (choose your spiciness), garlic, a hot sauce, and some dried hot pepper (cayenne is easiest).

The Process

Chopped veg.

Finely chop your onion and peppers and mince your garlic in a garlic press. I went with two fresh cayenne peppers for this version, but you can use jalapeños, poblanos, banana peppers, whatever you have around.

A traditional pimento cheese uses diced and cured pimiento peppers, which are a little sweet and not at all hot. Personally I think that the heat helps to balance the heaviness of the fat in the dish and helps to cut through it a bit. But all of this is entirely up to your taste buds and/or what’s around the house!

You MUST grate your own cheese for this dish.

Next grate your cheese (I recommend an extra sharp cheddar, but you can use whatever block of cheese you have around) on the widest setting on your box grater. This will make it appropriately chunky.

Mix your cheese together with your diced vegetables and then add about 1/2 tsp dried pepper, 1 tsp hot sauce, and a generous sprinkle of salt to start.

Then add your mayo one tablespoon at a time, stirring everything just until the mixture is holding together like a dip. If you don’t have mayo (or if you want to lighten it up), you can also use sour cream or a mixture of both.

Shoot for this consistency.

Keep tasting the dip and adding more hot sauce (if it needs more acid) or cayenne (if it needs more heat). Remember, this is up to your flavor preferences. If you hate spicy food, stop where you started.

And that’s it! You can eat it with a spoon right out of the bowl, spread it on crackers, or use it as the cheese in a nacho cheese sauce or macaroni and cheese base. Or, you can do as I did, make yourself a pimento grilled cheese on a delicious baguette.

Pimento Cheese Sandwich

Making some grilled pimento cheese.

The traditional pimento cheese sandwich is basically pimento cheese on white bread served cold; not really my style, alas. For this dish, I put the cheese between two pieces of baguette and made it grilled-cheese style on the stove top with a bit of butter. Grilled until toasty. Consumed. The cheese will get a little melty, but will will be a bit cold in the center, which is an excellent temperature combo with the crispy baguette!

About as easy as it gets! Also makes great finger food at parties, when we can have them again.

Finished product. Nom.