Category Archives: Cheese and Butter!

This Red, White and Blue No-Bake Berry Cheesecake is perfect for your 4th of July

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What a great holiday the Fourth of July can be!  It’s always a day of sunshine, relaxation and family.  The beach, the pool; cold, light grown-up drinks.  Sweet watermelon, crispy fried chicken and spicy deviled eggs are summer favorites.  Hamburgers and hotdogs sizzle on the grills manned by our husbands, fathers and boyfriends patiently braving the searing heat to give us the platters of perfectly prepared foods we crave.  Our American celebration of independence is particularly precious this year in light of all that has happened in our world the past few weeks.  Our 4th get-togethers speak of the value we give our loved ones.  We choose to spend time with them.  We long for those dear, dear days when afternoons with our special people unravel slowly, leisurely and we have the luxury of wiling away the hours laughing or relaxing in silence enjoying their presence.  Yes, the Fourth of July allows us to slow down and appreciate a relaxed and easy commemoration of independence.  That said, I’m going to make my Fourth simple, stress-free AND gloriously delicious.  Dessert will be this make-ahead No-Bake Berry Cheesecake.  Cold and not too sweet; it can easily be made one or two days prior to serving.  Any berries may be used, however, if cut strawberries are to be used keep in mind the juices will bleed into the cream cheese mixture.  And it’ll be pretty but it will be pink…-ish.  This dessert may be assembled in single-serving cups of your choice or in a large trifle bowl.  I’ve even called into service big, crystal flower vases for a more dramatic presentation.  I’ll tell you, though, it all looks pretty darn good.  So here’s to a Fourth of July gathering that honors all we hold priceless…liberty, tolerance, individualism, justice and objectivity.  I’m certain we’ll all do a good job of that!

No-Bake Berry Cheese Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature, reduced fat is fine but not fat free
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups Greek yoghurt, make sure it’s a thick one, like Fage
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 cups assorted fresh berries plus any to garnish
  1. In a small bowl mix the pecans, granulated sugar, graham cracker crumbs and butter until thoroughly combined.  Set aside.
  2. Place the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a separate bowl and, using a hand mixture on medium speed, beat until well combined.
  3. To the cream cheese mixture add the Greek yoghurt and vanilla extract.  Mix well.  Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl whip the cream until soft peaks form.
  5. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.
  6. Divide the graham cracker mixture evenly between the serving glasses.  Do not pack down.
  7. Spread a good inch of cream cheese filling over cookie crumbs in each glass.
  8. Top filling with an inch of berries followed by cream cheese, layering until you get to the top of each glass.
  9. Garnish with berries and a sprig of mint.
  10. Chill a minimum of 6 hours up to 2 days.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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Puff Pastry Tart with Goat Brie, Ricotta and Zucchini

There’s not much better on a Friday evening than mouth-watering, delectable dinner that’s put together with ingredients you happen to have on hand.  Having discovered some time ago goat brie at Trader Joe’s, I thought maybe I would incorporate it into some sort of puff pastry tart for dinner.  Looks like any brie but this one has a strong, goaty flavor that’s positively sublime, and, yes, now I am an addict.  If you’re not able to locate it, the combination of a small wheel of brie chopped and mixed a small amount of chevre, goat cheese, will also work quite well.   I wanted a creamy backdrop to support the brie and  one small container of ricotta was the perfect foil, rich and spreadable but not as gooey as mozzarella.  An egg to bind, some fresh basil,  zucchini ribbons, a quick drizzle of a fragrant, green olive oil and I had one gorgeous, undemanding dinner.  The only fly in the ointment was neither of my boys had gotten home yet.  Jimmy was speaking at some conference and James catching up with a co-worker he had worked with on a gubernatorial campaign.  All fine and well but, hey, dinner’s ready!  I chased away the feeling of discouragement by serving myself the prettiest part of the tart.  Cut into quarters, my portion had the most browned, runny, chewy bits of cheese.  Not exactly first prize but I’ll take second prize any day.  I had prepared a splendid salad of leaf lettuce dressed lightly with creme fraiche; the requisite glass of Malbec had been poured.  Each bite was a song of flavors. The buttery puff pastry gave a satisfying crunch as did the barely cooked zucchini.  But the goat cheese was the star of that musical.  Not too sharp and  creamy-dreamy, the brie made its presence known in every bite.  Happy Friday night to me!

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Puff Pastry Tart with Goat Brie, Ricotta, Basil and Zucchini

This tart may be made with fresh baby spinach or fresh basil leaves.  If you have a handful of some strong, flavorful cheese and you want to get rid of it, it’s most welcome in this dish.  I’ve  used the odd bits of Gruyere and even used the last quarter cup of bagged, shredded Publix brand 4-cheese Italian .  One cup of marinated artichoke hearts roughly chopped is lovely, too.

  • 1 puff pastry sheet, I use Pepperidge Farm, keep chilled until assembling tart
  • 1 wheel goat brie 4.4 ounces, or cow’s brie with 3 or 4 ounces of chevre added
  • 1 15-ounce ricotta, fat-free is great…that’s all I use in this tart
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 12-15 zucchini ribbons made with a vegetable peeler or mandolin
  • fresh spinach, washed and dried, as much as you like to scatter on top, optional
  • fresh basil, cut into strips, optional
  • 1 cup marinated artichokes, drained well and roughly chopped, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil to drizzle when serving
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. In a medium size bowl place a paper towel.  Gently dump the ricotta cheese on the paper towel, bring the corners of the towel around the cheese and softly press all excess liquid away.  Turn cheese back into the bowl and discard towel.
  3. Roughly cut the brie into 1/2 chunks and add to ricotta.
  4. Add the egg to the cheeses.
  5. If using spinach, basil or artichokes add to cheese/egg mixture and mix well.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Cover baking sheet with tin foil.
  8. Open puff pastry on floured  surface.
  9. With a rolling-pin, use a cold wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling-pin, quickly roll puff pastry out to a 12″X15″ rectangle.  Don’t fret.  It doesn’t have to be perfect but you do want to keep the dough cold so move fast.
  10. Using your finger or a small brush and a little water paint a 1/4″ rim around the entire rectangle.
  11. Fold 1/4″ of dough from the edge each of the four sides of the rectangle onto the wet area to make a collar or dam, if you will, to keep in the cheese mixture.  Press the dough firmly to adhere to the water painted dough.
  12. Cover the puff pastry evenly with the cheese mixture just up to the folded edge and  smooth the top.
  13. Arrange the zucchini on top of the cheese, flat and on its side to resemble a lovely jumble of green ribbon.
  14. Bake 45-60 minutes until corners are browned and top is slightly browned.
  15. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

 

Feta, Honey and Black Pepper Appetizer

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Greece 2016…and I can’t wait!  With a bangin’ new pair of sunnies I had been lusting after, also came the Christmas gift of vaca back in Greece this coming summer.  Although it’s hot and the sun shines year round in south Florida, it’s a different kind of heat.  There’s no humidity; it’s dry as a bone.  In all the years we’ve been traveling to Greece we’ve experienced rain TWICE.  That’s it.  Two times.  I’ve never been in the winter but the photos I’ve seen are gorgeous.  We typically travel to the Northern Aegean where they have seasons including autumn and winter.  It snows often, not huge amounts, just enough to be pretty.  And fall brings blustery winds that sometimes are downright cold!  Greeks are incredibly social people but the colder weather does at times keep them inside.  But we’ll be back for summer on Lesvos, where the white-hot rays of sunlight can be blinding and the ink-black night skies are covered with thousands of stars that look like tiny, twinkling pin-pricks.  That’s the Greece I love.  From the balcony of the bar at the resort where we stay, which juts out over the twisted, silver trunks of ancient olive trees; or our breezy balcony nestled into the side of a hill, to the waterfront dinners at the harbor of Molyvos, the night skies are a galactic showcase.  Anywhere on this magnificent island is the best place to star gaze.  So, more often than not, it’s Molyvos where we watch the sun set and the stars come out.  Along with all the locals and tourists, albeit not many tourists but there are some, we scan the harbor restaurants for the best seats of the night at the best eating places.  Sturdy, ladder-back chairs with woven rush seating do not beckon as they are not known for comfort.  But that is all you’ll find at the harbor; each leaning against the table on two legs until their patron for the night whips them out, legs clattering against the smooth but uneven cobblestones, and plops down.  All tables are square but can be quickly joined together for larger groups.  Each table is covered with a paper tablecloth, usually white with a large, blue map of the island printed in the middle.  And since the nights are typically windy, the table coverings are held down in one of two ways.  Either a huge, knotted, cloth-covered elastic, (think your hair!), slipped over and under the lip of the table or four steel pins which slide over the table rim, one on each side.  Really, really standard.  Any person reading this who has been to Greece is probably shaking their head, chuckling and thinking, “yup”.  I haven’t been the biggest fan of Greek wine here in the States but in Greece it’s a whole other kettle of grapes.  Wine is produced everywhere and produced well.  Think Plato and Socrates.  And don’t forget Dionysus, god of wine.  I’ve only had excellent cold, crisp whites and big, full-bodied reds and typically these are house wines.  Glasses in hand, we peruse the menus we know by heart.  We pretty much order the same dishes from our own predictable menu.  We begin with maybe a small bowl of local olives in olive oil with fresh oregano strewn on top.  While savoring those we might discuss what time we want to pick up the ferry to the other side of the island for tomorrows adventure.  I always go with early so we have the day ahead of us but that’s just me.  Plus the air is cold and fresh, the morning sunlight is blinding on the water, the salt spray is positively intoxicating.  The captain and I usually kick our shoes off and sometimes he lets me take over.  Scary but true!

And you thought I was telling stories.
And you thought I was telling stories.

Post olives we may order some grilled bread and a little feta.  Dinner we’ll share.  The ever-present and proper Greek salad comes out crisp and oh, so satisfying.  Grilled octopus?  Sounds good.  With lemon and olive oil.  And it comes with french fries which I never order but can’t keep my hands off.  Greek french fries can be exquisitely delectable.  Fried in olive oil from the island to a golden crisp, dusted with fresh rosemary and local sea salt they are a treat.  Jimmy and I don’t really order meat in Greece because the Greek cuisine treats vegetables and fish so well.  The seafood and produce are like nothing we can get in the states.  Typically the owner of the restaurant or taverna will bring out a platter of fresh fruit with the check.  The fruit is their gift for patronizing their establishment.  Gorgeous, hot pink slabs of watermelon are common.  Or you may be surprised with fresh figs.  It’s heaven and I can’t wait!

Grilled bread with olive oil and fresh oregano and warm olives in olive oil round off this presentation. I also offer a small pot of honey for those who'd like more.
Grilled bread with olive oil and fresh oregano and warm olives in olive oil round off this presentation. I also offer a small pot of honey for those who’d like more.

This is a wonderful hors d’oeuvre which can be served alone or on a platter with other indulgences.  And you don’t really need amounts.  Let me walk you through this.  Place your Greek feta, and PLEASE purchase a high quality feta.  None of this store brand in cryovac, okay?  Anyway, put your feta on your tray or platter.  Drizzle it well with your favorite honey.  Throw a pinch of red pepper flakes on the cheese and follow with a heavy dusting, or to your taste, of freshly cracked black pepper.  Present and enjoy with pride!

Welcome Your Guests with Pimento Cheese

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When our son, James, was doing his undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill Jimmy and I would visit any chance we got.  That translates to any time James invited us up. Parent’s weekends, football games, basketball games and then fraternity parent’s weekends we went to all of them!  And when we did, Jimmy always did his best to secure rooms at the Carolina Inn.  No easy feat as it seems to always be entirely booked, the inn is right on campus complete with a killer porch, massive columns, first-rate restaurant and a more than welcoming bar that gives day-drinking new meaning.  The lobby and rooms all call attention to classical Southern design and appointments.  Colossal flower arrangements grace the entrances replete with all manner of lilies, roses, peonies, orchids and hydrangea; lush berries, ivy and drippy greenery tucked in here and there make the flowers spectacular.  Fat tropical palms flank doorways and stand as sentries on duty at each end of sofas.  Lavish fabrics dress the floor to ceiling windows, chairs and pillows.  Quite frankly, I want to live there.

Oh, please let me go back!
Oh, please let me go back!

On our way to our rooms our footsteps echo reassuringly against the gleaming, burnished wood floors.  All halls have original black and white photographs hung from the chair-rail up of visiting dignitaries,  alumni and sports giants so captivating that Jimmy and I would take our cocktails and wander up and down passageways reading and exploring every once in a while exclaiming, “Oh, wow!  Look at this! It’s Andy!”.  That would be extended family member, (not really but we adore him), Andy Griffith of Mayberry fame.  Literally hundreds of photos of presidents, civil rights leaders and movie stars all grace the walls and never cease to capture attention always making me late for which ever function we were expected.  The suites were unfailingly enchanting showcasing the rich traditions of the gentile South.  A tantalizing tray showcasing their sharp and spicy pimento cheese heightened by the addition of bread sticks, carrot and celery stalks, pecans and grapes.  Sometimes drink coupons peeped out from a corner of the goody platter.  The Carolina Inn pimento cheese, (known in the South as “puhmenuh cheese”), is some of the best I’ve ever had.  Jimmy and I closed in on their offering like ducks on June bugs.  Weary from travel, I closed my eyes and savored each and every bite.  It was the perfect pick me up until dinner which would be hours later.  Piquant, peppery and tangy this spread begs to be slathered on soft, fluffy bread or perched atop crunchy crudite accompanied by seasonal fruits and nuts. Hell, this stuff is fabulous alongside a bowl of crinkle cut potato chips.

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The following recipe has been refashioned slightly to accommodate today’s fascination with heat and spice.  Purists won’t be happy, but, hey, they never are.  If you’re not keen on sriracha, cayenne pepper is a fine replacement or, if you’re not a fan of heat, leave it out entirely.  Both jarred and homemade mayonnaise work well in this recipe.  I had one cup of homemade already on hand and used 1/2 cup of reduced fat Duke’s for the remainder.  It’s best when chilled for an hour or so just because not only do the flavors meld but the texture becomes creamier.  Well covered, it will keep two to three days refrigerated.  I made grilled pimento cheese sandwiches the other night and, boy, was my family happy.  Not only is pimento cheese a culinary treat for adults but kids love it, too.  So slip some into your child’s lunchbox or trot it out with cocktails at your next LNO, (Ladies’ Night Out), and watch those eyes light up.

 

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Pimento Cheese

  • Servings: 7 generous cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 7-ounce jar diced pimentos, drained
  • 1/4 small onion, finely grated
  • 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, more if desired
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, (I use 2 or it can be left out altogether if you don’t like heat)
  1. Into a large bowl grate the cheddar cheese using the large holes of a box grater.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  3. Cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

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Kale Salad with Sour Cherries, Frico, Toasted Pecans and Buttermilk Dressing – the last summer salad

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It is STILL summer.  In spite of Target’s back-to-school onslaught, New York city’s fall fashion blitz and the legions of Facebook women dreaming of their first sip of Autumn’s pumpkin spice coffee.  It’s 93° outside right now, with a “real feel” of 109°.  It’s hot.  Lord, it’s hot.  I don’t care how low the AC is set in the car I cannot cool off.  Water trickles down my back into my panties.  My hair hangs flat and listless no matter how much volume product I put on my roots.  But I can still power-walk outside under the gorgeous columns of palms and Florida oaks.  I can lazily float in the pool.  And I can sip rum drinks on that said float.  I can always cool off.  Not so for the cold.  But even when the asphalt is screaming hot, come August we start thinking of the cooler days ahead.  This salad is ideal with the combination of lightness in the kale and the dressing and the more substantial feel of the frico, sour cherries and toasted pecans.  It’s an easy segue to a more filling meal.  Frico is merely baked parmesan and let me tell you it’s a staple in MY kitchen.  Company drops by unannounced? Throw a tray of shredded or grated parm in the oven and minutes later you have a bangin’ hors d’oeuvre perfect to serve with cocktails.  It’s salty and savory, completely unexpected, highly distinctive.  After letting the sheet of frico cool a few minutes it can be broken into cracker sized pieces and served.  How easy is that?  Oh, you want more?  Okay.  Spread the parmesan cheese in long ovals on your parchment paper.  After baking and completely cooled carefully peel the parchment paper off the oval strips.  Use them as a crouton or bread stick jutting stylishly out of your salad or soup.  Toss a bit of allspice or freshly cracked black pepper into the unbaked cheese and then bake for an even more complex flavor.  Crush the frico into crumbs and scatter atop a lobster mac ‘n cheese or really any casserole.

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Frico.Is.Great.Stuff.  Wait, wait!  Guess what?  It lasts weeks.  The longest it’s stayed in this house is a week and a half.  Little mystery hands keep nibbling at it.  And if you store it in an air-tight container it remains as crisp as the day you pulled it out of the oven.  There are only two rules you have to keep in mind.  The unbaked cheese has to be scattered over parchment paper and the frico has to cool completely before storing in order to maintain its crispness.  But other that, easy-peasy.  Now on to this dressing.  I know some people are downright scared of buttermilk but don’t be.  Look what it does to biscuit and fried chicken.  This particular buttermilk dressing is lemony, tangy and oh so light.  I use non-fat Greek yoghurt, Duke’s Light mayonnaise and reduced fat buttermilk and it still finishes silky, cool and inviting.  It’s my new favorite salad dressing.  I make it in a mini-food processor but it can be prepared in a blender or with a stick or immersion blender.  I’ve mentioned in other posts that when making a salad with kale it pays to “massage” it with a few drops of olive oil.  After discarding the tough stems and chopping the greens into small pieces squeeze the kale as if you are kneading dough or squishing mud between your fingers. This breaks down the leaves a bit making the salad more tender.  Use both hands and rough it up for a few minutes.  When you finish you’ll see the size of salad greens has been reduced.  If you wish to use less kale you can also chop some romaine lettuce but mix it in AFTER you massage the kale.

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I haven’t given amounts for the salad part because everyone has their own preference.  There is no right or wrong way to assemble it.  If you don’t like pecans use walnuts or almonds.  Just make sure you roast them in the oven for a few minutes to bring out their sweet flavor.  If you don’t care for nuts, leave them out.  Same with the dried cherries, although they are truly outstanding in this salad.  Go ahead and substitute them with dried cranberries or blueberries.  I typically get my dried berries in big bags at Costco.  Homemade spicy croutons are fabulous tossed into this dish and if you have dinner guests they’ll certainly give you thanks for that special touch.  So let’s get to it!

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Buttermilk Salad Dressing

  • Servings: approximately 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Add all the ingredients to your blender or food processor and process for 1 minute.  The dressing will be smooth with small bits of lemon zest and cheese.
  2. Chill until serving.

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Frico

  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Line a standard jelly roll pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper, one on top of the other.  It is imperative that you use parchment paper or you won’t be able to get the frico out of the pan. Parchment also gives you prettier more evenly baked  cookies and cakes so you will be using this paper often if you don’t already.  Makes clean up easy.  It is your friend.
  3. Scatter the cheese over the parchment paper in an even layer.  It’s fine if small spots of paper show through.  It’ll kind of look like lace.
  4. Bake 6 minutes or until golden.  The darker it becomes the crisper it becomes.
  5. Hold both layers of parchment and place frico, still on the paper, on a cooling rack.
  6. Allow to cool until easy to handle before breaking into pieces.  The frico will peel right off of the parchment.
  7.  Store in a tightly covered container when completely cooled.

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Homemade Ricotta for an Easy Saturday

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Saturday was boiling hot.  The “Real Feel” temperature when I left to work out was 108°.  It was not a day for baking or watching over bubbling pots on the stove.  No, something cool and pretty for dinner was in order and while dinner was being assembled one hand needed to be occupied with a cold summer cocktail.  I didn’t want anything processed…y’all know that ain’t me, babe.  I wanted something cool and easy but substantial and rich in flavor.  I had almost all the ingredients on hand and most were already prepared.  Lemons, shelled pistachios, fresh thyme, garlic and whole grain bread are always to be found in my kitchen.  There’s about a 95% chance you’ll almost always find fig preserves in my refrigerator. The only thing I had to prepare was the ricotta.  For lasagne I’ll buy store-bought but for a dish more delicate I make my own.  I want the ricotta to sing with freshness AND it’s easier than getting in the car and driving to and from the store.  Here’s my summer secret.  It’s made in the microwave.  Isn’t that great?  No hot kitchen.  I’m going to post the recipe for homemade ricotta below but before I do let me tell you how I served it.  Lightly toast your bread and let it cool to room temperature.  Run a peeled clove of fresh garlic over the top side of each piece.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over each, slather each slice with a thick coating of ricotta and cut into serving sized hunks.  This is where they became different. On some I lightly pressed in shelled, salted, roughly chopped pistachios.  Over that I sprinkled fresh thyme leaves and a bit of fresh lemon zest.  Oh, man.  They were divine.  On the others, over the ricotta,  I spread a layer of caramelized onions, (I try to always have a jar in the refrigerator),  a generous dollop of store-bought fig preserves and a light scattering of lemon zest.  These were served on a large tray with juicy slices of peaches each wrapped with a pretty ribbon of domestic prosciutto.  Oh my gosh, the sweet and salty of it all.  It doesn’t get much easier.  It’s a meal that’s light but satisfying and pleasing to the eye.  If you make your ricotta on Thursday or Friday you’re really ahead of the game.  So go ahead, pour that second drink and get back in the pool.  It’s hot!

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Homemade Ricotta Cheese

  • Servings: 2 generous cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half (heavy cream is fine, it’s your choice)
  • 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar (I like vinegar over lemon juice because the ph of all lemons is different.  Vinegar is more stable.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Place all the ingredients in a glass or non-reactive bowl in the microwave.
  2. Heat on high in 5 minute increments.  Do not stir.  Keep your eye on the milk to avoid boil-overs.
  3. Line a large plastic or non-reactive colander with several layers of cheesecloth, (buy it at any grocery store), and place the colander in the sink where it can drain.
  4. When the white curds have separated from the whey carefully remove the bowl from the microwave.  The whey is the watery stuff on the bottom and the ricotta is the thick, white layer on top.
  5.  Gently spoon the curds into the colander and when the bowl is cooler to handle continue by pouring all the remaining cheese and whey into the colander.
  6. The longer it sits and drains the thicker the cheese will be.  Done!

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Deep Fried Pimento Cheese Balls In Celebration of The Graduate

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It seems like yesterday that James was graduating from Pre-K and going to the “Big School” across the street.  He and his classmates were to have lunch in the cafeteria of the big school in order to familiarize and acclimate them to higher education.  As you can well imagine, there was great excitement in the Rainbow and Explorer classrooms.  All of the children made the transition to the “Big School” and now, this weekend, that class will be graduating from college.  COLLEGE.  And here’s the recipe to help you celebrate.  Southern style.  Deep Fried Pimento Cheese Balls.  They are truly to die for.  Please enjoy the photographs of our future leaders.  I know I do!

Class of 2014
Class of 2014

 

This appetizer is a bit time consuming but well, well worth it!  There are some guidelines that I strongly suggest you follow so the cheese balls don’t fall apart mid-fry.  Prepare this in a food processor.  Sure, you can mince the onion by hand and then grate all the cheese by hand but this dish takes a little time already so why add more work? I buy the small jar of chopped pimentos.  It’s about 1/4 cup and again, it’s saving time, not to mention energy.  I don’t substitute sweet milk for buttermilk.  Buttermilk adds a welcome tang before the onslaught of drippy, spicy, gooey cheese.   This is really important.  DON’T use panko!!  Plain ol’ regular unflavored bread crumbs are the best.  I started this recipe with panko thinking I would try them out.  I’ve always used plain breadcrumbs.  Thank goodness I ran out and finished the recipe using the plain.  You see, once you start you can’t undo your mistakes.  The balls are always double dipped but, in spite of that, one minute into frying the panko balls began to spring leaks, cheese flowed into the hot oil causing a messy, sputtering mess.  You HAVE to get them out of the oil ASAP or the oil will begin to pop so violently that you will most certainly get burned.  And you will be left with greasy, empty bread crumb shells and a pot of cheese oil.  Your cheese balls will be ruined AND that throbbing burn you just got under your eyebrow looks like it’s going to blister.  Okay? Other than that you’re good to go.  Oh!  I use Braswell’s Red Pepper Jelly.  Damn good stuff.

 

 

 

 

The graduate
The graduate

 

Deep Fried Pimento Cheese Balls

yield: approximately 75 a bit smaller than walnut size

  • 1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 pound pepperjack cheese, grated
  • 1/4 pound cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 small onion, liquefied
  • 1/4 cup mayonaise
  • 1 small jar chopped pimentos, drained
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 tablespoon seasoning salt, I use Tony Chacere’s
  • 2 cups flour, more if needed
  •  2 cups buttermilk, more if needed
  • 4 cups plain bread crumbs, more if needed
  • 2 quarts peanut oil
  • red pepper jelly for serving
  1. Combine cheddar and jack cheeses in a large bowl.
  2. In food processor blitz cream cheese, pimentos, 1 tablespoon seasoning salt, and mayonaise until smooth.
  3. Pour food processor mixture into the large bowl with cheeses and combine all well with a rubber spatula.
  4. Taste for seasoning, cover with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours until mixture is stiff.
  5. Using a melon ball scoop roll pimento cheese mixture into balls a little smaller than a walnut and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.  Make sure the pans fit in your freezer.
  6. Mix second tablespoon of seasoned salt in flour.
  7. In three separate shallow dishes place flour, buttermilk and breadcrumbs.  This will be your breading station.
  8. Dip each cheese ball in the flour, then buttermilk followed by the breadcrumbs.  Make certain each ball is completely covered with each of these three ingredients.
  9. Again, roll the ball in flour, buttermilk then breadcrumbs.
  10. Place trays in freezer and freeze until solid – overnight is fine.
  11. In a large pot, like a Le Creuset dutch oven, heat oil to 350°.
  12. This goes fast so pay attention.  Fry 6-8 balls 2-3 minutes until golden.
  13. Remove from oil with a spider or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  14. Best served immediately with red pepper jelly.