A ways back, in our first year of the blog, we made pimento cheese as Christmas gifts in honor of our new home in South Carolina. We made two varieties – Selim created Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese, and Ally made a more traditional version. For some reason, we didn’t share the traditional recipe at the time, probably because we were so wowed by the dressed up variety. We’ll remedy that here today!
Some of our very favorite Clevelanders are passing through town today ❤ When we were trying to pick a restaurant for dinner, Sarah wanted to “go back to that place we went last time” they were in Columbia, “the one with the pimento cheese.” [Shout out to DiPrato’s – their pimento cheese really is legendary, as are their inexplicable warm and fluffy pita chips] So we thought today would be the perfect day to whip up another homemade batch – some for them and some for us! Ally could live off of pimento cheese and crackers, probably for the rest of her life, so it’s really a win-win!
We stuck with the basics for this pimento cheese recipe – cheddar, pimentos, and mayo… well, homemade mayonnaise for us! Selim is the king of whipping up aioli or mayo by hand. We added a pinch of extras, just because we can’t help ourselves, but there’s not too much to distract from the cheese. We prefer our pimento cheese to be lighter on the mayonnaise, attempting not to over-blend the shredded cheese. Our ratio of cheese to pimentos definitely favors the cheese. Hand-shredded cheese is preferable to pre-shredded. And heaven forbid – we do not add cream cheese to ours!
Southern Pimento Cheese
1 cup neutral oil
2 egg yolks
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp lemon juice
16oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 heaping tbsp chopped pimentos
1 tsp worcestershire
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
Salt to taste
Prepare the mayo. (You can do this by hand or with a stand mixer. The process is essentially the same.)
By hand: Separate out the egg yolk from the whites and discard the whites. Whisk the yolk. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil. Whisk vigorously and continuously. Once the mixture has combined well, add the lemon juice and whisk until that has been absorbed.
With the mixer: Separate out the egg yolk from the whites. Place in stand mixer and turn on medium. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil, while the mixer remains on. Again, once the mixture is well-combined, then add the lemon juice.
By hand, mix together the aioli with the rest of the ingredients except for salt. Once combined, add salt to taste at the end.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
Tonight we decided to take a brief detour from our now tried and true basic pasta recipe. And by brief detour, I mean that we did the exact same thing that we always do, with the addition of some ground turmeric for a new flavor and color. Not the most bold and daring detour if we’re being honest. And since we’re being honest… this was actually an improvised backup plan when our first plan failed. What was the original dish we were going to make you ask? It’s a secret. We’re going to try it again one of these days. But long story short, I already had the mental plan for this sauce to pair with the original noodles. And I really had in my head that the dish was going to be “earthy.” So this backup plan had to be earthy too! We both stared at our spice cabinet, and Selim zeroed in on the turmeric. It’s earthy, I think it will pair well with the planned sauce, and added bonus, it makes the noodles a beautiful yellow color!
Side note… as we’ve mentioned before, we really started this blog as more of a journal or a personal recipe file. We just felt like we were frequently forgetting amazing dishes that we’d created once and then could never replicate. But along the way, we’ve embraced the fact that this is a blog and not just our personal notes. Since it’s available on the internet, we don’t want it to just read like a stream of consciousness diary, but something actually useful for others. One thing I did not anticipate was the difficulty I’d have in naming our recipes. Seems easy right? Apparently I’m not really all that creative, which is why you’ll see that most of our recipes just have simple, descriptive titles (I’m talking about you Wine & Honey Brisket or you Ham & Potato Soup). Any of the slightly more creative names come from Selim (see: Sultan Selim Kofte or Pinch of Crab Egg Dip). I came up with this recipe’s title thinking about the golden color of the turmeric noodles and the goat cheese base of the sauce. I was all proud of myself that I came up with (what I think is) an original, cute, alliterative name… and then I googled the phrase. Apparently Golden Goat is a variety of marijuana… known for its earthy flavor. And… we’re keeping the name! Maybe we’ll get a few new pot-smoking, Golden Goat-loving followers… Welcome!
Golden Goat Pasta
1 & 1/3 cup AP flour
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp truffle oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
8oz goat cheese
¼ cup dry white wine
Fresh ground black pepper
Pasta water, as needed
Prepare pasta as in our How To, with the addition of the 1 tbsp of turmeric.
For the sauce, start by warming the truffle oil in a pan over low-medium heat.
Once the oil is nice and toasty, add the garlic cloves and a few turns of black pepper. Keep the heat low and cook just a few minutes until fragrant, but not browned.
Lower heat even further and add goat cheese and wine. Allow the cheese to melt slowly. Stir frequently until the ingredients are well combined.
Meanwhile, roll out pasta and cut into your desired shape and thickness of noodles.
Cook the pasta in boiling water for just 2 or 3 minutes.
Add pasta water by the tablespoon to thin out the sauce until it reaches your desired thickness – we used 3 tablespoons for ours.
Ok. Obviously when we share recipes on here, we think they’re pretty good and that you should make them. But this one… I’m multiplying that sentiment by a million! These flatbreads are amazing!! Plus they are just a little bit fancy… Makes you feel like a fancy person, having fancy dinner. But the secret is, they’re easy and fairly quick to make. We devoured them whole for dinner tonight, but they would also be perfect sliced into smaller slivers as an appetizer.
Let’s talk about our ingredients. Each one adds something to the flatbread, building to a huge depth and variety of flavor in each bite. We love Trader Joe’s naan for the base of our flatbreads, but you certainly could make your own or use something similar. We like these because they have great texture, the edges crisp up a bit in the oven, and are reasonably priced! (Trader Joe’s doesn’t pay us to say this – we really just love that place.) The next layer of Boursin herbed cheese makes for a creamy, sauce-like coating to the bread. The caramelized onions add a fragrant smokiness and the fresh rosemary, a pungent, almost piney, herbaceous taste and aroma. The roasted grapes are amazingly sweet, but in an entirely different way than you’re used to. (Even if you don’t make this flatbread, go out and roast some grapes.) And then prosciutto… I mean really… Prosciutto makes everything that much more delicious. The last drizzle of honey balances out all of the sweet and savory elements.
Now that we’ve started using filo dough (see: Baklava – we’ve made it twice since posting it!), we’ve gained a little bit of confidence in working with the thin, finicky dough. So I knew Selim would want to tackle börek next. He loves börek – although it’s kind of hard to say it’s his favorite food, because there are about a million different types of börek. In Turkey, börek is essentially any dish prepared with yufka, which is (depending on when and where you read about it) the same as filo dough, the precursor of filo dough, or a slightly different texture from filo dough. I’m not educated enough to know which one it is. I do know that börek is delicious in every form I’ve ever had it and that this spinach-stuffed version is a quite traditional one.
I was eating some of this börek for lunch the other day in a breakroom at the hospital, when someone said, “Oh wow that smells delicious… What is it, spanakopita?” I could feel my husband cringing from a floor away. We’ll pause to let him go on his rant about Turkish food – how he would’ve answered had the friendly, innocent question been posed to him.
Selim: Many Americans love Mediterranean food and seem to always associate this with Greek food. So somehow, this has turned into Greek food being the most beloved cuisine, representing an entire region. Even more so, I feel like Americans think that the Greeks were the originators and only true architects of so many of the best dishes of the Middle East and Mediterranean. In fact, many of your favorites, originated elsewhere: baklava came out of the Ottoman palace kitchens in modern day Istanbul, while hummus was first documented in 13th century Cairo. The vast reach of the Ottoman empire and centuries of trading routes surely contributes to the regional spread of cuisine – you can find dishes with very similar ingredients and preparations, but different names from the Balkans to the Levant, the Caucasus to Northern African. (This is not to say that there aren’t amazing Greek chefs or delicious dishes of Greek origin – the Greeks truly aren’t the subject of my rant.) I just hate that other cultures don’t get their due. Obviously, I’m biased as I’m ethnically half Turkish, but I wish Turkish cuisine was more recognized, available, and beloved in the US. So in short, while similar, this is börek, not spanakopita.
Spinach & Feta Börek
(Adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen by Özcan Ozan)
2 lbs fresh spinach
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 cup clarified butter, divided
1/2 cup diced onion
3 eggs, divided
16oz feta cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup milk
~20 sheets filo dough
Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare the filling: cook the spinach briefly in boiling water over medium heat until wilted. Drain the water and squeeze the spinach to remove any additional water.
Chop up the spinach.
In a large pan oven medium heat, heat 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup clarified butter.
Add the onions and spinach and cook for just 3-4 minutes until onions have softened.
Allow the mixture to cool.
Once cool, stir in the cheese, parsley, and 2 whisked eggs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup clarified butter, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 egg, and milk.
Brush this mixture on the bottom of a cookie sheet. Begin layering the filo dough, brushing each new layer with the butter mixture.
Once halfway through the filo dough (~10 sheets), spread all of the spinach and cheese mixture out evenly.
Resume layering the rest of the filo dough, brushing with the butter mixture as before, including a thorough coating over the last layer.
Using a sharp knife, slice the börek into squares or triangles.
Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake an additional 20 minutes.
Allow the börek to stand for 10 minutes before eating.
In the last installation of What We Ate At Amy’s Graduation Party, I give you this interesting little cheese ball. I know cheese balls are kind of clichéd, standard party food, but that doesn’t mean they’re not delicious. I got trapped by this one (as usual) and stood there munching on it for longer than I should probably admit. I found this dish a little different and interesting because it is equally sweet and savory. As you’re tasting it, you notice the sweet first, then realize you’re also tasting a strong garlicky flavor. But it doesn’t clash in your mouth – it works perfectly!
I think this was the only dish at the party that wasn’t a tried & true family recipe. Mom had it at another party and asked for the recipe from her friend. She gave her a copy of a printed out recipe that’s called Mill Mountain Cheese Spread. For the life of me, I can’t figure out where that name came from or with whom the recipe originated. If you try to look up “mill mountain cheese spread” in quotations, Google tells you that there are ‘No results found.’ (And here I thought Google was invincible.) There is a place in Roanoke, Virginia called Mill Mountain – I’m guessing the recipe maybe came from some place near there? What I did find though via the nearly-invincible Google though, is a recipe with the exact same ingredients. The Taste of Home website has a recipe entitled French Quarter Cheese Spread, that they published in November/December issue of Simple & Delicious magazine. So we’ll give them credit, so as to give someone credit!
Sweet & Savory Cheese Ball
8oz cream cheese
1 clove garlic, minced finely
1 tbsp granulated onion
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp brown mustard
1 cup chopped pecans
Let cream cheese sit out until it is soft.
In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese with the garlic and onion.
Once mixed together well, form into a ball with your hands. Place the cheese ball onto the dish you’re going to serve it on, which needs to have raised edges.
Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat on the stove.
Once butter has melted, stir a few times to ensure the ingredients are combined. Then spoon over top of the cream cheese ball.
Return dish to the refrigerator until just before time to serve.
You can set this out ~15-20 minutes before your guests are arriving, so it returns to room temperature.
I may have mentioned it once or twice, but I have an embarrassing love of most things that come in a box, especially with powdered cheese. Kraft mac & cheese? Clearly. Those Knorr rice or noodle sides in a bag? So good and only $1! Hamburger Helper? Be still my heart 🖤🖤🖤 Are any of these things actually good or good for me? No and no, but my taste buds are confused. Someone mentioned Hamburger Helper the other day, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. (Don’t judge me!)
I knew the chance of convincing Selim that Hamburger Helper was a decent meal choice was slim to none, so I went for a slightly less processed version. Maybe not exactly low calorie or low fat, but hey – I added vegetables and cut out the processed/powdered cheese. Wins all the way around. And it’s delicious! Take that dinner in a box! I guess I should also mentioned that this is based on Cheeseburger Macaroni – which to me is THE Hamburger Helper, but that might not be true for everyone.
I looked to Pinterest for a little guidance in getting started with this recipe. I checked out these lovely blogs, but didn’t follow one in particular – one, two, & three.
Hamburger Helper, Minus the Box
(Inspired by a few different blogs – see above)
2 tsp oil
1/2 of a large onion, diced
4 carrots, chopped
Fresh ground black pepper
1lb ground beef
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups dry macaroni
2 cups beef broth
2 cups milk
1 green pepper, chopped
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
In a large pan with tall edges, heat the oil.
Over medium heat, cook the onions and the carrots for just 2-3 minutes. Top the onions with a few turns of black pepper and a pinch of salt.
Increase heat to medium-high and add the beef and worchestershire sauce to the pan. Break up the beef with your cooking spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef has browned.
If you have any excess grease, drain it off before adding the next ingredients.
Now add the rest of the ingredients, except for the cheese. Stir together.
Bring liquid to a boil. Then turn the heat back down to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer for ~10 minutes. Stir once or twice.
Remove lid. Stir in the cheese. Once it’s well-combined, serve!
Ally: What is casserole bread? Honestly, I had no idea when I was first looking at this recipe. Not joking, I literally googled, “what is casserole bread.” Basically, as best I can tell, it just means that you don’t knead it or let it rise so much, and therefore, it’s a much quicker and easier type of bread to make. True? Anyone know? I can definitely attest that it was the easiest and fastest loaf of bread I’ve ever made.
Selim: When I saw the casserole dish I immediately thought, “oh great casserole…” When I think of casseroles I think of condensed soup, canned vegetables, sodium, and a burnt tongue (I always underestimate how long to let it cool before eating it). As always, I was happy to be wrong when I saw this massive ball of dough heaping over the top. The funny thing is, the savory smells of the ingredients started filling our place well before the whole thing was put in the oven. The yeast starts working really quickly when warmed up and immediately started raising the dough – yay chemistry! This bread would go well with any poultry dish (chicken, turkey, duck) or Thanksgiving dinner if you can get people to try something different instead of bland rolls.
Savory Casserole Bread
Adapted from a Southern Living Cookbook – American’s Best Home Cooking
4 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp granulated onion
1 tbsp granulated garlic
4 1/2 tsp active yeast (or 2 packets)
1 1/2 (+ a little more) cups sharp cheddar cheese
2 tbsp melted butter
~2 cups warm water
Place all ingredients except for the water into the bowl of your stand mixer.
Turn the mixer on low, with a dough hook attached.
Slowly add the water as the mixer is going. You may not use all or may need slightly more. You want the dough to come together into a slightly sticky ball.
Place the dough into a 2 1/2 quart baking dish (buttered, oiled, or sprayed with cooking spray). Push it down to fill fully.
Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
After rising, sprinkle a little bit of additional cheese on top.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 40 minutes.
After baking, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the dish for 10 minutes.
Then remove from the baking baking dish to a wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes.