Snacks

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I realized the other day that even though I've had this blog for almost seven years, I've never written a post about pimento cheese (update: I did; I just spelled it "pimiento cheese"--ha!). Which is kind of crazy since it's one of my favorite things. Pimentos (or pimientos) are mild, sweet, and small red peppers. Adding them to cheese and mayonnaise is a southern tradition, though I have no idea why. It just is. I always--always--have the ingredients on hand so that I can make it whenever I need to.

pimentocheese

Of course, a big part of it is that I don't have a recipe. I just add some mayonnaise and a jar of diced pimentos to shredded cheese and add a little seasoning and that's it. It's never occurred to me to share a recipe, I guess. But thinking about the recipe made me curious about what a pimento cheese recipe looks like and I was surprised to find a lot of variations, many of which had ingredients lists longer than just three or four items. Cream cheese, onions, Worcestershire sauce, jalapenos, cayenne pepper, garlic...um, no. You really don't need anything but cheese, mayo, pimentos, and a little pepper.  I did recently start adding a little smoked paprika to mine, but it's strictly optional. So what I have here is just a basic recipe that's very easy and very good.

But be sure to use good cheese and good mayo. Actually, Mr. Eats prefers his pimento cheese with Miracle Whip, but I do not keep Miracle Whip in my house, so he has to settle for my Hellmann's-made "salad" (spread?). A lot of people around here like Duke's, but it lacks the sweetness and a bit of the tang that Hellmann's has. And though I also like Kraft mayo, Hellmann's is thicker and sturdier, so I prefer it for my salads. I also use Sargento's already-finely-grated sharp cheddar for my pimento cheese. I like the finely grated cheese because it blends better and stays together better, particularly if you're going to make a grilled pimento cheese sandwich. And you should. So good. I also like it on "not dogs" (I like Smart Dogs), crackers, or as a vegetable dip.

Pimento Cheese
serves 4-6

2 cups finely-shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 four ounce jar diced pimentos, drained
pepper to taste
smoked paprika (optional)

Combine the cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos in a large bowl. Add a few twists of fresh ground pepper (to taste). For a little extra flavor, add about 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika and stir again.

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I was really surprised at the positive feedback I got for the basic Chinese brown sauce I posted last week. I've made it many, many times, but last week was the first time I figured it was okay to photograph the little bit I had leftover from dinner. Certainly, a better photograph would have included the roasted baby bok choy and baked tofu that was dressed in it, but none of those were left over. Ha!

scallion_pancakesSo, if you like really easy ways to make Chinese(ish) food at home, this will thrill you. It doesn't get much easier than this without using a microwave. I discovered this recipe while researching the pancakes, which are a popular appetizer at two Chinese restaurants here in Nashville (owned by the same people). These pancakes aren't quite as good as the restaurants, but they are very close and very tasty.

But they are not low-calorie. Each biscuit has 170 calories and 6 grams of fat; adding oil to fry them adds a bit more of each. Something I wish I'd realize before I ate four of them. FOUR. That's pretty incredible considering I hate flaky biscuits. I can't even stand to watch the ads for these biscuits because I remember how much I hated when my mom served them when I was a kid. Her homemade biscuits were fluffy and crumbly and divine. These were...not good. A layered biscuit is a crime against humanity. However, when pressed into pancakes, they turn out great!

chinese_scallion_pancakes

Scallion Pancakes
Adapted from Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest entrant Gary Chiu
serves 4-8 (makes 8 4-inch pancakes)

1 can Pillsbury Grands Flaky Layers refrigerated biscuits (Original, Butter Tastin' or Buttermilk)
1/3 cup finely chopped scallions/green onions (dark green part only)
black pepper
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Pour one tablespoon of the oil into a large skillet and heat on medium to medium high.

Cut a biscuit in half lengthwise and press out each layer into 4-inch rounds. Sprinkle one half with freshly ground pepper and a few pinches of scallions. Cover it with the other half and press the two sides together and back into a 4-inch round.

Place the pancake in the pan and cook about 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Flip and press the pancake lighlty and cook 1-2 minutes until no longer doughy. Flip again if necessary. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Repeat for the remaining biscuits, cooking 2 or 3 at a time. Add oil half-way through the batch.

Notes:
1. It's not easy, but just cut the biscuits in half. I tried to smash down a single biscuit into a larger pancake as a shortcut and it just didn't work out right.
2. I substituted one tablespoon of oil with toasted sesame oil, which I keep on hand for stir frying (it's particularly good for frying green beans and roasting baby bok choy). But if you don't have any, a mild vegetable oil like canola oil is just fine.
3. I served these with just a little ponzu, but ended up eating them plain. They'd also be good dipped in a bit of sweet and sour sauce, sweet chili sauce, or sriracha.4. Serve as a side dish with a plate of steamed vegetables and rice with basic Chinese brown sauce.
5. Only a portion of two pancakes is pictured...because that's all that was left to photograph. 🙂

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Last month, a new bakery opened up in East Nashville, Yeast Nashville. Get it? Yeast Nashville? Yeah, I didn’t at first. Not only am I not good at making puns, I’m not good at recognizing any play on words.

Anyhoo. Their main thing is kolaches (which I initially confused with knishes). So I stopped in for what I thought was a knish and got a cherry kolache. It was good, I guess and—according to those who know—authentic, but it just wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t quite as decadent as I need a pastry to be. It needed butter or frosting or glaze or, you know, at least 500 more calories to satisfy me (I should have gotten a Lemon Kiss instead). But I did get (and enjoy) their Sriracha Bread (also known as Rooster Bread). They bake it only on Wednesdays and it’s already become quite popular.

Rooster Bread made with Trader Joe's pre-made white pizza dough.
Rooster Bread made with Trader Joe's pre-made white pizza dough.

I brought my Rooster Bread home and it was an immediate hit with both Mr. Eats and Mini Eats who, inexplicably, likes spicy food. I posted about it on the Bites blog and, whaddyaknow, the author (Randy Clemens) of the book, The Sriracha Cookbook posted a link to the recipe for this bread. Well, a sriracha cheese bread. At the end of the recipe, he notes that you can—“in a pinch”—use pizza dough. a-ha!

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