Tag Archive | East Tennessee home cooking

Pimento Paroxysm

By definition, paroxysm means any sudden, violent outburst.  In my mind, with summer just around the corner and today being Father’s Day, it’s time to break out the summer dishes and just let the flavors explode all over the palette.  So, given that definition, I think paroxysm works well in my title!

Today I am trying two comfort food dishes that include pimentos but changing it out a little.  Pimentos are just chopped up red peppers that can be pickled and smoked.  I love the flavor they add to dishes and the color just adds a beautiful pop to any dish!  The first dish is a revamping of my favorite summer dish: potato salad.  Who doesn’t love potato salad on a hot day?  There are so many ways to make this dish, but I just kept it simple using what I had in the pantry.  The second dish is: pimento cheese spread.  Another dish that has fifty million different ways of making it, I again chose to keep it simple and the recipe is based on one from a co-worker.

 

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First step: peel and chop potatoes.  Probably the least fun part of the whole thing!  I took 5-6 large Idaho potatoes, because that’s what I had in the kitchen!  After peeling and washing them, I put them into a large bowl of water.  It’s been said that soaking them in water will help remove some of the starch.  I guess it’s true, because when I came back a little later to chop them, their texture was very different!

Second step: cook the potatoes.  In a large pot of salted water, boil the potatoes until just softened.  You don’t want to overcook them because the potato salad will be mushy.  Once cooked, drain and rinse the potatoes.  Rinsing them helps to stop the cooking as they will continue to cook until cool.

For the sauce, you will need your favorite mayonnaise or salad dressing.  To keep it vegan, use Veganaise or another similar vegan mayo.  I had some light Miracle Whip on hand and decided to just use that.  Next add some yellow mustard, freshly ground black pepper, healthy pinch of paprika, pimentos, shallots and some Vidalia onion.

Mixing it all together, chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight so the flavors meld together.  See the recipe below!

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Cyn’s Pimento Potato Salad

5-6 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cooked until just tender

1/2 Vidalia onion, diced

1-1/2 purple shallot, diced

2-1/2 tbsp. pimentos

3 tbsp. yellow mustard

3-4 tbsp. salad dressing or mayonnaise

1 tsp paprika

freshly ground black pepper

Peel and soak potatoes in a large bowl of water for about 20-min.  While they are soaking cut the Vidalia onion, purple shallots and place in a bowl together with all the other ingredients.

One the potatoes are chopped, cook until just tender in a large pot of boiling salted water.  Drain and rinse to slow the cooking process.  Toss altogether and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight so the flavors will meld.

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Now for the second dish!  I love pimento spread, but sometimes the store-bought has so many extra ingredients in it and while I like cream cheese, using it in pimento spread makes the spread so much heavier, in my opinion.

This recipe was inspired by a co-worker who brought in her pimento spread for a birthday party luncheon that we had recently.  I basically followed what she told me, except for the choice of cheese.  She uses Velveeta process cheese and I chose sharp cheddar.

The end result is basically the same = creamy, light, flavorful.  Perfect.

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Doesn’t that close up photo just make you want to dig in?!? 

Here’s the recipe:

Cyn’s Pimento Cheese Spread

1 cup freshly grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

2-3 tbsp. pimentos, including the juice from the jar

your favorite mayonnaise or salad dressing

(I added some freshly grated white Mexican melting cheese that I had because there was just a tiny bit of it left.  I think it came to about 1/3 cup or less)

Mix all together in a large bowl until well combined and creamy.  You may have to add more mayonnaise or salad dressing until it’s the right consistency.  Chill for at least an hour to allow the mixture to set.

Serve on bread or crackers or use as a dip with your favorite dipping chips.

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Bon Appetite!

Orange Fig Bars

This year I am running behind on everything!  Shopping, baking, mailing the Christmas cards and gifts… So I am absolutely grateful to have a quiet weekend just before the big day.  I’ve been craving something fig lately and I came across this wonderful recipe in the Family Circle Magazine 2013 holiday edition.  Being a huge fan of figs, I just couldn’t pass it up!

So….(drum roll, please) here is my first attempt at homemade fig bars!

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Pre-heat your oven to 350* F. The next thing I do is get the figs cooking down so that once I finish the cookie layer, they are ready to go and I don’t have to wait for them.

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You’ll need a large, lidded pan that can hold 4 cups of dried figs that have been coarsely chopped.  In this pan will go the chopped figs, honey, 2 tbsp sugar, orange juice (I squeezed a fresh naval orange) and the zest from an orange.  I also added a little water.   The figs I used were organic, dried figs that we found at Costco.  They are wonderful!  And since figs can sometimes be difficult to find depending on where you live, this was a nice treat for me.

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First chop your figs into smaller chunks.  I cut these figs in half, the cut each of those halves into another half.  Wash your orange really well (organic is best) and take your zester, pictured above, and zest all the peel off into the pot. Then squeeze the juice of that orange. It will look like a sticky mess once you add the honey, orange juice and water!  But it will smell absolutely wonderful!!

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On medium heat, bring the figs to a simmer, lower the heat, put the lid on and let cook about 15 minutes or until they are all soft.  I made sure to stir occasionally and was actually able to resist the urge to lick the spoon!  While the figs are cooking, put together the cookie layer.  Once that is done and the figs are soft, you will put them into a food processor, or blender, and run until they are completely smooth.  This mixture will then be spread on top of the cookie layer to be baked for about 25 minutes.  Make sure you cool completely or cutting them into bars will be a nightmare!

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The recipe is below.  Have fun with it and enjoy these!  I actually ended up cutting them smaller than what is on the plate.  They are so rich and delicious and not very sweet at all!

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Orange & Fig Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour (make sure it is unbleached) or whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt (I used Celtic Gray Sea Salt)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (vegan butter works well here)

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

4 cups dried figs, roughly chopped

1/2 cup orange juice or the juice of one large orange

1/4 cup water – this is my addition to the recipe

zest from a large orange

2 tbsp. pure honey

Pre-heat the oven to 350*F.  Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  (I am partial to parchment)

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  In another bowl, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Slowly pour in the flour mixture and beat on low until well combined.  Press firmly and evenly in the bottom of your lined baking pan.

In a medium, lidded pot, combine figs, orange juice and zest, honey, 2 tbsp sugar, and water, if you are adding it.  Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook until soft…about 15 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a food processor (or blender) and run until smooth.  Let cool about 5 minutes.  Using a spatula dipped in warm water to prevent sticking, spread the fig mixture over the cookie layer. (re-dip your spatula in warm water as needed to prevent sticking)

Bake at 350*F for 25 minutes.  Cool completely.  Lift from the pan to a cutting board.  Cut into small squares.

Per cookie: 122 cal; 3g fat (2g sat fat); 2g pro; 24g carb; 2g fiber; 41mg sodium; 7mg chol

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