Summer is here, and we all want quick and easy delicious recipes for entertaining. On the farm I always have this treat tucked away in the fridge for emergencies. Everyone knows that when living on a farm there is an open invitation to drop by. Or so people think! That is something that really surprised me when I moved to a rural location on a farm – the folks who just assume you want them to visit. I have had people pop by without notice while I was canning – making strawberry jam with mint from my garden. Everyone who cans knows that there can be no distractions and once you start the process it cannot be interrupted.
When I am counting out cups and cups of fruit and sugar and timing my water bath – no one dares speak to me. It is one of the few times when I am cooking that I feel a bit like a mad scientist – formulas, timing and numbers are all coming at me. I rely on a portable timer to help, and I write the weight of the fruit or vegetable in a book for each batch. I write the time when I put the Mason jars in the bath. Last of all, I take stock of the yield and label the jars as soon as I can. I promise myself that I will remember what jam or jelly it is – but purple looks purple – blueberry, plum and grape all look very similar!
Last summer, someone came to buy wood, and his wife got out of the car and asked me for zucchini flowers. Curious strangers and neighbors are always driving in. Family and friends decide to go for a drive and they just “happen” to arrive at your gate. So why not be prepared? That was my Girl Guide Motto and I still live by it when it comes to the Farm Kitchen.
While I always have baked goods on hand – or tucked away in the freezer – I also like to have a savory snack available. My fridge is full of my pickled vegetables including pickled green tomatoes and dilly beans that are perfect to serve along side this Pimento Dip. It is fabulous served warm with pita or nacho chips – or even slices of baguette.
It is really quick and easy to make. What makes this cheese dip different is the addition of “pimientos,” which are a variety of large, red, heart-shaped chile pepper. The flesh is considered to be more flavorful and sweet than the red pepper that we see all over North American markets. Most often, canned roasted red peppers, not the Spanish pimientos, are used in this dish.
By the way, the pepper is spelled differently than the dip.
Pimento Dip is a Southern classic – the “caviar” of the South, they say, and there is a good reason why. It is very regional and most Southerners are disappointed not to find it all over the United States. The capital of Pimento Dip is considered to be Charlotte, North Carolina. When this dish first appeared, it was made with expensive red peppers from Spain and as a result was for the rich. I believe it was first served as a spread for tea sandwiches. When ingredients became cheaper, it became a popular dish for the masses. Hence the use of Velveeta processed cheese. Today, Velveeta is not that cheap, so why not use the real cheese?
To learn more about the history of Pimento Dip, here is an interesting piece.
Pimento cheese sandwiches are a signature item at the Masters Gold Tournament.
A minor controversy ensued in 2013 when the Augusta National Golf Club switched food suppliers for the Masters, but were unable to duplicate the sandwich, resulting in one with a different flavor.
Click here to read the full story.
One of the interesting things about this Southern Classic is that like many regional recipes, there are as many versions as there are cooks. Some cooks use cream cheese, dill pickle, jalapenos, Miracle Whip, horseradish, siracha – the list is endless.
My recipe has been altered to suit my taste, feel free to add, combine or omit any of the ingredients listed below. Consider the plain 4-ingredient dip – cheese, mayonnaise, pimientos, salt and pepper – as a canvas for you to paint. Considering the variety of peppers that are now available in the food markets, you may even choose to change the type of pepper you use.
– Use the sharpest cheese of the best quality that you can find - it makes all the difference.
– Also make sure to drain the peppers very well and pat them dry to prevent the excess moisture from watering down the dip.
Chef Elizabeth’s Pimento Cheese Spread
Serves 12 as a dip.
2 cups coarsely grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
2 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp white cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (about 8 ounces)
1 cup finely chopped well-drained pimientos or roasted peppers from your grill (If you are using the food processor, you can quickly process them first.)
1/2 cup best quality mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon grated onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste, or 1 teaspoon Siracha sauce
1/2 cup chopped green olives (optional)
1 large dill pickle (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix first 5 ingredients in large bowl or in a food processor. Be careful not to over process if you like your dip to be a bit chunky.
Season the dip with salt and pepper to taste.
Do Ahead: This dip can be made 4 days in advanced and kept in the fridge.
Transfer dip to serving bowl or container to store in fridge. It is best served at room temperature or heated in an oven-proof bowl.
Hint: If you decide to serve this dip warm, heat it slowly so that the proteins of the cheese don’t separate as that will make your dip oily.
Serving suggestions: Traditionally this dip is served on plain white bread - but there are lots of other ways to use this versatile dip. You will understand how handy this dip is to have in your fridge.
– Bring to room temperature and serve with baguette slices, bread sticks or rice crackers.
– Serve with crudités – assorted raw vegetables such as carrot and celery sticks, cucumbers, peppers, endive, blanched green beans or asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower
– This dip can be heated and served warm with tortilla chips – delicious
– Chill and then roll in chopped toasted pecans or almonds – a cheese ball
– Use as a spread on sandwiches or wraps
– Use as a spread for French baguette, just add herbs and grill
– Make a grilled pimento spread and bacon sandwich
– Use as a sauce with pasta - add to your macaroni and cheese recipe
– Use on baked potatoes or on top of a potato casserole
– Spread it on your scones or biscuits
– Use as a spread on hamburgers or hot dogs
– Use as part of your deviled egg stuffing
– Spread over baked or grilled chicken
– Serve over your fried green tomatoes! How Southern can you get?
Don’t forget to follow me on my blogs, Bucky's View and EP Culinary.
“The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you're afraid of it.” James Beard
Today it is raining and thundering on the farm and it’s a huge bonus for me because it cuts my work and worry load – not in half, but enough to give me time to head into my farmhouse kitchen and cook to my heart's content. Rain is a Chef-farmer’s best friend.
I bought an excess of organic eggs at the market and was wondering what to do with all of them. While I spend most of my time on the farm, I do love to travel. I will admit that I have a soft spot for France, and it is the one country that I have visited often. In my heart there is France. There are lots of farmhouses in Southern France, and it is a gorgeous drive through Provence. If you ever get the chance to go, make sure to visit the many marché or markets in the small towns. Make sure to check in advance the days the markets are open because they vary.
When I look at eggs – the chef in me believes that no one does them quite like the French, they have so many dishes based on this gift from nature. I felt like indulging myself this morning, hence a soufflé came to mind. Soufflés originated in France as a way to use up leftovers and pantry items … sounds like farmhouse cuisine to me.
I know it may sound pretentious or too difficult to tackle a soufflé … trust me it isn’t. Many farms have chickens and an abundance of eggs. So why not try out a new egg dish? Once in your repertoire you will be glad you did. Soufflés are very versatile, and you can combine all sorts of ingredients.
The word soufflé is the past participle of the French verb souffler, which means, "to blow up" or more loosely "puff up" – an apt description of what happens to this combination of custard and egg whites. The trapped air in the egg whites causes the mixture to rise.
This is one of the most delicious transformations of eggs that I know. Most cooks are terrified at the thought of making this dish. How many people can recall the last time that they ate a soufflé? Sweet or savory? You can’t find them on restaurant menus so let’s make them at home.
I used to make soufflés for my parents each time I visited – which was often. As they aged, I needed to find ways to make them want to eat … to tempt their taste buds. Soufflés were a hit every time. For them I used blue cheese crumbled. If you like blue cheese, I highly recommend Maytag Blue made in Newton, Iowa.
Growing up, our family of 10 always ate deeply flavored cheeses from all over the world. My mother introduced us to a wide variety, some of them like Esrom and Tilsit just plain stunk – but I grew to love Oka made by Quebecois monks and the deeply flavored Roquefort, with jam. Sounds like an odd combination, but it works – fruit and cheese, a classic combination. So with thrift-store soufflé dish in hand – I found my old Cordon Bleu recipe and grabbed the goat’s cheese cheddar and grana padano and my leeks that I harvested last year.
The Soufflé process begins:
This is a basic technique that once you are comfortable with it, you can make any flavor you would like. Another great thing about soufflés is that all the ingredients are in your pantry. Who does not have eggs, cheese, milk or flour?
I must admit it does take some experience to execute this perfectly, but the real trick is to leave fear behind and just go for it. If you check out on-line recipes, they are far more complicated than they need to be. If you break the process into individual components, it is not nearly as challenging. You are making a white sauce or béchamel base and then adding flavor through cheese and seasonings (hence a Mornay sauce) just like Mac and Cheese – then adding separated eggs – you whip the eggs just as if you are making a meringue – like the topping of pies, and the method is much like making of the cakes. Now doesn’t that seem easier?
Some Chef Secrets
It helps if you have the right dish – 6-cup capacity with straight sides so the mixture can rise evenly.
Use the best cheese – the more intense the flavor will be – so choose cheese with flavor.
If you coarsely grate the cheese it will ooze and taste delicious.
Add Dijon – you will be glad you did!
Always use one additional egg white than yolk for light texture.
Add leeks or some type of onion to heighten flavor.
I use panko to coat the soufflé dish; it adds texture.
Do not over whip your whites.
Blend the final mixture softly but thoroughly.
Use a large stainless spoon to blend – it makes the job easier.
Have your table set, your guests with forks in hand – a soufflé waits for no one.
Classic Cheese Soufflé
This serves 2 generously for a main meal or 4 as an appetizer
Prepare the dish – Butter 6-cup (1 1/2-quart) soufflé dish. Add grated Parmesan cheese or panko and tilt dish, coating bottom and sides. Place on a baking sheet.
1 cup whole milk – it should be whole milk or even half and half
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely sliced leeks or onions
3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper – white pepper if you have it on hand
1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère or Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
4 large egg yolks, room temperature is best
5 large egg whites
Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400 F.
Melt butter in heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté gently. Add flour and whisk until mixture begins to foam, about 3 minutes (do not allow mixture to brown). Pour in milk, whisking until smooth. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly until very thick, 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat; whisk in paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne. Let cool for a few minutes, then add the egg yolks 1 at a time, blending thoroughly after each addition. Add the Dijon mustard and the grated cheese and blend well.
Scrape the soufflé base into large bowl. Cool to lukewarm.
At this stage you can leave the base to use a few hours later, if desired. Cover and let stand at room temperature.
Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into lukewarm or room temperature soufflé base to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whites until thoroughly mixed and transfer batter to prepared dish.
Use a small sharp knife and run a ring around the center – this encourages the classic “hat” to form.
Place soufflé dish on a baking tray in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375 F. Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and center moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 25 minutes (do not open oven door during first 20 minutes). Serve immediately.
The center should be slightly runny, or as the French say “baveuse,” which means drooling – it makes the sauce. Cook it a few minutes longer if you prefer a firmer texture, but be careful not to overcook it.
The rich intense cheese flavor contrasts well with something bright and acidic.
I like to serve it with tomatoes and leeks, or scallions served in classic French vinaigrette.
Chardonnay or Chablis are a perfect match.
For more recipes and reviews of my travels and a chef’s life on the farm, visit my blog, Bucky's View.
One of the great benefits of living on a farm is the availability of produce from other farmers. For me it’s a big part of why I chose this lifestyle. Every chef dreams of being able to prepare just picked produce. All the years in the kitchens I longed to be able to grow my own. Now I can.
This will be my third summer on the farm – Wynyates Farm. After fighting marauding pests that consumed half my crop for the last two summers, I have learned a few lessons. It is not just pests, it is also the malevolent weeds that threatened my harvest. I learned very quickly and in real terms why organic produce is so expensive. The labor that is required is very intensive. No rest for an organic farmer. For fun I like to visit local farms and pick what I do not grow myself.
This is a great group activity … you can pick a lot of blueberries in a short time.
You can gather a lot in a short time.
I just got back from picking organic blueberries from a local farm on Georgian Bay, Ontario. I took a crew with me, and we ended up with almost 40 pounds of berries for $62! I encourage everyone to locate an organic pick-your-own. These are the very best berries to freeze to use later. They bake up perfectly in muffins, scones and quick breads and crisps. Blueberries are fabulous in smoothies, in yoghurt and in your morning cereal. We all know about their health benefits, and freezing does not destroy their anthocyanin antioxidants. Read this report on The World's Healthiest Foods.
Everyone pitches in and gets to eat the “fruits” of their labors.
Holding the spoils of the day.
Fresh blueberries on the bush.
I made blueberry-champagne preserves – they are delicious with blue cheese and on croissants and hearty multigrain bread. I also use preserves in my berry crisps and in my pies; they add a depth of flavor.
An enormous basket of berries.
Homemade Blueberry Preserves
Here is my blueberry loaf recipe – enjoy! The best part is that it is so low-fat and packed full of berries. This is delicious on its own, but you can slice and serve it with frozen vanilla yoghurt or ice cream.
Go out and pick some blueberries or buy local organic – you will be very happy you did. I see it as a great way to spend a few hours getting to know how berries are picked, to release your inner harvester, and it's fun to witness your own ability to decide on berry ripeness and to snack along the way – your blue lips are a dead giveaway.
Be sure to rinse the berries before freezing, eating or processing.
Lemon Glazed Blueberry Loaf
Yields 6 to 8 servings.
Yields 1 large loaf.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh blueberries; frozen will work just as well.
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil – sunflower, peanut or canola; melted butter can be substituted.
2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste; lime is great, too
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside.
In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Stir in lemon zest and blueberries.
In another bowl, beat eggs; add milk, oil and lemon juice. Stir into dry ingredients, just until moistened.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until toothpick tests clean.
To make glaze: Combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil on stove over medium heat; cook until thick, about 5 minutes. If glaze gets too thick as it cools, place over gentle heat.
After removing loaf from oven, while still warm, brush or drizzle glaze over bread while still in pan. Let cool for 10 minutes, remove loaf to wire rack to cool completely.
Cut and enjoy! This is a great food gift or bake-sale item.
Blueberry loaf on my kitchen table
Blueberry Hand Pies on my front porch.