Strawberry Lemon Curd: A balanced spread, not too sweet, not too tart, that lets all the fruit shine through.
Getting a reputation can be a mixed blessing. I once revealed to the cook in our local deli that we own chickens, and from that day on, whenever I walk through the door, she yells “Hey, chicken man!”. Over the years, we’ve made several friends in Beacon through introductions to our lemon curd. We’ll meet a new person, tell them about Nerds with Knives, and then their eyes will light up and they’ll exclaim “I made the lemon curd! It was so lemony!” It’s very flattering, but it does mean we feel that we have to keep ahead of expectations. After all, we can’t coast on lemon curd forever. So it’s a good thing that we have a glut of garden and local farm strawberries, because that means we can make Strawberry Lemon Curd! (It’s like normal lemon curd. But with strawberries.)
Pimento cheese doesn’t have to be eaten in a sandwich – and neither does it need to contain pimento. Say what?! Before you flay us alive for our heresy, let us hurriedly explain that we replaced the pickled pepper with fermented home-made kimchi. And we, frankly, think it’s even better.
Pimento cheese, the iconic spread of the American south, turns out not to be very southern at all – at least in terms of its origins. It’s so associated with the south that it’s hard to imagine the spread (a mix of cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise and diced red pimentos) as coming from anywhere else, but our friends at Serious Eats did a little digging and discovered that pimento cheese actually got its start up north, in New York, as a way to market the burgeoning production of cream cheese.
In the 1870s, New York farmers started making a soft, unripened cheese, similar to Neufchâtel, that eventually evolved into cream cheese. Around the same time, Spain started exporting canned red peppers — or “pimiento” — to the United States. Eventually a combination of the cheese, peppers and mayonnaise became the spread we know today and like any good origin story, the lore soon outgrew its humble beginnings and pimento cheese became a staple of church picnics and neighborhood potlucks and fancy restaurants all over the southern U.S.
While most loved between two slices of bread, the cheese spread is versatile enough to lend itself to a variety of uses – as a dip, as a topping (think cheeseburgers, or our favorite, patty melts), and even as a stuffing for meats like chicken breasts, or pork chops.
Matt here. Emily’s going to come in with the important tasting notes and all that later in the article, but I just wanted to share an anecdote from our very early cohabitation. When we first moved in together, I remember I was clearing room in the fridge – and at the time, Emily had a really beautiful spacious fridge (I think it was even bigger than the one we have now) and there was plenty of room to hide stuff at the back of the shelves. I was clearing out room to fit in whatever we’d bought together at the store, and I spotted a jar whose contents were unfamiliar to me. I opened the lid and, I don’t remember now, but I probably cursed. I think I might have warned Emily that there was something really bad in there that needed to be thrown away right that second, and preferably triple-bagged. I warned her that we might have to replace the fridge. I warned her that we might have to move.
Falafel – crispy fried nuggets of ground chickpeas, flavored with herbs and spices – are an essential Middle Eastern dish. Serve them as a meze appetizer with Lemon-Garlic Tahini Sauce, or stuff them into warm, home-made Pita Bread with a veggie salad.
All right, we’ll admit it: we’re unapologetically carnivorous. I mean, we’ll try anything, more or less, but when it comes down to “what to make for dinner”, at least a few times a week our protein of choice will be some kind of meat, hopefully raised and butchered responsibly, but still animal. And those of you who’ve been following us for a while know our shtick: we’re not adherents to any one particular diet or another, we don’t do paleo or Atkins or South Beach or whatever, we’re just home cooks who swear a lot and occasionally drop whole dishes of cauliflower cheese on the floor. But we do love vegetables, and the environment, and we also have friends who are vegan, or gluten free, or both, and who will squint and poke us in the ribs from time to time and say “What about me, bud? What about me?” These falafels, my friend, go out to you.
I don’t know why it took us so long to blog a falafel recipe. Emily grew up going to Mamoun’s (the best falafel joint in NYC), and her college years were spent bunked up with vegetarians, Moosewood cookbooks and, frankly, a severe lack of funds. This gave her a pretty good foundation in the dishes that could be put together with varieties of grains, beans and rice. And Matt rarely meets a bean he doesn’t like, but is frequently disappointed by boring veggie burgers. But these spicy deep fried delights? Yeah, these tick all our boxes. While the dried chickpeas require an overnight soak, and the mixture has to chill for a couple of hours, the rest is easy and actually a lot of fun to make. And the good thing is, you don’t even need a deep fryer.
Silky smooth and packed with flavor, Tahini Sauce with Lemon and Garlic is absolutely essential on falafel but delicious on so much else. It’s bright and tangy and as creamy as sauce with no cream (or any dairy) can be.
Pretty much now considered an essential recipe, our Tahini Sauce is based on the version in Michael Solomonov’s wonderful cookbook, Zahav. Don’t be alarmed by the whole head of garlic used in the sauce; like some kind of magic trick, blending the whole, unpeeled cloves with lemon juice neutralizes the formation of allicin, which is the chemical responsible for garlic’s harsher flavors. The resulting sauce is delicately garlicky, with almost no pungency.
Like you, probably, there’s almost nothing we enjoy better of a Sunday evening than kicking back and watching one of the many televisual spornts available. We like the foopball spornt, the basket-throw spornt, the shove-ha’penny and all the running-around-in-a-circle events, and we just love cheering on one of the teams we support, usually the ones with the most colorful socks. “Go team!” we shout with vigor at the screen. “Do it for the old home town!” And at the same time we are congratulating the MVP for scoring his or her final homegoal or throwing it all down the end zone at the bottom of the ninth, we congratulate ourselves, most of all, for making the perfect snack accompaniment.