Kimchi Pimento Cheese

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.

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Brown Butter Ramps and Oyster Mushrooms on Ricotta Crostini

Brown Butter Ramps and Oyster Mushrooms on Ricotta Crostini

Ramps (wild leeks) have a sweet, garlicky flavor that pairs beautifully with brown butter and caramelized oyster mushrooms. We pile this on top of toast that has been slathered with creamy ricotta cheese, making a delicious, simple appetizer.  

[2018 update: we’re reposting this article originally published on the blog several years ago because firstly, we actually have ramps growing in our garden for the first time (!!!) and secondly, it’s a damn delicious recipe which for us, celebrates the foraging that starts in our area in Spring.]

If you have no idea what ramps are, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s some kind of disease that turns people into drooling, seasonal zombies. Because like Walkers, we (the afflicted) wander the countryside, arms outstretched, moaning “Raaaaamps. Raaaaaaaaaaamps.”

Come spring we wistfully scan shady hillsides for tell-tale green shoots. We travel great distances to far-flung farmers markets. We meet dodgy ramp dealers* in back alleys, taking our very lives in our hands, all in hope of scoring some of that delicious, garlicky goodness.

*Note: I have never actually met a dodgy ramp dealer but I bet they exist. I can just picture some bearded hippy dude standing on the corner whispering, “Pssst. Ramps. Meet me behind the compost bin in 5. Namaste.”

Ramps (wild garlic)
Ramps. Beautiful, glorious ramps.
Brown Butter Ramps and Oyster Mushrooms on Ricotta Crostini

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Arepas with Pulled BBQ Chicken, Cheddar, Pickled Onions and Avocado

Arepas with Pulled BBQ Chicken, Cheddar, Pickled Onions and AvocadoCrispy on the outside, pillowy and creamy in the middle, Arepas make the best sandwich ever, with easy BBQ Chicken, shredded Cheddar cheese, pickled Red Onions and Avocado. 

In 1994, I had just graduated college and was living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. During the day I worked my first job in the film industry. I was interning in the editing room of a film called Surviving the Game (starring Rutger Hauer, F. Murray Abraham, Gary Busey and Ice T. Yes, you read that list correctly.) At night and on the weekends, when I wasn’t bartending, I was attempting to make a living as a custom hand-bound book artist. This is the long way of saying I was ridiculously flat-out broke.

My friend, Adriana

My partner in book-binding, loft-living and cooking on a budget was my best friend from college, a beautiful and talented artist from Colombia named Adriana, who sadly passed away in 2004. She and I spent countless hours in her loft (a former fish-canning factory which, worryingly, always smelled a little like anchovies when it rained). We laughed at a million stupid jokes, bound hundreds of books, and watched many episodes of the X-Files. We also ate a gazillion Colombian-style arepas, slathered with butter and salt (or sharp cheese and guava paste, Adriana’s favorite).

Not to get too emo on you but looking back, I realize what a formative and precious time those years were. It taught me that I can make anything, including furniture. I learned that film editing is basically magic. And most importantly, I learned that when you cook with people, what you learn from them stays with you forever, so they’re with you forever.

Whenever I miss her I make arepas. I make arepas often.

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Phyllo Torte Stuffed with Chicken (or Ham), Ricotta and Swiss Chard

Phyllo Torte with Chicken, Ricotta and Swiss Chard

This Phyllo Torte with Chicken (or Ham), Ricotta and Swiss Chard has a crispy, flaky, buttery crust filled with all our favorite Spring flavors. It looks like a showstopper, but it’s easy as pie. 

We’ve been having topsy-turvy weather here in the Hudson Valley over the last couple of months. We had an late Winter blizzard that dropped almost 3 feet (!) of snow on us, followed by a week in the 70s, followed by a month of cold dreariness, and then yesterday it got up to 89ºF. Even our poor little chickens are like “WTF, people?” (You haven’t seen side-eye until you’ve seen chicken side-eye. They are not shy about squawking their displeasure right into your face). 

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Baked Eggs with Creamy Greens and Garlic Butter Toasts

baked eggs with kale spinach

Three kinds of leafy greens combine with mushrooms, garlic, leeks, mustard, and spices to form the base for a baked egg dish that’s a bit like an omelette turned inside out. It’s an ideal recipe for brunch, or really any meal of the day.

Sometimes we want to start the day with an omelette: maybe cook up some chopped leafy greens, sauté a few mushrooms until they’re golden, throw in a handful of cheese, and enclose the whole thing in an egg jacket. And sometimes, we want to flip the whole concept inside out and bake the eggs right on top of the other ingredients, because, you know, we’re mavericks like that.

It does take a little longer than the omelette method, and it requires turning on the oven. But really, since we’re fully cooking the greens and mushrooms either way, it’s the difference between a couple of minutes standing at the range and 20 minutes of unattended baking. You can also cook the creamed greens ahead, and bake the eggs when you’re ready for eat. 

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