Tag Archive | cheesos

Cheese

Today’s inspiration, cheesos

A day without cheese is like a day without sunshine. I was discussing cheese last night with a friend on the phone and we concurred. I’m so grateful for cheese! I’m grateful for cheddar and brie and havarti, for parmesan and cream cheese, for gruyere, gouda, feta, mozzarella and bleu cheese; for hard cheese, soft cheese, and melted cheese, for cheese on crackers, cheese on toast, cheese on bread with mayo. I’m grateful for the people who make cheese and sell cheese, and for the animals who provide the milk that becomes cheese.

Maybe the best cheese ever
Perfect Brie
Herbed havarti on rolls, with avocados, and cranberry sauce

I’m grateful for cow cheese, sheep cheese, and … ok, I’m even grateful for goat cheese, because it makes some people happy, and leaves more cow cheese in the world for me. If I had to pick only one thing that I could ever eat again, I’d pick the cheese sandwich: Bacon, brie and avocado grilled in bacon fat on bakery-fresh sliced French bread, with mayonnaise; cold cheddar and potato chips on plain white store-bought bread, with mayonnaise… Technically, pizza could count as a cheese sandwich, and for sure panini would: You can put anything on bread or between bread and call it a cheese sandwich, as long as you include cheese. I think it’s a pretty versatile pick.

Cheese and tomato sandwich
Cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich
Cheese, avocado, tomato and bacon sandwich
Grilled cheese, pepper, tomato and bacon sandwich
Grilled cheese collard melt sandwich
Even pizza is a cheese sandwich – open-face

I like to keep a few kinds of cheese in the fridge at all times. You never know when you’re going to need some kind of cheese. This afternoon I needed cheese. I had some leftover carne asada from the other night, and no tortillas, so I made cheesos: taco shells of melted cheddar cheese, with lettuce, red onion, carne asada, homemade salsa, and sour cream, what I had on hand. Simple. Delicious. And so cheesy. Yes, I’m grateful for cheese.

Zucchini and squash blossom casserole, with cheese
Skillet enchilada casserole, with cheese
Bleu cheese breadsticks
Sausage and cauliflower bake, with cheese
Cheesecake
Cheesecake with coffee syrup
Cream cheese frosting
Fried squash blossoms stuffed with cheese
Spiralized zucchini with marinara and grated parmesan – grateful!
Heirloom tomato and cheddar pie:
More cream cheese frosting

Zoom Cooking with Amy

One silver lining to the Covid cloud is zoom cooking with Amy. Here we’re making fettuccine with Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese. I’m grateful to Neighbor Mary for giving me her pasta attachment!

I’m grateful for everything in this title, separately and together. Zoom. Cooking. Amy. And zoom cooking with Amy. It’s a silver lining of the Covid cloud. Back in May, I sent her a recipe for homemade gnocchi and asked if she wanted to make it with me and share zoom dinner. Thus began a joy we have shared ever since.

Pan roasted gnocchi with leeks, peas, and asparagus (grateful for Neighbor Mary’s generosity in sharing her wild asparagus harvest!)
Sharing our first zoom dinner after fun in the kitchen.

Amy and I have been friends for almost fifty years. And her parents have been parents to me, as well, whenever I have needed them to be, and friends the rest of the time. My gratitude for Amy knows no bounds. Cooking, drinking, and eating is our favorite thing to do when we get together. She lives in northern Virginia, not far from where we grew up. We met on the first day of seventh grade, and that friendly little red-haired girl saved my life that year. Through the decades, I’ve always visited when I traveled back there. And then she saved my life again during the months I spent there when my mother was dying sixteen years ago.

The second zoom meal we made was Samin Nosrat’s Big Lasagna. This first time we made pasta we both rolled it by hand.

Amy’s been coming to visit for the past few years, including during apricot season two summers ago (when she saved my life again, by helping harvest and put up pounds of fruit), but not this summer, and so we started zoom cooking instead. She’s also been watching cooking shows for years so has lots of tricks up her sleeve. We used vanilla bean seeds for something that apricot summer, and she poured some sugar in a jar and tossed in the scraped pods. “In a couple of weeks this’ll be great in your coffee or something else,” she said, and it was.

I’m grateful for locally-caught trout filets, and the friend who shares them when he has extra.
Cheesos, or cheese-shelled tacos

In August we made Fish Cheesos, with the trout, and garden produce, in cheddar cheese taco shells. This recipe came from a Keto cookbook: you pile a quarter cup of grated cheddar for each shell, about 4″ apart, onto parchment paper and cook at 400°F for 6-8 minutes, until they’re melted flat and the edges start to brown. Let them cool about 3 minutes, then drape them over wooden handle spoons or something until they harden, about ten minutes. Then…

…then fill with any kind of taco filling!
Next, we made Turkey and the Wolf’s famous collard greens melt, a veggie club on rye, which took all day to prep the homemade components for: cooked collards, cole slaw, and russian dressing.

I couldn’t be zoom cooking with Amy like this without the help of the Bad Dogs, who kindly shop for me these days because of some underlying conditions that make me super cautious about Covid. I’m especially grateful to Philip, who shops most often, and earnestly tries to fill my list of often obscure ingredients. I try to compensate them for their trouble with fresh baked bread, rolls, or cake to hand over upon grocery delivery.

Fettuccine drying (thanks for the rack, too, dear Mary) the Night of Bolognese.

After the collard sandwiches, we made Marcella’s pasta bolognese. I laughed the whole time I was making noodles because it was just so much fun. We more or less take turns suggesting the menu. After bolognese, we made squash and peanut stew. Since our neighborhood dinners have been more or less on hold all year, it’s been great to be cooking with Amy and have the chance to use so much garden produce.

Fresh garden harvest going into the squash and peanut stew.
Though we didn’t bake these together, Amy shared her recipe for decadent triple chocolate cookies.

The next menu item was Bombay Rolls, which included a chutney with lots of fresh coriander. Amy made them according to the recipe so her stuffing was green, but with no access to fresh coriander here in December, I used a jar of Kasundi I had canned earlier in the summer. It wasn’t nearly as spicy as it seemed when I cooked it, but the Bombay rolls were fun to make and delicious anyway. We cheated and used store-bought puff pastry for this meal. Our ambitions had started to slacken.

But, egged on by the Great British Baking Show, I threw down the éclair challenge, and that brings us up to last Friday night. The recipe calls for a total of 11 eggs, and I was late getting started since I had to wait for groceries. I’m so grateful for local, freerange ranch eggs for much of the year that it’s hard to shell out the dough for storebought, but in deep winter nobody’s hens are laying around here. As soon as Philip brought the eggs, I started catchup with Amy, who had already made her creme patisserie and was starting on her choux pastry. I was grateful for a snowbank right outside the door, since there was no room in the fridge to cool the filling.

Custard quick-cooling in the snow at dusk
I overcooked, then over-mixed, the choux pastry, and had the wrong size piping bag, so made little double-barrel eclairs, which did not hold much filling. The chocolate ganache was too thick so I only had enough to cover half the little pastries. It got a little messy…
BUT WHO CARES?

While we baked, we talked about the Capitol, where Amy used to lead kids in summer camp. We compared Manhattan recipes. We talked about work and friends and everything else. We carried on two separate conversations at the same time: I said something about our technical challenge, “I kept stirring and it formed a ball which kept breaking up as I stirred…,” and Amy said, “She has several professional photographers she hires to take portraits of the family….” 

I’m grateful this weekend for zoom cooking with my old friend Amy, and grateful for all the years of ease and lessons and love that life has given us to share. One day, we’ll cook together again in person, but until that time, and onward after our next visit, I hope we’ll be zoom cooking for the rest of our years. We’re already batting about ideas for our next challenge.