Posts Tagged ‘cheese’

Breaking the Rules -or- The Great Pumpkin Soup

September 22, 2013

proasted

When it comes to preparing recipes, no matter where you look, be it the pages of a magazine to cookbooks to celebrity TV chefs, EVERYONE says the same thing:

“When entertaining guests, don’t prepare something you’ve never made before.”

I realize we’ve got ourselves a double negative there, and perhaps that’s the crux of it; somewhere in my mathematically handicapped brain, two negatives make a positive. (Right?)

So that, dear friends, is why I decided it was a marvelous idea to A) Purchase a whole pumpkin at the Pepper Place Farmers’ Market; B) Hack into said pumpkin, jack-o-lantern style; C) Fill the sucker up with broth and cheese and spicy goodness; and D) Roast the whole thing in the oven until it became an edible tureen. Oh, and E) serve it to company.

pwhole

I’d seen a recipe years back and had been dying to try it out. So what that I was breaking the essential entertaining maxim of “cook what you know.” I mean, what could possibly go wrong while roasting a 10-pound gourd full of boiling liquid?

Let’s take a moment, shall we, and stop to ponder the amazing amount of potential mischief that could ensue from such an endeavor:

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #1:
The pumpkin could collapse while roasting in the oven, dousing the heating elements with 7 to 9 cups of broth, cheese, and bread crumbs, which undoubtedly would find a way to catch fire, resulting in much cursing and requiring the procurement of a shop-vac.

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #2:
The pumpkin could collapse at the table, resulting in a tsunami of lava broth splashing into the laps of my guests, yielding at least second-degree burns, much yelling, and a potential head injury to a certain cross-eyed feline, who, when scalded by said broth splashdown, would take off like a cat rocket, likely straight into a wall or chair leg.

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #3:
Upon finishing cutting the top off my pumpkin, I could have lifted the lid to discover it full of black widow spiders, which would have resulted in yours truly suffering an instant, massive, and undoubtedly fatal heart attack.*

But none of these things happened. Well…to be fair, the pumpkin did leak a little broth, but not a calamitous amount. The soup was savory, rich, and comforting…a perfect bowl of fall goodness. Here’s what you need, and how to pull it off without injuring your friends and/or visually handicapped pets.

Whole-Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Yield: 4 to 8 servings 

1 (6 to 8-pound) cinderella or cheese pumpkin

¼ cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon ground fennel (or ½ tsp ground cumin)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup finely ground fresh bread crumbs

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

5 to 7 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

Garnish: Parmesan cheese 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

pscoop

2. Cut the top off your pumpkin, and scape out all the seeds and stringy bits (like you would if carving a jack-o-lantern). Note: Do NOT carve a face into your pumpkin. Doing so would result in your pumpkin barfing soup out of its mouth, which is a novel yet impractical method of serving the soup.

pcarved

3. Once all the stringy bits are gone (from the lid, too), rub the insides of the pumpkin with butter, and sprinkle evenly with fennel, paprika, and cayenne pepper.** Lightly season with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkin on the prepared pan off-center, leaving enough space on the pan for the lid, eventually (we’ll get to that in a minute).

4. Add cheese, bread crumbs, and garlic. Add broth, filling to within 3 inches of pumpkin rim. (At this point, I’ll be honest; it looks pretty nasty. Just push through.) Place the lid on your pumpkin, pop her in the oven to roast for 1 hour.

MISCHIEF ALERT:
When filled with the broth and all that cheesy spicy goodness, this pumpkin is HEAVY. Move it mindfully, and use full-on oven mitts if you have them. Imagine the horror of burning your hand on the pan, hollering like a big woman, then flinging the hot-lava-pumpkin bomb into the air, spraying your walls (and your cat) with molten cheese and broth. Yeah. So be careful.

5. After an hour, remove the lid, and place it on the baking sheet, bottom side up.  Continue roasting until the pumpkin is tender, 30 to 60 minutes. (You can test this by poking the lid with a fork.) Here’s how she looks after roasting:

proasted

Ta-da! To serve, ladle the broth into bowls. Then, using a spoon and starting near the rim of the pumpkin, gently scrape out spoonfuls of pumpkin, and divide among bowls. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with extra cheese, of course.

pbowl2

And that, friends, is it. Do I recommend that you tackle this project for a major event without practicing the recipe first? If I were editing this recipe for Taste of the South magazine, I’d caution no. But you know what? This is Kitchen Mischief, so why the hell not? It’s really not that hard. Just follow the instructions, and be careful.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this soup is 110% baby approved! Precious Moment herself, Miss Harper Elaine Walker, commandeered her mother’s portion, exclaiming “More! More!” until there was nary a drop left. Mischief accomplished. J

pharper

*So, about the spiders. A long time ago, somebody told me a story about picking up a discarded jack-o-lantern from their yard, only to find it infested with black widow spiders. Oh, the humanity!!! That horrific image is SEARED into my imagination, hence my irrational fear that any seemingly innocent pumpkin could be a WSD (Weapon of Squirrel Destruction).

**Don’t feel hemmed in by my spice choices. Curry powder would be great, as would a good rich chili powder.

Cupcakes for Breakfast? Yes Ma’am!

March 13, 2012

Mmm...breakfast cupcakes!

One of my favorite lunchbreak pastimes is to peruse Pinterest.com in search of recipe inspiration. While I (responsibly) chew my standard turkey sandwich, I scan the pinned recipes, sometimes laughing (seriously, must you add cake batter to EVERYTHING, people?!) and occasionally lusting after the featured treats.

Now I usually don’t cook ridiculous stuff, especially not early in the morning, and ESPECIALLY not if I’ve been “out on the town” the night before. But one Saturday morning I awoke to find my head a little fuzzy and my tummy in the mood for something more satisfying than yogurt and granola. Then I remembered a tasty little pin from Pinterest: Someone had put ham into muffin tins and cooked eggs in the ham cups. I figured even with a testy head, I could handle this. So off to Publix I dashed. Here’s how it went down…

Breakfast Cupcakes
Serves two hungover guys

4 eggs
sliced ham, speck, prosciutto (any thinly sliced cooked or cured meat)
2 TBSP milk
1/4 cup of cheese (sharp cheddar or Parmesan)
half an onion, diced
small potato, diced
various herbs and what-such

I started by dicing my onion and potato, then got them sauteing in the skillet with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Honestly, you can skip this step (I did once, and they were fine) but I do love a breakfast potato. Cook until tender enough to eat, with a nice crust.

Mmmm...potato...

Speaking of crust, while you’re sauteing, it’s time to start your meat cups! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, spray your muffin tins with cooking spray, and stuff some meat in. I’ve done it regular deli ham and speck (which I think is basically American prosciutto). Just push it down to make a cup.

Mmm...meat cups...

Meanwhile, mix up your eggs. I recommend mixing them in something with a spout (I used my measuring cup) — it makes pouring easier. Combine eggs and milk, whisking well. Add salt and pepper, but salt mindfully, because depending on what meat you use, you could be in for a salt overload (which I did to my family last weekend!). Mix in some herbs (parsley or dill) or sauteed spinach (or even mushrooms!) and you’re good to go. Oh yeah, and cheese. Never forget the cheese!

Mmm...cheese...

Finally, it’s assembly time. If you weren’t too hungover and you did the potato-onion step, add a small spoonful to the bottom of each meat cup (about a tsp). Follow that by carefully filling each cup halfway with the egg mixture (it rises), then top with a dash of pepper and cheese.

Mmm...salmonella cups...

Me, fighting the urge to eat Salmonella Cups...

Then, all you do is pop ’em in the oven for 15 minutes. That’s it! And here they are!

Mmm...hello delicious!

You would think they’d big ole mess, but they just pop right out! They are a super-cute and super-tasty way to start a Saturday morning. Plus, if you’re like me and have a husband who tends to sleep a little later than you on Saturday, these actually reheat decently (or at least better than scrambled eggs or waffles).

Check out Pinterest.com…there’s a lot of fun stuff — just stay away from the cake-battered chicken tenders, will you? 😉

Did You Say Meatloaf Omelet?

May 27, 2011

*Note: There is no meatloaf in this omelet.

Not exactly, but we’ll get to that. One of my favorite things to do on Saturday morning is to head to the Pepper Place Farmers’ Market and shop until I drop (or at least until I blow through my $40 allowance).

Then we get home, with bags-a-bulging, and start unpacking our spoils. Speaking of spoils, the next step is to purge the crisper of last week’s wishful thinking. Even though I try to get to all my veggie friends, there’s inevitably a little bit of arugula, a lonely green onion, or maybe a mushroom or two loitering about. Good intentions, slowly going bad…

Last Saturday, instead of dooming these misfits to the rubbish bin, I invited them all to breakfast. I decided to do a Leftovers Omelet. I know this name hits about a 6 on the Repugnance Scale, but we’re not talking about meatloaf here — we’re talking about farm-fresh vegetables. Okay, farm fresh-ish.

The beauty of an omelet is several-fold. The cooking process disguises any droopiness your veggies may have acquired after a week in cold storage. ‘Wilted’ sounds so much more delicious when it’s on purpose, right? Second, cheese is the social lubricant of your omelet party. You can invite a few weirdo leftovers as long as you have plenty of cheese. Lastly, by this time, you are probably STARVING, which means your omelet will be 87% more delicious. SCORE.

See the clock? By 10 a.m., I could eat dirt omelets and declare them delicious!

The process is simple: pick your poisons, combine them in a bowl, and pour in a pan. Last Saturday, I used some leftover cappricola (a cured meat, like prosciutto), arugula, green onions, smoked mozzarella, Parmesan, and a slight glug of milk. Oh, and lots of salt and pepper.

Tip: Leftover bread-ends from Mix make delicious mini-toasts!

As far as cooking is concerned, I’ll go ahead and be honest — I think you must be God-fearing with a healthy prayer life to successfully flip an omelet. You know I love Jesus, but I drink a little. Consequently, my omelet flipping is haphazard at best. Usually I can get one done OK. Then I flip the other one and it goes careening out of the pan, nicking the stove hood, then spirals out of control, shedding bits of omelet flotsam across my stovescape.

I'm preparing to curse LOUDLY...

Caught in the act of cursing! (Why am I pointing?)

Good luck. Just use lots of Pam, pray a little bit, give the pan a jerk and flip, and be sure to CURSE loudly. My go-to omelet expletive is “Holy Shit!” …if that helps. 😉

Have a wonderful weekend, and if you do dare to flip, take a picture of the crash site for me. Have a wonderful (and safe) Memorial Day Weekend!

Holiday Mischief: Fruit & Cheese DISASTERS!

December 3, 2009

With holiday parties on your horizon, you’re sure to encounter some mischievous party food. Whether it’s an afterthought or a “work of art,” fruit and cheese displays can attract a lot of attention…and not in a good way. Read on as we highlight a few Fruit-N-Cheese-tastrophes we found, and what you can do to avoid mischief and create your own beautiful arrangement…

 

Josh: This is why you don’t ask the Accounting Department to arrange food.
Matthew: People with OCD should be medicated.

Why this is a Fruit-N-Cheese-tastrophe: Linear arrangements may be all the rage on cruise ships, but save this style for the seven seas. Food arranged in this method may look good for a second, but as soon as your guests start digging in, your well-intentioned lines will turn into a chaotic fruit basket turnover.



Josh: (in the style of the Evening News) “What started as a festive party turned into a night of terror when a presumed “fruit and cheese tray” revealed its true nature as a mutant alien creature-beast and began devouring guests face-first at a local Christmas Party…”
Matthew: I like the fact that the creator placed the tooth picks in advance.  Like we would never know what to do those.

Why this is a Fruit-N-Cheese-tastrophe: The lovely eviscerated pineapple effect serves to draw your attention to a focal point: the bowl of toothpicks. This is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Plus, the pre-set toothpicks make it look like the creator dissected the pineapple and is preparing to label its internal organs. Or like the pineapple is getting acupuncture. We could go on for DAYS about this mess.

 

Josh: I can’t figure out if I’m at a Christmas Party or a Cheese protest!
Matthew: I think they should have used “Hello My Name is…” nametags.

Why this is a Fruit-N-Cheese-tastrophe: Letting folks know what they’re eating can be good thing, but this is overkill. It’s too much…TOO MUCH. Serve fewer cheeses. And don’t do any decorative carving of limes and lemons. I can’t explain why it’s wrong exactly, I just feel the wrongness in my soul.


Josh: Is it just me, or is that blasphemous fruit mountain staring at me?
Matthew: Looks like Carmen Miranda gave up her famous fruit hat and started wearing a fruit burkha.
 

Why this is a Fruit-N-Cheese-tastrophe: The word “ostentatious” should be applied to ball gowns and Lady GaGa performances, not to your fruit and cheese displays. Keep it simple, and under 8 feet tall.


Josh: Don’t be such a square. I’m so cheesy! Oh God, make the puns stop!
Matthew: Those people at SAM’s are so creative!

Why this is a Fruit-N-Cheese-tastrophe: While the cube is a perfectly acceptable cut for cheese displays, it should be one of several shapes on display, not the ONLY one. Mixing it up with wedges, slices, and cubes gives your eyes a break. PS: Notice that our friend the “Toothpick Centerpiece” is back!


Josh: Perhaps the “sawblade” presentation was a hit at the Carpenter’s Association Holiday Hoedown, but this is ridiculous!
Matthew: Looks like the cheese slices are performing a synchronized swimming routine.

Why this is a Fruit-N-Cheese-tastrophe: First, it looks like it hurts. Second, don’t use deli-sliced cheese for a display. It’s too flat. You need a little height. And no, holding up three wedges vertically in the center with strawberries does not qualify as “height.”


Josh: Words cannot describe this monstrosity.  And why is that turkey licking himself?
Matthew: All the chefs who spent years in culinary school carving editable art just cringed. Why is that turkey licking itself?  This is just wrong.

Why this is a Fruit-N-Cheese-tastrophe: Granted, this was created by a mom for her son’s kindergarten class. And that’s where it should stay. Using fruit and cheese to build an edible beast is great for kids, but not for grown-ups. Seriously…the turkey is licking himself!!!

Building A Proper Display: Matthew Tells All
Now that we’ve been merciless bitches about other folks’ cheese trays, Matthew has some really good tips to help you build a beautiful display and avoid embarrassment this holiday season. Take a look at the following photos of his displays, and read on for tips on how to build them yourself.

Matthew's latest creation. Photo by Brent Boyd

The display from KM's first catering event...

Set the Stage for Greatness
Tip 1: Use a cheese board, wooden cutting board (like above) or platter.  In both arrangements above, I combined two or three of the same style cutting boards.
Tip 2: Choose a serving surface that’s a little smaller than you think you need.  You can mound fruit and cheese to give the illusion that there’s a lot.  A big board allows for too much dead space.
Tip 3: Place something under the cheese to allow it to stand out.  I used hydrangea leaves and cast iron plant leaves.  Just make sure that your foliage is not poisonous, or poison ivy. Major party foul. You can also use a colored tea towel.

The Cheese Factor
Tip 1: The rule of thumb is to serve a soft cheese (Brie, goat cheese, smoked gouda), hard cheese (Parmesan, asiago, etc.)  and a blue cheese (Stilton, gorgonzola, etc).
Tip 2: Don’t buy pre-cubed cheese.  I know it is tempting and easy but it’s dry and sad.
Tip 3: Buy real cheese. Velveeta or a block of cream cheese slathered in something should not be on your tray. It’s just a huge mess waiting to happen.

The Supporting Characters
Tip 1: Buy fruit that’s in season.  Strawberries in winter have no taste, so think apples, pears, citrus.  Just remember to place apples and pears in a lemon juice and water bath before serving.  Keeps them from turning brown. Grapes are always good—they create height and volume. Any they’re always in season somewhere.
Tip 2: Get creative with crudités. Veggies don’t always have to be cut into spears. Try pickled veggies, like okra, green beans, or cornichons (lil pickles).
Tip 3: Appease the carnivores. Serving cured meats like salami and prosciutto  adds another level of color and texture. Just be sure to buy meats that can be served at room temperature. Sandwich meat is NOT a cured meat. And while using it on your platter may or may not be a health hazard, it’s definitely a style hazard. Rolled up, fanned out—whatever—keep Oscar Meyer off your tray.

Making the Magic
Step 1: Place your boards on your serving surface.  If it’s a slippery surface and the boards slide, invest in some of the foam-treated shelf liner, it will stop the slipping.
Step 2: Arrange your foliage, tea towels or (God forbid) doilies on the boards.
Step 3: Place the mound of grapes first—preferably in the middle towards the back of the boards.
Step 4: Spread the types of cheese out, keeping the like-colored cheeses separate.  They don’t have to be in layers—you’re going for rustic, not fussy.
Step 5: Place other fruits or veggies in mounds between the cheeses.  If you choose to use veggie spears – you can stand those up in a cool tumbler or wine glass to add height. As you place, remember to leave room for meats and crackers.
Step 6: Mound the meats if they are sausages. You may need to layer sliced meats, but symmetry is not necessary
Step 7: Fill any “dead” space and fill with crackers or additional cheese.

We hope these tips help you to create beautiful displays this holiday season. And remember: A bowl of toothpicks does not qualify as a centerpiece! 😉