It’s no secret that Cobb Salad is a personal fave. But how to turn up the flavors, yet keep the bacon, egg, and cheese goodness? Enter Sriracha Grilled Shrimp and Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing. Say hello to your new best friend – the Southwestern Grilled Shrimp Cobb Salad. Perfection!
If you only need to know one thing about me, know this. I am mad for late summer farmers’ markets. I will probably go to five this week. Okay, I agree…..a little obsessive. But, I have a favorite farmer (plus The Cheese Lady) for every ingredient in this salad. I’m not saying you have to do the same – or that you can’t just go to the supermarket for all this – but I AM SAYING you have to make this NOW. Southwestern Grilled Shrimp Cobb Salad is all about the season at hand! Fresh sweet corn. Heirloom tomatoes. Sprouts. Flowers. Herbs. Oh my!
The Classic Cobb Salad
Instead of debating where this salad came from and why it is so called (almost certainly a 20s- or 30s-era salad from Hollywood’s Brown Derby, owned by Robert Cobb), what do you say we just dive in? The classic has greens – often iceberg or romaine, chicken, tomatoes, avocado, hard boiled egg, Roquefort and bacon. In other words, what could be bad? You may find it already tossed, as well as deconstructed with tidy little rows of ingredients. While it barely needs a dressing, the rich cheese and bacon beg for a quiet whisper of shallot vinaigrette.
The Shrimp Cobb Salad
I’m not gonna lie. I am a bit conflicted here. I have a passion for spins and tweaks and making the old new again. But the Classic Cobb is pretty much as good as it gets. I was having a party and wanted a make-ahead all-in-one salad-entree and I thought this would fit the bill….a real crowd-pleaser. But I decided as long as I keep all the favorite components, I could give it a global palate spin. Enter shrimp, corn, and chipotle. Some of the ingredients were direct swaps – chicken for shrimp, roasted for marinated and grilled, Roquefort for Hatch Gouda, and shallot vinaigrette for Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing. Others were too good to mess with – bacon, eggs, tomatoes, and avocado. Then there were a few things I decided to slide in because I could.
Look at these stunningly gorgeous plums. What a perfect sweet and juicy foil to all that buttermilk tang and chipotle smoke! Michigan produces a wide range of both Japanese and European varieties. Those yellow/green beauties are Shiros; the golden/orange-ish rounds are Bubblegum; the small red orbs are Methley; and the violet-blue ovals are Vibrants. I also added some corn which brought some more lovely sweetness, but bonus……….a nice crunch and texture contrast, as well.
I think deconstructed salads are among the few places where more is more. Most often in food, less is more. But if you are going to let people decide what to add to their plate, why not give them a variety to chose from?
Marinating the Shrimp
Shrimp is an-oh-so simple thing to throw on the grill, and of course is good grilled and chilled, making this the perfect make-ahead entree. The marinade is dead easy – lime juice, olive oil, Sriracha, Tabasco and some spices. If you haven’t tried the Chipotle Tabasco, give it a whirl. It adds a nice smokiness to the marinade. I never like to marinate any seafood or fish for too long, because the acid will start to “cook” it. If you prep the marinade first, and add the shrimp while prepping the rest of the salad and getting the grill ready, you will time it just right. Then only a few minutes on the fire for each side, and you and your shrimp will be ready to chill.
Composing the Salad
The directions for the marinade and creamy dressing are sufficiently detailed, but I am leaving the quantities for the fixin’s – or even whether or not to add them at all – up to you. How big is your platter? How many are you serving? How much do you love/hate sprouts?
Just keep in mind colors and textures as you go to arrange your platter. It’s a bounty of beautiful ingredients so this should be the fun part once your chopping is done. If you need to prep things further ahead than when you want to compose it, just bag each ingredient separately and arrange closer to serving time. Your guests will be dazzled! Enjoy!!
This Southwestern Grilled Shrimp Cobb Salad is a kicked up spin on an old classic. A few simple ingredient swaps, along with a zesty marinade for the shrimp and a creamy Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing, and this one-platter-is-a-meal comes together quickly. What a great way to celebrate with the bounty of late summer!
Marinade (makes enough for two pounds of shrimp):
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon Chipotle Tabasco
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing (makes 2 1/2 cups):
1 cup Greek non-fat plain yogurt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
chipotles in adobo – one big and one small, more or less to taste
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
Salad fixin’s (mains):
shrimp, raw, deveined, peeled and tail on
Little Gems, baby Romaine lettuce, trimmed and halved
heirloom cherry and grape tomatoes, halved
eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and halved
bacon, crispy and crumbled
avocado, peeled and chopped
Southwestern cheese, grated (I found Hatch Chili Gouda)
corn, shucked, boiled, and cut from the cob
plums (or other stone fruit), pitted and sliced
Salad fixin’s (garnishes):
limes, cut in wedges or halved, if small
edible flowers, like Nasturtium
fresh sprouts, like radish, watercress and sunflower
crunchy topper (see note)
Prepare the marinade: Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate, up to one hour, while you prepare the other ingredients.
Prepare the Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing: Place all ingredients except the cilantro in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop, then process until creamy. Add the cilantro and pulse several times to chop roughly. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Grill the shrimp: Drain any excess marinade from the shrimp and grill over high heat for 2 – 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and reserve until cooled.
Assemble the salad: Once the shrimp is cool enough to not wilt your salad, compose the salad using all the main ingredients, with an eye toward color and textures. Arrange the garnishes on top. If you are serving later, reserve the bacon and crispy topping until serving time. Cover and refrigerate.
To serve: Add the bacon and crispy topping and serve with the Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing.
Crunchy toppers: there are a lot of different crunchy toppers available in the crouton section these days. I used the fried jalapeno slices, but you will also find the basic fried onion rings, as well as red peppers, tortillas and more. Chef’s choice.
Marinade is enough for two pounds of shrimp and Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing makes 2 1/2 cups.
Prep Time:1 hour
Cook Time:30 minutes
Keywords: Cobb Salad, Shrimp, Chipotle Dressing
I want to take a moment to send a heartfelt note of gratitude for all those that supported me spiritually, morally and physically in my Ration Challenge journey earlier this summer. Your generous financial support of this campaign put us at the very top of the fundraising leaderboard among the 40,000 challengers from around the world. Together we raised enough to feed 35 refugees for an entire year. Globally, that number is 16,829! Way to go!! With deep gratitude. xoxo, kk
Let me be the very last to wish you a Happy New Year. Can I make amends by being the first to say Happy Valentine’s Day? I’m hitting you up with a delicious shiitake kale lasagna today, and it’s just about perfect for showing the love. Ooey gooey goodness. Check. Next-level comfort food. Check. Flavors that are literally layered. Check. Check. Check. (A lot of layers requires three checks!) What distinguishes this dish from my normal recipe style is that it takes a bit of time. Did I say a bit? Half the damn day. (I exaggerate – a lot). Hence the love factor, as in it is a labor of love to prepare. And in fact, it was a labor of love that I even bring it to you. You can thank my two neighbors that showed up on my doorstep, knocking timidly, hands extended and holding up a cherished lump of frozen kale mushroom lasagna. “Could you? Would you? Figure out what this is?” they asked. They’d found it in the back of the freezer, and it had been a gift. They loved it and wanted more. It was the last little slab. This kind of reminds me of Monica and Phoebe trying to recreate Phoebe’s grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe. Anybody?
I tried it and knew if it was going to be a project I’d undertake, I would surely have to kick the flavors up a notch. I tested this a couple of times, once with the oven ready noodles – no bueno in my mind, but you do you – and it kept getting better. The last one we made together. One thing I learned then and there is that it’s fun to cook with friends, maybe even more fun than cooking for friends. Who knew? This is a perfect recipe – since it has 6 components – to either make over a couple of nights, getting the sub-recipes ready to assemble, or even better, enlist some friends, giving each their own ingredient to prep. I was worried that it was really a bit involved for my blog – I like to roll simple and flavorful. But the reality is lasagna was never meant to be an everyday dish. In Italy, it is a special occasion dish, eaten in smaller portions as a starter. Argh! Americans!! Must we supersize everything??!! I told my colleague Elena Tedeschi from Well Rooted Kitchen that I was working on this, and she gave me a side-eye glance and begged to be reassured that I was not adding ricotta. Wait, what? I always had. Before I could answer, my rolodex brain flipped back to realize that of course the traditional would have been made with béchamel, or besciamella in Italian, a white sauce. I assured her I had a béchamel, conveniently leaving out that I ALSO HAD RICOTTA!!!!!! What am I, an American…adding more when less would have done? Yup! Sorry, not sorry. Not only do I add ricotta, I season the hell out of it. Blame it on the first round with the oven-ready/no-cook noodles. I was trying to keep the dish moist. I will not apologize.
I remember a Washington Post article about the Americanization of lasagna. They are not wrong. The article describes in detail the variations throughout regions of Italy both in terms of recipe and special occasion where you might find it served. The thing they have in common is just how special this dish is, and how laborious – and even expensive – it can be. I think this one fits in right about there. Classic dishes are more likely to be made with homemade thin, nearly translucent noodles. I do short-cut this with a dried pasta, but I try to find an Italian brand, like De Cecco, which is thinner. Bonus points for an artisanal pasta maker. Because lasagna noodles are used by the piece, not the weight (how many pieces are needed to cover a layer?) but sold by the weight, not the piece, it’s tough to guess how much you will need. I used a pound of that inferior no-cook domestic brand, but only 1/2 pound of De Cecco.
I have worked over the years with the legend, Marcella Hazan. She is no doubt rolling in her grave over this version. While a laborious gesture of love, her lasagna was certainly not overstuffed. I would argue that the thing mine has going for it is that there are two distinctly different (and perfectly seasoned, I might add) vegetables – kale and shiitakes – that are the stars. But you can still distinguish all other layers individually – pasta, béchamel and ricotta. I have seasoned each component separately, and you can taste them distinctly. But enough about me, let’s get this party cooking. Have you called your friends yet to schedule a lasagna fest?
Shiitake Kale Lasagna
Prep the Vegetables
I am using two kinds of kale, as well as shiitake mushrooms, in lieu of meat for this non-traditional – go ahead and say it – Americanized, Katy-ized version of lasagna. Both Lacinato (also known as dino, Tuscan, black, or flat) kale and baby kale are sautéed, then sweat to a reduction. They get a dose of red pepper flakes for their seasoning. Shiitake mushrooms are sautéed in butter and the pan is then deglazed with Marsala wine.
Make the Besciamella
This white sauce is normally butter, flour and milk, but because of the double dose of starch – flour + noodles – I cut the milk with vegetable stock. Don’t try to make sense of that – just know I am lightening up the béchamel a bit by not solely using milk for the liquid. Like all roux-based sauces, it’s 1 Tablespoon fat to 1 Tablespoon flour to 1 cup of liquid. Got that? I hope by now you have that mastered. So, it takes 1/4 cup fat, in this case butter, to result in one quart of sauce. Tricky math – 1/4 cup dry is 4 Tablespoons and one quart liquid is 4 cups. Voila! I’m seasoning this with some coriander – just because it plays well with the earthy vegetables – and some nutmeg, albeit more French than Italian. Stay with me.
Season the Ricotta
Elena: Just skip this section and forgive me.
I thin the whole milk ricotta with some milk, and season it with lemon zest, fresh basil and thyme, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Easy peasy.
Cook the Noodles and Grate the Cheeses
As mentioned, look for a high-quality Italian-brand dried pasta. The amount needed will depend on the number of pieces per pound. Figure 13 to 15 noodles, which is hard to determine when you are shopping, so buy the one pound box. Before you cook, lay the noodles out in a pan and see what you will need to cover three layers. I like to do the first and third layer cross-wise and the middle layer lengthwise. That makes it easier to hold together when you cut the lasagna. If all layers go the same direction, you will no doubt trigger a noodle landslide. Nobody wants that.
For the cheeses, I used Pecorino Romano (a classic), goat Mozzarella (cow will do) and Fontina Fontal (super melter). Each cheese brings its own special flavor notes and texture, but at a minimum you want a finely grated super flavor like a Pecorino and a hand-grated melter like a Mozz and/or Fontina. Shout out to The Cheese Lady for filling my life with options!
Layer the Shiitake Kale Lasagna
At the risk of TMI, I have provided a detailed list of the layering order with specific details on how much of each ingredient to use. Maybe its me, but I often find myself trying to figure out why I end up with some arbitrary ingredient portion left over or trying to count layers and doing long division, especially if the details are buried in a verbose paragraph. It makes the printout lengthy but you can NOT go wrong. Not on my watch!!
I hope you will find a cold wintery night and a couple friends to either help you prep or at least to pour your wine as you go. You will be the belle of the ball if you mic-drop this on the table. Some red wine and a big salad – maybe with a touch of sweetness like juicy pears – and settle in. Buon Appetito.
This shiitake kale lasagna is a dreamy wintery dish, chock-full of earthy greens and mushrooms, with a cozy dose of melty cheeses and warm spices. Enlist your friends and make a night out of prepping the layers and assembling, then settle in to reap the rewards.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bunches of Lacinato (dino, Tuscan) kale, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
2 5-ounce packs of baby kale
3 Tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 – 2 Tablespoons butter
12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
2 Tablespoons Marsala wine
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Béchamel Sauce (makes 1 quart):
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups of milk
2 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Grating of fresh nutmeg
1 pound ricotta cheese
Zest of one lemon
1/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound Italian-brand lasagna pasta (you will need about 15 pieces)
1/3 pound Pecorino Romano, 1 1/4 cups grated
1/2 pound goat (or cow) Mozzarella, 2 cups grated
1/3 pound Fontina Fontal, 2+ cups grated
Preheat oven to 325oF. Butter a 3-quart 9 x 13 baking dish.
Prep the layers:
Kale: Heat olive oil over high heat in a large sauté pan. Add chopped garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chopped Lacinato kale and the baby kale and stir to wilt. You may need to add the greens in batches, until there is enough room to add more. Add 3 Tablespoons water and cover. Cook for about 2 minutes, then remove the lid and cook about 2 minutes more until the liquid is evaporated. Season with salt and red pepper flakes.
Mushrooms: Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the shallots and cook about 4 minutes until shallots are golden. Add 1 Tablespoon butter and the shiitakes, cooking for 4 minutes until cooked through. Add an additional Tablespoon butter, if needed. Deglaze the pan with 2 Tablespoons Marsala wine, scraping up the brown bits. Season with black pepper.
Béchamel Sauce: Heat 4 Tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, whisking in the flour until smooth. Cook the roux for several minutes, letting it bubble at least one minute, until lightly golden. Add the milk and vegetable stock, in a slow drizzle until all is incorporated. Season with salt, coriander, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste for seasonings and adjust.
Ricotta: Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Pasta: Cook the noodles according to package directions in salted water, undercooking by about two minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drizzle a little olive oil on the noodles and lay them out on a foil-lined sheet pan, with plastic wrap between the layers. Cover with a damp towel if you are holding for a little while or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate if you are prepping a day ahead.
Cheese: Combine the three cheeses together in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
To make assembly easier to follow, I am listing each layer separately, along with how much to use. Layer as follows:
Béchamel Sauce – 1 cup
Lasagna Noodles – cross-wise, about 3 – 5 pieces, depending on brand, trimmed to fit
Béchamel Sauce – 1 cup
Kale mixture – 1/2 of the mixture
Grated cheese – 1/3 of the mixture
Mushrooms – 1/2 of the mixture
Ricotta filling – 1/2 of the mixture
Lasagna Noodles – lengthwise, about 3 – 4 whole noodles, trimming as needed to fill ends
Béchamel Sauce – 1 cup
Kale mixture – 1/2 of the mixture
Grated cheese – 1/3 of the mixture
Mushrooms – 1/2 of the mixture
Ricotta filling – 1/2 of the mixture
Lasagna Noodles – cross-wise, about 3 – 5 pieces trimmed to fit
Béchamel Sauce – 1 cup
Grated cheese – 1/3 of mixture
Place on a sheet pan to catch bubble-overs, and bake, covered with foil sprayed with oil to prevent sticking, for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and raise the oven temperature to 425oF. Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes until the cheese is starting to brown and the lasagna is bubbly.
Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
The prep time here is directly correlated to how many people and how much wine. I am a speedy chopper and prepped in less time than shown. If you are a leisurely chopper or socializing, it may take longer. Or, many hands make light work.
This Fig Prosciutto Pizza is a far cry from those sticky Newtons you grew up on. Sweet jammy fig butter, with crispy and salty Prosciutto, creamy rich Cambozola and fresh luscious figs let this pizza span a meal from appetizer to dessert, while achieving rock star status along the way. If you are like me, your first exposure to figs was the famous Fig Newton. Can’t say I was really a fan. It was kind of gummy and way too seedy for a kid. But yet, against all odds, the Newton became a fan favorite. Must be all that sugar. What really surprises me though is that Newtons are almost always the end of the line for the poor fig. After childhood, we fickle feasters don’t look back and all too often have never seen a fresh fig, much less tasted one. I ran across them in the garden when staying with friends in Italy some thirty years ago. My hostess was not a fan of the texture, and I get that, especially if you pull it from the tree and chomp into it, apple-style. But the flavor!! Oh my. It is a perfect foil for a creamy rich blue cheese and some salty Prosciutto. Hmmm…let me think what else? Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Pizza dough? Now we’re cooking with gas!!!
Fresh figs have a fairly short season – found both in the spring and the fall, or if you are in Cali maybe a bit longer. They date back to 9000+ BC and were cultivated more than 1000 years before wheat or rye. Their existence is well documented from Aristotle to the art world. I mean, where would we be without fig leaves? Spanish missionaries brought them to the US in the late 1700s, where the Mission variety thrived in the California sunshine. To this day, Black Mission figs are among the most popular and that is what I used here.
Dried figs used to be a bit tough and required soaking (brandy wouldn’t be so bad) to use. But today there are unsulfured, wonderful, juicy varieties available in resealable pouches. Valley Fig offers organic dried Mission figs and Made in Nature offers dried Smyrna figs that are velvety and have “hints of honey, jam and butterscotch.” If you can’t find fresh figs, try chopping some of these in place of the fresh. As Made in Nature’s package says, “… congrats, nature. You really nailed it on this one.” They’re “figgin awesome.”
For the cheese, I used Cambozola, but there is a wide range of blues from which to choose, especially Stilton or Roquefort. I like the creaminess and richness of Cambozola as an offset to the salty meat and juicy fruit. This cow’s milk cheese, made in Germany, is a triple crème-ripened blue cheese and you might liken it to a cross between a blue and a brie. You would not be all wrong. While the name appears to be a portmanteau of Camembert and Gorgonzola given its similarity to the rich creaminess of Camembert and the blue bite of Gorgonzola, the name is also a nod to its terroir. It is made in Kempten (in Bavaria), whose Roman name is Cambodunum.
Fig Prosciutto Pizza
This is really another non-recipe recipe, which I know y’all love. Proportions are not essential when topping pizzas. Actually, even choosing the ingredients is not critically important. Just remember to aim for a balance of sweet, salty, fat and acid and a mix of textures, and if you dare, a contrast in temperatures. As written below, the jam provides sweetness; the cheese and meat are salty; the cheese adds creamy fat and richness; the vinegar add acid and serves as a light (just a drizzle) dressing for the arugula. The textures range from creamy to crispy, and the temperature is hot pizza with cold salad. Done and Done!
Let me know how it goes, and – as always – I love to read your comments on the website and see your photos on Instagram.
This Fig Prosciutto Pizza is a far cry from those gummy Newtons you grew up on. Sweet jammy fig butter, with crispy and salty Prosciutto, creamy rich Cambozola and fresh luscious figs let this pizza span a meal from appetizer to dessert.
1-pound fresh pizza dough (see notes)
11-ounce jar of Fig Butter (or fig jam) – may have leftovers
Favorite oil for drizzling on crust (I wouldn’t be mad if you used truffle oil once it comes out of the oven, but brush the crust with something less delicate before baking. Lemon oil is nice)
8 fresh figs, about 1/3 pound, sliced
1/2 pound Cambozola cheese, or other creamy blue like Gorgonzola
Flaky sea salt to finish – like my beloved Maldon’s
Preheat oven and pizza stone to 425oF. Check pizza dough directions to confirm this is best for your dough.
Lightly flour a work surface and stretch or roll the pizza dough into a 12” diameter round. If you are using the roll-out dough that comes in a popping-fresh canister, follow those directions and roll into a rectangle, but plan on using more topping ingredients. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled pan.
Spread the fig butter to create a thin layer, leaving a 1/2 “ border of dough around the outside. (See notes.) Brush the exposed outer ring of dough with a favorite oil.
Set the pan on the pizza stone and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the crust is set.
Carefully remove from oven, adding the figs, some dollops of Cambozola and the Prosciutto. I like to take a half-slice of Prosciutto and twirl into a rosette, but some prefer to chop it and distribute the flavor more uniformly. Maybe you should be making two pizzas?
Return to oven and bake for 10 more minutes or until the crust is golden and the Prosciutto starts to crisp. The cheese should be melty.
Remove from oven and top with the arugula. Drizzle with a balsamic reduction (or Crema di Balsamico) and sprinkle with a flaky finishing salt.
Dessert Pizza or Appetizer? Actually, I have served it both ways. Spread the fig butter according to taste and purpose. If you use the whole jar (don’t judge) it will be pretty sweet. But it will also be nice and jammy. Depending on your taste, you might want to load up a bit more on the salty items like the cheese and Prosciutto.
Trader Joe’s makes a great fresh pizza dough, stashed in the cheese and prepared food refrigerator case. You can find it made with white flour, whole wheat and even gluten-free.
Stonewall Kitchen makes a lovely Fig & Walnut Butter and Valley Fig offers three flavors of fig spread. For this test, I used the Trader Joe’s Fig Butter.
You’re driving me crackers, she said to this weather. Luckily this tasty little number is neither season- nor weather-dependent. I found my inspo for this recipe in a fancy store in California (Market Hall in Berkeley, if you must know), and I just might have eaten my weight in them. After “serving” them to guests two nights in a row, while secretly polishing them off on my own in the kitchen, I decided it was time to stop paying this fool’s ransom and knock them off for myself. Armed with only a visual on the seed varietals and my longstanding loyalty to a good cheese crisp, I took it upon myself to try to replicate and I must say I nailed it first try. You’re welcome!! The base recipe for these – when seed-free – reminds me of the signature dish at an early Lidia Bastianich restaurant – Frico. The frico, as a dish,is a melted cheese crisp, usually made with unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Friuli called Montasio. At the restaurant, these cheese crisps crowned salads and were often stuffed with potatoes or mushrooms and more, served as an appetizer. How I miss this!
But, oh my, these Cali ones were chock-full of seeds, which provides more crunch and an additional level of nuttiness. Yahoo. As I was testing them, I remembered a frequent guest that I cooked for during my days as the food stylist at The Rosie O’Donnell show. Marjorie Johnson, from Minna-so-TA, dont’cha know. At 4’8”, this feisty redhead, always decked out in a red dress, topped with a red apron, is pure sass. Here she is in 2016 at the Anoka County Fair, where she won 52 ribbons, including 22 blue and the sweepstakes prize for her tea ring. Yes, those are all hers…from that week!
I met Marjorie before the millennium, and her goal was to have 2000 blue ribbons by the year 2000. She has well over 2500 now and has not slowed down one bit. Her secret, she told me, to beefing up her ribbon count was to enter random categories with less competition……………like crackers. And we’re back. Temporarily. (I must add that is something I was long aware of – don’t take the easiest path using a sweet ingredient in a dessert. Work harder and come up with something that is unexpected.) I haven’t seen Marjorie in a while, but we keep in touch and I have her book. I’ll never forget the segments we did with Alec Baldwin or Paul and Nell Newman after Marjorie won a load of dough from Newman’s Own. It all went to her favorite charity – American Cancer Society in Minnesota – and they in turn crowned her the belle of the ball, tiara and all. I think Alec summed it up best – while on his knees to meet Marjorie eye to eye – “We need more Marjories!!”
Seeded Cheese Crisps
I debated calling this a Cheese Krackle instead of a Cheese Crisp, because the seeds make it so much more than a Crisp. Such decisions!?! Luckily the recipe is much more straightforward than that challenge. I really don’t need to tell you in great detail about this recipe, because once I locked in the ratio of ingredients, it pretty much baked itself. Instead of Montasio, I chose a rosemary Asiago, an Italian cow’s milk gold medal winner at the 2008 World Championship Cheese Contest, and Fontina Fontal, also Italian, and also cow’s milk…from our friends at The Cheese Lady, of course. The Asiago adds a bit of tang and the Fontina is a sublime melting cheese. Keep the cheeses cold until you grate them, as they tend to be a bit softer than many cheeses we often grate. I used the big holes on a box grater.
Add all the seeds to the grated cheese and mix well to combine. You may find that as you dole out the mixture onto a sheet pan that the smaller seeds will settle so be sure to keep mixing as you go.
You will need two or three batches on a half-sheet pan to bake off all the mixture. If you need to re-use a pan for a later batch, let it cool to room temp first so it doesn’t throw off your oven timing. I used two Tablespoons mixture per cracker and flattened them a bit with my fingertips for even cooking. You will need to leave a little space between them, but more for an easy removal than to accommodate massive spreading.
Bake at 375o for 7 – 8 minutes until the crisps are lightly golden. Remove the pans from the oven and let the cheese crisps cool slightly on the sheet pans until they firm up. Then you can transfer quickly to a wire rack using an offset spatula. I would tell you to store them in an airtight container once cooled, but let’s be real – are you going to have any leftovers? Kind of doubt it!!!
These are tasty as a garnish for soups and salads, or as an accoutrement to a cheese or meze spread. Call it a Krackle, call it a Crisp, but definitely call it delicious.
When you give this loaded cheese crisp a whirl, tag me on Instagram and as always, I LOVE to see your comments below.
This seed-filled cheese crisp is great on top of a soups and salads, or as an accoutrement to a cheese or meze spread. Call it a Krackle, call it a Crisp, but definitely call it delicious. And while you are at it, double up on the recipe. You’re gonna want more.
3 ounces grated Asiago, or 1 1/3 cups
1 ounce grated Fontina Fontal, or 1/3 cup
3 1/2 ounces raw shelled pumpkin seeds, or 2/3 cup
1 ounce raw shelled sunflower seeds, or 1/4 cup
3 Tablespoons sesame seeds, or 1 ounce
1 Tablespoon flax seeds, or 1/2 ounce
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds, or 1/3 ounce
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 375o F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well. The smaller seeds may settle so be sure to stir as you dole out the mixture.
Divide the mixture into crackers, allowing 2 Tablespoon per cracker. Flatten any mounds to a uniform thickness.
Bake for 7 – 8 minutes until lightly golden. Cool slightly on the sheet pans until they firm up, and then quickly transfer to a wire rack using an offset spatula. Store in an airtight container once cooled.
I used a rosemary Asiago but plain works well too.
Keep the cheeses cold until you grate them, using a box grater. They are a bit soft so they don’t grate as well at room temperature as a harder cheese, like Parmesan.
These are delicious on top of a soup or a salad, or as an accoutrement to a cheese or meze spread, but do note they are not sturdy like a Ritz, so don’t go planning to spread your Cheez Whiz atop. Who are you anyway??:)
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:10 minutes
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When I find something that will change your life – FOREVER – I must share. I’m not such a fan of pre-seasoned packages, like those dried bean soup mixes loaded with some heavy doses of sodium, but I recently stumbled across this beauty at Trader Joe’s. It’s simply called Harvest Grains Blend and can quickly become the rock star of a wonderful fall Harvest Grains Salad. I wanted to take issue with the fact that orzo is a pasta and not technically a grain, but I guess pasta started as a grain, right? There’s really no reason to get cranky, because this is a great Mama’s helper. It has Israeli couscous (the jumbo pearl size), three colors of orzo (plain, red pepper and spinach), split baby garbanzo beans (so cute), and red quinoa. The beauty of the pre-package is that it takes the guesswork out of cooking. You can easily make your own blend, or even just use one single grain/pasta. But if you are mixing, you need to pay attention to cooking times so you don’t, for example, throw couscous and wild rice into the same pot at the same time. Cooking time here is a mere ten minutes.
Israeli couscous is larger than standard coucous and is slightly chewy and comes in a variety of flavors. Shown here is a tri-color blend, including unflavored, spinach and tomato. The pasta in the center is orzo.
I hope you are taking advantage of the last of the season’s juicy tomatoes. I have detailed before how you can simply split them, put them cut side up on a sheet pan, sprinkle with salt, and slow roast them to concentrate the flavors and dehydrate the liquid. From there, once cooled, they are easy to Ziploc and freeze. I use them all winter in frittatas, cornbreads, pastas, soups and stews, on pizzas, focaccia, and in salads. They are a sweet treat come February, and now is the time to make it happen!
Tomatoes are a natural BFF to blue cheeses. While blue can be made with cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk, all varieties share a common production technique which involves ripening them using cultures of the mold Penicillium. The green or blue veins are created during the aging process by spiking with stainless steel rods to aerate the cheese and encourage the mold’s growth. It’s not hard to see where the spikes went in on this hunk of Glacier Wildfire Blue. To learn more, check in with our friends at The Cheese Lady for great info on many cheeses, blue and beyond.
For this salad I chose Delft. It’s a buttery cow’s milk cheese with a clean finish – a bit sweet and not too salty. This cheese comes from the Netherlands and is so named for its resemblance to Delftware pottery. The blue veins and milky whiteness resemble the lovely pottery, as if broken and put back together.
A new twist on pasta or grain salad, this dish uses a Trader Joe’s pre-packaged combo and includes Israeli couscous, tri-color orzo, split baby garbanzos and red quinoa. While you can, oven dry some end-of-summer tomatoes and stash them in your freezer. They will add a nice flavor boost to salads like this, as well as pastas, soups, stews and anything else you might make this winter when the tomatoes in the store then will taste like cardboard.