Pimento Cheese An Addictive, Versatile Party-Starter

Pimento Cheese An Addictive, Versatile Party-Starter


And here we are in April!! Hoping everyone sprung forward triumphant and healthy, and that you’re enjoying the (I’ll try not to jinx us here) GORGEOUS weather. At time of writing, I’m happily seated on the patio, iced tea filled to the brim, with the sun (hello, old friend) beaming down on my zero SPF’d face. I’ll get to that later. And, although the Taxman cometh soon *scowl,* the world does feel like it’s blinking back to life with new optimism and hope.

Looking back into the misty past of a mere 12 months ago, I wager we were all feeling a bit differently — ’twas a nerve-jangling time to say the least. But we made it, and what a thrilling time of year to get in the kitchen and create. A sort of “refresh button” if you like. 

So, diving in, Easter and Passover are upon us, and it is categorically my favorite holiday for food and cooking: vibrant green veggies like Brussels sprouts, spinach and asparagus, spritzed and infused with squeezes of bright citrus; roasted legs of lamb, encrusted with garlic and lots of rosemary; fluffy, parsley-flecked new potatoes; lemon meringue pie(s!). To say nothing of fresh, crunchy salads and fiddleheads. *Le sigh.* Such an invigorating pivot as grocery stores start to show signs of this shift as well, signaling that local farm stands and outdoor markets will soon manifest!!

I always like to have a few munchies scattered around the house on Easter and, if the weather cooperates, on the patio, too. One such snack that has always been not only celebrated, but also expected on my family’s Easter table every year, in addition to the requisite deviled eggs (which, admittedly, are as polarizing a food choice as, well, Cadbury Eggs), is pimento cheese. A creamy, zingy dip-cum-sandwich spread, it is as unpretentiously at home in a crystal serving bowl, surrounded by crudité and crostini for cocktail hour, as it is schmeared between slices of spongy, white Wonder or day-old cornbread with a drizzle of sorghum for lunch. And because it plays superbly as both a kicky hors d’oeuvre and a legit midday meal, it is perfectly suited to any occasion. I promise it will be loved by all those who enter your home or gathering place and begin noshing on it while you mix the Gin Rickeys.  An addictive and almost effortless party-starter, it comes together in less time than it takes to run out in the back yard to snap off forsythia and rhododendron branches to cram into a vase for the “oops-I-forgot-to-make” centerpiece for the event. And, heads-up, it will disappear even quicker, so doubling the recipe is strongly advised. In the south, we serve it with saltines and the above-mentioned Tennessee sorghum, though honey works beautifully as well. Set out a plateful of crunchy carrots, broccoli florets and sliced radishes alongside it, and the Easter Bunny herself may show up for a nibble.  

A season change (and a vaccine!) feels like just the antidote and inspiration we might need to break the tired pattern of falling into ruts with cooking and eating, recharging a worn-out, cold-weather repertoire, and chasing away the dinnertime doldrums. Plus, with all this glorious daylight, we can enjoy more meals al fresco, a welcome change from months of clawing at the walls to be let outdoors.

I hope you enjoy every bite of your special day’s repast, whatever you’ll be serving.  Seems to me, we’ll be happily celebrating a lot more than just the holiday.

Stay well and keep on cooking.                         -HK

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*This recipe comes from a crazy-good restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, called The Glass Onion. It is far and away the best pimento cheese I know.

PIMENTO CHEESE

Yield: about 3 cups. Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.

 

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

½ cup canned or jarred pimento peppers, drained and chopped

¼ cup chopped green onions

½ cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne

Dash of hot sauce

 

Combine cheddar, pimentos, and green onions in a medium bowl; set aside. Combine mayonnaise, pepper, salt, cayenne, and hot sauce in a medium bowl; whisk together. Add mayonnaise mixture to cheese mixture; gently stir together using a rubber spatula until thoroughly combined. (The only real mistake you can make here is overworking the pimento cheese; hence, we suggest that you “gently stir.”)


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