1. Mexican Caesar Salad


    I’m excited to say that this week’s post features a “choose your own adventure” sort of scenario. The recipe is an old but fantastic one of my mother’s known as Mexican Caesar salad, which calls for either feta or cotija cheese. Both are equally delicious in their own right, so it really comes down to what direction you want your salad to take—do you want the tangy freshness of feta, or the smooth creaminess of cotija? Luckily, with this adventure, it’s impossible to go wrong.

    Mexican Caesar Salad
    Makes 4 servings

    Cilantro dressing:
    1/2 bunch cilantro, stemmed
    1 4oz can diced green chiles
    2 tbsp roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
    1 large clove garlic
    3 oz salad oil
    1 tbsp red wine vinegar
    4 tsp cotija or feta cheese
    1/3 cup mayonnaise
    1-2 tbsp cold water
    Salt and pepper to taste

    1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-size pieces
    4 tbsp crumbled cotija or feta cheese
    1/4 cup pepitas
    1 to 2 handfuls tortilla chips, crushed

    For the dressing: Place all ingredients in a blender and blend for about 20 seconds, or until dressing is smooth. Taste and add more vinegar if necessary, then salt and pepper. Place in a jar and refrigerate. The dressing will thicken; if it’s too thick, add a bit of cold water and shake to combine until it’s the right consistency.

    To assemble the salad, simply toss all the ingredients with the dressing. Or, if you’d prefer a more composed salad, drizzle the dressing over the greens and sprinkle with cheese, pepitas and crushed tortilla chips. Serve, savoring every last bite.


  2. Burrata Pesto Pizza

    This will be the second time I praise Trader Joe’s for their wonderful selection (and with good reason). I recently discovered that they sell my favorite cheese in the world: burrata. It’s essentially fresh mozzarella sealed with cream inside. It’s kind of amazing, and by kind of, I mean incredibly.

    Burrata can be substituted for regular fresh mozzarella in practically any dish, which is why I decided to put it atop some homemade pizza. Here, its rich creaminess nicely offsets the tangy pesto and smooth basil. For just a few bucks, you can bring your pizza to a whole new level—what have you got to lose?

    Burrata Pesto Pizza
    Makes one pizza

    1 16oz package pizza dough (or make your own!)
    1/4 cup flour
    4 tbsp pesto
    1/2-3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    1 “bulb” burrata mozzarella cheese
    2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
    red pepper flakes for garnish

    Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

    Spread the flour out on a cutting board, then roll the pizza dough in it. Knead the dough for several minutes, or until the flour is almost completely incorporated. Continue to roll it out with a rolling pin until it is the desired size. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with foil and cooking spray.

    Spread the pesto onto the pizza dough, using a bit less than you would with regular tomato sauce. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese across the pesto until it is covered.

    Next, slice the burrata thinly. (It will fall apart at this point; don’t worry, it’s supposed to do that.) Arrange the pieces of burrata over the shredded mozzarella, keeping the pieces at least 1/4” apart. (They will melt and expand.) Top the pizza with the chopped basil and red pepper flakes, if desired. Bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden. Slice and serve, though you’ll want the whole thing for yourself.


  3. Pork Belly and Brie Sandwiches


    Normally I’m not one to post two sandwiches in a row—I like to mix it up and keep things interesting—but this recipe was way too good to save for later.

    Hopefully you’ve jumped on the pork belly wagon at this point, and if you haven’t, it’s time you did. Now that it’s sold at Trader Joe’s, pork belly is both accessible and affordable to everyday cooks. Because it is essentially a meatier bacon, this stuff is extremely rich—and it makes a hell of a sandwich.

    I tried to keep everything on the same page as the pork belly, sticking to equally savory ingredients. The brie melts fantastically over the pork belly and is accented by the creamy avocado and garlicky mayo. Together, I can’t even describe how decadent and hearty the sandwich tasted. You’ll just have to try it to believe it.

    Pork Belly and Brie Sandwiches
    Makes 2 servings

    1 12oz package fully cooked pork belly
    2 tbsp olive oil
    2 ciabatta rolls/loafs, halved and toasted
    1/4 cup mayonnaise
    1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
    1 wedge brie cheese
    1 avocado
    1 cup mixed greens

    Remove the pork belly from its package and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices. Bring a pan with the olive oil to medium-high heat and add the pork belly. Flip the pieces occasionally until they start to turn golden and crispy, about 10 minutes.

    While the pork belly cooks, mix the minced garlic in with the mayonnaise and spread on the insides of the halved ciabatta.

    When the pork belly is done, take it off the heat to cool slightly. Using tongs, carefully layer the pork belly onto the ciabatta. Next cut the brie and avocado into slices, adding them on top of the pork belly. Top these with the mixed greens and replace the top ciabatta halves. Eat in euphoric disbelief.


  4. Gouda Grilled Cheese

    I was doing some inventory (there are currently 9 types of cheese in my fridge!) and realized that I had a round of gouda at my disposal. Normally I would simply eat it with baguette and apples, but today I decided to take it a step further.

    Thanks to my trusty Flavor Bible (a culinary must-have), I learned that gouda pairs well with apricot. That’s why I’ve included apricot jelly in my Gouda Grilled Cheese, along with thinly sliced apple and baby arugula. The tastes and textures mesh perfectly, making for a seriously delicious sandwich. Or a damn gouda one, if you will?

    Gouda Grilled Cheese
    Makes 2 sandwiches

    4 slices rustic bread
    2 tbsp butter
    8 slices gouda cheese
    2-3 tbsp apricot jelly
    1 apple (Fuji or Honeycrisp is best), cored and sliced thinly
    1/2 cup arugula

    Spread the butter on the outsides of the sliced bread, then the apricot jelly on the insides. Layer two slices of gouda cheese on each side with the jelly. Top two of these pieces with a layer of the apples. Add a handful of arugula to each and put the sandwich halves together.

    Cook the sandwiches in a pan on medium-low heat, until the cheese is melted and the bread is crispy. Cut in half and enjoy immensely.


  5. Queso Fresco Taquitos


    One of my favorite cheeses of late is queso fresco—it’s light, crumbly and tastes even more amazing when melted. Because I jump at any chance to cook with less common cheeses, I knew I’d need to use it in a recipe.

    I love this dish because it comes together so quickly. The cooking itself takes less than 15 minutes, and then you just wait for it to come out of the oven. Of course, time isn’t the only thing this recipe has going for it—the subtle flavors are accented by the cumin and cayenne pepper, melding seamlessly into melty goodness. Served with sour cream and avocado, these taquitos will blow you away.

    Queso Fresco Taquitos
    Makes 10 taquitos

    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 small onion, chopped
    2 cloves garlic
    1 15 oz canned corn
    1 tsp cumin
    1/4-1/2 cayenne pepper, to taste
    1 15 oz canned black beans
    1/4 cup chopped cilantro
    1 1/2 cups crumbled queso fresco
    salt to taste
    10 tortillas
    cooking spray

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    Coat the inside of large pan with the olive oil. Bring the onions to medium heat, cooking until they begin to turn translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and stir for an additional minute. Mix in the corn, cayenne pepper and cumin. Gently stir in the black beans and cilantro, followed by the queso fresco. Salt to taste, if necessary.

    Line a baking sheet with foil and coat it in cooking spray.

    Lay out a tortilla and spoon a small portion of the mixture (about 3 tbsp) onto its lower third. Fold the bottom of the tortilla up and over the mixture, then continue to roll until the taquito is formed. Place the taquito fold-side-down on the baking sheet and coat it in cooking spray. Repeat with the remaining mixture and tortillas, then bake for 15 minutes. Allow them to cool slightly before eating, though you won’t want to wait.


  6. Creamy Garlic Orzo in Parmesan Bowls


    I’m back!

    It’s been a busy couple of years for me, what with graduating, entering the real world and desperately trying to function. Somewhere along the line, blogging became a back burner sort of thing. But now I’m back, and ready to return to my cheese pushing ways!

    This dish is based on my most popular recipe for Creamy Garlic Pasta—only this time, it has even more cheese. How? Why, in the form of a crispy, delicious parmesan bowl. It makes for lovely presentation, and an even lovelier side dish. Dig in, you won’t regret it.


    Creamy Garlic Orzo in Parmesan Bowls
    Makes 4 servings

    1 tbsp unsalted butter
    2 tbsp olive oil
    6 cloves garlic, minced
    1 1/2 cup orzo
    3 cup chicken stock
    1 1/3  cup shredded parmesan
    1/2 cup milk
    1/2 cup grated parmesan
    1/4 cup chopped parsley

    In a medium saucepan, melt the butter into the olive oil. Bring to medium heat and stir in the garlic. Cook until fragrant, about a minute. 

    Next, mix in the orzo until it is completely coated by the butter and oil. Pour chicken stock over the orzo and stir to incorporate. Bring to high heat, allowing the mixture to come to a boil. Continue to cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the broth is absorbed by the pasta. Be sure to stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

    While the pasta cooks, coat a large non-stick pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese in the shape of a circle, about 7 inches in diameter. Bring it to medium heat, allowing the cheese to melt. Once the edges start to turn golden, take the pan off the heat. Loosen the edges with a spatula, then carefully overturn the pan and dump the cheese onto an inverted bowl. Let it cool and take the shape of the bowl. Repeat until you have a total of 4 parmesan “bowls.”

    Once the broth has been absorbed by the pasta, take it off the heat. Stir in the milk, then gently mix in the parmesan cheese. Spoon the pasta into the parmesan bowls and serve.


  7. Burrata Panzanella

    Hey friends, check out my recipe for panzanella using a hefty serving of the always-amazing burrata cheese!



  8. New Times, New Blog

    Hello cheese fiends, I hope you’re doing splendidly. I’ve just started up a new food blog, The Tentative Vegetarian, and would love your support. And never fear, I will always stick to my roots: the recipes will contain plenty of cheese.

    Check it out!



  9. Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta

    Again, I apologize for the delay. I’ve spent the past week cooped up in the cinema school’s editing labs, tirelessly piecing together a couple of short films. (Ok, I lied—I get pretty tired of it after being there for 6+ hours at a time.) And while it feels amazing to finally break free from the labs and walk home at the end of the night, the little journey unfortunately leads me right past a Wendy’s.

    This puts me in a bit of a pickle. Sure, the burgers are sloppily put together and the fries are kind of pathetic, but it’s ready right then and there. On the other hand, I could go home and make something delicious but probably time-intensive.

    Or, I could have the best of both worlds.

    That’s why I make my Cajun Chicken Pasta. It’s super easy to prepare and takes next to no time. Not to mention, it’s pretty damn tasty. The creamy sauce compliments the ever-so-slight kick of the chicken, which is just enough to give it some character without overwhelming the taste buds.

    Really, it blows fast food out of the water without taking that much more time. Best of both worlds indeed.

    Cajun Chicken Pasta

    Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta
    ½ lb linguine pasta (half a package)
    1 chicken breast
    2 tsp Cajun seasoning
    1 tbsp butter
    1 tsp olive oil
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 red bell pepper, sliced
    1/3 cup heavy cream
    ½ cup milk
    ¼ cup grated parmesan
    ½ tsp salt
    Chopped parsley and additional parmesan for garnish

    Boil the pasta in salted water according to the box’s instructions.

    Cut the chicken in half horizontally, then slice these halves into strips. Toss them in the Cajun seasoning and set aside.

    In a large saucepan, bring the butter to medium heat. Once completely melted, add the chicken and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the olive oil and garlic. Stir for about 30 seconds, then mix in the pepper. Allow it to simmer for several minutes. 

    Pour in the cream and milk, stirring constantly. Bring the pan back to medium heat and mix in the parmesan until thoroughly incorporated. Continue to cook until the milk no longer sits at the bottom of the pan and has thickened into a creamy sauce. Dish up the pasta and garnish with chopped parsley and additional parmesan. Makes 2 generous servings.


  10. Grown Up Tuna Melts

    I apologize for the delayed post—it’s been a hell of a week in school. Because I’ve been so busy, my kitchen hasn’t been properly stocked (at least to my standards). This led to a desperate search for something I could use to make a decent meal.

    Standing in front of my pantry, I realized I had plenty of tuna that I never really got around to using. Sure, I could have made a basic tuna salad sandwich, but that’d be no fun. And then it came to me: Grown Up Tuna Melts.

    To age this dish a bit, I substituted ciabatta for normal sliced bread, sweet Vidalia onions for celery and tangy aioli for mayonnaise. I also threw in some arugula, tomato and sliced avocado for good measure. All it was missing was a generous helping of cheese—I sprinkled mine with some mozzarella and cheddar for color.

    Oh, the deliciousness that is born from necessity.

    Grown Up Tuna Melt

    Grown Up Tuna Melts
    2 small loaves ciabatta (or any rustic bread)
    2 cans tuna
    1/3 cup chopped Vidalia onion
    ¼ cup aioli (recipe follows)
    ½ tsp oregano
    ½ tbsp chopped fresh parsley
    ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
    ½ cup arugula or mixed greens
    1 beefsteak tomato, sliced
    1 avocado
    ½ cup shredded cheese of choice OR two slices (recommended: provolone)
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Slice the ciabatta in half and toast until golden. Set aside.

    Drain the tuna, sifting through for any impurities. Mix it in a large bowl with the onion, aioli, oregano and parsley. If the aioli begins to break down, pour out the excess liquid. Taste the tuna and season with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper if necessary.

    Arrange the arugula on the ciabatta halves and top with the slices of tomato. Carefully spoon the tuna onto the loaves. Slice the avocado and divide between the sandwiches. Top with cheese and additional pepper if desired. Broil for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Makes 4 open-faced sandwiches.

    Basic Aioli
    2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    ½ tsp salt
    1 egg yolk
    ½ lemon, juiced
    ½ cup olive oil

    Put the garlic, salt and yolk in a blender. Pulse until thoroughly incorporated. Add the lemon juice and mix again. Leaving the blender on, slowly pour in the olive oil. Continue to blend until the aioli is thick and light in color.