1. 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.

     

  2. Queso Fresco Taquitos

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    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.

     

  3. Creamy Garlic Orzo in Parmesan Bowls

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    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.

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    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.

     

  4. Burrata Panzanella

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

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  5. 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!

    thetentativeveg.tumblr.com  

     

  6. 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.

     

  7. 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.

     

  8. Completely From Scratch Prague Pizza

    I was fortunate enough to spend the spring of 2010 abroad in the Czech Republic, though not so fortunate as to enjoy the Central European cuisine. Czech meals tend to consist of a slab of meat and a dense potato-based side, all covered in a thick gravy. I suppose you could say it wasn’t quite my cup of culinary tea. (I was not, however, opposed to the pint of beer consumed alongside these dishes.) 

    Shortly into my stay, however, I stumbled upon a pizzeria just blocks away my apartment. I initially eyed it with suspicion, as the Czech version of international food is a bit skewed (their interpretation of Mexican food is particularly laughable). But after a bite or two, I was hooked. The flavor of sweet onions and peppers mingling with the subtle heat of the spicy salami was simply divine.

    Never one to turn down a challenge, I’ve done my best to recreate the pizza—entirely from scratch (because it really does taste better that way). And while I may be thousands of miles away from Prague, it still tastes like what I used to call home.

    Prague Pizza

    Completely from Scratch Prague Pizza
    1 batch Overnight Pizza Dough (recipe follows)
    4 tbsp olive oil, divided
    ½ tsp salt
    1 pinch red chili flakes
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
    ½ cup sliced Vidalia onion
    1 bell pepper, preferably yellow, sliced
    2 cups shredded mozzarella
    1 package spicy salami

    Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

    Knead the dough on a flour surface. If it is still sticky, gradually knead in flour. Set aside to rest. 

    Bring 2 tbsp olive oil to medium-low heat in a saucepan. Sautee the onions until the oil starts to sizzle, then reduce the pan to low heat. Add the pepper, and allow it to continue to cook.

    Meanwhile, mix 2 tbsp olive oil, the chili flakes, salt and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while bringing it to medium-high heat, then allow the garlic to sauté for about 30 seconds. Mix in the tomatoes and allow it to heat throughout. Once it begins to simmer, take it off the heat.

    Roll out the dough to make two individual pizzas, transferring them onto a pan coated with cooking spray (preferably olive oil flavored). Spoon the sauce onto the dough and spread it out. Divide the mozzarella between the pizzas and scatter it over the sauce. Arrange the salami over the cheese, then top it with the onions and peppers. Bake at 500 for 10 minutes. Garnish with basil or additional red chili flakes. Makes 2 individual pizzas.

    Overnight Pizza Dough
    2 ¼ cups flour
    1 ½ tsp salt
    ½ tsp instant yeast
    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 1/3 cups cold water

    Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Slowly stir in the olive oil and water until all the flour is absorbed. Continue to mix, by hand, for 5-7 minutes. The dough should be stick to the bottom of the bowl but not the sides. If it is too wet, slowly add small amounts of flour until it is no longer sticks to the side of the bowl.

    Transfer the dough to a floured countertop and cut into two separate pieces. Flour your hands and roll the dough into balls. Put them in plastic ziplock bags and refrigerate them overnight.

     

  9. BLT Pasta Salad

    It’s far from picnic season, but that isn’t going to stop me from craving those kinds of foods. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s nothing like a cool and creamy pasta salad on a warm summer day. Of course, just because I can’t enjoy the sunshine doesn’t mean I won’t make the most awesome pasta salad possible. And I did.

    I humbly submit for your approval BLT Pasta Salad. It combines subtle herbs with peppery arugula and fresh tomatoes, all held together by a creamy base. Most importantly, it’s finished with a modest portion of ever-delicious bacon. With those ingredients, it’s hard to go wrong—even if it’s not quite time for a picnic.

    BLT Pasta Salad

    BLT Pasta Salad
    3 cups corkscrew pasta
    ½ cup milk
    10 slices thick-cut bacon
    1 clove garlic, minced
    ½ tsp thyme
    1/3 cup mayonnaise
    3 tbsp sour cream
    3/4 cup grape tomatoes
    ½ arugula, packed
    2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
    1 tbsp grated parmesan
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Boil the pasta in salted water according to the package’s instructions. Drain and rinse, then pour into a large bowl. Mix in the milk and set aside.

    Cook the bacon on medium heat until crispy. Remove from pan and crumble. In a separate pan, bring 1 tsp of the bacon drippings to low heat. Add the garlic and thyme, allowing it to cook for no more than a minute. Pour the garlic and drippings into the bowl of pasta and mix. Stir in the mayonnaise and sour cream until thoroughly incorporated.

    Halve the grape tomatoes and add them, along with the arugula, to the pasta. Gently toss to coat the vegetables. Mix in all but 1 tsp of the bacon. Stir in the parsley, parmesan, salt and pepper. Garnish with the remaining bacon and additional parsley. Makes 6 servings.

     

  10. Spinach Artichoke Nachos

    Superbowl Sunday is just around the corner, so I figured I’d throw in my two cents. Given my affinity for cooking and my lack of the sports gene, it’s no surprise that my favorite part of the Superbowl is the food. Sure, the commercials are entertaining, and one might argue that the game is too, but there’s nothing quite like throwing caution to the wind and indulging in a ridiculously unhealthy but ecstasy-inducing feast.

    That’s why I came up with a recipe for Spinach Artichoke Nachos. It’s spinach and artichoke dip at its finest, really. The rich combination of cream cheese, parmesan and mozzarella makes for a delicious base for to the fresh spinach, tangy artichoke and buttery garlic. Not to mention, you get to cut out the middleman—no dipping necessary.

    The recipe makes a generous amount of nachos that, if doubled, is perfectly party-sized—even for a ravenous group of football lovers. Or just food lovers. Wait, who’s playing again?

    Spinach Artichoke Nachos

    Spinach Artichoke Nachos
    3 cups fresh spinach
    1 tbsp butter
    1 tsp olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    ¼ cup grated parmesan
    ¾ cup canned artichoke, chopped
    3 tbsp cream cheese
    ½ tsp salt
    ¼ tsp pepper
    3 cups tortilla chips
    ¾ cup shredded mozzarella, divided

    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

    In a large pan, bring the olive oil and butter to medium heat. Once fully melted, add the spinach and cook until completely wilted. Add the garlic and stir for another minute. Remove the spinach from the pan and chop.

    Return the spinach to the pan and mix in the parmesan. Once the cheese is melted, add the artichoke. Slowly stir in the cream cheese until it is fully incorporated. Season with the salt and pepper, and take off the heat.

    Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and spread out the tortilla chips. Sprinkle ½ cup of the mozzarella over the chips, then cover with the spinach artichoke dip. Scatter the remaining ¼ cup mozzarella over the chips, and bake at 325 for 7-10 minutes.