It wasn’t exactly a non-event, but by the time Hurricane Irene reached the coast of Southern Maine, it had been downgraded to a tropical storm and had lost a lot of the rage it took out on cities and towns further south and west. Like most people in it’s path, I worked to prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best.
In addition to getting ice for my cooler and charging all my electronics and storm lanterns, I knew I had to prepare the garden. First, we gathered any of the flowers that would be ruined in the high winds and driving rains. This resulted in a house full of color and fragrance, just the ticket for sitting out the storm.
Since the herbs in the garden were abundant as well, we decided to gather them and spend a stormy afternoon making pesto. Fragrant and earthy, pesto is the perfect way to preserve the beauty and flavor of a summer garden for months to come. I make batches to freeze and use them in the winter as a reminder of warmer days.
Nothing could be easier to make. I have proportions that have served me well in making pesto, but the ingredients can change to suit what you have on hand. Generally I use a generous handful of toasted nuts, my favorite are walnuts and almonds. (I’ve stopped using pine nuts in any dish after having a case of Pine Mouth last year. Read about this weird phenomenon here.) I pulse these, along with three cloves of garlic in the food processor.
Next come the herbs. I made several batches with basil and several more with parsley. I love cilantro pesto, but I didn’t have enough from my garden this time. I fill the food processor bowl with herbs, usually about two packed cups and blend nuts, garlic, and herbs. If I’m using parsley I also use the zest of half a lemon.
Then I add about 1/2 cup of cheese. I usually use a good quality Parmigiano Reggiano, but lately I have loved the addition of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. It has the same earthiness and texture as the Parmigiano, but a depth of flavor that really stands up to the strong taste of the herbs.
Finally I drizzle about 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil in the processor as I pulse. That’s about it. Nothing could be easier.
Because I had even more parsley left over I made a Cannellini bean dip that is simpler still. Take one can of white beans, drained and rinsed, the zest of one lemon, three cloves of garlic, one packed cup of parsley and 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Put everything in the food processor and blend until creamy and pale green.
To call this a dip is really not giving it its due. This concoction, which is full of protein is versatile, tasty, inexpensive and ready in minutes. Sure it works great as a dip with chips, crackers or veggies, but it also works as a sandwich spread. I like it smeared on French bread, topped with a thin slice of ripe tomato. I’ve also been know to put a dollop or two on hot pasta for a very quick, very easy vegetarian entree.
I also rescued ripe tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden in advance of the impending weather. Nothing is easier – or more delicious – than cherry tomatoes cut in half and sliced cucumbers tossed with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Simple summer food, even in the middle of a storm, really is the best food.
As Irene made her presence known, a few intrepid friends came to my house to watch the waves and enjoy the bounty of a garden under siege. The flowers were gorgeous, the food was fresh and delicious, and Mother Nature put on quite a show!
Grilled Romaine with Cheddar Dressing
It seems that more and more restaurants I go to lately have a grilled Caesar Salad offering on their menus. On a date last week, I had a particularly delicious version of this old/new favorite. The salad was served hot off the grill with the cool dressing oozing in between the romaine leaves. It was divine. I resolved then and there to try my own spin on grilled romaine.
Cheddar Makes It Better
I love the smokey taste of the romaine leaves, drizzled with olive oil, as they emerge from the grill, but I was determined to combine it with something creamier than a regular Caesar dressing. My mind went immediately to a tried and true Cabot recipe for Cheddar Cheese Salad Dressing. I thought it would be a perfect complement to this elegant salad.
Reader, it was. Click Below for the Recipe.
My friends at Cabot Creamery decided that July was the perfect time to get creative about summer desserts. So they challenged five talented and inventive food bloggers to create something sweet and heavenly and perfect for warm weather using Cabot Cheddar Cheese.
Links to each recipe were posted on the Cabot website and people were invited to vote for their favorites. The competition was stiff, but the crowd favorite and ultimate winner was Chef Chaz – Charles French – who wowed us with his delectable Cheddar Brownie with Whipped Cream & Strawberries. This winning recipe will forever reside on the Cabot website and Chef Chaz will retain bragging rights from this day forward.
Chef Chaz’s Cheddar Brownie with Whipped Cream & Strawberries
I’m glad I didn’t have to choose a winner, because all five entries were amazing. Who knew incorporating The World’s Best Cheddar into a summer sweet could result in such delightful desserts? Since they were equally delicious, I thought the only fair way to highlight the remaining four bloggers would be to list them alphabetically by first name.
Prepare to drool!
Philadelphian and ShopRite Potluck Food Blogger Emily Malloy, modestly claims in her blog Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness, that her Apple & Cheddar Ice Cream is an “edible masterpiece.” She also claims that her funky fresh dessert will remind you of cheesecake. All I know is I can’t wait to try this refreshing summer treat!
Emily’s Apple & Cheddar Ice Cream
This Cheddar Fruit Tart with Fresh Blackberry Sauce might have come from a wicked small kitchen, but it is destined to be a huge hit at tables everywhere. Katie, of The Small Boston Kitchen fame, created a light dessert that she calls “a classic reinvented with a summery twist.” She used Cabot Smooth Sharp Cheddar and combined it with slivers of apples and pears and a fluffy bed of puff pastry. The twist was a drizzle of fresh blackberry sauce and a sprinkling of crunchy almonds.
Katie’s Cheddar Fruit Tart with Fresh Blackberry Sauce
I am a total sucker for anything mini, but Linda, of Welcome to Linneyville, brought mini to new heights with her Cranberry Pecan Double Cheese Mini Pies. I mean, really, how good do these look? With very little effort, these elegant little desserts can be ready for your next get together. The look amazing…and taste divine. Win/win, if you ask me.
Linney’s Cranberry Pecan Double Cheese Mini Pies
I saved Peter, of Peter Is a DB, for last for good reason. He is the reason the folks at Cabot created this challenge, not once but twice. A few months ago, he asked them to challenge him to create a dessert. They said: “Great…use chocolate and cheese.” Peter came up with this gorgeous, crazy piece of work that has no name but looks a little like cheesy, chocolate stuffed French toast. I’ll let a couple of pictures tell the story:
Peter’s First Challenge
And because once is evidently not enough for this intrepid blogger, Peter came back and asked for a second chance, which is how the official Cabot Summer Dessert Challenge came to be. Peter’s offering for this challenge, Strawberry Cheddar Cheesecake, is an experiment in sweet and savory with a creamy yogurt sauce. He claims the dessert was inspired by an old Married with Children episode. Let’s not quibble with how an artist gets his inspiration. Let’s just enjoy the results.