Once again, I want to give a shout-out to the many hard-working bloggers who are providing me with many of my most delicious and satisfying meals.
Kevin, at Closet Cooking, was my source for this utterly gorgeous jalapeno popper dip. I find it hard to go past a jalapeno popper on a menu, even though I know the breading is nearly always soggy, they are underfilled and if I don't burn the roof of my mouth I will be left with a mouthful of cold, claggy cheese. Even so, the very notion of hot, creamy cheese spiked with pickled jalapenos and a crispy coating is so addictive. This dip manages to reconcile the ideal with the reality. Lots of creamy, thick melted cheese, lots of crunchy, piquant jalapeno slices, a little bit of crispy gratin topping. And you can dunk veggies (and veggie crisps) in it, so it has to be healthy, right?
It caused me to muse on the American (Kevin is in Canada - I am using America to denote both the northern and southern American continents) gift for snack foods. Is it because televised sport has become so central to the lifestyle? Is it the marijuana consumption? Is it a continent-wide impatience over waiting for a proper meal? For whatever reason, from empanadas to poutine via buffalo wings the Americas have produced some of the world's most outstanding munchies.
Pimento cheese is another one of these amazing snackfoods, little known outside its homeland. I'd read about it years ago in James Villas' excellent book Stalking the Green Fairy, but it wasn't until I read Deb and Grace's posts on the subject that I became utterly determined to try this luscious (and very controversial) combination of cheeses, seasonings and pimentos (aside from the stuffing in an olive, I don't think I have ever seen an actual pimento; I used preserved roasted red peppers). Totally addictive. I can see why every Southerner apparently swears by the stuff.
Woman cannot live by cheese alone, so Heather's fried eggs on garlic fried rice has become a go-to fast food meal for me. I either make a bit of extra rice when I know I am going to be eating alone the following day, or (I bring shame to my house...) I buy a tub of steamed rice at the supermarket on the way home from work. With a sprinkle of my homemade smoked chilli sauce, this is a delicious, quick and nourishing meal.
I never drift too far from cheese though. I think it may be the one food I never tire of. It's certainly the only thing where I say to Paul "we haven't eaten enough cheese lately".
After one such declaration, I turned to Peter Minakis for salvation. His feta and herb pull-aparts saved the day. Unfortunately they also ruined our dinner, because we ate so many of the warm, cheesy breads that we couldn't face the rest of the meal. I didn't have a cake tin big enough, so I made them in a large saute pan that fits in the oven. They are gorgeous, with a soft, fluffy crumb and intensely flavoured filling and I urge you to give them a go for your next barbecue, or with a bowl of veggie soup.
Equally delicious, and with a definite air of luxury, is Mary's scrambled egg and smoked salmon pizza. In a wonderful turn of phrase she describes it as "a study in wretched excess" and it certainly is that, even without the luxurious red caviar garnish. We had it for brunch with glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice, spiked with homemade 44 liqueur. As Sally Bowles would say, "Divine decadence".