"Picked-On" Peppered Cheese

I hated pimento cheese when I was a kid - it seemed wet, soggy, slightly sweet and overtly rich. A horrible sandwich option found in gas stations, supermarkets, and vending machines, to be avoided at all costs - my God, I thought, who the fuck wants to eat a sandwich with a filling that is softer than the bread? And the kids in school that packed pimento cheese sandwiches for lunch weren’t to be trusted.- not at all different from the “dirty kids” down the street that mother instructed, ordered me to stay away from. A kid that eats pimento cheese, after all, probably had bad hygiene and orange teeth - gross.

Outside of sack lunches at school, the only other time I was forced to deal with pimento cheese was during the holidays when it was smeared inside the green valley of fresh celery and carefully nestled on a glass tray, between canned black olives (that were wonderful when eaten from finger tips), sweet baby pickles, and more celery stuffed with creamy peanut butter. Nobody but my grandfather ate the pimento cheese - and let’s face it, he liked scotch and whiskey….two things equally as off putting as slimy orange cheese spread.

As I got older, I mysteriously developed a deep affinity for scotch, whiskey…and yes, even pimento cheese. It’s become quite expected in the south for chefs, restaurants to serve this simple cheese spread that is delicious on white bread alone, as accouterments to burgers and sandwiches, and even as a means for simple snacking, entertaining. Please enjoy my recipe here - I like it with baked lahvosh (recipe to come soon) and pickled cucumbers and red onions (also to come soon) - I hope you enjoy it. Oh, and to all the pimento eating, dirty kids I shunned or shamed in elementary school - I humbly ask for your forgiveness - I was wrong….

Pick a Pepper Cheese

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  • 1 lb. of sharp cheddar

  • Splash of Pickapeppa brown hot sauce

  • Splash of cider vinegar

  • 1 cup grilled sweet peppers, rough chopped 

  • 2 Tsp. onion powder

  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder

  • 1 Tbsp. samball hot sauce

    21 Tsp. Dijon mustard

  • 1 Cup mayonnaise (Start with ½ cup and add as needed)

  • Pinch of smoked paprika

    Technique -

    Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Allow to rest in fridge for an hour or so.Serve with home made lahvosh and pickled cucumbers and red onions.

Refrigerator Cucumbers - Missouri Childhood in a Jar

Racing my bike through the streets of my small hometown was an integral part of my childhood; always en route to morning swim team practice with a towel wrapped tight around the center handle bars, the city park to roam and play, the fair grounds that connected a series of bike trails in the dense woods on the edge of town, the Wednesday matinee where I first held a girl's popcorn buttery hand, and at least one stop a day at either one of my grandparent's homes to raid their always fully stocked refrigerator.  I could count on very specific foodstuffs, depending on my destination that day; my father's parents always had cold sliced cantaloupe, bologna, RC Cola, and frozen ice cream drumsticks covered in chopped nuts; while my mother's folks maintained a fridge chock full of cranberry juice, leftover bacon from breakfast, fresh peaches from the family orchard, fried okra and onions, pork rinds, the original Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies, and a large Tupperware container filled with ice cold cucumbers and onions in white vinegar.

The refrigerator cucumbers were my favorite - fresh, cold, puckering tart, and utterly refreshing in the middle of those sweltering, humid Missouri summer days.  I stood with the heavy door opened, propped against my skinny, tan legs - holding the cold Tupperware against my belly (yes, there was a time when I wore a half shirt in the early 80s) while I clamped thumb and index finger around the floating coins to plop into my mouth, one after the other.  When I had my fill, I raced back into my care-free childhood, screen door banging loudly behind.

As complicated as cooking could be for the recipes and meals devised by the women in my family, these quick pickles were surprisingly simple and easy to prepare.  Usually, the cucumbers were harvested from  the garden, layered with sliced red or yellow onion, then covered with vinegar that had been embellished with a whisper of salt, sugar, and pepper.  And that was it... 

As much as things have changed, they've also stayed the same in many ways.  I still stand mesmerized in front of an open fridge eating leftovers, drinking milk, or sometimes a cold beer in the middle of the night - but my favorite refrigerator ritual still involves standing in the glow of the intermittent light, munching with eyes rolled back on the nostalgic, tart, ice cold cucumbers from my childhood, albeit sans the half shirt, but now that I think about it, probably sans a shirt at all.    

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Refrigerator Cucumbers

1 English Cucumber

2 Cups White Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Salt

2 Turns Cracked Black Pepper

Technique - Slice the cucumber into thin coins - place in jar or Tupperware container - cover completely with vinegar, add salt and pepper - chill for at least two hours - then devour,