This week I kicked off the Summer Cookbook Club, and if you are participating, I hope you had as much fun as I did! As I have mentioned before, despite having cooked all of Ina’s recipes from her other eleven coobooks, I have not cooked a single thing from Modern Comfort Food. I am so excited to jump in and discover some new favorites this summer.
The recipes slated for this week were Spicy Pimiento Cheese Spread (page 51) and Frozen Palomas (page 35). I thought this week was a huge success, and I am excited to share my thoughts on these recipes, as well a short video summary my cooking process from the week.
SPICY PIMIENTO CHEESE SPREAD
What a wonderful rendition of pimiento cheese! I particularly enjoyed the nuance of flavor between the sharp white cheddar (worth seeking out and grating by hand), the pickled heat from the jalapeños, and the subtle back notes from the granulated onion, celery seed, and grated garlic. Everything melded together wonderfully, and I did not find the heat level to be overwhelming.
This recipe makes quite a lot of pimiento cheese, but it will last for a week, making this an easy snack to keep on hand for summer pool-side nibbling. One night I used some of the leftover spread to make Spicy Pimiento Cheese grilled cheese sandwiches, and they were a hit. Highly recommend!
Stop the presses! I have found my signature cocktail! The color. The texture. The flavor. All of it was a yes for me. These are a breeze to whip together, and while they do require an overnight freeze, I can think of no better strategy then to stock my freezer with batches of the base so that I can whip up a round of this delightfully delicious cocktail at a moment’s notice.
I made three notes on this recipe for next time.
First, grapefruit juice can vary in flavor from ripe and sweet to almost bitter. My grapefruits yielded a slightly bitter juice, which could easily be remedied by adding more simple syrup. So next time I will give it a taste before freezing to make sure the sweetness level is to my liking. I might also take a handy shortcut and purchase grapefruit juice next time.
Second, the recipe calls for processing the mixture in batches, but I found I could fit the entire thing in my Vitamix blender at once. Next time I will not mess around with trying to divide it up.
Finally, Ina says this makes four cocktails, but I found the yield to be closer to three, or at least three abundant piles of slush teetering to the tip top of my glass. I suppose you could get four smaller servings, but in my book, cocktails should be ample, particularly the frozen variety.
WHAT I LEARNED.
Isn’t it wonderful to make a plan, gather groceries, and execute recipes? I feel like this week was a call back to the rhythm and routine of cooking, even if the recipes were simple and straightforward. Cooking requires planning, and it is often in the context of simple recipes where I find it easiest to hone my skill of thinking through details such as making sure the cream cheese is room temperature, making sure I have simple syrup ready, and allowing for an overnight freeze.
I particularly enjoy the way cooking inspires me to create a reason to gather and connect. As I was sipping on my Frozen Paloma and enjoying the Spicy Pimiento Cheese Spread, I instantly wanted to throw a Paloma and Pimiento Cheese Party. Doesn’t that sound fun? I could make the spread ahead, freeze the cocktail mix in batches, and invite a couple of girlfriends over for a summer catch up session. I pictured setting up an ice-filled cooler on my back porch, plugging in my Vitamix next to the cooler, and mixing up batches of the Frozen Palomas on demand. I would round out the Spicy Pimiento Cheese Spread with a variety of fresh vegetables for dipping, and let the evening unfold in a wonderfully relaxed pace.
This is the beautiful thing about cooking. We always learn something, and we oftentimes remember the power that food has to bring people together.