June! Summer arrives this month. In fact, the summer solstice is June 21, which is the longest day of the year. What a wonderful time to be on the road, or settled into a beautiful corner of nature, whether it is by the sea, in the mountains or on the desert.
And when packing the RV be sure to put in a jar of pimiento cream cheese. Were you aware that, according to some experts, 2011 is The Year of Pimiento Cheese? Adam Rapoport, the editor of Bon Appetit, says that pimiento cheese will be big and that “rabbit is having a moment,” too, although he agreed that it won’t be much of a moment unless chefs call it something other than rabbit.
Most of us grew up eating pimiento cream cheese on crackers or in celery stalks. But I’m sure that most of us did not know that Christopher Columbus discovered the pimiento during one of his visits to the New World.
The flesh of the pimiento (Spanish for “pepper”) is sweet, succulent and more aromatic and smaller than that of the red bell pepper. It has a heart-shape and somewhat thicker skin. Sliced or diced, it is a good way to add a vibrant red color to salads, casseroles or stews. Much of the pimiento crop is used for paprika.
Make your own pimiento cheese panini:
Grate 1/2 ounce of cheddar cheese, and then combine it with 2 teaspoons of diced pimientos, 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon of mustard, and 1/8 teaspoon of paprika. Season with black pepper. Add 1 sliced scallion, green part only. Spread the mixture on a slice of sourdough bread. Brush with olive oil and grill until golden. Serves one.
Here’s a recipe for grilled pimiento cheese sandwiches for four:
Mix 1 1/3 cups of grated cheddar cheese and 2/3 cup of grated Monterey Jack cheese with 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of jarred pimientos, drained and chopped, 2 teaspoons of minced yellow onion, 1/2 teaspoon of hot pepper sauce, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Layer each sandwich with cheese mixture and 2 thin slices of tomato, and grill. (Note: Press the tomato slices between paper towels to remove moisture first.)
Here’s another version of a grilled pimiento cheese sandwich:
Stir together 1 cup of mayonnaise, a 4-oz. jar of diced pimientos, drained, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and 1 teaspoon of finely grated onion. Stir in 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Spread 1/4 cup of the mixture on one side of a slice of white bread; top with another bread slice. Lightly spread both sides of the sandwich with mayonnaise and grill on a hot griddle 4-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and the cheese melts. This recipe will make 11 sandwiches. Keep in refrigerator.
Pimiento cream cheese makes a wonderful dip. Here’s one that can be made in minutes:
BAKED TEX-MEX PIMIENTO CHEESE DIP
1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise
1/2 (12-oz.) jar of roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
1/4 cup of chopped scallions
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 cup of shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup of shredded pepper jack cheese
Stir together first four ingredients in a large bowl; then stir in cheeses. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 20-25 minutes or until dip is golden and bubbly. Serve with French bread cubes.
Here’s one that can be done when on the road and served to friends in a hollowed-out loaf of bread:
TANGY PIMIENTO CHEESE FONDUE
12-oz. can of evaporated milk
2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon of vinegar
1 teaspoon of dry mustard
7-oz. jar of pimientos
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Cayenne pepper to taste
In top of double boiler, heat milk; add cheese and stir until melted. Let cool until lukewarm. Add vinegar, mustard, pimientos, salt and cayenne; stir together.
We really need little help to perk up in June—it’s the beginning of summer and that’s the time to be out with our RVs.
HINT OF THE MONTH: Pack a jar of pimiento cream cheese or a jar of pimientos into that little RV kitchen cupboard, and be ready for a good meal in a matter of minutes, and surprise everyone with what’s “new” for the year.
Marian Platt is a food writer who lives in Sequim, Washington.