Cheese & Herb Monkey Bread

Growing up, when we were having a special treat or the whole extended family was together, my grandmother would make us her ‘sticky buns.’ Now that she has passed away, my mom thankfully has taken on the responsibility of the sticky bun making! It was only after I was probably in my mid-20s that I realized what we called Grandmom’s sticky buns was what most people call monkey bread. You know what I’m talking about… those sweet, sugary, pull-apart balls of doughy deliciousness that taste of cinnamon and frequently have chopped nuts attached! (This is a point of contention in my family – nuts or no nuts?! The two parties are bitterly divided and therefore Grandmom and Mom make one dish with and one dish without the nuts. I’m on Team Nuts, for the record.) As I was writing this post, I decided to look up the history of monkey bread. Fun facts for your bank of useless knowledge: 

  • Monkey bread was termed such because we eat it using our fingers, pulling apart each chunk, which was thought to mimic the way monkeys eat. 
  • Alternative names include: monkey puzzle bread, sticky bread (I guess this is where we got our sticky buns moniker!), pinch-me cake, bubble bread, and Hungarian coffee cake.
  • The origin of this treat is probably the Hungarian-Jewish arany galuska, brought to this country by Eastern European immigrants in the late 1800s. 
  • American monkey bread differs from arany galuska as each dough ball is dipped in butter, which was not part of the original recipe. 

So there you have it – more knowledge than you ever knew you needed about monkey bread! Now this version is a savory adaptation of the sweet breakfast tradition. The base concept is the same; dough balls, dipped in the butter, stacked haphazardly prior to baking, and eaten pulled apart with fingers. While I love the original, this cheesy, herby version is amazing! It’s an amazing alternative to regular bread to accompany dinner, but it definitely would still work as a breakfast dish. 

Cheese & Herb Monkey Bread

(Adapted from Home Skillet, by Robin Donovan)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted & divided
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups Asiago cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
Instructions:
  1. In a large bowl, combine 2 tbsp of melted butter, milk, and water. Stir in the sugar and yeast. Let the mixture sit for ~10 minutes, until frothy. 
  2. Stir in the flour and salt. As it comes together, switch to kneading the dough with your hands. Once you have a dough ball, place it in a clean bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise for 90 minutes. 
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  4. Mix together the two cheese in another bowl. Remove 1/2 cup to another small bowl.
  5. Add the garlic and herbs to the main bowl and toss together. 
  6. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until roughly 1/8th inch thick. Spread the cheese mixture onto half of the dough and then fold the other half over top. 
  7. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into small squares. Roll each square into a ball. 
  8. Using the remaining melted butter, brush butter on all surfaces of your cast iron skillet. Then dunk each ball into the butter prior to placing in the skillet. Layer the balls across the bottom of the skillet and then stack into further layers as needed. 
  9. Sprinkle the dough balls with the reserved cheese.
  10. Bake for 40 minutes in the oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes prior to eating. Run a knife around the edges and then flip the skillet over onto your serving platter. 

Serves 4-6

French Onion Meatballs

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Ever eat a delicious bowl of french onion soup and think, ‘wow, this is really good, but I wish I had some meat!’ Yea, me neither, because a bowl of french onion soup is a treasure just how it is. BUT, if you were thinking that, you could turn to this handy recipe for French Onion Meatballs, that combine the flavors of french onion soup with some juicy meatballs. These meatballs are smothered in a savory gravy – the definition of comfort food!

I came across the inspiration for this recipe on Pinterest a few weeks back (see: Cupcakes & Kale Chips) and have been thinking about it ever since! An NFL Sunday afternoon, with weather that finally feels like fall, turned out to be the perfect day to try it. It does take a fair amount of active time to make this, which is why I did it on a weekend afternoon, where I could half watch/listen to the football games (and chat with Selim!) at the same time.

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We ate our meatballs on top of some toasted baguette slices, smothered in the gravy, which I cannot recommend more highly. I also ate some plain in a bowl – that’s excellent too. I’m thinking it would be amazing over top of rice or some egg noodles, OR as a seriously messy appetizer with some toothpicks. The onion flavor is the star here, as in traditional french onion soup. But I think the thyme comes through really nicely, giving it an herbaceous quality as well. Simmering your meatballs in the gravy keeps them nice and juicy. And speaking of the gravy… I was eating it with a spoon. Caramelized onions, beef broth, red wine… if you’re not licking the spoon, then I’m worried about your taste buds.

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French Onion Meatballs

(Adapted from this blog post, via Pinterest)
Ingredients: 
  • 1+ tbsp neutral oil
  • 2 medium onions, halved & sliced
  • 1 lb ground beef (85/15)
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 heaping tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp plain bread crumbs
  • ~4 oz Gruyere cheese
    • ~2oz , cut into small bite-sized cubes
    • ~2oz, shredded (or more! 🙂 )
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup unsalted beef broth
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Begin by caramelizing the onions. Heat the oil in a medium pan over just under medium heat. Once the oil is hot, toss in the onions and stir to coat in the oil. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper.
  2. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized, at least 30-40 minutes, perhaps as long as an hour!
  3. While the onions are cooking, prepare the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the beef, eggs, fresh herbs, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, 1/2 tsp salt, and 10 more turns of fresh black pepper.
  4. Form the meatballs by wrapping meat mixture around the small cubes of cheese and forming medium-sized meatballs.
  5. Once the onions are done, deglaze the pan with the red wine, making sure to scrape up all the delicious, browned, stuck-on bits.
  6. Bring the wine to a simmer and add in the meatballs. Continue simmering, with the lid off, for 5-6 minutes, browning the meatballs on both sides.
  7. Now add the beef broth and bay leaf to the pan. Cover and lower heat slightly if needed, so liquid is still simmering. Cook another 15 minutes.
  8. While that is cooking, prepare a beurre manié by kneading together the butter and flour and forming a little ball. (I do this in a ramekin with my fingers.)
  9. Remove the lid from the pan and add the beurre manié. Adjust the heat so the liquid is still simmering (if need be) and stir occasionally until the sauce has thickened. This may take another 10+ more minutes.
  10. Discard the bay leaf and serve topped with the additional shredded cheese. Spoon over a crusty baguette or on top of any type of starch. Garnish with additional parsley if desired.
Serves 4 as an entree; more as an appetizer

Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle

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Awhile back, I (probably via Pinterest let’s be honest) came across Seasons & Suppers. This food blog, or “online food and cooking diary,” as its author describes it, is honestly what I aspire for our blog to be. First off, we like to think of our site as our own personal culinary diary as well. Secondly, her photography is gorgeous. Gorgeous is an understatement. Breathtaking. Spectacular. Drool-inducing. Stunning. Insert whatever superlative adjective you prefer. And all of the recipes I see on the site, I immediately want to make. Somehow, Jennifer (the author) produces dishes that are homey and down-to-earth, without “fancy” ingredients or techniques, yet every dish seems fit to serve the Queen of England. I distinctly remember the day I discovered the site. I just kept clicking and pinning, clicking and pinning. I wanted to save ALL of the recipes to attempt myself! With all of this being said, this is the first recipe of hers we’ve attempted. Why? I don’t know, but I suspect that deep in the recesses of my brain I don’t want to see my results side by side with hers.

When we decided to have pasta for dinner tonight, I immediately thought of this recipe I’d seen from Seasons & Suppers a few weeks back – Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Prosciutto and Pea Shoots. How perfect for spring! Ricotta provides for a lighter sauce than many other pasta dishes (like our favorite Homemade Pasta Carbonara) and the lemon certainly adds spring-like brightness. We did make a few changes for our version, namely the addition of basil and homemade pasta, but what a beautiful inspiration! One tip: eat immediately after serving. As the ricotta cools, it becomes less sauce-like. It tastes delicious either way.

In conclusion? Go check out Seasons & Suppers for beautiful food photography and a plethora of recipes. And then try this pasta dish, whether her version or ours!

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Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle

(Adapted from Seasons & Suppers, clearly)
Ingredients: 
  • Pasta
    • 1 1/3 cup AP flour
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 eggs
  • Sauce
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 shallot, minced
    • 1 1/2 cups ricotta
    • 2 lemons, zested & juiced
    • Fresh ground black pepper
    • Pinch of salt
    • 6+ slices of prosciutto, torn
    • Fresh basil
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare pasta as described in Our How To Make Basic Pasta.
  2. Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #5 if using KitchenAid’s model) or do it by hand. Slice into ~ 1/2 inch ribbons. Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface.
  3. Meanwhile, in a deep sauté pan, or a sauteuse pan, heat the olive oil over medium. Once hot, add the shallots. Cook for 5 minutes, until fragrant.
  4. Mix together the ricotta, 1/3 cup of lemon juice & 2 tbsp zest, and several turns of fresh ground black pepper. Pour into the pan with the shallots. Turn heat down to low.
  5. When ready to cook the pasta, bring large pot of water to a boil. Salt liberally. Cook pasta for just 2 minutes, until al dente.
  6. Drain the pasta, reserving some pasta water. Add pappardelle to the pan with the ricotta sauce and toss well. Thin the sauce as desired with reserved pasta water (we did not use any). You may increase the heat here if your sauce isn’t quite hot, but do so gently.
  7. Once the sauce is warmed to your liking, serve the pasta into bowls and top with torn prosciutto, basil, a pinch of salt, and more fresh pepper if you desire.
Serves 2-4

Southern Pimento Cheese

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A ways back, in our first year of the blog, we made pimento cheese as Christmas gifts in honor of our new home in South Carolina. We made two varieties – Selim created Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese, and Ally made a more traditional version. For some reason, we didn’t share the traditional recipe at the time, probably because we were so wowed by the dressed up variety. We’ll remedy that here today!

Some of our very favorite Clevelanders are passing through town today ❤ When we were trying to pick a restaurant for dinner, Sarah wanted to “go back to that place we went last time” they were in Columbia, “the one with the pimento cheese.” [Shout out to DiPrato’s – their pimento cheese really is legendary, as are their inexplicable warm and fluffy pita chips!] So we thought today would be the perfect day to whip up another homemade batch – some for them and some for us! Ally could live off of pimento cheese and crackers, probably for the rest of her life, so it’s really a win-win!

We stuck with the basics for this pimento cheese recipe – cheddar, pimentos, and mayo… well, homemade mayonnaise for us! Selim is the king of whipping up aioli or mayo by hand. We added a pinch of extras, just because we can’t help ourselves, but there’s not too much to distract from the cheese. We prefer our pimento cheese to be lighter on the mayonnaise, attempting not to over-blend the shredded cheese. Our ratio of cheese to pimentos definitely favors the cheese. Hand-shredded cheese is preferable to pre-shredded. And heaven forbid – we do not add cream cheese to ours!

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Southern Pimento Cheese

Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 16oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 heaping tbsp chopped pimentos
  • 1 tsp worcestershire
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • Salt to taste
Instructions:
  1. Prepare the mayo. (You can do this by hand or with a stand mixer. The process is essentially the same.)
    • By hand: Separate out the egg yolk from the whites and discard the whites. Whisk the yolk. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil. Whisk vigorously and continuously. Once the mixture has combined well, add the lemon juice and whisk until that has been absorbed.
    • With the mixer: Separate out the egg yolk from the whites. Place in stand mixer and turn on medium. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil, while the mixer remains on. Again, once the mixture is well-combined, then add the lemon juice.
  2. By hand, mix together the aioli with the rest of the ingredients except for salt. Once combined, add salt to taste at the end.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
Makes a little more than 2 cups

Golden Goat Pasta

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Tonight we decided to take a brief detour from our now tried and true basic pasta recipe. And by brief detour, I mean that we did the exact same thing that we always do, with the addition of some ground turmeric for a new flavor and color. Not the most bold and daring detour if we’re being honest. And since we’re being honest… this was actually an improvised backup plan when our first plan failed. What was the original dish we were going to make you ask? It’s a secret. We’re going to try it again one of these days. But long story short, I already had the mental plan for this sauce to pair with the original noodles. And I really had in my head that the dish was going to be “earthy.” So this backup plan had to be earthy too! We both stared at our spice cabinet, and Selim zeroed in on the turmeric. It’s earthy, I think it will pair well with the planned sauce, and added bonus, it makes the noodles a beautiful yellow color!

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See the gorgeous golden color of the noodles!

Side note… as we’ve mentioned before, we really started this blog as more of a journal or a personal recipe file. We just felt like we were frequently forgetting amazing dishes that we’d created once and then could never replicate. But along the way, we’ve embraced the fact that this is a blog and not just our personal notes. Since it’s available on the internet, we don’t want it to just read like a stream of consciousness diary, but something actually useful for others. One thing I did not anticipate was the difficulty I’d have in naming our recipes. Seems easy right? Apparently I’m not really all that creative, which is why you’ll see that most of our recipes just have simple, descriptive titles (I’m talking about you Wine & Honey Brisket or you Ham & Potato Soup). Any of the slightly more creative names come from Selim (see: Sultan Selim Kofte or Pinch of Crab Egg Dip). I came up with this recipe’s title thinking about the golden color of the turmeric noodles and the goat cheese base of the sauce. I was all proud of myself that I came up with (what I think is) an original, cute, alliterative name… and then I googled the phrase. Apparently Golden Goat is a variety of marijuana… known for its earthy flavor. And… we’re keeping the name! Maybe we’ll get a few new pot-smoking, Golden Goat-loving followers… Welcome!

 

Golden Goat Pasta

Ingredients: 
  • Pasta
    • 1 & 1/3 cup AP flour
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • Sauce
    • 1 tbsp truffle oil
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 8oz goat cheese
    • ¼ cup dry white wine
    • Fresh ground black pepper
    • Pasta water, as needed
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare pasta as in our How To, with the addition of the 1 tbsp of turmeric.
  2. For the sauce, start by warming the truffle oil in a pan over low-medium heat.
  3. Once the oil is nice and toasty, add the garlic cloves and a few turns of black pepper. Keep the heat low and cook just a few minutes until fragrant, but not browned.
  4. Lower heat even further and add goat cheese and wine. Allow the cheese to melt slowly. Stir frequently until the ingredients are well combined.
  5. Meanwhile, roll out pasta and cut into your desired shape and thickness of noodles.
  6. Cook the pasta in boiling water for just 2 or 3 minutes.
  7. Add pasta water by the tablespoon to thin out the sauce until it reaches your desired thickness – we used 3 tablespoons for ours.
  8. Drain the pasta, serve and top with sauce.
Serves 4

Roasted Grape & Prosciutto Flatbread

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Ok. Obviously when we share recipes on here, we think they’re pretty good and that you should make them. But this one… I’m multiplying that sentiment by a million! These flatbreads are amazing!! Plus they are just a little bit fancy… Makes you feel like a fancy person, having fancy dinner. But the secret is, they’re easy and fairly quick to make.  We devoured them whole for dinner tonight, but they would also be perfect sliced into smaller slivers as an appetizer.

Let’s talk about our ingredients. Each one adds something to the flatbread, building to a huge depth and variety of flavor in each bite. We love Trader Joe’s naan for the base of our flatbreads, but you certainly could make your own or use something similar. We like these because they have great texture, the edges crisp up a bit in the oven, and are reasonably priced! (Trader Joe’s doesn’t pay us to say this – we really just love that place.) The next layer of Boursin herbed cheese makes for a creamy, sauce-like coating to the bread. The caramelized onions add a fragrant smokiness and the fresh rosemary, a pungent, almost piney, herbaceous taste and aroma. The roasted grapes are amazingly sweet, but in an entirely different way than you’re used to. (Even if you don’t make this flatbread, go out and roast some grapes.) And then prosciutto… I mean really… Prosciutto makes everything that much more delicious. The last drizzle of honey balances out all of the sweet and savory elements.

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Roasted Grape & Prosciutto Flatbread

(Adapted from Spices in My DNA blog)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup red or black grapes
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 package Boursin cheese (you won’t use it all)
  • 2 slices of prosciutto
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Honey
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 pieces of pre-made naan or other flatbread (we like Trader Joe’s)
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Warm 2 tsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and stir to coat in the oil. Top with several turns of fresh ground black pepper and 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary.
  3. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes until caramelized. Lower heat slightly after first ten minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, toss grapes with 1 tbsp olive oil and a sprinkle of salt & pepper.
  5. Spread grapes out on foil-lined cookie sheet and roast for ~15 minutes.
  6. Lower oven heat to 350.
  7. Assemble flatbread: spread Boursin liberally on the naan, top with caramelized onions, and grapes.
  8. Place flatbreads directly on the oven rack. Bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove flatbreads from the oven. Top with prosciutto, additional chopped rosemary, and a drizzle of honey.
Serves 2.

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Spinach & Feta Börek

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Now that we’ve started using filo dough (see: Baklava – we’ve made it twice since posting it!), we’ve gained a little bit of confidence in working with the thin, finicky dough. So I knew Selim would want to tackle börek next. He loves börek – although it’s kind of hard to say it’s his favorite food, because there are about a million different types of börek. In Turkey, börek is essentially any dish prepared with yufka, which is (depending on when and where you read about it) the same as filo dough, the precursor of filo dough, or a slightly different texture from filo dough. I’m not educated enough to know which one it is. I do know that börek is delicious in every form I’ve ever had it and that this spinach-stuffed version is a quite traditional one.

I was eating some of this börek for lunch the other day in a breakroom at the hospital, when someone said, “Oh wow that smells delicious… What is it, spanakopita?” I could feel my husband cringing from a floor away. We’ll pause to let him go on his rant about Turkish food – how he would’ve answered had the friendly, innocent question been posed to him.

Selim: Many Americans love Mediterranean food and seem to always associate this with Greek food. So somehow, this has turned into Greek food being the most beloved cuisine, representing an entire region. Even more so, I feel like Americans think that the Greeks were the originators and only true architects of so many of the best dishes of the Middle East and Mediterranean. In fact, many of your favorites, originated elsewhere: baklava came out of the Ottoman palace kitchens in modern day Istanbul, while hummus was first documented in 13th century Cairo. The vast reach of the Ottoman empire and centuries of trading routes surely contributes to the regional spread of cuisine – you can find dishes with very similar ingredients and preparations, but different names from the Balkans to the Levant, the Caucasus to Northern African. (This is not to say that there aren’t amazing Greek chefs or delicious dishes of Greek origin – the Greeks truly aren’t the subject of my rant.) I just hate that other cultures don’t get their due. Obviously, I’m biased as I’m ethnically half Turkish, but I wish Turkish cuisine was more recognized, available, and beloved in the US. So in short, while similar, this is börek, not spanakopita.

Spinach & Feta Börek

(Adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen by Özcan Ozan)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 lbs fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup clarified butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • 16oz feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • ~20 sheets filo dough
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Prepare the filling: cook the spinach briefly in boiling water over medium heat until wilted. Drain the water and squeeze the spinach to remove any additional water.
  3. Chop up the spinach.
  4. In a large pan oven medium heat, heat 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup clarified butter.
  5. Add the onions and spinach and cook for just 3-4 minutes until onions have softened.
  6. Allow the mixture to cool.
  7. Once cool, stir in the cheese, parsley, and 2 whisked eggs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  8. Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup clarified butter, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 egg, and milk.
  9. Brush this mixture on the bottom of a cookie sheet. Begin layering the filo dough, brushing each new layer with the butter mixture.
  10. Once halfway through the filo dough (~10 sheets), spread all of the spinach and cheese mixture out evenly.
  11. Resume layering the rest of the filo dough, brushing with the butter mixture as before, including a thorough coating over the last layer.
  12. Using a sharp knife, slice the börek into squares or triangles.
  13. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake an additional 20 minutes.
  14. Allow the börek to stand for 10 minutes before eating.