Football Snacks: Cheddar Cheese Dip, Olive Tapenade and Melted Onions…

I should know better. I read a lot of food blogs. A lot. And I have the nerve to get annoyed when they don’t post regularly enough for my taste and I have to wait longer than I feel is appropriate to get my fix. I don’t care if they are having babies, opening restaurants, generally in a funk or anything else. I want to read posts. And then I do exactly the same thing, except worse because I ACTUALLY HAVE NOTHING ELSE GOING ON… So I am going to try my darndest to not get annoyed at these lovely folks for several reasons: one, because I have absolutely no right to. Who do I think I am? Just because I check for updates every day, because I have nothing better to do, doesn’t mean I can expect them to post to my whims; and two: because I am a blog reading junkie and I think I need to tone it down. It might be more detrimental to my life than all of the other terrible habits I have, so I am going to work on it; and third: as I sometimes have to tell colleagues, why don’t we stop worrying about what other people are doing, and just worry about ourselves, ok? And then I curse myself for sounding like a mom, when I am, in fact, no such thing. They totally deserve it, but still. (That makes me sound like I am totally insufferable to work with. I am not. There were extenuating circumstances that required a firm hand. Usually I am a pleasure.)

I will make one excuse for myself and my irregular posting though, and that is that my wireless connection totally stinks and at times will just crap out for zero reason that I can tell, and then my computer gets into the act, and won’t reconnect to the signal without having to restart it, and then I lose a bunch of stuff that I just worked so hard on, which makes me want to throw my computer against the wall. So it is the perfect storm of crapitude that makes posting way more annoying than it should be. I am in the market for a new computer, so I will be able to see if this is a computer issue or a wireless issue, and if it is a wireless issue, watch out Verizon, my patience is wearing thin.

So on with it. Since Superbowl Sunday is soon upon us, I thought I would share some recipes that get A LOT of play around here. They are all dips of sorts, and are great for cocktail parties, football Sundays, or an after work snack. All three are super easy, and if you are anything like me, there is a chance you will have most of what you need on hand at any given time…

The first one I almost hesitate to share, because it might reveal me as a fraud of sorts. People go wild for this, and it is the easiest thing I have ever made in my life. It is embarrassing it is so easy, and when people ask what it is, they rarely believe me when I tell them. I feel like there should be some super secret ingredient or step, but there is not…

This is referred to simply as cheese dip. Because that’s what it is. This has been served in some form at almost every holiday I can remember, as well as every single time all the kids are around my parents’ house, and every time I have people over, and sometimes when I don’t. It is a nice thing to whip up as a bonus snack, especially if there are kids around, because kids don’t like much sometimes, but they like this…

This is how it starts…

whoa. stand back.

I like to use sharp cheddar for the flavor, but you could use a milder one if you would like. And you could use orange cheddar if you would like. It won’t offend my sensibilities. As far as supermarket cheddar goes, I like Cabot. The cheese needs to be grated, and because I am really lazy, I generally run it through the food processor to accomplish this. Then I mince the white and light and medium green parts of three or four scallions, depending on their size. And I loathe to admit this, but I have actually minced the scallions in the food processor, changed the blade, and grated the cheese, and then dumped the whole thing in a bowl, but I felt so lazy after that I have only done it once.

Anyway, the grated cheddar and the minced scallions go into a bowl.

almost finished.

Add a pinch of kosher salt and a couple of grinds of pepper, and then mayo. I am not going to lie, I have never measured the mayo until I decided to make this for the blog, so I was curious myself to find out how much went in there. As it turns out, I used a 1/4 cup. Who would have guessed? Probably plenty of people, but I had never given it much thought.

So add the mayo, and mix with a fork until it is all combined. And that’s it. Finished. You can make this ahead of time-my mom actually prefers to, because she likes the flavor better the next day- but I would take it out of the fridge a bit before you serve it. It is much better at room temperature, like most cheese. I like this best with Stoned Wheat crackers.

Finished.

Dip number two is a bit more civilized, and while is has more ingredients, it is not exactly much more difficult. This is an olive tapenade that I have adapted from this Jacques Pepin cookbook.

Chez Jacques

Jacques and I are tight. I was introduced to this lovely book at a wine lunch that my dad did through the store and a restaurant near my parents’ house. I took the day off, picked up my Gram, and we headed down for a lovely lunch where the chefs adapted some of the recipes from the book, and Jacques was there signing cookbooks and being generally lovely. Like I said, he and I? Tight.

The tapenade starts like this.

Raw materials

Pitted kalamata olives, dried figs, anchovies, garlic, capers, fresh mint, honey and olive oil. More ingredients than the last one, but no harder. Essentially all the ingredients go into the food processor, but I like to quarter the figs first, as they are fairly hard, and then I like to run the figs and garlic through the processor first, to make sure they get chopped finely enough. After that, everything else goes in.

into the processor...

And then I run the processor until the tapenade has the consistency that I want, and voila. That’s it. I like to serve this best with toasted ciabatta or baguette. It is salty and sweet with a hint of mint. It is really quite good. Jacques actually calls for 8 anchovy filets, but I have found that the longer this sits the more pronounced the anchovy flavor gets. And since I often don’t finish this in one sitting, I prefer fewer anchovies.

Olive-y goodness.

This is a slightly more civilized football dip. Your guests will be very impressed.

Lastly, one I like to call melted onions. My dad made this for us once, and I loved it. I will suggest this is the most difficult of the three, but that is a bit misleading, because it is not actually difficult at all, it just requires a bit more time. The ingredients are yellow onions, butter, fresh thyme if you have it lying around, a little bit of chicken stock and a splash of balsamic vinegar. The onions are sliced, put in a sauté pan (with a lid) with A LOT of butter and some thyme, and cooked over really low heat until they are practically liquid. The chicken stock and balsamic get added at the very end, and the results are extra delicious. The key is actually NOT to let the onions brown and caramelize, you just want them to melt (hence “melted onions.”)

looks innocent...

I use two of the really large yellow onions, or four medium ones, but this can be adjusted up or down really easily.

into the frying pan...

Into the frying pan over low heat with SIX tablespoons of butter and a hefty pinch of salt. And just cook and cook and cook. Always on low heat.

After 10 minutes (I forgot to add the thyme from the start.)

After 20 minutes (at this point I put the lid on the pan.)

After 30 minutes...

After 40 minutes...starting to get closer.

50 minutes (plus black pepper and chicken stock)

At this point I taste and taste to determine when they are finished. When the onions are ready they should have absolutely no bite, both in mouthfeel and in onion flavor. It usually takes about an hour.

After about an hour, with the balsamic vinegar...

I like to serve this with toasted ciabatta or baguette as well:

And onions are served.

and the nice thing about this, is that if it is not eaten right away, it keeps for a long time, and can be used for all sorts of things. I came up with an egg dish during free week (post still to follow) that used this, because I had some in the fridge from NYE, and I have eaten said egg dish about 27 times since I came up with it. Including yesterday for breakfast. So there you go.

All of these are delicious. I can’t even pick a favorite. I just wouldn’t be fair. Make them and see.

Here are the recipes.

Cheese Dip

8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese (I like Cabot)

3-4 scallions (depending on size) white and light green parts minced

1/4 cup mayonnaise (I think anything but Hellman’s tastes weird, but that is just me. For the love of all that is holy, do NOT use Miracle Whip. Gross. Also, it’s not mayonnaise.

Salt and pepper to taste

Grate the cheddar cheese, combine with minced scallions, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add mayonnaise and mix with a fork to combine. (There should be enough mayo to just hold it together, but feel free to adjust to your liking.) Serve with crackers (preferably Red Oval Farms Stoned Wheat Thins…but now I am just being bossy.)

Olive  Tapenade (adapted from Chez Jacques)

1/2 lb pitted kalamata olives drained of any liquid (the measurement is approximate, I pick up one of the more full looking deli containers from Whole Foods and it always works out just fine)

2 cloves garlic, peeled

6 dried figs, quartered (I use dried black mission figs, also from Whole Foods. They quite hard when dried, not like raisins. They are about the size of a large marble maybe.)

2 tbl capers, rinsed of any salt or drained of any liquid

4 anchovy filets, rinsed of any oil or salt.

15-20 small mint leaves – I generally twist a fist full off a fresh bunch. This is also to taste, feel free to use less to start and add more to your liking.

black pepper to taste

1 tbl honey

1/4 cup good olive oil

toasted bread or crackers for serving

Put the dried figs and garlic in the food processor with a steel blade and pulse a couple of times until both are chopped fairly small. Add the rest of the ingredients to the processor and pulse until you have the consistency you want. Serve with toasted bread. This recipe is very flexible, so feel free to mess with proportions until you find your perfect combo.

Melted Onions (from Dad)

6 tbl butter

2 large or 4 medium yellow onions (about 1.5 lbs-ish) halved and sliced thin.

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

1/4 cup chicken stock

salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy frying or sauté pan with a lid over low heat. Add the sliced onions, thyme and a generous pinch of salt. Cook the onions stirring occasionally, over low heat until they start to release their water. Make sure they are not browning and burning. After about 15 or 20 minutes, put the top on the pan, and let the onions continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they lose all firmness and onion-y bite. Taste the onions to test  for doneness. At about the 45-50 minute mark, add the chicken stock and stir, do not replace the lid, stir a bit more frequently as the chicken stock cooks off. Add black pepper and more salt to taste. Add balsamic vinegar, start with about a tablespoon. It should be enough to darken the onions slightly and add a sweetness and tang. Cook for about five minutes more. Serve with toasted bread.

tapenade redux.

PS WordPress? May we have a word? I would prefer if you didn’t call every word I use that is longer than 6 letters a complex phrase. If I want to use the word detrimental, I want to use it. I don’t want to use harmful. And if I want to say frequently instead of often I will. Seriously, who is programming this function?

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