Category Archives: Cheese Dishes

Orzo Salad with Arugula and Mizithra Cheese

Orzo is like a dependable friend – versatile, mixes well with others, but distinct and fun on its own.  I’m an out and out fan.  In lieu of the traditional radiatore pasta or bowties for a potluck stunner, why not outstanding orzo?  This particular combination features peppery arugula, sweet tomatoes and salty mizithra cheese all gussied up with a light vinaigrette.  It looks sunnier than Miss America in the Sahara desert.

Mizithra cheese is a rather fun addition – a hard sheep milk cheese made in Greece.  It’s salty like feta, but drier and crumblier – perfect for a lively pasta salad.  If you can’t find mizithra, you can certainly use ricotta salata or feta cheese.  Also, try to use the best olive oil you can get your hands on – when you have a recipe with so few ingredients and little to no cooking, it helps to keep the flavors strong.

Recipe for

Orzo Salad with Arugula and Mizithra Cheese

1 lb. of orzo
2 heirloom tomatoes, diced
3 c. of arugula leaves, loosely chopped
1/2 c. of olive oil
6 oz. of mizithra cheese, crumbled
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of pepper
4 tbs. of rice wine vinegar
3 tbs. of sliced green onion

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt heavily.  Add the orzo to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions.  Drain and cool with running water.  Drain again well and add to a large mixing bowl.  Toss the orzo with the tomatoes, arugula, olive oil, cheese, salt, rice wine vinegar, pepper and green onions.  Chill for at least 20 minutes and then serve.

Tiropita (Greek Cheese Pie)

Back when I was young, I remember my mom hosting a baby shower in my childhood home – gosh, it must have been for my cousin Sydney, but my mom or aunt would have to confirm.  She hit up our Greek market for olives and fresh feta and grape leaves, none of which interested me at the young age of 10.  But she also scored triangles of spanakopita (spinach was still gross to me at that age) and these miraculous cheesy alternatives called tiropita.  I had my first taste of them sneaking one before the guests showed up and man, what a treat.  Salty feta and crisp, buttery phyllo folded into golden triangles of deliciousness.

All of this was well before phyllo dough and phyllo appetizers became common fare at the market, and I’m kind of happy that it’s so easily accessible now.  I’m able to pop into the grocery and make a lavish cheese pie of my own, all without any crazy trips to the market.  I cut down on the traditional amount of feta and amp up the flavors with nutmeg and dried mint.  I keep things creamy with a bit of ricotta as well, but feel free to substitute other cheeses such as cottage cheese or even crumbly, salty mizithra.  Though I typically make this in a 13x9x3 inch pan and cut it into squares, this also works exceedingly well in a deep dish 9 inch round pan cut into triangles.  If you’re planning a party of sorts, consider making this tiropita with a spinach pie as an accompaniment and a greek salad to tie the whole thing together.  It’s a whole lot of buttery goodness without any fuss.  And we all know that fusses are way overrated.

Recipe for


6 eggs
1/2 tbs. oregano
1 tsp. dried mint
12 oz. of feta, crumbled
1/4 tsp. of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. of parmasean
16 oz. of ricotta
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1 stick of butter
1 box of phyllo

In a standing mixer (or with an egg beater), mix together all of the ingredients except for the phyllo and butter until well incorporated.

Grease a 13 x 9 in baking pan. Working carefully and quickly, lay out a sheet of phyllo and butter with a pastry brush. Keep on alternating melted butter and phyllo until you have laid down half of the phyllo. Pour the cheese mixture on top of the phyllo. Top with alternating layers of phyllo and butter. Once you’ve finished with all of the sheets, cut the pie into squares before baking.

Place in the oven and bake on 350° for 45-50 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown, cover with foil for the remainder of the cooking time. Let sit for around 5 minutes before cutting. Serve.

Turkey Panini with Brie and Fig Jam

When the Earl of Sandwich ordered his servant to bring him a bit of meat tucked into slices of bread so as to prevent his playing cards from getting greasy, he started a chain reaction that has left me a happy duck.  If I were to live my life eating soup and sandwiches from now until the very end time, I’d be absolutely fine with it all.  Chicken soup and turkey sandwiches along could keep me pleased as punch with enough variety to keep things interesting.

Continue reading Turkey Panini with Brie and Fig Jam

Dionysi’s Spinach and Cheese Pie

Not to put his business out there, but my husband is not a fan of spinach.  Stubborn that I am, though, I try to work it into dishes to “convince” him that maybe, just maybe, there is requited love out there for him and the leafy greens.  You see, I didn’t always adore spinach myself.  When I was in preschool, I once had an abysmal lunch of macaroni and cheese (yum!) with canned spinach (ugh!).  When I refused to eat my spinach, I was told that I couldn’t have any chocolate pudding for dessert.  This was no matter in that I didn’t like chocolate (don’t really love it to this day unless it’s really, really good) – I pitched a fit and refused to eat the vile spinach.  With that, I was whisked off to timeout and my hatred of spinach was sealed.  Until…I decided to study Italian in high school before heading off across the pond for a school trip.  As we learned the different food names in Italian, a group of us made a face at spinaci.  “Oh no!” our professor assured us, “Fresh spinach sauteed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper is delicious!  You must try it.”  Try it, I did, and I never looked back – spinach and I were meant to be together. Continue reading Dionysi’s Spinach and Cheese Pie

Pasta with Camembert, Asparagus and Peas

You should be ashamed of yourself.  I saw you eyeing the pasta on that Olive Garden commercial with hungry eyes.  You know it’s not delicious.  You know it wasn’t actually created in a Tuscan cooking school with Michelin star winning chefs.  Most importantly, you know you can’t trust any place that thinks variety in ingredients is a simple choice between chicken in cream sauce or sausage in tomato cream sauce.  For shame, OG, for shame! Continue reading Pasta with Camembert, Asparagus and Peas

Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Puffs)

I don’t know what it is, but whenever I think of pao de queijo, I think of my mother.  In that she is the first generation on her mother’s side born outside of Brazil, she made a big deal about passing on the culture and heritage of our ancestors down to my sister and I.  For the two of us, culture always related to the kitchen in some way, shape or form, and the true “mother” of heritage came in the Brazilian feast, feijoada completa.  A celebration through and through, feijoada completa meant cherished guests and many, many plates and platters on the table, all marks of a few days of cooking in order to stage all of the dishes.  It was some kind of special, and the meal kicked off with a special treat – pao de queijo.  Translated into English, it literally means “cheese bread,” but make no mistake – these babies are so much more.  Made of tapioca flour and crumbly, salty cheese, they more closely resemble cheese puffs than actual bread.  Eaten fresh from the oven, we noshed happily while waiting for the rest of the feast to come together (usually waiting for the white rice to finish cooking or for dad to put the final touches on the greens).

Interestingly enough, my mom’s a french professor, and over the years my sister and I have become mini-francophiles by association.  My sister even downplays the influences from over the years, cracking jokes in a perfect French accent.  Petite Beurre cookies and homemade madeleines were just as much a part of our kitchen as Brazilian specialties.  In a complete and total cultural blend, our beloved pao de queijo held many of the same characteristics as the classic French cheese puffs, gougère.  The little treats, made of gruyere or comte cheese, were savory, chewy and airy just like their Brazilian cousins.  An apropos association, if I do say so myself.

Because pao de queijo are traditionally made with a cooked dough called a pâté choux, the old school recipe can be a bit daunting.  In fact, we often purchased the frozen variety from specialty markets for quick snacking.  But when my mom turned me on to a blender version, I tried it out with great success and haven’t looked back since.  In fact, the hardest part of the recipe is tracking down the tapioca flour, which is barely a challenge in that not only Whole Foods, but most regular grocery stores carry the stuff under the Bob’s Red Mill brand.  I’ve had the most success with making the batter and baking these guys pretty much right when I have the craving to snack away.  I’ve also had excellent success with a 24 mini-cup muffin tin – it allows a mess of pao de queijo to be baked all at once for aggressive snacking.  And, as you know, aggressive snacking is what we were all born to do.

Recipe for

Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Puffs)

1 egg
1 1/3 c. of tapioca flour
2/3 c. of whole milk
1/3 c. of olive oil
6 oz. of queso fresco, crumbled
1 tsp. of salt
1/8 tsp. of white pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°.  In a blender, add the egg, milk, olive oil, salt, queso fresco and white pepper.  Put the tapioca flour on top and blend on low until mostly mixed.  Scrape down the flour on the sides of the blender and blitz again on low.  Pour batter into greased muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes or until puffy and golden.  Serve immediately.

California Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Green Goddess Dressing © Photo by Angela GunderI love a good story, and with a name like “Green Goddess” you know there’s a bit of a tale lingering around.  An almost kitschy throwback to the 1920s and 30s, the dressing is a zesty combination of fresh herbs, anchovies and sour cream, enlivened by a little bit of lemon juice.  The name supposedly originates from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco where the dressing was made as a tribute to the hit play, “The Green Goddess,” and alas, a star was born.

My guess is that the popularity of this gem died down with the waning of favor over anchovies – a pity, really, in that the flavor profile of anchovies themselves are addictive.  If people can down caesar dressing by the gallon, what’s the deal with hating on anchovies?  It’s plain malarkey.

The recipe for this dressing is a riff off a version from Food and Wine Magazine used to dress a chicken salad.  My husband took a look at the picture and said, “This would be great without all of that other mess around it.” “So you mean just the dressing?” “Yeah, pretty much.”  After a few tweaks to the recipe and a bed of greens, we were cooking with gas.

California Cobb Salad © Photo by Angela GunderSo where does a nostalgic dressing trip down memory lane take us.  To a salad with just as much historical presence. 1930 at the Hollywood Brown Derby heralded the chefery of Robert Cobb and Chuck Wilson – apparently the owner Cobb wandered around the kitchen looking for something awesome to eat and threw together a crazy amalgamation of greens, bacon, eggs, avocado and blue cheese.  I can appreciate a late-night scrounge for munchies, if I do say so myself.

In plating this salad, I love a careful presentation of each ingredient segmented into its own section.  Something about the vibrant colors in their own spots just waiting to be mixed together with the lovely dressing is an impressor and a half.  As you know, it’s all about the presentation…says the designer.

Recipe for

California Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

1/2 c. of parsley leaves, loosely packed
1/2 c. of basil leaves
1/4 c. of chopped dill
4 sprigs of tarragon, leaves removed and chopped
1 sprig of oregano, leaves removed and chopped
1 c. of mayonnaise
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half a lemon
1/4 c. of chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste

mixed greens (baby romaine is fun)
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 perfectly hard-boiled eggs, diced
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 avocado, diced
1/2 c. of crumbled blue cheese
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, halved lengthwise into two cutlets
1 tbs. of olive oil
1 tbs. of herbes des provence

Begin by making the dressing – add all of the herbs except for the chives to the food processor, along with the garlic, lemon zest and juice.  Blitz until finely chopped and then add the mayo.  Blitz again to blend and then remove to a bowl.  Stir in the chives and then season with salt and pepper.  Chill.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet.  While that warms, season the chicken with the herbes des provence and salt and pepper.  Sear the chicken until it is cooked through and browned on both sides.  Remove from pan and let cool slightly.  Cube chicken and set aside.

Grab a large platter and make a bed of greens.  Arrange the tomatoes, chopped eggs, chopped bacon, avocado, blue cheese and chicken in a pretty splay.  Right before serving, toss the salad and top with the Green Goddess dressing.  Tuck in and get down.

Tortelli with Wild Boar and Stinging Nettles

A little danger in the kitchen can pay off royally – high flames, sharp knives and occasionally some tricky ingredients serve as the makings for many a glorious supper.  Stinging nettles are not nearly as dangerous as they sound assuming that you can play by the rules.  Handled raw, they will mess you up with vicious barbs in your skin.  But once you give them a luxurious bath in some boiling hot water, they lose all their bite.  Why mess with them at all?  Because these lovely greens have an earthy, nuttiness that kicks the ass of spinach any day.

The nettles take a lovely home as the filling for meat tortelli – wild boar is simmered until perfectly tender and blended with mortadella, pancetta and cheese.  Wrapped in homemade pasta and dressed with a light sauce of cream and peas, underneath the delicate flavors lies an air of mystery and danger.  As your guests tuck into these toothsome parcels, feel free to keep the secret of your forays into adventure with the exotic ingredients contained in this recipe.  I mean, you are pretty much the next 007 of the kitchen.  Or at least that’s what I hear.

This recipe makes a large amount of pasta, so feel free to freeze any leftovers for later.  Spread the tortelli on a cookie sheet dusted with semolina and pop into the freezer, making sure that none of the pasta is touching.  If you’re sick of cream sauce for your second go round with these guys, you can use a marinara or vodka sauce to mix things up.  Or, even better, cook in a pot of chicken stock for an exemplary tortellini en brodo (tortellini soup).  For leftover filling, make crepes or buy egg roll wrappers and make canneloni.  Roll a few tablespoons of filling into the wrappers, top with bechamel or marinara and bake in the oven until bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Recipe for

Tortelli with Wild Boar and Stinging Nettles

1 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. butter
1 lb. ground wild boar
2 c. of chicken stock
1/2 onion
3 oz. of pancetta
6 oz. of mortadella
4 eggs
2 c. of grated locatelli
1/4 tsp. of nutmeg
1 tsp. of ground sage
1/8 tsp. of ground rosemary
1 shallot, finely diced
8 oz. of stinging nettles, blanched and chopped
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
salt to taste

1 c. of cake flour
2 c. of all-purpose flour
4 eggs
pinch of salt
1 tsp. of olive oil

2 tbs. of butter
2 tbs. of flour
2 c. of heavy cream
1 c. of milk
1 c. of locatelli, grated
1/8 tsp. white pepper
salt to taste
1 c. of green peas

Optional Equipment
pressure cooker
stand mixer with dough blade
pasta attachment for stand mixer
3 in. ring mold

Begin by making the meat filling.  Melt the butter and olive oil in a dutch oven.  Add the ground boar and onions and cook until the meat is no longer pink.  Add the chicken stock and simmer on medium-low until all liquid has evaporated, about an hour.  Alternatively, you can cook this mixture in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes to save time.  Allow to cool a bit and set aside.

In a food processor, add the mortadella, pancetta, nettles, rosemary and shallots and chop finely.  Add the wild boar and blitz until a smooth puree.  Remove mixture to a large bowl and add the eggs, cheese, nutmeg, sage and white pepper.  Taste for salt (should be on the saltier side) and reseason.  Set aside.

Now to make the dough – and feel free to use your favorite pasta recipe (or pre-made pasta sheets to save time).  In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour and the salt.  Make a well in the middle and add the eggs and olive oil.  Fit the mixer with the dough blade and allow to mix until a slightly sticky but well-mixed dough forms.  Dust the countertop with flour and knead until smooth.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about an hour.

Before I start making tortelli, I like to set up a couple of elements to make the job easier:

  • a small bowl of water for sealing the edges of the pasta
  • a few cookie sheets lined with wax paper and dusted with flour (semolina works well)
  • a little mound of flour to dip the bottoms of each tortelli in after they are rolled (which prevents them from sticking to the wax paper)

Once your prep space is set up, start with the pasta dough.  Take out the dough and cut into four segments.  Grab a hunk of dough and dust with flour, leaving the other three segments wrapped in plastic so as not to allow them to get hard.  Run the dough through a pasta maker, starting with the widest setting and working your way down to the second to thinnest setting (on my pasta machine, that’s #7).  Flour the counter and lay out the sheet of dough.  Cut out circles using a ring mold.

To make the tortelli, take a pasta round and fill with a few teaspoons of the filling.  Brush the edge with a little bit of water and fold into a half moon, pushing out any excess air as you seal the edges.  Take the two points of the half moon and fold them in on each other, squeezing them together to seal.  Dip the bottom of the tortelli in the flour and then place on the cookie sheet.  Repeat until you run out of dough.

Put a large pot of water on to boil.  While it’s warming up, make your sauce.  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Mix in the flour and stir to form a paste.  Slowly stir in the milk and cream in dribs and drabs, constantly whisking to form a smooth sauce.  Crank the heat up and keep on whisking until the sauce thickens.  Stir in the locatelli, white pepper and salt and turn heat down to low to keep warm while the pasta cooks.

Once the water comes to a boil, drop in the tortelli.  Once they’ve cooked for 3 minutes, toss the peas into the water.  Allow to cook for a mere 30 seconds, and then drain.  Toss the pasta with the sauce, making sure to be careful not to break any of the tortelli, and serve immediately.

Pulled Boar Panini with Miner’s Lettuce and Lemon Aioli

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that a dish with a fancy name and a fancier presentation can also be soul-satisfying comfort food.  This seemingly hoity-toity recipe is, at its most base form, an open-faced pulled pork sandwich.  The ingredients married together create a taste profile that is wholly sumptuous and ever so necessary.  I fell in love after first bite and promised myself that I’d make this one on repeat and revel in the glory as much as possible.

I use wild boar shoulder for this recipe, and thought the cut can take some time to braise until tender, I speed up the process with a trip to the pressure cooker.  If you can’t get boar, simply substitute pork shoulder – the taste won’t be nearly as rich, but you’ll still be able to get down.  Once the meat is shredded and cooled a bit, it rejoins the party on a raft of ciabatta, sharp provolone and a zesty homemade lemon aioli.  Miner’s lettuce serves as an interesting counterpoint for the unctuous boar and salty cheese – it’s texture alone, similar to spinach, adds the fresh finesse that makes this one a stunner.  Although this dish is an appetizer, just know that if you serve this dish first, chances are very good that people will fill up on these suckers with reckless abandon without a thought of saving room for anything else.  They are just. that. good.

Recipe for

Pulled Boar Panini with Miner’s Lettuce and Lemon Aioli

1 lb. wild boar shoulder, cut into 2-3 large chunks
4 c. of chicken stock
1 fennel bulb, quartered
1 onion, quartered
2 bay leaves
1 tsp of fennel pollen

2 cl. of garlic, minced
1 egg
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp. of dijon mustard
1/2 c. of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

4 oz. of miner’s lettuce, stems removed
1 1/2 c. of sharp provolone cheese, shredded
1 loaf of ciabatta

Begin by preparing the wild boar.  Add the boar, fennel, onion, stock, fennel pollen and bay leaves to a pressure cooker.  Bring to high pressure and then allow to cook for 30 minutes.  Let the pressure subside naturally and remove boar from cooking liquid.  Shred with two forks and set aside.

Now make the aioli.  Add the egg, lemon, zest and mustard to a blender.  Blitz on high and slowly stream in the olive oil.  Turn off blender and taste for salt and pepper.  The aioli should be pretty loose and not as thick as a traditional mayonnaise, so thin with additional olive oil if necessary.  Set aside.

Halve the ciabatta lengthwise and spread with some of the aioli, saving a few tablespoons for drizzling.  Top with the shredded boar and add the provolone to the top.  Bake in the oven on 400° until the cheese has melted.  Remove the two ciabatta loaves to a cutting board and cut into 8 pieces for each loaf.  Sprinkle miner’s lettuce liberally over the top of the panini and drizzle with additional aioli.  Serve while still standing, eating it right from the kitchen and not stopping to take it to the table.

Enchiladas Suizas (Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas)

Enchiladas Suizas is one of Dennis’ all time favorites – combining tender, white meat chicken with a green chile sauce cooled by cream cheese and sour cream, these babies rarely stay on the plate for too long when Dennis is around.  His favorite version were from Cafe Frida in New York City and it was ne’er a visit that he didn’t order both the Enchiladas Suizas and the Tres Leches.  Incredibly, the dish originates from Swiss settlers in Mexico contributing swiss cheese to the traditional enchiladas verdes, or corn tortillas rolled and sauced with tomatillos.  The dish now refers less to the use of swiss as the inclusion of a creamy sauce with white cheese.

This version, which is loosely based on Dennis’ favorites, is incredibly versatile for all palettes and spice levels.  Make the version below for a relatively mild experience or kick it up with a chopped jalapeno in the chicken mixture and a hotter green chile sauce (which are available at the market in both mild and spicy varieties).  Poaching the chicken before mixing with the cream cheese helps to keep it super tender and moist, and the scallions add flavor.  It’s a nice diversion from straight up red sauced enchiladas, but if you feel like a fiesta, make these along with the red variety and call it a party.  I don’t know about you, but I loooooove an impromptu party. Continue reading Enchiladas Suizas (Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas)