Mustard Cheddar Cheese Crackers

Mustard Cheddar CrackersOne of Sheila’s “go-to” recipes for an appetizer is Mustard Cheese Crackers. It is relatively easy to make, easy to transport and everybody seems to love them.  Can’t get much better than that.  This recipe was first published in 1998 by Gourmet and now may be found on Epicurious if you prefer to do your own research.  Please note that Sheila adds a couple of minutes to get a “crisp” golden brown cracker.

If you are stuck for a creative appetizer, this is a sure winner:

Mustard Cheddar Crackers

Ingredients (Makes 10 to 12 dozen)

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 lb sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (preferably in a food processor; 5 cups
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbs dry mustard
  • 1/4 cup brown or yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 tsps of salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
  • Special equipment:  parchment paper

Preparation

  1. Blend together butter, cheese and yolk in a food processor until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until just combined.  (You may have to do in two batches with a small processor).  Transfer dough (it will be very soft) to a bowl and chill, covered for 15 minutes.
  2. Halve dough, then shape each half into a 12-inch log on a lightly floured surface.  Wrap logs in wax paper and foil, then chill until firm, at least 4 hours.
  3. Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Unwrap logs and cut into 1/8 inch-thick slices with a sharp thin knife, then arrange slices about 1 inch apart on baking sheets.  Bake in batches, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until pale golden, 12 to 15 minutes.  (Sheila recommends cooking 1-2 minutes longer to get golden brown).  Line sheets with clean parchment between batches.

Enjoy.

Duqqa: An Egyptian Gourmet Delight

duqqa300You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy Dakka or Duqqa, an Egyptian side dish consisting of crushed nuts, herbs and spices. There are many variations to this lovely side dish, but this particular recipe comes from The Union Square Cafe, courtesy of our good friend, Ginger B., who had the could sense to ask for it during a recent visit to USD.   It makes a lovely house-warming dish and is best served at room temperature with slices of bread or warmed pita bread.  Some of our friends will often use it to raise the taste profile of a grilled skinless chicken breast or farm-raised tilapia or catfish.  Even vegetarians are surprised that vegetables taste better when dipped in Duqqa.

Duqqa from Union Square Cafe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cups toasted pistachios
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground fennel seed
  • 2 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp chopped oregano
  • 2 tsp chopped rosemary

Preparation

  1. Roast the pistachios, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds separately. Lightly grind the pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a food processor.
  2. Crush the pistachios with the side of a knife or a rolling pin and mix with the seeds.
  3. Dissolve the salt in the lemon juice and toss with the nut mix.
  4. Then toss the nut mixture with the fennel, coriander, and black pepper. Set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a pan until just hot to the touch. Add the oregano and rosemary and stir til you hear it crackle.
  6. Immediately pour the oil over the nuts and mix evenly.
  7. Let the Duqqa cool to room temperature, then the wrap tightly and refrigerate.
  8. When serving allow the mixture to come to room temperature.

Used occasionally, this mixture should last three months or so.

BYO Airline Food

I don’t travel by air as much as I did in the past and I am thankful that I don’t.   Years ago,  the only time you took off your fragrant shoes is when you went to bed or took a shower, but now you have to have them inspected by the Federales  every time you board a plane.    As former President Bush would say, “it is a tough job, but somebody has to do it.”   I’m just happy it’s not me.

airline foodI find it somewhat ironic that the best airlines in the world now come from the Middle East (Air Emirates gets a five star rating), but I still prefer the familiarity of American airlines.  Indeed, most of the US planes are at least thirty years old and even some of the stewardesses (sorry, “cabin attendants”) still remember me.  (Editor’s Note:  I can’t say the same).    All-in-all, airline travel in the US hasn’t changed much in recent years:  the drop-down tray in front still doesn’t work and there is always some kid sitting near you with an earache bawling his or her head off for the duration of the flight.  While this is all bad enough, most airlines have quit serving food to save money.  Granted the food was largely inedible, but it was a convenient way to pass the time and generally distract the cabin staff from counting how many bottles of liquor you had consumed.

As one who is not prepared to chow down on some genetically enhanced “health bar,”  Therese and I decided to bring our own food for the flight to Utah.    Fortunately, the Batali/Bastianich Tarry Market (a miniature Eataly) is located in nearby Port Chester and we stocked up on some delightful snacks:

  • Finnochiona Creminelli
  • Dry Molinari Sweet Coppa
  • Prosciutto
  • Bijou Cheese
  • Jersey Girl Colby Cheese
  • A couple of Ciabatta rolls

I’m now looking forward to the flight on Delta.   As Hannibal Lecter would be prone to request, “I do hope they are serving a nice bottle of Chianti.”