This makes more than you’ll need for this recipe. But it’s great to have on hand. This is an adaptation of a recipe from my co-host on the KSRO Good Food Hour, Steve Garner, who is a “son of the South,” having grown up in Louisville, Kentucky. He notes, “I’ve never talked with anybody who agrees what should go into pimento cheese.” Of course, pimentos are what the recipe was named after, but I prefer piquillos, which are also now widely available.
Make 4 cups or so
16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
3 or 4 tablespoons of good cream cheese (I like Gina Marie from Sierra Nevada)
⅓ – ½ cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon dried onion powder
1 teaspoon runny honey or sugar, to taste
8 ounces jarred pimentos or piquillo peppers, drained and chopped
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons hot sauce such as sriracha
Place all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until it forms a smooth paste with just a little texture. If desired, add additional mayonnaise for a creamier consistency.
In my restaurant days, we’d order whole ducks. The moneymaker was the breasts. Roasting legs simply with salt and pepper is delicious, but they were a hard sell. Usually, we’d pull the meat off the legs and the rest of the carcass and turn it into meatballs or burgers. We are so lucky today to have duck available to us (often frozen). This also works for those of you who are hunters and have a freezer full of ducks you don’t know what to do with.
Makes 4 servings
1 pound ground or finely chopped duck meat
¼ cup blanched slivered almonds, lightly toasted and chopped
¼ cup raisins, preferably golden and chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
⅓ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
¼ cup breadcrumbs, such as panko
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons crumbled dried mint
1 large egg, mixed with a fork
Olive oil, for sauteing
Soft, squishy buns
Gently combines all the ingredients except the olive oil. With wet hands, form into patties about ¾-inch thick. Heat about ¼ inch of olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over moderate heat. Fry the patties until they are browned on both sides, about 6 minutes total.
Place on top of toasted buns with traditional garnishes and enjoy.
Don’t use canned chickpeas/garbanzos. They won’t work. Those of you who make falafel will recognize this recipe.
Makes 4 servings
8 ounces dried chickpeas
1 parsley cup, chopped and loosely packed
1 cup cilantro, chopped and loosely packed
½ cup finely chopped scallion, both white and green parts
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin
½ teaspoon toasted ground cilantro
2 kosher salt teaspoons
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon chickpea or all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons or so water
Vegetable oil, for frying
Place chickpeas in a bowl and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Allow to soak for 24 hours. Drain well and place in a food processor along with the next 10 ingredients. Process for 1 or 2 minutes on high until the mixture is mostly smooth.
Divide into 6 servings and form into burgers. Heat ½ inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add burgers and cook on both sides until golden brown and crusty.
Slather buns with tahini sauce (recipe follows), add a burger and top with tomato slices, sweet red or white onion slices and arugula or shredded lettuce.
Tahini pastes vary widely, with some being bitter and grainy. My favorite is Soom, which you can easily order online.
Makes 1 cup
½ cup well-stirred tahini paste, at room temperature
¼ cup or so warm water
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (or more to taste)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Optional additions (pick one!):
Chile flakes or chile paste (like sambal olek or sriracha)
A dash of soy sauce or liquid aminos
A dash of toasted sesame oil (for extra sesame flavor)
1-2 teaspoons za’atar spice
1-2 teaspoons ground cumin
Fresh chopped chives, Italian parsley, mint or basil
1-2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
Place tahini paste and warm water in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Once you start whisking, it will thicken, so feel free to thin it out.
Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and whisk until creamy and smooth. It will thicken as it cools in the fridge.
Taste and adjust the salt and lemon to your liking. Whisk in any of the optional ingredients. It will keep for up to a week, refrigerated.
John Ash is a Santa Rosa chef, teacher, James Beard award-winning cookbook author and radio host of KSRO’s “Good Food Hour” airing at 11 am Saturday. He can be reached through his website, chefjohnash.com.