Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen

Pimento Cheese 0

Posted on August 06, 2018 by Sahar

As a couple, Husband Steve & I have been together for 26 years. However, I didn’t know until about 6 months ago he liked pimento cheese. It’s nice how we can still surprise each other.

Growing up, I distinctly remember the containers of Prices Pimento Spread my mom would bring home from the grocery.  I think I liked it; I can’t remember now.  What I do remember is that until about 2 months ago, I hadn’t eaten pimento cheese spread in any quantity for at least 30 years.

As part of growing up in the South, many – if not most – households had/have pimento cheese spread in their regular food rotation.  It was always just there; you didn’t really question it.  It was a dish that was (and still is) proudly Southern and no doubt has as many subtle variations as there are Southern memaws.

So, imagine my surprise when I came across this article in Serious Eats about where Pimento Cheese really originated.  New York.  Yes, New York.  The author, Robert Ross, wrote: “What surprised me most at the time was discovering that this gooey concoction of shredded cheese, mayo, and diced red pimentos—a blend now considered one of the quintessential Southern foods—was actually invented somewhere else. After all, writers have called pimento cheese “a major southern institution,” something that is “held sacred by Southerners” and is “so ingrained in the lives of many Southerners that we don’t realize our passion for the stuff doesn’t exist outside the region.” How could pimento cheese, this most Southern of foods, possibly have been born outside the South?”

No, pimento cheese got its start up North—in New York, in fact—as a product of industrial food manufacturing and mass marketing. Its story is one of redemption, of a wayward factory child adopted by a good Southern family, scrubbed up nice, and invited to Sunday dinner.”

Indeed.  Seriously, read the article.  It’s fascinating.


I decided to come up with my own recipe so I could keep Steve in a constant supply of pimento cheese instead of buying it from the deli case at my local HEB. I mean, I figured, how hard could it be? It wasn’t.

I think of the combination of the cheeses as an homage to my Aunt Cathy.  There is a grocer, Marketplace, in Dallas, that makes one she loved with smoked gouda. Yup, the quintessentially ’70’s cheese.

As always, play with the ingredients however you like.  Because I like a stronger flavored cheese, I went with all sharp cheddar to go along with the gouda. Some recipes use onion powder, garlic powder, mustard (jarred or dried), milder cheeses, and even chopped jalapeño.


The Ingredients

1/3 c. shredded extra sharp cheddar

1/3 c. shredded medium or sharp cheddar

1/3 c. shredded smoked gouda

1/4 c. mayonnaise

2 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/3 c. roasted red bell peppers, chopped fine


1/3 c. pimento, chopped fine (if needed)

1 tbsp. finely minced onion

Salt to taste

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional (or to taste)

Few drops lemon juice, optional (or to taste)


In a medium bowl, mix together all of the ingredients except for the cayenne, lemon, and salt.  Taste for seasoning.  If you would like to add the cayenne, lemon, and salt, add to taste and mix again.

Ready for the fridge.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic or place in an airtight container.  Let chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.  Taste for seasoning again and serve.  Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Ready to eat my favorite way; on crackers.


A Take On Low-Country Shrimp & Grits 0

Posted on May 14, 2013 by Sahar

Shrimp & Grits. For most Southerners, this sounds like ambrosia. It’s almost a religion. For everyone else, an odd combination at best.

Now, some people are wondering, what exactly are grits?  Here’s an excellent quick explanation from

“Grits (or hominy) were one of the first truly American foods. The Native Americans ate a mush made of softened corn or maize. In 1584, during their reconnaissance party of what is now Roanoke, North Carolina, Sir Walter Raleigh and his men met and dined with the local Indians. Having no language in common, the two groups quickly resorted to food and drink. One of Raleigh’s men, Arthur Barlowe, recorded notes on the foods of the Indians. He mad a special not of corn, which he found “very white, faire, and well tasted.” He also wrote about being served a boiled corn or hominy.

When the colonists came ashore in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, the Indians offered them bowls of this boiled corn substance. The Indians called it “rockahomine,” which was later shortened to “hominy” by the colonists. The Indians taught the colonists how to thresh the hulls from dried yellow corn. Corn was a year-round staple and each tribe called it by a different name.”

Shrimp & Grits started off as a breakfast staple among the fisherman of South Carolina’s coastal low country during shrimp season (May – December).  It was a simple dish called “breakfast shrimp” that was usually cooked in bacon grease or butter. In recent years, however, it’s been “fancified” and is now seen in restaurants all across the South and is eaten at any time of day.

Now, on to the recipe:


Now, admittedly, my recipe differs from traditional style Shrimp & Grits in that I use cornmeal, cheese, and parsley.  It’s one of those “fancified” versions.

A few notes:

1.  It’s important that you don’t use instant or quick-cooking grits.  They don’t have the flavor or texture of slow cooked grits.

2.  If you can’t find grits, then you can use stone-ground cornmeal.  In fact, that’s what I use in this recipe.

3.  For my readers who don’t eat pork, you can substitute turkey bacon.  Just add 2 tablespoons oil or butter to the pan. The bacon will flavor the oil or butter which in turn will flavor the shrimp.

4.  The cheese in the grits wouldn’t have been found in the earliest recipes.  It’s a more modern addition.  If you don’t want to add the cheese, feel free to omit it.

5.  Use large or (insert oxymoron here) jumbo shrimp.  They are just better in this recipe.

The ingredients

The ingredients


4 c. water, chicken or shrimp stock

2 c. whole milk or half & half

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 1/2 c. grits (not instant or quick-cooking) or stone-ground cornmeal

2 tbsp. butter

2 c. sharp cheddar cheese


6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into roughly 1/2″ pieces

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 lb. large shrimp, peeled & deveined

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 tbsp. or juice of 1 lemon

1/4 c. parsley, minced


1.  Make the grits:  Bring the water or broth, and half & half to a boil.  Add the salt and pepper.  Whisk in the grits or cornmeal 1/2 cup at a time.

Whisking in the cornmeal.

Whisking in the cornmeal.

It’s very important to keep whisking as you add the grits or cornmeal until they come back to the boil; otherwise, they’ll become lumpy and no amount of whisking will fix it.

All the cornmeal in the pot and whisking until it comes back to a boil.

All the cornmeal in the pot and whisking until it comes back to a boil.

When the all the grits are added and come back to a boil, lower the heat to low.  (Be careful, there will be some splatter.  This should calm down as you lower the heat and the mixture thickens.)  Stir often.

The boiling cauldron.

The boiling cauldron.

Continue cooking until all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture becomes very thick, about 20 – 25 minutes.


After about 20 minutes.

After about 20 minutes.

Remove the grits from the heat. Stir in the butter and cheese.

Stirring in the butter.

Adding the butter.


Adding the cheese.

Adding the cheese.

Once the butter and cheese have been mixed in, cover the saucepan and set the grits aside.

2.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook until browned.

Cooking the bacon.

Cooking the bacon.

Once the bacon is cooked, remove it from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the garlic.  Cook for 1 – 2 minutes.

Cooking the garlic. Be sure not to let it become too brown.

Cooking the garlic. Be sure not to let it become too brown.

Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink, about 5 minutes.


Cooking the shrimp. You just want them to turn pink at this point.

Cooking the shrimp. You just want them to turn pink at this point.

Add the scallions and cook another 1 – 2 minutes.

Adding the scallions.

Adding the scallions.

Add the lemon juice and cook another minute.  Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the parsley and reserved bacon.

Adding the parsley and bacon.

Adding the parsley and bacon.

3.  Serve the grits with a generous helping of the shrimp on top.

Anytime meal. Yum.

Anytime meal. Yum.




p.s.  One of the great things about leftover grits (regular or cornmeal) is when, when cooked properly, they solidify as they cool.  While to the uninitiated, it sounds unappetizing, for a Southerner, it’s great.

Take any leftover grits and put them into a small loaf pan or in a square or rectangular container and make as even as possible.  The next day, take the “loaf” and cut it into pieces about 1/2-inch thick.  Fry in oil or butter until browned on both sides (they will soften a bit).  Take off the heat, and serve with some syrup or jam.

Oh. Yeah.





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