Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Roasted red pepper cheese spread

Roasted red pepper cheese spread: it's the hipper cousin of pimento cheese.

pimento cheese spread with roasted red peppers

Regular readers know that while I was raised a New Englander, I lived away from my homeland for nearly 20 years. And I did most of that living away in the South: Louisiana, Alabama and both the Carolinas, to be exact.

(Not to mention a stint in the surrealistic world of Southern California, but that's a story for another day.)

There are uniquely southern things -- practices, expressions, foods -- that, over those 20 years, I adopted or that managed to weasel their way into my largely Yankee life and traditions: I say "y'all" rather than "you guys", make a mean shrimp and grits and have a dog named for four Confederate generals.

But then there are some Southern things that I just never understood -- like all-day church services and pimento cheese.

To be honest, I never even tried pimento cheese, because it just looked too scary. Given its neon orange hue, I was convinced pimento cheese was probably made up of a whole lotta mayonnaise, some nasty Velveeta and little else. I avoided it like the plague -- or like crispy fried catfish with a side of stewed okra, which is a close rival to the plague in my book.

So you'll likely be surprised that I finally learned about pimento cheese from Whole Grains for a New Generation, the book I'm cooking from as part of the From Scratch Club's virtual book club.

What the hell does pimento cheese have to do with whole grains?

Well, nothing frankly.

But how it made its way into Liana Krissoff's book is simple: Liana now lives in the South and, bless her heart, just probably couldn't avoid it at the church suppers or tailgate parties.

No, seriously, she has a section of the book all about condiments, particularly condiments that make nice complements to the whole grain recipes.

And yes, pimento cheese is one of those condiments.

It is, however, not quite right to call it pimento cheese, which is why I haven't. Rather than the slightly sweet jarred pimento, Liana's recipes calls for nice smoky, roasted red peppers, as well as way way way less mayonnaise than Paula Deen would think is even legal.  Round that out with sharp, tangy cheddar cheese and you can see the appeal.

This is seriously good stuff. We have eaten it, spread on whole grain crackers (see the grain connection there?!!), as a light accompaniment to cocktails, and it is wonderful.


Shmear the spread all over some hearty bread and let it become a wee bit melty as part of a hip girl's panini with bacon and tomato? Or swirl a dollop into some hot grits for breakfast?

Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit: that's some good eatin', y'all.

pimento cheese spread with roasted red peppers

Roasted Red Pepper Cheese Spread (adapted from Whole Grains for a New Generation)

You can mix this spread by hand with a rubber spatula, but it's much easier to do it on slow speed in a stand mixer, but only if you have a rubber-edged blade (which I use almost exclusively now).  Also, the recipe is easily doubled.

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I use Cabot Seriously Sharp)
4 ounces neufchatel (cream) cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lime juice
3/4 - 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, diced (pat them dry with paper towels first)

Either in a bowl using a rubber spatula or in the bowl of a stand mixer with a rubber-edged blade, beat all the ingredients EXCEPT the peppers until well blended. Gently mix in the peppers until combined. Store in the refrigerator.


  1. I've been making cheese grits with it - I've made it four times now, lol.

    I use roasted pablano peppers which happen to be the roasted peppers I stocked my freezer with last fall.

    I may just have to plant some pimento peppers this year...

    1. Jackie: you definitely need to try it on a warm sandwich, like a panini -- so good!!

    2. I've been spreading it on warm homemade Portugese corn toast - it's crusty and crispy like a baguette, but with a corn flavor. It's all crusty, melty and delicious...

      Your photo on this one is really nice BTW

  2. How dare you insult pimento cheese?! I love it!! There's a place here that does a panini with it that rocks. I might have to give this better version a try, I'm sure I'd love it.

    1. Ha ha! This is basically the same, just less scary. You will *definitely* love it.

  3. One of my earliest childhood memories features pimento cheese. The Easter that I was 4 years old, we went to dinner at my uncle's home in rural N.C. There, I was given a black patent leather purse filled with jelly beans & the appetizer was celery sticks filled with pimento cheese... something I'd never seen before. Attempting to divert the sugar high, my mom made a deal with me. For every celery/cheese stick I ate, I could have another jelly bean. Not sure I ate anything else that day, but ever since then practically the only way I could be induced to eat raw celery was with pimento cheese.

    So, I am thrilled to have a grown-up, less mayonnaise driven version to nosh on! In honor of those childhood memories, I brought celery sticks & the roasted red pepper cheese to the church potluck last night. Fortunately, many people were just as wary of the stuff as Julianne was, so now I have yummy leftovers to look forward to. Happy Easter!

    1. What a GREAT story, Margaret -- thank you for sharing! And I'm happy to have given you back a childhood favorite, slightly healthier. (I love the idea of the patent leather easter basket, too!!)

  4. OMG, love the purse full of jelly beans. :-) I also like the idea of eating this with a spoon....I mean celery.

  5. I made this tonight and it's delicious! The smoked paprika really adds a nice grown- up flavor. It was very simple to mix up; I'm sure I'll be making this often.

    1. I am SO happy to hear this! Glad you liked it!!

  6. I can not wait to make this. I just moved here to North Carolina and I have seen the Pimento Cheese, but I just am not so sure about it. I am looking forward to making your recipe! I'd love if you would share this, or anything you would like, at my Super Bowl Eats and Treats Linky Party. You can link up appetizers, desserts, entrees, crafts, party ideas, anything that says "Super Bowl" to you! We would love to have you!http://bit.ly/Lvc0q2