Category Archives: Cheese

Scandinavian Roast Dill-Scented Chicken and Potato Gratin

potato gratin

New Scandinavian Cooking with Andreas Viestad is one of my favorite cooking shows. He’s always cooking outdoors on some makeshift stove, so I love to see what he’s going to do next. I have his cookbook and decided to make this roast dill-scented chicken with leeks and this potato gratin with parsnips and rutabaga.  I thought both dishes were very good, but I found that I didn’t like the taste of the parsnips in the gratin. I really like the rutabaga and potato together though. The chicken was perfectly moist with a nice hint of dill and leek.

roast chicken


New and Old Favorites at the 2015 North Carolina State Fair

The 2015 NC state fair has a lot of new food this year.  I can’t get into some of the ridiculous fried stuff at state fairs like peanut butter pickles.  But I will taste some of the more tame fried food.  Here are some new things at the fair this year:

Fried pimento cheese wonton’s from Woody’s–These are a winner.  What’s not to like about pimento cheese?  (These are easy to find if you just look for the big balloon blimp in the sky.  Do not follow the festival food map because it lists Woody’s in a different location.)  WINNER

pimento cheese

Fried s’mores–Hmm, this was a little disappointing. I was expecting a square smore deep fried, but this was just marshmallow deep fried with chocolate syrup–no graham.  If that’s your thing, you’ll like it.

s'mores, smores

Nu Jersey Turnpike sausage baguette from Baguettaboutit–A mild Italian fennel sausage with a roasted red pepper sauce in a crusty baguette.  My friend always gets sausage and pepper sandwiches, and this was a really nice change–especially the good bread.  WINNER


And Baguettaboutit also has delicious vegetarian sandwiches like this one with Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Tofurky Italian Sausage + Cracked Pepper and Parmesan Sauce.  WINNER


Candied yams ice cream from Lumpy’s–I love Lumpy’s ice cream.  But this flavor fell a bit flat for me.  Yam/sweet potato ice cream can have a starchy mouthfeel.  This one had some marshmallows scattered throughout, but I think a sweet syrup would’ve masked some of the starchiness.


Sour lemon ice cream from Country Folks Creamery—I always like to get the ice cream that’s churned with a John Deere tractor.  This year’s new flavor is sour lemon.  It is sour, which I like, and definitely real lemon.  It reminded me of lemon gelato.  It’s really good.  WINNER

sour lemon ice cream

White chocolate mini baguette from La Farm Bakery–I love white chocolate, so I had to try this baguette.  La Farm makes great bread, but this just didn’t do it for me.  It was a bit too sweet and I just didn’t taste the white chocolate like I wanted to.  I was hoping it would be melted in the middle but it was mostly bread.  We also got an asiago parmesan bread for the road that’s great!

white chocolate

In addition to the new food at the fair, we got some old staples that we know we like.

Fried cheddar nuggets from Wisconsin cheese

fried cheese

a cinnamon sugar elephant ear

elephant ear

I also got some barbecue and slaw at Big Al’s in Raleigh


And my friend got mini donuts–these tasted like they were made with funnel cake mix–I’m not a fan of that flavor but if you are, you’ll like them.

mini donuts, mini doughnuts

Muscadine grapes are from North Carolina, and this muscadine grape slushie was a sweet, refreshing drink!

muscadine grape

I checked out my favorite things at the fair–like the cake decorating contest.  This cute cake was the winner.

NC state fair winning cake

I love the folk crafts at the Village of Yesteryear, the gardens and bonsai trees, and the North Carolina pottery tent.  I even took a stroll through the soybean farmers’ tent with a wall of the Bayer logo.  I tried not to think about all the soybean oil I ingested and had a good time!  (I did see a food booth somewhere at the fair advertising that all its food was cooked with olive oil.)  Anyway, a good time was had by all!

The Real Fettuccine Alfredo


Fettuccine Alfredo is one of the most well-known Italian dishes.  However, most people don’t know the history behind it and what its real ingredients are.  Fettuccine Alfredo was invented by Alfredo di Lelio in 1914 at his Roman restaurant, Alfredo’s.  As the story goes, his wife couldn’t eat after she gave birth, so he created this dish.

Fettuccine Alfredo is fettuccine in a creamy butter and parmesan “sauce.”  At this point in time, this dish was really a basic pasta dish, pasta with butter and cheese, already eaten by Italians on any kind of pasta, and it is still eaten by  Italians and Italian Americans today.  Pasta with butter and cheese is not something one would typically find at a restaurant.  It is something that is eaten at home.  In fact, one can omit the cheese and just have pasta with butter as well.  The typical Italian/Italian American doesn’t use this much butter or cheese when making this dish.  So the novelty of Alfredo’s dish is that it contained a lot of butter–which makes sense because he was trying to nourish his wife who had just given birth and was having digestive problems.

The difference between the Italian and American versions is that in the Italian version, only butter and parmesan are used, and together, they create a silky butter sauce.  Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford ate fettuccine Alfredo at Alfredo’s in 1920 while on their honeymoon and brought the dish back to America.  In the American version, heavy cream is also used to get a more creamy, saucy consistency.  This, however, is not how the dish was intended.

There are a number of ways to prepare fettuccine Alfredo.  I tried Todd Coleman’s version from Saveur magazine.

Fettuccine Alfredo

1 1b. fettuccine (Cook according to package directions.)

2 sticks unsalted butter

1/2 lb. grated parmesan cheese (Parmesan from Italy is best here.)

The trick to making fettuccine Alfredo is to have a large platter, preferably warmed under hot water or in the oven a few minutes.  Cut pats of butter all over the platter.


Drain pasta but reserve some pasta water.  Add the pasta to the platter along with the cheese and 1/4 cup pasta water.


Toss with forks until the butter melts and all is well mixed–about 3 minutes.  Add more pasta water if you need to.  I used about 1 cup.

I think it is tricky to keep this warm, so if I make it again, I may try doing it in a skillet as recommended elsewhere or the quicker version Coleman suggests.


Pasta with Mascarpone and Peas

Peas are a great spring vegetable.  While looking for a pea recipe, I found this pasta dish from British Italian chef Antonio Carluccio in his cookbook, 1oo Pasta Recipes.  I improvised with what I had on hand and also doubled the recipe.  He used marille pasta, and I used strozzapreti.  He used fresh basil; I used dried.  He used parmesan; I used pecorino.


Pasta with Mascarpone and Peas

1/4 cup butter

2 lbs. chopped tomatoes (I used Pomi.)

14 oz. frozen peas

basil to taste

2 8 oz. containers mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

red pepper flakes to taste

salt and pepper to taste

2 lbs. strozzapreti pasta

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add tomatoes, peas, basil, mascarpone, pecorino, red pepper, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Cook pasta in salted water for 10-12 minutes until al dente.  Drain.  Serve with sauce.

Pizza Chiena or Pizza Rustica

Pizza Chiena or Pizza Rustica, or Savory Italian Easter Pie

pizza chiena, pizza rustica

Pizza chiena or pizza rustica is a savory Neapolitan pie served at Easter time.  My family is from the area surrounding Naples and they called it pizza chiena, pronounced like pizzagaina, or pizzagain, as they pronounce the hard ch sound as a hard g in Neapolitan dialect and the last vowel is often left off.

pizza chiena, pizza rustica

Pizza Chiena

For the crust:

Some people use pizza dough for the crust.  You can get it from a pizzeria or make it yourself.  There are many different ways to make the crust.  You can experiment and see what you like.  Some people use lard, butter or oil instead of the shortening.  Some people don’t use eggs.  Some people use yeast.  Some people add pepper or salt.  The dish itself is pretty salty with the meats and cheeses, so I would opt for no extra salt.

5 cups flour, not sifted

3/4 cup shortening

4 eggs

warm water

olive oil

Put your flour on your work surface.  Dot with shortening and incorporate until it becomes crumbly.


Make a well and add eggs, incorporating them.  Add enough warm water until you have a workable dough.  Knead for about 5 minutes.  Put a little olive oil in a bowl.  Add the dough ball.


Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest for about a half hour.

For the filling:

People use different ingredients in the filling.  It usually always has ricotta, eggs, grated cheese and salami.  From there, it varies.  You can also use soppressata, capocollo, mortadella, Italian sausage or provolone.  We only used soppressata, capocollo and salami.  One of my grandmas used provolone.  Also, some provolone can be sharp and you don’t want it to be too dominant a flavor.  Some people lump all the ingredients in there, some people chunk it, some people dice it very small, some people layer it.  It’s all your preference.  My two grandmas did it differently.  This is kind of a combination of both of theirs.

1 lb. ricotta (Use a good brand with no added gums or thickeners.)

1 lb. basket cheese (If you can’t get this where you are, you can just use another pound of ricotta.  Or you can let one pound of ricotta sit in a colander or in cheesecloth the night before to drain out water.)


1 cup salami, diced


1 cup prosciutto, diced


8 eggs

1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

1 cup fresh mozzarella, diced

black pepper to taste

egg yolk for egg wash

In a bowl, mix all ingredients.  Just stir it all together.  No mixer needed.  I like it a little chunky.

Grease and flour a 10-inch springform pan or a 13×9 rectangular pan or a large cake pan or pie dish (depends on how much filling you have).

Cut off 2/3 of dough.  Roll it out into a circle and line springform pan.


Fill with filling.


Roll out remaining dough into a circle.  Top pie with it.  Brush with egg wash.

Bake at 375 degrees for 1/2 hour.  Lower heat to 350 for 1 more hour.  Let cool for a few hours.  Refrigerate.  We eat this at room temperature or cold from the refrigerator.

Pastiera, Pizza Grano or Easter Wheat Pie

Pastiera, Pizza Grano or Easter Wheat Pie

pastiera, pizza grano, Easter wheat pie, wheat pie

The pastiera, or pizza grano is also known in English as a wheat pie.  It’s a traditional Neapolitan dessert pie made at Easter time.  In the past, some people made these at home and other people bought them at Italian bakeries.  Unless you live near an Italian bakery, you will probably not be able to find one.  These pies have wheat but depending on where they are made, they can also have rice.  Part of my family is from the Benevento area of Italy, and they make the pie with rice.  I made an Italian Easter rice pie last year.

pastiera, pizza grano, wheat pie

Pastiera, Pizza Grano or Easter Wheat Pie

For the crust:

2 cups sifted flour

1 cup granulated sugar

pinch salt

1 stick butter, room temperature

2 eggs

Combine flour, sugar and salt.  On your work surface, make a well in the flour.  Add the eggs.


Dot the butter around and mix all together.  Work the dough until you have a dough that doesn’t stick (you may need to add more flour).


Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 can/jar cooked wheat (You will find this at an Italian market.  Or you can buy wheat berries and cook them yourself.)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon sugar

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 lb. ricotta (Try to buy a good brand that doesn’t have added gums or thickeners.)

1 tablespoon orange blossom water (This is not orange extract.  You will find this at Italian markets.  If you can’t find it, you can use vanilla instead.)

8 oz. chopped citron (This is hard to find.  Some grocery stores carry it.  Italian markets have it too.  It depends on where you live.  The higher percentage of Italians, the more likely you are to find it.)

In a pot, add the milk, wheat, butter and 1 T sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until it’s a thick custard.  Transfer it to a bowl and allow it to cool.


By hand or with a mixer, mix the eggs, sugar, ricotta and orange blossom water until well combined.  Mix in the cooled wheat custard.  Stir in the citron.

Grease and flour a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.  (You can also use a pie plate or cake pan.)

Take out your dough.  Cut off 1/3 of it to save to make strips for the top.  Roll the dough out into a circle and put into springform pan.

Pour the filling into the crust.  Roll out the other piece of dough and cut strips to make a crisscross design on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an 1 hour (not less but maybe a little more).

A Little Germany in Georgia

Enter the GIVEAWAY in honor of my 1000th post! The deadline has been extended until Dec. 15.

Helen, Georgia is a quaint little Bavarian Alpine village in the Georgia mountains.  While it is most popular during October for Oktoberfest, it is worth a visit during Christmas time because of the Christmas lights and decorations.


While December is a good time to visit, be sure to keep in mind that many of the shops and restaurants are closed on Wednesdays.  Helen is on its own time, and I wouldn’t rely on times listed on websites either.  Many of the stores we visited were closed when they were supposed to be open, so it’s best to call ahead if there’s a particular place you really want to go to make sure it will be open.   And most shops and restaurants close by six p.m.  There are few restaurants that are open past six, but you can find them.

There are stores with German, Dutch and Scandinavian imports like cuckoo clocks, nutcrackers, steins and more, as well as stores selling crafts by local artisans.  There’s something for everyone here–mini golf (not open in winter season), a grist mill, antique shops, tubing, ziplining, and hiking where one can see gorgeous waterfalls.


On this trip, we were interested in Christmas shopping and eating.  Some of the stores we enjoyed were Lindenhaus Imports owned by a friendly gentleman who happily shows you fun German and Scandinavian goods, Classics owned by a friendly woman who sells German collectibles and apparel and Windmill Dutch Imports with a good selection of Dutch food and ceramics.  Euro Food is a small shop with German foods.  There are a number of other shops, but many were not open on the Wednesday and Thursday that we were there (especially the Christmas shop which was a bit disappointing).


Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen is a fun stop for chocolate-covered pretzels, fudge, chocolates, divinity, peppermint bark and more.

There is a plethora of German food in Helen, as expected, but not much variety for a vegetarian.  We ate at the few restaurants that had vegetarian options, so if you are a vegetarian, be prepared for that.  High on the list is Muller’s Fried Cheese.


Breaded squares of cheddar, brie and mozzarella fried to melty perfection.  If you love cheese, you will love these.


They also have German and Czech specialties like bratwurst with cabbage, sauerkraut and potato salad.


Another must is Hofer’s German bakery, a cafe, bakery and deli in one.


We had a delicious breakfast here of vegetarian hash.


Our breakfast came with really nice assorted hard rolls.


For dessert, really lovely cream puff and beehive cake.


For the road, we got rye bread, jelly doughnuts and hamentaschen.  My favorite was their jelly doughnut–it was filled with ooey gooey jelly.

A restaurant that was open later in the evening was Cowboys & Angels.  We had a very good pimento cheese appetizer.


I got the pork chop with apples and raisins and it was delicious.


My friend got a vegetable plate with macaroni and cheese that was creamier than any I’ve had at a restaurant.  It says it’s made with real cream and I believe it.


The food was cooked to perfection here, and the vegetables were flavorful as well.

Bigg Daddy’s is a divey sports bar that is open later and has an interesting offering of calamari tacos.  They were delicious.


I had the spicy fish tacos which really brought the heat.


We shared an appetizer of buffalo hummus, which looked like a mound of hummus surrounded by a moat of hot sauce.  This would have been better with a drizzle of hot sauce on top, as this was just too much sauce.

After my spicy dinner, I wanted some ice cream.  There are homemade ice cream shops in town, but they weren’t open.  The options included Mayfield (made not far from here in Tennessee) and Blue Bell.

Blue Bell strawberry cheesecake

Blue Bell strawberry cheesecake

At one shop, they had some gelato from Italy. The salted caramel was perfetto.


A must-see attraction in Helen is Charlemagne’s Kingdom.  This is a miniature replica of the country of Germany with miniature trains and villages.  The attraction was created by a husband-and-wife team, the husband from Germany, and is still family-owned today.  It is truly awesome.  If you appreciate miniature artistry, you will love this.  The work is so detailed and there are so many wonderful nooks and crannies to see interesting things.


Other things to see not too far outside of Helen are the nearby Indian mound and the folk pottery museum.  And of course, Babyland General Hospital, which any child of the ’80s should know.  This is where Cabbage Patch Kids are born/grown.  Yes, you check in as if you are checking in to a real hospital.  You can see the babies growing from the cabbages, with a green IV drip from a tree.  Cool yet freaky at the same time.

Helen is a fun town that’s great to visit for a day trip, a weekend or a week, depending on what you want to do.