Pimento Cheese and Toasted Pimento Cheese & Tomato Sandwiches


Before the season ends and I’m back to canned tomato products, one of the things on my summer must eat list is a simple  Toasted Pimento Cheese & Tomato Sandwich.  Some hearty bread, good pimento cheese and a thick slice of vine-ripened tomato are all that’s required for a satisfying lunch or dinner.

Recently I made the food for a fairly large wedding shower/cocktail party.  It was pretty exhausting and made me realize how much caterer’s should be appreciated when they make food from scratch rather than relying on commercially produced stuff to fill their orders.  Good food doesn’t need to be fancy or fussy but it does need to be fresh and prepared with high quality ingredients.  So it wasn’t so surprising to me when one of the most commented on items on my menu was a simple Pimento Cheese Spread served alongside toasted baguette and celery sticks.  So much easier to prepare than the fussy Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta Crema served in martini glasses, and the second bonus was that there were leftovers to be enjoyed the next day while cleaning up after the party.

Pimento Cheese Sandwiches were one of those things I grew up with and found to be just an ok kind of thing,  but it was often made with pasteurized processed cheese, salad dressing, generic canned pimento peppers and slathered onto what I have come to refer to as Wonder Fluff.  It wasn’t until I grew up and discovered aged cheddar cheeses, mayonnaise and roasted Piquillo peppers that  Pimento Cheese became one of those ” sometimes” foods to be savored.   A sometimes food because ,it’s not low in calories, saturated fat  or sodium for sure, but for an occasional meal with homemade whole grain bread and a thick slice of tomato I’ll make the sacrifice and cut those calories somewhere else.

In the past I’ve made this sandwich as a “Grilled” sandwich, meaning that in addition to the fat from the cheese and mayonnaise I added butter to mix as in a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  So as at least a small  nod to cutting a bit of the saturated fat in the sandwich,  I decided to simply toast the bread and build the sandwich with modest amounts of my lovely Pimento Cheese and an extra thick slice of tomato.  Funny thing is,  I think I liked it even better than my old stand by.   I don’t think it will make it to the pages of Cooking Light but every calorie saved is one I don’t need to burn.

The inspiration for this recipe was Pimento Cheese Toasts that appeared in the January 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine.  I’ve used it for New Year’s Eve and Derby Day parties in it’s original form and then as a cold spread as I mentioned as an easy make ahead item for a cocktail party.  This week I’m just enjoying it made into a sandwich with tomatoes or on toast with a slice of tomato for breakfast.

The ingredients for the spread are simple so the quality really counts.  I use a combination of sharp or extra sharp (aged) white cheddar (Cabot Vermont is one of my favorites) and sharp or extra sharp yellow cheddar.  White pimento cheese would just seem weird, so the combo gives me the color I want with the great flavor of an excellent white cheddar.  I’ve replaced the cayenne pepper in the original recipe with chipotle powder and the generic roasted red peppers with roasted Piquillo Peppers.   Only Hellmann’s Real Mayo makes it into my refrigerator. 

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When I’m grating this much cheese I pull out the food processor and the coarse grating blade.  

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Pat the peppers dry


Two piquillo peppers with give you approximately 1/4 cup of diced pepper.  If you love the flavor feel free to add a bit more or you can do as I will and add more to the sandwich.


Mix the cheese, mayo, peppers and chipotle or  cayenne pepper ( if you like it spicy up the amount to 1/4 teaspoon or more to taste).  It needs to sit in the refrigerator a bit to allow the flavors to blend, but it’s essentially party ready as a lovely spread at this point.

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Now I’m ready to build my sandwich.  This week I was ambitious and made my own bread (Harvest Wheat from the King Arthur website and baked in a Pullman pan so I have great sandwich slices.  


More piquillo pepper patted dry, a thick slice of vine ripened tomato and a splash of awesome Lombardi Balsamic Vinegar.

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I have a new toy  in my kitchen (a Wolf countertop oven that works as a toaster) that makes making a toasted sandwich super easy.  The bread toasts and the cheese gets just slightly warm.  If you simply toast two slices of bread and work quickly you can achieve nearly the same effect.  Or you could dry toast the sandwich in a skillet.


Toasted bread and warm gooey cheese-oh yum!


All I need for lunch is a few more slices of those luscious vine ripened tomatoes from my garden.




Pimento Cheese

by: M.B. Einerson

Adapted from Pimento Cheese Toasts Gourmet Magazine January 2008 

Servings: approximately 2 cups – enough for 6 to 8 sandwiches or 36 hors d oeuvres on baguette slices

  • 10 oz. sharp or extra sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (I like a combo of white and yellow cheddar
  • ⅛ to ¼ tsp. chipotle powder or cayenne pepper
  • ⅛ tsp. freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup finely diced roasted Piquillo peppers, patted dry before dicing.

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve with celery stalks or toasted baguette slices or spread on baguette slices and broil until the cheese is bubbling and browned.

Turn into a toasted sandwich with a hearty wheat bread, tomato slices and extra Piquillo peppers




Tomato and Cheese Tart


To celebrate one of the first days we’ve been able to sit on the patio for a while I decided to make a long time favorite Brunch/Appetizer-Tomato, Basil & Cheese Tart.   It doesn’t exactly fit into the healthy category, but as long as the portions are small and it’s accompanied by a light green salad (I actually didn’t even put any dressing on my lettuce and tomatoes) it’s a fine way to celebrate a beautiful  Sunday in July.

The recipe comes from one of my friends in the neighborhood and has been served at many a party by both of us.  In fact,  until writing this post it was always referred to as Colleen’s “Quiche”. How it ever got that name I don’t recall,  as the only eggs that make an appearance in it come via the mayonnaise that binds the cheeses in the filling.  It does have a bit of a quiche-like appearance however with its lovely golden brown crust and top of melted cheese, so perhaps it can be considered a distant cousin of that other fabulous brunch dish.

In any case it’s definitely worth giving a try when the garden is filled with basil and the tomatoes are bursting with flavor.  I’m thinking that I may even revisit it later this summer and turn it into a BBT & C  (Basil,Bacon,Tomato & Cheese) tart.  Because as I was enjoying it for brunch this morning it occurred to me that the only thing that could make it even more tasty would be a bit of crispy bacon in the mix.  All things in moderation of course, so I’ll wait a while before indulging in that!

The first thing you may notice are some things on the left,  that from afar resemble curled green onions with no white end.  They are garlic scapes, that today I’m substituting for the garlic in the recipe.  They are one of the harbingers of spring at the local farmer’s markets and they have an amazingly long shelf life if you store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  If you ever see them be sure to give them a try. 


I almost always have an extra disk of pastry dough in the freezer, so won’t be making any today.  If you are in a rush I suppose you could use one of the pre-made kind, but homemade is so much better and it’s really easy once you get the hang of it.

 The dough I currently have  is a 1/2  of a recipe for a single crust pie, left over from some classes I teach, so I’m down sizing the tart today and using an 8 inch tart pan instead of the 9 to 10 inch that the recipe is written for.   I like to use this size when I’m making this as an appetizer because it gives nice little small slices and I’m a big believer in small quantities of things that taste great!  

In any case it’s an easy recipe to adjust as exact quantities of ingredients aren’t critical to success.


Roll the crust to approximately 1/8 inch thick and 2 inches in diameter larger than the tart pan or pie plate.


Roll the dough over the rolling-pin and transfer to the center of the tart pan.  Once it’s in place, gently roll the excess crust to the inside of the pan and press into the ridges.  Be careful not to pull or stretch the dough.


With the dough in place, line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights.  I keep a bag of beans in my pantry for this.  Just don’t ever try to cook them after they’ve been serving as pie weights as they will never be anything but bean rocks.


Bake the crust with the pie weights in a 450° F oven for  8 to 10 minutes.  Remove the foil and beans and dock (prick) the entire surface of the crust with a fork.  Return the crust to the oven and bake for another 2 to 4 minutes or until it is lightly browned.  If the crust puffs up, gently press down with the fork to release the steam.  This is called blind baking the crust.  It helps keep the crust from becoming soggy during the final baking.


Set the crust aside to cool and reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.

Now you’re ready to prep the filling.  Grate the parmesan, shred the mozzarella, thinly slice the tomatoes (if you want you can put them on a paper towel to soak out some of the extra juice), mince the garlic scapes or garlic and chiffonade the basil. 


Sprinkle the bottom of the cooled crust with approximately 1/3 of the mozzarella (1/2 cup if you’re making an 9 or 10 inch tart).  Top with tomato slices, basil and minced garlic or garlic scapes.

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Mix the remaining shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan cheese, the mayonnaise and some freshly ground black pepper and spread over the top of the tart.  Don’t worry if the mixture is thick and won’t spread evenly, it will melt and spread as it bakes.

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Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.  You will want to place it on a baking sheet or place foil on the rack under the tart to catch any butter that drips from the tart pan as it bakes.

My favorite trick for removing the rim of the tart pan is to set it over a can and let it gently fall to counter.

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Garnish it with a bit more fresh basil and you have a lovely hors d’oeuvre for a summer party or a great brunch dish that only needs a bit of fresh salad. 



The tart was so rich and tasty I didn’t even add any dressing to my salad.  But in hindsight a splash of balsamic would have been lovely.


Bon Appétit!


Tomato, Basil & Cheese Tart

Colleen’s “Quiche”

by: M.B. Einerson

Adapted from a recipe given to me by  Colleen 

 Servings: 12 appetizer servings or 4 to 6 entrée servings

  • Pastry for a single 9 to 10 inch pastry crust rolled fit pie plate or tart pan it should be approximately 1/8 inch thick and have a ½ inch overhang
  • 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 5 to 6 Roma or small round tomatoes or the equivalent in cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic minced or two garlic scapes thinly sliced.
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, sliced into a chiffonade, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F

Place unbaked crust in a 9 or 10 inch pie plate or tart pan with removable bottom.  Turn the overhang under and flute or press into the sides of the tart pan.  Line with foil and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove foil and pie weights, dock the entire crust with fork pricks and bake an additional 2 or so minutes more, until lightly browned.  I the crust has puffed, gently press down with a fork or spoon.  Set aside to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 375° F.

Cut the tomatoes into thin slices, wedges or halves depending on the type you are using.  You can drain on paper towels if you like but I love the flavor of the juice, so I sacrifice a bit of crispy texture for bigger flavor.

Sprinkle the bottom of the cooled crust with ½ cup of the mozzarella.  Top with tomatoes, garlic and basil ribbons.

Mix the mayonnaise, remaining 1 cup of mozzarella, shredded parmesan cheese and black pepper.  Spread this mixture over the top of the tomatoes.  Don’t worry if it’s a bit thick and won’t spread smoothly or evenly.  As the cheese melts it will spread over the tart.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature.

Bon Appétit