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Matt’s Pimento Cheese Dip. With a Kick.

Pimento Cheese Spread

Ok, unless you are from the South (I’m from Texas, so I can only claim half Southern roots),  the mention of Pimento Cheese spread might be met with a look of disbelief or even smirks. Hey, isn’t this the cheese spread of yesteryear, when wood paneling was commonplace and our pants had just a bit too much fabric at the ankle? Perhaps. But to chalk this spread up to a southern thang and leave it at that would deny how truly perfect it is. Salty, sharp, cheesy but – here’s the best part – so completely and mindblowingly easy to make.

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Matt’s Turkey Tacos

Still making your way through leftovers? Finish them off with these tasty tacos...

There’s no denying that from now until the end of the year is prime turkey time. I suspect you might even see a very similar Thanksgiving meal appear during Christmas, give or take a ham and prime rib served alongside. And this means lots of turkey leftovers. I have no shame in telling you that I’ve eaten a few days worth of turkey already, and plan on roasting at least one more next month. And while I’d never publicly knock the turkey-stuffing-gravy trifecta, I’ve gotta ask you: Where’s my spice? Where’s my flavor? I’m opting for turkey tacos this year, a quick and easy recipe that uses what I have but pays homage to the flavors I grew up eating. And it couldn’t be any easier.

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Matt’s Chipotle Sweet-Potato Spoon Bread

Chipotle Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

Serve up a spoonful of deliciousness.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks the best part of Thanksgiving is the sides. While I’m definitely a turkey lover (dark meat, please), it’s that plateful of savory stuffing, mashed potatoes, greens in the form of beans or brussels sprouts and the sweet tang of cranberries or chutney that really gets me going. And as long as I’m confessing my love for sides, I’m not afraid to tell you that I’ll make more than necessary so I have plenty to indulge in (and lots for leftovers). Maybe one year I’ll even have an entire Thanksgiving feast just of side dishes. It could happen.

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Matt’s Twice Baked Potatoes

Twice Baked Potatoes

And you thought baking them once tasted good...

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I could sit down to a meal of twice-baked potatoes and nothing else. Something about that cheesy, moist mashed potato inside a crispy potato skin sends me over the top. However, common sense (and the voice of my mother) tells me that’s not the wisest meal choice — I should have some balance! Ok, so a twice-baked potato with some delightful steamed veggies or a green salad? Now we’re talking.

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Matt Entertains: Chocolate Cherry Cookies

How could you resist?

Consider me late to this party — the one where chocolate and cherry shack up and everyone lives together happily ever after. It’s not that I didn’t think chocolate and cherries would be perfect together, it’s just that cherries can be oh-so-seasonal and if you blink, you miss them. Luckily my newfound love for cherries is sustained during parts of the year other than summer with high quality dried tart cherries from Michigan. And seriously, I’m not trying to be a geographical snob, but I’ve seen (and tasted) the light: sour cherries like Montmorency or Morellos have a tartness and herbal note that marry perfectly with chocolate. 

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Matt Entertains: Queso Fundido


Matt Armendariz's Queso Fundido

Two words: melted cheese. That intersection of cheesy, oozy meltability and crunchy toasted corners can throw us over the edge and for good reason. It’s what can make or break a great slice of pizza. It’s what we enjoy most about grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s what makes saganaki and haloumi so fun to eat. And where I grew up queso fundido is about as delicious and indulgent as you can get.

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Matt Entertains: Fig and Blue Cheese Flatbread


Matt Armendariz's Fig and Blue Cheese Flatbread

One of the most disappointing things in life is discovering someone with a beautiful fig tree who doesn’t eat figs. I think it’s ok to pass judgment because I used to be that person. Granted, I was 4 years old at the time and refused to eat them, missing out on their subtle, delicate flavor and historical significance.

Fast-forward about 20 years to adulthood. Figs no longer have to compete with PB&Js and red apples and that’s just fine with me. But it’s only been as an adult that I’ve learned to really dig figs; they come to market for such a brief time (right, say, now!), are one of the most delicate tree fruits, and stand in the culinary lineup of fruit that doesn’t always hit you over the head but lets you take your time with its flavor. That’s not to say a fig can’t be bold — there are some with flavors reminiscent of eating jam right out of the jar. But their telltale tastes make them perfect for both sweet and savory applications, and I think there’s no better way of eating fresh figs than with cheese or on flatbread. To me figs belong with cheese.

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Matt’s Ice Cream Terrine with Sautéed Peaches


Elegant, simple, and much easier than turning those peaches into a pie.

As much as I love entertaining, I find it just a wee bit difficult to commit hours to my kitchen when everyone is outside enjoying summer. I want to heed the call of the margarita, of the ribs, of just about anything that happens outside during those warm summer evenings filled with great food and even better company. Who can blame me?

And yet I can’t just open a package and call it a day. That just wouldn’t be me. I’m always on the search for something special, an act that takes the everyday and elevates it slightly. When I found myself with extra peaches that wouldn’t have lasted another day I put my thinking cap on and got to work. When fruit is this ripe, juicy and fragrant there’s not much you need to do. Heck, there’s not much you can do other than slice it and serve over your favorite ice cream. And yet the thought of bowl + scoop + fruit didn’t excite me as much as it normally does. Enter the terrine.

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Matt’s Ultimate Summer Salad

Matt Armendariz's heirloom salad

Matt Armendariz's heirloom salad

I try to treat all my seasons equally. I love tender young vegetables in spring long and rich braised meat and stews in autumn. But if you really want to know what gets me going then we only need to chat about summer. It’s where my favorite flavors come together: cool and hot, sweet and smoky, bold and beautiful. It’s a time of year when intense flavors play well with just about everything and everyone gets along peacefully.

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Just Desserts: Matt’s Cherry Galette


Right from the oven.

This may be the wrong time to make this proclamation but I am not Cherry Pie’s biggest cheerleader. All too often the gloopy, gloppy slices of America’s favorite leaves me wishing for something else.  Of course I want to celebrate summer like everyone else and take advantage of cherry’s all-too-short season and that’s when I turn to cherry pie’s rustic cousin, the free form galette. And to the cherry pie lovers out there, go easy on me! 

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