Bavarian Inspired Cheese Spread (Obatzda)

This week for our DistanceDishes date, Amanda and I had German foods on the mind with both of us recently attending local Oktoberfest celebrations in our respective states. While Amanda arrived in style with her spiffy new dirndl to an impressive Florida/German celebration, my experience was a little less…authentic. While the local brewery’s Oktobertfest event was wonderful in the beer selection department, the food was a bit lacking. This inspired me to have a little home-based Oktoberfest celebration of my own, complete with a few Bavarian-inspired munchies.

Full disclosure, I had never heard of Obatzda while in Germany (although food wasn’t really my thing past french fries when I was there) and this recipe is more “inspired” than authentic. Typically this cheese spread was a way to use up leftover Camembert or brie cheese, and the spices were added to change any “off” flavors into something else delightful. Now, I love me some brie, but it’s never quite the same the next day and I certainly don’t need to be eating a whole wedge in one sitting (can…but shouldn’t…). Since I had some leftover from a cheese plate, why not? An extra creamy cheese seems to sometimes be optional and is usually cream cheese. However, since I was introduced to Laughing Cow cheese while living in Germany, I thought it seemed appropriate (and it’s delicious in this). While it may not be the exact same being served in the tents over in Munich, this recipe is certainly going to be making more of an appearance in my home all year round.

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz brie cheese, softened (rind and all)
  • 1-2 tbsp butter, softened wedges
  • 4 Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss cheese
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1-2 tbsp finely minced onion (depending on your desire for “bite”)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2-3 tbsp German Beer (I used Hoegaarden)

Instructions: 

  1. Allow the brie cheese to come to room temperature. In a small mixing bowl, mash  brie and butter with a fork, food processor or immersion blender until mostly mashed with minor lumps.
  2. Add laughing cow, paprika, onion, salt, caraway, and beer and stir with a wooden spoon, your food processor/immersion blender to make sure everything is incorporated. If you would prefer your cheese spread to be a little more spread-y, feel free to add more beer if you prefer.
  3. Return mixture to the fridge to allow flavors to mingle for at least 2 hours but overnight is even better.
  4. Before serving, allow the cheese to come back to room temperature and serve with a nice slice of rye bread, pretzels or any other vehicle of your choosing. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: You could finish the rest of that beer you opened to add to the cheese, but if you’re set on the wine route, I would say a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc might go well with the caraway and other biting flavors in the spread. 

 

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Thai Basil Beef Tacos

Come on, you missed us didn’t you? Well fear not! We’re back! Amanda and I each had fairly active summers, which made Skype and planning our next meal a little difficult. So, we took little break this summer but are back in the kitchens now that autumn is upon us.

For this DistanceDishes dinner, we wanted to make a meal that summed up our food experience of the summer. While Amanda had her own epic adventures (we’re talking international y’all), that I’ll let her sum up later, I had my own fair share of trips to the airport. For work, I was back and forth to Washington DC a few times this summer which allowed me to escape the usual food haunts at home. I’ve been back and forth to DC a few times this year and I’ve begun to make it a tradition to treat myself to delicious Thai food. I was also lucky enough to meet up with some great DC friends at a Jose Andres restaurant and gorge myself of delicious tacos (and margaritas). I wanted to combine these two great memories into my “summer dish” with some Thai themed tacos.

Two other, slightly lazy but also semi-appropriate reasons I went with this dish. With all the travel, I have become terrible at getting to the grocery store regularly. Also, as I was gone, my Thai Basil plant grew too large for itself and fell over. Since I only had a few days to use it up, these Thai Basil tacos were the perfect meal. Believe me though, my laziness is your benefit. This makes for a very flavorful, quick and easy meal any night whether you’ve developed a DC Thai food addiction or not.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 green onions, diced with greens and white separates
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup diced bell pepper (I used a combination of red and green)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped Thai basil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Tortillas
  • Lettuce for topping

Avocado Lime Topping:

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • salt to taste (1/4 tsp to start)

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, mirin, ginger, garlic, the whites of your green onions, fish sauce and cornstarch. Set aside.
  2. Over medium heat, add the ground beef to a medium skillet or saucepan. Break up the beef and cook until meat is browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the beef from the pan and transfer to a small bowl (or whatever holding area you prefer–paper plate for easy cleanup? Sure!) and drain excess fat (for responsible discarding).
  3. Return your pan to medium heat and add your diced yellow onion and bell peppers. Cook until onions become slightly translucent and bell peppers start to become soft, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Return the cooked ground beef to your pan with the onions/peppers and pour your soy sauce mixture over ingredients in pan. Stir to ensure all ingredients are fully incorporated. Soy sauce mixture should begin bubbling and stir for an extra 1-2 minutes until sauce begins to thicken. Stir in your Thai basil and continue stirring until basil is just wilting.
  5. Remove from heat, garnish with greens of the green onions and prepare your tacos to serve.

For the avocado lime topping:

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Place a dollop on top of a hefty scoop of your basil beef on top of a flour tortilla. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: There are a lot of (delicious) flavors going on here, but a classic like a Cabernet Sauvignon probably wouldn’t be a bad choice. Cheers!

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