Who’d ever think to cook a cracker, of all things? When I saw the recipe for “Gruyère-Walnut Crisps,” in the November 2009 issue of Bön Appetit (recipe below), I wasn’t scared away. Butter, cheese, salt, flour, and walnuts are combined in a forgiving batter, shaped into a log, and refrigerated until you want to bake crackers. Check it out!

Gruyère-Walnut Crisps
Bön Appetit, November 2009
makes about 80 crisps

3/4 cup (1 1/12 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 oz. finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 tsp. salt
2 cups (plus 2 Tbsp.) all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Using electric mixer, beat butter in medium bowl until smooth. Beat in cheese and salt. Add flour and walnuts; beat just until dough comes together, adding water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Divide in half. Roll each half into 14-inch log. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, at least four hours. Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut logs crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange on prepared sheets, spacing 1/2 inch apart.

Bake crisps until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool completely.

For a pretty presentation, before slicing the dough, brush the logs with lightly beaten egg white, then roll in poppy seeds, sesame seeds or caraway seeds. Slice; bake as directed.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

I halved this recipe, because I did not want to have 80 cheese crisps in my home at one time. I did use my stand mixer to bring the batter together, adding a total of 2 Tbsp. water to the dough. I then rolled my one log, wrapped it in plastic, then kept it in the refrigerator for 21 hours. No problem.

As the recipe suggested, before slicing the dough, I coated my log in poppy seeds, then sliced the crackers. I baked my crisps for 15 minutes. Gruyère is sharp and pungent and is currently my favorite cheese (thanks to these crackers!). This recipe was too easy and too delicious. Dave loved these crispy cheese crackers and your audience will too.

Then, oh yes, another vegetarian casserole. Instead of feeling bored by yet another rice/veggie mix, notice the use of almond butter here. The recipe for “Nutty Vegetable Rice Casserole,” from Recipezaar.com, was thick, hearty, flavorful, unique, addictive, and colorful. And the kick was in that almond butter.

I used brown rice, so it needed to cook for 20 minutes, rather than for 8 minutes. I sauteed my vegetables for 10 minutes, until tender. Instead of using beet leaves, I used collard greens, cooking them with the vegetables for another 7 minutes.

At first, this cooking exercise seemed like an odd collection of pots, but once I added the nut butter/milk mixture to the soupy rice, then mixed in the cooked vegetables, the combined casserole started to look right. I added 3 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper, then happily baked the final casserole for 10 minutes, sprinkled thoughtfully with paprika. Celebrate those colorful carrots! The richness of the almond butter will make you shout a “Wow!”

Gruyère Cheese (6 oz.) = $4.55
Collard Greens (1 bunch) = $1.67

RECIPES: introduce yourself to Gruyère and see what it can do in a cracker; nut butter is a secret weapon in a casserole
PREP TIMES: allow your cracker log to refrigerate overnight, but bake in a quick 15 minutes; you could eat the casserole after 90 minutes of prepping and cooking
TASTES: get tangled in the sharp, pungent complexity of Gruyère, with an irresistible crispy crunch; almond nut butter + milk are a formula for incredible magic when combined with your rice and vegetables

Next time, I will cook “Brazilian-Style Baked Fish,” from the American Institute for Cancer Research, along with “Jamaican Rice,” from Allrecipes.com. See my meal when you come back to my site on Thursday, April 22.