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The Nine Course Affair

Speaking of birthdays…….

From time to time, the Chef and I like to put on “special dinners”.  Usually consisting of  a several coarse tasting menu.  He does most of the cooking, while I do the arranging, the shopping, the decor and the clean up.  And if I’m lucky, sometimes I actually am allowed to make a dish or two myself!

 

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First Course:

Seared Tuna, Avocado and Red Pepper Sushi

I have to admit, the Chef does a nice sushi, which is good because I only ever eat sushi at home, what with the shell-fish allergy, eating it in restaurants is just too high risk.

 

Sushi

 

Second Course:

Belgian Endive and Mini Kale Pancakes topped with Smoked Gorgonzola and Candied Walnuts

This was a tasty one.

They don’t show up that well in this picture, but I made mini versions of my famous Kale Pancakes.  Then to add some freshness to it all, they were alternated with leaves of Belgium endive.  Then both were topped with a small slice of smoked Gorgonzola cheese and a chunk of candied walnut.

We often enjoy this as an anytime snack.

 

endive & kale pancake

 

 

Third Course:

Beet Carpaccio Salad with Arugula, Blood Orange and Shaved Boursin Cheese

I really like beets, so I always encourage the Chef to somehow incorporate them into our special dinners.

So on this occasion, he thinly sliced both red and golden cooked beets.  Then topped them with super thing slices of Boursin Cheese, ( I’ll tell you another time about how he does that, because if you have ever dealt with Boursin, you know that slicing it in any way isn’t easy!) slices of blood orange, arugula and then drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette.

Very refreshing.

Beet Salad

 

 

Course Number Four:

Halibut  “Fish and Chips”

This was a whimsical item.  The “fish and chips” refers to the halibut being roasted with grated yam on top and then drizzled in a balsamic dressing.   The yams form and nice crust (chips) and keep the halibut moist (fish) and then vinegar on top.

Halibut

 

 

Course Number Five:

Spinach and Pine Nut Stuffed Chicken Breast with roasted Celeriac Puree and marinated Red Cabbage

I hate to be judgemental, but I think this one was my favorite dish of the night.  The chicken was moist and flavourful, the celeriac both sweet and earthy at the same time and the crunch sourness of the cabbage just all really worked well together.  Oh and I didn’t even mention the delicious grainy mustard sauce in the title ( made it too long to look good on the page)!

 

Stuffed chicken

 

Course number six:

Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad

I actually got to make this course myself.  It is a favorite of mine to make and to eat and it often shows up on our special dinner menus.  But I can’t take the credit for it.

It is blatantly stolen from the menu at celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello’s Napa Valley restaurant, Bottega.

We tasted it there awhile back and I was determined to recreate it.  But luckily for me, they were generous enough to just post the recipe on-line!

So please do try it out for yourself.  It is surprisingly wonderful.

Brussel sprout salad

 

Course number seven:

Mediterranean Lamb & Bell Pepper Kebobs with Cous Cous and Kaffir Lime Leaf Scented Demi-Glace

It is a little joke we have with the birthday guest.  Inevitably whenever we go to her place for dinner, she serves lamb!  So it only seemed fitting that there should be a little lamb on her birthday party menu. The startlingly delicious item in this dish was the Kaffir lime leaves.

They don’t really show in the picture but they were in the sauce.  At this point in the evening ( course seven) sticking one’s fingers in the food and pulling out the lime leaves and sucking on them was clearly NOT frowned upon.  What a delightful taste, the tart lime flavour mixed with the luscious demi glaze.

 

Lamb

 

Course number eight:

Cheese & Apple

It seems we were just too delirious by this point to actually remember to take a picture.

We had retired to the lounge for a little reprieve before moving on to desert but just wanted to add this extra little treat to the mix.

Norwegian Ski Queen cheese, is just a delightful thing to try.  Although it is a cheese, it would remind you more of a really rich version of those caramel square candies that we used to get a Halloween. Perhaps those crossed with butter or some other unbearably delicious creamy substance.  You really do need to try it.  We find it in the speciality cheese section of most major grocery stores.

So our eighth course was slices of Ski Queen matched with slices of Ambrosia Apples lightly dusted with fresh cracked black pepper.

Really nice.

( No Photo Available )

 

 

Course number nine:

Raw Chocolate Tart topped with Pomegranate accompanied with fresh chunks Pineapple and Chocolate dipped Candied Ginger.

I also got to make this one!

If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that I like to startle people from time to time with my “raw” dishes.  So after a somewhat decadent night so far, I thought why not toss in something a little healthy to end the evening and leave us feeling good about ourselves!?

 

Cake

 

It was a very successful evening.  Good times all round.

Stay tuned for when the next one happens.  Who knows, YOU might even get invited!

 

Thumbs up

Ah, the left overs – Turkey macaroni and cheese

It’s always a challenge, what to do with the left overs?

And let’s face it by now we are all SO sick of eating that even the prime freshly cooked food seems grim, let alone eating the same stuff for three days!!

Well, here is this year’s offering to help use up a few items!

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Ever find yourself with some dregs of cheese left over from a lovely cheese plate?  Bits and bobs of perfectly still nice cheese that you paid good money for so you don’t want to just toss it out, but it’s gotten a bit dry or tired looking from sitting out or not being properly wrapped and being shoved in the fridge after a night of merry-making?

 

Left over bits of cheese

Left over bits of cheese

 

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Finely chop up all the left over bits of cheese, removing any heavy rind.

 

And of course who doesn’t  have some left over turkey??

Well……how about………

Turkey Macaroni and Cheese?

I didn’t even have any “actual” macaroni but it have some spiral pasta in the pantry, which worked just fine.

Here’s how it went down.

Boil up a few cups of pasta of your choice.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, fry up some onions and some cubed turkey.  You could even toss in some veg at this point if you had it, but I didn’t.

 

 

Sauteed turkey cubes and onion

sautéed turkey cubes and onion


 

Then, in a sauce pan, make up a cheese sauce according to your favorite recipe.

I used a bit of butter and flour.  Made a roux and added milk.   Then gradually added the bits of left over cheese from the cheese platter, finely chopped.  Be careful with any that have a heavy rind that won’t melt down.

 

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Cheese sauce from left over party cheese plate

 

When the pasta is cooked, the turkey and onions sautéed and the cheese sauce made, mix them all together in a large bowl till thoroughly combined and then transfer to the casserole dish of your choice.

 

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Mix all ingredients together and transfer to a baking dish

 

Now here’s where things got CRAZY…..

I didn’t have any bread crumbs so I chopped up some left over bread stuffing and spread it over the top!

 

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Turkey Macaroni and Cheese topped with stuffing

 

Bake at 350 degrees for about one half hour, then uncover for about ten minutes till the top crusts up a bit.

There you have it!!

This is a very versatile dish that you can use up all manner of weird left over bits in the fridge!  Only your imagination is your limit!!

 

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Yum

 

Kinda Calzone

I guess to answer my own question of where do people even FIND my blog, I have recently signed up on some site that sends me all kinds of other blogs to read.

I found this one (click here) particularly intriguing, mostly because it was in Swedish!!

It is so interesting how it doesn’t really mater where you are from, people who like food, like food and like to talk about it!

While checking out this particular blog I found a recipe for something called Piroger and thought maybe it might be some sort of Swedish perogi.

Well it wasn’t, but it was a pastry type item filled with a delectable filling……so close enough

I was thrilled to find out that there  is a “translate” button.  I’m not sure if that is something built-in to that particular blogging software or just an internet thing…….but how great!!   So I clicked “translate” and I was in business!

I have to admit that some of the word choices or the sequence in which they are used are a little wonky but at least it gives you a good idea.  So please, I encourage you to not be afraid when you see foreign language food blogs!  You just might find some treasures!!

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So I thought I’d give the Piroger a go.    In English they seem to be “Patties with turkey, thyme and paprika” which I admit isn’t quite as exotic but still a nice idea.

I didn’t happen to have any of the ingredients for the filling, but I really liked the idea of baking something tasty inside a bread like bun.

So I started by making up a batch of her dough and letting it sit for 30 minutes, as directed.

Then instead of the turkey filling, I made up a batch of my old favorite Nelson’s Beans and then let them cool right down to room temperature and then added about 3/4 of a cup of parmesan cheese just to thicken them up.

calzone002

What ever you decide to use as a filling and that’s what really excited me about this because I can see using all kinds of different things!  But whatever it is, make sure you make it with a think consistency.   You really don’t want to be putting anything too runny or oozy because it will just be too hard to keep inside the dough!

calzone004

So with my Piroger dough and my Nelson’s beans, I started to assemble my nice little patties.   I did add some salami into some of them because the Chef still likes his meat.

Then, as directed, let them rise for about another 30 minutes, then into a 450 degree oven until they get nice and toasty looking.

calzone005

Serve as you wish.

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What excites me about these it that they seem a perfect solution to my on going “work lunch” dilemma.   A nice little pocket of goodness that will taste great hot or at room temperature.

Thank you Praline in Sweden!

Super Snack

Well, while the others are all chowin down on chicken wings and nachos today during the big game, why don’t you try THIS one on for size!

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What is it they say?  Necessity is the mother of invention?  Or something like that?

I found myself home alone and completely unsupervised so I didn’t really have much motivation to cook myself anything proper.

So I dug around the kitchen and quite accidentally came up with this and what a fine invention it turned out to be!!

Turn your oven on to broil.

Get a baking sheet.

Slap on a piece of pita bread.

Put it under the broiler for a little, just long enough that it toasts a little.

Take out that try.  Turn over pita.

Toss done a handful of baby or chopped arugula for nice peppery taste.

Cover with a few slices of horseradish cheese  ( I suppose a strong cheddar would do but this horseradish stuff just kills!!).

Sprinkle with a few pine nuts or chopped walnut.

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Put back under the broiler until cheese melts and nuts are toasted.

Bam!

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Super super snack!

You could make  a bunch of them and cut them up and serve as party snacks, or do like I did and have it for dinner with a side salad.

So easy!

Supersnack008

Retro New Years

For those of you who have been following this blog for any length of time well know, that my philosophy towards food is “Do the best you can with what you’ve got!”  And that if you can eat properly 90% of the time, then that 10% when you indulge , shouldn’t really do that much harm.

So, that being said, if you are one of my uber-healthy, vegan, gluten-free, dairy free, etc type blog friends, then, I suggest you just move on from this particular post……..nothing to see here.

I gave the Chef a cheese fondu set for Christmas.  We live in the sort of climate that welcomes bread dipped in molten cheese type dishes, and New Years Eve is a perfect time to indulge!

I was probably about twelve the first time I ever tasted cheese fondu and it was made by ACTUAL Swiss people, new neighbours who had moved in and invited our family over for dinner.

Coming from the “boil it or fry it” cuisine that I grew up with, this “Swiss Fondu” had to be the most exotic and delightful thing my young palette had EVER had!!

And all the ritual around it, with having to kiss the person next to you if you should inadvertently lose your bread in the pot!!

( The Chef pointed out that perhaps this played a part in the 70’s when both fondu parties and swingers were at their peak of popularity!!)

My love of fondu continued in the 90’s, back in Montreal, when my friends and I often frequented a restaurant called Alpenhaus which specialized in fondu.  There was not a better place to be on a cold Montreal night, than tucked into the dark wood laden walls of this Swiss Chalet stuffing your face with warm cheese on bread, to warm the cockles!

So to say good-bye to 2012 we fired up the fondu pot!

Now as the holiday season winds down ( although mine doesn’t finish for another week because January 7th is my birthday so all resolutions in my world start on the 8th!) you really start to feel as though if you NEVER had another meal it would be TOO SOON!!

So we tried to add just a little healthiness to the meal by adding a salad and instead of just bread as dippers, we also had blanched cauliflower, lightly sauted mushrooms……so yes and some (pre-cooked) spicy Italian sausage!

Here’s to 2013!!!

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Pierogi Stuff Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I know what you are thinking.

That after getting back from our eating orgy in Oregon, that would be it! 

We’d get back on track and get back to “practice what I preach” and healthy eating and all that!

I know, I know but I just HAD to share THIS thing with you…..even if you NEVER eat one, you NEED to know that it is out there….for better or for worse!

Last weekend I was working at the Rifflandia music festival here in Victoria, so for the most part I was sequestered on the site the whole time can couldn’t go off in search of a healthy green smoothie ( although I bet if I looked hard enough, someone was probably making them there!) so I was at the mercy of what was available to eat.

What is nice is that instead of the regular concession stands normally found at these sort of events, they had several of the local food trucks and restaurants set up with their own fare.  This brought a lot of variety and local feel.

I couldn’t keep away from The Hungry Rooster food truck which specializes in pierogi based dishes.  I ate nearly every meal there!  I just couldn’t help it!

But the most note worthy, and what this story is even about, was The Slam Down.

Are you ready for this?   It is a grilled cheese sandwich, stuffed with bacon, grilled onions and PIEROGIES!!!  IN the sandwich!!  I mean seriously?  Could there be a more decadent and wonderous thing??

I didn’t have my camera with me but I talked about my sandwich so much that one of my co-workers broke down and got one herself so here is a picture of hers!

Pierogi stuffed grilled cheese sandwich

Look at the picture of it on the Hungry Rooster site to get a better look and the full list of ingredients.

I told the Chef about this mythical sandwich and he was most intrigued so I thought I would try my hand at making him one for his Sunday breakfast yesterday……

So first you need to cook up some bacon.  Three slices per sandwich.

And then, in the drippings of said bacon ( this is optional if you want it “healthier” which to me is like diet coke with your cheese burger!) cook up one onion sliced so you are getting the longest pieces that you can.  Cook till soft and a little brown.

Then boil up some frozen pierogies, two per sandwich.

Once those are all set to go and keeping warm, you are ready to start.

I just grilled the bread in the oven under the broiler.  I would imagine at the Hungry Rooster they are actually grilling them on the flat top for that grilled deliciousness, but I didn’t want to get int the whole flipping thing!

So grill the bread on one side and then turn it over.

They add “aioli” to theirs which is fancy mayo.  So I just used regular mayonnaise and a bit of Dijon mustard.

Then top each slice of bread with some quality cheddar ( NOT the individually wrapped “cheese food product” IF you know what I mean!) and put the bread back under the broiler till the cheese melts.

Then on one side per sandwich lay out the three strips of bacon, then add a generous mound of fried onions and then finally two pierogies, strategically placed so you can cut the sandwich on the diagonal.

Top with the other slice of cheesy bread and cut in half.

Voila!  Pierogi stuffed grilled cheese sandwich!

Pierogi  stuffed grilled cheese sandwich

I didn’t find it quite as good as the Rooster’s…..didn’t have the same “ooy-gooy-goodness” but then again, I’m sure there is a good reason for that!!

The Chef liked his a lot but commented “I guess I won’t be getting THESE too often!”

Once a year should be the limit!!

Goat Cheese Cakes

Here is a super little snack or appetizer or in this case we just had it with a bunch of dips and a glass of wine for a wonderfully tasty summer supper!

Goat cheese cakes

Here’s what’s in the goat cheese cakes:

  • Goat cheese
  • chopped basil
  • chopped garlic
  • chopped sun-dried tomato
  • chopped jalapeno olives
  • black pepper

Mix all of this very well together in a bowl.  Then take out large spoonfuls of the mixture and make them into little disks or “cakes”.   Then put them on a tray with some parchment paper and then put them in the freezer!

Keep them in the freezer for about 1/2 hour or until they get nice and firm.  This makes them SO much easier to work with.

Then you are going to bread them with the usual process.

  • flour
  • egg
  • breadcrumbs

Then it is time to pan fry them in just a little oil.

Then back to the tray with parchment and into the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes max, just to set them.

Then you are ready to eat!

The Chef told me that he had prepared a salad of “local greens”.  We laughed and laughed, because he just took them from the balcony garden!!  That’s pretty local!

Humus, onion jam, tomato compote

Then we paired them with some lovely tasty dips.

  • spicy humus
  • onion jam
  • tomato compote

I will give you the recipes for these another time!

And then some roasted garlic, assorted olives with crostini and fancy bread!

With a nice glass of wine……nothin beats it!!

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