cheese

Grilled Pesto and Triple Cheese Sandwich

One of my all-time comfort food favorites is the grilled cheese sandwich. No surprise there. This is my second post on that heavy-sitting delicacy. One of the three cheeses here is my own, a homemade goat cheese. Cheese is easier to make than you'd think. You should check it out. The other cheeses are the cheddar and parmesan leftover from my Pinwheel Loaf. Let's hope that one day I am making all my own cheeses. For now, one at a time. The whole wheat bread is also homemade and I'll probably post the recipe here because the results are well worth it -- depth of flavor and a nice crust. Instead of using pine nuts in the pesto, which come most often from the far end of the world, I used sunflower seeds. They're just as good, cheaper, and they grow closer to home. Use any herbs that are available; pesto is also good with parsley, chervil, and even chives.

Enjoy!

Simple Pesto

• 1 cup fresh herbs of your choice • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds • 3-4 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil • salt + ground black pepper

In a food processor, grind the nuts coarsely for crunchy pesto or finely for smooth. Add the herbs and half of the oil. Whizz until just blended, then add more oil to desired consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Grilled Pesto and Triple Cheese Sandwich

• 2 slices of bread • couple slices of aged cheddar • small handful parmesan, grated • small handful goat cheese • 2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan. Butter each slice of bread. Put one slice in the pan, drizzle with pesto, then add the cheeses and drizzle again with pesto. Top with the other slice of bread, flip and grill until golden brown. Transfer the sandwich to a baking pan and put in the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melting. Eat.

Old-Fashioned Mustard and Asparagus Flatbread

Mustard (a blend of mustard seeds, vinegar, and spices) is what we use to crank up the acidity in our food; to send our tastebuds into hyperdrive. In this recipe I spread some old-fashioned mustard (the kind with whole seeds) on a flatbread, top it with asparagus and gouda cheese, and crisp it in the oven. Now that's some quality pub grub, to be enjoyed with drinks among friends. Okay, it's really important to use good mustard. We use and I recommend "Pommery - Moutarde de Meaux." It's a bit pricey but worth every penny. Any good old-fashioned mustard will do, though.

For the flatbreads, you can use this recipe.

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Ingredients

• 2 flatbreads • 12 asparagus • 150 g gouda cheese • 2 tablespoons old-fashioned dijon mustard • 2 tablespoons olive oil • salt + black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 450F.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the asparagus for 1 minute. Cool them in cold water. Lay the flatbreads on a baking pan and spread 1 tablespoon of mustard on each. Add the asparagus and top with big chunks of gouda cheese. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Cook for 15 minutes or until the flatbreads are crispy. Slice and serve hot.

Leek and Corn Chowder Gratiné

Here's another satisfying soup that's quick, easy, and inexpensive to make. I topped the chowder with croutons and cheese the same way you would an onion soup, but if you're too pressed for time or too exhausted to bother, the chowder alone is tasty and filling enough to cover for you.

Ingredients

• 3 medium onions, chopped • 2 leeks, chopped • 5 medium potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1" cubes • 800 ml creamed corn • 5 cups vegetable stock • 1 bay leaf • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped • salt + black pepper

Toppings

• croutons • gruyère cheese

Sweat the garlic, leeks, and onions on medium heat until soft - for about 10 minutes. Add all the other ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked. Set aside and season with salt and pepper.

With a hand blender, blend the soup for about 5 seconds. You just want to roughly mix it and leave some chunks in there. If you don't have a hand blender, you can blend half of the soup with a regular blender for five seconds and then return it to the pot.

Fill an oven-safe bowl with chowder, top with croutons and gruyère and broil for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden.

Roast Beef Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I felt like eating a grilled cheese. We had a nice piece of moose and some home-cured, home- smoked bacon. Why not make a roast, slice it, put it in a grilled cheese and top it with barbecue sauce? For the roast I used moose, but grass-fed beef will work just as well. For the cheese, I went with Monterey Jack.

Barbecue Sauce

• 1 cup tomato ketchup • 1/3 cup brown sugar • 1/4 cup water • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar • 2 tablespoons soy sauce • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard • 1 teaspoon sambal oelek • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped • pinch hot smoked paprika

In a small saucepan mix all the ingredients together and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Set aside. Your sauce will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Yields about 2 cups.

Beef Roast with Thyme and Paprika Rub

• 1.5 kg - 2kg beef roast • 8 slices bacon • 1 tablespoon paprika • 3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only • 1 teaspoon black pepper • 1/2 teaspoon salt • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix together the paprika, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Put the roast in a pan and lay the bacon slices on top so they cover the roast and add a small glass of water in the pan. Brush the mustard on top of the bacon and then sprinkle on that the paprika/thym/salt/pepper. Rub the spices into the bacon gently with your hands.

Cook in the oven for 15 minutes then bring down the heat to 350°F cook until the center of the roast reaches 125°F (~52°C). For my 1.5 kg roast it took 25 minutes at 350°F.

Remove from the oven and let rest at least 15 minutes before cutting it. Set the bacon aside.

Putting it all together

Take two slices of bread and butter them. Thinly slice some of the roast beef. Heat up a pan on medium heat. Add one or two slices of bacon from the roast to the pan and one slice of bread. Put the beef and a couple spoonfuls of barbecue sauce on the toasting bread. Once the bacon is crispy, put it on top, add your favorite cheese, and top with the other slice of bread. Flip the sandwich over and let is crisp up on that side for about 3-4 minutes.

Cilantro and Goat Cheese Sweet Potato Mash

Another recipe with goat cheese. It's goat cheese week! I love side dishes that are packed with flavor and dead easy to make. For this side, you don't even have to peel the potatoes, as the skins are full of vitamins and fiber and have an earthy taste you wouldn't want to miss. We had this for lunch with a creamy leek toast. (For that, cook some leeks in butter; once soft, add a bit of cream; bubble away, then pop it on toasted bread; top with cheese and broil in the oven.) Serves 4

Ingredients

• 1 large sweet potato • 1 medium potato • 100g goat cheese • 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped • 1 tablespoon butter • salt + black pepper

Rinse your potatoes under water, then cut them into 1" cubes, without peeling. Put them in a medium pot and cover with water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain them, put back in the pot, and mash. Add the goat cheese, cilantro, and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Blue Cheese, Bacon, and Leek Quiche

I promised Eggton a recipe with bacon. What I came up with is a really tasty quiche that's packed with flavor. It can be enjoyed hot or cold as a perfect breakfast, or you can serve it up for lunch with a bit of salad. Make it a day or two in advance if you're going to be pressed for time - it keeps well. If you can't stand blue cheese, use any kind that you prefer.

Dough

• 1 cup white flour • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter • 2-3 tablespoons milk • a pinch of salt

Mix together the flour and salt. Rub the flour with the butter until you get a sandy texture. Then add just enough milk to make a smooth dough. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Pre-Baking

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll your pastry and line a 8" or 9", greased and floured pie pan. Put some tin foil or parchment paper on the pastry and then a baking weight. I used dried chickpeas. Blind bake (meaning pre-bake) in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and remove the weight and foil. Make some little holes on the bottom with a fork. Return to the oven for 10 minutes.

Quiche

• 2 leeks, whites only, finely chopped • 8 slices bacon, sliced • 1/2 cup (about 100g) blue cheese • 3/4 cup milk • 3/4 cup cream • 3 eggs • 1 egg yolk

Fry your bacon in a pan on medium-high heat until crispy. Turn the heat to medium and add the leeks. Stir for about 10 minutes, until the leeks are soft. Remove from heat. In a bowl whisk the milk, cream and eggs together. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the bacon/leek mixture in the pre-cooked dough. Top with chunks of blue cheese and then pour the eggs/milk mixture over.

Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350°F.

Cheddar Perogies with Sage Butter Sauce

You can serve perogies with any kind of sauce or none at all, they're amazing on their own. For this recipe, I went with a sage butter sauce because, well, it's just ridiculously good. Making your own perogies from scratch is quite a process, but you can always make double the recipe and freeze the surplus. Either way, the time you spend making perogies is definitely time well spent. Flour-wise, I go with Speerville Flours. Their whole white unbleached flour has a depth of flavor commercial flours just don't have. Unbleached flower is less processed and contains more of the original wheat kernel, making it healthier and darker in color. I just love the stuff!

Yields about 24 perogies Serves 4

Filling

• 2 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped • 1 1/2 cup grated aged cheddar • chives and/or parlsey, finely chopped • pinch of salt

Boil the potatoes until thoroughly cooked, about 15-20 minutes. Strain them and let stand for 5 minutes to let the extra moisture out. Mash and add the cheddar, butter, herbs and salt. Your filling is done.

ps: Don't throw out your potato skins; put them in a pan with oil + salt and in the oven at 400F for 20 minutes. You'll have nice, crispy potato chips to munch on.

Dough

• 2 cups white flour • 1/2 cup sour cream • 3 tablespoons butter, melted • 1 large egg • pinch salt

Mix all the ingredients together with your hands or a mixer until you have a smooth dough. If needed, you can loosen it up with a couple drops of cold water. Let cool for 30 minutes.

Assembly

Roll out half of the dough to about 1/8" thick. With a glass or dough cutter, cut out 3" circles, saving the trims. Put about 1/2 tablespoon of filling in the middle of each. Dip your finger in water and pass it around the edges so the dough will stick together nicely. Close the perogies making sure they are completely sealed. Set them aside on a pan. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough. Form a ball with the trimmings, roll and make some more.

At this point you can put them in a bag with a dash of flour and freeze them.

Cooking

Bring a pot of water to a boil, adding a teaspoon of salt. Drop about half of the perogies in and cook for 5-6 minutes or until they float on the surface. Remove from water and put on a plate with a paper towel to dry them. Cook the rest of the perogies the same way.

Frying

In a saute pan heat up 2 tablespoons of oil. Once it's sizzling, fry some perogies for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Serve hot.

Sage Butter Sauce

• 1/4 cup butter • 8-10 sage leaves, chopped • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a small sauce pan melt the butter on medium heat. Let it bubble until it browns just a bit. Add the sage, remove from heat and add the lemon juice. If you used unsalted butter, season with salt.

Goat Cheese, Walnut and Apple Salad

Here's a quick and healthy salad fix. The goat cheese and walnuts are really the major flavors here - that's why the vinaigrette is so simple. This takes about 5 minutes to put together. Serves 4-6

Ingredients

• 4 handfuls (about 150g total) mixed lettuces • 1 cup walnuts • 150g goat cheese, crumbled • 2 red apples, chopped • 1/4 cup oil (olive, sunflower or grapeseed) • 3 tablespoons lemon juice • chopped cilantro (optional)

Mix the chopped apples with the lemon juice. It'll keep them from browning. Put all the ingredients (including the apples and the lemon juice) in a large bowl and gently stir together. Serve and top with cilantro.

Pizza On My Mind

I started making pizza from scratch after growing tired of the over-loaded, greasy kind - you know the one you get in restaurants, usually made with the same frozen dough and ready-made sauce. Even high-end pizza joints use it. That's why they lack personality and they all taste the same. Dough and sauce are the two most important factors of a great pie - with, of course, the cheese. So making your own is so much tastier and healthier (that's always good).

Dough

Making homemade dough is very easy; it takes about 5 minutes.

In a big bowl mix: • 1 1/2 cups warm water • 2 teaspoons salt • 2 teaspoons instant yeast • Then add 3 1/4 cups of white all-purpose flour. Work the dough with your hands for a couple of minutes. Cover, then let rise on the counter for a couple of hours, or overnight. This should yield enough for 3 medium or 2 large.

Sauce

In olive oil, gently cook thinly sliced garlic cloves, a lot if you like garlic. Once it smells good, add whole peeled tomatoes either fresh or canned. Stir in a tablespoon of tomato paste, a bit of salt and pepper. Blend with a hand mixer. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. I also like to add a couple of cumin seeds while simmering.

Cheese

Use the best cheese you can find.  For mozzarella use fresh, or even buffalo mozzarella if you can find some. For cheddar use old, strong cheddar. If you're thinking Parmesan, don't buy the grated one - buy a block and grate it yourself. You'll never go back. If you like feta, go imported. You get the point, get the good stuff. Of course it costs a bit more than cheap factory made cheeses, but so far the cost of your pizza is still cheaper than a frozen one.

Toppings

Now that you have the basics, it's up to you to put whatever you like on it. Don't overdo it, a couple more ingredients should do.  Even with homemade dough and sauce and quality cheese it should beat most pizzas. Cook your ingredients before hand, then chill them before putting them on. Here are some ideas:

Classic - tomatoes, basil, mozzarella Mushrooms - mixed mushrooms, parmesan Roasted Vegetables - red onions, zucchini, bell peppers, feta Chicken - hot peppers, barbecue sauce, cheddar Prosciutto or Bacon - caramelized onions, thyme, smoked gouda Smoked salmon - sour cream, capers, onions, dill

You can substitute the sauce for homemade pesto. Always drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of it all. Easy.

Cooking

I usually go at 425-450°F for 15 minutes, and give it a minute of broil to make it look better. Slice and enjoy!