Archives for posts with tag: cheese
Small Works Too

Small Works Too

I am feeling pretty lucky. The exhibition, Small Works Too, is well received. The dozens of works by ten talented and unique artists are going to be celebrated again, with a midissage, this Saturday.

Alright. A midissage is like a vernissage. The difference is that it is in the middle of the exhibition’s dates. Sometimes you will see a finissage. I had thought of having one of those. However, this time I figured that would probably not be a good idea, as the show ends right when half the city’s population is away from the city, or is home recovering from holiday overindulgence.

If you cannot make it to the party this Saturday (December 15th at 7pm) there are other chances to see the show. I would like to mention, however, that Sunday the 16th isn’t one of those chances. I won tickets to a piano concert!!! I play piano, and love live music, and… well… come to the midissage on the 15th! Or please pop by Fleurbain any Tuesday-Thursday in between 3-6pm. You can also see it online here.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. Let it be festive, bright, and full of love, music, and art.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

chicken, sprouts, cheese, and extra flavours

I like to eat well. Every couple of weeks I make a chicken, I buy (and sometimes take the time to grow) organic sprouts. I prefer unpasteurised cheese (less processing and better flavour!) I am trying to avoid the mysterious ingredients and priciness of restaurant or take-out foods. No I am not perfect, and too often enjoy indulgences, but for day-to-day living this plan has been working for me.

delicious and convenient

 For my typical busily scheduled day, this lunch is about as perfect as a lunch can get:

Layer in a glass jar:

  • pieces of boneless chicken
  • sprouts (or other salad greens, should you have them)
  • pieces of tasty cheese
  • a glob of mustard
  • about two tablespoons of olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • sprinkle of salt, pepper, dill

Close up, shake around as much as you wish, and take with a fork to eat later. Mmm…

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Recently, circumstances conspired so that I had the means to create a new recipe, using ingredients I don’t usually have on hand. I had a package of thawed smoked salmon (thank you, friend who moved and cleaned out her freezer into mine!) The other day I noticed that goat’s cheese was on sale at my local supermarket. I had some fresh dill-infused olive oil leftover from a salad dressing from a few nights ago. Grape leaves are easily available at my local Community Gardens. Naturally, thinking of these ingredients, I made some Altered Dolmades.

I have never made a dolmade before, but from my fully adequate experience in eating them, I know they usually have rice inside. I am trying to eat fewer carbohydrates, so I thought to replace the rice with cheese. Yes!

rolling up the yumminess

So, here is a delicious treat to fix up in very little time. Please note everything is changeable, and you can add anything you want (hot peppers, olives, capers, other cheeses, little bits of bacon…) If you like your rice, you could mix some cooked brown or white rice into the cheese mixture. One thing I really wish I’d had for this was some lemon. I would have squirted it overtop before baking…

*Cheese mix: 1 tube of goat cheese (I used “herbed”), two sprigs of green onions chopped up fine, two tablespoons of crushed almonds, a sprinkle of salt

*Olive oil/dill mix: a couple of sprigs of Dill, settled into a small bowl (about 1/4 cup) of olive oil, and a few grinds of pepper. (Please note in the photographs, I’d used too much oil. Try about 1/4 cup, or even a little less.)

*1 small packet of wild smoked salmon, thin slices

*about 20-30 grape leaves (smaller ones, still clear and bright in colour and translucency)

METHOD: I laid out the grape leaves so that about four to six of them were on my work surface, overlapping. I then took a piece of the fish, and rolled it around a spoonful of the cheese mixture. Then I blobbed a little more of the cheese mixture onto the outside of this fish-tube, and rolled it up in the grapeleaves.

I used a little casserole dish to lay them out in. Once then were all there (I had enough to make about six dolmades) I drizzled the olive oil/dill overtop.

I used the leftover oil afterwards for yet more salad dressing.

BAKE in a moderate oven ’til done (about half an hour? or more or less… everything is edible raw so you can’t undercook.) When I say done, I mean the smell is unbearably delicious, and the grapeleaves are very dark.

If I’d had any leftover grapeleaves, I’d have simply added them to my salad.

I’ll be doing this one again!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Big Cheese -copyright Natasha Henderson

a pan of these lovlies, ready to pop into the oven for a quick appetizer

One of the quickest, easiest things to make with savory, sweet, salty, or miscellaneous ingredients is a plate of mushroom caps. True, you do need some fresh mushrooms, but besides the necessity of that one ingredient, pretty much anything else you have on hand can stuff them. I love how the natural moisture of the mushroom comes out, stewing whatever is stuffed in them into a little pocket of taste. When I was a child, it was an old standby in our house to have mushroom caps as an appetizer: Mom would use orange cheddar and a “seasoning salt” to fill them. I’ve been trying out a few different options, lately.

mushroom caps stuffed with hot peppers, hot peppers stuffed with mushroom stems

Some of my personal favorite combos are:

-any sort of pepper (green, jalapeno, spicy, etc) with a drop of cheese on top and maybe garlic too. Sprinkle on some black pepper and any range of herbs such as oregano or basil or rosemary or dill or…

-the stems from the mushrooms mixed in with tomato and a bit of honey and/or soy sauce or any other type of “sauce” you like and have. Or skip those sauces and mince up some olives.

-cheese and black pepper. Any type of cheese.

-salsa of any type, with or without leftover vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, sweet potatoes.

-bok choy with spicy chilli pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.

-sour cream and broccoli and paprika.

-rosemary and goat cheese.

-leftovers… any type of leftovers that can fit into a mushroom.

even in the heat of summer, these are worth turning the oven on for

Really, most any mixture works. I normally would “see what I have” then adjust my plans accordingly. I like to mince the ingredients up finely, then stir them together and spoon into the ‘caps. Sometimes, though, I don’t. This is a great type of recipe: there really aren’t any rules. Alright, one rule: if you use cheese, put it on top. That way it will melt and be a sort of “lid” for the rest of the ingredients in your little mini-casserole dish.

Cook at about 300-350 degrees ferenheit, for about 20-30 minutes… ’til “done”!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

This is what we found one day on our way to buy some wool to make felted soaps.
Les Délires du Terroir – bières, fromages et gourmandises du Québec.
It is at 6406 rue St. Hubert, just below Beaubien.
The cheese and gifts looked nice and so did the beer.
We had no idea that there were so many microbreweries in Quebec!

The shop is rustic, yet tastefully decorated, the clerk was very friendly and helpful, it was a pleasant little shop. We thought to sample a couple of beers each in order to offer up a little review… but… (see illustration below).

... when the clerk pointed out this sign, we got three each.

And now what you have all been waiting for… beer reviews!

The “Rousse Whisky” from Les Brasseurs du Hameau is a ‘strong beer’ that avoids all the evils of usual ‘strong beers’, which are lagers that taste malty, hopsy, sweet and heavy. Having none of that, this is a pale ale whose ‘strength’ derives from the addition of Scotch Whiskey.  Its a perfect winter beer.  I think the best description for the taste is the old skating trick of ‘cracking the whip.’ The medium-bodied beer comes around, and the whiskey cleans up with a final kick. Delicious.

La Marie Framboise from Microbrasserie Saint-Arnould is fresh and light with a distinctly raspberry flavour.  I really like it! I must admit this is the perfect beer for people who prefer a nice, refreshing drink. It’s not too unlike Hoegaarden, except with a raspberry touch.

La Carrotte Du Lievre is a carrot beer (yes! Finally! Carrot beer!) by the Microbrasserie du Lievre. I found the beer to have a gentle yet snappy smell of fresh carrots. As I drank it, the carotty bouquet seemed to dissipate, so that I just enjoyed the beer as a beer, rather than a novelty. I quite liked it. It was a good, round taste that settled over the centre of my tongue. Not bitter at all, but not too sweet, I would say it would work well with fried foods or an autumn/winter soup. Oh, yes, it would add a fantastic kick mixed into a stew! Interestingly, not everyone has so enjoyed this beer… as with all things in life, a lot depends on your personal taste.

DhamNation is a sexy-looking beer. A black label, with spare red lettering, it is “strong” (7%) so I thought I’d be in for something really special. As it stood, I was a bit disappointed. By the Brasseurs du Hameau, it was an average-style of beer. Just a beer. Granted, I am a little spoiled in my beers, as there are dozens of fine local brews available. It wasn’t Coors, no, but it didn’t measure up to my dear St Ambroise line of beers. Worthy of drinking, certainly, but not what I’d hoped for.

Folie Douce Biere au Bleuets is by Les Brasseurs RJ, one of my favorite micro breweries. They make the infamous Cheval Blanc. Mmm. Well, this blueberry beer is quite surprisingly bitter. The blueberry scent and flavour is not strong, nor is it sweet. The colour is a distinct red, and is very cool-looking. Serve it in a clear glass! Upon further reflection, the blueberry taste is present, but it is subtle, something that builds. The taste is similar to slightly tart, unripe blueberries. I enjoyed this one, but feel it is mostly suitable for summertime. Does remind me a bit of a crisp, fruity cider.

Lastly is the Black Watch Scottish ale. I was attracted to it by the big, furry eyebrows on the label. As it turns out, eyebrows are something of a fetish for the beers from Les Brasseurs de Montreal. This beer makes my eyebrows shiver and curl! The first sensation is incredibly tart.  This is followed by a brief flicker of sweet that is washed away by another wave of tartness. The taste is precise, tight and frugal like a staunch Presbyterian. Perhaps that’s why it’s a Scottish beer!

Teas and painted chocolates, deluxe and beautiful, are available too.

 
by Natasha Henderson, Montreal
 

When I moved across the country from British Columbia’s Vancouver Island to Montreal, Quebec a little over three years ago, I knew that I would experience many changes. Not the least of these changes, I felt, would be to my diet.

The view from Kitty Coleman, in the Comox Valley

I had in mind that I would indulge in new things, new foods, perhaps try French Cuisine… it is true that I experienced some change in my diet and lifestyle, and a lot of that was due to what was available in the supermarkets. Different vegetables, different prices, smaller cuts of meat, and a wider selection of new cheeses greeted me at the first supermarket I visited in the downtown core of Montreal. After a couple of months I learned about the fresh farmer’s markets in the city. I began shopping for goods that were more locally grown, and in season whenever possible. Now, three years into life here, I am signed onto a CSA programme with a local organic farm for weekly veggie and fruit delivery. While enjoying the process of transformations within my new life in a new city and province, I was developing an interest in what I was putting into my mouth… an interest beyond the question of simply flavour.

Festivities and poutine abound in Montreal

After realising how much I liked poutine, but how guilty I always felt whenever I indulged, I figured that I must find a way to make a healthier option of it… something I could do at home, too, and save a little cash in the process. The first thing that I tried was to purchase frozen fries at the grocery store, and whenever I had some leftover gravy (not that often, of course… it’s GRAVY) I would make poutine the next day. While experimenting a little more with cooking, I finally discovered the joyous root that is the sweet potato. One day I had some potatoes, so made some wedgie-fries like my mom used to make out of their delightful Yukon Gold potatoes from the home garden in Comox, BC. Butter in a pan in the oven, bake. Easy. I thought about some fried sweet potato chips a friend had treated me to a year or so before that, this seemingly exotic chip. We had dipped them in home-made mayonnaise. That’s another delightful story… I had found the intense flavour of the sweet potato a little powerful, a little overwhelming. So I made a batch of wedgies with some potato, some sweet potato. Perfect combination (for me, anyhow).

Using sweet potatoes in place of, or as well as, regular potatoes for the fries is a tasty option that makes a poutine “healthy”. Sweet potatoes are full of vitamins. Their flesh is a bright, appetizing orange, and their flavour carries a pleasant sweetness. Try to leave the skin on for your fries, like you would with regular potatoes. Just cut off the ugliest bits, and the “eyes“. Cut the sweet potatoes and potatoes into even-thickness strips, like house-fries in restaurants. One healthy option for baking the fries is to use butter or olive oil and fry them in a pan until soft, then bake until crisp. Another is to simply bake them in the oven until they are crisp, using no fat at all, or you can add a little olive oil or butter on the pan for taste. When the fries go in the oven, try sprinkling some salt, pepper, chilli pepper, garlic, steak spice, rosemary… any spice or flavouring that you like on them. You could even add some grated parmesan cheese, though with the upcoming level of cheese curds it might not be necessary. Bake them at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until done to your liking.

Options for the gravy include using butter or olive oil as a tasty start; you don‘t have to have fat drippings from a roast. To thicken and add flavour, stir into the saucepan a small handful of flour, about 2 tablespoons (depending on quantity of gravy you are making). If you’d prefer to not use flour, try using another starchy substance, such as cooked lentils or beans that have been mashed a little with a fork. Once browned, thin out the roux (browned flour or other starch) with a little veggie, beef or chicken stock. Use wine, beer, or water if you have no stock. Bring to bubbling while stirring, then simmer and reduce, adding more of your chosen liquid (or now switch to plain water) as you go. During this reduction process, I like to add a good generous sprinkle of pepper. Other spices can be added, according to your taste. Rosemary, garlic, paprika… the kitchen ceiling‘s the limit. Or, just leave it plain, and practice gravy-making to find your own favourite combo!

Poutine, the "UN-Healthy" version. Click to read CTV story...

The fries will take about an hour once in the oven, and the gravy can be re-heated once it’s made, so I would start in on making the gravy as soon as your fries are baking. That way the fries will be nice and hot when it is time to eat them, and that is quite important for full enjoyment of poutine. You can find cheese curds readily throughout Quebec, and in some regions across Canada. However if there are none in your supermarket, there are other options. A white, flavourful cheese is all right to use for this poutine (though purists would argue not.) I have used Edam, or Havarti, or Old Cheddar as a cheese curd replacement in poutine, with similarly tasty results. You could add a nice tanginess by adding some feta or parmesan, if you have it. Lately, I’ve switched to non-pasteurized, old cheddar and the results are excellent. I like to put the cheese onto the fries inside the oven, to melt a little, and even turn a light brown. Again, it’s about options and taste. It’s all up to you what you do with your meal. Some would add the curds and gravy to the fries, stir around so it is a melting mess, others like to layer their food neatly. If you are serving to guests, I would recommend placing the fries on each plate, then adding the cheese, then the gravy on top to melt the cheese a little.

Healthy Poutine. Seriously.

Now that I’ve shared a little dash of this story with you, I hope that you have fun experimenting with taking those traditionally unhealthy treats and turning them into sustenance to truly enjoy!

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