Tag Archive for cheese

How to Build a Cheese Board

The most-entertained weekend of the year is upon us. Chances are, if you are going to a Christmas party, you’re going to one this weekend.

My dear friend Bronwen holds an annual party this weekend every year, and the party is themed around cheese and her husband’s birthday. The centrepiece of the party is a phyllo-wrapped brie. It’s 7 different kinds of amazing.

Entertaining with cheese is a great option. First off, there’s no cooking–you just buy what you need, and make it look pretty on the plate. Secondly, who doesn’t like cheese? Thirdly, cheese pairs well with wine. ‘Nuff said!

how to build a cheese board

With a bit of know-how, you can look like a cheese-plate rock star, so here are some things to keep in mind when building your board.

How to Build a Cheese Board

Start with 3-4 cheeses, but make sure they have varying textures. I like to put out:

  • something soft and creamy, like a brie
  • something of medium firmness, like a gouda
  • something firm and familiar, like an aged cheddar
  • something hard and ripened, like a parmesan
  • OR something a little exotic, like a blue

Cheese “vehicles”: thinly-sliced baguette is the most obvious choice.  You want at least one kind of bread or cracker that is quite neutral, so you can get the essence of the cheese. I also like to serve some crackers. One of my faves right now is a rosemary-infused one, but I also really love fruit crisps (Lesley Stowe makes them and Terra Breads also does a nice one), and I like to include some gluten-free ones (Mary’s) as well.

Fruit: grapes are the most popular choice, but you could also go with thinly-sliced apples ore pears. You could even go with dried fruit here: apricots, figs or dates.

Nuts: nuts add a nice textural component to your plate. They add crunch. I’d do candied walnuts, pecans or almonds.

Condiments: it’s fun to add accents to your cheese and experiment with different flavour combos. So, to enhance your cheese board, include little pots of mustards, chutneys or jams. My favourite thing right now is brie with my garlic scape jam. Jalapeño jelly is also a wonderful pairing.

How much to buy: 3 pounds (total) for 8 people, 6 pounds (total) for 16, or 9 pounds (total) for 24. (Source)

how to build a cheese board

Suggestions: over the last 3 months, I’ve had the opportunity to sample a lot of Canadian Cheese. Here are my favourites:

Soft and creamy: Comox Camembert from Natural Pastures in Comox. I love to support local, and this beautiful, soft cheese from the Island is about as local as it gets!

Medium: Love the smoked gouda (or in fact, any kind of gouda–it’s gouda!) from Glasgow Glen Farm in PEI.

Cheddar: I love every single cheese I’ve ever had from Cows and Avonlea our of PEI. Cows does an amazing Applewood Smoked Cheddar that I dream about, and the Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar is nutty and crumbly. Natural Pastures Aged Farmhouse was also a favourite.

Firm: Mountain Oak Farmstead Premium Dutch, and Nostrala from Kootenay Alpine Cheese co.

Blue: I know some people think blue cheese is weird. That it tastes like feet. But I love it, especially with a big, bold red wine. My favourite blue, however, is a French cheese, not a Canadian one. It’s called St. Agur, and it’s the like the bastard love child of blue cheese and brie. It’s a delicious combination.

By the way, you can have the opportunity to win my exact December cheese basket by creating a “Cheese Board” on Pinterest, and pinning 10 photos of Canadian Cheese onto it. Details are here.

Happy Cheesing!

Eggplant and Gorgonzola Stuffed Portobellos

Sometimes in life, special occasions call for special food. A birthday, an anniversary, a holiday… all times when you might want to not cook the thing that you cook all the time (unless you are my son, then the answer to every special occasion is pizza). A special occasion is a great time to buy ingredients you wouldn’t normally use, special ingredients, the search for which can sometimes be a part of the fun.

Eggplant and gorgonzola stuffed portobellos

Witness the Eggplant and Gorgonzola Stuffed Portobello. Originally destined to be a Valentine’s Day treat for y’all, things in my life went south on V-day, and they never happened. They were next supposed to be made for an Oscar-viewing dinner, but I got sidelined by something buggy, and again, they didn’t happen. But that’s okay. You can save them for your next special occasion…

This recipe comes from Chef Michael Zmigrodski from Wildflowers Restaurant in Upstate, New York. I would serve this as an appetizer, before moving on to a main course, of say, puttanesca, followed by a basil olive oil ice cream with a strawberry balsamic reduction (working on those). The original recipe called for full-sized portobellos, but I found these adorbs li’l portobellinis at the store, and had to try them. This is much more of an appetizer portion. This recipe is crazy rich: meaty mushrooms, succulent eggplant, rich sun-dried tomatoes, creamy gorgonzola (I’m a huge sucker for blue cheese), finished with some lovely, fresh basil. This recipe is, by the way, vegetarian, and gluten-free, if you leave off the panko, which I added as an afterthought for a little texture and crunch.

Just a quick note: you may want to prepare the stuffing the day before, as it’s easier to work with when cooled.

Make these for someone you love (like yourself!) sometime soon.

Eggplant and Gorgonzola Stuffed Portobellos

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 Portobello mushrooms, cleaned with stems removed
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and chopped
  • olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Gingerly brush mushroom caps with oil and place rounded side down, on a greased baking sheet.
  • Pour approximately 3 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Combine chopped eggplant, onion, and sun-dried tomatoes. Cook until eggplant is becomes tender and browned.  Then add garlic, and cook for about 2 minutes.

 

  • Remove skillet from heat; stir in Gorgonzola cheese and 1 tablespoon of the chopped basil. Salt and pepper to taste. Once mixture cooled, stuff the mushroom caps with the mixture.
  • Cover the mushrooms with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking until stuffing turns a golden brown.  Check tenderness of mushroom with fork.  The fork should pierce the skin easily.   For presentation, sprinkle mushrooms with the remaining chopped basil.  Serve warm.