There are some who will tell you that cheese should be reserved for special occasions. Those people are probably well meaning and also misinformed. Cheese is perfect any time, but if you need a reason then the Winter Olympics are coming up soon and cheese is good fuel for watching Canadian athletes kick butt.
I’m not going to lie, there’s a right way and a wrong way to serve and store cheese. Anyone who tells you differently is either lying or eating low fat cheese and we won’t discuss that here or ever. Cheese has come a long way in recent years. There are new and talented Canadian cheese makers in every province and our access to imported products makes a cheese lover’s heart melt. Many supermarkets now provide impressive varieties to choose from, and are willing to bring in different ones based on customer requests.
Before you head into the local cheesemonger, consider what you’ll need. The list is short and practical, so no need to worry that you’ll be spending a fortune on things you’ll rarely use.
Top 5 cheese picks for entertaining or to savour alone:
I’d make another list on how to serve the cheese, but I think it’s enough to respect a few basic rules. Any resemblance to a list is purely coincidental.
Keep the cutting board uncluttered and uncrowded. It’s best to buy 5 great cheeses (like the ones mentioned above) than to build a mountain and risk the flavours mingling. Likewise when decorating with fruit—although grapes are a great accompaniment, keep bunches small and to a minimum. We’re all here for the cheese anyway.
Serve cheese at room temperature.
Respect the form. That means cheese should be cut to retain its original shape. Round cheese—Brie, for example—is always cut in wedges, as are pyramid or cone-shaped cheeses. Rectangular cheeses, such as cheddars, should resemble rectangles as long as possible. Basically, serving cheese is like geometry class with less crying and more eating.
And on that note, never ever pre-cut cheese.
Be respectful and take your rinds with you. This point is directed at the cheese eating guests and is applicable if they are rind cutters.
Buying, eating, and serving cheese should not be intimidating despite these lists and rules. Eating cheese might be serious business, but there’s no need to be earnest about it. With a few gadgets and a simple shopping list, you’ll easily get into the groove.
While there’s nothing wrong with being a dedicated cheese and pastry eater, we all need balance in our diets, too. There’s been a resurgence in the popularity of juicing recipes recently, and there’s a reason for that—juicing is a great way to reap the benefits from a variety of vegetables and fruits, some of which might not make their way onto our dinner tables that often. It’s also a sneaky, but effective, way to introduce needed nutrients to kids who might turn their noses up at certain foods. Mine aren’t fans of red cabbage, but love this juice.
Just so nobody thinks all I do is eat cake and bacon all day, I’ve made one of my favourite and simplest breakfasts. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day—next to dessert—and to combat poor sleeping habits, I need a good boost to fuel my brain and body in the morning. There’s a well-documented and potent nutritional punch available from eating pineapple and red cabbage, and the combo has the added benefit of making a great detoxing juice. At any rate, you’ll feel refreshed drinking it.
Quarter the apples, but don’t peel and core them. You can juice the seeds and peel.
Depending on the type of juicer being used*, start with pineapple and re-juice the pulp a second time.
Alternate juicing the red cabbage and apple so that the drier cabbage won’t clog the juicer. Add water at the end.
Makes enough for 4-5 250 mL glasses.
*I have a masticating juicer, so alternating the wet and dry ingredients is necessary.
To complete the breakfast, serve it with a bowl of plain yogurt, sweetened with honey and topped with hemp hearts, granola, and berries. The bowl of café au lait on the side is adult only. Kids can stick to juice or milk.
In Canada two things are certain: we’ll talk about the heat and humidity during the summer and then about the cold during the winter. So, in case you’re not aware, this winter has been ridiculously cold. So cold that even Winnipeg cancelled school buses in early January.
What’s better on a day that’s cold enough to freeze extremities than comfort food? Nothing. And what’s more comforting than melted cheese? The correct answer is nothing. Except maybe melted cheese with bacon.
The recipe for tartiflette originated in the mountain villages of France’s Haute Savoie region and was meant as a warming meal after long hours working outdoors or skiing. If you’ve been busy shoveling, snowshoeing, or scraping your car, or dutifully cheering and freezing while your children enjoy their winter sports, it’s time to indulge in a nourishing meal of potatoes, cheese, and bacon.
* The original recipe calls for Reblochon, a semi soft cheese, but I substituted with raclette and Gruyere. These two are easier to find at most grocery stores.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Peel and cut potatoes into large pieces and pre-cook in water over medium heat until potatoes are slightly cooked. Don’t let them get soft.
Dice bacon strips into large cubes and begin frying over low to medium heat.
Once the bacon has cooked for 2-3 minutes add the roughly chopped onion and let simmer. Cook the bacon and onions until they’re softened, but not browned.
Add the pre-cooked potatoes to a baking dish, mix in bacon and onion mixture and add cream and milk. Blend gently.
Season with 2-3 pinches of salt and pepper.
Cover the potatoes with slices of raclette and Gruyere and bake for 30 minutes. The cheese and cream will be bubbling once it’s finished.
Let sit for 10 minutes and serve with cooked broccoli and pickles or your choice of vegetables.
Preparation time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 30 minutes.