Fall in Montreal

Fall in Montreal

Fall is my favourite season. Farmer’s markets overflow with produce, the air turns cool and crisp, and the leaves colour and fall, their musty scent permeating every breath you take. Fall invigorates every one of your senses, but given that all I’ve got are pictures, you’ll have to settle for looking at the moment.

squash

A bounty of organic squash at Jean-Talon.

mushrooms

Plus all of the shrooms, many foraged in Quebec nonetheless! See the chanterelles hiding in the back? You can run but you can’t hide you sneaky chanterelles!

apples

And apples. If I have anything less than 10lb of them in my fridge at any given time, I know I need to stock up.

apple crisp

Fall means apples, apples mean apple crisp. Am I right or am I right? Cut back on the sugar and you can justify eating it for breakfast AND dessert.

Boulangerie Guillaume

I’ve discovered my new favourite boulangerie here in town, Boulangerie Guillame. Bread is easy to come by, superb bread, not so much. They make these blue cheese and walnut buns that are dense and chewy, yet crusty and doughy all at the same time. Makes you want to tear your teeth right into them and chow down!

 

Marou chocolate

Good chocolate. This bar is made by Marou out of Vietnam, which I picked up during my visit to La Tablette.

blue cheese

Stilton.

mushroom gravy

The highlight of my Thanksgiving feast; mushroom gravy. Is it socially acceptable to consume gravy on its own by the spoonful? This was too good to care. I pretty much cried when I finished the last of the stuffing drenched in gravy leftovers.

delicata squash

Roasted delicata with hoisin and soy. Perfectly suitable for eating straight off of the sheet tray.

purple cauliflower

When cauliflower doubles as art. First off, look at the size of it! Second, that colour! Almost but not quite too pretty to eat.

pickled carrots

Sometimes you want pickled carrots and you only have enough to make a single jar. This IS being saved for a special occasion.

Kem Coba

A couple of weeks ago it was still nice enough to eat ice cream (half almond milk, half Vietnamese coffee from Kem Coba). **Sidenote: It was good but I kind of regret not trying their homemade soft serve instead. And now they’re closed so I’m going to have to wait until next year.

hot chocolate

And now I’ve switched to this. Bring on the snow Mother Nature. I’ll take any excuse I can get to make a warm mug of homemade vegan hot chocolate. Forget that. Chocolate doesn’t require excuses.

Happy fall!

Lasagna Bites

LasagnaBites1

It’s that time of year again. Holiday celebrations are upon us and with them comes an abundance of decadent and delicious foods. Snacking becomes a way of life, doesn’t it? Forget having 1 thing for your meal when you can have bites of 10 different things! Add these lasagna bites to your menu and they are sure to be a hit, even with the spiteful drunk uncle who hates seemingly everything about life. Wonton wrappers are baked in mini muffin tins to form little vessels which are then packed with cheese and meat – and then topped with more cheese. Need I say more?

LasagnaBites2

Lasagna Bites
 
Author:
Recipe type: snacks, appetizers, game day food
Serves: 36-48 bites
Ingredients
  • 500 grams ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning blend (mixture of dried herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano)
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • shredded mozzarella (2 cups or as needed)
Instructions
  1. Heat your oven to 400F. Place wonton wrappers into a mini muffin tin and back until slightly golden around the edges, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. To make the cheese filling, combine the ricotta, parmesan and nutmeg, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. To make the meat filling, sear off the ground beef over medium/high heat until golden brown. Add in the shallots, breaking up the beef into small pieces.
  4. Season the meat with Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Add in the tomato paste and cook until fragrant.
  5. Finally add in the cream and allow the mixture to reduce slightly. The sauce should remain relatively thick.
  6. To assemble, take your pre-baked wonton shells and add about 1 tsp. of ricotta filling to the bottom. Then add about 1 tsp. of meat filling on top. Top each with a pinch of shredded mozzarella cheese.
  7. Bake again at 400F until golden and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Finish by broiling to ensure a golden brown exterior. Enjoy!

LasagnaBites3

Homemade Paneer or Ricotta Cheese

Homemade paneer or ricotta cheese

Have you ever made your own cheese before? Neither had I until I tried my hand at paneer a couple of weeks ago. My family was gone and I had a fridge full of dairy products that I was not going to consume on my own. I don’t drink milk – not even on cereal – so I figured I should do something with it, rather than forgetting about it and dealing with a carton of sour, coagulated garbage a week later. Plus it was a great excuse to neglect studying and experiment with cheese instead.

So how does this whole cheese-making process work, you ask? Often when I think cheese, much of what comes to mind pertains to adding enzymes and various bacterial cultures, so you can let it age for months on end. Seriously though, where are you going to find that stuff? I had a hard enough time tracking down lye for my homemade pretzels. I am not lying (get it?) when I say that I actually got a prescription from my doctor and took it to the pharmacist (basically the only one in the entire city that actually carried lye). It got even more interesting when she asked why I needed it and I said “for making pretzels.” Not exactly the answer she was expecting to hear.

Anyways, luckily for us, you don’t need any crazy, scientific chemicals to make fresh, homemade paneer or ricotta cheese. I should probably talk about the 2 in reverse order – technically you get ricotta before you get paneer. It really is way more simple than you would ever expect. First you get yourself some milk and/or cream of various fat percentages. Whatever you have on hand will work, just keep in mind that the more milk solids in the product, the more cheese it will make. In other words, don’t use skim or you will end up with like 2 tablespoons of cheese.

Take your milk and some salt and heat it up. Once it boils, stir in the acid of your choice. Lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar; anything along those lines will work. You will see it immediately separate into curds and whey. This is exactly what you want. If it looks like white vomit, you are on the right track. Yummmmmy.

Then you strain it. Logically, the more liquid you drain off, the thicker and drier it will be. Stop here and you have yourself a lovely batch of ricotta. Taste it and add more salt if you want (I definitely did, it was a tad bland otherwise). Alternately, you can squeeze out as much moisture as possible and press it into a sliceable disk. Voila, paneer. Fry it up or drizzle some cubes with good olive oil and simply eat as is. Easy peasy cheesy.

Homemade paneer or ricotta cheeseHomemade paneer or ricotta cheeseHomemade paneer or ricotta cheeseHomemade paneer or ricotta cheeseHomemade paneer or ricotta cheese 

Homemade Paneer or Ricotta Cheese
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Making cheese from scratch is a great way to use up leftover milk or cream you have on hand!
Recipe type: homemade cheese
Ingredients
  • 6 cups milk and/or cream (I used about 5 cups of 1% milk and 1 cup of half and half, however you can use whatever you have. Just keep in mind that the higher the fat, the more milk solids there will be, thus the more cheese it will make. In other words, don't go lower than 1% or it won't make anything.)
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar, lemon juice, etc.)
Instructions
  1. Bring the milk/cream and salt to a bowl in a medium to large pot.
  2. Add the vinegar and turn the heat off. You will see it curdle almost instantaneously - this is good. Wait 1-2 minutes for the curds and whey to fully separate before straining the cheese in a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth.
  3. If you want to make ricotta, let it drain for 20-30 minutes, or until it reaches the consistency you want.
  4. For paneer on the other hand, allow if to drain about 20-30 minutes and then squeeze it out so that most of the moisture is gone. Wrap it up in the cheesecloth and shape it into a disc. Put it in a bowl or on a plate and put another bowl or plate on top of it. Then put something heavy on top (I used the bowl from my mortar and pestle) and press it for about an hour (refrigerated). Cut it into cubes and eat it as is, or fry it up until golden.
  5. Either way, the cheese will keep for 4-5 days refrigerated.

Homemade ricotta cheese Homemade ricotta cheese Strained cheeseHomemade paneer or ricotta cheeseHomemade paneer or ricotta cheese

Raspberry, Brie and Goat Cheese Pizza with Arugula, Walnuts and Parmesan Cream

Raspberry, brie and goat cheese pizza

Our perceptions are funny things sometimes. Think pizza and what comes to mind? Cheese and tomato sauce. Ham and pineapple. Prosciutto and arugula. Veggies and cheese. Raspberries and brie? Not so much.

It’s strange really. We put raspberries and brie on crustini. We bake off a big wheel of brie and top it with raspberry compote. So why can’t you put the two of them on pizza? See our expectations, our “schemas” so to speak really dictate what we view as acceptable and what we view as flat out weird. At one point I am sure people were pretty skeptical about peanut butter and jelly, but that sure is not the case anymore. The more we see things, we normalize them and they no longer seem so odd anymore. Apparently raspberry, brie and goat cheese pizza isn’t quite at that point yet.

There is no reason why it should not be though. You have all your flavours covered. Sweet raspberries, salty cheese, peppery arugula and crunchy walnuts for some texture. Plus it starts off with a deliciously rich parmesan cream as your base, rather than boring tomato sauce or plain white pizza. Sounds like dinner to me.

*As a side note, I used this pizza dough recipe when putting together this raspberry, brie and goat cheese pizza. It comes together in a cinch and keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days if you want to make it ahead of time. Then you can have homemade pizza whenever you want!

Raspberry, brie and goat cheese pizzaRaspberry, brie and goat cheese pizza

Raspberry, Brie and Goat Cheese Pizza with Arugula, Walnuts and Parmesan Cream
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: pizza, dinner
Ingredients
  • pizza dough
  • fresh raspberries
  • brie cheese
  • soft goat cheese
  • blue cheese
  • fresh arugula
  • crumbled walnuts
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. First things first, made your pizza dough. Once you have gone through that process and it is ready to go, roll it out as thin as you like (mine was about ¼" thick). Get yourself a grill pan, or other large sauté pan and crank it up to high heat. This might sound odd if you are used to putting your pizza right in the oven, no par-cooking involved, but take your rolled out dough and put it neatly in the hot pan. Cook for about 1-2 minutes per side or until nice and charred. There are 3 things I love about adding in this step. First, it drastically reduces the cook time of the pizza once it is in the oven. Second, no home oven is hot enough to achieve the same char that the pan does. Third, it keeps your crust nice and thin, rather than having it puff up like a blimp. You know what I am talking about, sometimes homemade pizza can turn out more like bread with toppings, rather than actual pizza.
  2. Now that the crust is prepared, it's time to make the sauce. Essentially combining the cream and parmesan makes an alfredo of sorts but this is much less gloopy than your typical alfredo. All you have to do is combine the cheese and cream in a small pot and reduce it over medium heat until it reaches a thick consistency. Season with salt and pepper and you are ready to go.
  3. We have crust, we have sauce, looks like it's time to start assembling some pizza. First, put the sauce on the crust. Then sprinkle on the toppings to your heart's content (that's goat cheese, brie, blue cheese, raspberries, walnuts and arugula if you weren't paying attention earlier). Most arugula pizzas just add the greens at the end to keep them fresh but I wanted to bake them so that they would wilt down into all of the cheese and cream. It also ensured that their pepperiness did not overpower all of the other ingredients.
  4. Hang in there, you are getting close to eating time. Bake the pizza at 450-475F for 10 minutes tops (less, depending on how crunchy vs. doughy you want it to be). Keep in mind that the crust is virtually cooked so all you have to do is melt the cheese and brown the top. Once it's golden, you are golden. Time to eat.

Raspberry, brie and goat cheese pizzaRaspberry, brie and goat cheese pizza

Cheddar Cheese Buns

Cheddar Cheese Buns

cheddar cheese buns
cheddar cheese buns
It’s time for some savoury baking I would say, wouldn’t you? I am not one for New Year’s resolutions and don’t plan to cut out sugar now that it is January, but we have to make sure salt does not feel left out. Don’t worry, I have been putting my new ice cream maker to good use so it will be back to sugar before you know it. I have contemplated making a savoury ice cream though. I think it would be a fun juxtaposition to serve it on a hot dish and have it melt into everything to create a sauce. Just a thought. It’s one of those ideas that would either turn out amazingly or horribly.
If you are looking for something a bit safer, how about cheddar cheese buns? There are two critical aspects to these buns. First of all, don’t skimp on the cheese. It looks like a lot, but when it melts into the bread it really is not that much. More importantly, buy good cheese! I don’t think this one needs an explanation but super cheesy cheddar cheese buns don’t magically taste good just because you use a lot of crappy cheese. Actually when is crappy cheese good? Never, exactly. Sound logic, no? A sharp cheddar or aged gruyere would work swell, and nowadays you can find some great cheddar cheese online if you’re really struggling to get a decent quality one from your grocery store. Just not any pre-shredded plastic, please.
Now that I have gotten that out of my system, let’s talk about making bread for a quick sec. If you are even the slightest bit intimidated, read over my 12 steps for making bread. I won’t re-hash too much because it is all there but I will emphasize that once you know the basic procedure, you are set to make any bread, recipe or not. Take these cheese buns. Without cheese, the dough easily could be made into cinnamon buns. Or if you stick with the cheese, you could shape it into a cheese loaf. Bread is super versatile and isn’t like other baking in that you have to be super precise with your measurements. All you need is a couple cups of flour, a spoonful of yeast, some salt, water, fat (in the form of oil, butter, etc.) and you are ready to get started. Making bread is all about technique so once you have got it down, you can make anything. Although cheddar cheese buns are always a good place to start…
cheddar cheese buns
cheddar cheese buns
cheddar cheese buns

Cheddar Cheese Buns
Makes 12-15 buns

Ingredients

Dough

1 tbsp. instant yeast
2 tbsp. honey
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
3 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
warm water, as needed (about 1 cup)

Toppings

2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter, melted

Instructions

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast and honey with a splash of warm water. When the yeast starts to foam, add in the remaining ingredients. Turn the mixer on low and begin adding more water as necessary to bring the dough together. Depending on the humidity of your environment this will vary. It is extremely dry where I live so it took at least 1 cup of water to keep the dough soft and slightly sticky.
2. Once the dough comes together, turn the mixer up to medium. Knead for 5-7 minutes or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
3. Place the kneaded dough in a well-oiled bowl, cover and allow it to rise until double (30-60 minutes depending on how warm your kitchen is).
4. When the dough has doubled, punch it down. Stretch it into a rectangle on an oiled or floured countertop. Drizzle the melted butter over top and sprinkle on the 2 cups of grated cheese. Start at the edge closest to you and begin to roll the dough into a log, keeping it nice and tight.
5. Slice the dough into about 1″ thick pieces. Place them in a greased pan or on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Unless you have a gigantic pan, you will probably have to use 2 of them to fit all of the buns.
6. Cover and allow the buns to rise again until doubled, about 30-40 minutes.
7. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Cool slightly and enjoy. They are best served warm while the cheese is still melty. If there are any leftovers, be sure to wrap them as air-tight as possible as fresh bread dries out rapidly!

* If you don’t have a mixer, feel free to knead the dough by hand. You are essentially doing the same thing except on your countertop. Once it is smooth and elastic you are good to go!