Jun 30, 2008

Local Farm + Top Chefs = Berry Delicious

The First Taste of Spring Event, all about local Strawberries, came to Cheese Boutique on Sunday:

Howland and Gushue and the Spread

Jonathan Gushue, Executive Chef (whom we saw recently during the Festival of Chefs) and Rob Howland, Pastry Chef, both of Langdon Hall, prepared an amazing selection of Strawberry dishes. I knew it was going to be good, yet still I was surprised by just how good it was. Also impressed by the time they took to explain the food in detail, and their reason for being there-- to fight the dying out of Ontario strawberry farms.

Strawberry Consommé and Sparkling Wine, Strawberry Cured Duck Breast served with Charred Tomato and Strawberry Salsa


Grilled Focaccia and Bocconcini with Olive Oil/Balsamic marinated Strawberries.


Not pictured here are Coconut Rum marinated Strawberries topped with Coconut Cream, and White Chocolate Lavender Truffles. Siiigh.

And of course inside the store there were Cheese tasting stations set up, manned by your friendly neighbourhood Cheese Experts.

Afrim and the Langdon Hall Boys


Baskets of Berries to take home

I brought some of the Strawberries to a family barbeque later on. Needless to say, despite competition from other desserts, they were all eaten up in short order, straight from the basket!

You can get your own from Cheese Boutique while supplies last...

Jun 26, 2008

Summer. BBQ. Pork. Oink!

A long weekend is upon us, and if there were any time to think about grilling some meat, it's now.

This in mind, I headed to Cheese Boutique for some Berkshire Pork Back Ribs. Conveniently stacked nearby were many varieties of grilling sauce-- I went with Apple Chipotle Grilling Glaze: a Napa valley concoction containing Pinot Noir, and a hint of smoke and spice from the chipotles.

Off to the produce aisles...

Don't you just hate having to stand in front of a stack of pineapples wondering which ones are ripe? Well, thanks to the knowledgeable CheeseB staff, I will no longer have this problem, as I have been informed of the proper method.

Selecting a Ripe Pineapple:

Take hold of an upper leaf, like so


If it plucks out easily, the fruit is ripe


Time to get cooking!

First, the preparation of the Ribs:

I coated them with a mix of olive oil, garlic, paprika, pepper, a bit of salt and lemon.
Let them cook at low heat for a couple of hours (I start at a higher heat, around 300 F, then turn it down to 250 F after half an hour or so). Cooking time and results vary depending on if you cover them or not. In this case, I left the baking dish uncovered and did not use a drip tray.

As those roasted I prepared the pineapple. Lopping of the ends, cutting down the sides, removing the eyes, and cutting out the core. I sliced it thickly and threw it in a nice bath of Rum. Half a cup (or more) of that, an equal amount of water, some salt, pepper and cinnamon. Let it marinate until ready to grill.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Pasta Salad Suggestions:

Rotini
Red pepper
Broccoli
Purple onion
Grated Cheese (I used the Swiss Sbrinz from last week!)
Capers
Olive oil
Lemon
Basil

... and any other items, exotic or every-day, found at CheeseB ...


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I removed the ribs they were clearly tender and seemed to be crying out for me to devour them on the spot. Instead, a paragon of self-restraint, I brushed on some of the sauce and threw them on the grill.

The pineapple, which at this point was quite inebriated, was then grilled. It doesn't need more than five minutes or so.

Time to eat! The meat was glazed with a bit more Apple Chipotle and served with the grilled pineapple, and pasta salad. The meat was falling nicely off the bone.... succulent, white, and unsurpassed in its natural flavour. The Apple Chipotle glaze worked quite well-- it was not overpowering as some sauces might have been. The pineapple provided intense bursts of sweet and sour between mouthfuls of rib.

"Eat Me" they cried. "Eat me now!"

Honestly, it's pretty easy to make even average cuts of meat taste good when you BBQ, but if you want something truly divine, try Berkshire Pork ribs.

Happy Grilling!




Jun 23, 2008

Support Your Local Strawberry

Succulent local Strawberries are languishing while flavourless imports take center stage in most grocers. In protest of this sad state of affairs, Ontario farmers and top Chefs have been teaming up for the First Fruits of Spring Event.

The festivities are coming to Cheese Boutique this Sunday, June 29th, from 12pm until 4pm. Jonathan Gushue of Langdon Hall will showcase local Strawberries from Herrly Country Farm, and knowing how things work around CheeseB there's bound to be other scrumptious treats.

Strawberries and Cheese, anyone?

Show your support for Ontario strawberry farmers and celebrate the beginning of Summer in the tastiest possible way-- Hope to see you there!


Jun 19, 2008

Orange you glad there's Soup on cold days?

With the first day of Summer just around the corner, all the chilly rain we've had this week is making me crave Autumn-ish comfort foods-- something to warm me up and boost my mood.

I had soup on my mind: spicy, filling, Carrot Apple Ginger Soup. And Cheese Crisps!

Off I went to Cheese Boutique, where I found some robust and colorful carrots, a couple of Granny Smith Apples, and fresh chives amongst the broad selection of herbs. I needed something for the Cheese Crisps, and it was recommended to me by certain Boutique experts to try the Swiss Sbrinz-- a beautiful substance cave-aged in Switzerland for three years before making it's way to the store. (Previous mention of the Sbrinz about a year ago).


So, shopping done, and time to get cooking!



(Somewhat later...)



The result was great: the gingery soup was a complimentary back-drop for the nutty flavours of the cheese crisps. Light and airy yet satisfying and just the right cheerful shade of orange for these cold, almost-summer days! I wonder if it was the carbonated ginger beer that contributed to the ultra-light texture-- it was an experiment, I've never cooked with the stuff before, but certainly would again. And you know, I'm willing to bet forgoing the crisps and just dropping handfuls of the Sbrinz on top of the soup would have tasted fantastic, too. Yum.





Here is the Recipe:

Soup:

3 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 apples, peeled and cut up
1 onion
clove of garlic
grated fresh ginger, to taste
3 cups broth
1/2 cup good and spicy ginger beer
1/2cup light cream
1 tbsp butter
olive oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp curry powder
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper

Cheese Crisps:

2 cups of grated cheese, such as Cheese Boutique's Swiss Sbrinz
1/4 cup of flour
2 tbsps chopped fresh chives
pepper

Roast the carrots and apples in a 400F oven until slightly browned.

Saute onions and garlic in butter, in the soup pot, on medium low heat until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. In final few minutes add ginger and spices to bring out the flavour. Add the roasted apples and carrots, and start simmering in a pot with the broth and the ginger beer. Leave it for about 45 minutes, remove from heat, and make the crisps!

These are super easy-- just mix your ingredients together and make cookie-sized flat piles of the mixture on a parchment or foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350F until golden-- about 15 minutes, generally less. Allow to cool somewhat before removing.

Then, puree the soup-- an immersion blender works best but a regular one does the trick. Add the cream, reheat, and serve with the tasty cheese crisps.

Happy slurping!


Jun 18, 2008

Introducing: O-reagano

Things are changing around here! A new website coming shortly, a new look for the blog, and a new contributor: O-reagano. That's me.

I'll be writing here along with the original author, the Big Cheese-- and I'll be getting Inspired-- in proper "Chef Selections, Home Inspiration" style. I'm not a professional chef, but an amateur cook who sees it as an accessible art. Using fresh, fragrant, sometimes unusual Cheese Boutique ingredients (including but not limited to Cheese), I'm just going to cook to my heart's content and then journal it here: Pictures! Explanations! Recipes! Stay tuned for the first post tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

Jun 3, 2008

Good News: June is here!

Better News:

Festival of Chefs 2009 is just 11 months away...

This year however, the Festival is finished-- five weekends, ten chefs: a May flurry of culinary activity.

Weekend #5: There was Keith Froggett and Lino Collevecchio-- Pickerel and Berkshire, sun and rain and sun, lots of Cheese, a great turnout, even a cameo appearance by Massimo Capra and other familiar faces. Couldn't ask for a better send-off!

Saturday, patrons lined up all day for some of Chef Froggett's Lake Huron Pickerel-- pan-seared in butter, with delicate Potato Blini and Saffron Clam Sauce.

A liberal squeeze of lemon in the sizzling pan!



The wait is made more palatable with a chilled glass of Rose or Sparkling wine.


Voila!


Froggett and Capra in Chefly camaraderie


Ilir Pristine, Matthew Sutherland of Fat Cat, and Massimo Capra


Giovanni, who manned the Pasta station, hamming it up with Ilir and the Coppola sauce.


Sunday was Lino Collevecchio-- his fifth year with the Festival, making him one of two chefs who have attended every year, the other being Massimo Capra.
And he spared no effort dishing out a flavourful Berkshire Pork Tenderloin wrapped in Prosciutto, along with Minestrone Farro topped with Cheese Boutique Greek Virgin Olive Oil.

Prosciutto-wrap: wow, these guys know how to treat a tenderloin


Ladelling out the goods


Chef Collevecchio makes something special for the Presentation table


Lino Colleveccihio, Afrim Pristine,Via Allegro Owner Phil Sabatino, and Sous chefs


Dessert: Pecan Ice Cream with a stylish Praline hat


Goodbye, Festival of Chefs 2008! Many fond reminiscences of the past month, and many Thanks to everyone who made it such a great success.

And of course, there is much more in the works around CheeseB... fermenting, ripening, as it were... things of immense flavour, which I do look forward to telling you all about-- so stay tuned!