One afternoon a few weeks ago, a few friends and I strategized a last-minute get-together by text: Friday night? Allison’s house. Everyone brings a bottle of wine and something for the cheese board. These kinds of spontaneous get-togethers always seem to work out best—there’s no checking of schedules weeks ahead of time, no pressure on any one of us to plan a party and menu. A cheeseboard can be assembled in minutes, and makes any gathering of people seem more official, with a focal point to gather around and nibble from. The best part: everything goes on a cheese board, from nuts to dried fruit. I can pick up a cheese or two at the store en route, or rummage through my pantry and grab a ripe pear, a bag of crackers or cashews, half a jar of olives and the last of the crabapple jelly to contribute. Once everything is piled onto a board, it looks wonderfully appealing—a sort of mini potluck, and noContinue reading

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Even though buds are popping out in the back yard as we speak, I’m in a comfort food state of mind – and really, for many of us grilled cheese and tomato soup are about as nostalgic as it gets. I got it in mind awhile ago to take the gooey toasted bread that typically lids a baked French onion soup and apply it to tomato soup using cheddar, and save us all the trouble of dunking our grilled cheese sandwich into our soup. I mean, look at it.

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I partnered with Jarlsberg to bring you this cheesy goodness. I’ve seen mention of patty melts here and there, and each time I see one I wonder why it is not number one on my all-time favourite foods list. A mash-up (truly) of grilled cheese and burger – two of my favourite things, yet mysteriously missing from restaurant menus (at least in my vicinity), and not something I’ve clued in on enough to attempt to make of my own accord. I’ve been meaning to rectify that, and Jarlsberg came along and gave me reason to finally jump in. A patty melt, if you’re unfamiliar, is an American thing – I’m not sure of its origins, but won’t bother Wikipedia-ing it because it doesn’t much matter – all that matters is that onions are caramelized, a burger patty is smash-cooked in your skillet afterward, and it’s all piled between two slices of bread (to make it grillable) with plenty of meltable cheese to glue the wholeContinue reading

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Peroghies are a prairie staple – these little dumplings have been feeding families affordably for generations, and are the epitome of comfort food around our house. W recently pointed out that most peroghies are more potato than cheese, and nowhere near as cheesy as they could be. I can see his point – unlike other dumplings, peroghies tend to be more starchy and potato-heavy, when in fact the potato should act more as a carrier for other ingredients. I sometimes transform leftover roasted chicken, gravy and potatoes into peroghies, but it’s cheese that goes best with the bacon and onions (which, let’s face it, are the best part), and so I set to making a batch of extra cheesy peroghies using chunks of the Alexis de Portneuf cheeses currently residing in our fridge. The beauty of a peroghy is that you can add just about anything to the filling – it’s a great way to use up the last of the cheese ends. I generallyContinue reading

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Confession: I do not own a fondue pot. And yet there are few things better than a bunch of friends sharing a pot of gooey cheese. When people ask about my favourite food, my answer – not that I could possibly choose one thing – it would depend on the day and my mood/location/appetite and the occasion and season – is inevitably something that contains some form of melted cheese. (Most of the time.) It’s the sort of thing that elicits the most enthusiastic response when presented to a room full of people. And what’s easier to serve with beer and wine? It’s so universally loved, our annual Christmas party has a cheese theme – in no small part because I love having miscellaneous ends to nibble and turn into baked dips and mac and cheese all winter long. It’s a dream, of course, when someone requests that I take some Quebec cheeses for a spin, and ships me a box. We celebrated its arrivalContinue reading

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‘Tis the season for garden parties. My neighbour-friend has one of the very best back yards in the world – small and brimming with herbs, food and flowers, a fence made of repurposed pallets, hung with old tires with waterfalls of flowers cascading out of them. But mostly it’s the lights she strung up that start to glow as it gets dark, and the friends with guitars, chatting and strumming, and the tables covered with food because everyone brought something to eat. When I have to bring something to a party, I lean toward baked cheese dips, because they’re the very best to share with friends. And because S lives just two doors down, I baked mine in my cast iron pan and walked it over with a tea towel wrapped around the handle. It was devoured in under five minutes, was perfect with gin and tonics and prosecco drizzled with rhubarb syrup, and I came home to email everyone the recipe.

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A few weekends ago the family gathered for brunch, and my brother in law brought a quiche. It wasn’t a frittata, but it didn’t have a pastry crust either – its base was made of hash browns. Brilliance! Eggs and veggies and cheese nested in grated potato, baked and served in wedges. His was asparagus and goat cheese and we devoured it all, and then I went home and made one, just to see. So simple! You grate a potato or two on the coarse side of a box grater, then get it started in a hot skillet, crisping up the bottom, before filling it and sliding it into the oven. You work in a little extra in the way of vegetables, but it’s still starchy – and perfect for people who can’t have pastry. Genius.

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Forever ago, when I was at art college, the school cafeteria sold thick slabs of cheese toast for a dollar. It was about all I could afford, which was convenient because it was also what I loved the most. Open faced grilled cheese. It reminded me of my mom’s tuna melts, minus the tuna, and my grandma’s hot dog melts on hamburger buns that would go all crackly in the oven. Cheese toast is perhaps as comforting as it’s possible to get. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you need a recipe for – and yet it’s so much more than just cheese on toast.

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I’m a sucker for instant gratification – or at least big rewards for minimum effort – but mostly that feeling like I’ve actually accomplished something that didn’t take any time at all, like when you write “revise to-do list” on your to-do list, so that you can cross it off immediately. Labneh – or yogurt cheese – is thick, creamy and pricey if you buy it in the store – but really all it is is good plain yogurt, strained until enough whey runs off to give it a consistency somewhere between Greek yogurt and mascarpone. Leave it to strain even longer and it will get firm enough to roll into a log, or wee balls. Some people store marbles of labneh in a glass jar with fresh herbs and citrus strips, covered with olive oil. I kind of like it spreadable – you can even sweeten it, with a bit of maple syrup or honey. If you go to Monogram Coffee in Altadore (convenientlyContinue reading

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