Wednesday, December 31, 2008

ringing in the new year with cheese fondue - recipe: cheese fondue

I revel in traditions. Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, spring, summer, winter and fall.

Just ask my husband, who silently shakes his head and smiles (or is he grimacing?) at all of the customs that I've instituted since our son John was born this past May.

David still can't quite understand why I insisted on taking John with me for my/our first trip (of many many more to come) to Herrles for fresh produce, to pick out a perfect pumpkin at Shantzholm pumpkins for Halloween, or to Martin's Family Fruit farm for a taste of fall's first apples.

Last year I convinced my hubby and parents to start an annual New Year's Eve Fondue Night.

What can I say, they felt sorry for me.

I was pregnant, and craving bread and cheese 24/7!

We made a delicious cheese fondue (we didn't bother with a meat fondue — albeit delicious, they can get messy with all of that hot oil).

We served it with cubes of crusty baguette and steamed vegetables.

To appease my husband, I included a generous portion of grilled steak on the side.

(If you read this column regularly, you'll remember that my mother is all about moderation, hence the vegetables, and my husband David really likes his protein, hence the steak.)

As I'm typing this I'm realizing that all of my traditions involve food.

Is that bad?

I guess I'll have to get busy in the new year creating some traditions that involve crafts or exercise or music or anything non-epicurean!

Anyway, below is a recipe for a traditional cheese fondue.

This is a super easy and delicious version.

And the credit goes to good old Martha.

Cheese Fondue

Serves Eight to 10 (Or one pregnant woman and three additional adults)


  • 1 clove garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1 1/3 cups dry white wine
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
  • 8 ounces Emmenthal cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
  • 8 ounces raclette cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, optional
  • 1 loaf baguette, cut into one-inch cubes
  • Assorted (lightly steamed or raw) vegetables, such as mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower and/or pickled onions and cooked, cubed potatoes)


  • Rub inside of a fondue pot with garlic clove.
  • Discard garlic.
  • Pour wine into a saucepan and place over medium-low heat.
  • When liquid starts to bubble, start adding cheeses by the handful.
  • Stir the cheese until it’s melted and combined.
  • Whisk together lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl until cornstarch dissolves.
  • Then stir those ingredients into the cheese mixture.
  • Continue stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbling slightly, about five minutes.
  • Season with nutmeg, if desired.
  • Transfer the cheese mixture to a fondue pot and keep warm over the fondue pot warmer.
  • Serve with bread and/or vegetables.
Enjoy this cheese fondue recipe, and have a happy new year.

quick tip

Have you heard of or eaten at the U. S. restaurant chain, the Melting Pot?

Each table has a built-in fondue type "pot" and their menu consists solely of cheese, meat and chocolate fondues (they offer unique varieties of each).

An idea from their dessert fondue menu: for a little extra kick, try adding your favourite liqueur (such as Baileys, Cointreau/Grand Marnier, Chambord/Framboise or Tia Maria) to your chocolate fondue.


I really hope that they expand their franchise into Canada sometime soon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

delicious appetizers not as difficult to make as many amateur chefs think - recipes: various easy appetizers

I truly enjoy chatting with my customers and often find myself offering advice to help them sort out their culinary and entertaining troubles.

By far, the most popular dilemma this time of year is what to serve as an appetizer. I hear (almost daily) "I love making the main course but I hate making the appetizers."

Relax, there is no need to worry — below are several easy, delicious appetizer ideas to draw on when time is of the essence (which is definitely the case for me these days as a busy new mom, caterer and food-shop owner in the middle of what we call our "crazy season").

Accordingly, this column is a tad "shortter" than usual.

I wish you all a very happy holiday season filled with good friends, good family and great food. Season's eatings!

Easy appetizer ideas:

• Take some regular or Grissini breadsticks (which are longer and thinner than regular breadsticks) and coat 1/3 of the breadstick with a herb-flavoured room temperature cream cheese.

Wrap thinly sliced smoked salmon around the cream cheese portion of the breadstick.

Alternatively, spread the breadstick with mascarpone cheese (a triple-cream spreadable cheese from Italy, often used in tiramisu) and wrap with thin slices of prosciutto.

• Marinate olives (green or black, large or small, pitted or not — whatever you have on hand or enjoy most) in a bit of olive oil with chili flakes, a splash of vinegar, the zest of a small orange and pinch of sugar.

Bake them on a baking sheet in a 350-degree F oven until warm — about 11-14 minutes. Delicious served on their own or served with good-quality feta and fresh bread.

• Take a tip from Dana Shortt Gourmet's executive chef, Mark Saraiva, and wrap a log of goat cheese (you can use a plain, herb or dried fruit variety) in strips of bacon that have been already partially cooked (do not use raw bacon).

Bake in a 375-degree F oven until bacon is slightl crisp and cheese is hot— about 15-20 minutes. Serve with crackers and/or fresh bread.

• Cut an English cucumber into one-inch pieces. Scoop out the seeds with a melon baller or grapefruit spoon to form a little "cup."

Make your own mini Greek salads by stuffing the cucumber cup with crumbled feta, a half-sliced grape tomato and a half-sliced or very small (pitted) olive. Garnish with a sprig of fresh oregano.

For an even easier version, stuff the cup with good-quality store-bought olive tapenade and top with a crumbling of feta cheese or goat cheese.

• Seriously, who has the time to make fondue on the busy days leading up to Christmas Day? Make a "cheaters fondue" — take a round loaf of bread (sourdough is great) and slice off the top of the loaf, a quarter of the way down.

Cut the top into small cubes. Remove enough of the interior bread to fit a 4-inch wheel of brie or camembert inside.

Wrap foil around the bread (leave the cheese exposed) and bake in a 450-degree F oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

If you like crusty bread, remove the foil after eight minutes or so. Serve a little chutney or pepper jelly on the side if desired.

• Wrap plump, pitted medjool dates in a half strip of bacon and bake in a 375-degree F oven until bacon is crispy, about 20 minutes. If you have a few extra minutes to spare, stuff each medjool date with goat cheese, cream cheese or mascarpone cheese and a nut (pecan, almond or date) before wrapping in bacon.

The sweet date and salty bacon (and creamy cheese, if added) really works well.

For additional easy appetizer ideas (Swedish nuts, cheese plates and more) search for my earlier columns. Or, you can try the "news" page (for my newsletters) and/or the "recipe" page of my website at .

presentation tips

Presentation is key — always remember that people eat with their eyes first. Look no further than your own china cabinet for interesting vessels and stemware to present your hors d’oeuvres.

For instance, the wrapped breadstick appetizers look superb displayed in a brandy sniffer or pilsner glass (or any other funky stemware that you have on hand).

The bacon-wrapped goat cheese looks fantastic displayed on a bed of fresh herbs (thyme or rosemary work well as they don’t wilt from the heat) on a wooden cutting board, surrounded with a scattering of plain or candied nuts, some dried fruit and crackers.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

shorttbread recipe that's sure to delight foodies - recipe: whipped shorttbread

Over the last few years (at least in North America), the usage of the term "foodie" has certainly become more and more prevalent. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to explain just what the term meant to me.

After a quick Internet search for a good definition of "foodie" as well as related terms — such as gourmand, gourmet and epicure — I decided it would be a more enjoyable exercise to take the time to reflect on my food memories and experiences in order to come up with a list of foodie lookfors.

It was a lot of fun. For a bit of fun for yourself, go ahead and rate how much of a foodie you are — see how many of the following points you can identify with. To me, a "foodie" is one who:

• is more concerned about who wins the current season of Top Chef than best actress/actor at the Academy Awards.

• always has "food on the brain” (one is intrinsically a foodie — it can neither be feigned nor forced — most "foodies" have always been devoted to and delighted by food, even as children).

• wants to know where their food comes from, how it is made and, therefore, why it tastes better.

• enthusiastically discusses the details of the upcoming dinner while still enjoying lunch.

• cooks for love and takes great pleasure in preparing meals for others.

• plans vacation destinations not for the best beaches, shopping or golf courses, but for the best restaurants, food shops and wine bars.

• owns a personal copy of the following movies: Babette's Feast, Big Night and Like Water for Chocolate.

• waits in eager anticipation for the Wednesday paper in order to read the food section.

• would never be satisfied with a bowl of cereal or a bag of microwave popcorn for dinner, no matter how harried or stressed the day.

• can name a restaurant in any given major city that they are just dying to try out.

• has at least one file folder filled with newspaper and magazine clippings of recipes that they have great intentions of making one day.

• includes as one of the first five bookmarks/favourites on their web browser.

• always has the latest copy of the LCBO's Food & Drink magazine handy.

• seriously intends to write a cookbook, if only a collection of family recipes to be passed down as an heirloom.

• appreciates the value in spending the time to plan, shop for and create a special meal, snack, drink or dessert even though the experience of eating it might be over in minutes.

• owns a multitude of kitchen appliances and gadgets, recalling where each came from and knowing what each particularly is best suited for.

• appreciates all food — whether a simple omelet or a five-course feast — just as long as it is prepared properly.

• has an uncanny memory for the minutiae of past meals — and can accordingly vividly remember his/her first taste of kiwi fruit, first Thai food experience and first taste of goat cheese.

• will pick up a non-food magazine (Instyle, Coastal Living or O) in a doctor's waiting room and immediately flip to the table of contents to scan for any article related to food or entertaining.

• has purchased the movie Ratatouille for the child they haven't yet conceived.

• has a host of "signature" recipes that they love preparing and sharing (a foodie often starts planning what they are going to make for their holiday "gourmet gifts from the kitchen" in July).

At the shop, we sell loads of shortbread, especially at this time of the year.

Here is a recipe for my signature whipped shorttbread. They are very light and tender so be forewarned — they are quite fragile.

We no longer sell this particular variety of shortbread at the store because we found that packaging them into bags caused too much breakage and crumbling.

Called Shorttbread, this recipe makes a beautiful (not to mention delicious) hostess gift. Be sure to package your cookies into sturdy vessels like biscuit tins or ceramic dishes to prevent any breakage.

Signature Whipped Shorttbread


  • 1 lb. salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract


  • Cream butter in a stand mixer on medium speed (or use hand mixer) until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract.
  • Sift dry ingredients twice. Add dry ingredients slowly to the butter-vanilla mixture (in about three additions). Chill dough in fridge.
  • Roll into one-inch diameter balls on parchment-lined baking sheet and press to slightly flatten with the tines of fork.
  • Bake for about 22-30 minutes in a 300-degree F oven.
  • Makes about 25 Shorttbread cookies.

quick tip

I almost always bake (and cook) with unsalted butter, however, this recipe calls for salted butter. For best results, please do not substitute the unsalted variety.

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