Monthly Archives: December 2009

Goat Cheese with Herbed Olive Oil

We have few Christmas traditions in my family. With all us kids grown up and no new generation to take our place, there are only a few activities we cling to during the holiday season. Gone are the days when we wrote letters to Santa and put out a plate of cookies. And we were never the type that gathered around the fire to listen to a parent read The Night Before Christmas.

But over the years we have created a few rituals that we still hold dear when the season finally arrives. The first is listening to Amahl and the Night Visitors – an opera about a poor widow and her lame son who are visited by the Three Kings en route to Bethlehem – while doing some Christmas baking.

A second, more recent, is watching the YouTube video of a house whose Christmas lights are coordinated to the operatically rock-and-roll Trans Siberian Orchestra’s Wizards in Winter – a song my mum and I both acquired permanently last year. This video, with its perfectly timed display of lighted Christmas trees and wreaths, never fails to bring on the giggles.

And third, and perhaps most important, we sit down on Christmas Eve and eat goat cheese doused in herb-and-garlic infused olive oil. With a lot of bread. And a glass or two of wine.

Goat Cheese in Herbed Olive Oil

This custom is so tied to our Christmas, in fact, that when I made it once for friends at some point outside of the holiday season, my little sister got mad at me. The word ‘sacrilegious’ may have even been used.

Like all good traditions, it is unclear when exactly it started or why.

What I do know is that the only reason we even discovered the recipe in the You Asked For It section of Gourmet Magazine was because we wanted the cookie recipe on the same page. At some point later, my mum thought to try out the goat cheese one as well.

It is almost too much to call it a recipe since the most taxing part appears to be gathering the spices and slicing the bread that goes with it. Heating olive oil with some rosemary, garlic and a few other goodies for five minutes is hardly cooking. And yet the combination of slightly grassy oil, softened garlic and the sharp heat of peppercorns mixed with rich goat cheese is so perfect. Add a slice of chewy baguette – making sure to scoop up a bit of each component – and it’s almost heaven.

Garlic, herbs and spices

Having read the recipe over before writing this, I see that it says to slice the goat cheese into eight rounds and then pour the herbed oil over top. I have no idea why we have never done this, but decided to stick to tradition – as we have so few – and leave the cheese in log form.

After all, what are the holidays without some traditions?

Flavouring the oil

Goat Cheese in Herbed Olive Oil II

Goat Cheese with Herbed Olive Oil
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, January 1994

1 small bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
1 tbsp. (15 mL) fresh rosemary leaves
¼ tsp. (1 mL) coriander seeds, crushed lightly
¼ tsp. (1 mL) fennel seeds, crushed lightly
10 whole black peppercorns
¼ cup (50 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
½ pound (250g) log of soft mild goat cheese
Sliced bread as an accompaniment

In a small saucepan simmer bay leaf, garlic, rosemary, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and peppercorns in oil for 5 minutes. Arrange goat cheese on a platter and spoon oil mixture over. Serve goat cheese with bread.

This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.

Vichyssoise

What do you get when you bring together four food bloggers and the idea to all cook something from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking? A helluva lot of delicious food and many full bellies. Not that any of us were complaining, that’s for sure.

It was all Julie’s idea. In honour of the move Julie & Julia coming out, she invited over myself, Cheryl of Backseat Gourmet, Pierre of Kitchenscraps and Gail of The Pink Peppercorn, along with everyone’s significant others. Our only task was to bring one dish out of Child’s cookbook. Since I had to work that day, there seemed to be only one logical choice: a chilled soup. That way I could make it the day before and just let it sit in the fridge at work without doing any harm and no need to reheat. The fact that it turned out to be about -29C that day made my choice seem to be a bit ridiculous. After all, who wants to eat cold soup when it’s stupidly freezing out? But, after a first course of delicious French cheeses and Julie’s homemade Raincoast Crisps (along with a glass or two of bubbly), we had all warmed up enough that it didn’t seem so bad.

Soup on the table

There is something a bit daunting too about cooking for other food lovers, particularly two who have cookbooks out and are serious players on the local (and beyond) food scene. But, I’m happy to say, this soup is stupidly good.

“Potato milkshake!” Pierre declared.

Leek and Potato

Vichyssoise

And he’s not wrong. It was a rich, thick, creamy soup (I’m sure in no small part to the 3/4 cup of whipping cream that went into it!) that was intensely flavoured. I definitely could have eaten more the bowl I had, but I’m glad I didn’t because there was more courses to come.

The other thing that happens when you bring together four food bloggers is that the actual eating doesn’t take place until after all the photographing. We were all jammed into Julie’s kitchen snapping away for a good 15 minutes or so; what the significant others were doing during that time, I know not.

Bloggers

(For the record, yes, I shot the soup earlier in the day at work because the light was better. I really need to get better at flash photography.)

And it was a fine spread that needed to be documented. Boeuf Bourguignon with mashed potatoes, ratatouille, Pommes Parisien (read: cooked in delicous oil and butter) and a work-of-art Moussaka that had us all holding our breath as it was unmolded.

Unmolding

Moussaka

Potatoes

The Spread

And that was just dinner. For dessert, Cheryl outdid herself with Reine de Saba (a chocolate cake, though that is an understatement) and a Grand Marnier Souffle that I sous-chefed with her (thanks Cheryl!)

Grand Marnier Souffle

The food was fantastic; I stuffed myself silly and felt like I needed to roll myself out to the car after. The next time we do one of these, I’m wearing stretchy pants.

All done

Most of all, though, it was great to meet some great new people and hang out with some old (as in known for longer, for the record) friends.

Conversation

This is the original recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Vichyssoise
[Cold Leek and Potato Soup]

  • 3 cups peeled, sliced potatoes
  • 3 cups sliced white of leek
  • 1 1/2 quarts of white stock, chicken stock or canned chicken broth
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons minced chives

Simmer the vegetables in stock for about 40 to 50 minutes until tender. Puree in a blender or through a food mill. Stir in the cream. Season to taste, oversalting very slightly as the salt loses savor in a cold dish. Chill. Serve in chilled soup cups and decorated wtih minced chives.

The recipe says it serves 6 to 8. We stretched it to nine with no great effect. But, then again, we had about 10 other things to eat….

And the nominees are…

I got some lovely news earlier this week. Patent and the Pantry has been nominated for a Canadian Blog Award!

This blog was a pet project for me when I started it, but I have really loved working on it over the last 18 months. I think as it continues to grow, it really is getting better and better. I have enjoyed working harder on my photos and taking on a few projects that I may not have attempted otherwise. And I have really loved connecting with you guys, who have been quick to offer compliments and advice when one or the other is needed.

So, you can check out the Canadian Blog Awards here. I’m in the Crafts, Cooking and Other Activities category. I’d love your vote, but, of course, it’s still an honour to be nominated.

EDIT: Thanks to everyone who voted! The polls are now closed

Cheers,

gwendolyn

Striped tomatoes

(The tomato photo has nothing to do with anything; I just liked it and have not had a chance to use it yet.)

:)