02/18/16

Everything Spiced Cheese Ball

They say that the best bagels are made in New York, but I’ve also read that Montreal makes a pretty sublime one as well. I haven’t yet had the good fortune to make it to either of these places, so I can’t speak to the validity of these claims.

All I know is the everything spiced ones are my favourite.

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The recipe that follows is for an everything bagel spiced cheese ball that is great to bring along for a party!

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Everything Spiced Cheese Ball

(recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)

6 oz cream cheese

2 Cups old cheddar, grated

2 Tbsp butter

15 chives, minced

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp black pepper

2 tsp Worchestershire sauce (skip if you are serving to vegetarian friends)

5 cloves garlic

1 shallot

1/2 Cup vegetable oil

1 tsp poppy seeds

1 tsp sesame seeds

Directions

  • In a food processor, process smooth the cream cheese, grated cheddar cheese and butter.
  • Add in the chives, salt, black pepper, and Worchestershire sauce (if using), pulsing to combine.
  • Get out a piece of cling film, and tip out the contents of the food processor onto it.
  • Gather the cling film up around the cheese, using your hands to shape it into a ball.
  • Pop the cheese ball into the fridge for an hour or two to firm up, so that it will hold it’s shape. In the meantime, you can prepare the everything spice!

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  • Thinly slice the shallot and garlic cloves.
  • Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat.
  • Shallow fry the sliced alliums in the oil until they turn crisp and just golden. Then scoop them out of the pan and set on paper towels to drain; they go from done to overdone quite quickly, so watch with care!
  • Mix together the crispy shallot and garlic pieces with the poppy seeds and sesame seeds. Tada! Everything spice!
  • When you’re ready to serve, unwrap the cheese ball, and coat it in the everything spice. Delightful!

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  • Serve with crackers, or even more true to form, bagel chips!

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01/7/14

Turning a New Leaf

It’s a new year! I hope 2014 is treating you well.

My resolution this year is to write more often. At least once a week. Scratch that. My GOAL is to write at least once a week.

As a goal rather than a resolution it won’t get tangled up in the eagerness of January only to be lost as the newness of the year fades, right?

Right!

Writing is one of those odd things. When I write often, writing is easy and there are lots of things to write about. But if I haven’t written in a while, here or otherwise, writing is difficult and it feels like there isn’t much to write about.

Here’s to a year of easy writing!

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Cha Gio (Vietnamese Spring Rolls)

(recipe adapted from Steamy Kitchen)

3 oz cellophane noodles

1 pound carrots

1 small onion

2 cloves of garlic

12 oz ground pork

8 oz ground chicken

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp salt

2 tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp fish sauce

wrappers

Directions

  • Break up the cellophane noodles into short lengths into a large bowl. Cover the short noodle pieces with hot water from a recently boiled kettle, giving them a few minutes to sit in their bath until they relax.
  • Strain the noodles and set aside to cool.
  • Finely grate all of the carrots as well as the onion and garlic. If you have a food processor with a grater attachment this would be an excellent time to make use of it.
  • To create the cha gio filling, mix well together the cellophane noodles, ground pork, ground chicken, grated carrots, onion, and garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and fish sauce until uniform.
  • Set out a wrapper (I used the 4 inch square wrappers, you could use the 6 inch square wrappers if you would like your spring rolls to be larger), and brush the edges with water to help the wrapper stick securely once rolled up.
  • Use a scant tablespoon of filling for each spring roll (more if you are using the larger wrappers), and place it just below the diagonal of the wrapper. A piping bag makes an easy job of this!
  • Bring the short end of the wrapper up over the filling, fold in the corners, and then roll up the spring roll to make a cigar shape.
  • Repeat this process with a new wrapper until you run out of filling.
  • If you’re going to eat your spring rolls right away: shallow fry or deep fry until golden, blistered, and cooked through to the middle.
  • If you are planning to wait a while before eating your spring rolls: set the spring rolls our on cookie sheets, with space between them so that they do not stick together, and freeze. Once frozen, you can put them all into a resealable container for the freezer until you are ready to cook them.
  • Enjoy with nuoc cham or plum sauce for dipping!

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So delicious! Just like at my favorite Vietnamese noodle house!

My friend Kim, who used to cook for a living, has been heard to say a number of times, “I don’t trust food with more than one kind of animal in it.” A lot of the time I agree with her. In this case I think she is flat out wrong.

 

My cha gio are a little bit deceiving. They are flavored quite simply; sugar, salt, pepper, onion and garlic are all pretty ordinary. They are in just about everything. Depending on your geographical location, or your predilections for eating Asian cuisine, fish sauce is pretty ordinary too. It is the balance struck here that is special. These basic flavor building blocks added to a whack ton of carrot, some chicken and some pork is alchemical. There’s no secret, exotic ingredient that really makes it all sing. These ingredients add up to flavor greater than what you would estimate. Delicious.

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I would love to say that you can be a little bit extra health conscious and cook your cha gio in the oven. It is January, the time of resolutions, after all. I have had no success with these lovlies in the oven, even misted with a bit of oil in hopes of them crisping up or browning. My oven baked spring rolls were pale and unpalatably dry. This is really saying something too. There is almost as much veg in the filling as animal protein, it’s a filling destined to be succulent and moist. And they managed to come out dried out!

Mr says: These are way better than store bought spring rolls! Perfect for dipping!

This time last year: Greek Salad with Sugar Snaps

And the year before: Petite Poutine

And the year before that: Parmesan Chicken

12/4/12

Who Loves a Caramelized Onion?

Looking back through the archives, I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern: what I really love is eating things with caramelized onions in them. I’ve made flatbread with caramelized onion, pears and brie, the lovely side dish cranberry mushroom pilaf, Swedish meatballs (yum!), foccacia for dipping in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, heartwarming potato and bacon soup, and gloriously luscious caramelized onion marmalade.

Apparently, what you readers out there (if you’re out there? I hope you are :P) really love a caramelized onion or two as well. Caramelized onion marmalade has been the most often searched and viewed recipe on this blog pretty much since I started writing here.

So I made this dip. This fantastic awesome dip that is chock full of caramelized onions. The onion dip of my childhood, sour cream and onion soup mix, still holds a very special place in my heart (also, it only takes about as long to make as it does to find the onion soup mix), but this dip is pretty special. So get out your ripple chips, your celery stalks and carrot sticks. It’s time to get dipping!

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Dip

(a.k.a Pierogi Dip, because fried onions, bacon and sour cream are a pierogi’s best friend)
(the love child of these recipes from Bon Appetit and Ladies Home Journal)

2 lbs onions

3 shallots

3 cloves of garlic

4 sprigs of thyme

1/4 Cup olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

5 slices of bacon

4 tsp white wine vinegar

2 1/2 Cups sour cream

1/2 Cup Greek yogurt

2 tsp onion powder

Directions

  • Get the oven heating up to 425°
  • Thinly slice the onions, shallots and garlic. This is a perfect time to get out your mandolin if you have one.
  • Mix the sliced alliums in a roasting pan with the thyme and olive oil. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the works.
  • Roast this mixture until gloriously caramelized, golden and broken down. Stir around and scrape the edges every 10 minutes or so to prevent burning and encourage even cooking. This will take ~1 hour.
  • Let the onion mixture cool. Remove the thyme stems.
  • Cook the slices of bacon until crisp, and then set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the vinegar, sour cream, Greek yogurt, and onion powder.
  • Mince up the roasted onion mixture, break the bacon into crumbles, and fold these ingredients into the creamy dip base.
  • This dip will be at its best if you make it the day before you intend to eat it, the flavors really do intensify and permeate with time.
  • Serve with chips, vegetables or anything else you would like to use for dipping!

This recipe makes a lot of dip! So if you aren’t feeding a crowd of dippers, feel free to decrease the size. We served it at a party, where it disappeared fast.

The really cool thing to take away from this recipe, other than the recipe of course, is the technique used to caramelize the onions. Stick it in the oven and stir once in a while, rather than have it in a pan on the stove top and stir a lot ore often? I’m going to take this technique elsewhere in the future, I’m sure.

Mr says: This ain’t your mama’s onion dip!

This time last year: Butter Tarts

And the year before: Labneh Cheater Tortellini