Recipes

Cherry cheese (cheat) pierogi

It’s National Cheesecake Day, a.k.a. the thousandth time I’ve wished we had The Cheesecake Factory in Canada (yes, cheese-centric dessert is something every man, woman and child needs within waddling – er, driving distance), because you can get a slice for half-price there today.

Anyway. Cheesecake is delectable on its own, but in my opinion, it’s best served with a tart fruit topping (one of my favourites was a key lime cheesecake my dad made me for my birthday a few years ago. There was lime zest flecked in the mixture that made it look uncannily like sour cream and onion chips). For a match-made-in-heaven pairing, there’s only one fruit that fits the bill: Cherries. It’s a classic for a reason.

Cameo by my hideous mutilated cutting board

Cameo by my hideous mutilated cutting board

I’m pegging this entry to National Cheesecake Day, because although I can’t bake (except for a killer apple pie – does that absolve me?), I can riff on cherries and cheese like nobody’s business. Let’s talk cherry cheese pierogi, shall we?

I’ve had wonton wrappers in my fridge for a period of time that falls somewhere after embarrassing and before food poisoning. I’m pretty sure I bought them to make a decadent-looking squash ravioli in the dead of winter and probably went out for it or something equally lazy in the end. I forgot about them until two things happened on the same day: I bought both sour cherries and sweet Bing cherries from my grocery store (I feel a possessive impulse toward “my” grocery store because it’s so much more special than an average chain); and we talked about cherry cheese pierogi at work. Basically a sign from the universe, right? I know. Carry on.

I wanted to wait to make them until I had someone to share them with (okay, someone to show off for – I’m already mildly impressed with myself on average so I can just eat the same salad every day and a flimsy protein source), but it was worth it. I highly recommend the cheat version of pierogi (hell, pasta, turnovers, anything else that requires dough) with wonton wrappers if you’re short on time or baking-challenged, like me.

Here’s my attempt at a recipe:

Cherries2

Cherry cheese “pierogi”

(Makes about 20 with doubled-up wonton wrappers and more than a few casualties)

– Package of wonton wrappers
– 1/2-ish cup sour cherries, pitted and chopped
– 1-ish cup Bing cherries, pitted and chopped
– 1 tbsp honey
– 3/4 log of plain goat cheese
– Egg wash, for sealing

1. Start with the cherry mixture. Add your pitted, chopped cherries and honey to a small saucepan and cook on medium until they start to get soft. Add water (or more honey, if you’re feeling decadent) to the pan as needed if they’re sticking. When they’re soft, turn down the heat to low and simmer, smushing with a potato masher or wooden spoon until they reduce to a thick substance.

(Because I’m all about the cheats with this recipe, you can do exactly what I did, which was to put all that stuff in a bowl and microwave it until they were soft. I’m writing stovetop because I think it would’ve worked a bit better, but my easy way totally worked, too. Hooray, options!)

Also, preheat your oven to 350F now, because it probably takes an agonizingly long time to heat up, like mine.

Cherry-cheese

2. Once cherries have reduced, take them off the heat and add the goat cheese. Mix until combined. It should look like a questionable face scrub.

3. Start filling your “pierogi” by plunking a dollop of your cherry-cheese mixture in the centre of the wonton wrappers.

Three tips here: 1. Flouring your wonton wrappers makes them easier to work with and less prone to tears – just add a bit of flour to work surface, no need to coat them or anything; 2. You may need to double up. If your wonton wrappers are particularly thin/old/moist like mine were, there’ll be teeny holes through which the mixture will keep escaping. It’s cool, just be sure to bake them longer; 3. Don’t add more than a quarter-sized amount of mixture to your wontons, they won’t seal properly. You’ll get it after a few failed attempts, like I did, regardless.

4. Brush two edges of the wrapper with egg wash, fold it over and use a fork to press down and seal.

5. Repeat 3 and 4 for what seems like forever, until you run out of mix or wonton wrappers. This recipe worked out pretty evenly for me, I think I had two or three wonton wrappers left in the end.

6. When you’ve finished filling and sealing your pierogi, put them on a tinfoil-lined (viva cheats, man, no dishes!) baking sheet with enough space that they aren’t touching ([insert weird joke about leaving room for The Holy Spirit here and then delete it because, what? You didn’t even go to a Catholic school]).

7. Bake the pierogi until the outside is light brown like a toasty marshmallow (I undercooked mine a bit, so just pretend they all look the ones at the edges of the pan in this picture). You can also boil them until they float and then fry them in a pan for outside crispiness, which would be even better. I was afraid mine would burst because of my flimsy wrap-work, so I baked them and they turned out fine just the same. Smacznego! (Google says this is the Polish-equivalent of bon appetit.)

Pierogi-foil

Have you ever used wonton wrappers? I’d love to hear your cheats, cherry-cheese musings, and of course, any recipes you’d like to share in the comments below. If you have been to The Cheesecake Factory, I await a detailed description of your visit and your dessert choice. Happy National Cheesecake Day!

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Merlot cheese
Flavour of the month, Pairings, Profiles

Flavour of the month: Sartori Merlot BellaVitano

Many great passions have a meet-cute that becomes crystallized like a firework in the sky, but I don’t remember much about how or when my appetite (in every sense of the word) for cheese developed. I do remember the place I found my first love in cheese, one I list among my all-time favourites and routinely devour: Sartori Balsamic BellaVitano.

I picked it up like any other cube on a sample tray at one of my favourite places to try new cheeses, Algoma Orchards in Bowmanville, Ontario, where I grew up. I visit as often as I can and always earmark a wedge of Balsamic. The last time I went, they were cleaned out. Not a crumble! I’d had Sartori’s Raspberry Ale and Espresso BellaVitanos as well as Balsamic, but had yet to try the Merlot, which they had in stock. Here’s what I found:

Sartori Merlot BellaVitano tasting notes
– Tangy, sweet, rich
– Sweet-sour fruitiness, like currant
– Salty at first bite
– Creamy but firm, slightly crumbly when chilled
– Strong wine taste, especially in the aftertaste – here, you get full-bodied flavour like you’ve swished a dry Merlot around your mouth
– Very slight hints of mould and wax at the rind, along with stronger, more bitter wine taste

Merlot cheese

The rind’s looking worse for wear after inheriting the pattern of the wrapping in my fridge, but look at that colour.

All of Sartori’s BellaVitano cheeses are immersed in tantalizingly-pungent liquids and rubs, so it’s no surprise that the Merlot practically oozes wine (if the burgundy rind hadn’t already tipped you off). Saying I loved it seems like such an inevitable result that it feels like saying “Hey, good call on shelving that razor, Tom Selleck.” I mean, it’s wine and cheese. I’d be worried about the implications if I didn’t love it. Really.

That said, it still doesn’t top Balsamic BellaVitano for me. I like my crumbly crystals of fruity tang like I like Bradley Coopers – limitless. In that respect, Balsamic beats Merlot. But damn, wine and cheese, together as one? I’ll be back for more.

Bradley-Cooper-Cleaning-His-Apartment-In-Limitless-Gif

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Wish
Cheesy musings

Cheesy musings: Unfamiliarly uninspired

I always intended to serve cheesiness in both the animal by-product form and a metaphorical incarnation on this blog. I like the idea of widening the meaning of cheesy things to include really, anything that can be called cheesy. It used to be easy for me to trumpet cheesiness – in the best, emotional sense – in writing. Then I went to journalism school and had a literary lobotomy – in the best, challenging sense. But there is still a place in my heart for cheesy essays. So here goes.

I have been feeling uninspired lately. You would likely expect this from looking at my blog thus far, which I refuse to backdate, because it has been spotty in its frequency at best.  But  I am talking about a lack of emotion altogether: Sister of apathy, cousin of boredom, a feeling I have wrongfully always dubbed in my head absent-minded. It is the description I relate most to, though not because it’s at all accurate. It actually feels like my brain has gone elsewhere, like I have not only been an inactive participant in my goings-on but a complete spectator.

It is the furthest feeling from my spectrum on an average day. One of my boyfriend’s favourite quirks to make fun of is my tendency to be overly excited about something at any given time, no matter how insignificant. Puppies (well, duh), a promotional nail file when I wanted one for my purse, special-edition quarters (holla, Vancouver 2010 ice dance), hand soap in said boyfriend’s bathroom when I’d been draining body wash out of bacterial necessity, wearing my turquoise running shoes on a day I’m reading about mermaids (shut up, they’re totally related) – it often doesn’t really matter.

I was walking home from work today, feeling absent-minded and trying to feel stunned by the universally-appealing colours, smells and weather bounding about my neighbourhood, when I heard a little boy – who I happen to live next door to – ask, firmly but plainly: “When will my energy be back?”

This normally-exuberant little munchkin was feeling the slump, too, all chipper red rubber boot evidence to the contrary.

My porch

So I took a step back, literally, and sat on my porch for a while, hoping that the sludgy, half-assed dissatisfaction might ooze out of my ears and be whisked away by the wind that had whipped up suddenly in the hour prior. Wishes (that is, dandelion seeds, but always wishes to me) were also jetting through the air, though I couldn’t help but view them as strutting purposefully, as if rushing to an appointment they had been looking forward to – projecting, I know.

I had caught one the day before and was struck by the idea that I could catch one, again. Make a wish! It might be a jolt.

I approached one and clasped it, swiftly, I thought. I had missed entirely, turning just quickly enough to see it sashay out of my peripheral. My fist stayed firmly clenched from the effort, as if the outcome had absolutely no bearing on the action’s effectiveness. I sat back down and found a bit of solace in surveying the leaves, maple seeds, wishes and other soothing detritus literally catching the breeze to go about their business. I thought of a line from The Fault in Our Stars, which I recently finished: “The universe just wants to be noticed.”

As if to prove my point, a maple key jerked my vision forward as it blew upward, a trajectory that seemed physically impossible. I realized it was a butterfly.

Gotcha.

I revelled in the coincidence-or-sign while the little boy appeared almost at my side, at the steps of his house, joined to mine at the middle.

“Dada, can I pick some mint to bring with us?” He bent to pluck a leaf from their jungle of a garden and reappeared with one the size of his hand, examining it as he walked away. The breeze brought a whiff of sharp sweetness to me, a fleeting sliver of heightened sense, and then it was gone.

I caught the next wish.

Wish

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