Cheese for Devotees

Charles de Gaulle was once quoted as saying, “How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?” That said, it seems our provincial political leaders may have a similar problem as British Columbians have certainly close to that number of cheese offerings from our local artisan cheesemakers. From Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands to the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan and the rest of the province, we are fortunate to have a great diversity of cheeses, everything from fresh quark and ricottas, to washed rinds, blue veins to hard and sharp varieties. And the diversity continues with the four-legged creatures who provide the milk—goats, sheep and heritage breed cows.


Long gone are the days of serving cheeses simply with a fruit plate. Many of our local cheeses are wonderful to cook with, whether for a savoury entrée or sweet dessert.


These tantalizing cheese recipes use local artisan cheeses.


Herbed Tomato, Cheddar and Feta Tart

Serves 4 to 6.


Half a package (1 sheet) puff pastry, thawed

8 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 to 1 1/2 cups grated Salt Spring Island Montaña

1 to 1 1/2 cups feta cheese, such as Salt Spring Island St. Jo or Moonstruck Feta

1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 sprigs fresh thyme

1 egg, beaten


Preheat oven to 400°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry into a 9-by-13-inch rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick. Cut in half lengthwise into two narrow rectangles and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Prick entire surface evenly with a fork and fold half an inch of pastry along all 4 sides of each rectangle to form a border.


Arrange sliced tomatoes, cherry tomato halves, cheddar and feta cheeses on top of pastry. Sprinkle with oregano, season with salt and pepper and top with thyme sprigs. Brush sides with beaten egg. Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and slice each tart into 4 pieces.


Fresh Mozzarella, Pesto and Sun-dried Tomato Pizza

Makes two 10 to 12-inch pizzas.


One ball prepared pizza dough or frozen bread dough (thawed)


1/2 cup pesto

1 to 2 large balls fresh mozzarella bocconcini, such as Natural Pastures, cut into 1/4-inch slices, drained

1/2 to 2/3 cup grated Parmesan

1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, drained)

Garnish: baby arugula, extra virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 500°F.

On a lightly floured surface, divide the pizza dough in two, roll out pizza/bread dough to about a 10- to 12-inch circle, and as thin as possible, about 1/4-inch. Then stretch it out with your hands, working from the centre and using the flat of your fingers to push the dough out; it doesn’t need to be a perfect round, but you want it to be a fairly thin-based pizza, with slightly raised edges.


Lightly grease a baking sheet or pizza pan with olive oil and sprinkle a small amount of cornmeal onto the sheet. Carefully transfer the dough onto the baking sheet and bake until set and very light golden-brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and cool.


Brush pesto over par-baked pizza shells. Scatter the mozzarella then the Parmesan. Sprinkle sun-dried tomatoes on top.


Place in oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until crusts are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling. Garnish with baby arugula and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Cheese Gougères

1 cup water

6 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

3/4 cup all-purpose flour mixed with1/4 tsp salt plus 1/8 tsp cayenne

3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1/2 cup grated hard cheese such as Moonstruck’s White Grace or Little Qualicum’s Caerphilly, plus 1/4 cup finely shredded


Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat the water and butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boiling point and immediately stir in flour mixture with a wooden spoon. Beat vigorously until it forms a ball (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir 2 minutes to cool the dough.


Add the eggs and the yolk to the dough, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon until each egg is mixed well before adding the next egg. Stir in the 1/2 cup of cheese and mix to blend.


Place spoonfuls of dough (of about 1 Tbsp) on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet leaving 1-inch apart from each other. Sprinkle tops with the 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Place into oven; bake until puffed and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and poke each with a sharp knife to allow hot air to escape. Return to oven and bake for about 5 minutes more. Remove and cool on rack or sheet.

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