Monday, February 20, 2017

ChezCindy: The Taming of the Roux

Mardi Gras Shrimp Etouffee

In celebration of Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday, I usually make cajon/creole food for a dinner party with a few friends.  Typically, this style of food starts with a roux.  A roux is a mix of flour and fat used as a thickening agent.  Traditionally roux is made using the stovetop burner.  This is a long process, using a low to medium flame, with constant stirring so as not to burn the roux.  A burned roux with flecks of black must be thrown out as it will not taste good when used in your final recipe.  I have learned from Food Network's Alton Brown, that the roux can easily be made in the oven.  The key in using the oven is that it provides a consistent even temperature with heat surrounding the skillet, yielding less chance for burning.  It still requires a long cooking time, but the difference when using the oven is this is passive cooking.  Stovetop time requires constant stirring attention.  Whereas the oven version only requires stirring a few times over 45 minutes. 

Process for Making Roux
Set the oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Place 1/2 cup of vegetable oil or lard, and 1/2 cup of flour in a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet.  Stir to combine.  Once the oven comes up to temperature, place the skillet on the middle shelf of the oven.  Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon 3-4 times over the course of the cooking time.  Once the roux has reached the desired color, using thick oven mitts, remove from the oven.  The roux is now ready to use.  A word of caution:  the roux is extremely hot.  Be very careful not to splash it on your skin. 

Shown below are the various stages of color when preparing a roux.  The darker the color, the more complex the flavor.  Darker roux is used for heaver meats like duck or pork.  Lighter roux is used when cooking shrimp or chicken. 

White Roux - just after combining the flour and fat

Blond Roux - after 10 minutes of cooking

Peanut Butter Roux - after 30 minutes of cooking

Mahogany Roux - after 50 minutes of cooking

Roux can be used when making Gumbo or Etouffee. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

ChezCindy: Whole Grain Chocolate Banana Bread

Whole Grain Chocolate Banana Bread

Banana bread so delicious, who cares that it is made with healthy whole grain flour.  That's just a bonus.  This easy recipe comes together quickly mixing everything by hand, yielding a tender muffin-like crumb. 

Whole Grain Chocolate Banana Bread
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup spelt flour*
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 large egg
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mashed ripe bananas - 2-3 bananas
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour standard baking loaf pan, 9x5 inch. 

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, soda and salt.  Chop the chocolate; add to the flour mix. 

In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg, then add the cooled melted butter, vanilla, banana and yogurt.  Stir to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients; gently fold together with a rubber spatula until the flour mixture is just incorporated. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake on the center rack for 50 - 60 minutes until the center of the loaf is set - a toothpick inserted should come out clean.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  Turn out onto a rack for about 60 minutes to cool completely.

This banana bread smells so amazing while it bakes and cools, you'll be tempted to eat it soon after coming out of the oven.  When baking with whole grains, it is best to allow the baked goods to fully cool so that the structure sets up, allowing the shape to take hold.  Wait to cut into this bread for a full hour.  Then, enjoy!

* If you cannot find spelt flour, use 1 cup of whole wheat or use white all-purpose flour.   

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

ChezCindy: Nothing Says 'I love you' like Cheesy Kale Chips

Cheesy Kale Chips

I don't recall how I first learned of nutritional yeast, but it was several years ago.  I must have seen it promoted somewhere for use with popcorn for a cheesy seasoning substitute.  I'm not vegan or vegetarian, but like to learn of products that may benefit my overall health.  I started out with the small container from Bragg, a well established source for health food products.  I quickly exhausted my supply and moved on to the large container from Whole Foods.  Nutritional yeast is a power source for vitamin B and a bit of protein.  It is often used as a cheese substitute and adding umami punch to vegetable soup.  I like it for it's nutritional benefit and for the taste!  I now generously sprinkle nutritional yeast on my popcorn, kale chips, and roasted vegetables.  Below is a delicious recipe for cheesy kale chips that is quite addictive.  Serve to your loved ones with abundance and share the love.

Cheesy Kale Chips
1 large bunch of kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Rinse the kale leaves and dry thoroughly with kitchen toweling or salad spinner.  Remove the tough stems and tear the kale leaves into pieces, about 3-4 inches.  This does not have to be precise, but don't tear too small as the leaves shrink while baking.  This should yield about 6-7 cups.  Place the oil, nutritional yeast and seasonings into a large bowl; stir to combine.  Add the kales leaves and massage the leaves so that the oil mixture is evenly coated on all of the leaves.  Using your hands is the best process here.

Spread the kale leaves out onto 2 large baking sheets into a single layer.  Avoid overcrowding the sheets, spreading out the leaves so that they don't overlap.

Bake in the oven for about 8 minutes.  Pull the sheets from the oven. Using a spatula, gently stir the leaves for even cooking.  Return the sheets back to the oven for an additional 2 minutes; total baking time is about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Slide the kale chips from the trays onto a paper towel.  The chips will continue to crisp as they cool.  Serve when cool.  Store in an air-tight container. 

Book pictured is Let Them Eat Kale, by Julia Mueller.  Recipe is adapted from her recipe included in the book. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

ChezCindy: Cookies and Wine

Cherry Chocolate Cookies

Yes, cookies and milk is the classic childhood pairing, but as we look towards Valentines Day, perhaps think a bit differently.  Consider decadent cherry chocolate cookies and a beautiful red wine.  Maybe the wine is the small amount left from dinner - as we did here.  Our discovery was that the sweet cherries highlighted the berry notes in the red wine.  And, red wine and chocolate are always fabulous together.  Make these cookies for a sweet finish to your Valentines dinner.

Wines to consider for pairing are Oregon Pinot Noir as Oregon Pinots are softer, more delicate than those from California.  Or French red Burgundy is my favorite.  Pictured here is a medium bodied Italian red wine.

Cherry Chocolate Cookies
If you can make chocolate chip cookies, you can easily make the switch to this double chocolate cookie with dried cherries and toasted pecans.  Enjoy!

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (or use chocolate chips)
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl; whisk to combine.  Set aside.

Working with an electric mixer, add the softened butter and brown sugar to the mixing bowl; mix until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs one a time, mixing until combined.  Reduce the speed of the mixer, gradually add in the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.  Add in the chopped chocolate, chopped pecans and dried cherries.  Mix until just incorporated.  Less mixing overall creates a more tender cookie.   

Scoop out 2 tablespoons of dough for each cookie, place on an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing each about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 12 minutes, or until the cookie is puffed and no longer appears glossy.  Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

ChezCindy: Easy Summer Grilling

Grilled Skirt Steak with Golden Garlic Butter

It's time for summer evening grilling.  Easy and enjoyable as you listen to the sounds of cicadas, watch the occasional flutter of a butterfly, and catch a glimpse of the beginning flicker of fireflies.  

Simple Grilled Vegetables

Keep the evening meal simple by using a compound butter.  When grilling meat, chicken, fish, vegetables or even fruit, there are a myriad of marinades, rubs and sauces available.  But one of my favorites is compound butter.  Compound butters are great to have on hand, stored in the freezer, ready to melt gently into your grilled food imparting a great impact of flavor.  I recently created a new combination using ground turmeric, garlic and fresh oregano.  The turmeric is a surprise ingredient that provides the gorgeous golden color.  Slather onto grilled steak hot from the grill, corn on the cob, and grilled bread.  Simple and delicious as you enjoy a beautiful summer evening.  

Golden Garlic Butter

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Combine all ingredients into a small bowl.  Stir to combine.  Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap.  Spoon the butter onto the plastic wrap.  Shape the butter into a log; roll up in the plastic wrap.  Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Store the remaining butter in the fridge for 3-5 days or 1 month in the freezer.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

ChezCindy: Italian Cauliflower & Tomatoes

Italian Cauliflower & Tomatoes

For those who love Italian food, but are looking to eat less pasta or meat in their diet, this is the dish for you. This recipe uses fennel seed and fresh basil to bring forward the traditional Italian flavors, resulting in a delicious main course or side dish.  Because the cooking process is quick over high heat, the cauliflower losses the bitter, strong taste that people hope to avoid. Fresh grape tomatoes provide sweetness, with Parmesan cheese to complete the dish.  And it comes together within minutes of prep and cooking time.  Try serving as a side to grilled Italian sausages or seasoned chicken breasts; or simply serve as your next "Meatless Monday" meal. 

Italian Cauliflower & Tomatoes
1 head of cauliflower
1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 teaspoons of fennel seed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 sprig of fresh basil
kosher salt and course ground black pepper

Working with a head of cauliflower, remove the green leaves, stems and core.  Slice the head in half.  Then slice into planks, providing a flat surface area so that the cauliflower will have good contact with the pan.  Next, using a large non-stick saute pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, place over medium-high heat.  Allow the pan to get hot, swirling the oil to coat the bottom.  Add the planks of cauliflower in a single layer so that all of the pieces have contact with the pan, filling in with the little bits that have crumbled.  With a large head, you may need to do this in small batches, adding more oil as needed.  Do not stir or turn for several minutes.  Using tongs, peek at the cooked side of the cauliflower plank to see if it has browned like in the picture below.  As each plank has browned, turn over so that each piece has become beautifully browned.  This just takes a few minutes.  Remove the cauliflower from the pan; set aside.

Cut the tomatoes in half and add to the pan along with additional olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Add the fennel seeds, sauteing until the tomatoes have browned and given up their juices.  Add the cauliflower back into the pan, stirring to combine.  Turn off the heat; add the grated Parmesan cheese and basil over the top and serve.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

ChezCindy: Broccoli Salad - Updated

Broccoli Kale Salad

Old-style broccoli salad is a favorite from years gone by.  You may know this salad as having raisins, lots of crisp bacon, mayonnaise, and just a bit sugar that tastes so good; just the right balance of salty from the bacon and sweetness from the sugar.  My recipe updates this family favorite by using chopped raw kale, dried cranberries, fresh grapes, and of course, fresh broccoli.  However, I don't like the tough texture of raw broccoli, so I do a quick saute just until it begins to soften.  I tried steaming it but the broccoli picks up too much moisture from the steam and then waters-down the dressing. If you're okay with raw broccoli, skip this step.  I'm a bit fussy.  I've also cut back on the amount of bacon, just using enough to appreciate the smoky flavor it lends.
Make this for your next family gathering or eat the whole recipe yourself as you binge-watch a favorite show.  No need to feel guilty - broccoli is 30 only calories per cup!

Broccoli Kale Salad

4 cups broccoli florets
3 cups kale leaves, chopped
1 cup red or black seedless grapes
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons chopped cooked bacon
1/3 cup toasted unsalted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon oil

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Chop the broccoli into bite-size florets.  Working with a large saute pan, add 1/2 tablespoon of oil and then add the broccoli florets.  Saute over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove the broccoli from the hot pan spreading it onto a sheet tray to stop from cooking further.  The broccoli should just lose some of the rawness and not be fully cooked.  This cooking step can be eliminated if you prefer raw broccoli.
Remove the kale leaves from the tough stems; chop the leaves into small strips and place in a large bowl.  Drizzle the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil over the kale leaves, sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt.  Massage the oil into the kale leaves until the leaves are dark green and softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the cooled broccoli to the kale leaves.  Cut the grapes in half and add to the bowl.  Add the diced red onion, chopped cooked bacon, sunflower seeds and cranberries; mix to combine.
In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.  Pour the dressing over the broccoli kale salad; gently toss to evenly coat,  Adjust the salt and pepper to your taste.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.