Sunday, July 5, 2020

ChezCindy: Mixed Berry Jam with Basil

I held a small dinner party this past week, finishing the evening with a sweet treat of berries and a beautiful cake from Joy Cho Pastries .  Perfect together.  The next day, I realized I had way too many berries leftover.  I decided to combine the berries and make a summer jam.  Making jam sounds like a daunting task but it is quite easy to do.  And the results are fruitful and rewarding.

I used a combination of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and sweet cherries, tossing the berries together, with a few sprigs of basil.  The jam tastes like summer in a jar.  You can use any mix of fresh fruit, and/or herbs being optional.  The basil gives a subtle back note of balance to the sweetness of the fruit and sugar.  Lemon juice is the natural pectin, which also adds brightness to the jam. 

Mixed Berry Jam with Basil
2 pounds of fresh ripe berries
2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 sprigs of fresh herbs, optional

Rinse the fresh fruit, patting dry with paper towels to remove the excess water.  Cut the larger strawberries into pieces, removing the stems, leaving small berries whole such as blueberries or raspberries.  Add the berries and sugar into a medium-sized deep pan.  Stir to combine.  Place the pan over medium-high heat.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring a few times to bring together.  Add in the sprigs of herbs and the lemon juice, stirring to combine.  Maintain the mix at a steady boil for about 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Using a candy thermometer, test the temperature of the jam, looking for the mix to be 220 degrees.  If you don't have a thermometer, use the cold spoon test.  Place a metal spoon in the freezer to chill it.  Dip the cold spoon into the jam.  Using your finger, swipe a line across the back the spoon.  The line should hold clear and clean with the jam staying somewhat thick in texture.  Remove the pan from the heat, allowing the jam to cool slightly in the pan. Stir the jam to find the sprigs of herbs; remove and discard the herbs.  Ladle the jam into jars, covering with lids to seal.  Allow the jam to cool in the jars on the counter.  Once cool, keep the jam in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

Friday, June 26, 2020

ChezCindy: Quick Marinated Skirt Steak

The marinade for this skirt steak is a modified recipe adapted from Pat LaFrieda, well renowned New York City butcher.  He is author to the book simply titled Meat - Everything You Need to Know.  His book is more than a recipe book.  Each chapter is dedicated to the various meats, from lamb to poultry to beef.  Mr. LaFrieda informs the reader on how to source the meat, explaining each cut and how to prepare it.  My first favorite recipe from his book is his grandmother's Sunday Sauce, which is pasta with meat sauce.  This Italian meat sauce will make you and your family very happy, using beef short ribs simmering in tomatoes and aromatics for hours.  This recipe is a must make - buy the book if for no other reason than for this recipe.  However, the book brings a wealth of information and shines with recipes you will enjoy and share for years.

Now, back to the quick marinade.  Mr. LaFrieda offers a four ingredient, five-minute skirt steak marinade.  The recipe calls for 2 cups of brown sugar for 3 pounds of steak.  I usually always follow a recipe as written the first time I use it.  This time, I altered at first use.  I cut the sugar in half.  The grilled meat resulted in a sweet-salty goodness, almost like bacon but this is beef.  At first nibble, I blurted out with joy, "This is meat candy!".  I will make this recipe again and again.  The skirt steak can be marinated from 5 minutes, as stated in the recipe title, up to 2 hours.  The steak is grilled for roughly 3 minutes per side for medium rare, letting it rest for 5 minutes before cutting into it.  Serve this with a side dish that can soak up the sweet-salty juices from the steak and marinade, such as rice or even polenta.

Five-minute Marinated Skirt Steak
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
2 pounds skirt steak
1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Combine the sugar, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, chopped garlic and rosemary leaves in a re-sealable plastic bag.  Add the skirt steak, seal the bag.  Place in the refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

Heat the grill or indoor grill pan to high heat.  Remove the skirt steak from the marinade, allowing the excess to drip away.  Dab away the excess marinade from the meat using paper towels.  This will allow for a better sear on the meat.  Season both sides with kosher salt and black pepper.  Place the steak onto the grill, cooking the first side for 3-5 minutes, allowing the marinade to caramelize on the meat.  Turn the steak onto side 2 cooking for 2-3 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 125-130 degrees.  Set the steak onto a plate to rest for 5 minutes before slicing against the grain.

Click on the link for more detail on slicing against the grain.  Slicing against the grain.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

ChezCindy: Corn & Quinoa Salad with Roasted Carrots & Mint

Try this lovely salad as a simple lunch, or serving it at a small gathering for brunch. You can roast the carrots ahead of time, even using left-over carrots roasted for last night's dinner.  Use fresh corn cut from the cob for best results. If cutting corn from the cob is new for you, follow the link for instructions on how to do so.  Fresh mint adds a refreshing finish to the salad.  And it gives you a second use to go along with the mojitos you might serve with the salad.  The recipe for the salad dressing is my standard vinaigrette.

Corn and Quinoa Salad with Roasted Carrots and Mint
2 cups fresh corn cut from the cob
4 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups roasted carrots, cut in pieces
4 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
salt & pepper to taste
Agave vinaigrette salad dressing

Combine the cut corn, cooked quinoa, roasted carrots and fresh mint into a large bowl.  Gently stir to combine.  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and a small pinch of black pepper over the ingredients.  Spoon on 1/3 cup of vinaigrette, stirring to combine.  Taste, adding more salt or dressing as desired.

Friday, May 15, 2020

ChezCindy: Carrot Cake Tea Cakes

Happy Spring!  Make this elegant yet comforting cake to celebrate each day for the gift it brings.

Carrot Cake Tea Cakes
The Cake
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup currents
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 pound carrots, grated
1/2 cup crushed pineapple

The Frosting
16 ounces cream cheese
1/2 pound butter 
1 teaspoon vanilla
a pinch of kosher salt
1 pound powdered sugar

Makes 12 large 3/4-cup cupcakes*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 3/4-cup cupcake trays by spraying thoroughly with non-stick cooking spray oil with flour. 

Working with a stand mixer, cream the sugar, oil and eggs together until pale yellow in color and well combined.  Mix in the vanilla.  In a separate medium size bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; whisk together to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing on low speed to combine.  Add in the currents and chopped walnuts, stirring until combined.  Add in the grated carrots and the crushed pineapple, mixing until combined.  

Using a large spring-loaded ice cream scoop, transfer the batter into the prepared cupcake holders, filling each cupcake well nearly full, about 3/4 full.  Place the trays on the center rack in the oven, bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the oven to cool completely.  When cool, invert the cupcakes onto a wire rack.   

Make the frosting while the cupcakes cool.  Using an electric mixer, mix the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and a pinch of kosher salt until combined and creamy.  Add in the powdered suger 1 cup at a time, mixing well.  When most of the sugar has been added, taste for desired sweetness.  Add more sugar, or stop, to your preferred taste.  Frosting should be smooth and creamy.  

Frost each cake generously.  Enjoy.

*Recipe can also make a large cake using 2 8-inch round cake pans.  Adjust bake time to 55-60 minutes.   

Sunday, April 26, 2020

ChezCindy: Asian-style Turkey Meatballs

This week I tried two new recipes.  One really delicious.  The other, just okay.  You can guess which one worked out in that I am writing about Asian-style turkey meatballs.  The other was for Japanese Fried Chicken.  The recipe looked great and I had all of the necessary ingredients.  I should have known better not to make the fried chicken.  I rarely have success with deep frying foods.  I just haven't mastered this cooking skill.  When I was a kid, my parents didn't deep fry food so I guess it is a hereditary thing.  Deep frying food requires anywhere from 6-10 cups of oil.  And then there is the question of how to dispose of all the oil.  Maybe I need to consider getting an air-fryer.  Hmmm.  Another new toy.  For now, I'll stick with roasting meatballs in the oven.

I served the meatballs as lettuce cups.  They'd also be good with fluffy rice and steamed green beans for dinner.  Or as an appetizer for a party.

Asian-style Turkey Meatballs
1 pound ground turkey
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Asian Meatball Sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce

Make the Meatball Sauce:  Combine the hoisin and the sweet chili sauce in a small mixing bowl, stirring to combine.  Set aside for use with the meatballs.

Make the Meatballs:  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Working with a large mixing bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients together, mixing until evenly combined.  Scoop out the meat mixture into 1-ounce portions to form meatballs roughly the size of a golf ball.  Place the meatballs in a single layer onto a large sheet pan with sides.  Roast the meatballs in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Remove the sheet pan from the oven, brush the meatballs with half of the sauce.  Continue baking until the meatballs are browned and reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees, about another 5-6 minutes.  Remove from the oven, brush the remaining sauce over the meatballs.  Serve hot or room temperature.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

ChezCindy: Cinnamon-Sugar Banana Bread

Just when I thought there could not be another banana bread recipe I would write about, along comes this one.

The story here is that I have been making food for our friend who is an ER doctor.  He is a bachelor and does not cook.  During this time of Stay at Home, his options for ready to eat food are limited.  One of his favorite sweet treats is anything made with bananas and chocolate.  No shortage of those 2 ingredients in this house.  I had just given him the banana muffins I wrote about recently and was pondering what to make this time.  I remembered a recipe from King Arthur Flour that was actually their Recipe of the Year in 2018.  Right.  Humble banana bread as recipe of the year.  The standout difference for this banana bread is a mix of cinnamon sugar sprinkled over the top before baking.  It forms a crackling crust as it bakes and smells heavenly.  The original recipe calls for walnuts, but could be easily substituted with chocolate chips.  The chocolate, bananas and cinnamon are a great flavor trio.  Below is their recipe.  I'll  try not to add another banana bread recipe in the near future.  I hope you enjoy this one.

Cinnamon-Sugar Banana Bread
2 cups mashed banana, about 4-5 medium size
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chocolate chips

1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with the rack in the center of the oven.  Lightly grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the mashed bananas, oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla.

In a separate smaller bowl, add the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture.  Thoroughly combine the ingredients together.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.  Mix together the topping of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar topping evenly over the banana batter.

Place the pan into the preheated oven, baking the bread for 65-75 minutes.  Check the loaf around 60 minutes to see if the bread getting too brown.   If so, loosely cover the pan with foil.  Continue to bake until a long toothpick comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs.

Remove the pan from the oven, cooling it on a rack for 20-30 minutes.  Turn the bread out of the pan and continue to cool for another 20 minutes before slicing.

Monday, April 6, 2020

ChezCindy: Sweet-tart Citrus Bars

I recently decided to make lemon bars, a favorite for a friend's birthday treat.  I had 5 whole lemons in the fridge.  I thought that would be sufficient to squeeze out 1 cup of lemon juice.  Nope.  I was already in the middle of baking the crust, so I had to decide what to do:  run to the store or improvise.  A quick search in the refrigerator bins brought discovery that I had fresh oranges.  Lemon bars were now to become citrus bars.

It is always a pleasure when an improvisation brings forward something better than the original.  Lemon bars are a childhood favorite that I have never stopped loving.  But these citrus bars might have jumped over as my new favorite.  Using a blend of orange and lemon juice brought a more balanced flavor.  There is the tartness of the lemons, but a hint of sweetness from the oranges.  I also used the zest from each, giving the bars little bits of orange and yellow speckled throughout.  Very pretty and so delicious.

Sweet-tart Citrus Bars
For the Crust:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Filling:
6 large eggs
3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest*
1 teaspoon orange zest*
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, roughly 5-6 lemons
1/3 cup fresh orange juice, roughly 1-2 oranges
1 cup all-purpose flour

Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the crust:  Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light in color and creamy in texture.  Add in the flour and salt, mix until just starting to come together.  The dough will be crumbly and not fully combined.  Transfer the mix to a 9x13-inch baking pan.  Knead the dough enough to press it into the pan creating an even crust over the bottom of the baking pan.  Chill for 15 minutes.  Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-17 minutes until lightly browned.  Set aside to cool.

Make the filling:  Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon & orange zest, lemon & orange juices, and the flour.  Pour over the cooled crust.  Bake in the oven, on the oven rack centered in the oven, for 30-35 minutes until the filling is set.  Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.

When cool, cut the dessert into squares or triangles, dust with powdered sugar.

* Remember to zest the citrus before cutting into the fruit.  It is not impossible to zest the lemon or orange after cutting into it, but it is rather difficult.