Friday, July 12, 2024

ChezCindy: Watermelon and Pineapple Salad with Feta


This recipe for Watermelon Pineapple Salad will become a go-to dish for many summers to come.  It is delightfully refreshing, with a bit of heat from finely diced fresh jalapeno pepper, and a balance of sweet from the pineapple and watermelon, perfect for a summer get-together.  

For best results, try to serve the salad soon after assembling.  To get ahead, the recipe can be made up to the point of adding the feta and fresh mint.  Refrigerate until ready to serve, then add the feta and mint, stir well and enjoy! 

Watermelon and Pineapple Salad with Feta & Mint

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, from 1 large lime
1 tablespoon agave
1 tablespoon finely diced fresh jalapeno pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1-pound fresh seedless watermelon, cut into pieces
1-pound fresh pineapple, cut into pieces
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces

In a large bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, lime zest and juice, agave, jalapeno, and salt.  Add in the chopped red onion.  Set aside to marinate for about 10 minutes.  

While the dressing is marinating, cut the watermelon and pineapple into bite-size pieces, about 1-inch.  Add the watermelon and pineapple to the dressing, tossing well to coat.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, add in the crumbled feta and torn mint leaves, tossing to combine.  Serve immediately.  

Thursday, July 4, 2024

ChezCindy: Parmesan Orzo Pasta with Black Truffle Butter


This recipe for Parmesan Orzo Pasta is one I find myself making over and over again.  I love the size and shape of the orzo pasta and how it mixes well as a support ingredient without being the star of the dish.  In this recipe, the Parmesan is the star along with the black truffle butter.  If you don't have truffle butter, you can substitute a quality salted butter such as Kerrygold, a delicious Irish butter.

Orzo is also known as "risoni" in that it resembles large grains of rice.  The rice-like shape often leads to confusion as people sometimes mistake it for rice or barley due to its appearance.  If you are not familiar with orzo, it can be found on the grocery shelf with all of the other pasta shapes.  

I have several recipes on this blog using orzo, another favorite being this one pan shrimp scampi.  But I think my all-time favorite is this orzo pasta salad.  

Parmesan Orzo Pasta with Black Truffle Butter  
1 bunch asparagus, about 10-12 stalks
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
2 tablespoons kosher salt (for the pasta water)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons black truffle butter

Serves 4

Wash and trim the ends of the asparagus.  Set aside.

Fill a large pot with water, bring to a boil.  Place the asparagus into the boiling water, stirring for 1 minute to blanch the asparagus.  Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the asparagus, setting the aside on towels to cool and dry.  

Return the water to a boil.  Add in salt and orzo pasta, stirring to combine.  Cook 2 minutes less than the package directions.  Drain into a colander.  Transfer the orzo to a bowl, drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the pasta and set aside.  

While the orzo is cooking, cut the now cool asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces, cutting on the bias.

In an 11-inch-wide skillet, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add in the cut asparagus and sliced garlic, stirring to combine.  Reduce the heat to medium, add in the cooked orzo, and 1 teaspoon of salt, stirring to combine.  Add in the heavy cream and butter, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes.  Off the heat, add in the 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and black truffle butter, stirring to combine.  Serve, sprinkling with the remaining tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

ChezCindy: Lime Pound Cake with Key Lime Glaze


Pound cakes are comforting and welcome for any occasion.  Not considered as a fancy dessert, but maybe more of a snacking cake with afternoon tea.  Personally, I like to eat it for breakfast, as well as with a glass of a crisp white wine after dinner.  This tangy lime glazed pound cake is perfect for most any occasion.  

Key limes are not essential but do add a bit more sweetness than standard limes.  Either way, the cake and the glaze are not shy on the amount of lime in flavor.  The cake could also be made with other citrus, or a combination of, such as lemon, orange, and grapefruit.  

Lime Pound Cake with Key Lime Glaze  

For the Cake 
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice

For the Glaze 
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup Key lime juice
2 tablespoons lime zest

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Generously butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, add in the flour and baking powder, whisk together then set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a large bowl and a hand mixer, combine the butter, cream cheese, and salt mixing on medium speed.  Once blended, gradually add in the sugar, mixing for 5 minutes until light in color and fluffy.  Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well before adding the next egg.  Mix in the lime zest.

Add in a third of the flour mixture, along with half of the lime juice, mixing until just combined.  Add in the next third of the flour mixture and remaining lime juice, mixing until just combined.  Add in the remaining flour mixture, mixing until just combined.  

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, filling until 1-inch from the top.  You may have some batter left over but do not use it to fill the pan.  The cake may spill over if you use all of it.  Tap the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles.  

Bake for 1 hour until the cake is set in the middle.  Check the cake after 30 minutes.  If it is browning too quickly on the top, tent with foil and continue baking loosely covered.  At 1 hour, check for doneness in the middle, baking additionally at 5-minutes intervals until fully set.  Remove from the oven, allowing to cool in the pan for 20 minutes.  Loosen the edges and turn out the cake onto a serving plate with raised edges to contain the glaze.  

Meanwhile, make the glaze.  In a glass or ceramic bowl, add in the cream cheese and butter, mixing until well blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing until fully incorporated.  Mix in the lime juice.  Place the bowl over a pan of hot water creating a double boiler stirring for about 1minute until the mixture loosens to form a glaze.  Alternatively, the bowl can be gently warmed in the microwave, heating and stirring at 20 second intervals until loose.  

Use a wooden skewer to poke holes in the now cooled cake.  Pour half of the lime glaze over the cake, letting it sit for 10 minutes.  Then pour the remaining glaze over the cake, and sprinkle with the lime zest.  

Monday, June 10, 2024

ChezCindy: Spring Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette


This spring salad of arugula and asparagus might be considered as somewhat ordinary.  Nothing special.  Maybe it is, but the magic comes from the Parmesan Vinaigrette.  By simply adding Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to the tart vinaigrette, turns this salad into a celebration.  You can use domestic Parmesan cheese or seek out the "King of Cheeses" in Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy.  

Spring Asparagus Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette 

1 large bunch of thin asparagus (about 20 stalks)
2 cups arugula
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
4-ounce chunk of Parmigiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons Parmesan Vinaigrette

Serves 4

Trim the ends of the asparagus.  Bring 1/2 cup water to boil in a wide shallow pan, wide enough to hold the full length of the asparagus.  When boiling, add in the asparagus sprinkling with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Gently nudge the asparagus in the pan to keep them partially covered, blanching them for roughly 1-2 minutes.  Transfer the asparagus and the water to a sieve to stop the cooking, running cold water over the asparagus.  Drain the asparagus on towels, setting aside to cool and dry.  Once cool, cut on the bias into 2-inch pieces.  Set aside.  

Divide the chunk of Parmesan into 2 equal pieces.  Use a grater with large holes to grate one piece.  Use a vegetable peeler to make shavings or curls with the second piece.  Set both aside.  

Make the Parmesan Vinaigrette:  
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon agave or honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano cheese

In a large bowl, add the white wine vinegar, agave, Dijon and salt, using a whisk to combine.  Slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking the entire time to emulsify.  Stir in the grated Parmesan.  

Putting it all together: 
Place the arugula, blanched asparagus, and chopped basil into a large bowl.  Add 6-ounces of the Parmesan vinaigrette to the bowl, tossing all to combine.  Evenly divide the salad on 4 salad plates/bowls, topping each with the shaved Parmigiano.  Drizzle with additional vinaigrette if desired.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

ChezCindy: Blueberry Ricotta Cake


Blueberry cake is the new banana bread.  Blueberries are available most any time of year and can be frozen for when you are ready to bake.  Thus, this moist and scrumptious Blueberry Ricotta Cake can be made as your heart desires.  Perfect for snacking on mid-day, or as a breakfast treat, or a simple dinner dessert.  

One of my most favorite blueberry baking recipes is this scone post from several years ago.  A savory use of blueberries is this delightful salad using fresh blueberries and avocados.  

Enjoy the blues.  

Blueberry Ricotta Cake
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
2 tablespoons sour cream or yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, divided
sifted powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9-inch round springform pan, set aside.

Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed for 3-5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides, then with the mixer on low, add in the eggs one at a time mixing well before adding the next egg.  Add in the ricotta, sour cream, vanilla, and lemon zest, mixing well until just combined.  

In a separate small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the batter, mixing until just combined.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in 2 cups of the blueberries.  Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smoothing out the top.  Scatter the remaining half cup of blueberries over the surface of the cake, slightly pressing them into the surface.  

Bake the cake for 50-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few crumbs attached.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack allowing the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  Remove the ring of the pan.  Lightly dust with powdered sugar.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

ChezCindy: Broccoli Spoon Salad with Brown Rice


I was not familiar with "spoon salad" until recently when perusing the New York Times Recipes.  Then again in a post by the lovely Daphne Oz.  Spoon salad is simply a matter of chopping the ingredients all to a similar size so that it can be eaten with a spoon.  Thus, creating a perfect bite each time.  

In this recipe, I take a familiar broccoli salad recipe to create a spoon salad using broccoli and brown rice.  Adding the rice makes this a hearty salad, adding toasted pecans and dried cranberries.  The salad can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for a few hours.  Be sure to set it out to bring to room temperature when ready to serve.  Grab a spoon and dig in!    

Broccoli Spoon Salad with Brown Rice
2 cups cooked brown rice, cooled
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons agave sweetener
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium heads of broccoli
1 medium granny smith apple
3 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese
3/4 cup toasted pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup toasted sunflower seeds

Prepare the brown rice as per the package directions.  Measure out 2 cups, setting aside to cool.  

In a large mixing bowl, prepare the salad dressing by adding in the Dijon mustard, agave, vinegar, and sea salt.  Use a whisk to combine.  Gradually add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil at a time, whisking in after each addition.  Set the dressing aside.

Prepare the broccoli heads by cutting off the dry end of the stalk.  Finely chop the remaining broccoli, cutting into 1/2-inch pieces, using the stalk and the florets.  Steam the broccoli for 1 minute using either a steamer basket and a pan of water on the stove top, or in a bowl in the microwave.  Remove the broccoli from the steamer, spreading it out onto a towel to stop the cooking process and to dry the broccoli.  Set aside.

Finely chop the apple, no need to peel.  Finely chop the cheddar cheese.  Chop the toasted pecans.  

Put it all together:  Add the cooked rice and steamed broccoli (both cooled) to the bowl with the prepared salad dressing.  Add in the chopped apple, cheese, toasted pecans, cranberries, and the sunflower seeds.  Using a large spoon, stir all to combine, coating the ingredients with the dressing.  Taste for seasoning, adding more salt as needed.  Serve at room temperature.  The mixed salad can be stored in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature for serving.  

Saturday, May 4, 2024

ChezCindy: Apricot Mostarda Sweet-savory Jam


Dried apricots are used to make this delicious sweet and savory, somewhat spicy, jam.  The Italian name for this condiment is "mostarda" as it uses mustard seeds to add the edge to the sweet jam, as well as crushed red pepper flakes for an unexpected taste of heat.  

Make a full recipe, or even double it, as the mostarda stores well in a glass container kept in the refrigerator for a few weeks.  Pictured here I have used the mostarda with a soft goat cheese, pistachios, and sourdough crackers.  It also works well added to mayonnaise to make a sandwich spread for turkey sandwiches served with tea for a tea party.  Most commonly, the mostarda is used as part of a charcuterie board paired with cured meats, cheeses, spiced nuts, olives, and breadsticks.  All delicious together.  

 Apricot Mostarda 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon coarse grain mustard, such as Maille
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cups dried apricots, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add in the chopped shallot and salt, stirring to combine, cooking for about 2 minutes until the shallots are soft.  Stir in the coarse grain mustard and red pepper flakes, cooking for 1 minute.  Add in the vinegar and sugar.  Bring to a simmer, stirring often until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.  

Whisk in the Dijon mustard, and 1 cup of apricots.  Bring this to a simmer, stirring often, cooking for 8-10 minutes.  The apricots will become plump and begin to thicken into a jam-like consistency.  Turn off the heat, stirring in the remaining apricots.  Cover the pan with a lid, cool to room temperature.  Serve with soft cheeses, cured meats, nuts, and with crackers or toasted crostini.

Mostarda can be stored in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator for several weeks.  Serve at room temperature.