Saturday, February 16, 2019

ChezCindy: Cauliflower Tabbouleh

I really enjoy eating cauliflower.  It might be my favorite vegetable.  But, I am the only one in the family who likes it.  Wait, that's not true.  My dogs love it.  The moment I start cutting the cauliflower into florets, they are at my feet sitting like pretty girls, looking up at me with puppy dog eyes.  So I share the bits of the stalk that I cut away.  They gobble it up like favorite treats.  It's good for them just as it is for us humans.  Great anti-inflammatory and good nutrition.  But my hubby, not at all.  He loathes cauliflower.

Cauliflower has come into favor in recent years.  It is so versatile.  Many people are enjoying the minced cauliflower cooked as a substitute for rice to cut back on starch and grains.  Bear with me as I step into the healthy side of life.  Cauliflower has just 25 calories per cup vs rice with 200 calories.  And the carb count is 5g per cup vs 46g for rice.  That said, it is very healthy.  But I mostly eat it because it is delicious.

Generally, I cut the cauliflower into florets and roast it with salt, pepper, olive oil, in a 400 degree oven until it is golden brown and delicious.  Rarely do I eat it raw.  The recipe I present here is contrary to that with this variation on tabbouleh.  Traditional tabbouleh is made with bulgur wheat.  I enjoy that too.  But the idea of using grated cauliflower intrigued me to change up my game by using a vegetable in place of the grain.  It is quite nice, offering a lighter version of the traditional.

The tabbouleh can be served as a main course salad for lunch, or along side of grilled chicken or fish.

Cauliflower Tabbouleh
1 medium head cauliflower
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup dried apricots, diced
1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
 a few grinds of black pepper

Remove and discard the green leaves from the cauliflower.  Cut away most of the stalk, keeping only the large florets of cauliflower.  Place the cauliflower into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Pulse until the cauliflower is broken down into small grain-like pieces.  Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl.  The pulsed cauliflower should yield about 4 cups.  Add the drained chickpeas, chopped almonds, diced dried apricots, chopped herbs and green onions.  Stir to combine.  Add the juice of one lemon, approximately 2 tablespoons, and the olive oil.  Season with the salt and black pepper, stirring to combine and coating the cauliflower grains with the dressing.  Add more lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning to meet your taste.  Allow the tabbouleh to set for a few hours to gain the best flavor outcome.  Can be served room temperature or chilled from the refrigerator.

Friday, February 8, 2019

ChezCindy: Oatmeal Sheet Tray Cookies

Oatmeal Cookies with Walnuts & Cardamom Spice 

I normally make this recipe when I want to serve ice cream sandwiches for a summer dinner party.  Grown-ups turn into giddy little kids when eating these, enjoying the simple pleasure of ice cream sandwiched by soft chewy cookies.  This time I just wanted the cookies.  Once they are baked and cooled, I always cut off the crusty edges first as they are the coveted crispy treats.  I try to snag at least one edge before my husband gobbles up all of them.  

The recipe is very simple.  Spreading the cookie dough onto a sheet tray is one-and-done.  I generally make these with toasted walnuts.  You could also create a more decadent cookie by adding white chocolate chips and dried cranberries.

Oatmeal Sheet Tray Cookies
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom or cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup + 2 tablespoons rolled oats
3/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries~optional
3/4 white chocolate chips~optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a sheet pan, 11" x 17", with foil paper, leaving 2-inches extended over the short sides of the pan.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cardamom (or cinnamon), whisking to combine.
Working with a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the softened butter to the bowl; mix until creamy.  Add in the sugars, mixing until fluffy.  Mix in the egg and vanilla until blended.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour mixture until combined.  Add in the oats, walnuts and other dried fruit and chocolate chips if using, mixing until combined.
Scrape the cookie dough onto the prepared sheet pan, spreading it into an even layer.  The dough will be a bit sticky.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven to cool.  When cool, cut into squares.  Store in an air-tight container.

If you are making ice cream sandwiches, cut the large cookie bar into two even pieces.  Spread softened ice cream over one piece, top with the other to make one giant sandwich.  Wrap in plastic and place in the freezer for 4-hours minimum or overnight.  Remove from the freezer when ready to serve, cut into smaller sandwich blocks.  

Sunday, January 20, 2019

ChezCindy: Simple Mashed Potatoes

Are mashed potatoes really so simple?  I think there is technique, and preferences, to making them.  But nothing too terribly complicated.  My husband tells a story of when he was a small boy at a holiday dinner with extended family.  He made the innocent comment that he likes is mother's mashed potatoes better than his aunt's because his mom's have no lumps.  Imagine the embarrassment at that holiday table.

I generally prefer to make mashed potatoes using Yukon Gold potatoes.  They have a creamy yellow flesh and when fully cooked, the flesh mashes easily into a lump-free texture.  I use cream, butter, kosher salt and a bit of white pepper.  A tip to consider is to always heat the cream, or milk, before adding it to the cooked potatoes.  Reason being is that keeping the potatoes hot during the mashing process is key to avoiding lumps.  Cold cream will bring down the temperature of the potatoes.  I also have the butter very soft so that it melts in quickly when added to the hot potatoes.  Or you can melt the butter too.  Salt is a must for  potatoes as they are bland without it.  My taste preference is to use white pepper, but only a pinch.  Others use black pepper, which is fine if you don't mind seeing the bits of black against the creamy pale pallet of potatoes.

Mashed potatoes take well to adding other culinary friends to change up the flavor.  I make mustard mashed potatoes to serve with mustard brown sugar salmon. recipe here  Try adding other compound butters to mashed potatoes to serve with grilled steak.  recipe here

My simple mashed potatoes recipe is below.  Follow it as is or change it up by boiling both Yukon Golds and sweet potatoes, mashing them together for a mildly sweet blend.  Add whole garlic cloves, boiling and mashing together, for a spicy kick.  Other combinations could be potatoes and celery root, or rutabaga.  Simple mashed potatoes are just the beginning.

Chez Cindy Simple Mashed Potatoes
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 cup cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
pinch white pepper

Peel the potatoes; cut each potato into 2-3 inch pieces.  Place the potatoes into a large deep pan; fill the pan with cold water to cover 1-inch above the potatoes.  Place the pan on the stove top over medium-high heat.  Place the lid on the pan, slightly askew.  Do not place the lid on fully or the potatoes will boil over.  Boil for 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender.  Remove from heat and drain the potatoes into a colander strainer.  In a small pan over medium heat, add the cream and butter to warm just until the butter melts.  Set aside.  Using a potato ricer, press the drained potatoes, a few pieces at a time through the ricer, directly into the pan they were cooked in.  Add the salt and pepper, and half of the cream/butter.  Using a wooden spoon, vigorously stir the potatoes to combine.  Add more cream/butter until you reach a creamy smooth texture.  Taste for seasoning.  Serve hot.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

ChezCnidy: Chicken Milanese with Herbed Salad

Chicken Milanese with Herbed Salad

January cooking often takes on themes whether it be "clean" or healthy cooking, cold-weather winter cooking to chase away the chill, or to avoid cooking altogether.  My focus in January, and really anytime of the year, is to focus on flavor.

January might be a good time to expand your taste buds by adding fresh herbs to the food you are preparing.  In the summer, I have my garden full of herbs ready to snip and add to my cooking.  Fortunately, fresh herbs are available year-round in most grocery stores.  Lately, I have been adding mint to more of my foods.  It livens up whatever you are eating from chicken to cauliflower or even ice cream.  The key is to add just a little at first, have a taste, and then decide if more is needed.  Mint packs a powerful punch of flavor so start slowly.

I recently made Chicken Milanese for dinner, which is simply a breaded chicken cutlet, served with salad greens and a few curls of Parmesan cheese.  I often forget to add fresh herbs to my salad, but when I remember to do so, I am always pleased with the results.  Because I am on my winter fresh herbs kick, I had mint, basil and parsley in the fridge.  I used all three in the salad.  The mint sparked the salad with a refreshing zip to the palette.  Mint might not be included on a traditional plate of Chicken Milanese, but herbs such as basil and parsley certainly would.  I encourage you to give it a try.

Chicken Milanese
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper for seasoning

1 cup canola oil for cooking the chicken

To make the chicken:  Place one chicken breast between to sheets of plastic wrap.  Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently pound out the chicken until it is an even thinness of roughly 1/2-inch.  Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Set up a dredging station with three low-sided bowls, one for each of the flour, egg, and bread crumbs.  Add salt and pepper to the flour and bread crumb; lightly scramble the egg.  Starting with the flour first, lightly coat the chicken breast with flour, shaking off the excess.  Then dip into the egg to evenly coat.  Lastly, dip into the bread crumbs to thoroughly and evenly coat the chicken.  Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Working with a large non-stick skillet, add enough oil to coat the bottom about 1/4 inch.  Heat the oil until it shimmers as the oil needs to be hot before adding the coated chicken breasts.  If your pan is large enough to hold 2 cutlets, carefully add the coated chicken one at a time to the hot oil.  Cook on this first side until golden brown, roughly 3-5 minutes.  Cooking time will depend on how thinly you have pounded the chicken.  It is desirable to have this first side deeply golden brown as this is the plate presentation side.  Once you have peeked to see the underside of the chicken and it nicely browned, carefully using tongs, turn each chicken cutlet over to finish cooking on side two.  When side two is browned, transfer each cutlet to a large tray lined with paper towels.  Sprinkle each cutlet with a bit of kosher or sea salt while hot from the pan.

Serve with an herbed green salad tossed with vinaigrette dressing.  Drizzle additional vinaigrette over the chicken.  Shave a few Parmesan curls over the top.

Herbed Salad
2 cups mixed salad greens
3 tablespoons mixed herbs, mint, parsley and basil
cherry tomatoes, halved
vinaigrette to coat lightly,  recipe here

Combine the salad greens, herbs, and cherry tomato halves into a medium bowl.  Add vinaigrette, tossing to coat.

Recipe serves 2

Saturday, December 29, 2018

ChezCindy: Smoked Salmon Croque Monsieur

Smoked Salmon Croque Monsieur

If you can make a grilled cheese sandwich, you can make Smoked Salmon Croque Monsieur.  This is simply a fancy name.  Typically, a croque monsieur is made with ham and cheese and topped with a cheese sauce called Mornay, which is a basic white sauce with grated cheese added.  When you are served a good "Croque" you will be eating a rich and delicious sandwich.  Not to be confused with a basic ham and cheese sandwich.  I know it may seem I am getting a little fussy here, but there is a difference.

A smoked salmon croque is a modified version of the traditional French sandwich.  This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Chef Eric Ripert in his book, A Return to Cooking.   I often serve these as an appetizer for dinner parties.  They are always a huge favorite.  The sandwiches would also make a nice lunch served with a crisp green salad.  

Smoked Salmon Croque Monsieur
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
8 slices thinly sliced white sandwich bread
8 ounces sliced smoked salmon
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
zest and juice of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Makes 4 sandwiches

Lay out the 8 bread slices.  I use Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread.  Evenly divide the grated cheese onto 4 of the bread slices.  Place 2 ounce of smoked salmon onto the other 4 slices of bread.  Sprinkle the chopped chives over the cheese; divide the lemon zest over the salmon along with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Close the sandwiches.  Spread the softened butter on both outer sides of the sandwiches.

Heat a large skillet or griddle pan over medium-high heat.  Place the sandwiches cheese side down and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.  Turn over the sandwiches, cooking this side until lightly browned.  Remove from the pan to a cutting board.  Cut the sandwiches in half on the diagonal, cut each half again diagonally to make triangles.  Serve hot.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

ChezCindy: Puff Pastry Sausage Appetizer

Puff Pastry Sausage Appetizer

There is so much going on this time of year.  From holiday gatherings to football bowl parties, to shopping frenzies.  We are all looking for something easy and delicious to eat.  This recipe is influenced from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.  I made these puff pastry sausages for a family gathering and they were a big hit with the youngest 5-year old child and on up to her grandparents.

The recipe is very versatile.  Ms. Garten used a lamb sausage in her original recipe.  I had chicken sausage in the freezer so that is what I used, serving it with a creamy mayo-mustard dipping sauce.  When next I make these, I want to take an Italian approach using a spicy Italian sausage and serve with a marinara sauce for dipping.  I served these as an appetizer, but they could easily stand in as lunch served with a salad.

Puff Pastry Sausage Appetizer
8 ounces fresh sausage links - 4 links
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed - such as Pepperidge Farm
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 egg, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare a large sheet tray by lining it with parchment paper.

In a medium skillet, cook the sausage for 5-10 minutes until browned and cooked through.  Allow to cool.  Once cool, if the sausage is thick and fat, cut in half length-wise.  Blot off any excess grease.

Unfold the single sheet of puff pastry.  Using a rolling pin, roll out the folds to flatten the sheet.  Cut the sheet into 4 equal squares.

Brush each square with 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  Place 1 sausage link on each square, rolling the sausage to encase it in the puff pastry.

Seal the ends by pinching them to close.  Place the pastry roll onto the prepared sheet tray, seam-side down.  Repeat with each sausage link.

Make an egg wash by beating the egg with 1 tablespoon of water.  Lightly brush each sausage roll with the egg wash.  Using a sharp knife, cut 3 slits across the top of each sausage roll.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.  Cool slightly.  Cut into 1-inch pieces.  Serve hot or room temperature.

To make the creamy mayo-mustard dipping sauce:  Combine 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise with 2 teaspoons of whole-grain mustard and 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  Stir well to combine.

Friday, December 14, 2018

ChezCindy: Smoked Salmon Latkes

Smoked Salmon Latkes with Chopped Egg

If you are looking for an easy yet impressive appetizer, this should be on your list to make.  

Latkes are usually made with grated potatoes and onion.  Here, I add grated carrots to the mix to add a bit of color, flavor and texture.  Topped with smoked salmon, chopped egg and thinly sliced green onion make this a delightful savory treat.  The latkes can be made ahead of time and kept warm in a low temperature oven.  Assemble with the smoked salmon and chopped eggs right before your guests arrive.  These are also very good at room temperature, but best when served right away.  

I encourage you not to shy away from making these as they are not difficult to make.  Promise.  If you are not a fan of smoked salmon, simply serve these plain, lightly salted, with a dollop of sour cream.  These latkes would be perfect for a cocktail party or right at home for a football bowl game.  

Smoked Salmon Latkes
1 pound russet potatoes
2 large carrots
1 small onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup vegetable oil

Sliced smoked salmon
Chopped egg
Green onion, thinly sliced

Prepare a sheet tray lining it with paper towels and a wire rack set on top of the paper towels.  This is where the cooked latkes will be placed when removed from the hot oil.

To make the latkes:  Using a food processor fitted with the grating blade, or use a box grater, grate the potatoes, carrots, and the onion.  Transfer to a large kitchen towel. Gather the towel tightly around the potato mixture and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.  

Transfer the potato mixture to a large bowl.  Add the egg, 3 tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper.  Stir until blended. 

In a large cast iron pan or electric skillet, add enough oil to cover the bottom to 1/4 inch depth.  Heat the oil to 365 degrees.  Transfer 1 tablespoon of the potato mix into the pan, gently pressing the mound to flatten slightly.  Continue to fill the pan, allowing space between each potato mound.  Cook until the edges turn crisp and brown.  Carefully flip to continue cooking on the second side.  Transfer the cooked latkes to the prepared tray onto the wire rack.  Sprinkle with additional salt.  Keep warm in a low temperature oven until ready to assemble with toppings and serve.  

Top each latke with sliced smoked salmon, chopped egg and thinly sliced green onion tops.  Serve immediately.