Saturday, August 15, 2020

ChezCindy: Savory Corn & Parmesan Custard Soufflé

I have been bringing home farm fresh corn on the cob from my favorite farm stand for weeks now.  Making many of my favorite recipes using fresh corn.  Or, simply eating it buttered and salted straight from the cob.  After a few weeks, I went searching for new corn recipes.  I had never made corn custards before, sometimes referred to as corn pudding.  You can compare this old-fashioned recipe to a quiche, but without the crust.  The combination of corn and Parmesan cheese makes a decadent first course or side dish served in individual ramekins.  

Corn & Parmesan Custard Soufflé 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ears fresh corn
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups heavy cream
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Grease eight 6-ounce ramekins with the 2 tablespoons of butter,  Set aside.

Place a kettle of water on the stove to boil.  The hot water will be poured into a large roasting pan, surrounding the filled ramekins.  This "water bath process" will result in tender, delicate custards. 

Working with a deep large bowl, cut the kernels from the corncobs.  Season the corn with the tablespoon of salt.  Seems like a lot of salt, but this is the salt for the entire custard batter.  

In a cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Transfer the corn kernels to the hot skillet, cooking the corn for about 2 minutes, stirring the continuously.  Remove the corn from the skillet, allow to cool.

In a bowl or extra-large measuring cup with a pour spout, whisk together the cream, eggs, nutmeg and cornstarch until thoroughly combined.  Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese.  

Once the corn is cool, evenly divide the corn among the 8 buttered ramekins.  Carefully pour the custard mixture into the ramekins over the corn.  If the cheese has sunk to the bottom of the custard, use a large spoon to portion the cheese into each ramekin.  Using the large spoon, gently lift the corn from the bottom of the ramekin to distribute the corn and the Parmesan throughout the custard.  Place the filled ramekins into a large flat-bottomed roasting pan.  Transfer the roasting pan to the oven onto the center rack.  Fill the roasting pan with the hot water from the kettle, surrounding the ramekins with enough water to rise half-way up the sides of the ramekins.  Be careful not to get any water into the custards.  Bake the custards for 20 minutes, rotate the pan 180 degrees for even cooking.  Continue roasting for another 20 minutes.  

After 40 minutes of cooking time, if the tops are not brown, increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Continue cooking the custards for 5-7 minutes until golden brown, rotating the pan every minute or two for even browning on each custard, and the custard tops are slightly puffed.  

Remove the roasting pan from the oven.  Keep the custards in the pan with the water to cool slightly, about 10-15 minutes.  Once cool, use a clean towel to remove each ramekin from the hot water.  

Serve warm or at room temperature.  

Sunday, August 9, 2020

ChezCindy: Salty-Spice Peach Pie Bars

It's peach season.  I hope you are fortunate enough to have access to lovely fresh peaches.  Or even better, to be able to pick your own peaches from a local orchard.  My friend and I have a tradition to drive about 40 miles east of where we live to pick peaches every August.  Truthfully, it is more about the adventure than picking the peaches.  This year we dealt with just a bit of rain, but we didn't mind.  We each came home with a full peck of beautiful peaches.  Most of which I have shared with my neighbors.  A peck is a lot of peaches.

Right away when we got back from our adventure, I began a search of peach recipes.  I had forgotten how many recipes I have on this blog for peaches.  But I am making room for one more.  This simple recipe came from an internet search landing on Martha Stewart.  I have taken a basic recipe and added spice to the peach filling, using cinnamon, cardamom and ginger.  The salt is increased in the dough making it a salty shortbread, complimenting the spice added to the peaches.  None of the ingredients overpowers the other, yielding a balance of salt, spice and sweet.  The corners and the edges have a nice chewy texture, coveted in this household, with softer center pieces which are perfect served with vanilla ice cream.  

Salty-Spice Peach Pie Bars
1 stick plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (extra butter for the pan)
1 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon - divided
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/4 pound peached, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch dice (3 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ginger

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.  Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.  This will help in removing the peach bars from the pan.  Butter the parchment paper.  

Working with a mixer, combine the butter and 1 cup of sugar in the mixing bowl, beating until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the salt to the butter mixture, beating to combine.  Add in the flour, combining on low speed until loosely combined, but not fully together.  Remove 2 and 1/2 cups from the mix, adding this to the prepared baking pan.  Press the dough into the bottom of the pan and 1-inch up the sides of the pan.  The "walls'" formed up the side of the pan will contain the peaches and juice once added to the dough.

Cut the peaches into 1/2 inch pieces, leaving the skin on is okay but removing the pit.  Add the cut peaches to a medium size bowl.  Add in the sugar and the fresh lemon juice.  Stir to combine.  Add in the salt and the spices, stirring until well combined.  

Transfer the peaches, pouring onto the prepared crust.  Crumble the remaining dough evenly over the peaches, squeezing the dough into clumps.  Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top of the dough.  Place the pan into the hot oven, baking for roughly 1 hour and 10 minutes.  The top will be golden brown and the peach juice bubbling up through the top crumble crust.  Remove the pan from the oven, cooling the peach bars in the pan for 20-30 minutes.  Using the parchment paper overhang, lift the peach bars from the pan onto a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.  Cut into squares and serve as is, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  

Friday, July 31, 2020

ChezCindy: Zucchini Squash Carpaccio

Classic Carpaccio is an appetizer made of thinly sliced raw beef served in a single layer on a platter, topped with either a creamy white sauce or lemon juice and olive oil.  This old-style appetizer has been re-invented for today's modern palate such that almost anything sliced thinly and served on a platter to be dubbed as carpaccio.  How fun is that?  The possibilities are endless with summer produce.  

I have been enjoying zucchini squash carpaccio for some time now.  I like to serve it at the end of my work day as a little nibble with a glass of white wine while I prepare dinner.  Lately, I have been making it for breakfast along side of my eggs in place of toast.  That combo is really good together and it allows me to take a break from the delicious bread I have been making.  

There are two important keys to making zucchini squash carpaccio.  The squash must be evenly sliced into very thin pieces.  Use a mandolin or a food processor.  Second, do not add salt to the pan until the end of the cooking process.  Adding salt right away will cause the natural liquid to leak out of the squash yielding a steamed mushy outcome.  We want the squash to be brown and crisp from the direct heat of the pan.  Here's how to make it.  

Zucchini Squash Carpaccio
2-3 small zucchini or yellow squash
2 teaspoons oil
pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Thinly slice the squash using a mandolin or a food processor.  Place an extra large non-stick sauté pan  over medium-high heat.  Drizzle the oil around the pan to evenly distribute.  Add the squash slices to the pan in a single layer.  It is important that the slices are not piled up on top of each other.  You want each slice to have direct contact with the pan.  At this point, just let the squash slices cook in the pan without moving them around.  This is very passive cooking.  Once you to see the edges begin to curl up and browning occurring on the underside of the slices, you are almost done.  There is no need to turn over the slices as they are fully cooked by this time.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the squash, and pepper if you prefer.  Remove the squash from the pan onto a platter into an even layer.  Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.  Top with some chopped fresh herbs if you have them.  Basil or chives would be nice.  

The Zucchini Squash Carpaccio is great served hot from the pan, but is also delicious at room temperature.  Serve as an appetizer nibble, or as a side dish for dinner or breakfast.   

Saturday, July 18, 2020

ChezCindy: Sloppy Joes with Homemade Sloppy Sauce

I developed this Sloppy Joes recipe for a children's cooking class thinking it would please the palette of young people.  But I find myself making it all the time for our grown-up taste buds.  My husband requests it often.  It is an easy make-ahead meal that reheats well, served on soft toasted buns.  I usually sauté a mix of vegetables to serve along side for a complete meal.  The secret ingredient for the sloppy sauce is the McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning.  Without the seasoning blend it lacks the zip which makes these Sloppy Joes appealing to grown-ups.  But the kids liked it too.  Even the young fella who said he hated mustard.  This children's recipe brings big smiles and happy bellies.   

I have made this with ground beef and ground turkey.  Both are delicious.  

Sloppy Joes with Homemade Sloppy Sauce
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1-pound ground beef or turkey
8-ounce can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon mustard
4-ounces ketchup
1/2 teaspoon McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning

Butter for toasting the buns

Working with a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil, chopped onion and bell pepper, and salt.  Stir together, cooking until the vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes.  Raise the heat to medium-high, add in the ground meat, breaking up into small crumbles; cook until the meat has browned deeply.  Add in the tomato sauce, rinsing out the can with the 3 tablespoons of water, adding the water to the pan.  Stir in the brown sugar, mustard and ketchup, stirring to combine.  Sprinkle in the steak seasoning, stirring occasionally until the sauce is thickened.  Taste for seasoning and adjust to your taste.  I usually sprinkle in a bit more steak seasoning to make the "joes" more zippy.  

Butter the buns for toasting in a separate skillet.  Serve a generous portion of the Sloppy Joes onto each bun and enjoy. 

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.