Sunday, June 23, 2019

ChezCindy: Gluten Free Tahini Brownies

I've mentioned this before, my husband has great loyalty to his favorite foods.  He eats the same breakfast nearly everyday, with the only change up being when I offer to make eggs for him on the weekends.  Most often he declines.  He takes pride in his breakfast habit.  He read an interview given by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa icon, that she too eats the same breakfast daily.  He and Ina, simpatico.  Who would have thought.  Maybe we will get that invitation to visit the Hamptons.

He also has his favorite brownie recipe.  I posted about that one too.  Chez Cindy House Brownies  This brownie recipe is truly amazing, but brownies come in many others styles.  If I had to choose my favorite, the Alice Medrich  Cocoa Brownies with Brown Butter and Walnuts might be mine.

Recently I was craving tahini brownies, as I have seen many recipes offering this combination.  I had not made them before.  For some reason, in my imagination, this was the brownie I wanted.  After a bit of research, I settled on the recipe by Milk Street with Christopher Kimball.  Below is my recipe as inspired by theirs.  The result is a rich chocolate brownie with a nutty swirl of tahini.  I made mine gluten free by using Namaste flour, which is a one-to-one substitute for all-purpose flour.

Gluten Free Tahini Brownies
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup tahini
1/3 cup gluten free flour, Namaste or other name brand*
3 tablespoons cocoa

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare an 8-inch square baking pan by lining it with 2 pieces of foil with the excess hanging over the edges on all sides.  Lightly spray with cooking oil.

In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and the chopped chocolate, stirring until just melted.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, add the eggs and sugar mixing until thickened and pale yellow in color, about 1 minute.  Add in the vanilla and salt, mixing to combine.  Add in the tahini, mixing thoroughly until combined.  Sift in the *gluten free flour, folding until combined.  At this point, spoon out 1/2 cup of the blond tahini mixture into a small bowl; set aside.  This will be added later to make the tahini swirls.

Sift in the cocoa powder; add in the melted chocolate mixture, folding until combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly.

Spoon the reserved blond tahini mixture into several dollops over the top.

Using the tip of a knife, pull through the dollops to make swirls of chocolate and blond.

Place the baking pan into the preheated oven on the center rack, baking for 28-30 minutes.  Remove from the oven, cooling on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Using the foil edges, lift the brownies from the pan.  Once fully cool, cut into squares and enjoy!

* all-purpose flour can also be used in the same amount as a subsitute

Sunday, June 16, 2019

ChezCindy: Orzo Pasta Salad with Shrimp & Feta

This salad is a humble pasta dish that when shared at a picnic or a pot luck, it quietly steals the show as the best dish at the gathering.  Everyone will begin asking "Who made this shrimp orzo salad?".  And you will demurely acknowledge it was you.  But go ahead, take in all the praise.  You have my permission.  But first, I need to give a nod to Chef Bobby Flay.  It is his recipe that I took inspiration from many years ago.  Thank you Bobby.  I have been reaping praise for Bobby's recipe for years.  Now you can too.

Orzo Pasta Salad with Shrimp & Feta
12 ounces orzo pasta, uncooked
1 English cucumber
3-4 green onions
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of black pepper
6-ounces feta cheese
1 pound cooked, peeled medium size shrimp (16-20 count)

For the dressing:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Cook the orzo pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside to cool.

Cut the cucumber in half length-wise.  Using a small spoon, remove the seeds by scraping along the length of the cut side of the cucumber.  Dice the cucumber into 1/2-inch pieces.  Thinly slice the green onions, using both the white and green parts.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.  Combine the orzo, cucumbers, green onions and tomatoes into a large bowl.  Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper over the pasta and vegetables, gently toss to combine.  

Make the dressing by placing the vinegar, fresh dill, mustard, honey, salt and pepper into a blender or small food processor; blend until smooth.  Remove the top pour spout - not the lid - from the blender or processor.  With the motor running, slowly add the oil to the mixture to emulsify the ingredients into a smooth dressing.  If your blender or processor does not have a pour spout, add the oil 1/4 cup at a time, blending thoroughly before adding the next 1/4 cup.

Pour most of the dressing over the pasta and vegetable mix, reserving about 1/4 of it to adjust to your taste, stir to combine.  Add in the feta cheese by crumbling it over the mix.  Fold in the cooked peeled shrimp.  Taste for seasoning.   Add in more dressing, salt and pepper as needed.  Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

ChezCindy: Steak & Mushrooms with Bourbon BBQ Sauce

This recipe gives you a new way to jazz up your summer cookouts by grilling steak and glazing it with your favorite BBQ sauce.  I have included a recipe for my homemade go-to BBQ sauce, with or without the bourbon!  My BBQ sauce is mustard based and adds the standard ingredients of brown sugar, molasses, and ketchup.

I like to use sirloin steak for this recipe in place of more expensive cuts such as strip steak or rib-eye.  The sirloin has great beef flavor and pairs nicely with the BBQ sauce.  The key is to cook the sirloin to medium-rare, or at most, medium.  If you cook it further, the meat may be too tough.  For tips on preparing less expensive cuts of steak, Click here

Be sure to try using the blackberries as instructed in the recipe.  They are surprisingly a great compliment to the sweetness of the BBQ sauce, adding great balance to the plate.

Steak & Mushrooms with Bourbon BBQ Sauce
1 pound Sirloin Steak
16 ounces cremini mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped herbs, parsley, chives & thyme
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
salt & pepper

3/4 cup Bourbon BBQ Sauce

To make the mushrooms:   Gently wash the mushrooms to remove any dirt, dry with paper towels.  Thinly slice the mushrooms; set aside.  Working with a large non-stick skillet, add 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Melt the butter/oil mixture over medium-high heat.  Once the butter is melted, add the sliced mushrooms.  Cook the mushrooms over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Once the mushrooms have lost most of their moisture and begin to brown in color, turn off the heat.  With the heat off, add the tablespoon of bourbon to the mushrooms, stirring to combine.
Turn the heat back on to medium, add in the minced garlic, chopped herbs, stirring to combine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Add in the fresh blackberries stir to combine, cooking for 1 minute.  Turn off the heat and set aside.  Prepare the steak.

To make the Steak:  Allow the steak to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Heat a grill, either indoor or outdoor, to medium-high heat.  Season the steak with salt and pepper on both sides, drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the steak.  When the grill is hot, place the seasoned steak onto the grill, cooking this side for 4-7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steak.  Flip over to finish cooking the steak to medium rare, or the desired temperature of your preference.  Once you have flipped to side two, generously spoon the BBQ sauce onto the steak.  When the steak is cooked to temperature, flip over and spoon side two with a small amount of sauce, leaving extra BBQ sauce for serving at the table.  Remove the steak from the grill.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing to serve.  Serve the sliced steak with a scattering of mushrooms and blackberries, with extra BBQ sauce on the side.  A note about slicing steak across the grain to achieve tender slices, click here .

To make the BBQ sauce:
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
black pepper

Measure out each ingredient into a small sauce pan.  Place the pan over a low flame, stirring to combine, heating for 3-4 minutes.  Turn off heat and set aside.

To make this a Bourbon BBQ sauce:  In a second small sauce pan, add 1/2 cup of bourbon, heat over high heat, cooking until the bourbon reduces to 1/4 cup.  This will take roughly 10 minutes.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, dissolving the sugar.  Turn off the heat.

Add the bourbon to the prepared BBQ sauce, stirring to combine.  Taste for seasoning, adding more black pepper as desired.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

ChezCindy: Farm to Table Cooking Classes

If you have ever gone to the farmers market and were inspired by the bounty and beauty of the seasonal produce and artisan goods, you will love these Farm to Table cooking classes offered at the Farmers Market Saturdays in Westerville!

I've created recipes featuring the products from farmers and producers from the Westerville Saturday Farmers Market.  

Each month I will teach a 90 minute class showcasing different recipes using the products from the market vendors.  You will have a front row opportunity to learn how to prepare an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and a few other bonus recipes!  Plus tasting and enjoying the food prepared during the class.  I'll teach you the tips and techniques to recreate the menu in your own home.  

Come join me this farm market season.  Classes start in May and run through October.  Let's cook, eat, and have great fun! 

Below is a sneak preview of some of the recipes we'll be making together.  See class detail by clicking on Farm to Table Cooking Classes 

Savory Zucchini Tart with Basil Pesto

 Yellow Tomato Corn Salsa

 Roasted Heirloom Tomato Tart

 Apple Cucumber Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Shopping at the Farmer's Market provides kitchen inspiration.  Theses cooking classes will teach you how to turn your inspiration into delicious cooking creations!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

ChezCindy: Special Occasion Seared Scallops

Seared scallops are a special occasion meal that needs little adornment.  But, proper buying and cooking is essential.  First, a bit of education on buying scallops.  I encourage you to seek out scallops that are dry packed, as opposed to wet packed.  Wet packed scallops have been soaked in a solution of salted water, including phosphates, that causes the scallops to swell up with this solution.  The solution causes the scallops to be heavy and therefore cost more by volume.  These scallops also tend to be older because the salty solution preserves them for a longer shelf-life.  The dry packed are just that, dry with no soaking in any salty solution.  Therefore, you are not paying for the extra water weight.  These may be more expensive in the cost per pound because they are fresher and have a shorter shelf.  But they are far superior in taste and quality, worthy of the extra price per pound over the wet packed.  

Dry scallops caramelize beautifully like you see in the picture above.  Wet scallops rarely reach this level of color as they have too much liquid to cook out, leaving you with a pale, overcooked, not so tasty outcome. How do you know if scallops are wet or dry packed?  Ask the fish monger.  They should know and tell you.  If they do not, shop elsewhere.  It is good to have a fish monger you know and can trust.   

Seared Scallops
8 large dry packed scallops
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
sea salt
white pepper

3 tablespoons butter for a sauce

Place the scallops onto a paper towel to dry them on each side.  Remove the small muscle on the side, which may already have been removed for you by the seller.  This part of the scallop is tough and chewy, unlike the silky scallop meat.  Season the tops of the scallops with just a soft sprinkling of sea salt and a slight pinch of white pepper.  

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Once the pan is hot, add the butter and oil.  Swirl the pan to combine.  Carefully place each scallop into the pan seasoned-side down, allowing space in-between each scallop.  Sear on this first side for roughly 2 minutes.  You should see the brown crust forming around the edges of the scallop.  It's okay to peek underneath to see the progress of how well it is browning.  If it is not fully golden, allow it to brown a minute longer, but reduce the amount of cooking time for side 2.  You will want this first side to be a richer brown color than side 2.  Flip each scallop over to brown the second side, cooking for only 1 minute, maybe 90 seconds.  The scallop will be translucent white in the middle.  Remove from the pan and place onto the serving plates.

Once you have removed the scallops, place the pan back onto the stovetop with the heat off.  Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter.  Swirl the pan to melt the butter.  There is enough residual heat in the pan to quickly melt the butter.  Pour the melted butter over the plated scallops.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy.  

Saturday, April 27, 2019

ChezCindy: Sugared Shortbread Cookies

When you are feeling fancy, you can call these beautiful cookies Sables as they are known in France.  Here in America, we know them as shortbread cookies.  They are a classic slice and bake cookie like you can find premade for you at the grocery store.  But so much better if you make them at home with fresh butter, farm eggs and sugar.  There are only 5 ingredients in the recipe and it is not difficult to make.  You can even have the kids help with this recipe.  What I like about this type of cookie is that you can make the dough ahead of time, roll it into a log, and store it in your refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap until you are ready to bake it into cookies.  The unbaked log can also be frozen for weeks in the freezer.  I find it a great convenience to have homemade frozen cookie dough in the freezer, ready for me when I want a sweet treat.

Sugared Shortbread Cookies
2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks, save the whites
2 cups all-purpose flour

Decorating sugar

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add the sugars and salt, beating until well combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in the egg yolks, beat until combined.  With the mixer off, add in the flour.  Mix on low speed until the flour is mostly incorporated.  Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl to mix completely using a rubber spatula.  The dough will feel soft and tender.  Transfer the dough to your work surface, divide into 2 pieces.  Shape each piece into a smooth log, roughly 8-inches long.  Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours, but 24 hours is best.  The dough can be kept in the fridge for 3 days or frozen for 6 weeks.

Once you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove 1 log from the refrigerator.  Unwrap the log, placing it on a sheet of wax paper.  Using the leftover egg whites slightly whipped, brush the sides of the log with the whipped egg whites as a "glue" to allow the decorating sugar to stick to the log.  Generously sprinkle the log with the decorating sugar.

Using a thin-bladed sharp knife, slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies.  Place the cookie rounds onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Place the sheet tray into the preheated oven onto the center rack.  Bake the cookies for 17-19 minutes, baking one sheet tray at a time.  Keep the remaining dough in the refrigerator until ready to bake.  You will know the cookies are done when they are light brown on the bottoms and the edges, with the tops remaining pale.  Remove the tray from the oven, letting the cookies stay on the sheet tray for 1-2 minutes.  Slide the parchment paper with the cookies in place off the tray and onto the counter to continue cooling.  Cookies are ready to eat when completely cooled.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

ChezCindy: Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon

When I presented this salmon recipe at a cooking class, it was received with rave reviews.  Students later sent emails reporting on their success, and that they too received rave reviews from their family.
The salmon is quick to prepare on a busy weeknight, yet elegant enough to serve at a dinner party.  I decided to make it recently because I wanted something "healthyish" but also full of flavor.  The whole grain mustard is prominent but highlighted with a touch of sweetness from brown sugar and a delicate hint of honey.  You can use a side of salmon as I have done here, or cut into smaller 6-ounce portions.  Be sure to line your baking sheet with foil for easy clean up.

Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon
4 6-ounce salmon filets
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  In a small bowl, whisk together the mustards, brown sugar, and honey.  Place the salmon filets onto the foil-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle the oil over the salmon filets.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Generously spoon the mustard glaze onto the top of each salmon filet.  Some of the glaze may run over the side.  Place in the hot oven, baking until the salmon is firm to the touch, an internal temperature of 125 degrees, about 12-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the salmon.  Remove the baking tray from the oven.  Allow the salmon to rest for 3-5 minutes.  Carefully slide a spatula under the salmon, leaving the skin behind on the foil-lined sheet.  Serve hot or at room temperature for a buffet-style meal.