Friday, March 24, 2017

ChezCindy: Parchment Packet Roasted Fish

Roasted Fish in Parchment Packets

Roasting fish in parchment paper packets is fast, fresh and easy.  Learning this method of cooking allows you great flexibility as you can use any flakey white fish you prefer, such as cod or halibut, and a choice of vegetables.  Be sure to have plenty of good crusty bread on hand to sop up all of the juices that gather in the parchment pack.

Parchment Roasted Fish
serves 4
4-6oz portions of skinless white flakey fish, cod or halibut
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
2 shallots
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 ears of corn
4 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons dry white wine
fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley or cilantro
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place 4 sheets of parchment paper (approximately 16"x12" in size) on a work surface.  Thinly slice the zucchini, squash and shallots.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.  Cut the corn off the cob. 
Divide the zucchini, squash and shallot slices among the 4 sheets of parchment, arranging on one end of the paper, placing the slices into a thin layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil.  Place one portion of fish on top of the sliced vegetables.  Scatter the tomato halves and the cut corn around the fish.  Drizzle each fish with the remaining oil; sprinkling the fish and vegetables with salt and pepper.  Place a 1/2 tablespoon of butter onto the top of each fish.  Add a 1/2 tablespoons of fresh herbs to each packet.  Fold the parchment paper over the fish and vegetables.  Begin crimping around the edges of the paper.  The paper will begin to resemble a half-moon shape.  As you get to the final crimp, carefully pour 1 tablespoon of white wine into each packet.  Crimp the last edge to seal.
Place the sealed packets onto 2 large rimmed baking sheets - 2 packets of fish per baking sheet.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.  This is where you'll want to toast some bread, ready for sopping up the juices.  Place one packet onto 4 separate plates.  Carefully cut open the top of each packet (steam will escape), keeping the fish and vegetables resting inside of the packet with it's juices.  Serve as a full meal and enjoy.

A note on parchment paper:  I always have pre-cut half-sheet parchment paper on hand that I order from King Arthur Flour.  They offer it in packages of 100 sheets.  It stores well and can be used when lining half-sheet pans for baking and cooking as demonstrated here.  They also have a great selection of 8 and 9 inch round parchment paper.  So easy to use when baking cakes. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

ChezCindy: Simple & Delicious Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Always a classic pairing, toasty grilled cheese sandwich and comforting tomato soup.  Nothing fancy, just the best ingredients to elevate this to a gourmet meal.  I used a blend of cheeses for flavor and melting; and fresh sandwich bread from the local bakery.  I served my favorite homemade tomato soup, with the recipe from a restaurant in Yountville, California, Bistro Jeanty. 
Simple and satisfying.

Process for Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Use your favorite blend of cheese.  I used cheddar, fontina and Swiss.  Grate the cheese and combine.  Generously spread real butter on one side of sliced sandwich bread.  Pile the shredded cheese onto one slice of bread; top with the other slice.  Place on the griddle, butter side down, over medium high heat.  Allow the first side to brown.  Flip over to toast on side two.  Remove the sandwich to cutting board to cool for several minutes.  Serve with your favorite soup. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

ChezCindy: Roast Turkey Kale Caesar Sandwich

Roast Turkey Kale Caesar Sandwich

This sandwich came together with various odds and ends I had available.  It turned out so delicious, I had to take a picture of it.  I had beautiful whole grain bread from Beehive Bakery; baby kale from Bird Haven Farms; left-over roast  turkey breast and my homemade mayo.  I chopped the kale; massaged in some olive oil and kosher salt.  Added lemon juice and parmesan cheese for quick Caesar-style salad greens.  That alone is a good start to lunch.  A double layer of kale, plus roast turkey and mayo on toasted whole grain bread.  One word...YUM. 

List of ingredients and the process:
Whole grain bread
Roast turkey breast
Homemade mayonnaise
Baby kale leaves
Olive oil
Lemon Juice
Kosher salt
Shredded Parmesan cheese

Chop the kale leaves into ribbons; massage a small amount of olive oil into the kale (roughly 1 teaspoon to 2 cups of kale) with a sprinkle of kosher salt.  Squeeze fresh lemon juice onto the kale (roughly 1/2 teaspoon per 2 cups of kale); sprinkle in the parmesan cheese.

Toast the bread.  Spread each slice with mayo.  Place a large handful of kale salad onto the first slice of toast.  Layer on slices of roast turkey.  Add a second handful of kale salad; top with the second slice of bread.  Enjoy.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

ChezCindy: The Magic of Homemade Mayo

Making homemade mayonnaise does not require an immersion blender...but it is a whole lot easier if you do.  Hand-whisking is traditional and takes a bit of finesse.  However, the immersion method takes less than a minute and works like magic. 
Once you taste homemade mayo, you will be spoiled against any of the store bought brands.  Try this on your next sandwich.  Heavy on the mayo please. 

Easy Homemade Mayonnaise
Working with a tall, slender container that will hold at least 2 cups, add in order, 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, and then 2 cups of oil.  I use a blend of canola (1 1/2 cups) and olive oil (1/2 cup), plus a teaspoon of garlic flavored oil.  Lower the immersion blender into the container so that it sits at the bottom.  Puree for 5 seconds, then slowly pull the blender up swirling and incorporating the oil until emulsified, roughly 25 seconds.  Store the mayonnaise in a glass jar with a tight lid.  The mayo keeps in the refrigerator for a month. 

As one could easily guess, I have many kitchen tools and gadgets.  My newest favorite that I have fallen for is my KitchenAid Deluxe immersion blender.  I recently needed to purchase a new immersion blender as my old one lost it's grip to blend.  Thus, a new shiny toy for me to play with.  This KitchenAid model came with several blending attachments and extra containers in which to blend.  And I like the power it provides. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

ChezCindy: The Taming of the Roux

Mardi Gras Shrimp Etouffee

In celebration of Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday, I usually make cajon/creole food for a dinner party with a few friends.  Typically, this style of food starts with a roux.  A roux is a mix of flour and fat used as a thickening agent.  Traditionally roux is made using the stovetop burner.  This is a long process, using a low to medium flame, with constant stirring so as not to burn the roux.  A burned roux with flecks of black must be thrown out as it will not taste good when used in your final recipe.  I have learned from Food Network's Alton Brown, that the roux can easily be made in the oven.  The key in using the oven is that it provides a consistent even temperature with heat surrounding the skillet, yielding less chance for burning.  It still requires a long cooking time, but the difference when using the oven is this is passive cooking.  Stovetop time requires constant stirring attention.  Whereas the oven version only requires stirring a few times over 45 minutes. 

Process for Making Roux
Set the oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Place 1/2 cup of vegetable oil or lard, and 1/2 cup of flour in a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet.  Stir to combine.  Once the oven comes up to temperature, place the skillet on the middle shelf of the oven.  Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon 3-4 times over the course of the cooking time.  Once the roux has reached the desired color, using thick oven mitts, remove from the oven.  The roux is now ready to use.  A word of caution:  the roux is extremely hot.  Be very careful not to splash it on your skin. 

Shown below are the various stages of color when preparing a roux.  The darker the color, the more complex the flavor.  Darker roux is used for heaver meats like duck or pork.  Lighter roux is used when cooking shrimp or chicken. 

White Roux - just after combining the flour and fat

Blond Roux - after 10 minutes of cooking

Peanut Butter Roux - after 30 minutes of cooking

Mahogany Roux - after 50 minutes of cooking

Roux can be used when making Gumbo or Etouffee. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

ChezCindy: Whole Grain Chocolate Banana Bread

Whole Grain Chocolate Banana Bread

Banana bread so delicious, who cares that it is made with healthy whole grain flour.  That's just a bonus.  This easy recipe comes together quickly mixing everything by hand, yielding a tender muffin-like crumb. 

Whole Grain Chocolate Banana Bread
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup spelt flour*
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 large egg
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mashed ripe bananas - 2-3 bananas
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour standard baking loaf pan, 9x5 inch. 

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, soda and salt.  Chop the chocolate; add to the flour mix. 

In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg, then add the cooled melted butter, vanilla, banana and yogurt.  Stir to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients; gently fold together with a rubber spatula until the flour mixture is just incorporated. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake on the center rack for 50 - 60 minutes until the center of the loaf is set - a toothpick inserted should come out clean.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  Turn out onto a rack for about 60 minutes to cool completely.

This banana bread smells so amazing while it bakes and cools, you'll be tempted to eat it soon after coming out of the oven.  When baking with whole grains, it is best to allow the baked goods to fully cool so that the structure sets up, allowing the shape to take hold.  Wait to cut into this bread for a full hour.  Then, enjoy!

* If you cannot find spelt flour, use 1 cup of whole wheat or use white all-purpose flour.   

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

ChezCindy: Nothing Says 'I love you' like Cheesy Kale Chips

Cheesy Kale Chips

I don't recall how I first learned of nutritional yeast, but it was several years ago.  I must have seen it promoted somewhere for use with popcorn for a cheesy seasoning substitute.  I'm not vegan or vegetarian, but like to learn of products that may benefit my overall health.  I started out with the small container from Bragg, a well established source for health food products.  I quickly exhausted my supply and moved on to the large container from Whole Foods.  Nutritional yeast is a power source for vitamin B and a bit of protein.  It is often used as a cheese substitute and adding umami punch to vegetable soup.  I like it for it's nutritional benefit and for the taste!  I now generously sprinkle nutritional yeast on my popcorn, kale chips, and roasted vegetables.  Below is a delicious recipe for cheesy kale chips that is quite addictive.  Serve to your loved ones with abundance and share the love.

Cheesy Kale Chips
1 large bunch of kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Rinse the kale leaves and dry thoroughly with kitchen toweling or salad spinner.  Remove the tough stems and tear the kale leaves into pieces, about 3-4 inches.  This does not have to be precise, but don't tear too small as the leaves shrink while baking.  This should yield about 6-7 cups.  Place the oil, nutritional yeast and seasonings into a large bowl; stir to combine.  Add the kales leaves and massage the leaves so that the oil mixture is evenly coated on all of the leaves.  Using your hands is the best process here.

Spread the kale leaves out onto 2 large baking sheets into a single layer.  Avoid overcrowding the sheets, spreading out the leaves so that they don't overlap.

Bake in the oven for about 8 minutes.  Pull the sheets from the oven. Using a spatula, gently stir the leaves for even cooking.  Return the sheets back to the oven for an additional 2 minutes; total baking time is about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Slide the kale chips from the trays onto a paper towel.  The chips will continue to crisp as they cool.  Serve when cool.  Store in an air-tight container. 

Book pictured is Let Them Eat Kale, by Julia Mueller.  Recipe is adapted from her recipe included in the book.