Friday, January 14, 2022

ChezCindy: Skillet Chili with Cornmeal Biscuits


This hearty comfort meal was inspired by a recent New York Times article written by Melissa Clark.  Ms. Clark is a staff writer for the newspaper's Food section and is also a successful cookbook author.  Her write-up provides a recipe for homemade chili, and a recipe for cornmeal biscuits baked in the same pan with the prepared chili.  I used my own recipe for turkey and black bean chili that I have here on the blog.  And then followed the directions for making the cornmeal biscuit recipe.  By the way, the cornmeal biscuits taste like the best cornbread I have ever eaten.  I highly recommend making the biscuits for any occasion.  

Skillet Chili with Cornmeal Biscuits
Homemade chili - your favorite recipe or my link shown above

1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk or cream
2 tablespoons green onion thinly sliced
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Prepare the chili using a large ovenproof skillet.  Set aside, keeping warm.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

For the biscuits:  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda.  Add the cubes of butter to the flour mixture.  Using your figures in a snapping motion, rub in the butter to combine it with the flour until the butter is incorporated into the flour.  You should see small pieces of butter among the flour.  Add in the buttermilk, sliced green onion, and cheddar cheese, stirring with wooden spoon until the mixture just comes together.  It will be wet and sticky.  

Working on your kitchen counter, lightly sprinkle the work surface with flour before transferring the biscuit dough from the bowl onto the work surface.  Sprinkle the top of the dough with a light dusting of flour.  Gather the dough into a disk gently pressing the dough into an 8-inch circle, roughly 1 1/2-inches thick.  Using a lightly floured knife, cut the biscuit dough into 8 wedges.

Arrange the biscuit wedges on top of the warm chili allowing space in between each biscuit. Brush the tops of the biscuits with a bit of buttermilk or cream, top each biscuit with a small amount of the grated Parmesan cheese.  Transfer the skillet into the hot oven, baking for 25 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown.  Remove the skillet from the oven, allow the chili and biscuits to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.  

To make the biscuits for any occasion, follow the recipe above up to the point of adding them to the top of the chili.  Instead, line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Transfer the biscuit wedges onto the parchment paper leaving a bit a space between each wedge, lightly brushing the tops with a bit of buttermilk or cream, topping each biscuit with a small amount of the grated Parmesan cheese.  Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven, cooling for 10 minutes, serve with salted butter.  

Thursday, January 6, 2022

ChezCindy: 10-year Anniversary

February 2022 marks the 10-year anniversary for me in writing this food blog.  Thank you to all who have followed me through the years and hello to all who are new to the blog!  The Chez Cindy blog offers a welcome to the "Home of Cindy's Cooking".  Quite often, many of the posts I write reflect upon the influences of my family and friends towards the food I create.  I thought it might be fun to highlight a few favorites.  

Starting off, I want to showcase Casey's Ketchup Steak.  This family favorite was a dinner my dad made for us when my four brothers, me and my sister were young kids.  It was a special treat we all enjoyed, and it gave our mother a break from cooking.  Now we make this dinner for our loved ones.  

One of my favorite posts is my yellow corn salsa recipe.  I created this summer salsa recipe using all yellow ingredients, yellow tomatoes, yellow peppers, and yellow corn.  The outcome is delicious, with the yellow tomatoes being less acidic than the red, and the sweet corn and yellow peppers adding great balance, with a bit of smokiness from ground cumin.  As I state in the original post, my brother-in-law's traditional red salsa is still the very best homemade salsa.   But my yellow salsa is a winner.  I also use it for my salmon fish tacos.


I must make mention of the various banana bread and banana muffin recipes included on my blog.  If not for all of the over-ripe bananas rejected as acceptable for husband's usual daily breakfast, I would not have so many banana recipes to choose from.  Thankfully we have a dear family friend with whom I share the baked goods.  Here is one of mine and our friend's favorite banana muffin recipe, with many more posted on the blog for you to try.  

Chocolate is a favorite theme on my blog.  One of my favorites is the post on my chocolate hero, Alice Medrich for cocoa brownies with brown butter walnuts.  The chocolate post featured below gives a nod to my sister who is masterful in making homemade pie crust.  Truthfully, throughout the years, I have struggled in making pie crust.  At times the crust would come out too tough or fall apart when I rolled it out and tried to transfer it to the pie pan.  But now I have found my go-to recipe for pie crust, and it works every time.  Much practice helps to make it perfect.  Give it a try with this recipe for chocolate chip tollhouse pie.  

Some of my favorite posts are food memories created into recipes from our travels.  Often times the restaurant will share their recipe or the recipe can be found through an internet search.  Other times, I work tediously to create a recipe strictly from my taste memory as I am unable to obtain it otherwise.  This post was created from one of our many visits to Maine for downeast salmon cakes.   

I'll close this anniversary post with one last family favorite, salmon pasta with asiago cream sauce.  The recipe is my creation from a similar dish I had at a local restaurant.  The restaurant took it off their menu and I was determined to make it at home.  I'm certain what I created is not what the restaurant served, but we liked it so much I stopped trying to make theirs and it became my own.   


I offer a big thank you to all of my supporters for tasting the results of my cooking creations for this blog and my cooking classes.  Thank you to my friend from years ago who encouraged me to start this blog and her technical support in setting it up.  

Chez Cindy

Monday, January 3, 2022

ChezCindy: Spicy Butternut Soup with Cumin & Cayenne


I have had a go-to butternut squash soup recipe for years.  The soup has a sweetness from apples used in tandem with the squash.  It is a favorite.  Recently as we were dining out for dinner, we were served a savory, spicy, butternut squash soup that really caught my interest.  The spices seemed to be cumin and a chili to bring the heat.  I had the chance to speak with the chef and he confirmed that he indeed used cumin and cayenne powder to season the soup.  The soup was very good and went well with a dry Champaigne.  Inspiration had struck and here we are.  As I often do, I began creating the dish at home.   

I roasted the squash along with an onion and several cloves of garlic.  Roasting adds color to the vegetables and a depth of flavor.  The kitchen smelled great.  Once the vegetables are cooled, the rest of the process is easy.  Simply puree the vegetables in a blender with broth until smooth, adding in salt and spices.  The result is a delicious squash soup in less than an hour and that includes time for roasting and cooling the vegetables.  I also like this recipe because there is no need to peel the squash before roasting.  

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup
1 1/2 pounds fresh butternut squash
1 large yellow onion, peeled cut in half
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, optional
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3-4 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, depending on taste preference
1 teaspoon honey

toasted pumpkin seeds to garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a sturdy sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.  Set aside.

Cut the butternut squash in half or quarters lengthwise, removing and discarding the seeds from the bulb section.  Place the squash along with the onion and garlic cloves onto the prepared sheet pan.  Drizzle the vegetables with oil, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Place the sheet pan into the hot oven, roasting the vegetables for 35-40 minutes until they are tender and lightly browned.  Set aside to cool.  

Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the squash, leaving the skin behind on the sheet tray.  Add the squash, onions, garlic, the leaves of the rosemary, and 1 cup of broth to the blender.  Blend until smooth and well pureed.  Add in the cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, cayenne, honey and 2 additional cups of broth.  Blend until combined.  Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, and/or cayenne as preferred.  Add additional broth if you prefer a thinner soup texture.   

Sunday, December 26, 2021

ChezCindy: Halibut Rillettes Appetizer


This recipe is a bit indulgent, but worth every penny for the elegant flavor it presents.  Fresh halibut is a beautiful fish, available only certain times of the year.  I have been buying it from Costco at a reasonable price.  Compared to salmon or cod, it is still expensive.  The fish is rich and only requires a small 4-6 ounces piece per person for a satisfying dinner.  I decided to make my roasted fish in parchment paper, cooking the halibut on a sheet tray using the gas grill instead of my oven.  The temperature of the grill got a bit high, sadly somewhat overcooking the fish.  It was good, but just a bit dry.  We had leftover halibut from that dinner, being way too expensive to waste.  I decided to turn it into halibut rillettes.  This turned out to be delicious salvation of a fish too dry. 

A simple creation using my same salmon rillette recipe.  For this recipe, I used only fresh roasted halibut, not having any smoked halibut.  The halibut appetizer is more delicate than the salmon, more elegant.  Each are delicious and worthy of serving to guests.  

Halibut Rillettes Appetizer
3-4 ounces of steamed or poached halibut, cooled
2 teaspoons fresh chives, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of white pepper

In a small bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir the cooked and cooled halibut to break it into small pieces.  Add in the minced chives and the lemon juice. stirring to combine.  Add the in the mayonnaise, seasoning with the salt and white pepper.  Gently stir to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spread onto toasted baguette slices or crackers. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

ChezCindy: Shaved Brussels Sprouts & Pomegranate Salad


A refreshing salad is always welcome at the table during a season of indulgent holiday food.  I like this pretty salad using pomegranate seeds and oranges, two ingredients available this time of year, particularly the pomegranates.  I used shaved Brussels sprouts and curly endive greens for the base of the salad.  If Brussels sprouts are not for you, try using thinly sliced kale or escarole greens.  The key is to use hardy winter greens that are not as prone to wilting once the salad is dressed with the vinaigrette.  Shaved radicchio would be nice too, adding even more color.  

A fun ingredient in the vinaigrette dressing is pomegranate molasses.  It adds a bit of tartness to the dressing lending some crimson color as well.  To offset the bitter greens used in the salad, I add agave syrup or honey for a balance of sweetness.  

The salad is perfect for entertaining as it can sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.  Think of this as a dish to bring to help out the host for contribution to the holiday table.  Or as the host, something you can make ahead while you finish preparing the main course.  

Shaved Brussels Sprouts & Pomegranate Salad
1 pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced 
2 cups curly endive thinly sliced into ribbons
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 orange, cut into segments

Using a food processor with the slicer attachment, or a sharp knife, thinly slice the Brussels sprouts.  Place the sliced sprouts into a medium size bowl.  Thinly slice the curly endive into ribbons, adding these to the sprouts.  Make the vinaigrette, drizzle about 1/3 cup of the dressing over the salad greens, tossing to combine.  Transfer the dressed greens to a serving platter.  Scatter the pomegranate seeds and the orange segments over the dressed greens.  Drizzle a bit more dressing over the pomegranate seeds and oranges.  The salad can be served immediately or is even better at room temperature having set for 30 minutes.  

Pomegranate Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons olive oil

Add the vinegar, pomegranate molasses, agave, Dijon mustard, and salt to a medium size bowl.  Using a whisk, mix to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking while you drizzle to emulsify the ingredients into a creamy consistency.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

ChezCindy: Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies


This cookie recipe is a celebration of chocolate and gingerbread spices.  I discovered this recipe for Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies in 2009, created by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito from Baked bakery in New York.  The recipe was published in Food & Wine magazine and has been a favorite of mine for years, and for those with whom I share the cookies.  Particularly for one young fan, all grown-up now, who gave me rave reviews at that young age wondering why I did not have my own bakery.  Thank you, Jamie.     

The dough for this cut out cookie is easy to work with.  Great for bakers who are new to rolling out dough.  It does require chilling time in the refrigerator before rolling and cutting can begin.  As long as you plan ahead, you will be pleased with the results.  If you are looking for a cut out cookie that can be baked without chilling, I have that recipe for you here.

Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup molasses
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

In a medium size bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, the spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, whisking to combine.  Set aside.  

Working with the bowl of a stand mixer, add in the softened butter and shortening, mixing until combined.  To this, add in the brown sugar mixing together until well combined.  This process will take several minutes, stopping the mixing to scrape down the sides of the bowl 2-3 times.  Add in the egg, mixing for about 30 seconds until incorporated, then add in the molasses and melted chocolate, mixing until smooth and combined, again scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Add in the flour mixture in three separate batches, slowly mixing each time until the dough is formed.  Divide the dough into 3 equal parts, wrapping each in plastic wrap, refrigerating the cookie dough until chilled, about 2 hours.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the wrapped cookie dough packages from the refrigerator, allowing it to warm a bit, for about 20-30 minutes.  Line large baking sheets with parchment paper.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick.  If the dough cracks a bit while rolling it, simply pinch it together and continue rolling.  Cut out shapes with your choice of cookie cutter, transfer each to the prepared cookie sheet.  Gather and roll out the remaining scraps to cut out more cookies.  

Bake the cookies for 7 minutes, placing the baking sheet on the center rack of the oven.  Once the cookies are baked, remove from the oven allowing the cookies to cool on the sheet tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.   Continue rolling and cutting with the remaining dough.  

Ice the cooled cookies with Mascarpone Frosting, or your favorite buttercream frosting.  

Mascarpone Frosting
1 stick, (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Working with an electric mixer, place the butter into the bowl, beating until smooth.  Add in the mascarpone cheese and vanilla until combined.  Gradually add in the powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.  Use the frosting to ice the cookies or your favorite cake or cupcakes.  

Sunday, December 5, 2021

ChezCindy: Quick Vegetable Sauté with Pasta, Sumac and Thyme


This colorful dish was created with urgency as I was really hungry and wanted to eat something wholesome and delicious that would be ready to eat in minimal time.  I was having one of those moments when I was about to grab anything in sight just to fill my belly.  

A quick look in the refrigerator led me to some pre-sliced carrots from the previous day, and left over plain gemelli pasta.  That was a good start.  From there, I went to the pantry thinking I would grab a red onion.  Instead I saw that the sweet potatoes were looking sad to the point of 'eat these soon or toss them out'.  I don't like wasting food, so I grabbed the worst looking one from the bin.  From here, I now had a theme of using orange vegetables, so I included an orange bell pepper from the fridge.  I was in process of not only creating a quick vegetable pasta dish, but having fun doing it.  Even the use of sumac to season the dish added another deep orange color as well as a wonderful note of citrus.  

The dish could actually be created with any vegetables you have available.  The key to quick cooking is to slice each of the vegetables thinly so that they sauté in a few minutes.  I used carrots, sweet potato, orange bell pepper seasoned with sumac and thyme leaves.  Thinly sliced purple cabbage, red onions, and purple Peruvian potatoes would be fun too.  Another key to quick cooking is having some foods cooked ahead and stored in batches either in the refrigerator or freezer.  I often have leftover plain pasta, cooked quinoa, and brown rice stored in plastic zip bags in the freezer ready for use.  Using canned chickpeas and other beans are useful in adding protein and texture to a main course, also quick to complete the creation.  Below is the recipe and process for the making a quick vegetable sauté with pasta.   

Quick Vegetable Sauté with Pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium size carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
2 medium size sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
8 ounces cooked pasta such as gemelli or bowtie
1 teaspoon dried sumac
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Additional olive oil for drizzling to finish the dish

Working with a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the oil is hot, add in the sliced carrots and sweet potatoes, stirring to coat in oil.  Sprinkle with half of the salt, stirring again to keep the vegetables moving and evenly cooking.  Sauté the vegetables for about 3-5 minutes, then add in the sliced peppers, stirring to combine.  Continue cooking until the vegetables are starting to be tender and mostly cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Add in the cooked pasta, stirring to combine and to heat through.  Sprinkle the contents with the remaining salt and sumac, stirring to combine.  The vegetables should now be fully cooked and tender, but still hold their shape and not mushy.  Turn off the heat, sprinkle with the fresh thyme.  Transfer the vegetables and pasta to a serving bowl, sprinkling on the grated Pecorino cheese, finishing with a drizzle of olive oil.  Serve and enjoy.