Sunday, August 13, 2017

ChezCindy: Corn Tortilla Chips with Cinnamon Sugar Dusting

Baked Corn Tortilla Chips with Cinnamon Sugar Dusting

Making homemade tortilla chips with fresh corn tortillas is a healthy inexpensive snack.  My recently made tacos left me with an abundance of tortillas.  I normally freeze them for future use, but have found that the corn tortillas don't freeze as well as the flour ones do.  It seems the texture breaks down just a bit.  I decided to try baking them with great results.  Seasoning choices offer a wide variety from simple sea salt, to salt-cayenne-cumin, or this sweet version with cinnamon sugar. 

Baked Corn Tortilla Chips with Cinnamon Sugar
Fresh corn tortillas
Canola oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
Sea salt

Combine the cinnamon, sugar and a large pinch of sea salt in a small bow.  Stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush the corn tortillas with canola oil on each side.  Stack the tortillas and cut into 8 pieces, either triangles or strips.  Spread the cut tortillas onto a baking sheet in a single layer, without over-lapping.  This will allow the pieces to crisp evenly. 

Place the baking sheet in the hot oven; bake tortillas for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, flip over each chip and bake for 1-2 more minutes until nicely browned.  Remove from the oven.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the warm chips, gently tossing to distribute the spice mixture.  Allow to cool.  The chips will become crisper as they cool. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

ChezCindy: Salmon Fish Tacos

Salmon Fish Tacos

These salmon fish tacos feature fresh ingredients using summer sweet corn and yellow tomato salsa.  There is a bit of prep work to come together, but the salsa and the cream sauce can be made early in the day and stored until you are ready to cook the salmon.  I serve these with steamed white rice to soak up the juices that drip from the taco as you work your way through each delicious bite.  Cumin is sprinkled on the salmon and in the salsa bringing together a great flavor combination that works really well. 

Pan-Seared Salmon
Fresh Salmon
Canola or Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Cracked Black Pepper
Ground Cumin

Pat the salmon dry with paper towels.  Place a large non-stick pan over medium- high heat.  Pre-heat the pan for a few minutes; add oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over the salmon and a pinch of cumin; drizzle with a small amount of oil.  Carefully, lay the salmon flesh side down into the hot pan.  Don't move or flip the salmon for at about 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness.  You will see the salmon changing color from the pan side moving up.  When nicely seared, a spatula should easily slip under the salmon so that it can now be flipped onto the skin side.  Cook skin side for about 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat.  Flip the salmon over to skin side up.  Using tongs, remove the skin by pulling back at one corner, and pulling across the full piece of salmon.  It should remove easily.  Discard the skin.  Flip the salmon over so that the flesh side is now up.  Allow to rest in the pan for 2 minutes.  Remove from the pan until ready to build the tacos. 

Yellow Tomato Corn Salsa with Black Beans
1 1/2 pounds yellow tomatoes, any variety
3-4 small banana peppers, mix of hot or mild
1/4 cup diced yellow onions
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large or 3 medium ears of corn, cut from the cob
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Working with a food processor, cut the peppers, onions and garlic into pieces; place in the bowl of the food processor; pulse 3-4 times to combine.  Add the salt, pepper, dried oregano and cumin.  Cut the tomatoes into large pieces; add to the pepper-onion mixture.  Run the food processor for 30 seconds to 1 minute, to create a salsa-like texture.  Remove the salsa from the food processor bowl to a medium mixing bowl.  Cut the corn from the cobs; add to the tomato salsa mixture.  Stir in the drained black beans and lime juice to combine.  Adjust salt as necessary.

Mexican Crema Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients into a medium sized bowl.  Whisk to combine. 

Red and green cabbage thinly sliced
Soft flour or corn tortilla shells

To build the taco:  Warm the tortilla shells in the microwave or in a skillet.  Place a small amount of salmon down the center of the tortilla.  Add shredded cabbage, salsa and cream sauce.  Serve warm with steamed rice. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

ChezCindy: Perfect Poached Eggs

Poached Eggs with Corn Cakes

When it comes to food fashion, we are a fickle people.  Consider how eggs were a food no-no for decades thanks to their high cholesterol content.  In 2000, the American Heart Association revised its dietary guidelines and gave the green light to begin enjoying eggs once again.  Yay!

I had to ease back into eating whole eggs after eating egg whites or egg substitute for years.  I am so happy to enjoy the sunny yolks of farm fresh eggs.  I love the soft curds of scrambled eggs seasoned with butter and a bit of salt.  So simple.  Adding an egg to top off most any food changes it from plain to elegant.  Watching the ooze of the runny yolk as it mingles with a spinach salad or a plate of golden brown French fries is a culinary joy.

Poached eggs are often considered to be advanced cooking or too much trouble to deal with.  They take a bit of practice, but are really quite easy to do.  I like that the cooking process requires no additional fat.  One large egg is roughly 70 calories.  Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan for skillet cooking and we now have jumped up to 170 calories.  Delicious, but I can do without the extra 100 calories. 

Here is how to poach an egg: 
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
2 cups water

Fill a small saucepan roughly 2/3 full with water; bring to a gentle boil.  Add the vinegar.  Lower the heat to a simmer.  Crack the egg into a small cup. 

Holding the edge of the cup, gently ease the egg into the simmering water. 

Allow the egg to poach in the simmering water for 4 minutes for a slightly runny yolk.  Add or subtract 30 seconds to reach the firmness you prefer. 

 Carefully lower a slotted spoon under the egg to remove from the water.  Blot dry on a towel. 

Season and serve the warm egg as desired. 

Poached egg & fresh chives with salad greens

To make the fresh corn cakes, find the recipe from an earlier post by searching the word "corn" in the search box. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

ChezCindy: Summer Tomato and Feta Cheese Salad

Summer Tomato  and Feta Cheese Salad

Summer brings the bounty of sun-ripened tomatoes.  Fresh from the vine, bursting with flavor - so delicious and so good for you.  Tomatoes are versatile and nutrient rich.  A tomato's vitamin C content increases as the fruit ripens.  Vine-ripened tomatoes contain nearly twice the vitamin C and beta-carotene as their green-picked counterparts.  However, don't let that keep you from eating fried green tomatoes. 
This simple tomato feta salad is a great accompaniment to most any summer event be it a picnic, a weekend brunch buffet, or tonight's dinner.  You'll need the star ingredient of good tomatoes from your local farm stand, and a few other ingredients.  In this recipe I use feta cheese.  Blue cheese or curls of Parmesan cheese would go nicely just as well.  Choose your favorite and enjoy! 

Tomato and Feta Cheese Salad
5-6 small tomatoes, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Working in a medium size bowl, add the vinegar, onions, salt and pepper; stir to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to combine.  Cut the tomatoes into quarters and add to the bowl.  Gently stir to coat the tomatoes with the dressing.  Add the crumbled feta cheese and the basil ribbons; stir to combine.  Serve at room temperature.

Note:  Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature in a single layer.  Storing tomatoes in the refrigerator causes them to lose flavor and turn mealy. 

ChezCindy: Chicken Thigh Peperonata

Chicken Thigh Peperonata

Peperonata is a rustic Italian dish of cooked peppers served as an accompaniment to meat or fish.  It can be made with a blend of different types of peppers, cooked with garlic, onions and/or tomatoes.  Here I took one type of pepper and cooked it with chicken thighs, finished with butter and honey.  The honey softens the heat of the peppers, comingling with the chicken juices and a touch of butter.  Serve this simple weeknight dinner with a fresh tomato salad or a mix of greens and cucumbers with a light vinaigrette.  A complete meal in roughly 30 minutes. 

Chicken Thigh Peperonata
5 chicken thighs - bone in with skin
6 large mild banana peppers, sliced into rings
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons honey
kosher salt
ground black pepper

Season the chicken thighs with kosher salt and black pepper.  Working with a large skillet over medium high heat, add the tablespoon of oil to the pan; place the chicken into the hot pan, skin-side down.  Cook the thighs on one side for roughly 10 minutes.  Slice the peppers into rings; scatter the pepper rings into the pan with the chicken.  Season the pepper rings with salt.  Continue to cook the chicken, still on side one, and the peppers for 5-7 minutes, moving the peppers around to cook evenly.  Once the peppers have softened and cooked down, move them to one side of the pan.  Turn the chicken thighs to cook on side 2.  Side one should be nicely browned at this time.  If not, allow to cook a few minutes longer.  Once you have turned to side 2, cook for about 5 minutes until thoroughly cooked through.  Add the tablespoon of butter to the peppers.  Drizzle the honey over the chicken and peppers.  Stir the peppers through the sauce that has formed in the pan.  Remove the chicken and peppers from the pan to a serving platter.  Pour the sauce over the chicken.  Serve hot or room temperature with a fresh tomato salad. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

ChezCindy: Pasta & Zucchini Ribbons with Parmesan

Ribbon Pasta with Parmesan

As we head into mid-summer, zucchini and summer squash are available in abundance at farm markets and within our own gardens.  Zucchini has a mild flavor and is very adaptive to numerous cooking methods.  This versatile squash can be served raw in a salad; or sautéed, roasted or fried for a number of savory side dishes.  Shredded zucchini can be added to cake, bread and muffin batter creating a moist tender crumb.  I have fond memories of the first time I made zucchini bread as a young baker, seeing the little green flecks of zucchini wrapped inside the sweet bread.  A few years later I learned that adding mini chocolate chips to the batter made it even more delicious. 

There is a bit of a "zoodle" craze going on that spins zucchini and squash into faux pasta noodles.  Looks intriguing, but I have yet to invest in a zoodle-maker.  Instead, I make zucchini ribbons by using a vegetable peeler, shaving down the length of the squash to form beautiful strips that look like colorful ribbons. 

The recipe included below combines eggy pappardelle pasta noodles with the shaved vegetable ribbons, garnished with more ribbons of fresh basil and parmesan cheese.  This recipe pleases a wide variety of palettes from true veggie-lovers to those who only tolerate vegetables.   

Pasta and Zucchini Ribbons with Parmesan

4 medium zucchini, green and yellow variety
4 small carrots
1 cup red onion, sliced vertically
2 cloves garlic
6-8 ounces dry pappardelle pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh basil sliced into ribbons
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese curls

Cook the dry pappardelle noodles according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini squash and carrots into ribbons.  Slice the red onion into thin vertical slices.  Chop the garlic.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet.  Add the onion and the carrot, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Stir frequently, cooking for about 4 minutes until the onion is tender.  Add in the remaining zucchini squash and garlic, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Stir to combine with the onions and carrots, cooking until all vegetables are tender.  Remove from heat.  Add the cooked pasta to the vegetables along with 2 tablespoons of butter, remaining salt and black pepper; gently stir to combine.  Transfer the pasta and ribbon vegetables to serving platter.  Garnish with ribbons of basil and Parmesan cheese curls.  Serve warm or room temperature. 
Shown below is ribbon pasta with seared salmon, but can also accompany grilled chicken.

Friday, June 9, 2017

ChezCindy: Homemade Fresh Ricotta Cheese

Fresh Ricotta Cheese with Fruit and Crackers

If you have never given thought to making cheese at home, it's time to start thinking.  If you can heat milk in a sauce pan, you can make cheese.  It could not be easier to do.  Really.  You will be so impressed with yourself. 

This is a great way to use up milk getting close to its expiration date.  I make this recipe with whatever milk I have in the fridge, whole, 2%, or skim.  I often add in a cup of heavy cream as I usually have that too, yielding a richer ricotta.  The recipe can be scaled up or down as necessary. 

4 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

In a medium sauce pan, fitted with a thermometer, combine the milk, salt and vinegar.  Set over medium heat and cook stirring frequently.  As the temperature reaches 165 degrees, reduce the amount of stirring so as not to disturb the curds that are forming.  When the mixture reaches 190 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes. 
Carefully transfer the contents to a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth set over a bowl, to strain and separate the curds from the liquid whey.

Toss out the remaining whey or save for another use.  Let the curds continue to strain through the cheesecloth for 15-30 minutes.  Gather the edges of the cheesecloth together and gently squeeze out the excess liquid.  Refrigerate ricotta until ready to use.