Monday, August 30, 2021

ChezCindy: Grill "Roasted" Potatoes


 Potatoes & vegetables ready for the grill. 

I had a craving for roasted potatoes but did not want to turn on the oven to a high heat roasting temperature in the "dog-days" of summer.  So I turned to my gas grill to meet the craving. 

This is one of those dishes that is more of a process than a recipe.  My main ingredient was Yukon Gold potatoes.  Then I went to the pantry for other vegetables to roast along with the potatoes.  I had sweet Vidalia onions, red onions, poblano peppers, serrano peppers, red bell pepper and garlic.  My must have herb was fresh rosemary from my garden.  This was my combination.  But many other vegetables would work in combination to what you have and what you like.    

Working with a black iron skillet (very grill-proof) I first lined the pan with foil for easy clean-up.  I wanted to be sure the potatoes had direct surface exposure to the heat, so I placed them cut side down in the center of the pan.  Drizzled them with olive oil, with a generous sprinkle of kosher salt.  Then, nestled around the potatoes went the remaining vegetables of peppers, onions and garlic, each cut into pieces.  I gave all another sprinkle of salt and a dash of McCormick's Grill Seasoning for extra zip, with the fresh rosemary placed on top of the potatoes.  The iron skillet went onto the preheated hot grill, temperature around 425-450 degrees.  I cooked the mix of potatoes and vegetable untouched for about 40 minutes.  No stirring, no concern for too much color.  Once the potatoes were cooked through, browned and tender, I removed the pan from the grill.  And only then did I stir to combine.  

The potatoes and vegetables roasted beautifully and were perfect with burgers.  Just what my craving was seeking.  

Sunday, August 29, 2021

ChezCindy: Sundried Tomato Pesto with Gemelli Pasta


The recipe for this Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta came from an Instagram post I saw from Giada De Laurentiis.  Her site is titled giadzy.  The video caught my attention seeing how easy it is to make, but a search of her web site provided the recipe. 

Giada added the sundried tomato pesto to gemelli pasta for a delicious dish shown above.  The pesto is also really good on its own for other uses.  I have used it topped on my morning eggs for a zippy breakfast.  Toss the pesto with roasted zucchini to bring a bright flavor to this mildly flavored vegetable.  It is also makes a wonderful summer appetizer drizzled on toasted sourdough bread with a glass of chilled crisp white wine.  Very summery.  

Sundried Tomato Pesto with Gemelli Pasta
1 jar sundried tomatoes, 7-8 ounces
2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounces gemelli pasta, or similar shape
Additional grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Drain, and set aside.  

Working with a food processor, add the sundried tomatoes, including the oil from the jar, and the garlic, process to combine.  Add in the fresh basil, salt and pepper, process to combine.  Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese.  

Add the drained pasta to the pesto, tossing to coat.  Add in about half of the reserved cooking water to loosen the sauce and help coat the pasta.  Taste the pasta for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed to taste.  Drizzle with olive oil and additional Parmesan cheese and serve.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

ChezCindy: Jammy Breakfast Pastry Twists


I have kept folders of recipes torn from magazines and newspapers for years and years.  Before getting organized with the folders, I simply had stacks of loose paper recipes in no order.  But that was long ago.  Now I have folders with categories labeled by the protein type, vegetable group, two folders for dessert recipes, with a separate folder just for chocolate desserts.  A folder for breakfast recipes, one for quick breads and muffins, sides dishes and sauces, appetizers, and so on.  Of course now we can find recipes on the internet, blog sites, and way more digital media.  But I still like the paper recipes that I can thumb through, finding what I have in mind.  Pulling out the tattered and stained copy of a well-loved recipe.  

The pastry pictured here was made from a recipe photocopied from Gourmet Magazine 2004.  Their titled name was Glazed Apricot Twists.  Since I was using this recipe for a young chefs cooking class, I gave it a new name that they might relate to better:  Jammy Breakfast Pastry Twists.  Not only did they like the name.  They LOVED the pastries!  Below is my adaptation of the Gourmet Magazine recipe.  

Jammy Breakfast Pastry Twists
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farm
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cream or half/half

Thaw the puff pastry according to the package directions.  Keep chilled until ready to make the pastries.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large sheet tray with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Remove one sheet of puff pastry from the package.  Store the second sheet in the refrigerator for another use.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry sheet to a 12x10-inch rectangle.  Cut the sheet in half lengthwise.  Cut each half crosswise into 4 pieces, each piece being 5x3-inches for a total of 8 pieces.  Spread each piece with 1/2 tablespoon of jam.  Fold each piece in half lengthwise to form a 1 1/2-inch wide strip.  Twist each strip three times and place the twisted strip onto the parchment paper lined sheet tray, pressing the ends of each strip to hold it in place on the tray.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of pastry.  

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and puffed.  Remove the tray from the oven, allowing to cool for a few minutes.  Transfer each pastry to a cooling rack set over a piece of parchment paper.  

Combine the powdered sugar with the cream, stirring to form a smooth, creamy glaze.  Using a pastry brush, brush the sugar glaze over the pastries.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

ChezCindy: Shakshuka-style Eggs with Ratatouille


Shakshuka is a North African dish made with simmering tomatoes, onions, and spices with poached eggs.  Here I made it using ratatouille, a dish with origins in the South of France made from summer ripened vegetables including tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers and more.  

I really look forward to this time of year when the summer produce is at it's peak.  With so many colors, shapes and variety of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, I cannot help but to bring home way more than I can use.  I always make ratatouille, akin to being a slow simmered vegetable stew with an abundance of olive oil to give it richness.  

Last summer I learned that ratatouille can be frozen without compromise in texture and quality.  I made a batch of it out of necessity as the vegetables were getting too ripe.  I made the vegetable stew and decided to try freezing it, not knowing how it would last.  Months later in the deep of winter, I thawed it and heated it to discover it was wonderful, bringing a bit of summer to that cold winter day.  I will be freezing more this summer.  

Ratatouille sounds fancy, but it is simply a farmer's harvest of vegetables.  I use a recipe from Jacques Pepin.  Who better to learn from than the master chef himself.  Below is my interpretation of Chef Pepin's classic ratatouille recipe.

Classic Ratatouille
3/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 medium eggplant, 8-10 ounces, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 medium zucchini, 8-10 ounces, cut into 1-inch cubes
12 ounces yellow onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 bell peppers, cored, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
5-6 medium size ripe tomatoes, coarsely cut into pieces
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Using a large stock pot over medium heat, add 1/4 cup of the olive oil to the pan.  Sauté each of the cut vegetables separately, beginning with the eggplant.  Cook the eggplant cubes for 6-8 minutes until softened.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant to a large bowl.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of oil to the pan, continue sautéing with the zucchini for 5-6 minutes, remove to the same bowl with the eggplant.  Next, sauté the onions and pepper, adding 1 teaspoon of salt and a bit more olive oil, stirring together, cooking for 5-6 minutes until softened, but not browned.  Remove to bowl with the other vegetables.  Add in the tomatoes, chopped garlic, water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper, stirring to cook for 5-6 minutes.  Return all of the cooked vegetables from the bowl to the pan, adding these to the tomatoes.  Stir to combine, bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about an hour, stirring a few times.  

Remove the cover, increase the heat to medium, cook for another 20 minutes to reduce some of the liquid.  Taste for seasoning, adding in more salt and pepper as desired.  Stir in the remaining olive oil, adding more if desired to richen the sauce.  Serve the ratatouille hot or warm with pasta or rice, or spooned over cooked chicken or fish.  Also very good simmered as the poaching liquid for eggs.    

Friday, July 23, 2021

ChezCindy: Fresh Strawberry Meringue Pie


I had the good fortune of receiving fresh picked local strawberries this week that I had not planned upon.  Suddenly, I had gorgeous berries that needed to be eaten within a day or two.  Not a bad situation to be in.  I made jam with some of them, also baking flakey homemade biscuits for breakfast.  Such a treat.  With the remaining lovely ripe berries, I decided to make a fresh strawberry pie.  I have never seen a strawberry meringue pie but that was what I had mind.  I found a recipe for a fresh strawberry pie that was topped with whipped cream, most common for fresh strawberry pies.  I replaced the whipped cream with a cooked meringue for a fluffy marshmallowy topped pie.  It was delicious and fun to make!

Here's is how to make this lovely pie.

Fresh Strawberry Meringue Pie
Bake a single 9-inch pie crust in a pie pan as directed by your favorite recipe, or use a store-bought crust, baking and cooling.  Set aside for filling and topping the pie. 

For the Filling:
2 pounds fresh strawberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons strawberry preserves
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Cut the strawberries into quarters or in half if they are small.  Transfer 2 cups of the cut berries to a small saucepan and crush with a potato masher.  Place the remaining strawberries into a large bowl, setting these aside for later use.  Add the sugar, preserves, and cornstarch to the saucepan with the crushed berries.  Set the saucepan over medium heat, stirring the contents and cooking until the mixture comes to a boil.  Cook at a boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Turn off the heat, add the cooked strawberries plus the lemon juice to the fresh strawberries in the large bowl.  Gently stir to coat the fresh strawberries with the cooking berry mixture.  Transfer the berry mix to the prepared baked and cooled 9-inch pie crust.  Cool for 3-4 hours.  

For the Cooked Meringue:
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 large egg whites, room temperature

Place 1 cup of sugar, 5 tablespoons of water, and the cream of tartar into a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, cooking at the boil for 4 minutes.  While the sugar mixture is cooking, whisk the egg whites as described below.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites to the clean mixing bowl.  Beat on high speed for 2-3 minutes until soft peaks form.  Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, whisking until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. 

With the mixer running, slowly and carefully drizzle all of the hot sugar syrup into the meringue, aiming for pouring the syrup close to the side of the bowl, avoiding the whisk attachment.  Continue beating at high speed until the side of the bowl is cool to the touch.  This will take about 5-6 minutes.  You are essentially cooking the meringue with the hot syrup, turning it into a thick marshmallow-like fluff.  

Putting it all together:  
Once the strawberry mixture has cooled in the prepared pie crust and you are ready to serve, spoon the cooked meringue over the top of the pie, swirling to form pretty peaks.  If desired, toast the meringue with a kitchen torch, or place the pie on the bottom rack of the oven under the hot broiler for 10-15 seconds just until lightly browned.  

Serve the pie the same day as made.  

Sunday, July 18, 2021

ChezCindy: Italian-style Giardiniera Vegetables


Once again with my CSA, I have a variety of vegetables and way too many for immediate use.  Especially peppers.  (I need to research more ways to use peppers.)  I decided to use a mix of the vegetables to make giardiniera.  The funny face on the sliced cucumbers is just a happy bonus.

Giardiniera is Italian pickled vegetables.  The translation roughly means "from the garden".  It is a mix of vegetables preserved in a spicy seasoned vinegar.  Long preserving is shelf-stable and can stay on a shelf for a year.  This version is a quick-pickle meant to stay in the refrigerator for a few weeks.  The quick-pickle still preserves the vegetables, extending their freshness and adding great flavor.  It is just not fully sealed for long shelf life.

Traditional giardiniera includes olive oil as a marinade for the vegetables.  I like to add the olive oil after pickling and once I serve the vegetables.  The marinated vegetables are great added to sandwiches and salads or just simply on a anti-pasta plate with some crackers and cheese.  

I used sliced cucumbers, sliced pepper rings, thinly sliced carrots, spring onions and garlic, seasoned with fennel seeds.  These are common vegetables found in giardiniera.  The seasoning can be spicy hot by adding crushed red pepper flakes, or using hot peppers.  Use what you have and have fun with the added spices.  

Here is how to make Giardiniera:
Choose a variety of vegetables such as peppers, onions, carrots, green beans, or cauliflower.  Cut the vegetables into small bite-size pieces.  Add them to canning jars, such as Ball or Mason, with the proper canning lids.  The recipe below can be doubled or tripled.  

1-pound vegetables, cleaned and cut into pieces or thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried whole spices, any combination

Place the cleaned cut vegetables into the canning jars, lightly packing to fit.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, dissolving the salt and sugar.  Pour the hot liquid over the vegetables to cover them completely, filling the jar to 1/2-inch from the top of the jar.  Seal the jar tightly with the lid.  Allow to cool on the counter.  Place the cooled jar in the refrigerator.  Wait 24 hours before enjoying so that the vegetables have time to pickle.  The vegetables will develop more flavor as they age.  Store in the fridge for up to one month.  

To use the Giardiniera vegetables:  
Drain the vegetables from the pickling liquid.  Place the drained vegetables into a small bowl.  Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over the vegetables.  Top with a sprinkling of dried Italian herbs.  Serve with sandwiches or burgers, adding the vegetables as a topping.  Or mix in with fresh lettuces for a salad.  The marinated vegetables can also be plated with cheese and crackers for a first course or anti-pasta platter.  

Saturday, July 10, 2021

ChezCindy: Capellini Pasta "Omelet" with Parmesan


This is one of the coolest new recipes I have tried in years.  Every ingredient is cooked in the same pan, layering in one after the other.  At one point I was thinking, this cannot be right as I poured the raw whisked eggs into the super hot pan with partially cooked pasta and pasta water.  But it came together to create a delicate egg and pasta omelet, much to my pleasant surprise.  

The key to success for this recipe is using a quick-cooking pasta like capellini or angel hair that cooks in 4 minutes.  And, also using a good non-stick skillet that is oven safe up to 400 degrees.   

The recipe is from a new cookbook Cookish by Christopher Kimball of Milk Street.  The book offers recipes that are seemingly "thrown together" for quick cooking.  I like the way the book is organized, offering 3-4 different recipes using the same main ingredients, just changing up the seasoning and spices, and adding one or two additional ingredients.  I highly recommend this book for new cooks and also for experienced cooks.  It is full of fresh ideas for delicious dishes.  

Capellini Pasta Omelet
5 large eggs
2 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
pinch of fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
6 ounces capellini pasta or angel hair pasta
3 cups fresh baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  

Using a large measuring cup with a pour spout, whisk together the eggs, cheese and salt/pepper.  Set aside.

Working with an oven-safe 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add in the 2 tablespoons of oil and the finely chopped onion.  Stir frequently to keep the onions moving and from browning, cooking until softened, about 3-4 minutes.  Next, break the pasta strands in half, adding them to the pan with the onions, carefully pouring in 3 cups of water.  Stir to combine the water and pasta to keep the pasta from clumping together.  Continue to cook until most of the water has been absorbed by the pasta.  This will take several minutes.  Add in the spinach stirring to combine until the spinach is wilted.  Next, give the egg mixture a stir as it may have settled a bit.  Pour the egg mixture into the hot pan, stirring continuously to combine with the pasta, water, and spinach.  Stir until it just comes together.  Stop stirring and cook on the stovetop for about 3-4 minutes, just until the sides begin to show some browning.  Transfer the skillet to the hot oven, baking until the omelet is set, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the oven.  Drape a towel or hot pad over the handle to remind yourself of the hot handle, allowing the omelet to rest for 6-8 minutes.  Loosen the edges with a spatula, sliding the omelet onto a cutting board to serve.  Garnish with additional cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.  Serve hot or warm.

I like serving this with some homemade salsa or fresh garlicky tomato sauce on the side.  Excellent dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  

Recipe adapted from Milk Street Cookish cookbook, 2020.