Monday, April 17, 2017

ChezCindy: Tabbouleh Herb & Vegetable Salad

 Tabbouleh Herb & Vegetable Salad

A traditional tabbouleh recipe would not include the vegetables and cheese that I added to this bulgur wheat grain salad.  I have taken liberties with tradition to make this a substantial and tasty side dish for summer picnics or Sunday brunch with friends and family.  The salad can easily be turned into a main course by adding grilled chicken or shrimp.  Or keep it vegetarian by adding chickpeas.  Either way, this salad comes together quickly with no cooking. 

Tabbouleh Herb & Vegetable Salad
1 cup bulgur wheat
1 1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 "English" cucumber
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 cup diced yellow or orange pepper
6-ounces feta cheese

Vinaigrette Dressing
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 grinds of black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil

Place the bulgur wheat into a large bowl.  Pour the boiling water over the bulgur; add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and the lemon juice.  Stir to combine.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes. 

To make the vinaigrette:  Place the Dijon mustard and honey in a small bowl.  Add the kosher salt, a few turns of ground black pepper; whisk to combine.  Add the red wine vinegar; whisk together.  Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously. 

Prepare the vegetables and herbs:  Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise.  Using the edge of a spoon, scrape out the seeds. Cut the cucumber into 1/2 in pieces.  Cut each cherry tomato in half.  Dice the pepper into 1/2 inch pieces.  Chop the green onions and herbs. 

Once the bulgur wheat has absorbed the water, add the prepared vegetables/herbs to the bulgur.  Add half of the prepared vinaigrette.  Dice or crumble the feta cheese; add to the bulgur.  Gently stir to combine.  Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper.  Serve at room temperature. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

ChezCindy: Baking with Whole Grains

Raspberry Walnut Whole Grain Muffins

Baking with whole grain flours has been an exploration for me over the past few years.  A close friend of mine has a bit of a gluten intolerance, so I have taken an interest in discovering new ways to bake gluten free.  For my own preference, I like to incorporate whole grains in my baking to raise the health factor, while not taking away from the flavor and texture. 

There are more and more cookbooks available from the masters in this field from which I have learned, along with my own recipe experimentation.  Alice Medrich, a favorite cookbook author of mine, has a beautiful cookbook titled Flavor Flours, dedicated entirely to baking with wheat flour alternatives.  This book is truly a gift for those seeking gluten free options.  Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce is another great cookbook.  Kim's book provides recipes for baking with alternative flour profiles, blended with all-purpose flour.  A recent publication by Martha Stewart, A New Way to Bake, focuses on using whole grain flours with updated ingredients.  This book also includes a handy reference guide explaining different flours, fats and sweeteners. 

Spelt flour and millet flour have become my go-to flours when swapping out for all-purpose flour.  When a recipe calls for 1 cup of white flour, I substitute 1/2 cup of spelt or millet for 1/2 cup of the white flour.  Easier to find is whole wheat flour, to which you can do the same substitution.  I also like the flavor of buckwheat flour and oat flour, but substitute these to a smaller ratio.  Many of these flours can be found in the bulk food section of high-end grocery stores or prepackaged on store shelves. 

Raspberry Walnut Whole Grain Muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup millet flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or whole milk)
2 large eggs
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh whole raspberries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup toasted walnuts
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375.  Prepare large muffin pans: lightly grease the muffin cups with spray oil or line with paper liners.  Recipe makes 15-18 large muffins.

Working with the dry ingredients, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger into a large bowl.  Add the sugars, stirring to combine. 
Melt the butter, allow to cool slightly.  Add the tablespoon of sugar to the raspberries, gently stir to coat the berries.  Toast and chop the walnuts.
In a second bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: whisk the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter to combine.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Stir all to combine.  Fold in the sugared raspberries and toasted walnuts.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling roughly 3/4's full.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until the muffins have risen and the tops are lightly browned.  Remove from oven.  Allow the muffins to cool in the baking pan for roughly 15 minutes.  Remove each muffin from the pan, place on a tray to fully cool before storing.

No raspberries available?  You can be creative with the base recipe, swapping in other berries such as blueberries or cranberries.

Serve for brunch or a light afternoon snack with fruit and tea. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

ChezCindy: Roasted Carrot & Chickpea Hummus

Roasted Carrot & Chickpea Hummus

Once you have made hummus at home, you'll most likely not want store-bought again.  It is extremely easy to make, less expensive, and tastes fantastic.  I use canned chickpeas, or you can cook the legume from it's dried state - if you have the time and desire to do so.  
Today I made this lovely roasted carrot and chickpea hummus with the left-over roasted carrots from the previous night's dinner.  Roasting carrots enhances their natural sweetness and adds a nice flavor to the chickpea hummus.  I was so pleased with the outcome I was eating it by the spoonful.  Yum. 

Roasted Carrot & Chickpea Hummus
1 15-ounce can of chickpeas
1 cup roasted carrots
3 tablespoons tahini 
3 tablespoons olive oil
1tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup water

Working with a food processor, add the drained chickpeas and roasted carrots to food processor bowl.  Pulse to combine.  Add in the tahini, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Process to bring together.  Add in the water to make the texture more creamy and smooth.  Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy.  Store remaining hummus in the refrigerator.

To make traditional hummus, simply use all chickpeas, eliminating the roasted carrots.  For an extra creamy hummus, substitute 8-ounces of cannellini beans in place of the roasted carrots. 

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.