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Sunday, March 25, 2012

ChezCindy: Pickeled Vegetables





















This weekend I was looking for some new ideas on ways to prepare vegetables.  I remembered a quick cucumber relish from a really great hamburger recipe that I make.  This cucumber relish is delicious on burgers, sandwiches or as part of a vegetable tray (March Madness - Go Bucks!!).  I also love cauliflower and wanted to try pickling it.  I see jars of mixed pickled vegetables at the store that include cauliflower, so why not?    This recipe requires no cooking, but must be made ahead of time, allowing time for the cauliflower to pickle.  The pickled cauliflower is excellent when included with salad greens and a olive oil vinaigrette. 

For each recipe I use Ball wide mouth canning jars, pint-size.


Cucumber Relish
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1 pinch of red chile pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 English cucumber
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Prepare the cucumber by slicing it in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds by scraping a 1/2 teaspoon down the center of the cucumber.  Slice into 1/4 slices.  Set aside.
 In a saute pan over medium-high heat, toast the coriander seeds for 2-3 minutes.  Drizzle in the canola oil, add the diced red onion, cooking until onions are softened.  Stir in the pinch of chile pepper flakes, and the vinegar.  Then sprinkle on the sugar, stirring until it dissolves. 
Add the sliced cucumber to the pan, cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasional to evenly distribute the mixture.  Remove from heat, sprinkle with kosher salt, allow to cool.
Once fully cool, transfer to a jar.  Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Pickled Cauliflower
1/2 head of small cauliflower
1/2 cup champagne vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 shakes of hot sauce
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf

Cut the cauliflower into small florets.  Fill a pint-size jar with the florets, garlic clove and bay leaf.  In a separate container with a secure lid, combine the remaining ingredients.  Shake to combine.  Pour the vinegar mixture into the pint jar containing the cauliflower.  Close with the lid and refrigerate for 24 hours.  Serve with salad greens or add to a vegetable tray, drizzle with olive oil. 




Sunday, March 18, 2012

ChezCindy: Sunday-morning Scones



I love scones.  They sound so fancy, but are very easy to put together.  I like that there is minimal pre-planning. Some recipes require having ingredients at room temperature, or allowing the dough to rest.  Not this one.  Scones work best with cold ingredients right from the refrigerator.  Just pull out the ingredients and go.  I make all kinds of scones-savory or sweet-using what I have in my pantry or freezer.  The picture above is dried apricots, toasted walnuts and chopped white chocolate.  The variations are endless.  A few varieties that I make are lemon scones, chocolate chip scones, fresh blueberry scones, cheddar scones, and ham & cheese scones.  Below is my basic recipe, to which I add the extra ingredients to make the specific scone.  For the savory scones, I leave out the sugar.

Scones
 2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup flour for kneading
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream

Options:
Apricot-Walnut Scones
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
2 ounces chopped white chocolate

Chocolate Chip Scones
6 ounces chopped milk chocolate

Cheddar Scones
omit the sugar
4 ounces of grated cheddar cheese

Ham & Cheese Scones
omit the sugar
2 1/2 ounces Gruyere cheese (or Swiss cheese)
2.1/2 ounces thinly sliced ham, torn into pieces
2 tablespoons course grain Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line 2 large sheet pans with parchment paper.
In the bowl for an electric mixer, add the 2 cups of flour, sugar (if using), baking powder and salt.  Gently combine.  Take the butter from the refrigerator, (you want the butter to be as cold as possible) dice into tiny peices-1/2 inch cubes.  Add to the flour mixture, mix at low speed until the butter is the size of small peas.  The key to a great scone is that the  butter will not be completely combined into the flour.  In a separate large measuring cup for liquids, measure out the cream.  Add the eggs, slightly mix the cream and eggs together.  With the mixer on low speed, add the cream-egg mixture to the flour.  Mix just until blended.  The dough will not be fully pulled together at this point.  Remove the mixing bowl from the mixer.  Add in your optional ingredients.  Using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix in the optional ingredients, just until somewhat incorporated.

Working on a clean counter surface or a work-board, sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of flour onto the surface.  Dump the scone dough directly onto the floured surface.  Using your hands, finish combining the add-in ingredients with the additional flour until well combined and the dough has come together, using a kneading technique.  You should still see bits of butter in the dough.  Shape the dough into a flat disc.  Flour a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a 1 inch thickness.  You may need to sprinkle more flour onto your work surface.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut out the scones, place onto the prepared sheet tray.  Collect the scraps, roll out the dough, cut more scones.  Brush the tops with an egg-wash (beaten egg and 1 tablespoon of water).  For the sweet scones, sprinkle the tops with sugar; savory-sprinkle with a bit more shredded cheese.
Bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes, rotating the pans half way through cooking time.  Remove from the oven, the tops should be slightly browned, slide the parchment paper off with the scones in place, directly onto your counter to cool.  I drizzle my sweet scones with a powdered sugar glaze.  Combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon liquid - could be juice, milk or water.




 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

ChezCindy: Glazed Salmon with Mustard Mashed Potatoes




















Glazed salmon with mustard mashed potatoes looks like a fancy dinner party meal, but it is comfort food in disguise.  It is delicious and simple enough to serve for a busy weekday supper.  Or invite guests and they will think you are a master chef.  Enjoy this simple recipe.

Glazed Salmon
1 side of salmon, about 1 1/2 pounds
3 tablespoons of dijon mustard
3 tablespoons of brown sugar
salt/pepper
canola oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare a large sheet tray with sides, by covering it with foil. 

Rinse the salmon, pat dry with paper towels.  Set the fish onto prepared sheet tray, skin-side down.  Coat lightly with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the mustard and brown sugar.  Spread the mustard mixture evenly over the top-side of the salmon.  Place the tray into the hot oven.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon.  (internal temperature should read at 125 degrees)  Remove from the oven.  Let rest for a few minutes.  Cut into portion sizes.  Carefully slide a firm, flat spatula between the salmon flesh and the skin of the fish.  The skin should separate easily and remain stuck to the foil.  Serve with the mustard mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. Left-overs refrigerate well, and reheat for another day. 


Mustard Mashed Potatoes
Prepare potatoes as you would normally do.  I use milk/cream, butter, salt and white pepper in mine.  Once you have the potatoes mashed, add a heavy tablespoon of whole grain dijon mustard (I use 2 tablespoons - but start with 1 until you determine what you like).  Stir to combine.  I really like Maille Old Style Whole Grain Dijon mustard for this dish.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

ChezCindy: Cookies for Soldiers


                                         

 This past week, I had the privilege of baking cookies for soldiers stationed over seas.  About 2 years ago, I was asked if I could do this by the wife of a retired Army General.  My answer was of course.  She then asked how many dozen I could commit to.  I thought for a moment and responded, 15 dozen.  She seemed a bit stunned with my answer, and asked if I was certain, as most people donate 2-3 dozen.  I pondered for a moment, doing the math in my head.  15 dozen.... that's like 3 or 4 batches.  At Christmas time I make a dozen or so different recipes.  Yes, 15 dozen chocolate chip cookies for the soldiers.  That's my commitment.  If they can commit to doing what they are doing, this is the least I can do for them.

Two or three times per year I receive a call that it is time to send cookies.  I usually only make chocolate chip cookies.  I pull out all the ingredients, mixer, measuring tools, baking trays, to get ready.  I then make one batch at a time (using the recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip bag).  I place the prepared dough into a separate bowl, cover an let rest in the refrigerator, then move on to make the next batch of dough.  Once I have 4 bowls of cookie dough, I then begin to bake.  Having 4 cookies trays makes this go quickly. There are always 2 trays in the oven baking, while I spoon out 2 more - ready to go into the oven.  Pull out the baked cookies, in go the next 2 trays.  Allow the baked cookies to cool a few minutes before removing to the holding table, spoon out 2 more trays.  Keeping the cookie size small is key - about a 3/4 inch ball of dough.  One batch of dough makes about 5 dozen cookies.  Doing the math, 5 x 4 is 20 dozen.  Who eats the other few dozen?  Well, who can resist warm chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven with ice cold milk?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

ChezCindy: Vegetable Lasagna - Winner!

So, referring back to the Vegetable Lasagna Auditions, I made the 2 vegetable lasagnas, roasted eggplant and 4-cheese spinach.  Even before my nieces were to decide the winner, I knew clearly which one I hoped it would be.  The roasted eggplant was very involving with numerous steps, too many pans to wash!  I put that one together first, baked it, let it cool and proceeded to make the 4-cheese lasagna.  So easy.  Once both were completed and baked, I sampled each.  The eggplant lasagna was awful. Too much eggplant overpowering the balance of the dish as a whole.  Thankfully, the 4-cheese lasagna was delicious!  It tasted like a cheese pizza. 
Now, time to take the two pans of lasagna over to the girls.  I kept a small portion of the 4-cheese for us.  But if I didn't take out a portion of the eggplant lasagna, would that bias the opinions of the judging?  To be safe, I took out a similar portion of the eggplant lasagna, and shoved it down the disposal, it was that bad.  The next day my niece called with the decision.  I could tell she was hedging just a bit. "We're not really eggplant people, so we liked the cheese lasagna better."  I laughed and told her she didn't have to be so careful and that I hated the eggplant one.  Winning lasagna decided.

This vegetable lasagna is very simple to prepare and delicious.  If you don't want to make your own tomato sauce, you can use a jar of your ready-made favorite.  (If you love eggplant and want the eggplant lasagna recipe, let me know and I will send it too you.)  

Four Cheese and Spinach Lasagna
12 lasagna noodles (not no-boil)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 10-ounce box frozen spinach, thawed
1 3/4 cup cottage cheese
4 ounces goat cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 cups shredded mozzarella
1 large egg
4 cups tomato sauce

Preheat oven 350 degrees
Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the lasagna noodles, cook for 10 minutes, stirring to keep from sticking together.  Drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil and minced garlic in a medium saute pan until the garlic is light brown in color.  Squeeze out the excess water from the thawed spinach.  Add to the garlic, season with salt and pepper.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the spinach is dry.  Remove from heat and let cool.
Mix the cottage cheese, goat cheese, parmesan and 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese together in a medium bowl.  Add the cooled spinach, stir to combine.  Slightly beat the egg, add to the spinach cheese mixture, stir well to bring together. 
Cover the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch casserole pan with a 1/4 cup of tomato sauce.  Cover with 3 lasagna noodles.  Top with 1/4 of the cheese mixture smoothing out evenly over the noodles.  Add about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce.  Repeat with 3 more layers.  Cover with the remaining tomato sauce, sprinkle the 2 cups of mozzarella cheese on top.  Bake uncovered about 45 minutes.  Let the lasagna cool for 10 minutes before serving. 

Simple Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup basil leaves

In a medium sauce pan, heat the olive oil and the minced garlic for 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, squishing them in your hand as you add them to the pan.  Add the remaining juices from the can.  Add the salt, pepper, sugar.  Cook over low heat for 30 minutes.  Chop the basil, add to the sauce, remove from heat.  Adjust seasoning as needed.