Saturday, June 30, 2012

ChezCindy: Nectarine and Blackberry Crisps

Nectarine and Blackberry Crisps

Fruit crisps are a dessert that can be made all year long, varying the fruit to the season.  Of course, as we enter into summer, we have wonderful berries and stone fruit.  Nectarines, peaches and berries pair extremely well as pies, crumbles, and crisps.  Crisps are so easy to make, and are well received by family and guests as a welcome end to a meal.  I prefer making individual crisps, as opposed to a large baking dish.  There's something special about holding your own single-serving ramekin that increases the magic of the moment.  Either way it is a sweet, delicious treat. 

Nectarine and Blackberry Crisp
2 pounds nectarines
12 ounces blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Crisp Topping
1 cup flour
1 cup oats, old-fashioned
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 2 large sheet trays with sides, by fitting them with parchment paper.  This will catch any drips that bubble over making for much easier clean up. 

Cut the nectarines into large wedges to remove them from the stone pit.  I don't bother peeling the skin from the nectarines as the skin is thinner than peaches, and bakes into the dessert without changing the texture.  Rough chop the wedges into smaller bite size pieces.  Place into a large mixing bowl.  Add the blackberries to the nectarines.  Add the sugars, lemon juice, flour and cinnamon.  Gently mix to combine.  Set aside to make the crisp topping.

Combine flour, oats, sugars and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Dice the cold butter into 1/2 pieces.  Add butter to the flour mixture.  Mix on low-speed until the butter is mixed into the flour and the texture is crumbly. 

Spoon the prepared fruit into your baking dishes, either 12 6-ounce ramekins or 1 large 9x13 oval.  Top with the crumbled crisp topping.  Place the ramekins onto the prepared baking trays.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the tops are slightly browned and the juices are bubbly.  Remove from the oven.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ChezCindy: Welcome Market Wednesday's

This week I begin my cooking demonstrations at the Westerville Farmer's Market.  I will be on-site preparing and cooking with the produce and artisan foods from the wonderful vendors who present their product each week.  The market is a part of Uptown Westerville and gathers every Wednesday from 3pm - 6pm. 

This week features two recipes for you to try, each showcasing yellow squash, zucchini and pattypan squash. 

Sautéed Squash with Feta-Basil
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups squash, cut into 1-inch pieces  
½ cup sliced leeks
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped basil 
1 teaspoon butter

For this recipe you can choose a variety of squash such as pattypan, yellow summer squash, or zucchini.  
 Place a large nonstick skillet over high heat.  Add oil to pan.  Add the leeks to the hot pan, cooking for about 2 minutes.  Add the cut squash pieces to the pan, sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  The squash and leeks will brown slightly, creating great flavor. Turn off the heat.  Add the butter, stirring to coat the squash.  Transfer the squash to your serving plate.  Sprinkle with the feta and chopped basil. 

Baked Pasta with Summer Squash and Tomatoes 
4 ounces uncooked bowtie pasta
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups yellow squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup red onion, chopped
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ cup shredded mozzarella
¼ shredded parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
½ teaspoon dry oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
Cook pasta according to directions.  Allow to cool slightly.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   Place a large nonstick skillet over high heat.  Add oil to the pan.  Add the squash, zucchini and onion, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt; sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add the tomato and garlic, cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.  Stir in the pasta, and ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese.   In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, basil, oregano, remaining salt & pepper.  Stir the ricotta mixture into the pasta mixture.  Prepare an 8-inch square baking dish by spraying it with cooking oil spray.  Spoon the pasta mixture into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle ¼ cup parmesan cheese over the top.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Can be served hot or room temperature.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

ChezCindy: Rotisserie Leg of Lamb with Red Wine Marinade

I love cooking on my rotisserie.  When it is time for me to buy a new gas grill, I always make sure it includes a rotisserie spit set-up.  It would be awesome to have a BBQ pit with a rotisserie in my backyard, but that's not really feasible at this house.  Maybe someday.
I offered to host a backyard picnic with my family to celebrate the arrival of the newest family member, baby boy born to my niece and her husband.  As the family members started arriving, first stop for each was a pause at the grill to check out the lamb spinning on the rotisserie.... and then they said hello.  It was fun to watch their reactions.  I do admit, I enjoy the entertainment factor of cooking.  And the rotisserie is cooking theater.

Using the rotisserie may look complicated, but it really is not.  The trickiest part is getting the meat harnessed onto the cooking spikes.  I remove one end spike leaving the long spit and one spike tightened in place.  Skewer the spit through the center of the meat, carefully threading the spikes into the end of the meat.  The spikes serve as a "basket" to contain the meat, holding it in place.  Once I have that end in place, I thread the other spike onto the spit, pushing it into the opposite end of the meat.  Tighten the keys to hold everything in place.  I always place an aluminum tray under the spinning meat to catch the drippings that fall from the meat.  But the best part of using a rotisserie is that the juices roll around the meat as it spins to perform a self-basting.  This is what keeps the meat so juicy and flavorful. 

Plan ahead as the leg of lamb is best to marinate overnight in a simple marinade of olive oil, red wine, garlic, rosemary, salt & pepper.  These few ingredients are my go-to when grilling any cut of lamb.  I find they are most complimentary to the flavor of lamb.  So, if you are grilling lamb chops or rack of lamb, you can combine these ingredients as a paste or marinade, reducing the amount of marinating time for the smaller cuts of meat. 

Rotisserie Leg of Lamb with Red Wine Marinade
4 1/2-pound leg of lamb, boneless
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine
2 sprigs rosemary, finely minced
6 large cloves garlic, finely minced
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large zipper-style plastic bag.  Add the lamb.  Close the bag and "massage" the marinade onto the meat.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Once ready to grill, remove the bag from the fridge for about one hour before grilling.  This is a big piece of meat.  You don't want it ice-cold for grilling.  Thread the leg of lamb as described above onto the rotisserie spit.  Cook the lamb until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees for medium doneness.  This 4 1/2-pound leg of lamb took about 1 1/2 hours, with an additional resting time of 20 minutes. 

For the rest of the picnic, I made a potato salad, a panzanella salad of tomatoes, cucumber and sweet bell peppers with a sherry vinaigrette, baked beans with Swiss chard, and for dessert, blackberry nectarine crisps

Sunday, June 17, 2012

ChezCindy: Blueberry Buckle

Blueberry Buckle

I do quite a bit of recipe research, either with a specific ingredient in mind or to help clarify an idea.  When I come upon a recipe by Gail Gand, much acclaimed pastry chef, I generally stop right there.  Chef Gand is recognized as Outstanding Pastry Chef by The James Beard Foundation.  She is a cookbook author, television personality, and restaurateur.  Her recipes range for complex to traditional.  From my experience, they are always a success. Today I was researching recipes for Blueberry Buckle, an old-fashioned blueberry coffee cake, and found a great recipe from Chef Gand.   

A "buckle" is a single layer cake with fruit and a streusel topping, which gives it a buckled or crumpled appearance.  The texture on this cake is so very light; a perfect balance of sweetness from the streusel topping that seems to heighten the taste of the blueberries.  Simple to make.  Quick to bake.  Below is my recipe as inspired by Chef Gand.

Blueberry Buckle
1 cup sugar
1 stick softened unsalted butter
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of fresh nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
2 cups blueberries

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, toasted
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. 
Cream the sugar and butter together in a mixer.  Add the egg and mix well.  Sift the dry ingredients together, then add them to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk.  Batter will be very thick.  Fold in the blueberries.  Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan. 
Topping:  Combine all ingredients into a small bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, combine the ingredients into a crumbly mixture.  Sprinkle evenly over the batter. 
Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

ChezCindy: Seared Salmon with Mustard Parsley Butter

One of my cooking hobbies is recreating a meal that I had while dining out at a nice restaurant.  Many years ago, I had a salmon dish that was served on a bed of fresh sliced tomatoes.  The beautiful contrast of colors, using yellow and red tomatoes as a backdrop for the bright orange salmon, presents a striking plate for the eye.  Pictured above is my recreation of that meal. 

I sear the salmon as described in an earlier post for Copper River Salmon.  Seared Salmon Recipe

You can use either farm or wild salmon, as available.  Slice fresh tomatoes and top with a Mustard Parsley Shallot Butter.  The tomatoes are gently warmed by the hot seared salmon, taking away the 'rawness' of the tomatoes.  As the mustard butter melts over the salmon, it melds with the tomato juices creating a sauce-like consistency.  I often serve a small portion of pasta under the salmon to capture the juices of this dish.  The freshness of the tomatoes is a pleasant surprise against the seared salmon, making this meal one of the joys of summer that we never tire of.  Pair this salmon with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc wine. 

Mustard Parsley Shallot Butter
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Combine all ingredients into a small bowl.  Stir to combine.  Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap.  Spoon the butter onto the plastic wrap.  Shape the butter into a log.  Roll up in the plastic wrap.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Store the remaining butter in the fridge for 3-5 days or 1 month in the freezer. 

Compound butter wrapped in plastic.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

ChezCindy: Grilled Steak with Butter

Chez Cindy Maison Butter - great with grilled steak.

Summer-time and the grilling is easy....
Whether you are a charcoal devotee or gas-grill master, summer-time brings the pleasure of outdoor cooking.  When grilling meat, chicken, fish, vegetables or even fruit, there are a myriad of marinades, rubs and sauces available.  But one of my favorites is compound butter.  Compound butters are great to have on hand, stored in the freezer, ready to melt gently into your grilled food imparting a great impact of flavor.    

What exactly is a compound butter?  Start with softened butter, add in a few complimentary ingredients, stir to combine, and you have created a compound butter.  This is a quick and simple way to take a dish from plain and ordinary, to creating instant sauce for use with meat, fish, fruit, vegetables or pasta.  Compound butters can be either savory or sweet, from an herb-mustard butter to honey-cinnamon butter.   

This weekend I made one of my favorites that pairs well with beef.  Simply grill your steak, seasoned with salt and pepper.  Once you remove the steak from the grill, allowing to rest on the serving plate, top with a few pats of the prepared butter.  As the butter gently melts, it adds great flavor, combining with the meat juices as you cut into the steak.  A simple sensation of great flavors to please the palate. 

ChezCindy Maison Butter
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
1 garlic clove, smashed and finely minced
2 teaspoons Cognac or Brandy
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Combine all ingredients into a small bowl.  Stir to combine.  Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap.  Spoon the butter onto the plastic wrap.  Shape the butter into a log.  Roll up in the plastic wrap.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Store the remaining butter in the fridge for 3-5 days or 1 month in the freezer. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

ChezCindy: Copper River Salmon

Mid-to-late May brings the season of Wild Alaskan Copper River Salmon, anticipated by salmon lovers through-out the country.  Copper River salmon are wild and sustainable.  The high oil content, brilliant color, and firm texture make Copper River salmon perfect for preparations that allow it's magnificent flavor to shine, and not to forget, is also rich in healthy Omega 3s.  The season runs through Mid-May to late July, with King salmon being the crown jewel of the river, followed by Sockeye, then Coho.  All are delicious and worthy.

Because this Copper River salmon is so special, I encourage the most simple preparation so that it's flavor can really stand out.  Below is a method I use as a launch for many of my salmon recipes that is super easy.  From here, you can add sauce, place the salmon in a sandwich or add to pasta salad.  Here's I how I do it. 

Pan-Seared Salmon
1-pound fresh Salmon - skin on, cut into 4-ounce portion size
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

Pat the salmon dry with paper towels; cut into 4 equal size pieces.  Place a large non-stick pan over medium- high heat.  Pre-heat the pan for a few minutes; add 1 tablespoon of oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of oil over the cut salmon; sprinkle the salt and pepper evenly over the salmon.  Carefully, place each piece 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 3 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 onto your serving platter. 

Salmon pairs well with Pinot Noir wine.  My preference is a light-bodied French Burgundy.