Sunday, December 29, 2013

ChezCindy: Meatless bean & rice "burgers"

These patties look like hamburgers, but they are made with beans, rice and vegetables.  They are delicious, but I struggle to call this a hamburger.  I am not one to place meatless patties into the category of hamburgers.  There is a history to hamburgers.  And the history is rooted in ground beef.  Even the lamb-burgers and salmon-burgers are a stretch on the name.  But, that doesn't mean there isn't a place for the meatless options.  I just don't want to call them "hamburgers".

The recipe I list below is pretty straight forward, allowing for the beans and rice to be the focal point of taste.  But try switching up the spices and the vegetables for different flavor profiles.  Add chili peppers, and cumin for a Mexican dinner, served with salsa and tortillas.  Or consider adding ginger, cilantro, radishes and fish sauce for a Vietnamese-style patty.  You can also change-up the type of beans.  I used a combination of red kidney beans and black beans, as the color of these beans lend towards the appearance of hamburger meat. 

Bean and Vegetable Patties

1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon oil

1 1/2 cups cooked red kidney beans (15 ounce can)
1/2 cup cooked black beans
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup grated carrot
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons oil

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery, garlic and salt.  Cook until the vegetables are soft, but not brown.  About 5 minutes. 

Rinse and drain the canned cooked beans.  Place the cooked beans in a food processor; pulse to create a coarse texture.  Add the cooked rice; pulse to combine.  The mixture should not be too finely combined.  Transfer the beans and rice to a medium size bowl.  Add the grated carrot, chopped parsley, and the cooked onion-celery mixture; sprinkle in the remaining salt and pepper.  Stir thoroughly to combine. 

Form into patties, 1/2-inch thick.  Wetting your hands will make this task easier and the bean mixture less likely to stick to your hands.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the patties in batches until brown, flipping once to brown each side.  Serve with your favorite condiments. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

ChezCindy: Delgado Huevos Rancheros

Delgado Huevos Rancheros is a family recipe shared with me from my brother-in-law and sister.  What makes it so special is the "chorizo" made with ground beef, vinegar and spices.  The vinegar is the key ingredient.  It will seem like too much, but don't alter this amount.  You can modify the spices to meet your taste preference; add a little more spicy heat if you like.  The Adobo seasoning with pepper is a spice blend made by Goya found at most grocery stores. 

The Chorizo recipe makes a large amount, but it freezes well.  I make a full recipe and freeze it in small containers.

Delgado Huevos Rancheros

Make the Chorizo:
1 lb ground beef
6 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons Adobo Seasoning with pepper

4 flour tortillas
4 eggs
5 tablespoons butter
shredded cheddar cheese

Combine the ground beef, vinegar, chili powder, cumin and Adobo seasoning in a large skillet.  Stir to break up the ground beef so there are no clumps of meat.  Simmer for 20 minutes, until the texture is very smooth.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a large separate skillet.  Heat the tortillas until lightly browned.  Set aside on a paper towel, keep warm.

Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a separate skillet.  Fry eggs, 1-2 at a time, cooking as desired.  Repeat with additional eggs.

Assemble the huevos rancheros:  Place 1 tortilla in center of serving plate.  Place 1 fried egg on top of the tortilla.  Spoon a generous amount of the ground beef chorizo on the tortilla/egg.  Sprinkle with shredded cheese.  Serve with salsa.

The remaining chorizo can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days and served at a later time over tortilla chips and melted cheese to make nachos.  Or, freeze the remaining chorizo for up to 2 months.

Friday, December 13, 2013

ChezCindy: Easy Apple Turnovers

Impress friends and family with these easy apple turnovers. 
The apple filling in these turnovers is lightly sweetened, but then heightened with a generous sprinkling of powder sugar.  Store-bought frozen puff pastry is used for convenience.  You can also use store-bought applesauce, but cooking down a few apples with a bit of sugar is quick and easy too.  If you use store-bought applesauce, be sure to buy a low sugar brand with a chunky texture. 
Easy Apple Turnovers
2 pounds Golden Delicious apples
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 package frozen puff pastry (such as Pepperidge Farms) thawed
1 egg
flour for dusting while rolling out the pastry dough
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Peel, core and cut the apples into roughly 1-inch pieces.  Place the apples in a medium sauce pan.  Add the water, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Lower the heat; cover, simmer until the apples are very tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat; gently mash until the apples are a soft chunky consistency. Cool completely.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Working with the now thawed puff pastry dough, dust your surface with flour for rolling out 1 sheet of the puff pastry dough.  Roll out until the sheet measures 12 x 12 inches.  Cut into nine 4-inch squares.  Place 1 tablespoon of apple filling into the center of each square.  In a small bowl, beat the egg mixed with 1 teaspoon of water, to make an "egg wash".  Lightly brush the edges of each square.  Fold each square over the filling, on a diagonal, to form a triangle.  Press and pinch the pastry edges to seal tightly.  Place the pastry triangles onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Brush the tops of each triangle with the egg wash.  Using a sharp knife, cut 1-2 slits into the top of each triangle - this will allow steam to escape while baking.  Sprinkle the tops with sugar.  Refrigerate this tray while you repeat the assembly process with the second sheet of puff pastry. 
Bake the turnovers for 18-20 minutes, rotating the trays half way through the baking time for even baking.  Turnovers will be puffed and golden brown.  Remove from the oven.  Allow to slightly cool.  Dust generously with powdered sugar.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Store the remaining apple filling in the refrigerator for another use.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

ChezCindy: Quiche Quest

Classic Quiche Lorraine

A few years ago at dinner on New Years Eve, the restaurant served a magnificent quiche that set me  onto a quest to recreate that same dish.  The custard was silken, with a tender flaky crust, and sweet lobster nestled into the filling.  My quest lasted for weeks.  I started out by researching different processes and recipes.  Deciding whether to use a deep dish springform pan or a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.  My first attempts were experiments with a classic quiche Lorraine (bacon & leeks).  Then I moved onto adding shrimp, before using the more expensive lobster meat.  I made a lot of quiches!  My neighbors didn't mind as they became my quiche-tasters.  It was fun and a bit exasperating.  At the time, I kept notes in my handwritten journal as I worked my way through the quest.  Below is a quote I wrote from February 13, 2009 regarding the first deep dish quiche, that was not going well.  The springform pan I used did not provide a tight seal and the custard was leaking out onto the tray.  (Thankfully I had placed the pan onto a foil lined tray or the quiche experiments might have stopped that night!)  In an attempt to save the quiche, I wrapped the bottom of the springform pan with heavy aluminum foil.  In the end, it worked! 

Notes on recipe testing from that trying night....
"It's called recipe testing not only for the recipe, but for my patience and ability.  The night was a trying evening.  But I am glad I didn't give up.  Having let the quiche cool overnight, still in the springform pan, by morning I found that all had been redeemed!  The quiche had fully set up and was delicious.  I press on to make the perfect quiche.  It will be a great progression."   

My homemade lobster quiche has never come out as good as what I had at the restaurant.  But my quiche Lorraine pleases many happy eaters.  Below is my recipe. 

Classic Bacon and Leek Quiche

For the Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 stick cold unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
7 tablespoons ice cold water

Working in a food processor bowl, add the flour and salt; pulse for a few seconds.  Dice the cold butter into 1/2 inch pieces; add to the flour.  Pulse until the butter is the size of small peas.  Add the egg yolk; pulse briefly to combine.  Beginning with 4 tablespoons of the ice water, with the motor running, add to the flour butter mixture.  Add the other 3 tablespoons as necessary until the dough comes together and is moistened.  Turn the pastry dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 2 or 3 times, just until smooth.  Divide the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic; refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Roll out one disk into a 12-inch round, to fit into a 10-inch fluted pan with a removable bottom.  Fit the dough into the pan, trimming the edges.  "Blind" bake for 30 minutes in a pre-heated oven, set at 375 degrees.  Allow to cool. 
This dough makes 2 quiches or tarts.  One disk can be frozen for a future use. 

For the Custard Filling:
1/2 pound thick sliced bacon, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 medium leeks
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 ounces of Gruyere cheese, grated
2 large whole eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
fresh grated nutmeg, just a pinch
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate high heat, stirring until crisp and brown.  Remove the bacon from the skillet, drain off the excess fat, leaving 1 tablespoon in the pan.  Clean the leeks, removing all bits of dirt; slice the white and light green part into thin strips.  Add the sliced leeks to the skillet, season with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.  Cook until the leeks are softened, but not brown.  Add the fresh thyme; cook for an additional 1 minute.  Remove from heat and allow to cool. 
Working with a blender, add the eggs and egg yolk, heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper and fresh grated nutmeg.  Mix in the blender to combine. 

Pre-heat the oven to 375.  Place the pre-baked tart shell onto a foil-lined baking tray.  Spread the now cooled bacon and leeks evenly onto the crust.  Add the grated cheese to the tart shell.  Carefully pour the custard over the bacon, leeks and cheese.  Transfer the baking tray to the oven; bake for about 30 minutes until puffed and lightly browned.  Remove the baking tray from the oven; transfer the quiche pan to a rack to cool for about 15 minutes. 

Serve the quiche warm as an appetizer or with a small salad for a complete meal. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

ChezCindy: Chicken Soup Basic Recipe

Homemade chicken soup is a great go-to for comfort.  This recipe is easy to make using a store-bought chicken stock, and so much better than a can of any name brand on the grocery shelf.  Once you know how to make a basic recipe, you can create any style of chicken soup by adding a combination of extras: cooked egg noodles, rice, and any favorite vegetables.  Or add tiny Mexican meatballs and cooked pasta shells, for a Mexican meatball soup.   

Chicken Soup Basic Recipe
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
2 cups of water

1 quart Kitchen Basics unsalted chicken stock
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 medium white onion
1 stalk celery
2 small carrots
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Options:  any combination, but not all
1 cup cooked rice
2 cups cooked egg noodles
1/2 cup green beans
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 cup cooked squash
1/2 cup of chopped canned tomatoes
1/2 cup cooked brussel sprouts
2 small leeks, cooked, chopped

Begin by poaching the chicken breast:  Place 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan, add the chicken breast.  Cover the pan.  Place over medium low heat for 15 minutes, slowly cooking until the chicken is firm to the touch.  Allow to cool in the water for about 5 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pan.  Save the poaching liquid to add to the soup.

Working with a large heavy bottom saucepan, add the oil to the pan, heating over medium high heat.  Chop the onion and celery into small 1/2-inch pieces.  Add to the pan; heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring a few times.  Peel the carrots, slice into thin rounds on the diagonal.  Add to the pan with the onions and celery.  Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.  Stirring a few times, cook for 3-5 minutes.  Strain the poaching liquid into the vegetables.  Chop the poached chicken into bite-size pieces; add to the pan.  Add 3 cups of the Kitchen Basics stock to the pan.  Cover; reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for about 10-15 minutes.  Add any of the optional cooked items at this time.  Adjust seasoning with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the white pepper.  Add more stock as necessary. 

A few comments on cooking stock.....
You can certainly make your own cooking stock.  I have from time to time, but most often, I use store bought.  The brand I like best is Kitchen Basics.  I recommend always buying unsalted, no matter what brand you buy.  Doing so, you can control the amount of salt you use in your recipe. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

ChezCindy: Summer Cedar Plank Salmon

Spice-rubbed Cedar Plank Salmon

If you have never cooked salmon on a cedar plank, I encourage you to add it to your to-do list.  The cedar wood adds a wonderful smokiness to the salmon without drying it out, as grilling sometimes will. 

The spice rub I use here, is a blend of sweet and salty, with an earthy balance from ground coriander and paprika.  The recipe makes more than is needed for this meal, but it stores well in an airtight container for another use.  It would be nice on tilapia or oven roasted potatoes; or the next time you make this salmon. 
Your Summer back-yard BBQ guests will love this meal and just might request a return invitation.

Key steps to follow when cooking cedar plank salmon:
  • Soak the wood plank immersed in water for 2 hours minimum, longer is better.  This prevents the wood from catching fire.
  • Remove all pin bones from the salmon.  Run your hand down the flesh of the fish.  The bones will poke out just a bit.  Remove with a pair of tweezers. 
  • Once you are ready to grill, have the grill medium hot, pre-heat the plank by placing the empty plank onto the grill for about 5 minutes.  Carefully remove using a long pair of tongs and place onto a baking tray for easy transport. 
  • Place the prepared salmon onto the now hot plank.  Using the tongs, remove the plank from the baking tray, placing it onto the grill, over indirect heat. 
  • Cover and grill for about 15 minutes, depending on thickness of the salmon.  Remove the plank, using the tongs, to the same baking tray for transporting to the counter. 
  • Let the salmon rest for 5 minutes.  With a large spatula, slide under the salmon, lifting it from the plank.  Most of the skin will stick to the wood. 

Salmon Spice Rub
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Place all ingredients into a small bowl; stir to combine.  Store in an airtight container. 

Spice-rubbed Cedar Plank Salmon
1 1/2 pounds of salmon
3 tablespoons of salmon spice rub
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
2 lemons, thinly sliced

Lay the salmon onto a large piece of waxed paper (this will protect your counter from getting too messy).  Drizzle lightly with the canola oil.  Generously sprinkle 3 tablespoons of salmon spice rub onto the salmon.  Place the lemon slices on top of the salmon. 
Once the plank has pre-heated, place the salmon onto the plank, skin side down (throw out the wax paper).  Place the plank onto the medium hot grill, close the cover and grill for about 15 minutes.  The internal temperature should be roughly 135 degrees.  The thickest part of the salmon should feel firm to the touch.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

ChezCindy: Blueberry Crumble Bars

The abundance of summer fruits make the best and most simple picnic desserts.  My recent visit to the farmer's market enticed me with the most gorgeous raspberries.  However, I already had blueberries and plums in my refrigerator.  It took great willpower to skip the raspberries and wait until next week.  Not easy to do.

It's easy to become overwhelmed with the colors and splendor of the farmer's market and not have a plan for using the beautiful summer fruit.  This simple fruit crumble recipe will help with that dilemma. 

The recipe comes together quickly, and you can use most any fruit on hand throughout the summer.  Here I used blueberries and walnuts.  But a mix of fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries) and sliced almonds would work nicely too.  Peaches and pecans are also a good combination.  The filling uses a store bought jam.  If you can't find blueberry jam, use a seedless raspberry with the fresh berries.  If you are using peaches or nectarines, stir in a peach jam. 

The fruit bars are best eaten the same day.  The crumb topping will get soft after a day once it absorbs moisture from the fruit.  It still tastes good, but you lose the crisp texture of the crumble.  My advice is to share with your neighbors, friends and family.  A good excuse for a summer picnic.

Blueberry Crumble Bars

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks)

1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 cup sweetened coconut (optional)

2 pints fresh blueberries
1 cup blueberry jam
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Prepare the crust:  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter the bottom of a 9x13 inch metal baking pan.  Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.  Cut the 2 sticks of cold butter into 1/2 inch pieces.  Add to the flour mixture; mix until the dough forms small clumps and is crumbly in texture.  Transfer 2 cups to a medium bowl; mix in the chopped nuts and the coconut.  Reserve for the topping.

Press the remaining crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.  Bake the crust for 18-20 minutes, until it is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.

Prepare the filling:  Mix together the filling ingredients.  Spread evenly over the cooled crust in the pan.  Spread the reserved crumb topping over the filling. 

Bake until the filling is bubbly around the edges of the pan and the topping is golden brown, about 35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a rack. 

Cut into bars and serve. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

ChezCindy: My New Favorite Lamb Burger


I have a bad habit of creating a new recipe and not documenting my process.  Too many times, my poor husband has asked for a repeat of something I made, and... oops, I forgot to write down what I did.  With sadness, he then states, "I'll never get to eat that again."  Last night I played around with a lamb burger recipe.  It was delicious.  My husband declared it to be his new favorite lamb burger.  I have several lamb burger recipes that I make often.  But this new creation has really jumped to the top of the list.  Even this morning, he asked if I could recreate that recipe.  And yes!  I wrote it down last night.  Happily, I am able to share this awesome lamb burger recipe with you and make it again for my husband. 

If you have not tried ground lamb as a burger, you should.  Lamb is just more flavorful than beef and it doesn't dry out as much when grilling.  Feta cheese is a natural pairing for lamb, but you could go without cheese or use white cheddar.  Cumin, Chinese 5-spice, and dried chili's or paprika are all great spices to add to ground lamb. 

This new recipe is the simplest of my collection, topped with sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced cucumbers and a spicy mayo.  I also recommend following the layering instructions: place the lamb burger onto a toasted bun, next add the thinly sliced cucumbers directly onto the burger.  This is a key step.  When fresh cucumbers come into contact with heat, they become "pickle-like" (here we are talking about the residual heat from the burger).   Therefore, we have a fresh pickle without the tang of the vinegar or pickle seasoning.  Next in the layering process, add the sliced tomatoes on top of the cucumbers.  Spread a generous amount of spicy mayo onto the top bun and place the top bun onto the tomatoes.  Tomatoes should always go next to the mayo, think of a BLT.  Okay, I admit it.  I am a bit of freak about sandwich order.  But trust me.  It really makes a difference for great sandwiches. 

Lamb Burger with Fresh "Pickles" and Spicy Mayo
1-pound fresh ground lamb
3/4 teaspoon Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons red wine
1-ounce crumbled feta cheese

toasted bun
fresh sliced tomatoes
thinly sliced cucumbers

Spicy Mayo
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 half - 1 teaspoon of hot sauce, depending on heat preference
1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar

Combine the ground lamb with the steak seasoning, salt, oil and red wine; using your hands, mix to combine.  Gently mix in the crumbled feta cheese.  Form into patties, each weighing about 5 ounces.  Grill to medium.

Make the spicy mayo by combining the list of ingredients.  Toast the buns. 

How to layer the lamb burger:  Place the bottom bun onto serving plate.  Add the hot lamb burger onto the bun.  Next, place the thinly sliced cucumbers, then the tomatoes (sprinkle the tomatoes with salt if desired).  Spread a generous amount of spicy mayo onto the top bun; place the top bun onto the tomatoes. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

ChezCindy: The Cabernet Burger

A few years ago, my husband and I were attending a wedding reception for the daughter of our dear friends.  We were seated at a banquet table among others whom we did not know.  Casual table- talk turned to food, what else.  One of the couples who were also friends of our friends, began sharing an experience of the most wonderful burger the mother of the bride had made for them.  She was describing the burger, trying to remember the toppings, ingredients, etc.  I quickly realized she was describing my burger recipe that I had just taught to our mutual friend.  It was the first time one of my recipes had made its way out and was being told back to me via third party.  My reaction was an odd mixed feeling of pride and possessiveness.  That was my recipe, but nobody knew it.  Kind of like when a parent shouts out at a sporting event, "That's my kid!".  It was a good feeling. 

This truly is the best burger.  Yes, many make this claim.  Once you try this recipe, you will know.  A red wine reduction sauce is mixed into the ground beef, keeping it moist; topped with caramelized onions and white cheddar for a great balance of flavor.  The bun is toasted with rosemary compound butter.  Fresh sliced tomatoes are all this burger needs to make it complete. 

Making this burger involves many steps and much time.  First is making the caramelized onions.  These are wonderful to have on hand at all times.  I make a large batch and freeze in small containers for quick use.  Next is making the cabernet and shallot reduction sauce.  This too freezes well in small containers when the craving comes for the Cab Burger.  Well worth the effort.   

The Chez Cindy Cab Burgers
1 1/2 pounds of ground chuck
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Gruyere cheese or white cheddar cheese, grated 4 ounces

4 soft hamburger buns, potato or brioche
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
pinch of kosher salt

Caramelized onions
Sliced tomatoes

Before you begin grilling the burgers, have all your ingredients made ahead and ready to use.  The red wine reduction will need about 20 minutes to cook down.  The caramelized onions will need between 45-60 minutes.  Grate the cheese; slice the tomatoes.  Prepare the rosemary butter.    

Begin by making the red wine reduction:  Add the full bottle of wine to a large, deep saucepan.  Add in the chopped shallots.  Boil over high heat until the wine is reduced to roughly 1 cup.  Remove from heat, add in the butter and brown sugar.  Swirl to combine.  Set aside to cool. 

Make the caramelized onions (recipe below)

Make the rosemary butter:  Combine the softened butter with the finely minced fresh rosemary and pinch of kosher salt.  Set aside.

Prepare the burgers:  Place the ground chuck into a large bowl.  Add 4 tablespoons of the red wine shallot sauce; stir to combine.  Shape into 4 burgers, each weighing 6 ounces.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Preheat the grill to medium high heat.  Place the burgers onto the grill, basting each with a teaspoon of the red wine reduction sauce.  (The left-over red wine reduction sauce can be frozen for future use.)  Grill the burgers for about 4 minutes on the first side.  Once you flip to side 2, top each burger with roughly 1 tablespoon of caramelized onions and cover with grated cheese.  Close the lid of the grill to continue cooking and melting the cheese, about another 3 minutes.  This should bring the burgers to about medium doneness.  Remove the burgers to a tray, allowing to rest for a few minutes. 

Spread about 1/2 tablespoon of rosemary butter onto each bun.  Toast on the grill until lightly browned.  Remove and set aside. 

Place a prepared burger onto each toasted bottom bun.  Top each burger with sliced tomatoes, or your favorite toppings.  Cover with the top bun and enjoy!

Caramelized Onions
2 large sweet onions
1 large red onion
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons white wine

Thinly slice the onions to equal about 4 cups. Working with a large skillet over medium heat, add the butter and oil.  Once the butter is melted, swirl to combine.  Add the sliced onions and garlic, salt and pepper.  Stir to coat the onions with the butter oil mixture.  After about 10 minutes on medium heat, turn the heat down to medium-low.  Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn off the heat.  Deglaze the pan by carefully adding in the white wine.  Stir to combine, bringing up any bits of browning from the bottom of the pan.   

Turn the heat back on to medium-low.  Continue cooking until the onions are golden brown and have collapsed into soft strands, roughly 20 minutes.  Use right away or once cool, refrigerate for future use.   These onions are fantastic on burgers or chicken sandwiches.  Stir in to scrambled eggs or add to a quiche or omelet.  They freeze well and are quick to thaw. 

For even greater perfection, try grinding your own beef when making this burger.  See my earlier post to learn how to do this.  Fresh ground burgers


*Recipe inspired by James McNair, author of James McNair's Grill Cookbook and James McNair's Burgers

Saturday, May 11, 2013

ChezCindy: Salmon Rillettes Appetizer

My latest obsession is with smoked salmon.  So much that I am researching how to make it at home.  It all started in early April on my weekend trip to New York City.  We went to breakfast at a beautiful restaurant, mostly seeking out a stunning view of Central Park.  At the top of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is a wonderful restaurant, Asiate.  Go for the views, stay for the food.  A classic New York breakfast is a toasted bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, mostly ordered from a deli.  I ordered this for my breakfast from this fancy restaurant and now have a new standard for smoked salmon.  Wow was it good.  I had that same breakfast for the next 3 days.  Their smoked salmon had a sweet-soy smokey flavor with a firmer texture than traditional cured smoked salmon.  It was just amazing.  I don't have their recipe.  But I'm working on it. 

Pictured above are salmon rillettes.  I have been making salmon rillettes for a few years now.  Think of this as something similar to tuna fish salad but made with salmon.  Rillettes is a French term for a soft spread made from meat or fish.  The classic salmon rillettes is made from fresh cooked salmon and smoked salmon, mixed with mayonnaise or butter.  This is a simple, but elegant appetizer for a party or a first course.  For those who don't think they like smoked salmon, you could leave it out and make this with just the cooked salmon.  The recipe calls for poaching the salmon, but you can improvise when you have left-over seared or roasted salmon.  Try this on crackers or toasted baguette slices.  I have also added a scoop to salad greens and it makes a delicious salad. 

Meanwhile, I have much research and trials to make my own smoked salmon. 

Salmon Rillettes
To poach the salmon:
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound fresh salmon without skin

In a small saucepan, bring the white wine, water, shallot, and salt to a boil.  Cut the fresh salmon into 1-inch cubes.  When the wine/water mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.  Add the cubed salmon to the pan; simmer until cooked through, about 2 minutes.  No more than 3 minutes.  Drain well.  Wrap the salmon and the shallots in plastic wrap; refrigerate until well chilled.  At least 1 hour or overnight. 

4 ounces smoked salmon, diced
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

In a small bowl, stir together the diced smoked salmon and the minced chives.  Add the chilled poached salmon.  Using a wooden spoon, break up the fresh salmon as you mix with the smoked salmon.  Stir in the lemon juice; add the mayonnaise.  Season with the salt and white pepper.  Gently stir to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spread onto toasted baguette slices or crackers. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

ChezCindy: Spring Salad Greens with Vinaigrette

Finally we have the arrival of Spring after this long extended Winter!  It's so pretty to see the grass greening-up, the early flowers blooming, and the trees beginning to bud.  We can also look forward to local salad greens that will soon be reaching the markets.  Of course we have great variety of salad greens throughout the Winter months, but the fresh local-grown greens at the farmer's market are special, sweet and delicious.  Many farmer's markets open in May, including Westerville!

This winter I ventured out and tried several different greens beyond what I normally use in my salads.  Most commonly I use spinach as a base for my salads.  I'm not a fan of the "Spring Mix" as it doesn't keep well if not used quickly.  I turned to a hardier greens and found that I really like chicory, often called curly endive.  I also tried celery cabbage and napa cabbage.  The cabbage combined together with the curly endive is a great combination that holds up well to the dressing.  And really, a salad is only as good as the dressing added. 

I have made my own salad dressing for so many years now.  Below is my standard salad dressing recipe.  You can switch it up by changing out the type of vinegar.  My pantry is stocked with red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, sherry, raspberry, balsamic, and white balsamic, to name a few. Also consider using different oils; olive oil, canola, grape seed, or walnut oil.  Each of these will produce a different taste and color.  You can also add chopped shallots or herbs.

Chez Cindy House Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons vinegar
6 tablespoons oil

In a small bowl, add the Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper; whisk to combine.  Add the vinegar; whisk to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking vigorously while doing so.  Serve with your favorite combination of salad greens.  Dressing will keep for 3-4 days.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

ChezCindy: Welcome the Weekend with Parsley Walnut Pasta

Friday dinners are my transitional meals.  Making something wonderful to share with family, transitions me from the stresses of my everyday work, into the relaxation of the weekend.  Sipping on a glass of wine helps too!  Friday dinners need to be quick-cooking, uncomplicated, kind of fun, and really delicious.  This parsley walnut pasta meets every bit of that.  And it comes together in minutes.  I paired it with seared salmon, but I have also served this with seared boneless chicken breasts and tilapia. Use a whole-grain pasta to power up on healthy ingredients. 

Parsley Walnut Pasta
12 ounces whole-grain pasta
2/3 cups chopped walnuts, toasted
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of reserved pasta water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the walnuts in a pie pan.  Roast for 5-7 minutes.  Remove and set aside to cool.  Once cool, chop into medium size pieces. 

Cook the pasta according to package directions; reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water before draining into a colander.  Set aside.

Using the same pan the pasta was cooked in, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the minced garlic; cook for 1 minute.  Add the chicken broth, chopped parsley, chopped walnuts, salt and pepper; cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the pasta back to the pan, stirring to combine, heating it through for a few minutes.  Turn off the heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water to yield a creamy texture, adding more as necessary.  Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.  Serve hot; garnish with additional cheese if desired. 

Seared Salmon Recipe

Sunday, March 31, 2013

ChezCindy: Roasted Salmon with Spring Herb Sauce

Roasted salmon with spring herb sauce is an easy elegant meal that presents well as a formal dinner main course, as a brunch buffet item, or as a regular weekday meal.  It is delicious hot from the oven or served at room temperature.  The prep and cook time are minimal, with ingredients you most likely have in your pantry.

I don't often use dried herbs, but in this recipe they work well.  And it cuts down on the prep time as there is no chopping.  A creamy mustard-mayonnaise sauce is baked onto the salmon, with additional sauce served at the table. 

Ask your fish monger for a side of salmon, frozen or fresh is okay.  If you do not have a full side, you can use several pieces, lined up together.  I leave the skin on when roasting, as it slides off easily once fully cooked.  Or you can have the skin removed by your fish monger.

Roasted Salmon with Spring Herb Sauce
Side of salmon, about 1 1/2 pounds, up to 2 pounds
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon dried chives
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
kosher salt
cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. 

Mix together the mayonnaise, both mustards, dried herbs, brown sugar, lemon juice and zest in a medium bowl.  Place the salmon skin side down, onto the parchment lined baking sheet.  Season the salmon by sprinkling it with kosher salt and black pepper.  Spoon half of the mustard herb sauce over the salmon, saving the rest for serving at the table.  Spread the mustard herb sauce to cover the salmon completely.  Sprinkle with additional cracked black pepper. 

Place the salmon into the hot oven, roasting for 20-25 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees at the thickest part of the salmon.  Remove from the oven; allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Using the parchment paper as an aid, transfer the salmon to your serving tray.  Serve with the remaining mustard herb sauce. 

Follow this link for my recipe for roasted vegetables to serve as a side dish.    

ChezCindy: What to do with all those bananas?

Banana Bread with Mini Chocolate Chips and Ginger

My husband eats the same breakfast nearly every day; cereal, milk, sliced banana and a glass of orange juice.  It makes sense for him.  It's easy; there's no thinking involved.  Definitely no cooking.  It's healthy.  So why not?  I could no sooner eat the same breakfast everyday than I could fly to the moon.  None the less, we often end up with over-ripe bananas that don't make the cut for his breakfast.  I hate throwing them away.  So I am generally on the prowl for new recipes using bananas.  Fortunately, there are many.  Banana cake, breakfast muffins, breads, banana cream pie. The New Orleans favorite, Bananas Foster.  Banana split ice cream Sundaes, yogurt banana smoothies.  The list does go on.  Although, I have never ventured into using bananas for savory.

This banana bread recipe has become my favorite.  Not quite traditional in that I use mini chocolate chips and crystallized ginger.  It is based on a recipe from author Molly Wizenberg, in her book A Homemade Life.  The ingredients come together quickly and the bread stores well in the freezer for several months.

 If you have not baked with crystallized ginger, I encourage you to try it.  Crystallized ginger is fresh ginger that has been slowly cooked in sugar water, and then rolled in coarse sugar to preserve it.  It has the texture of a gummy candy and is sugary-spicy to taste.  It is really great when baking ginger snap cookies, gingerbread cakes and breads.  You can buy this at the regular grocery store, located where they sell dried fruits. 

Banana Bread with Mini Chocolate Chips and Ginger
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter; set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Gently whisk to combine.  Add the chocolate chips and the chopped ginger; stir to coat the chips and ginger. 
In a medium mixing bowl, mash the bananas.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing with a fork to combine with the bananas.  Add the buttermilk, vanilla, and melted butter.  Stir well to combine.  Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture, using a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bring the batter together.  Prepare a 9x5 inch loaf pan by spraying it with cooking spray oil.  Transfer the batter to the loaf pan; smoothing out the top. 
Bake for 60-65 minutes until the top of the loaf is golden brown, and the center is set.  Allow to cool in the loaf pan for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the pan, and cool completely on a baking rack. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

ChezCindy: Casey's Ketchup Steak

Please enjoy my original post from a year ago, at the close of this update.  Today, I am offering some additional helpful tips to making the ketchup steak. 

Because this dish is made with an inexpensive cut of round steak, it is important to really pound the steak to yield a fork-tender outcome.  In the picture below, you can see the thickness of the meat starting out, and how thin it becomes by pounding it.  After cutting the steak into individual portion sizes, I place a piece of steak in a zip-lock plastic bag; using a meat mallet, I pound it until it is half of the original the thickness. 

Use more onions than you think should be necessary.  The recipe calls for 2 large soft-ball size onions.  Cut them very thin.  The onions cook down to actually melt into the sauce, helping to thicken it. 


Take the time to brown the meat in the butter, creating great color and delicious bits of goodness that will add to the final flavor of the sauce.  The kitchen will smell wonderful like brown-butter beef. 

The final results are like no other dish I have ever eaten.  Families from all backgrounds find it to be comfort food like no other.  The ketchup thickens, the onions melt, and the steak is fork-tender.  It is best served with mashed potatoes.  And, it is great the next day as left-overs. 

I hope you enjoy and join in the annual tradition of making Casey's Ketchup Steak.

My Original Post:
February 3, 1922, my dad, Casey, was born.  He was a cook in the US Navy during World War 2.  The story goes that my dad made up this recipe for the sailors on board his ship and everyone loved it, including the Captain.  When the Captain came to the kitchen to tell the cooks how much he enjoyed the meal, he wanted to know what it was called.  Being the quick thinker my dad was, he stated "Greek Steak" which made the meal sound even more exotic.  After the war, as a married man with 6 kids, my dad did some of the cooking relating back to his experience as a cook in the Navy.  When he made this meal, we all thought is was pretty special.  For kids to have steak, a rarity for us, and ketchup!  How much better could it get?  Forget the exotic name.  We called it Ketchup Steak. 
Now that my dad has passed away, the family has begun a tradition to make Ketchup Steak on or around his birthday.  Even though many of us are not in the same town any longer, it is a way for us to come together and pay homage to our dad. 
It is a simple recipe with just 4 ingredients.  Traditionally we serve it with mashed potatoes and a vegetable, (corn is the family favorite).  Enjoy.

Casey's Ketchup Steak
1 1/2 pounds of round steak
2 large onions (softball size)
20 oz ketchup
10 oz water
3 T butter
black pepper to season

Cut the steak into portion size pieces.  Pound each piece to tenderize.  Slice the onions into thin slices.
In a large straight-sided skillet, on medium heat, add the butter to melt.  Add the steak pieces to begin browning,- can be done in 2 batches to avoid over crowding the pan.  Once the steak is browned on both sides, add the sliced onions.  Continue browning the steak, moving the onions around, until the onions have wilted.  Add the ketchup, water, and sprinkle with black pepper to taste.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a gentle boil.  Lower the heat to barely a simmer.  Cover the pan.  Simmer for 2 hours.  The steak should be fork-tender and the onions almost melt into the sauce.  The sauce will have thickened.  Serve over mashed potatoes. 

ChezCindy: Crazy Good Blueberry Scones!

I first made these blueberry scones a couple of years ago, and not again since.  My notes reflected that they were "Excellent!".  Making them again this morning, they have been upgraded to "Crazy Good!".  If there can be a scale of measurement for how delicious food is, in my version, Crazy Good exceeds Excellent. 

To make things even more enticing, this is the easiest scone recipe you will ever make.  There is no rolling out of the dough.  Why did I wait 2 years to make these again???  Once the dough is made, you simply scoop out 1/2 cups and drop onto a baking sheet.  Less mess to clean up than rolling out dough.  I like that. 

Winter is the perfect time to make scones.  Scone ingredients need to start out cold and stay cold.  Key steps are to use cold butter straight from the refrigerator, or even slightly frozen from the freezer.  I used frozen blueberries, which made the dough extra cold.  Keeping the butter cold, once incorporated into the dough, gives the scones the desired flakiness.  This applies to the dough waiting to be baked, while those in the oven finish baking.  I use 4 baking trays; 2 in the oven and 2 waiting to go into the oven.  Winter helps with this process because I can keep my waiting trays outside (if it is not snowing) or in the garage to stay cold.  Sounds a bit crazy, but do what you can to keep the waiting dough away from the heat of the oven. 

When scooping out the dough, place each mound of dough onto the baking sheet with enough space to spread without touching each other.  Allowing space between the unbaked scones will yield a crisp edge and a soft interior. 

Serve the scones warm from the oven, drizzled with honey or butter.  If you have left-over scones, warm them slightly in the oven to resume some of the crispness.  A cold scone will be more soft and cakey.  Not bad, just different than warm from the oven. 

Blueberry Oat Scones
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
11 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 3/4 cups half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 rimmed baking trays with parchment paper. 
Working in a large mixing bowl or a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir to combine.  Cut the cold butter into 1/2 inch pieces; add to the bowl.  Blend until the mixture resembles a rocky road with pieces of butter the size of peas.  Add the oats and blueberries, stirring just to combine.  (If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw them before adding to the dough.)  While the mixer is running, add the half and half and vanilla, mixing just until the dough comes together.  The dough will be very thick and wet. 

Using a 1/2-cup measuring cup, scoop out the dough and drop onto the prepared baking sheets in slightly rounded mounds, allowing ample space between each scone.  Sprinkle each scone top with a bit of raw oats and sugar. 

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  Rotate the baking sheets for even baking, and bake for another 11 minutes.  Remove from the oven; slide the parchment paper off the baking trays to cool the scones.  Repeat with remaining dough. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

ChezCindy: Carrot Parsnip Soup

Carrots can generally be found in vegetable bins in most homes.  Underappreciated and not really thought of as the star ingredient.  Perhaps maybe with carrot cake.  No argument there.   Always yummy and delicious. But I was looking for more ways to enjoy carrots for lunch and dinner.

Carrots are inexpensive, super healthy, and delicious.  I prefer them cooked as opposed to eating them raw.  Cooking highlights the flavor of carrots, and they need little adornment.  I enjoy them roasted with just a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Always easy and quick as a side dish for dinner. 

This carrot soup recipe turned out to be a perfect winter soup.  Its bright orange color is sunny even on the grayest winter day. Great texture, creamy without using any cream; with a subtle sweetness brought out by addition of parsnips.    

Carrot Parsnip Soup
2 tablespoons oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
1 pound carrots
3/4 pound parsnips
1 cup water
3 cups unsalted vegetable stock, divided
2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy bottom soup pan.  Add the chopped onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring over medium heat until soft.  

Peel the carrots and parsnips.  Cut into 1/2-inch pieces adding to the pan with the onions.  Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, stirring to combine.  Cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.  Add in 1 cup of water, continuing to cook for 15 minutes.  Once the vegetables are mostly tender, add 2 cups stock, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Remove from heat, cooling for 10 minutes.

Transfer the cooled carrot mixture to a blender or food processor, (or use an immersion blender) puree until smooth.  Return the pureed soup to the pan.  Taste for seasoning, adding the white pepper and more salt if necessary.  Add the remaining stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring to thin the soup until you reach the preferred consistency.  Serve hot. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

ChezCindy: Winter Root Vegetables - Turnips!

Up until a few weeks ago, I don't think I had ever eaten a turnip.  To be really honest, only in the last few years have I understood which vegetable was a turnip and which were parsnips.  Parsnips look like carrots and turnips are round, purple and white in color.  Parsnips are cousins to carrots and turnips are in the same family as radishes. 

Winter brings on the opportunity or challenge to try different seasonal vegetables.  Food magazines and newspaper articles feature recipes that inspire to go beyond carrots.  Thus, my inspiration to try roasted turnips.  To my great surprise, the texture was creamy and the flavor sweet.  I decided to partner them with sliced butternut squash, cut from the long neck of the squash, roasted with fresh thyme. 

Consider using turnips when making a vegetable soup or beef stew. Simply peel, cut into small cubes, and add as you would potatoes and carrots.  Purchase smaller turnips as opposed to those larger in size, as the large older turnips are hotter in taste. 

Roasted Turnips and Butternut Squash with Fresh Thyme
1-pound turnips
1-pound butternut squash
4-5 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
Peel the turnips and squash.  Cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.  Place the sliced vegetables and thyme sprigs into a medium bowl.  Add the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat the sliced vegetables. 

Place the sliced vegetables onto a heavy baking sheet, laying them in a single layer.  Sprinkle the thyme sprigs over the slices.  Place baking tray in the oven, roasting for about 20 minutes.  Halfway through roasting time, turn over each slice to brown the other side.  Remove from oven.  Serve warm. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

ChezCindy: Flavored Herb Salt

When I recently made Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti , I took some time to reacquaint myself with Chef Michael Chiarello's Tra Vigne cookbook.  One of the things I like about his cookbooks is along with the featured recipes, he always provides side notes on "Chef's Tips", "Entertaining Notes", or "Wine Notes", that are helpful and educational.  I discovered a Chef's Tip for frying rosemary.  

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs.  Smelling it makes me smile.  My outdoor rosemary shrubs usually last throughout the winter, maybe getting just a bit brown.  I take great pleasure in walking out my backdoor, trudging through the snow to snip off a stem or two of rosemary.  When I saw this tip for frying rosemary, I had to make it.  Chef's instructions were to deep fry it.  I did not want to drag out my deep fryer just to fry a sprig of rosemary.  So I improvised.  I took a shallow saute pan; poured in about a cup of olive oil.  I heated the olive oil and gently added the sprigs of rosemary.  They sizzled right away.  I let them sizzle in the olive oil for about 60 seconds.  When most of the sizzling subsided, I removed them to drain on a paper towel.

Once they were cool, Chef Chiarello's notes explained that the crisp rosemary could be added to salt and other spices to make a seasoned salt.  But now what to do with the olive oil.  I hated to waste it.  I then realized that I had made rosemary flavored olive oil.  I strained it into a jar and have been using it in my cooking this week. 

So now you are asking yourself, what would I do with rosemary salt and rosemary olive oil?  The first thing I made was popcorn.  Once popped, in place of butter, I drizzled the rosemary olive oil over the popcorn and sprinkled with the seasoned rosemary salt.  

Next day, I sautéed chicken breasts in the rosemary olive oil.  They came out beautifully browned and with just a hint of rosemary.  They were delicious in a chicken sandwich. 

The oil or the salt would be wonderful with beef or lamb.  I would love to grill a steak and finish it with a sprinkle of the rosemary salt and a drizzle of rosemary oil.  That would be beautiful.  Or use the salt and oil with roasted or baked potatoes.  A drizzle of oil on grilled or toasted bread would be nice with melted cheese and honey.   

If you decide to make the fried rosemary, rosemary salt and olive oil, be sure to use them within a week's time.  These are not meant to be stored for long term use.  Honestly, I can think of so many ways to use these.  Eggs, cheese, grains pastas, any savory food really. 

Fried Rosemary
3 small sprigs of rosemary
1 cup olive oil

Place the olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the sprigs of rosemary for 60 seconds.  Remove to a paper towel to drain. 

Rosemary Olive Oil
Once the oil from the fried rosemary has cooled, pour through a funnel into a bottle or jar.  Use within 1 week. 

Rosemary Seasoned Salt
1 teaspoon fried rosemary
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Place the fried rosemary onto a paper towel.  Gather the paper towel to close the rosemary within; rub the paper towel to crunch the rosemary into small bits.  Remove the stems.  Place 1 teaspoon of rosemary leaves into a small jar or bowl.  Add the kosher salt.  Shake or stir to combine. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ChezCindy: Cut-out Cookies

Holidays often bring forward the tradition of baking cookies, certainly at Christmas.  But for me, Valentine's Day has always meant making cut-out cookies.  I'm sure this stems from family times in the kitchen with my mother.  She had a large collection of cookie cutters.  I have early memories of rolling out cookie dough, stamping in the cookie cutter to create the shaped cookies.  

I also have a happy memory from my early teenage years of baking my own cut-out cookies.  Generally, any cookie dough that is used for cut-outs calls for refrigerating the dough before rolling it out.  That step didn't sit well with me.  I wanted to complete the process without having to wait 30-60 minutes for the dough to chill.  So I set out looking through all of my mother's cookbooks for a cut-out cookie recipe that could be used straight away.  I find it interesting that the young age of 13 marks the beginning of when I began researching recipes!

The recipe used here for these heart shaped cut-outs is the one I found at that early age.  It is a basic sugar cookie that rolls out well.  The scraps come together easily to roll out for a second pass.  And, it makes a delicious soft sugar cookie.   

Sugar Cookie Cut-outs 
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line sheet trays with parchment paper, set aside.

Working with a stand mixer or with a large bowl mixing by hand, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla. 

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, blending well. 

Working on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Stamp out with the cookie cutter shapes as desired.  Place the cookies onto the parchment lined sheet trays.  Gather the scraps together into a ball and roll out for a second pass.  Continue until all dough has been cut into desired shapes. 

Bake in the oven for 10-11 minutes until lightly golden brown.  Slide the parchment paper, with the cookies in place, from the baking sheets.  Cool before frosting.   

Monday, February 11, 2013

ChezCindy: Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti

This recipe is influenced by the fabulous Napa Valley chef Michael Chiarello. Chef of the celebrated Tra Vigne restaurant, and most recent restaurant Bottega, Chef Chiarello specializes in Italian cuisine featuring fresh California ingredients. He is author to 7 cookbooks; founder of NapaStyle cookware and home goods, presenting a Napa Valley way of life. I came upon this recipe in his Tra Vigne Cookbook and was amazed at how delicious this meatless recipe is.

The recipe uses spaghetti squash along with spaghetti noodles. To paraphrase Chef Chiarello, I would like to tell you to eat this because it is full of great nutrition, but really, eat it because it tastes great!

Chef Chiarello uses Parmesan cheese with his recipe and adds a bit of spice to his tomato sauce by incorporating cooked, mashed jalapeno pepper into it. I skipped the heat of the jalapeno and used goat cheese in my sauce. This comfort meal is satisfying and delicious.

Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 spaghetti squash, about 2 pounds
1/2 pound thin spaghetti pasta
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 cups tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half, scoop out and discard the fibers and seeds. Season the cut side of the squash with olive oil, salt & pepper. Place cut side down onto a rimmed baking sheet. Add 1 cup of water to the pan to help steam the squash.

Bake the squash until tender, 45-55 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  When cool enough to handle, scrape the squash out of the shells in long strands into a large bowl.  Season with salt, pepper and butter.  Set aside. 

Prepare the pasta as directed on package.  When the pasta is done, drain; add to the bowl with the squash.  Toss well, but gently.

Warm the tomato sauce, either your homemade or favorite jar.  Stir in the crumbled goat cheese to the warmed sauce.  Add enough sauce to the spaghetti to coat as desired.  Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.