Sunday, July 30, 2017

ChezCindy: Perfect Poached Eggs

When it comes to food fashion, we are a fickle people.  Consider how eggs were a food no-no for decades thanks to their high cholesterol content.  In 2000, the American Heart Association revised its dietary guidelines and gave the green light to begin enjoying eggs once again.  Yay!

I had to ease back into eating whole eggs after eating egg whites or egg substitute for years.  I am so happy to enjoy the sunny yolks of farm fresh eggs.  I love the soft curds of scrambled eggs seasoned with butter and a bit of salt.  So simple.  Adding an egg to top off most any food changes it from plain to elegant.  Watching the ooze of the runny yolk as it mingles with a spinach salad or a plate of golden brown French fries is a culinary joy.

Poached eggs are often considered to be advanced cooking or too much trouble to deal with.  They take a bit of practice, but are really quite easy to do.  I like that the cooking process requires no additional fat.  One large egg is roughly 70 calories.  Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan for skillet cooking and we now have jumped up to 170 calories.  Delicious, but I can do without the extra 100 calories. 

Here is how to poach an egg: 
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
2 cups water

Fill a small saucepan roughly 2/3 full with water; bring to a gentle boil.  Add the vinegar.  Lower the heat to a simmer.  Crack the egg into a small cup. 

Holding the edge of the cup, gently ease the egg into the simmering water. 

Allow the egg to poach in the simmering water for 4 minutes for a slightly runny yolk.  Add or subtract 30 seconds to reach the firmness you prefer. 

 Carefully lower a slotted spoon under the egg to remove from the water.  Blot dry on a towel. 

Season and serve the warm egg as desired. 

To make the fresh corn cakes, find the recipe here  from an earlier post.  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

ChezCindy: Summer Tomato and Feta Cheese Salad

Summer brings the bounty of sun-ripened tomatoes.  Fresh from the vine, bursting with flavor - so delicious and so good for you.  Tomatoes are versatile and nutrient rich.  A tomato's vitamin C content increases as the fruit ripens.  Vine-ripened tomatoes contain nearly twice the vitamin C and beta-carotene as their green-picked counterparts.  However, don't let that keep you from eating fried green tomatoes.

This simple tomato feta salad is a great accompaniment to most any summer event be it a picnic, a weekend brunch buffet, or tonight's dinner.  You'll need the star ingredient of good tomatoes from your local farm stand, and a few other ingredients.  In this recipe I use feta cheese.  Blue cheese or curls of Parmesan cheese would go nicely just as well.  Choose your favorite and enjoy! 

Tomato and Feta Cheese Salad
5-6 small tomatoes, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Working in a medium size bowl, add the vinegar, onions, salt and pepper; stir to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to combine.  Cut the tomatoes into quarters and add to the bowl.  Gently stir to coat the tomatoes with the dressing.  Add the crumbled feta cheese and the basil ribbons; stir to combine.  Serve at room temperature.

Note:  Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature in a single layer.  Storing tomatoes in the refrigerator causes them to lose flavor and turn mealy. 

ChezCindy: Chicken Thigh Peperonata

Peperonata is a rustic Italian dish of cooked peppers served as an accompaniment to meat or fish.  It can be made with a blend of different types of peppers, cooked with garlic, onions and/or tomatoes or even eggplant.  Here I took one type of pepper and cooked it with chicken thighs, finished with butter and honey.  The honey softens the heat of the peppers, commingling with the chicken juices and a touch of butter.  Serve this simple weeknight dinner with a fresh tomato salad or a mix of greens and cucumbers with a light vinaigrette.  A complete meal in roughly 30 minutes. 

Chicken Thigh Peperonata
5 chicken thighs - bone in with skin
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, or to preference
6 large mild banana peppers, sliced into rings, about 1 1/2 cups sliced
1 large Spanish or Vidalia onion, sliced vertically, about 1 cup sliced
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons honey

Season the chicken thighs with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and black pepper.  Working with a large skillet over medium high heat, add the tablespoon of oil to the pan; place the chicken into the hot pan, skin-side down.  Cook the thighs on one side for roughly 10-12 minutes.  

Scatter the sliced pepper rings and sliced onions into the pan with the chicken.  Season the peppers and onions with 1 teaspoon of salt.  Continue to cook the chicken, still on side one, and the peppers/onions for 7-8 minutes, moving the peppers/onions around to cook evenly.  Once the peppers/onions have softened and cooked down, move them to one side of the pan.  Turn the chicken thighs to cook on side 2, redistributing the peppers/onions around the chicken.  Side one should be nicely browned at this time.  If not, allow to cook a few minutes longer.  Once you have turned to side 2, cook for about 5 minutes until thoroughly cooked through* and the peppers/onions are soft and slightly browned.  

Add the tablespoon of butter to the pan.  Drizzle the honey over the chicken and peppers/onions.  Stir the peppers and onions through the sauce that has formed in the pan, flipping the chicken to coat with sauce.  Remove the chicken, peppers and onions from the pan to a serving platter.  Pour the sauce over the chicken.  Serve hot or room temperature with a fresh tomato salad. 

*Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Monday, July 3, 2017

ChezCindy: Pasta & Zucchini Ribbons with Parmesan

As we look forward to summer, having zucchini and summer squash available at farm markets and within our own gardens, the squash is available year-round at the grocer.  Zucchini has a mild flavor and is very adaptive to numerous cooking methods.  This versatile squash can be served raw in a salad; or sautĂ©ed, roasted or fried for a number of savory side dishes.  Shredded zucchini can be added to cake, bread and muffin batter creating a moist tender crumb.  I have fond memories of the first time I made zucchini bread as a young baker, seeing the little green flecks of zucchini wrapped inside the sweet bread.  A few years later I learned that adding mini chocolate chips to the batter made it even more delicious. 

There is a bit of a "zoodle" craze going on that carves zucchini and squash into faux pasta noodles.  Looks intriguing, but I have yet to invest in a zoodle-maker.  Instead, I make zucchini ribbons by using a vegetable peeler, shaving down the length of the squash to form beautiful strips that look like colorful ribbons. 

The recipe included below combines eggy pappardelle pasta noodles with the shaved vegetable ribbons, garnished with more ribbons of fresh basil and parmesan cheese.  This recipe pleases a wide variety of palettes from true veggie-lovers to those who only tolerate vegetables.   

Pasta and Zucchini Ribbons with Parmesan
4 medium zucchini, green and yellow variety
4 small carrots
1 cup red onion, sliced vertically
2 cloves garlic
6-8 ounces dry pappardelle pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh basil sliced into ribbons
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese curls

Cook the dry pappardelle noodles according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini squash and carrots into ribbons.  Slice the red onion into thin vertical slices.  Chop the garlic.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet.  Add the onion and the carrot, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Stir frequently, cooking for about 4 minutes until the onion is tender.  Add in the remaining zucchini squash and garlic, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Stir to combine with the onions and carrots, cooking until all vegetables are tender.  Remove from heat.  

Add the cooked pasta to the vegetables along with 2 tablespoons of butter, remaining salt and black pepper; gently stir to combine.  Transfer the pasta and ribbon vegetables to serving platter.  Garnish with ribbons of basil and Parmesan cheese curls.  Serve warm or room temperature. 
Shown below is ribbon pasta with seared salmon but can also accompany grilled chicken, or stand-alone as a vegetarian dinner.