Saturday, December 29, 2018

ChezCindy: Smoked Salmon Croque Monsieur

If you can make a grilled cheese sandwich, you can make Smoked Salmon Croque Monsieur.  This is simply a fancy name.  Typically, a croque monsieur is made with ham and cheese and topped with a cheese sauce called Mornay, which is a basic white sauce with grated cheese added.  When you are served a good "Croque" you will be eating a rich and delicious sandwich.  Not to be confused with a basic ham and cheese sandwich.  I know it may seem I am getting a little fussy here, but there is a difference.

A smoked salmon croque is a modified version of the traditional French sandwich.  This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Chef Eric Ripert in his book, A Return to Cooking.   I often serve these as an appetizer for dinner parties.  They are always a huge favorite.  The sandwiches would also make a nice lunch served with a crisp green salad.  

Smoked Salmon Croque Monsieur
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
8 slices thinly sliced white sandwich bread
8 ounces sliced smoked salmon
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
zest and juice of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Makes 4 sandwiches

Lay out the 8 bread slices.  I use Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread.  Evenly divide the grated cheese onto 4 of the bread slices.  Place 2 ounce of smoked salmon onto the other 4 slices of bread.  Sprinkle the chopped chives over the cheese; divide the lemon zest over the salmon along with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Close the sandwiches.  Spread the softened butter on both outer sides of the sandwiches.

Heat a large skillet or griddle pan over medium-high heat.  Place the sandwiches cheese side down and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.  Turn over the sandwiches, cooking this side until lightly browned.  Remove from the pan to a cutting board.  Cut the sandwiches in half on the diagonal, cut each half again diagonally to make triangles.  Serve hot.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

ChezCindy: Puff Pastry Sausage Appetizer

There is so much going on this time of year.  From holiday gatherings to football bowl parties, to shopping frenzies.  We are all looking for something easy and delicious to eat.  This recipe is influenced from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.  I made these puff pastry sausages for a family gathering and they were a big hit with the youngest 5-year old child and on up to her grandparents.

The recipe is very versatile.  Ms. Garten used a lamb sausage in her original recipe.  I had chicken sausage in the freezer so that is what I used, serving it with a creamy mayo-mustard dipping sauce.  When next I make these, I want to take an Italian approach using a spicy Italian sausage and serve with a marinara sauce for dipping.  I served these as an appetizer, but they could easily stand in as lunch served with a salad.

Puff Pastry Sausage Appetizer
8 ounces fresh sausage links - 4 links
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed - such as Pepperidge Farm
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 egg, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare a large sheet tray by lining it with parchment paper.

In a medium skillet, cook the sausage for 5-10 minutes until browned and cooked through.  Allow to cool.  Once cool, if the sausage is thick and fat, cut in half length-wise.  Blot off any excess grease.

Unfold the single sheet of puff pastry.  Using a rolling pin, roll out the folds to flatten the sheet.  Cut the sheet into 4 equal squares.

Brush each square with 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  Place 1 sausage link on each square, rolling the sausage to encase it in the puff pastry.

Seal the ends by pinching them to close.  Place the pastry roll onto the prepared sheet tray, seam-side down.  Repeat with each sausage link.

Make an egg wash by beating the egg with 1 tablespoon of water.  Lightly brush each sausage roll with the egg wash.  Using a sharp knife, cut 3 slits across the top of each sausage roll.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.  Cool slightly.  Cut into 1-inch pieces.  Serve hot or room temperature.

To make the creamy mayo-mustard dipping sauce:  Combine 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise with 2 teaspoons of whole-grain mustard and 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  Stir well to combine.

Friday, December 14, 2018

ChezCindy: Smoked Salmon Latkes

If you are looking for an easy yet impressive appetizer, this should be on your list to make.  

Latkes are usually made with grated potatoes and onion.  Here, I add grated carrots to the mix to add a bit of color, flavor and texture.  Topped with smoked salmon, chopped egg and thinly sliced green onion make this a delightful savory treat.  The latkes can be made ahead of time and kept warm in a low temperature oven.  Assemble with the smoked salmon and chopped eggs right before your guests arrive.  These are also very good at room temperature, but best when served right away.  

I encourage you not to shy away from making these as they are not difficult to make.  Promise.  If you are not a fan of smoked salmon, simply serve these plain, lightly salted, with a dollop of sour cream.  These latkes would be perfect for a cocktail party or right at home for a football bowl game.  

Smoked Salmon Latkes
1 pound russet potatoes
2 large carrots
1 small onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup vegetable oil

Sliced smoked salmon
Chopped egg
Green onion, thinly sliced

Prepare a sheet tray lining it with paper towels and a wire rack set on top of the paper towels.  This is where the cooked latkes will be placed when removed from the hot oil.

To make the latkes:  Using a food processor fitted with the grating blade, or use a box grater, grate the potatoes, carrots, and the onion.  Transfer to a large kitchen towel. Gather the towel tightly around the potato mixture and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.  

Transfer the potato mixture to a large bowl.  Add the egg, 3 tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper.  Stir until blended. 

In a large cast iron pan or electric skillet, add enough oil to cover the bottom to 1/4 inch depth.  Heat the oil to 365 degrees.  Transfer 1 tablespoon of the potato mix into the pan, gently pressing the mound to flatten slightly.  Continue to fill the pan, allowing space between each potato mound.  Cook until the edges turn crisp and brown.  Carefully flip to continue cooking on the second side.  Transfer the cooked latkes to the prepared tray onto the wire rack.  Sprinkle with additional salt.  Keep warm in a low temperature oven until ready to assemble with toppings and serve.  

Top each latke with sliced smoked salmon, chopped egg and thinly sliced green onion tops.  Serve immediately.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Chez Cindy: Pumpkin Scones with Brown Butter Maple Glaze

As the calendar hits October, my thoughts turn to baking with pumpkin.  I like to mix up a small batch of pumpkin pie spice by combining fragrant autumn spices of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  The blend of spices is then ready for use when Thanksgiving is looming near and soon to be making pumpkin pie, spicy pumpkin bread or these lovely pumpkin scones.  The scones are quite good on their own but are even better when iced with brown butter maple glaze.  

Pumpkin Scones with Brown Butter Maple Glaze
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*  recipe here
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more for brushing
1 large egg
1/3 cup pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Working with a stand mixer or a hand mixer, add the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, and salt to the bowl, mix briefly to combine.

Cut the butter into small 1/4-inch pieces.

Add the butter to the bowl with the flour.  Mix for 2-3 minutes until the butter is coarsely combined with the flour.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the cream, egg and pumpkin puree until just combined.  Add this to the flour and butter.  Mix until the mixture just comes together to make a crumbly dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface.  Pat the dough into a 7-inch round disk.  Place the disk onto a parchment lined baking tray.  Cut the disk into 8 wedges.  Pull the wedges 2-inch apart.

Brush the tops with cream.  Place the baking tray in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to chill the unbaked scones.  

Place the baking tray in the preheated oven, baking the scones for 20 minutes until golden brown.  Let cool completely.  When cool, ice the tops with the brown butter maple glaze.

Brown Butter Maple Glaze
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
pinch of kosher salt

Place the butter into a small sauce pan over medium heat.  As the butter melts, swirl the pan occasionally, watching carefully as the butter begins to brown.  Remove from heat when you see a pale browning in color.  Cool to room temperature.
Place the powdered sugar into a small bowl.  Add the cream, maple syrup and pinch of salt; stir to combine.  Pour in the cooled brown butter, stirring until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  If the mixture is too thick, add a teaspoon of cream or water to thin. 

* If not using pumpkin pie spice, use 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

ChezCindy: Salty Pecan-Walnut Bourbon Pie

Sometimes, making an error in a recipe can lead to an improvement.  One of the most famous examples of this is with the well-known chef Jean-George Vongerichten and his molten chocolate cake recipe.  Other times, it can lead to disaster.  This time, my error in measurement was all in my favor.  

I was following along in my "make always" pecan pie recipe when I did not realize I had used the 1/3 cup for the sugar when the recipe calls for the 1/2 cup.  I realized my error as I was cleaning up, pie in the oven, and saw that the 1/2 cup was still clean, but the 1/3 cup had sugar residue in it.  Hmmmm.  What had I done?  I had tasted the sugary batter before putting the pie into the oven, so I knew it was delicious, but did I really use less sugar?  I was now certain that I had, wondering what the fully baked outcome would be.  Turns out, it was the best pecan pie ever.  Good fortune for me. 

Maybe what threw me off was my decision to alter my standard pecan pie recipe by using toasted pecans and toasted walnuts.  The two nuts are different in taste, but also complement each other.  I had also decided to increase the salt in the recipe, making a play on the salty-caramel duo.  No change with the bourbon.  I always use bourbon in my pecan pie.  

As I anxiously waited for the pie to cool, it looked and smelled wonderful.  Much later as I cut my first slice of pie, took that first bite... oh my.  This was dangerously delicious as in I might eat the entire pie in one day kind of delicious.  This pie was all about the nuts.  The pecans and the walnuts were so good together with less sugar to get in the way of their nutty flavor.  The slightly elevated hit of salt on the palette also balanced the sweet.  This new fortuitous recipe is truly my "make always" pecan pie recipe.  

Salty Pecan-Walnut Bourbon Pie
3 large eggs
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups combined, 1 cup toasted pecans & 1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 pie crust  click here for recipe

Makes 1 pie

Roll out 1 pie dough disk on a floured surface to fit a 9-inch pie pan, roughly 12 inches round.  Transfer the dough to the pie pan, crimp the edge decoratively.  Refrigerate while making the pie filling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, positioning the rack in the center of the oven.  
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl.  Whisk in the sugars.  Stir in the corn syrup, melted butter, bourbon, salt and nuts until combined.  Transfer the filling to the prepared crust.  Place whole nuts decoratively on top of the filling for a pretty appearance, if desired.  

Bake the pie for roughly 55 minutes.  The filling should be puffed and just set in the center.  Remove from the oven, allowing the pie to cool completely.  Serve and enjoy.  

Saturday, September 29, 2018

ChezCindy: Citrus Kale Salad

I presented a Citrus Kale Salad recipe as part of a citrus themed cooking class last winter, demonstrating several recipes using lemons, limes oranges and grapefruit.  The colorful citrus brought a ray of sunshine among the dark winter days.  It was fun and tasty.

With the cooler days of fall, kale is now available from the farm markets, and lots of gorgeous apples.  I thought this salad might be good with crisp apples in place of the clementine oranges.  The apples work very well.  The orange juice used in the salad dressing complements the apples and the kale.  Try making this now with apples and later this winter with clementine oranges.

Citrus Kale Salad
4 cups kale leaves, cut into thin ribbons
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4-5 clementine oranges, or 2 small apples

Slice the kale leaves into ribbons and place them into a large bowl.  Massage the olive oil into the kale; sprinkle with the kosher salt. 

Peel and divide each clementine into sections, cut each section in half crosswise; add to the kale.  Alternate option:  cut each apple into thin slices.  Drizzle 3 tablespoons of Citrus Dressing over the kale; toss to combine well.  Add more dressing as desired.  Serve as a first course salad, or make this into a hearty lunch by including sliced grilled chicken.  

Citrus Salad Dressing
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
a few grinds of black pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons olive oil

Add the orange juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, honey and Dijon in a small bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.  Serve with Citrus Kale Salad.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

ChezCindy: Nicoise-style Roasted Turkey Breast

Nicoise-style cooking is preparing food in the manner of the countryside in Nice, France.  Using fresh ingredients of olives, capers, lemons, tomatoes, fresh herbs, meat or fish, all bathed in olive oil.  Food prepared simply, letting the ingredients shine.

This roasted turkey breast does take a few additional steps to prepare, but it is worth the effort.  It is a bit advanced if you are ready to try something new.  Butterflying the turkey breast allows for the herbs, lemon and olives to become wrapped inside the turkey while roasting, allowing the flavor to baste the meat from the inside-out.  If you are pressed for time, have the butcher butterfly the meat for you.  Or simply place the whole boneless turkey breast in the roasting pan, scattering the ingredients over and around the turkey.  This would also be quite good with turkey thighs.  

Nicoise-style Roasted Turkey Breast
1 whole turkey breast, boneless 3- 4 pounds
     Or use 3-4 pounds of bone-in turkey thighs
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pits removed
1 lemon, thinly sliced
4-6 stems of fresh tarragon
4-6 stems of fresh thyme
3-4 stems of fresh rosemary 
1 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt & pepper

green onions or leeks
small whole carrots

Have your butcher prepare a small whole turkey breast by removing the bone, keeping the 2 sides intact, attached by the skin.  Butterfly the thicker parts of the meat so that the turkey breast is even in thickness.  

Working on a large cutting board, lay out the turkey breast, opening it up like a book, skin-side down.  Sprinkle evenly with kosher salt, black pepper and 1/4 cup olive oil.  Tear the olives into pieces, distributing over the 2 sides of turkey.  Add half of the sprigs of tarragon, thyme and rosemary to one side; top the herbs with the lemon slices.  Close the "book" placing the herb-less side over the side with the herbs and lemon slices to cover them.  Sprinkle the outside with salt, black pepper.  Using butcher twine, tie the two sides together to keep it closed, containing the herbs, olives and lemons.  Place the bundled turkey breast into a zip-top bag.  Add 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar and the remaining sprigs of herbs.  Marinate in the refrigerator over night.  

Next day, remove the bundled turkey breast and loose herbs from the bag; discard the bag.  Allow the turkey breast to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Working on the stovetop, heat a large cast iron skillet for a few minutes, place the bundled turkey breast into the hot pan.  Cook on medium high heat for 5-7 minutes to sear and brown this first side.  When well browned, using tongs, turn the turkey over to side 2.  Place the loose herbs on top of side 2.  Scatter the prepared vegetables around the turkey at the edge of the pan.  Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper over the vegetables.  Place the pan into the preheated oven.  

Ready for the oven.

Roast until the center of the turkey breast reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees.  Roughly 15 minutes per pound of turkey.  Remove pan from the oven.   

Turkey breast resting in the pan, once internal temperature reaches 155 degrees.

Allow the turkey to rest for 20 minutes in the pan.  Carry-over cooking will take the temperature to 160.  Remove the turkey from the pan, cut and remove the butcher string ties.  Carve into thick slices. Serve with the pan juices drizzled over the meat and vegetables.  Enjoy.  

Saturday, July 21, 2018

ChezCindy: Weekend Waffles

Banana Waffles

Wake up early and surprise your loved ones with homemade waffles.  If you are an occasional baker, you have the ingredients in the pantry.  And who doesn't have a brown spotted banana laying in the fruit bowl that has been passed over for the prettier yellow ones.  My house most always has one or two.

If you don't own a waffle maker, I encourage you to look at a second-hand store or watch for a sale to buy one.  Waffle batter is easy to make and the outcome is so much better than the toaster frozen variety you can buy as readymade.

In the Fall and Winter, I use this same recipe to make pumpkin waffles.  Just switch out the quarter cup of mashed bananas with a quarter cup of canned pumpkin puree.  Delicious.  You can be creative with the recipe too.  Try switching up the spices using cardamom, cloves or nutmeg.  And the milk can be anything from whole, skim, buttermilk, almond milk or even coconut milk.  Have fun.  There are a lot of weekends ahead of you calling out for waffles.

Banana Waffles
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup mashed bananas

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, melted butter, yogurt and bananas until smooth and well combined.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir until just combined.  Allow the mixed ingredients to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat a waffle iron and lightly brush the grates with butter.  Fill the waffle grates and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions until the waffles are crisp and golden.  Repeat with the remaining batter.  Serve with melted butter and syrup, topping with fresh fruit if desired.

Makes 8 standard waffles

Monday, July 2, 2018

ChezCindy: Sweet Almond Cornmeal Cake

For as long as I have been baking, it is always a pleasant surprise to come upon something completely new and foreign to me that turns out to be really fantastic.  I was reading a wine magazine and found a cake recipe using almond paste as an ingredient.  It did not sound too foreign, but new to me in that I was not sure where to buy almond paste, or where to locate it in the grocery store if indeed they did sell it.  After perusing the baking aisle at my local grocer, I did not see it after one pass.  I thought maybe the international aisle.  Nope.  Fortunately, there was someone stocking the shelves who knew exactly what almond paste was, what aisle it was in, and the exact spot on the shelf.  Got it.  Now, take it home and figure out what is this almond paste.

Reading the package ingredients, it is simply blanched almonds, sugar, water and other "natural flavors".  Okay, sounds right.  As I opened the package, I discovered the most pleasant sweet almond fragrance.  Very enticing.  Removing it from the foil package, it was a beige squishy block, almost like shortening but with more substance.  Seems promising.  And it was.  This new ingredient created the most delicious sweet almond cake batter.

The recipe was not complicated, but I did change it just a bit.  With baking, I always recommend following the directions as-is for the first use, then make it your own.  After making it once, I decided on a few changes, and to make individual cakes using a large cupcake pan.  Here is how I made this new ingredient into a sweet success.

Almond Cornmeal Cake
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup almond paste
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup plain yogurt

butter and flour to grease the baking pan
powdered sugar for dusting the finished cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the cups of a cupcake pan to make 6 large cupcakes.  Or, grease an 8-inch cake pan.*  Lightly dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

In a small bowl, add the cornmeal, cake flour, and baking powder; whisk to combine.  Set aside.

Working with a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, add the softened butter and almond paste to the mixing bowl; mix on medium speed until creamy and well combined, 3-5 minutes.  Add in the powdered sugar, mixing on slow speed until combined.  Add in the eggs and egg yolks, one a time, mixing to combine.  Mix in the vanilla.  Add in the yogurt and dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Divide the cake batter evenly into the 6 cupcake wells.  Bake for 18-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown.*  Remove from the oven.  Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove the cakes from the pan, placing onto a wire baking rack to continue cooling.  Once cool, dust with powdered sugar.  Serve with fresh strawberries.

* If using an 8-inch cake pan, bake for 35 minutes.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

ChezCindy: Chive Scrambled Eggs with Parmesan Cheese

Chive Scrambled Eggs with Parmesan Cheese

When you have time in the morning and are looking for a special treat, scrambled eggs can be your go-to breakfast.  If you have scones made from another day stored in your freezer, even better.  Irish Cheddar Herb Scones   Today I took inspiration from the fresh chives in my herb garden and made chive scrambled eggs with Parmesan cheese.  

Scrambled eggs may seem simple enough and not need a recipe.  True.  But here are a few tips I recommend.  Use the best quality eggs you can find.  Color of the shell does not matter, but fresh from the farm does.  Cook your eggs in a non-stick pan with real butter.  The butter coats the pan and adds flavor.  Add salt to your eggs, but wait until they are nearly cooked through.  Adding salt to the raw eggs will toughen them.  Remove the eggs from the pan when they still look a bit wet and undercooked.  They will continue cooking on the plate as they set up.  I prefer softly scrambled eggs.  If you like yours a bit firmer, I still recommend early transfer to the plate, just a bit more cooked through for your preference.  Scrambled eggs make a great breakfast, but can be a quick simple meal anytime of day.  

If you are fortunate to have access to farm fresh eggs, count yourself lucky.  The richness of flavor is quite different than store-bought eggs.  The color of the yolks are your first clue that these eggs are a step up from everyday.  

Chive Scrambled Eggs with Parmesan Cheese
2 large fresh eggs
2-3 teaspoons butter
1/2 tablespoon fresh cut chives
1 teaspoon fresh grated Parmesan cheese
pinch of kosher salt

Crack each egg into a medium bowl.  With a fork, break the yolk and whisk the eggs until the yolk and white are completely combined.  Place a non-stick pan over a medium-low heat.  Add the butter to the pan to melt.  Whisk the eggs one more time, transfer to the pan.  With a rubber spatula, gently stir the eggs to form soft curds.  If the pan looks too dry, add another teaspoon of butter.  Add the pinch of salt, chives and cheese.  Stir to combine.  Transfer to serving plate.  Makes 1 serving or 2 small first course servings.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

ChezCindy: What's Up with Avocado Toast?

Avocado Toast with Cherry Tomatoes & Micro-Greens

Why is avocado toast such a "thing"?  The popularity of avocado toast has risen, fallen, and is now back again.  If you have not tried it yet, here's the scoop.  

Avocado toast hit the social media scene, in recent popularity, originating from a restauranteur in Australia.  It then made the jump to New York City, bounced over to LA, then spread through the rest of the country like a California wild fire.  But why has its popularity been sustained for so long?  Well, it is easy to make.  It's satiating due to the healthy fats.  And, most importantly, it's really good!

Here are a few more reasons to give avocado toast a try.  Avocados contain more potassium than bananas.  True, avocados are the fattiest plant on the planet.  But, most of the fat in avocado is oleic acid, the same component found in olive oil linked to heart healthy benefits.  Avocado toast makes a quick portable breakfast when you are on the go.  Or, a tasty mid-day snack to make it through to dinner.  Here's how to make it.  

  1. Start with a good whole-grain bread from the local bakery shop.  Toast slices until nicely browned.
  2. Peel, then mash an avocado until almost smooth.  Mix in fresh squeezed lime juice.  Season with sea salt.  
  3. Spread the avocado mash onto the toast.  Top with sliced cherry tomatoes, micro-greens and course sea salt.  Eat right away.  Smile.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

ChezCindy: Mustard Herb Roasted Turkey with Roasted Carrots

I could have titled this post "Roasted Carrots that Taste Better Than the Turkey".   Not to imply that the turkey was bad, but the carrots stole the meal.  Roasting vegetables generally brings out the best in all produce highlighting the natural sweetness.  In this case, I used the carrots as a roasting rack for the turkey breast resulting in incredibly flavored carrots.  The juices from the turkey, mustard and herbs basted the carrots, yet they were slightly caramelized from sitting on the bottom of the roasting pan.

Carrots are often an under used vegetable.  They are inexpensive yet are so versatile.  And, anytime we can eat orange vegetables, that is a bonus to our day.  Since winter seems to be hanging on way past its welcome, try this carrot soup recipe to brighten your day.  Carrot Soup

Roasting a turkey breast is a great way to enjoy all the flavor of Thanksgiving meal without all the time and prep work.  I used a 2-pound bone-in turkey breast and it was done in roughly an hour.  You could also prepare this same recipe with the carrots using several large bone-in chicken breasts or a whole chicken.  Just vary the cooking time until the poultry reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees for doneness.

Mustard Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Roasted Carrots
1 bone-in turkey breast (half) 2 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs
   a combination of rosemary, sage, thyme and parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound carrots for the "roasting rack"

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Peel the carrots and cut then in half lengthwise.  Place the carrots in a roasting pan, flat side down to form a roasting rack for the turkey.  Place the turkey breast on top of the carrots.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, chopped fresh herbs, salt, sugar and pepper, mixing well.  Pour the mixture over the turkey breast.  Loosen the skin and rub some of the mustard herb mixture directly onto the meat.  Add 1 cup of water to the bottom of the roasting pan.

Roast the turkey in the hot oven for roughly 1 - 1 1/2 hours until the turkey is golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with the roasted carrots and the turkey juices gathered at the bottom of the roasting pan.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

ChezCindy: Quick Pickled Vegetables

So often we use old expressions without giving thought to the origin.  When someone uses the phrase to be in a pickle, there are numerous meanings.  Generally, it is used when found to be in an awkward, unexpected situation.  It can also refer to one's condition after enjoying too many alcoholic beverages.  Which could be the same as an awkward, unexpected situation, as our favorite spiked beverages can sometimes leave us wondering, "how did that happen?".  Not that this has ever happened to me..... 

In the 1700's, the word pickle referred to a mixture of spiced, salted vinegar that was used as a preservative.  That is where we are going today: a quick pickle to extend and flavor the use of vegetables.  Quick pickles are different than the long-storage pickles that are fermented and stored in the pantry for months.  A quick pickled vegetable will store in the refrigerator for one month.  Pickled vegetables add flavor and texture to sandwiches, salads and other favorites such as tacos!  Here's how to do it.  

There is a basic ratio when quick pickling.  Equal parts water and vinegar, plus equal parts kosher salt and sugar, plus dried herbs and spices for flavor.  The chart below offers examples of what to use.  I often have pickled red onions in my fridge.  The red onions create a pretty pink brine that develops from the color of the onions.  Using a mandolin, thinly slice the onions and add dried cumin see and mustard seed for flavor.  The subtle flavor of cumin makes a difference.  English cucumbers are best to use for making 'pickles' as they have smaller seeds.  These can be sliced thinly for sandwiches or into large chunks to include on a vegetable tray.  I like using coriander seeds and tucking a few cloves of garlic into the jar for a traditional flavor.  Anytime you want to add heat to the vegetables, consider adding dried red pepper flakes.  

Quick Pickled Vegetables     
Glass Jars - Choices
Fresh Vegetables - Choices
Dried Whole Spices - Choices
~English Cucumber
~Coriander Seeds
~Red Onion
~Cumin Seeds

~Mustard Seeds

1-pound vegetables, cleaned and cut into pieces or thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried whole spices, any combination

Place the cleaned cut vegetables into the canning jars, lightly packing to fit.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, dissolving the salt and sugar.  Pour the hot liquid over the vegetables to cover them completely, filling the jar to 1/2-inch from the top of the jar.  Seal the jar tightly with the lid.  Allow to cool on the counter.  Place the cooled jar in the refrigerator.  Wait 24 hours before enjoying so that the vegetables have time to pickle.  The vegetables will develop more flavor as they age.  Store in the fridge for up to one month.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

ChezCindy: Irish Cheddar & Herb Scones

Winter weather is holding on as we make our way through the month of March.  I can't seem to stop baking.  I think it is the cold weather that makes me turn to my favorite recipes.  Scones are always comforting to me whether I make them savory or sweet.  These cheddar and herb scones bake up golden brown on the outside, but tender and light as you break into them.  Perfect with pot roast Pot Roast...a Perfect Winter Meal  or just with your morning cup of tea.

Irish Cheddar & Herb Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced 
2 large eggs
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
4 ounces white Irish cheddar cheese, small-diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  

Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and sea salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the cold diced butter and mix on low speed until the butter is broken down to pea-size pieces.  Mix the cold eggs and the cold heavy cream and add to the flour-butter mix until just blended.  In a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon of flour to the cold finely diced cheddar, add in the chopped herbs; toss to combine.  Add this to the dough, mixing briefly until slightly incorporated.  

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until the cheddar and herbs are evenly distributed.  Roll the dough to 3/4-inch thick.  Cut the dough into 3-inch squares.  Place onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush the tops with the egg wash.  Bake in the upper part of the oven for 20 minutes.  

Remove from the oven.  Slide the parchment paper onto the counter to cool.  Serve warm with sweet butter and/or cheddar cheese.  

More scone recipes you can try as we transition into Spring!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

ChezCindy: A Magically Disappearing Chocolate Cake

I have several posts about chocolate cake, but this one is a "welcome home chocolate cake".  My husband had been away on travels and after weather delayed flights, was finally home.  We were both in the kitchen at 1:30 in the morning eating this most comforting chocolate cake.  But that is not what makes this cake magical.

Each time I make this cake, it seems to disappear.  I keep it sitting on the counter in this pretty cake dome.  As I walk through the room, I'll notice another slice has been cut.   Hmmm.... 

This cake is so moist, it could last for days.  But it never does.  It seems to magically disappear until only a few crumbs and smears of chocolate buttercream remain on the plate.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line each with parchment paper, lightly dust the pans with flour.

Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until combined.  In a separate medium bowl, add the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla, whisking to combine.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. With the mixer still on low, add the hot coffee until combined.  Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and scrape the bottom to be sure all ingredients are well combined.  

Evenly divide the batter between the three prepared cake pans.  Bake for 23-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when tested in the center of the cake.  Cool in the pans for 20 minutes.  Remove cake from the pans, transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons hot water

Chop the chocolate into pieces.  Place the chocolate into the upper bowl of a double boiler pan set over medium heat to gently melt the chocolate.  Remove the melted chocolate from the heat.  Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter for 3 minutes until creamy and pale yellow in color.  Add the egg yolk and vanilla, continue beating for another 2 minutes.  Add the sifted powdered sugar, with the mixer set on low, beat until smooth and creamy. 

Dissolve the 2 teaspoons of instant coffee powder into 2 teaspoons of hot water.  Add the coffee and the melted chocolate to the butter mixture, beat until fully combined.  Spread onto the cooled cake.

This recipe is from Ina Garten's cookbook, Barefoot Contessa At Home with slight modifications.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

ChezCindy: Chocolate Cake for Your Sweetie

If your sweetie is sweet on chocolate, this is the cake to make for Valentines day, a birthday, or just any day to say I love you.  Normally when baking, most recipes use unsalted butter.  However, using salt is relevant in baking as it elevates the sweetness of the baked good.  When I saw this recipe using salted butter, it caught my interest.  Once I tasted the cake, I discovered that the salted butter and the full teaspoon of salt used in this recipe, brightened the chocolate flavor, with a mysterious subtle undertone that lingered on the tongue.  Uniquely good.

The cake batter comes together quickly and bakes in about 30 minutes.  The center of the cake will be slightly loose, just a bit under-baked, but that is part of the charm.  You will be tempted to bake it longer than called for as the center will not look fully set.  If you do, that's okay.  But trust on the time specified.  The result is a gooey, rich goodness.  The cake does need to cool for at least 1 hour before removing it from the pan.  So, plan ahead.  It is worth the wait.    

The finished cake needs little adornment, just a dusting of powdered sugar or a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream if you are feeling decadent.  At Chez Cindy, this cake has become a favorite for my favorite chocolate sweetie.

Salted Butter Chocolate Cake*
7 tablespoons salted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare a 9-inch round cake pan by greasing it thoroughly with butter and lining the bottom with parchment paper.

Working with a double boiler pan, combine the butter and chopped chocolate into the top pan, set over the pan with the simmering water.  Stir until the butter and chocolate are combined.  Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  In a small separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt.

Stir the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.  Add in the vanilla.  Fold in the flour/salt until just combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven.  Set the cake pan onto a baking rack to cool for a minimum of 1 hour.  Invert the cake onto a cake plate, peel off the parchment paper.  Dust the top with powdered sugar or serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

*Recipe adapted from French Country Cooking by Mimi Thorisson