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.