Friday, July 31, 2020

ChezCindy: Zucchini Squash Carpaccio

Classic Carpaccio is an appetizer made of thinly sliced raw beef served in a single layer on a platter, topped with either a creamy white sauce or lemon juice and olive oil.  This old-style appetizer has been re-invented for today's modern palate such that almost anything sliced thinly and served on a platter to be dubbed as carpaccio.  How fun is that?  The possibilities are endless with summer produce.  

I have been enjoying zucchini squash carpaccio for some time now.  I like to serve it at the end of my work day as a little nibble with a glass of white wine while I prepare dinner.  Lately, I have been making it for breakfast along side of my eggs in place of toast.  That combo is really good together and it allows me to take a break from the delicious bread I have been making.  

There are two important keys to making zucchini squash carpaccio.  The squash must be evenly sliced into very thin pieces.  Use a mandolin or a food processor.  Second, do not add salt to the pan until the end of the cooking process.  Adding salt right away will cause the natural liquid to leak out of the squash yielding a steamed mushy outcome.  We want the squash to be brown and crisp from the direct heat of the pan.  Here's how to make it.  

Zucchini Squash Carpaccio
2-3 small zucchini or yellow squash
2 teaspoons oil
pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Thinly slice the squash using a mandolin or a food processor.  Place an extra large non-stick sauté pan  over medium-high heat.  Drizzle the oil around the pan to evenly distribute.  Add the squash slices to the pan in a single layer.  It is important that the slices are not piled up on top of each other.  You want each slice to have direct contact with the pan.  At this point, just let the squash slices cook in the pan without moving them around.  This is very passive cooking.  Once you to see the edges begin to curl up and browning occurring on the underside of the slices, you are almost done.  There is no need to turn over the slices as they are fully cooked by this time.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the squash, and pepper if you prefer.  Remove the squash from the pan onto a platter into an even layer.  Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.  Top with some chopped fresh herbs if you have them.  Basil or chives would be nice.  

The Zucchini Squash Carpaccio is great served hot from the pan, but is also delicious at room temperature.  Serve as an appetizer nibble, or as a side dish for dinner or breakfast.   

Saturday, July 18, 2020

ChezCindy: Sloppy Joes with Homemade Sloppy Sauce

I developed this Sloppy Joes recipe for a children's cooking class thinking it would please the palette of young people.  But I find myself making it all the time for our grown-up taste buds.  My husband requests it often.  It is an easy make-ahead meal that reheats well, served on soft toasted buns.  I usually sauté a mix of vegetables to serve along side for a complete meal.  The secret ingredient for the sloppy sauce is the McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning.  Without the seasoning blend it lacks the zip which makes these Sloppy Joes appealing to grown-ups.  But the kids liked it too.  Even the young fella who said he hated mustard.  This children's recipe brings big smiles and happy bellies.   

I have made this with ground beef and ground turkey.  Both are delicious.  

Sloppy Joes with Homemade Sloppy Sauce
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1-pound ground beef or turkey
8-ounce can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon mustard
4-ounces ketchup
1/2 teaspoon McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning

Butter for toasting the buns

Working with a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil, chopped onion and bell pepper, and salt.  Stir together, cooking until the vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes.  Raise the heat to medium-high, add in the ground meat, breaking up into small crumbles; cook until the meat has browned deeply.  Add in the tomato sauce, rinsing out the can with the 3 tablespoons of water, adding the water to the pan.  Stir in the brown sugar, mustard and ketchup, stirring to combine.  Sprinkle in the steak seasoning, stirring occasionally until the sauce is thickened.  Taste for seasoning and adjust to your taste.  I usually sprinkle in a bit more steak seasoning to make the "joes" more zippy.  

Butter the buns for toasting in a separate skillet.  Serve a generous portion of the Sloppy Joes onto each bun and enjoy. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

ChezCindy: Mixed Berry Jam with Basil

I held a small dinner party this past week, finishing the evening with a sweet treat of berries and a beautiful cake from Joy Cho Pastries .  Perfect together.  The next day, I realized I had way too many berries leftover.  I decided to combine the berries and make a summer jam.  Making jam sounds like a daunting task but it is quite easy to do.  And the results are fruitful and rewarding.

I used a combination of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and sweet cherries, tossing the berries together, with a few sprigs of basil.  The jam tastes like summer in a jar.  You can use any mix of fresh fruit, and/or herbs being optional.  The basil gives a subtle back note of balance to the sweetness of the fruit and sugar.  Lemon juice is the natural pectin, which also adds brightness to the jam. 

Mixed Berry Jam with Basil
2 pounds of fresh ripe berries
2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 sprigs of fresh herbs, optional

Rinse the fresh fruit, patting dry with paper towels to remove the excess water.  Cut the larger strawberries into pieces, removing the stems, leaving small berries whole such as blueberries or raspberries.  Add the berries and sugar into a medium-sized deep pan.  Stir to combine.  Place the pan over medium-high heat.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring a few times to bring together.  Add in the sprigs of herbs and the lemon juice, stirring to combine.  Maintain the mix at a steady boil for about 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Using a candy thermometer, test the temperature of the jam, looking for the mix to be 220 degrees.  If you don't have a thermometer, use the cold spoon test.  Place a metal spoon in the freezer to chill it.  Dip the cold spoon into the jam.  Using your finger, swipe a line across the back the spoon.  The line should hold clear and clean with the jam staying somewhat thick in texture.  Remove the pan from the heat, allowing the jam to cool slightly in the pan. Stir the jam to find the sprigs of herbs; remove and discard the herbs.  Ladle the jam into jars, covering with lids to seal.  Allow the jam to cool in the jars on the counter.  Once cool, keep the jam in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.