Monday, August 30, 2021

ChezCindy: Grill "Roasted" Potatoes


 Potatoes & vegetables ready for the grill. 

I had a craving for roasted potatoes but did not want to turn on the oven to a high heat roasting temperature in the "dog-days" of summer.  So I turned to my gas grill to meet the craving. 

This is one of those dishes that is more of a process than a recipe.  My main ingredient was Yukon Gold potatoes.  Then I went to the pantry for other vegetables to roast along with the potatoes.  I had sweet Vidalia onions, red onions, poblano peppers, serrano peppers, red bell pepper and garlic.  My must have herb was fresh rosemary from my garden.  This was my combination.  But many other vegetables would work in combination to what you have and what you like.    

Working with a black iron skillet (very grill-proof) I first lined the pan with foil for easy clean-up.  I wanted to be sure the potatoes had direct surface exposure to the heat, so I placed them cut side down in the center of the pan.  Drizzled them with olive oil, with a generous sprinkle of kosher salt.  Then, nestled around the potatoes went the remaining vegetables of peppers, onions and garlic, each cut into pieces.  I gave all another sprinkle of salt and a dash of McCormick's Grill Seasoning for extra zip, with the fresh rosemary placed on top of the potatoes.  The iron skillet went onto the preheated hot grill, temperature around 425-450 degrees.  I cooked the mix of potatoes and vegetable untouched for about 40 minutes.  No stirring, no concern for too much color.  Once the potatoes were cooked through, browned and tender, I removed the pan from the grill.  And only then did I stir to combine.  

The potatoes and vegetables roasted beautifully and were perfect with burgers.  Just what my craving was seeking.  

Sunday, August 29, 2021

ChezCindy: Sundried Tomato Pesto with Gemelli Pasta


The recipe for this Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta came from an Instagram post I saw from Giada De Laurentiis.  Her site is titled giadzy.  The video caught my attention seeing how easy it is to make, but a search of her web site provided the recipe. 

Giada added the sundried tomato pesto to gemelli pasta for a delicious dish shown above.  The pesto is also really good on its own for other uses.  I have used it topped on my morning eggs for a zippy breakfast.  Toss the pesto with roasted zucchini to bring a bright flavor to this mildly flavored vegetable.  It is also makes a wonderful summer appetizer drizzled on toasted sourdough bread with a glass of chilled crisp white wine.  Very summery.  

Sundried Tomato Pesto with Gemelli Pasta
1 jar sundried tomatoes, 7-8 ounces
2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounces gemelli pasta, or similar shape
Additional grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Drain, and set aside.  

Working with a food processor, add the sundried tomatoes, including the oil from the jar, and the garlic, process to combine.  Add in the fresh basil, salt and pepper, process to combine.  Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese.  

Add the drained pasta to the pesto, tossing to coat.  Add in about half of the reserved cooking water to loosen the sauce and help coat the pasta.  Taste the pasta for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed to taste.  Drizzle with olive oil and additional Parmesan cheese and serve.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

ChezCindy: Jammy Breakfast Pastry Twists


I have kept folders of recipes torn from magazines and newspapers for years and years.  Before getting organized with the folders, I simply had stacks of loose paper recipes in no order.  But that was long ago.  Now I have folders with categories labeled by the protein type, vegetable group, two folders for dessert recipes, with a separate folder just for chocolate desserts.  A folder for breakfast recipes, one for quick breads and muffins, sides dishes and sauces, appetizers, and so on.  Of course now we can find recipes on the internet, blog sites, and way more digital media.  But I still like the paper recipes that I can thumb through, finding what I have in mind.  Pulling out the tattered and stained copy of a well-loved recipe.  

The pastry pictured here was made from a recipe photocopied from Gourmet Magazine 2004.  Their titled name was Glazed Apricot Twists.  Since I was using this recipe for a young chefs cooking class, I gave it a new name that they might relate to better:  Jammy Breakfast Pastry Twists.  Not only did they like the name.  They LOVED the pastries!  Below is my adaptation of the Gourmet Magazine recipe.  

Jammy Breakfast Pastry Twists
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farm
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cream or half/half

Thaw the puff pastry according to the package directions.  Keep chilled until ready to make the pastries.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large sheet tray with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Remove one sheet of puff pastry from the package.  Store the second sheet in the refrigerator for another use.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry sheet to a 12x10-inch rectangle.  Cut the sheet in half lengthwise.  Cut each half crosswise into 4 pieces, each piece being 5x3-inches for a total of 8 pieces.  Spread each piece with 1/2 tablespoon of jam.  Fold each piece in half lengthwise to form a 1 1/2-inch wide strip.  Twist each strip three times and place the twisted strip onto the parchment paper lined sheet tray, pressing the ends of each strip to hold it in place on the tray.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of pastry.  

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and puffed.  Remove the tray from the oven, allowing to cool for a few minutes.  Transfer each pastry to a cooling rack set over a piece of parchment paper.  

Combine the powdered sugar with the cream, stirring to form a smooth, creamy glaze.  Using a pastry brush, brush the sugar glaze over the pastries.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

ChezCindy: Shakshuka-style Eggs with Ratatouille


Shakshuka is a North African dish made with simmering tomatoes, onions, and spices with poached eggs.  Here I made it using ratatouille, a dish with origins in the South of France made from summer ripened vegetables including tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers and more.  

I really look forward to this time of year when the summer produce is at it's peak.  With so many colors, shapes and variety of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, I cannot help but to bring home way more than I can use.  I always make ratatouille, akin to being a slow simmered vegetable stew with an abundance of olive oil to give it richness.  

Last summer I learned that ratatouille can be frozen without compromise in texture and quality.  I made a batch of it out of necessity as the vegetables were getting too ripe.  I made the vegetable stew and decided to try freezing it, not knowing how it would last.  Months later in the deep of winter, I thawed it and heated it to discover it was wonderful, bringing a bit of summer to that cold winter day.  I will be freezing more this summer.  

Ratatouille sounds fancy, but it is simply a farmer's harvest of vegetables.  I use a recipe from Jacques Pepin.  Who better to learn from than the master chef himself.  Below is my interpretation of Chef Pepin's classic ratatouille recipe.

Classic Ratatouille
3/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 medium eggplant, 8-10 ounces, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 medium zucchini, 8-10 ounces, cut into 1-inch cubes
12 ounces yellow onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 bell peppers, cored, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
5-6 medium size ripe tomatoes, coarsely cut into pieces
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Using a large stock pot over medium heat, add 1/4 cup of the olive oil to the pan.  Sauté each of the cut vegetables separately, beginning with the eggplant.  Cook the eggplant cubes for 6-8 minutes until softened.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant to a large bowl.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of oil to the pan, continue sautéing with the zucchini for 5-6 minutes, remove to the same bowl with the eggplant.  Next, sauté the onions and pepper, adding 1 teaspoon of salt and a bit more olive oil, stirring together, cooking for 5-6 minutes until softened, but not browned.  Remove to bowl with the other vegetables.  Add in the tomatoes, chopped garlic, water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper, stirring to cook for 5-6 minutes.  Return all of the cooked vegetables from the bowl to the pan, adding these to the tomatoes.  Stir to combine, bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about an hour, stirring a few times.  

Remove the cover, increase the heat to medium, cook for another 20 minutes to reduce some of the liquid.  Taste for seasoning, adding in more salt and pepper as desired.  Stir in the remaining olive oil, adding more if desired to richen the sauce.  Serve the ratatouille hot or warm with pasta or rice, or spooned over cooked chicken or fish.  Also very good simmered as the poaching liquid for eggs.    

Friday, July 23, 2021

ChezCindy: Fresh Strawberry Meringue Pie


I had the good fortune of receiving fresh picked local strawberries this week that I had not planned upon.  Suddenly, I had gorgeous berries that needed to be eaten within a day or two.  Not a bad situation to be in.  I made jam with some of them, also baking flakey homemade biscuits for breakfast.  Such a treat.  With the remaining lovely ripe berries, I decided to make a fresh strawberry pie.  I have never seen a strawberry meringue pie but that was what I had mind.  I found a recipe for a fresh strawberry pie that was topped with whipped cream, most common for fresh strawberry pies.  I replaced the whipped cream with a cooked meringue for a fluffy marshmallowy topped pie.  It was delicious and fun to make!

Here's is how to make this lovely pie.

Fresh Strawberry Meringue Pie
Bake a single 9-inch pie crust in a pie pan as directed by your favorite recipe, or use a store-bought crust, baking and cooling.  Set aside for filling and topping the pie. 

For the Filling:
2 pounds fresh strawberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons strawberry preserves
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Cut the strawberries into quarters or in half if they are small.  Transfer 2 cups of the cut berries to a small saucepan and crush with a potato masher.  Place the remaining strawberries into a large bowl, setting these aside for later use.  Add the sugar, preserves, and cornstarch to the saucepan with the crushed berries.  Set the saucepan over medium heat, stirring the contents and cooking until the mixture comes to a boil.  Cook at a boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Turn off the heat, add the cooked strawberries plus the lemon juice to the fresh strawberries in the large bowl.  Gently stir to coat the fresh strawberries with the cooking berry mixture.  Transfer the berry mix to the prepared baked and cooled 9-inch pie crust.  Cool for 3-4 hours.  

For the Cooked Meringue:
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 large egg whites, room temperature

Place 1 cup of sugar, 5 tablespoons of water, and the cream of tartar into a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, cooking at the boil for 4 minutes.  While the sugar mixture is cooking, whisk the egg whites as described below.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites to the clean mixing bowl.  Beat on high speed for 2-3 minutes until soft peaks form.  Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, whisking until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. 

With the mixer running, slowly and carefully drizzle all of the hot sugar syrup into the meringue, aiming for pouring the syrup close to the side of the bowl, avoiding the whisk attachment.  Continue beating at high speed until the side of the bowl is cool to the touch.  This will take about 5-6 minutes.  You are essentially cooking the meringue with the hot syrup, turning it into a thick marshmallow-like fluff.  

Putting it all together:  
Once the strawberry mixture has cooled in the prepared pie crust and you are ready to serve, spoon the cooked meringue over the top of the pie, swirling to form pretty peaks.  If desired, toast the meringue with a kitchen torch, or place the pie on the bottom rack of the oven under the hot broiler for 10-15 seconds just until lightly browned.  

Serve the pie the same day as made.  

Sunday, July 18, 2021

ChezCindy: Italian-style Giardiniera Vegetables


Once again with my CSA, I have a variety of vegetables and way too many for immediate use.  Especially peppers.  (I need to research more ways to use peppers.)  I decided to use a mix of the vegetables to make giardiniera.  The funny face on the sliced cucumbers is just a happy bonus.

Giardiniera is Italian pickled vegetables.  The translation roughly means "from the garden".  It is a mix of vegetables preserved in a spicy seasoned vinegar.  Long preserving is shelf-stable and can stay on a shelf for a year.  This version is a quick-pickle meant to stay in the refrigerator for a few weeks.  The quick-pickle still preserves the vegetables, extending their freshness and adding great flavor.  It is just not fully sealed for long shelf life.

Traditional giardiniera includes olive oil as a marinade for the vegetables.  I like to add the olive oil after pickling and once I serve the vegetables.  The marinated vegetables are great added to sandwiches and salads or just simply on a anti-pasta plate with some crackers and cheese.  

I used sliced cucumbers, sliced pepper rings, thinly sliced carrots, spring onions and garlic, seasoned with fennel seeds.  These are common vegetables found in giardiniera.  The seasoning can be spicy hot by adding crushed red pepper flakes, or using hot peppers.  Use what you have and have fun with the added spices.  

Here is how to make Giardiniera:
Choose a variety of vegetables such as peppers, onions, carrots, green beans, or cauliflower.  Cut the vegetables into small bite-size pieces.  Add them to canning jars, such as Ball or Mason, with the proper canning lids.  The recipe below can be doubled or tripled.  

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.  

To use the Giardiniera vegetables:  
Drain the vegetables from the pickling liquid.  Place the drained vegetables into a small bowl.  Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over the vegetables.  Top with a sprinkling of dried Italian herbs.  Serve with sandwiches or burgers, adding the vegetables as a topping.  Or mix in with fresh lettuces for a salad.  The marinated vegetables can also be plated with cheese and crackers for a first course or anti-pasta platter.  

Saturday, July 10, 2021

ChezCindy: Capellini Pasta "Omelet" with Parmesan


This is one of the coolest new recipes I have tried in years.  Every ingredient is cooked in the same pan, layering in one after the other.  At one point I was thinking, this cannot be right as I poured the raw whisked eggs into the super hot pan with partially cooked pasta and pasta water.  But it came together to create a delicate egg and pasta omelet, much to my pleasant surprise.  

The key to success for this recipe is using a quick-cooking pasta like capellini or angel hair that cooks in 4 minutes.  And, also using a good non-stick skillet that is oven safe up to 400 degrees.   

The recipe is from a new cookbook Cookish by Christopher Kimball of Milk Street.  The book offers recipes that are seemingly "thrown together" for quick cooking.  I like the way the book is organized, offering 3-4 different recipes using the same main ingredients, just changing up the seasoning and spices, and adding one or two additional ingredients.  I highly recommend this book for new cooks and also for experienced cooks.  It is full of fresh ideas for delicious dishes.  

Capellini Pasta Omelet
5 large eggs
2 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
pinch of fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
6 ounces capellini pasta or angel hair pasta
3 cups fresh baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  

Using a large measuring cup with a pour spout, whisk together the eggs, cheese and salt/pepper.  Set aside.

Working with an oven-safe 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add in the 2 tablespoons of oil and the finely chopped onion.  Stir frequently to keep the onions moving and from browning, cooking until softened, about 3-4 minutes.  Next, break the pasta strands in half, adding them to the pan with the onions, carefully pouring in 3 cups of water.  Stir to combine the water and pasta to keep the pasta from clumping together.  Continue to cook until most of the water has been absorbed by the pasta.  This will take several minutes.  Add in the spinach stirring to combine until the spinach is wilted.  Next, give the egg mixture a stir as it may have settled a bit.  Pour the egg mixture into the hot pan, stirring continuously to combine with the pasta, water, and spinach.  Stir until it just comes together.  Stop stirring and cook on the stovetop for about 3-4 minutes, just until the sides begin to show some browning.  Transfer the skillet to the hot oven, baking until the omelet is set, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the oven.  Drape a towel or hot pad over the handle to remind yourself of the hot handle, allowing the omelet to rest for 6-8 minutes.  Loosen the edges with a spatula, sliding the omelet onto a cutting board to serve.  Garnish with additional cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.  Serve hot or warm.

I like serving this with some homemade salsa or fresh garlicky tomato sauce on the side.  Excellent dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  

Recipe adapted from Milk Street Cookish cookbook, 2020.  

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

ChezCindy: Grilled Broccoli with Soy Balsamic Dressing


My CSA farmer, Knife & Fork Farms , has been having a good season with broccoli.  She has been adding broccoli to our CSA bags for the last 4 weeks.  And these are not tiny supermarket broccoli crowns.  She is giving us the entire broccoli plant, with leaves and all.  I've learned that the broccoli leaves are really delicious when steamed and tossed together with quinoa.  

As much as I like broccoli, I needed to find an interesting new way to cook it.  For quick cooking, I have been steaming it in the microwave as posted here.  And I love this updated broccoli salad.  For something new, I decided to try grilled broccoli.  

This grilled broccoli recipe calls for the broccoli to be tossed in a simple dressing of soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.  The broccoli is placed in a grill basket and grilled over high heat for 12-15 minutes.  The dressing imparts an interesting flavor, almost Asian because of the soy sauce but not quite.  The seasoned broccoli would pair nicely with a grilled skirt steak and a side of steamed rice.  

1 or 2 large heads of broccoli, about 2 pounds
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

Prepare a fire in your grill or set a gas grill to high.

Cut the broccoli heads into long pieces slicing through the stalk.  Set aside.  

In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and the balsamic vinegar.  Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, whisking vigorously.   Add the broccoli, using your hands to toss and coat evenly.  Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.  

Place a large grill basket, or 2 small, onto the hot grill.  Add the broccoli, in one layer as possible.  Grill for 6-7 minutes.  Using tongs, turn or toss the broccoli for even cooking.  Continue grilling and tossing for 6-8 additional minutes until the broccoli tips are crisp and browned, and the stalks are tender.  

Transfer the cooked broccoli to a serving platter, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining kosher salt.  Serve hot or warm. 

Recipe adapted from New York Times Food

Sunday, July 4, 2021

ChezCindy: Chocolate Brownie Buttons


The more than half missing brownie buttons shown in the photograph above is evidence of how delicious they are.  I made a tray of 24 "buttons" allowing them to cool before finishing.  I was elsewhere in the house when my chocolate-loving husband came up to me offering confession.  He stated that I might be alarmed by how many brownie buttons were gone from the cooling tray.  This is what I found, 14 of 24 eaten!  I was not alarmed, but simply amused.  

Good thing this recipe is easy and comes together quickly.  The recipe is from a Dorie Greenspan cookbook titled Baking From My Home to Yours.  The book offers great recipes and insight for every home baker.  It has beautiful photos of the baked items and is clearly written with tips for success.  

The brownie buttons are a rich "one-bite" sweet treat.  They are quite good on their own, but I like to top them with melted chocolate to take them up to the next level. 

Brownie Buttons
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
pinch of fine sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 60% dark, chopped
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature

Chocolate Glaze
2 ounces white or dark chocolate, chopped

Working with a mini muffin pan with 24 wells, line each well with a mini muffin paper liner.  Set tray aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter, chocolate, and brown sugar over low heat, stirring frequently to combine.  When the mixture is smooth and melted, remove the pan from the heat to cool for a few minutes.  

In a small bowl, combine the flour and the salt, stirring together.  

When the chocolate mixture is cool, stir in the vanilla.  Crack the egg into a separate small bowl.  Using a fork, lightly beat the egg.  Add the egg to the chocolate mixture, stirring until well blended.  Add in the flour, stirring until it is incorporated.  The batter will be smooth and glossy.  

Using 2 small spoons, spoon the chocolate batter into each paper-lined well.  Fill each well with 1 teaspoon of batter.  It will not look like much in each well, but you will have enough to fill 24 mini wells.  Place the tray into the preheated oven, baking for 12 minutes.  Remove the tray from the oven.  Cool for 20 minutes.  

Optional chocolate glaze:
Working with a small heat-proof bowl, place the chocolate into the bowl.  Place in the microwave.  Heat for 11 seconds, stirring after each time, until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  This will take several times to melt the chocolate.  When the brownie buttons are cool, use a small spoon to fill a bit of melted chocolate on to each brownie.  Top the melted chocolate with finely chopped nuts or rainbow sprinkles if desired.  Allow to the chocolate to cool and set up.  

Sunday, June 27, 2021

ChezCindy: Crave-worthy Strawberry Drop Biscuits


I now consider myself to be a biscuit maker.  I have been baking since I was 8 or 10 years old, and I am only now finally able to make a tender biscuit worthy of craving.  

We were not a family that made biscuits for dinner or breakfast.  At Thanksgiving, we would pop open the can of ready-made biscuits.  In my adult years, I have tried many biscuit recipes, always using electric mixing tools thinking I was smarter than the recipe stating to mix by hand.  The biscuits were dense and tough, barely edible.  

This past year I have been taking virtual baking classes.  Sometimes the classes are just a confirmation that, yep, I already make that and it is great.  But most often I learn something new, even if it is just a small nugget of information.  The classes have been fun and something to look forward to every Monday night.  

One of the baking classes taught was biscuit making.  The instructors were real biscuit making folks from the South.  People who grew up with generations of biscuit making.  Passing down the skill from grandmother to mother to grandchild to great-grandchild.  So I watched with great interest.  No one used electric mixing tools.  Just relaxed time and patience, mixing everything with their fingertips.  As soon as the class ended, I was eagerly excited to try their recipe and process.  

I learned that making biscuits is all in the feel and touch of working the butter into the flour with your fingertips.  It is soft and gentle, kind of like an easy snapping of your fingers while immersed in flour and butter.  It is soothing, relaxing, and not hurried.  Once the butter is worked into the flour, you continue using your fingers to mix in the cream or buttermilk.  This is where it gets really messy, but it is right.

Key to successful biscuit making is to have all of your ingredients ready before you start mixing.  Because once you start, your fingers are covered in biscuit dough.  Stopping to measure out the buttermilk or to line the pan with parchment paper is a bit of a problem with doughy fingers.  Read the recipe, have the ingredients measured, the baking tray in place, and the oven pre-heated.  

This biscuit recipe is an easy one to begin with.  It is a drop biscuit, so there is no rolling out the dough, no cutting and shaping the biscuits.  You could make the biscuits without the strawberries and they will be delicious as such.  The addition of fruit is something nice to add if you have berries on hand.  Or you could add in shredded cheddar cheese for a savory biscuit.  That would be quite nice.  Try it once as is, and then make it your own.  

Strawberry Drop Biscuits
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons cold salted butter*
4 large strawberries
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup cold water

extra cream for brushing on the biscuits
turbinado sugar to top the sweet biscuits

Makes 6 large biscuits

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  

Cut the cold butter into small pieces.  I like to start with a stick of butter, cutting out 6 tablespoons, (setting the remaining 2 tablespoons aside for serving).  Then cut each of the 6 tablespoons into 9 tiny pieces. 

Cut the berries into small pieces, roughly 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch, setting these onto a paper towel to absorb some of the excess liquid.  

Measure out the cream, and the cold water.
Working with a large mixing bowl,  add in the flour, sugar and baking powder.  Using your fingers, mix the ingredients to combine.  Add in the tiny cut pieces of butter, tossing them to coat with the flour mixture.  Begin working in the butter by using your fingertips to "snap" or rub the butter to combine it with the flour.  This will take 5-8 minutes.  The butter will no longer look like tiny cubes of butter, but will be mostly combined with the flour.  It should look somewhat crumbly.  Add in the diced berries, tossing them gently to coat with the flour/butter mixture.  

Make a well in the center of the mixture.  Pour in 4 tablespoons of the cream, reserving 1 for additional use if needed.  This is where it gets really messy.  With your fingers, mix the flour with the cream to create a shaggy dough.  Add in the 1/4 cup of cold water, mixing to gently combine.  The dough should be wet but not gloppy.  Add in the additional tablespoon of cream if the dough is still a bit dry.  This is the judgement part of making biscuits.  The dough should be held together with no dryness of the flour bits.  Stop mixing.  

Using a 1/3 cup measure, spray the cup with oil.  This will help the biscuit dough to slip out of the measuring cup.  Scoop the dough into the measuring cup, drop the biscuit onto the lined sheet pan.  Repeat with the remaining dough to form 6 large biscuits.  Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops with additional cream.  Sprinkle a bit of sugar (turbinado raw sugar if you have it) onto the tops of each biscuit.  

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-16 minutes until deep golden brown.  Remove from the oven, cool on the sheet tray for about 5 minutes so the biscuits are fully set.  Serve warm with butter and honey if desired.  

* If using unsalted butter, add in 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

Saturday, June 19, 2021

ChezCindy: Asparagus Soup with Goat Cheese Toasts

The farmers markets are rich with asparagus and I have been fortunate to have gorgeous asparagus included in my CSA produce bag for the last 2 weeks.  Supermarket asparagus is fine.  But fresh local is heaven.  I generally roast or lightly sauté my asparagus with olive oil and a bit of salt.  Simple and delicious.  If you care to venture into the world of soup this is a delightful recipe representing the goodness of springtime vegetables.  The recipe is versatile in that you could replace the asparagus with other vegetables such as squash or broccoli. 

Spring Asparagus Soup
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided 
1 cup of Yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 pound fresh asparagus
3 cups chicken stock, unsalted
3 tablespoons frozen peas
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Working with a soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil, swirling to combine.  Add in the chopped onions and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cook the onions for about 5 minutes until softened, but not adding any color.  Add in the chopped potatoes, stirring to combine, cooking for another 5 minutes until the potatoes begin to soften, stirring occasionally to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  For the asparagus, remove the bottom woody part of the asparagus stems discarding that bit, cutting the remaining stalk into 2-inch pieces.  Add the cut asparagus to the soup pan, stirring to combine.  Add in the chicken stock, bringing to a boil.  Reduce the heat and cover the pan, cooking until the vegetables are soft and tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Turn off the heat and allow the soup contents to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.  

Using a blender, add the now slightly cooled soup contents to the blender, pureeing the until smooth.  Add in the frozen peas, continue pureeing until all is combined.  The peas will enhance the green color of the soup.   Taste the soup for seasoning adding in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon as needed.  Add in the fresh lemon juice with one last blend to combine.  Serve the soup hot with a swirl of sour cream and with a slice of toasted bread topped with soften goat cheese.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

ChezCindy: Sumac Dusted Sweet Potatoes


Sumac is a spice associated with Middle Eastern cooking recipes.  It derives from tiny red berries, dried and crushed into a powder to add a citrusy bright flavor to foods, usually sprinkled on right before serving.  I love it paired with sweet potatoes, using just enough to wake up the sweetness adding a hint of bright lemon flavor.  It is also delicious sprinkled over cooked fish as a finishing spice to add a pop of color, especially on a white fish such as tilapia or cod.  Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of chopped herbs for a simple and stunning fish dish.  

This sweet potato recipe is more of a process than a recipe.  I sliced the potatoes with my Spiralizer, but you can slice with a mandolin or just use a knife to cut thin slices.  Using a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of oil, then place in the sliced potatoes in a single layer.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt evenly over the potatoes.  Cover and let them cook undisturbed for about 7-8 minutes.  Carefully remove the cover, flip over the slices to cook uncovered on side 2 until cooked through, about 3-4 additional minutes.  Cutting the potatoes very thinly allows for quick cooking.  If you want the potatoes to be more browned, allow to cook longer until your reach the desired color.  Remove the potatoes from the pan to a serving plate.  Sprinkle with a small amount of sumac seasoning.  Serve hot or warm.  Keep any left-over potatoes as a snack or added to a green salad. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

ChezCindy: Lemon Meringue Cake with Raspberry Glaze


        The first pie I learned how to make was lemon meringue, straight from the recipe on the box of the Jell-O pudding.  It was my favorite for years and I loved having it for my birthday instead of cake.  Making the meringue was like watching a magic trick as the egg whites turned into the silky puffs of pure white fluff.  I recently saw a recipe in Martha Stewart Living magazine that featured a lemon meringue cake.  I was instantly intrigued to try it.  The recipe offered a simple sheet cake topped with meringue.  So very lovely and lemony.  That recipe was the inspiration for the cake you see pictured above.  

The recipe shared below builds from a 9x13-inch sheet cake, cutting it into thirds, to stack into layers glazed with raspberry preserves.  The entire stack of layers is enrobed with thick meringue, lightly browning the peaks.  The resulting cake is gorgeous.  But again, it is a magic trick that even a beginner baker can do.  

Lemon Meringue Cake with Raspberry Glaze
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons), melted
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain yogurt

Meringue Frosting
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter

1 cup raspberry preserves for glazing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9x13-inch baking pan by spraying it with baking oil.  Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 3-inch overhang on the long sides.  Pinch or crease the parchment paper to keep it from falling back into the pan.  Spray the parchment paper with baking oil.  Set aside.  

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the eggs and sugar, whisking for 4-5 minutes until thick and pale yellow.  Turn off the mixer, add in the flour mixture.  Resume mixing, slowly at first, until just combined.  Add in the cooled melted butter, lemon zest, and vanilla, mixing to combine.  Add in the plain yogurt, mixing until just combined.

Transfer the batter into the prepared baking pan.  Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  The top of the cake will be slightly domed and golden.  Remove the cake from the oven to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Using the parchment paper overhang, lift the cake from the pan to cool completely on a cooling rack.  

To make the Meringue Frosting: 
Working with a clean mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment, add the egg whites and cream of tarter.  Whisk on high for 2-3 minutes to form soft peaks.  Slowly add in the sugar beating for 4-5 minutes to form stiff peaks.  Set aside to assemble the cake.

How to Assemble the Cake:
Once the cake is completely cooled, place the cake onto a cutting board.  Using a large serrated knife, trim off the cake edges by cutting away 1/2-inch around the entire sheet cake.  Next, make 2 cuts across the cake to make 3 4x8-inch pieces.  I use a ruler placed along side of the 12-inch length and cut at the 4-inch mark and the 8-inch mark.  

Place one of the cake pieces onto a sheet tray.  Spread 1/2 of the preserves over the top, leaving a 1/2-inch border at the outer edge.  Place the 2nd cake piece on top of this first piece.  Top it too with jam.  Place the last cake piece on top, creating 3 layers of cake.  

Using a large spoon, place large spoonsful of the meringue over the top of the cake.  Using an offset spatula, carefully connect the spoonsful to cover the cake, including draping the meringue down the sides of the cake.  Once the cake is completely covered with meringue, using your fingers or a soup spoon, make peaks and swirls with the meringue in a decorative fashion.  Using your fingers is great fun and a bit messy.  But it makes awesome peaks.  

Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the meringue peaks toasting decoratively.  Alternatively, set the oven broiler on to High.  Place the sheet pan into the oven on the bottom rack.  Broil for about 30 seconds to lightly brown the meringue.  Be careful with this method as the meringue will brown very quickly. 

The frosted cake is best enjoyed the day it is assembled. 

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Sunday, May 23, 2021

ChezCindy: Homemade Chicken Bone Broth


I learned how to make soup broth when I was a very young child.  My father made turkey bone broth every Thanksgiving holiday.  Actually, any time we had roast turkey the bones were never discarded but were made into soup.  I never thought it was unusual or special.  It was just our way of life.  In recent times, bone broth is kind of a "hip thing" in the health world offering great nutrition.  To me, it is just the right thing to do.  Think of it as free food, taking a food item that would normally be thrown away, and turning it into food.  

Making bone broth is not difficult, it just takes a bit of planning.  You will need a few hours of time, but it is passive cooking.  Once you have all ingredients in the stock pot, turn the heat down low and let it simmer for hours.  The low simmer extracts all of the goodness turning plain water into a delicious and  nutritious broth.  I start with leftover bones from a roasted chicken.  You can even use a rotisserie chicken bought from the grocery store.    

Once the broth is complete, use it to make soups or stews  in the recipes from these earlier posts.  I like to keep containers of it in the freezer, ready to use for any recipe or to sip on as a plain broth.  Below is the simple process of making bone broth for you to try. 

Homemade Chicken Bone Broth
Bones of 1 4-pound rotisserie chicken, meat removed
8 cups cold tap water
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1 large carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 sprigs fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns

Working with a large stock pot over high heat, add the bones of the rotisserie chicken to the stock pot.  Brown the bones for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times for even browning.  Browning the bones before adding the water is somewhat optional, but I recommend it.  Doing so adds flavor and color to the broth.  

Add the 8 cups of tap water, and the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.  Partially cover the pan with the lid, simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  

Strain out all of the contents, collecting the broth in a large bowl.  Discard the bones and vegetables.  Transfer the broth into containers for use to make soup or stew, using within 2-3 days.  Or freeze for later use, keeping in the freezer for 3-4 months.  

Saturday, May 8, 2021

ChezCindy: Bean Salad with Parsley-Shallot Dressing


When I was a young child, my palette of what foods I would eat was very narrow.  This beautiful bean salad would not have been a consideration, ever.  I remember family gatherings where my Aunt Marge would bring a bean salad to share.  To me, that dish was so strange.  I knew I would never eat something like that in a million years.  "I'll stick to my plain bologna sandwich on white bread please." Thankfully, we were not a family that had to take a bit of every dish to try.  

Fast forward a million years, I am the aunt bringing bean salad to a family gathering.  I'm quite certain the kids did not eat any, but the grown-ups did.  And, they wanted the recipe too.  

This bean salad is more of a process than a recipe, with a homemade parsley-shallot vinaigrette dressing.  The dressing is the star of the dish to bring it all together.  You could mix all of the ingredients together tossing it in a large bowl with the dressing.  But I like the beauty of laying out each ingredient.  

Bean Salad with Parsley-Shallot Vinaigrette
1/2 pound French green beans
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
1 15-ounce can dark red kidney beans, rinsed
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
7 tablespoons olive oil

Blanch the green beans:  Prepare a large bowl by filling it with cold water and ice.  Set aside.  Fill a medium pan with hot water, bring to a boil.  Add the green beans and the teaspoon of salt to the boiling water.  Boil the beans for 2 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, strain out the beans, adding them to the ice-cold water to stop the cooking.  Chill the beans in the icy water for 2-3 minutes.  Drain, placing the beans on a towel to dry.   

Drain and rinse each can of beans, keeping each can of beans separate from the others, drying each type on a towel.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.  Thinly slice the radishes.  

Prepare the salad dressing:  Working with a small food processor, add in the parsley leaves and the shallot.  Puree in the processor bowl until finely minced.  Add in the salt, mustard, honey and vinegar, whirring until combined.  Add in the olive oil, 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing in the processor each time until the mixture becomes emulsified.  The parsley will now be beautiful specks of green suspended in the dressing.  

Put it all together:  Using a large rectangle serving platter, place each type of bean in its own row, snuggling each type next to the first.  I like starting with the green beans in the center and working outward from there.  When ready to serve, drizzle the dressing across the rows down the center of the platter, adorning each row of beans like a crowning jewel.  Scatter a few parsley leaves over the top and serve at room temperature.  

Saturday, May 1, 2021

ChezCindy: Skillet Chicken Enchiladas

 The inspiration for this dish came from a chef I met while taking a cooking class in New York City at the Institute of Culinary Education in 2019.  She is an excellent instructor, with great ability to juggle the varying levels of cooking skills among her students.  Chef Marge Perry is the chef of inspiration.  She is an award-winning columnist for numerous magazines and author of her cookbook titled Hero Dinners, Complete One-Pan Meals That Save The Day, co-authored with David Bonon.  Her cookbook offers awesome recipes and cooking tips for complete meals using a skillet or sheet pan.   

In her cookbook, there is a recipe for Green Chicken Enchilada 2.0.  This was my start for the recipe I share below.  For extra convenience, I use shredded chicken from a store-bought rotisserie chicken and most ingredients are pantry items.  Everything cooks in one skillet in a very short amount of time making it a perfect week-night dinner.  And, super fun to share with friends on Friday as a kick-off to the weekend.

Skillet Chicken Enchiladas
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 cup thinly sliced red bell peppers
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/3 cup jarred mild jalapeno slices, roughly chopped
1 7-ounce can of minced green chilies, mild
1 15-ounce can pinto beans or black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1/2 cup water
10 fresh mini corn tortillas or 6 medium, quartered
6 ounces cheddar cheese, grated, about 1 1/2 cups
Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish

Sour cream for serving, plus hot sauce if desired

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Working with a large 11-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, add in the canola oil, the sliced onions and peppers, minced garlic, salt, cumin, chili powder and smoked paprika.  Stir these ingredients to combine, cooking for about 5-6 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften, but not taking on any color.  Add in the chopped jalapeno slices, the can of chopped green chilies, the drained can of beans, and the shredded rotisserie chicken.  Stir all to combine, cooking for about 4-5 minutes.  Add in the 1/2 cup of water, stirring to combine.  Cook for a few minutes just to heat through.  Turn off the heat.  Add in the quartered corn tortillas, tucking them into the chicken mixture.  Some will stick out on top which is okay.  These will get brown and crisp adding extra deliciousness.  Top with the shredded cheddar cheese.  

Place the skillet into the hot oven, cooking for about 6-7 minutes until the cheese is melted.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for abut 5 minutes before serving.  Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro.  

Serve with sour cream, and hot sauce if desired.   

Saturday, April 24, 2021

ChezCindy: Carrot & Sweet Potato Coconut Milk Soup


I recently made my recipe for Asian salmon cakes using coconut milk. Such a delicious dish.  From that, I had left-over coconut milk and was looking for a way to use it.  The thought came to me that carrot soup might be a good match to use coconut milk, and I was right.  Very different than a straight-up carrot soup as I have previously posted  here.  This soup has a bright flavor, some sweetness from the sweet potato, and just a back note of the coconut milk, not very pronounced.  I finished the dish with a sprinkle of curry powder for the perfect accent.  

Carrot & Sweet Potato Coconut Milk Soup
1 tablespoon canola oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound carrots
1/2 pound sweet potato
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 - 3/4 cup coconut milk
curry powder to garnish

Working with a soup pot placed over medium-high heat, add in the tablespoon of oil, chopped onions, and the 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.  Stir to combine, cooking for 3-4 minutes to soften the onions, but not adding any color.  

Peel and slice the carrots and sweet potato into 1/2-inch pieces.  Add these to the onions, stirring to combine.  Pour in the 1/4 cup of water, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes, just so the carrots and sweet potatoes are a bit tender.  Add in the finely grated fresh ginger and the chicken stock.  Partially cover the soup pot with the lid, simmer for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are fully tender.  

Turn off the heat, allow the mixture to cool about 5-10 minutes, necessary before you blend it together.  Once cool, add the contents to a blender, or using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.  Pour the blended soup back into the soup pot.  Add in the 1/2 cup coconut milk, stirring to combine.  If the soup seems a bit too thick, add in the full amount of coconut milk, or add in additional chicken stock.  Taste for your preference, adding more coconut milk and/or salt if needed.  Gently heat through to serve, adding a sprinkle of curry powder for garnish.  Serve hot with your favorite crackers.  

Saturday, April 17, 2021

ChezCindy: Chicken Meatball Sliders


I have had so much fun with this recipe when working with young chefs.  I've learned when teaching kids how to cook, getting their hands messy is great fun for them.  So they enjoy forming the meatballs with their hands.  If getting your hands messy is not your thing, I use a spring-loaded scoop to form the meatballs.  

My recipe calls for using Italian chicken sausage for convenience because it is already seasoned.  It makes a delicious meatball with just a few additional ingredients.  You could use this recipe with a pasta, but I usually serve these as meatball sliders.  Fun, and delicious.  

Chicken Meatball Sliders
1 lb. Italian Chicken Sausage Links*
1 large egg
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons cream or half & half

3 tablespoons olive oil, for the baking dish

Marinara Sauce
Slider buns
Shredded Cheese

How to make it:
Make the Meatballs:  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a 9x13-inch baking dish.  Swirl to coat evenly.  Set aside.

1. Remove the sausage from the casing links.  Place the ground chicken sausage into a large bowl, discard the casings.  Add in the egg, chopped parsley, minced garlic, breadcrumbs and cream.  Using a wooden spoon or a fork, gently mix all ingredients together until well combined.  

2. Using a spring-loaded scoop, or just your hands, portion out the meat mixture forming into medium size meatballs, slightly larger than a golf ball.  Place the meatballs into the prepared baking dish, lining them evenly in the pan, snugging them together.  Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the meatballs.  You should have 12-14 meatballs.  

3. Roast in the preheated oven for 22 minutes until golden brown.  The internal temperature should reach 165 degrees.  Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan.  

4.     Warm the marina sauce in a saucepan on the stove.  Add the cooked meatballs to the warmed sauce.  Gently stir to coat the meatballs.   

For the Sliders:  Lightly toast each slider bun.  Place one meatball onto the slider bun with a bit of extra sauce.  Top with shredded cheese.  Serve while hot.  

* If using plain ground chicken, adjust the recipe for seasoning by adding 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon ground fennel.  

Saturday, April 10, 2021

ChezCindy: Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry Crust


The mention of chicken pot pie conjures up thoughts of old-style comfort.  It can be a complicated process, or as this one is, super easy to put together for a weeknight meal.  

I've created this recipe using store-bought rotisserie chicken, store-bought chicken broth (I use unsalted Kitchen Basics brand-comes in a yellow box), and store-bought puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm).   Then you can add in standard vegetables such as carrots, peas, and potatoes.  Or, use what you have in the fridge that you might find interesting - sliced mushrooms, roasted butternut squash, and diced parsnips.  

Serve the pot pie straight from the pan.  Easy to make and easy to share with family and friends.  

Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry Crust
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small onion, finely diced, about 1/3 cup
2 tablespoons finely diced celery
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup of potatoes cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 sheet store-bought puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farms
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Shred the meat from a rotisserie chicken to yield 2 cups.  Set aside.

Crack an egg into a small bowl, adding 1 teaspoon of water.  Using a fork, mix the water and the egg together to make an "egg-wash".  Set aside.

Working with an 11-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, add the canola oil to the pan.  Add the finely diced onion and celery to the pan, sprinkle in 1 teaspoon of salt.  Stir these in the oil, cooking for about 5 minutes to soften but not adding any color to the vegetables.  Add in the sliced carrots and the cubed potatoes, and the 1/4 cup of water, stirring all together, cooking for another 5 minutes.  Add in the 2 cups of shredded chicken, the dried thyme and fresh parsley, stirring to combine.  Once these are combined, add in the butter, stirring to melt and combine.  Stir in the flour to form a bit of a paste, cooking the flour for 2-3 minutes.  Slowly pour in the chicken stock, stirring to combine.  Add in the frozen peas, stirring to incorporate.  Taste the broth to determine if more salt is needed.  If so, add in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Simmer all for 2-3 minutes.  Turn off the heat.  

Roll out the cold sheet of puff pastry to remove the folds.  Carefully place the pastry over the contents of the pan, pressing any excess dough onto the edges of the pan.  Gently brush the egg-wash over the top of the pastry dough.  (You will have extra egg-wash.)  Cut three 2-inch slashes across the center of the pastry to allow steam to escape.  

Place the skillet into the hot oven on the center rack, backing for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and puffed.  Remove the skillet from the oven, setting on the stove to cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving.  

Friday, April 2, 2021

ChezCindy: Fresh Strawberry Pie


This lovely free-form pie, also known as a galette, is a bite of strawberry delight.  The recipe uses fresh strawberries cut into thick slices mixed with store-bought strawberry preserves for a double strawberry impact.  The baked pie is quite delicious for how little effort required to put it together.  I served it slightly warm topped with fresh whipped cream, and rosé sparkling wine.  

Any left-over pie makes a great breakfast treat, somewhat reminiscent of toaster Pop-tarts.  

If you are new to pie making, try making a galette.  It doesn't require a special pan, just a flat surface such as a sheet tray for baking.  You will have great success.  

Fresh Strawberry Galette
1 single 9-inch pie crust, homemade or store-bought
All-purpose flour, about 1 tablespoon

1-pound fresh strawberries
1/3 cup strawberry preserves
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.  

Prepare the pie crust by rolling it out to a 12-inch round, working on a lightly floured surface using a small amount of flour so the crust doesn't stick to the counter.  Transfer the crust to the parchment lined sheet tray.  Set aside.  

Remove the green stems from the fresh strawberries. cutting into thick slices.  Place the cut berries into a medium size bowl.  Add in the strawberry preserves, 2 tablespoons of sugar, cornstarch and fresh lemon juice, gently stirring to combine.  Transfer the strawberry mixture to the center of the pie crust.  Spread out the berries, leaving a 2-inch border around the edge of the pie crust.  Fold the edges of the dough up and over the strawberries in a free-form style, pleating the dough as necessary.  

Make an egg-wash using the lightly beaten egg and 1 teaspoon of water, mixing to combine.  Using a pastry brush, brush the pleated dough with a small amount of egg-wash.  You will have extra egg-wash.  Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar over the pleated border.  

Place the sheet tray with the galette into the preheated oven, baking the pie for 25 minutes.  The crust will be golden brown and the filling is tender and bubbling.  Remove the pie from the oven.  Allow to cool for 30 minutes.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.  

Sunday, March 28, 2021

ChezCindy: Seasonal Ramp Butter

In just a few weeks, it will be ramp season.  Only a few weeks each year, in mid-to-late April, will reap lucky foragers, or those who forage at the farmers market, a bunch or two of ramps.  The flavor of ramps is a cross between spring onions, garlic and leeks.  Not really like any one of these, but a blend of all three, sweet and mild. 

The entire plant is edible from the small white bulb, the colorful pink stems and the soft green leaves.  I usually make ramp butter and freeze the butter for use throughout the year.  I don't really have a recipe, but more of a process.  Simply chop the full plant into small bits, about 5-6 stalks.  Add a tablespoon of butter to a skillet.  Add the chopped ramps, stirring to combine and cook until the ramps have softened, 2-3 minutes.  Add the cooked ramps to a stick of softened butter, stirring until well combined.  Transfer to a container.  Store in the refrigerator or freeze for later use.  

Use the ramp butter to top cooked steaks or fish, melting to form a sauce.  Or stir into cooked pasta.  Spread onto thick slices of bread, toasting under the broiler or on a hot grill pan. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

ChezCindy: Gemelli Pasta with Sausage and Mushrooms


The world of pasta shapes is vast with so many shapes and sizes, each with their own purpose and intended use.  Thin strands go best with lighter sauces, while long flat strands go well with a more robust sauce.  Shapes with ridges will help the sauce cling to the pasta, while shells will cup the sauce.  And somehow, they each taste a bit different because of the shape, and the sauce each are paired with.  I happen to adore gemelli pasta.  The double strand coiled together holds the sauce well, with a toothsome texture.  

This recipe come together quickly and is enjoyed by all ages.  If you like your foods a bit more spicy, increase the pinch of red pepper flakes to the amount that will make you happy.  This is not a saucy red sauce.  The pasta carries just a blush of color from the tomato pasta.  Much of the flavor comes from the sausage so buy one that you particularly enjoy.  

Gemelli Pasta with Sausage & Mushrooms
8 ounces gemelli pasta or similar shape
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces mild Italian sausage, casing removed
6 ounces cremini or white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
chopped fresh basil or parsley for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add in the pasta, seasoning the pasta water with salt.  Cook the pasta for the time specified on the package.  Before draining the pasta once it is cooked, save 1 cup of the salted pasta water.  Drain the pasta.  Set aside the cup of pasta water and the cooked pasta.  

Meanwhile, set a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove the casing from the Italian sausage.  Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the hot pan.  Break up the sausage into small pieces, adding them to the hot pan.  Cook the sausage pieces without stirring them for about 4 minutes.  This will create good browning on this first side of cooking.  Once the first side is nicely browned, now stir the sausage pieces to continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes.  Add in the sliced mushrooms, stirring and tossing with the sausage to continue browning each, about 3-4 minutes.  Add in the 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, stirring it among the sausage and mushrooms, cooking for 1 minute.  Add in the minced garlic and the pinch of red pepper flakes, cooking for only 30 seconds.  Carefully pour in the white wine or chicken broth into the hot pan.  This will splatter a bit.  Stir the pan to bring up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Working quickly, add in the drained pasta to the sausage mushroom mixture.  Evenly sprinkle the teaspoon of kosher salt over the pasta.  Stir to combine.  Pour in 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and the tablespoon of butter.  Stir to combine and coat the sausage and mushrooms.  Cook together for 1-2 minutes to allow the sauce to slightly thicken.  Turn off the heat.  Add in the 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan.  Stir to combine.  If the sauce is too thick, add in a tablespoon or more of the pasta water.  Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the pasta.  Garnish with additional grated cheese and chopped fresh herbs.  Serve hot.