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.