Sunday, December 26, 2021

ChezCindy: Halibut Rillettes Appetizer


This recipe is a bit indulgent, but worth every penny for the elegant flavor it presents.  Fresh halibut is a beautiful fish, available only certain times of the year.  I have been buying it from Costco at a reasonable price.  Compared to salmon or cod, it is still expensive.  The fish is rich and only requires a small 4-6 ounces piece per person for a satisfying dinner.  I decided to make my roasted fish in parchment paper, cooking the halibut on a sheet tray using the gas grill instead of my oven.  The temperature of the grill got a bit high, sadly somewhat overcooking the fish.  It was good, but just a bit dry.  We had leftover halibut from that dinner, being way too expensive to waste.  I decided to turn it into halibut rillettes.  This turned out to be delicious salvation of a fish too dry. 

A simple creation using my same salmon rillette recipe.  For this recipe, I used only fresh roasted halibut, not having any smoked halibut.  The halibut appetizer is more delicate than the salmon, more elegant.  Each are delicious and worthy of serving to guests.  

Halibut Rillettes Appetizer
3-4 ounces of steamed or poached halibut, cooled
2 teaspoons fresh chives, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of white pepper

In a small bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir the cooked and cooled halibut to break it into small pieces.  Add in the minced chives and the lemon juice. stirring to combine.  Add the in the mayonnaise, seasoning with the salt and white pepper.  Gently stir to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spread onto toasted baguette slices or crackers. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

ChezCindy: Shaved Brussels Sprouts & Pomegranate Salad


A refreshing salad is always welcome at the table during a season of indulgent holiday food.  I like this pretty salad using pomegranate seeds and oranges, two ingredients available this time of year, particularly the pomegranates.  I used shaved Brussels sprouts and curly endive greens for the base of the salad.  If Brussels sprouts are not for you, try using thinly sliced kale or escarole greens.  The key is to use hardy winter greens that are not as prone to wilting once the salad is dressed with the vinaigrette.  Shaved radicchio would be nice too, adding even more color.  

A fun ingredient in the vinaigrette dressing is pomegranate molasses.  It adds a bit of tartness to the dressing lending some crimson color as well.  To offset the bitter greens used in the salad, I add agave syrup or honey for a balance of sweetness.  

The salad is perfect for entertaining as it can sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.  Think of this as a dish to bring to help out the host for contribution to the holiday table.  Or as the host, something you can make ahead while you finish preparing the main course.  

Shaved Brussels Sprouts & Pomegranate Salad
1 pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced 
2 cups curly endive thinly sliced into ribbons
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 orange, cut into segments

Using a food processor with the slicer attachment, or a sharp knife, thinly slice the Brussels sprouts.  Place the sliced sprouts into a medium size bowl.  Thinly slice the curly endive into ribbons, adding these to the sprouts.  Make the vinaigrette, drizzle about 1/3 cup of the dressing over the salad greens, tossing to combine.  Transfer the dressed greens to a serving platter.  Scatter the pomegranate seeds and the orange segments over the dressed greens.  Drizzle a bit more dressing over the pomegranate seeds and oranges.  The salad can be served immediately or is even better at room temperature having set for 30 minutes.  

Pomegranate Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons olive oil

Add the vinegar, pomegranate molasses, agave, Dijon mustard, and salt to a medium size bowl.  Using a whisk, mix to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking while you drizzle to emulsify the ingredients into a creamy consistency.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

ChezCindy: Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies


This cookie recipe is a celebration of chocolate and gingerbread spices.  I discovered this recipe for Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies in 2009, created by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito from Baked bakery in New York.  The recipe was published in Food & Wine magazine and has been a favorite of mine for years, and for those with whom I share the cookies.  Particularly for one young fan, all grown-up now, who gave me rave reviews at that young age wondering why I did not have my own bakery.  Thank you, Jamie.     

The dough for this cut out cookie is easy to work with.  Great for bakers who are new to rolling out dough.  It does require chilling time in the refrigerator before rolling and cutting can begin.  As long as you plan ahead, you will be pleased with the results.  If you are looking for a cut out cookie that can be baked without chilling, I have that recipe for you here.

Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup molasses
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

In a medium size bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, the spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, whisking to combine.  Set aside.  

Working with the bowl of a stand mixer, add in the softened butter and shortening, mixing until combined.  To this, add in the brown sugar mixing together until well combined.  This process will take several minutes, stopping the mixing to scrape down the sides of the bowl 2-3 times.  Add in the egg, mixing for about 30 seconds until incorporated, then add in the molasses and melted chocolate, mixing until smooth and combined, again scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Add in the flour mixture in three separate batches, slowly mixing each time until the dough is formed.  Divide the dough into 3 equal parts, wrapping each in plastic wrap, refrigerating the cookie dough until chilled, about 2 hours.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the wrapped cookie dough packages from the refrigerator, allowing it to warm a bit, for about 20-30 minutes.  Line large baking sheets with parchment paper.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick.  If the dough cracks a bit while rolling it, simply pinch it together and continue rolling.  Cut out shapes with your choice of cookie cutter, transfer each to the prepared cookie sheet.  Gather and roll out the remaining scraps to cut out more cookies.  

Bake the cookies for 7 minutes, placing the baking sheet on the center rack of the oven.  Once the cookies are baked, remove from the oven allowing the cookies to cool on the sheet tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.   Continue rolling and cutting with the remaining dough.  

Ice the cooled cookies with Mascarpone Frosting, or your favorite buttercream frosting.  

Mascarpone Frosting
1 stick, (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Working with an electric mixer, place the butter into the bowl, beating until smooth.  Add in the mascarpone cheese and vanilla until combined.  Gradually add in the powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.  Use the frosting to ice the cookies or your favorite cake or cupcakes.  

Sunday, December 5, 2021

ChezCindy: Quick Vegetable Sauté with Pasta, Sumac and Thyme


This colorful dish was created with urgency as I was really hungry and wanted to eat something wholesome and delicious that would be ready to eat in minimal time.  I was having one of those moments when I was about to grab anything in sight just to fill my belly.  

A quick look in the refrigerator led me to some pre-sliced carrots from the previous day, and left over plain gemelli pasta.  That was a good start.  From there, I went to the pantry thinking I would grab a red onion.  Instead I saw that the sweet potatoes were looking sad to the point of 'eat these soon or toss them out'.  I don't like wasting food, so I grabbed the worst looking one from the bin.  From here, I now had a theme of using orange vegetables, so I included an orange bell pepper from the fridge.  I was in process of not only creating a quick vegetable pasta dish, but having fun doing it.  Even the use of sumac to season the dish added another deep orange color as well as a wonderful note of citrus.  

The dish could actually be created with any vegetables you have available.  The key to quick cooking is to slice each of the vegetables thinly so that they sauté in a few minutes.  I used carrots, sweet potato, orange bell pepper seasoned with sumac and thyme leaves.  Thinly sliced purple cabbage, red onions, and purple Peruvian potatoes would be fun too.  Another key to quick cooking is having some foods cooked ahead and stored in batches either in the refrigerator or freezer.  I often have leftover plain pasta, cooked quinoa, and brown rice stored in plastic zip bags in the freezer ready for use.  Using canned chickpeas and other beans are useful in adding protein and texture to a main course, also quick to complete the creation.  Below is the recipe and process for the making a quick vegetable sauté with pasta.   

Quick Vegetable Sauté with Pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium size carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
2 medium size sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
8 ounces cooked pasta such as gemelli or bowtie
1 teaspoon dried sumac
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Additional olive oil for drizzling to finish the dish

Working with a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the oil is hot, add in the sliced carrots and sweet potatoes, stirring to coat in oil.  Sprinkle with half of the salt, stirring again to keep the vegetables moving and evenly cooking.  Sauté the vegetables for about 3-5 minutes, then add in the sliced peppers, stirring to combine.  Continue cooking until the vegetables are starting to be tender and mostly cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Add in the cooked pasta, stirring to combine and to heat through.  Sprinkle the contents with the remaining salt and sumac, stirring to combine.  The vegetables should now be fully cooked and tender, but still hold their shape and not mushy.  Turn off the heat, sprinkle with the fresh thyme.  Transfer the vegetables and pasta to a serving bowl, sprinkling on the grated Pecorino cheese, finishing with a drizzle of olive oil.  Serve and enjoy.