Sunday, January 23, 2022

ChezCindy: Sofrito Red Beans and Rice


A sofrito is the base for much Hispanic cooking for soups, stews, casseroles, and more.  Most all sofrito recipes begin with peppers, onions, and garlic. sautéed with oil until the vegetables are softened.  Depending on the region, other ingredients may include tomatoes, herbs, and seeds, with some leaning towards being spicy hot or mild.  

This sofrito recipe began with onions, bell peppers, garlic and olive oil as my base ingredients.  Once these were softened, with no browning, I added cooked brown rice, cooked quinoa, and canned red beans.  I kept the seasoning simple using only kosher salt and a pinch of ground pepper.  The beauty of a recipe like this is that you can customize it in any direction that strikes you as interesting.  I wanted to include more green vegetables.  I shredded a few Brussel sprouts adding to the cooked sofrito for a quick sauté.  Finishing all with a shower of chopped green onions.  

Sofrito Red Beans and Rice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 small yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
5 Brussel sprouts, thinly sliced
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 15-ounce can red beans, rinsed and drained
2 green onions, chopped
fresh ground pepper to taste

Working in a large 10-inch or 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat, add in the olive oil heating for a minute or two.  Once the oil is hot, add in the chopped onion and peppers, sprinkling with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Stir to combine, sautéing for several minutes until beginning to soften.  Add in the minced garlic, cooking for 1 minute.  Add in the sliced Brussel sprouts cooking for just a minute so as not to lose the beautiful green color.  Add in the rice, quinoa, and red beans to warm through, stirring all to combine.  Taste for seasoning, adding the remaining salt if needed and the ground pepper.  

Transfer to your serving bowl, finish with a sprinkling of chopped green onions.  Serve hot or at room temperature.  

A tip for quick cooking:  I often make a batch of brown rice, quinoa, and/or lentils when I have extra time on a good day for cooking ahead.  Each of these items freeze well, stored in a freezer zip-top bag.  Having each of the brown rice and quinoa in my freezer made this dish come together in short time. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

ChezCindy: Mediterranean Chicken Burgers


The mention of a chicken burger does not usually bring great excitement in response to "What's for dinner?".  This one just might be different.  I was pleasantly surprised when I ate this burger after making the recipe from a new cookbook I recently bought, Mostly Plants by Tracy, Dana, Lori & Corky Pollan.  The cookbook offers flexitarian recipes featuring the use of vegetables and smaller portions of meat.  

This recipe calls for a mix of grated zucchini, grated onion, and other common ingredients to ramp up the flavor.  The grated zucchini blends in with the chicken, not interfering with the meaty texture.  Plus, it keeps the burger moist as chicken burgers can dry out during the cooking process.  I decided to top the burger with Mediterranean flavors adding sliced tomatoes, pickled red onions and tzatziki sauce, which is Greek yogurt, combined with zucchini or cucumber, garlic and herbs.  More zucchini, right?  Of course.  

Mediterranean Chicken Burger*
1 pound ground chicken
3/4 cup grated zucchini, drained of excess liquid 
2 tablespoons grated onion, drained of excess liquid
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl.  Using a fork, toss the ingredients together until well combined.  Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts, forming into patties.  The mixture will be quite sticky and moist.  Place the shaped patties onto a small sheet tray or large plate lined with wax paper, refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm up.  

Make the tzatziki sauce by combining 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup grated zucchini or cucumber squeezed of excess liquid, 1 garlic clove finely minced, 1 tablespoon chopped mint or parsley, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a pinch of black pepper.  Stir to combine.  The tzatziki uses many of the same ingredients as the burger.  Just chop a bit extra for the tzatziki sauce.   

Once the burgers have chilled and firmed up, place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to heat for a minute or two.  Place the burger patties into the skillet, cooking on side one for about 6-8 minutes to brown this first side.  Flip the burgers to continue cooking through. about 4-5 additional minutes.  The internal temperature should read as 160 degrees.  

Toast the buns if desired, highly recommended.  Spread a tablespoon of tzatziki sauce on the bottom bun, next add the burger, topping it with sliced tomatoes, pickled onions, and a heaping tablespoon of tzatziki sauce.  Serve with a side of salad greens.  

*Recipe inspired by the cookbook, Mostly Plants, by Tracy, Dana, Lori & Corky Pollan.  

Friday, January 14, 2022

ChezCindy: Skillet Chili with Cornmeal Biscuits


This hearty comfort meal was inspired by a recent New York Times article written by Melissa Clark.  Ms. Clark is a staff writer for the newspaper's Food section and is also a successful cookbook author.  Her write-up provides a recipe for homemade chili, and a recipe for cornmeal biscuits baked in the same pan with the prepared chili.  I used my own recipe for turkey and black bean chili that I have here on the blog.  And then followed the directions for making the cornmeal biscuit recipe.  By the way, the cornmeal biscuits taste like the best cornbread I have ever eaten.  I highly recommend making the biscuits for any occasion.  

Skillet Chili with Cornmeal Biscuits
Homemade chili - your favorite recipe or my link shown above

1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk or cream
2 tablespoons green onion thinly sliced
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Prepare the chili using a large ovenproof skillet.  Set aside, keeping warm.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

For the biscuits:  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda.  Add the cubes of butter to the flour mixture.  Using your figures in a snapping motion, rub in the butter to combine it with the flour until the butter is incorporated into the flour.  You should see small pieces of butter among the flour.  Add in the buttermilk, sliced green onion, and cheddar cheese, stirring with wooden spoon until the mixture just comes together.  It will be wet and sticky.  

Working on your kitchen counter, lightly sprinkle the work surface with flour before transferring the biscuit dough from the bowl onto the work surface.  Sprinkle the top of the dough with a light dusting of flour.  Gather the dough into a disk gently pressing the dough into an 8-inch circle, roughly 1 1/2-inches thick.  Using a lightly floured knife, cut the biscuit dough into 8 wedges.

Arrange the biscuit wedges on top of the warm chili allowing space in between each biscuit. Brush the tops of the biscuits with a bit of buttermilk or cream, top each biscuit with a small amount of the grated Parmesan cheese.  Transfer the skillet into the hot oven, baking for 25 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown.  Remove the skillet from the oven, allow the chili and biscuits to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.  

To make the biscuits for any occasion, follow the recipe above up to the point of adding them to the top of the chili.  Instead, line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Transfer the biscuit wedges onto the parchment paper leaving a bit a space between each wedge, lightly brushing the tops with a bit of buttermilk or cream, topping each biscuit with a small amount of the grated Parmesan cheese.  Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven, cooling for 10 minutes, serve with salted butter.  

Thursday, January 6, 2022

ChezCindy: 10-year Anniversary

February 2022 marks the 10-year anniversary for me in writing this food blog.  Thank you to all who have followed me through the years and hello to all who are new to the blog!  The Chez Cindy blog offers a welcome to the "Home of Cindy's Cooking".  Quite often, many of the posts I write reflect upon the influences of my family and friends towards the food I create.  I thought it might be fun to highlight a few favorites.  

Starting off, I want to showcase Casey's Ketchup Steak.  This family favorite was a dinner my dad made for us when my four brothers, me and my sister were young kids.  It was a special treat we all enjoyed, and it gave our mother a break from cooking.  Now we make this dinner for our loved ones.  

One of my favorite posts is my yellow corn salsa recipe.  I created this summer salsa recipe using all yellow ingredients, yellow tomatoes, yellow peppers, and yellow corn.  The outcome is delicious, with the yellow tomatoes being less acidic than the red, and the sweet corn and yellow peppers adding great balance, with a bit of smokiness from ground cumin.  As I state in the original post, my brother-in-law's traditional red salsa is still the very best homemade salsa.   But my yellow salsa is a winner.  I also use it for my salmon fish tacos.


I must make mention of the various banana bread and banana muffin recipes included on my blog.  If not for all of the over-ripe bananas rejected as acceptable for husband's usual daily breakfast, I would not have so many banana recipes to choose from.  Thankfully we have a dear family friend with whom I share the baked goods.  Here is one of mine and our friend's favorite banana muffin recipe, with many more posted on the blog for you to try.  

Chocolate is a favorite theme on my blog.  One of my favorites is the post on my chocolate hero, Alice Medrich for cocoa brownies with brown butter walnuts.  The chocolate post featured below gives a nod to my sister who is masterful in making homemade pie crust.  Truthfully, throughout the years, I have struggled in making pie crust.  At times the crust would come out too tough or fall apart when I rolled it out and tried to transfer it to the pie pan.  But now I have found my go-to recipe for pie crust, and it works every time.  Much practice helps to make it perfect.  Give it a try with this recipe for chocolate chip tollhouse pie.  

Some of my favorite posts are food memories created into recipes from our travels.  Often times the restaurant will share their recipe or the recipe can be found through an internet search.  Other times, I work tediously to create a recipe strictly from my taste memory as I am unable to obtain it otherwise.  This post was created from one of our many visits to Maine for downeast salmon cakes.   

I'll close this anniversary post with one last family favorite, salmon pasta with asiago cream sauce.  The recipe is my creation from a similar dish I had at a local restaurant.  The restaurant took it off their menu and I was determined to make it at home.  I'm certain what I created is not what the restaurant served, but we liked it so much I stopped trying to make theirs and it became my own.   


I offer a big thank you to all of my supporters for tasting the results of my cooking creations for this blog and my cooking classes.  Thank you to my friend from years ago who encouraged me to start this blog and her technical support in setting it up.  

Chez Cindy

Monday, January 3, 2022

ChezCindy: Spicy Butternut Soup with Cumin & Cayenne


I have had a go-to butternut squash soup recipe for years.  The soup has a sweetness from apples used in tandem with the squash.  It is a favorite.  Recently as we were dining out for dinner, we were served a savory, spicy, butternut squash soup that really caught my interest.  The spices seemed to be cumin and a chili to bring the heat.  I had the chance to speak with the chef and he confirmed that he indeed used cumin and cayenne powder to season the soup.  The soup was very good and went well with a dry Champaigne.  Inspiration had struck and here we are.  As I often do, I began creating the dish at home.   

I roasted the squash along with an onion and several cloves of garlic.  Roasting adds color to the vegetables and a depth of flavor.  The kitchen smelled great.  Once the vegetables are cooled, the rest of the process is easy.  Simply puree the vegetables in a blender with broth until smooth, adding in salt and spices.  The result is a delicious squash soup in less than an hour and that includes time for roasting and cooling the vegetables.  I also like this recipe because there is no need to peel the squash before roasting.  

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup
1 1/2 pounds fresh butternut squash
1 large yellow onion, peeled cut in half
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, optional
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3-4 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, depending on taste preference
1 teaspoon honey

toasted pumpkin seeds to garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a sturdy sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.  Set aside.

Cut the butternut squash in half or quarters lengthwise, removing and discarding the seeds from the bulb section.  Place the squash along with the onion and garlic cloves onto the prepared sheet pan.  Drizzle the vegetables with oil, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Place the sheet pan into the hot oven, roasting the vegetables for 35-40 minutes until they are tender and lightly browned.  Set aside to cool.  

Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the squash, leaving the skin behind on the sheet tray.  Add the squash, onions, garlic, the leaves of the rosemary, and 1 cup of broth to the blender.  Blend until smooth and well pureed.  Add in the cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, cayenne, honey and 2 additional cups of broth.  Blend until combined.  Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, and/or cayenne as preferred.  Add additional broth if you prefer a thinner soup texture.