Sunday, July 24, 2022

ChezCindy: Grilled Steak with Farm Tomatoes & Feta


This simple dish of grilled steak and tomatoes has been in my cooking rotation for many years.  Sometimes I forget to make our favorites as it had been years since I made this for dinner.  Last night was perfect timing as I had lots of gorgeous tomatoes from the farmer's market.  

The recipe is simple.  Basically, grill a strip steak as you prefer, medium rare for us.  The key to success is to have really good tomatoes from a farm stand, perfectly ripe and ready for use.  Make a vinaigrette and you are done.  I like to serve a few center-cut slices of the steak, pile on a good amount of tomatoes, drizzle all with vinaigrette and a sprinkle of crumbled feta.  A fabulous summer meal.  

Grilled Steak with Farm Tomatoes and Feta
2 strip steaks, 10-12 ounces for each steak
4-5 large heirloom tomatoes, any variety and color
Shallot vinaigrette
Feta cheese
Fresh basil for garnish

Serves 4

Light a grill or prepare an indoor grill pan as preferred.  Season the steaks with salt and pepper.  Grill to your preference in temperature.  Remove from the grill transferring to a plate to rest for 5 minutes.  

While the steaks are grilling, make the shallot vinaigrette and prepare the tomatoes.  

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil

To make the vinaigrette:  Place the chopped shallots, Dijon mustard, honey, salt & pepper in a small bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add the vinegar; whisk to combine.  Allow this mixture to marinate for 5 minutes.  This will mellow the flavor of the shallots.  Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking vigorously while doing so.

Cut the tomatoes into 1-inch pieces.  Place the tomatoes into a separate medium size bowl.  Add 3-4 tablespoons of vinaigrette to the tomatoes, tossing gently to combine.  

Putting it all together:  After the steak has rested, cutting crosswise, cut each steak into 1/2-inch slices.  Place 3-4 slices in the center of each plate.  Place a heaping mound of the dressed tomatoes above the sliced steak.  Drizzle a tablespoon of dressing over the steak slices, crumble the feta over the steak and tomatoes. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.  

Sunday, July 17, 2022

ChezCindy: Blondies - An American Cookie


Blondies are a bar cookie quite often compared to brownies but without chocolate.  I had never baked or even considered baking a blondie until recent years.  I was fortunate enough to be in vicinity of being able to purchase cookie boxes from Joy Cho Pastries.  Joy presented a sampling of various cookies in her boxes, all with her unique application of ingredients to traditional cookies.  Occasionally the boxes included blondies.  The blondies became my coveted favorite that I would declare as mine, not sharing with anyone else.  Sounds kind of harsh, but my husband prefers chocolate cookies, so it worked out well.  Joy is back in NYC doing fabulous baking and I am left on my own to bake blondies.  

First, I had to do some research to find a base recipe.  It turns out blondie recipes can be somewhat controversial among bakers.  I have learned that the first blondie recipe came into publication in the1890's using molasses as the sweetener, lending a dark color to the cookie bar.  Blondies were quickly upstaged by Brownies using a similar recipe with the addition of chocolate and using white sugar in place of molasses.  Blondies fell out of favor until the late 1980s when New York City bakeries and delis started selling the homemade cookie bars as packaged sweet treats.  Recipe development took off from there, with a more modern spin on the traditional recipe by adding leavening (baking powder and baking soda), increasing the amount of butter used, switching from molasses to brown sugar, and adding decadent ingredients like chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, toasted nuts and more.  

The first recipe I tried was from one of my mother's old cookbooks.  It was truly awful, very bland and flat.  I am using them as dog treats.  Much research later, I have found my base recipe for Blondies.  This recipe is a blend of modern and traditional, with the use of leavening, and the only add-in is toasted walnuts.  My vision is to use this base recipe with various changes such as adding spices like cinnamon or cardamom.  I most certainly will add chocolate chips at some point, and maybe adding dried cherries or cranberries.  

Chewy Blondies with Toasted Walnuts
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks (8-ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups toasted walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with the rack placed in the center of the oven.  Butter and lightly flour a 9"x13" baking pan.  Set aside.

In a medium size bowl, add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, stirring to combine.  Set aside.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter to the bowl, mixing for 3-4 minutes until creamy.  Add in both sugars, creaming together for 2-3 minutes.  Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 1 minute before adding the second egg, mixing again for 1 minute.  Turn off the mixer to add in the dry ingredients, with the mixer set to low speed, mix until just combined.  Add in the toasted walnuts, using a rubber spatula to be sure they are evenly distributed within the batter. 

Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan.  The batter is somewhat thick and will take some effort to distribute evenly.  Bake in the preheated oven for 35-38 minutes.  The blondies will slightly pull away from the sides of the pan and the top will be lightly browned.  Cool the blondies in the pan for 10 minutes.  Place a cooling rack on top of the pan to flip out the blondies from the pan.  Place a large cutting board on top of the blondies to flip over again so that the blondies are now right side up.  

The blondies can be cut while still slightly warm or can be cut when they are cooled to room temperature.  Store the cut blondies in an air-tight container or freeze for later use.