Saturday, April 6, 2024

ChezCindy Ligurian Olive Oil & Citrus Cake


Liguria is one of Italy's best regarded regions known for its terroir for olive trees and the subsequent production of extra virgin olive oil.  Ligurian olive oil has a fruity more delicate flavor that enhances the ingredients it is paired with.  Using it here in this recipe for Olive Oil Citrus Cake results in a cake with a golden hue and a moist crumb.  The cake does not taste like olive oil nor citrus, but more of a well-balanced bite that leaves you wanting more.  Offering a cake uniquely different than one made with butter.  

Ligurian Olive Oil & Citrus Cake 
1 1/2 cups Ligurian extra virgin olive oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups whole milk
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
zest and juice of 1 large orange
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Using a 9-inch springform pan, lightly butter and flour the bottom and sides of the pan, or evenly spray with baking spray.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, setting the springform directly onto the parchment.  Set aside.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the olive oil and eggs, whisking until smooth.  Add in the milk, lemon juice and zest, orange juice and zest, and the sugar.  Whisk until combined and smooth.  

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a separate small bowl, whisking to combine.  With the mixer turned off, add the flour mixture to the bowl of the stand mixer, gently whisking until just combined.  Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl, whisking again for just a minute.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared springform pan.  Place the sheet pan with the filled springform into the preheated oven, baking for 80-85 minutes.  As the time comes close to 70 minutes, check the top of the cake to be sure it is not browning too quickly before the cake is done.  If so, place a large sheet of foil loosely over the springform to prevent excess browning.  Test the cake for doneness at 75 minutes to gauge the baking time.  The cake-tester or toothpick should come out clean with just a few crumbs attached.  Continue baking at 5-minute intervals until the cake is fully baked.  Remove from the oven, allowing it to cool completely before removing the outer ring of the springform pan.  Serve with fresh berries if desired.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

ChezCindy: Shrimp Burger Sliders


This delightful sandwich has become my personal go-to dinner when I am home alone, free to make anything I desire.  I turn shrimp into a slider sandwich, topped with a remoulade sauce, that pairs really well with a sparkling brut rose wine.  Very indulgent for just me and the pups.  Although, they're not eating shrimp.  Maybe just a few potato chips.  

The key to making the shrimp burgers it to puree a portion of the shrimp in a food processor, keeping the remaining shrimp in a rough chop.  The pureed shrimp, combined with the chopped, keep the burger from falling apart as the natural gelatin in the shrimp creates the necessary binding factor.  So, the burger is 100% shrimp with no extra fillers to bind it together.  

I top the shrimp burgers with my remoulade sauce, which is a what I serve with chilled shrimp cocktail instead of the standard red horseradish sauce.  The burgers are quick cooking in a skillet, served on a toasted bun.  A simple garnish of sliced Roma tomatoes is all I use.  

Shrimp Burger Sliders
1-pound medium shrimp (16-20 count)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
a few grinds of black pepper

Slider bun of choice 
butter for toasting the buns
Roma tomatoes, sliced

Prepare the remoulade sauce.  Set aside.  

Working with a small food processor, place about 1/3 of the shrimp into the processor bowl.  Pulse to create a rough puree of shrimp.  Remove the pureed shrimp, to a small bowl.  On a cutting board, roughly chop the remaining shrimp into small 1/2-inch pieces.  Combine these with the pureed shrimp.  Season with salt and pepper, stirring to combine.  With slightly wet hands, form the shrimp into small 2-inch patties, basically to fit the size of your slider bun.  

Heat a medium size non-stick skillet over medium heat, drizzle with a bit of oil.  Add the shrimp burgers to the hot pan, cooking on side one for about 3 minutes.  Flip each shrimp burger to continue cooking on side two for another 3 minutes.  These are small so they will cook quickly.  If you decide to make larger size burgers, adjust cooking time accordingly.  The internal temperature should read as 145 degrees.  Remove to a plate to rest.  

Meanwhile, prepare the slider buns for toasting by buttering the buns, placing in a hot grill pan or skillet, toasting until lightly brown.  

Place a shrimp burger onto the bottom toasted bun, top with a generous amount of remoulade sauce, add sliced Roma tomatoes.  Serve immediately.  

Remoulade Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon course ground mustard
a few shakes of hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 large garlic clove, finely minced 
1 tablespoon finely chopped cornichon pickles
1 tablespoon capers, drained, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Prepare all ingredients as listed.  Add to a small mixing bowl, mixing well to combine.  Taste for season, adjust as desired, adding more of what you like best.  I like more capers, but you might prefer more chopped shallots.  Add hot sauce as you prefer.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

ChezCindy: Parmesan Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

It has been years since I have made stuffed mushrooms.  I was looking for a recipe to round out an Italian menu I was planning.  This dish popped into my head, and I am glad it did.  The recipe is easy to put together and delicious.  

Like many recipes for stuff mushrooms, the stems become part of the stuffing.  Garlic gives great flavor, along with cream cheese, Parmesan and breadcrumbs to hold it all together.  The mushrooms and filling can be put together ahead of time, and then baked when ready to serve.  Great as an appetizer or added to the dinner plate.  I won't wait so many years to make it again.  

Parmesan Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

1 1/2-pounds baby bella mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Olive oil to drizzle over the filled caps

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Set aside.

Wash and dry the mushrooms.  Remove the stems from the mushroom caps.  Place the caps on the baking sheet.  Roughly chop the mushroom stems.

Working with a medium size skillet, add in the butter to melt.  Once melted, add in the chopped mushroom stems, cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in the minced garlic, cooking for about 30 seconds, then add in the breadcrumbs and the salt.  Stir and cook for 3-5 minutes, so that the breadcrumbs are lightly browned.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, add in the now cooled mushroom breadcrumb mixture, Parmesan, cream cheese, parsley and thyme.  Using a rubber spatula, mix until combined.  Using a small spoon, add about a tablespoon of the filling to each mushroom cap.  Sprinkle the filled caps with additional Parmesan.  Bake in the oven until the mushrooms are soft and the tops are golden, about 20 minutes.  Serve while hot or warm.  Drizzle with additional olive oil and a sprinkle for fresh grated Parmesan.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

ChezCindy: Arugula Salad with Ribbons of Vegetables


This salad is perfect as we head into Spring.  We still have winter citrus available with clementines and mandolins, sweet little oranges.  But we are longing for the freshness of early spring vegetables.  

Arugula serves as the bed of the salad, a hearty bitter green.  The gentle ribbons of carrot, zucchini, and shaved fennel top the arugula, with the sweet orange segments to balance the bitter notes of the arugula.  I like leaving this as a composed salad, just drizzling the dressing generously over the top.  Use tongs to grab the mix of vegetables, letting the dressing cling as you pull up and plate your serving.  It is perfect alongside some plump roasted shrimp or honey-mustard glazed salmon.

Arugula Salad with Ribbons of Vegetables
1 5-ounce container of baby arugula greens
2 medium carrots, peeled and shaved into long strips
2 small zucchini, peeled and shaved into long strips
1 large fennel bulb, tough outer leaves removed, shaved into thin strips
3 clementines, peeled and sliced crosswise into thin rounds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds

To make the salad:  Place the arugula greens onto a large serving platter.  Using a vegetable peeler, shave the carrots and zucchini into long thin strands.  Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, thinly shave the fennel bulb into strips.  Arrange the vegetable strips and the clementine rounds over the arugula.  Scatter the sunflower seeds, and drizzle 1/3 cup of the citrus dressing over the vegetables and fruit.  Serve additional dressing on the side if desired.  

To make the citrus dressing:  
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons olive oil

Add the vinegar, orange juice, honey, 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. 
Alternately, place the ingredients, except the olive oil, into a small food processor.  Process to combine.  Add in 2 tablespoons of the oil, process.  Continue adding in 2 tablespoons of oil, processing each time, until all of the oil is added, and the dressing is emulsified and creamy.  

Thursday, February 29, 2024

ChezCindy: Salmon Piccata with Lemon Caper Sauce


Salmon piccata is a dinner that seems very elegant that you might order from a restaurant.  However, it is a quick cooking meal that you can serve at home in under 30 minutes.  Be sure to have all your measuring and chopping of the ingredients before you start cooking.  Once you start cooking, everything moves along very quickly.  I like to serve this with a rice pilaf or a thin spaghetti pasta.  

Piccata was once thought to have been created for Italian nobility during the Renaissance.  Further research leads to piccata being a dish made by Italian immigrants first noted in the 1930's.  It is more commonly made with chicken or veal, but always with a buttery pan sauce spiked with lemons and capers.  When you make piccata home, you and your family may feel as if you are dining like royalty.  Enjoy!!

Salmon Piccata with Lemon Caper Sauce
4 6-ounce skinless salmon filets, center cut
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1/3 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Dry the salmon filets with a paper towel.  Evenly season the filets with 1 teaspoon salt.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the hot skillet.  Carefully add the filets to the pan flesh-side down.  Allow to cook without moving or turning for 4-5 minutes.  This will create a deep brown color on this first side.  Using a flexible spatula, flip each filet over to cook on the second side.  Cook on this side for 2-3 minutes.  The filets should be slightly pink at the center.  Remove the filets to a plate to rest.

Working quickly, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.  Add in the chopped shallots and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Stir to combine, cooking for about 1 minute.  Add in the chicken broth, lemon juice, capers, and lemon zest.  Simmer for 2 minutes to slightly reduce the mixture.  Whisk in the butter and mustard until smooth.  Turn off the heat, removing the pan from the heat surface.  Spoon the sauce over the salmon, sprinkle with the chopped parsley.  

Friday, February 16, 2024

ChezCindy: Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie


This is such a fun and delicious recipe!!  So easy for an impromptu weeknight sweet treat.  

Think of traditional chocolate chip cookies, but as a single giant cookie.  I made it using an electric mixer, although it could just as easily be mixed in a bowl with a wooden spoon.  The cookie dough comes together in minutes.  Transfer it to a cast iron or cast enamel pan, no need to coat the pan with oil or baking spray.  It is fully baked in 25 minutes, less time if you prefer a gooey center.  Ready for you to eat straight from the pan!  Top the warm cookie with ice cream for extra indulgence.  

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups chopped chocolate* from a bar, or chips from a bag

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer, combine the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar.  Mix until smooth and creamy.  Add in the egg and vanilla, mixing to combine.

Add in the flour, baking soda and salt to the butter mixture, mixing until barely combined.  Add in the chocolate, mixing until just combined.  

Transfer the batter to an 11-inch oven-safe skillet, cast iron or cast enamel recommended.  You may need to use your fingers to spread the batter evenly.  Bake in the hot oven for 22-25 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let the cookie rest for about 5 minutes.  Serve warm, or at room temperature if desired.  

*use your favorite chocolate, either milk, semi-sweet, dark, and/or white  

Monday, February 5, 2024

ChezCindy: Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Red Wine Ganache


Consider making this delightful chocolate cake for your next celebration or simply for the love of chocolate cake.  

The recipe is one that has been shared on the internet in various iterations for the past several years.  I'm not sure of the recipe origin but pairing chocolate and red wine is always a winning combination.  It certainly is in this house.  The cake batter is made by using a cup of red wine along with the standard ingredients of butter, sugar, egg, flour, cocoa, etc.  The outcome is lovely without being too sweet as the wine adds balance to the flavor yielding a chocolate-forward taste.  The cake is once again a magically disappearing chocolate cake as often happens in this house.  This is one I will make again and again.  And, it goes great with a glass of red wine, pictured here is a Nebbiolo Italian wine.  An Oregan Pinot Noir or French red Burgandy would also pair very well.  Just imagine which part of the world you would like to "travel" to by way of chocolate cake.  

Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Red Wine Ganache
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 cup dry red wine, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3-ounce semisweet chocolate bar, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons dry red wine, room temperature

Flakey sea salt for topping the cake, Maldon salt flakes recommended

To Make the Cake:  
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  
Butter an 8 or 9-inch round cake pan on the bottom and sides.  Line the bottom with a round parchment paper, butter the parchment.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, whisking to combine.  Set aside.  In a separate small bowl with a pour spout, combine the red wine and vanilla.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large bowl with using an electric hand mixer, add the sugar and melted butter, mixing on medium-high speed to cream together until the mixture turns pale yellow.  Add in the egg, mixing until just combined.  Add in a third of the flour mixture along with half of the wine mixture, mixing to combine.  Add in the next third of the flour mixture and the remaining half of the wine mixture, mixing to combine.  Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.  Add in the remaining third of the flour mixture, mixing and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  

Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan.  Place the pan onto the center rack, baking until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean with just a few crumbs.  About 40-45 minutes for a 9-inch round and 45-50 minutes for an 8-inch round.  Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.  

To Make the Ganache:
While the cake is cooling, prepare the ganache.  Place the chopped chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl.  Add in the diced butter and the corn syrup.  Microwave on high at 20 second intervals, stirring until melted and smooth.  Stir in the sifted powdered sugar and the red wine, stirring until fully combined and smooth.  Let stand at room temperature until the cake is cooled.  

Putting It All Together:
When the cake has fully cooled, run a small offset spatula around the side of the cake to loosen from the pan.  Carefully invert the cake onto the wire rack.  Brush off any excess crumbs.  Transfer the cake to your serving plate.  Using a ladle, pour the ganache onto the center of the top of the cake, using the ladle to work the ganache out to the sides of the cake, until the ganache is fully covering the top of the cake and beginning to drip down the sides.  Gently sprinkle flakey sea salt over the top of the cake.  Cut into wedges and serve with red wine if desired.  

Monday, January 29, 2024

Chez Cindy: Simple French Yogurt Cake


This simple French classic cake is made from a recipe in the cookbook GATEAU The Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes by Aleksandra Crapanzano.  It is the first recipe in the book, said to be a cake that "every child in France learns this recipe in nursery school, as it could not be easier to make."  The French yogurt is sold in half-cup jars and the jar is used as the measuring cup.  The simplicity lies in the repetition of 1-2-3, then 1-2-3 for the ingredients.  Easy to remember.   

                1 jar yogurt                1 jar oil
                2 jars sugar                2 teaspoons baking powder
                3 eggs                        3 jars flour

This is the basic recipe that can then be embellished as desired, adding in lemon zest and juice to the batter, or topping the baked cake with a sweet apricot glaze.  The choice of pan used is also open for interpretation.  Most commonly used is an 8x4-inch loaf pan, baked for 35-45 minutes.  Adjusting the baking time to 30-35 minutes, a 9-inch round pan could be used.  The cake is simple enough to be made in a bowl with a whisk or can be mixed in an electric stand mixer.  

French Yogurt Cake
1/2 cup plain yogurt  (1 jar)
1 cup granulated sugar  (2 jars)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil  (1 jar)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or cake flour  (3 jars)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour an 8x4-inch loaf pan.

Place the yogurt into a large mixing bowl.  Mix in the sugar until just combined.  Add in the 3 eggs, mixing after each addition.  Add in the oil, mixing well.  Mix in the flour and baking powder until just combined.  Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, testing for doneness after 35 minutes by inserting a long wooden pick into the center of the cake.  If it is still wet and sticks to the pick, continue baking until the pick comes out with just a few crumbs attached.  Cool in the pan for 10-12 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.  

Dust with powdered sugar or serve with fresh fruit and jam.  

Thursday, January 4, 2024

ChezCindy: Seared Chicken with Minty Mashed Potatoes & Peas


Cooking with fresh herbs is a great way to add flavor to a dinner that might otherwise be considered as standard or ho-hum.  Fresh mint is used to perk up chicken and mashed potatoes adding color and texture, no gravy needed.  Fresh basil or cilantro would also be great instead of mint as a different flavor adventure for another day.  

Seared Chicken with Minty Mashed Potatoes & Peas
1 pound Yukon Gold or Red Skin potatoes
8 ounces frozen peas
1 small bunch fresh mint, leaves rinsed and dried (about 3/4 ounce with stems)
4 6-ounce boneless skinless chicken breast
Kosher Salt, Black Pepper, Olive Oil

Fill a large pan with water placing onto the stove over medium-high heat, bring to a boil.  Rinse the potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces leaving the skin on.  Carefully place the potatoes into the boiling water, adding 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.  Cook the potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork, about 12-15 minutes, adding the frozen peas at the last 3 minutes of cooking.  Chop half of the mint leaves, set aside.  

Meanwhile, prepare the chicken breast by patting dry with a paper towel.  Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.  Place a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet.  When the oil is hot, using tongs carefully place the seasoned chicken breasts into the skillet.  Cook on side one for 6-7 minutes until the chicken is deeply seared and brown on this first side.  Using tongs, turn the chicken over to cook on side two for another 2-3 minutes, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.  Remove the chicken from the skillet placing onto a serving platter.  Place the remaining mint leaves into the hot skillet adding a tablespoon of oil if the pan is too dry.  Toss and fry the mint leaves until crisp.  Remove from the pan, set aside on a paper towel.  

Drain the potatoes and peas, returning to the pan.  Mash along with the chopped mint, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  

Serve the mashed potatoes/peas alongside of the chicken breasts, garnishing the chicken with the fried mint leaves.