Monday, February 13, 2017

SUMPTUOUS SOUPS ARE SO SATISFYING!

I made this gorgeous soup as a first course at our Christmas feast, but it would be good any time of year. It is equally yummy both cold or hot---think cold Hungarian Borscht!
ROASTED BEET AND POTATO BISQUE

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion (1 cup), finely chopped
3/4 lb. baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces (about 2 cups)
1 stalk celery, diced (1 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups good, rich chicken broth
1 bay leaf
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4 large beets, roasted (Method follows*)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup light cream or half and half
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Sour cream or plain yogurt and fresh dill for garnish (optional)

Preparation:
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook onion, potatoes, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally until veg are crisp-tender; about 10 minutes.
Add broth, bay leaf, salt, thyme, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 20 minutes. Add beets and continue to simmer until veg is very tender; about 10 minutes more. Remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. Puree soup in small batches in a blender until smooth and return to pot. At this point you may refrigerate overnight and finish next day. If you are doing so, return cold soup to saucepan and slowly re-heat. Stir in milk, cream and lemon juice. Stir to combine and heat until warmed through. Garnish and serve.

To Roast Beets:
I like this method of cooking beets because they are a pain to peel raw. Once roasted the skin practically rubs off. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash and dry beets thoroughly. Cut off tops and bottoms. Cut into quarters (skin on) and place on baking sheet. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over beets. Salt liberally and rub the oil and salt into the beets. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until beets are just tender. Let cool. Remove skins and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.

CARROT, COCONUT, CURRY AND GINGER SOUP
...WITH A SPECIAL ADDITION!
To get this squiggly effect, once you drizzle on the yogurt,
 drag a knife through to make the design.
I have given you this recipe in the past and one of the things I love about it is that you can keep changing it up to give a slightly different flavor or texture.

http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=Carrot+ginger+soup

As with the Beet Bisque this soup is good either cold or hot. In this case, I used the original recipe (above link), but added vegetable/fruit fiber into the broth that I had saved from a 3-day juice fast my husband and I did recently.
This combo of fruit and veg is from Joe Cross's 3-day Juice Cleanse called, Sunset Blend Juice. It was truly delicious and the pulp is what I added to the Carrot, Coconut, Curry and Ginger Soup.
It seems such a waste to throw out all that good vegetable matter so I froze some for future soup stock and to another batch of pulpy fiber I added unflavored gelatin and turned the fruit/veg fiber into a cold vegetable cake. The cakes were surprisingly good!
What I learned in juicing for the first time is the combination of ingredients is not that important as long as you mix some sweet (beets, carrot, apples, oranges, etc.) with not so sweet (celery, kale, spinach, etc.).  And, fresh ginger root was a nice addition to all recipes.
Here is the Sunset Juice Blend all bottled and ready to drink!

Joe's Breakfast Juice: Carrots, green and red apples and ginger. Delicious!

Look at all that fiber!
To learn more about the benefits of Juicing, go to: http://www.doctoroz.com/article/joe-cross-3-day-weekend-juice-cleanse

Both Jerry and I felt great after Juicing for 3 days, but we were hungry for real, solid food!

That's it for today. Thank you for joining me
for another glimpse into my kitchen!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

EXTRAVAGANT COCKTAILS!

Holidays are a wonderful time to indulge with a special cocktail, but they don't need to be reserved just for the holidays. This years signature Christmas Eve drink was a Pomegranate Martini. Leave off the crushed candy cane; drop in a few pomegranate seeds, skewer some fresh cranberries or add a twist of lemon for garnish and you have a terrific martini for any time of year.
POMEGRANATE MARTINI
Ingredients:
2 oz. Pomegranate Vodka
1/2 oz. Orange Liquor (like Cointreau)
1/2 oz. dry Vermouth
3 oz. Pomegranate Juice (or more/less to taste)

Fill a cocktail shaker half full with ice and add all ingredients. Cover and shake until chilled. Run a squeeze of lemon along rim of martini glass. Roll the rim in crushed peppermint candies or candy canes. Strain into cocktail glasses.
Dennis hard at work making drinks!

Or here's a twist:
CRANBERRY MARTINI
Ingredients:
2 oz. Cranberry Vodka
1/2 oz. Orange Liquor (like Cointreau)
1/2 oz. dry Vermouth
3 oz. Cranberry Juice

Much like a Cosmo, but the Vermouth adds a different flavor. Adjust the ingredients to your liking...a little sweeter or a little more dry.
And his wife, Diana, enjoying the fruits of his labors.
Our special Christmas cocktail was a...
 
MAPLE MANHATTAN WITH BACON GARNISH
Ingredients:
2 oz. good Bourbon (like Makers Mark)
1/4 oz. sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz. pure Maple Syrup
2 dashes bitters (or more to taste)

Fill a cocktail shaker half full of ice. Add all ingredients. Shake until cold and well blended. Serve either straight up or in your favorite rocks glass. Add a bacon garnish; optional, of course, but quite fun and surprisingly balanced flavor with the sweet bourbon. No matter how much bitters you add this is a sweet drink, but so exotic that you will feel very special sipping.
The cook was pretty happy to receive a second Maple Manhattan!
I will keep interspersing our Christmas menu with other blogs. Next time I want to share the best breakfast I've ever had...in Jerome, Arizona, or maybe anywhere!

THANK YOU ALL FOR TUNING IN AGAIN TO SHARE MY PASSION OF FOOD AND COOKING!


Saturday, January 14, 2017

PEPPERMINT ICE CREAM AND ITALIAN COOKIES!

Who doesn't like cookies and ice cream? This year for Christmas Eve dinner I made my husband Jerry's favorite ice cream-Peppermint Stick! My ice cream maker only holds a little more than 1 quart so I halved this recipe which made more than enough for 4 people with lots of left-overs! I am going to give you the full recipe in case your machine is larger. I found this recipe online at Epicurious.com. Very creamy. Wonderful texture and flavor.

PEPPERMINT ICE CREAM
Ingredients:
3 cups milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. vanilla (I also added 2 drops peppermint essential oil.)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups half and half
8 oz. broken/crushed peppermint candy or candy canes*
Our good friends Dennis and Diana joined us
for the entire Christmas weekend! What a treat!
Preparation:
Pour milk into medium saucepan. Heat over low heat about 8-10 minutes stirring frequently, until scalded. Do not let it boil and if skin forms on milk, just pull it off with your fingers. Remove from heat and stir in salt and sugar until dissolved. Beat egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly pour 1/2 cup hot milk over eggs while whisking constantly. Repeat 2 or 3 times to temper the eggs. This ensures that the eggs don't begin to cook in the hot milk. Pour egg mixture back into the rest of the hot milk, whisking constantly until well mixed. Cook over double boiler, stirring frequently, until custard coats the back of a spoon (about 15 minutes). I prefer to use a candy thermometer and heat the custard until it reaches 170 degrees. Remove from the heat. Chill a couple hours or overnight. I always chill overnight. It freezers better when really cold. The next day...Mix together chilled custard, vanilla (and peppermint oil if using), cream, half and half and 1/2 crushed peppermint in a large bowl. Pour into ice cream maker and churn until partially thickened (about 10-15 minutes). Then add remaining crushed peppermint candy and churn for another 10-15 minutes until you have the desired consistency. I garnished with more peppermint candy which gave a really nice textural contrast to the super creamy ice cream.

*To crush the peppermint candies or candy canes, place in a baggie and gently tap them with a rolling pin or similar hard object until you have the desired consistency-you don't want peppermint dust, but also don't want large chunks.

Even JoJo enjoyed this Peppermint Ice Cream and he is not a sweet eater!
 
CHRISTMAS COOKIES FROM SIENA
All the Christmas cookies I made this year were Italian in honor of the fabulous time we spent in Tuscany last summer. My old friend, Claire spent a few days with me before Christmas and helped get the cookies started!

I had not seen Claire in more than 10 years!
What a festive reunion we had together!

Map of Tuscany, Italy


RICCIARELLI
These cookies, from Siena in central Italy's Tuscan region, are made with almond flour so gluten free. They also have no butter! If you like a cookie with a chewy center you will love these Ricciarelli's; reminiscent of a macaroon. I made 3 different types of Italian cookies and these were my personal favorite. I will give you the recipes for the other two soon...they were also pretty awesome!

The Ricciarelli are in the back. When they bake the crust cracks slightly.
Ingredients:
3 cups fine almond flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks
2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. lemon zest

Preparation:
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the almond flour, granulated sugar, 1 cup powdered sugar, the baking powder, and the salt in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites into soft peaks.
When the peaks bend over slightly
they are considered soft vs. a stiff peak.
Fold in the almond extract, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and almond flour mixture. Stir completely until combined.
The texture will be quite crumbly, but pulls together in a ball nicely.
Use a tablespoon to scoop out a large ball of cookie dough. Roll the dough into a ball in your hands, then use the bottom of a glass to gently smash the cookie into a disk about 1/2 inch thick.
 
 
Roll in the remaining powdered sugar and set on the parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Let sit uncovered on the counter for about 45 minutes, or until the surfaces dry out just a little. Preheat oven to 275. Place the cookies into the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until they are golden brown around the edges and tops begin to crack.
Cool completely on a rack, then store in an airtight container for up to a week. They also freeze well.

That's all for today. I am going to do a series of mini-blogs (one or two recipes) to recapture our holiday festivities.

And right after the new year we visited the Grand Canyon with our son and his girlfriend and made a stop on the way home to an enchanting B&B in Jerome, Arizona--The Surgeon's House. Owner/hostess Andrea Prince serves an over-the-top breakfast not to be missed. More about her beautiful home and elaborate food coming in a blog soon!
This historic home is turning 100 this year!
www.surgeonshouse.com
 
WISHING YOU LOVE, HEALTH, HAPPINESS AND MANY JOYOUS TIMES IN YOUR OWN KITCHEN THROUGHOUT 2017!

Happy New Year from both Jerry and me!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

AUBERGINE aka EGGPLANT SOUFFLE!

SFROMATO di VEDURE
VEGETABLE SOUFFLE

When we were in Tuscany last summer, my husband had a delicious vegetable soufflé at a sweet little restaurant in San Quirico D'Orcia, a charming, medieval village in the Orcia Valley. Trattoria Osenna, located right on the main cobbled street, is family owned and operated and most ingredients are grown by the family including the grapes to make the wine and grappa!

To learn more about San Quirico, go to: https://www.discovertuscany.com/valdorcia/san-quirico-d-orcia.html
Every Tuscan village has a central well or cistern.
I love eggplant cooked any and all ways. I love the rich, dark purple, almost black color of the skin; the fine, velvety texture of the pulp and the intense earthy flavor. Unfortunately when eggplant is cooked it turns brown, which is not exactly attractive, but it sure is tasty!

I coaxed the waiter to give us the recipe and hurriedly scratched this on my napkin. This is what I came away with:

He said he might lose his job if the chef knew he was divulging the ingredients. Not sure that is completely true, but it did make for good 'drama' at the moment! That wasn't much to go on, but this is what I came up with.

Ingredients:
1 large or 2 small eggplant, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
About 1/4 cup chicken stock
4 Tbsp. Bechamal Sauce (recipe follows)
1 large egg, slightly beaten
Salt/Pepper to taste

For a little more background on Bechamal Sauce, go to: http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/2016/07/classic-irish-seafood-chowder.html and scroll down to MAKE A ROUX.

Bechamal Sauce:
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
3/4 cup milk
Salt/Pepper
Melt the butter, add flour, stir or whisk vigorously over medium high heat until a thick, smooth sauce is formed. Season with salt and pepper. This will make more than 4 Tbsp., but good to have on hand. Try adding a tablespoon to your scrambled eggs in the morning!

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, liberally salt the cubed eggplant. Toss to coat evenly. Let eggplant sit for about 15 minutes until it begins to 'sweat'. Rinse and pat dry.
Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat until melted and bubbly, but not browned. Add eggplant, season with a little salt, reduce heat to medium and stir to coat all pieces evenly with oil and butter.  Cover and let cook for about 15-20 minutes until eggplant is very soft. You do not want to brown the eggplant. Add chicken stock if necessary so eggplant does not stick to bottom of pan. Once eggplant is softened, remove from heat and let cool. Puree eggplant until very smooth and add salt/pepper to taste. Add 4 Tbsp. Bechamal Sauce and 1 slightly beaten egg. Gently whisk all ingredients until thoroughly combined.
Grease 4 custard cups. Pour eggplant mixture into the cups and bake at 350 degrees until set; about 25-30 minutes. Cool slightly. Carefully run a knife around inside edge of cup. Invert cup and gently release the Eggplant Souffle. You may have to pat the soufflé into place. Served individually, this makes an impressive presentation, although you may also bake in a larger soufflé pan and cut to serve.
Sfromata di Vedure is more of a rich, creamy pudding than a soufflé. You could change up the recipe by adding garlic, herbs, onions or shallots cooked down and blended with the eggplant. I like it plain as the flavor of the eggplant is intense. Cheese would make a nice addition, too. I am going to try it next with asparagus. Possibilities are endless.

Great accompaniment to roasted chicken. Also delicious along side a grilled steak.

Here are a couple shots of San Quirico D'Orcia.

Peaceful gardens right at the edge of the village.


...with majestic sculptures within...
Reminders of life 3000 years ago.
...including Grappa, which has been around since the Middle Ages. Distinctly Italian,
Grappa is the fermented pulp, seeds, stems, skins of grapes left after wine-making.
Perfect way to end a perfect meal.

The D'Orcia Valley in Tuscany is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The scenery, people, architecture, art, history, culture are ALL magnificent...I felt very much at home...And the food and wine are unsurpassed. Such a treasure...
This is the house red-Cardinali- at Tratorria Osenna.
Christmas is right around the corner.
I will be sharing my Christmas Eve and
Christmas Dinner menus with you soon.
 
Thanks again for tuning in to another episode of:



Saturday, November 19, 2016

OLD FASHIONED BOSTON BAKED BEANS!

Hello, my friends! It's been a while since we have talked 'food' together and I have missed it and missed you, so with less than a week to Thanksgiving, here goes!

I like to treat my husband, Jerry, to a special meal on his birthday, which is November 13. We think of his special day as the kick-off to holiday season. I asked him what he wanted this year and he said "Ham and Beans". I told him that was way too ordinary and I would just have to surprise him. And surprise him I did with my Mom's recipe for traditional Boston Baked Beans and a very special ham from E & R Pork in Tucson (https://www.facebook.com/EandRPork/). Neither of us had ever been to a pig farm and it was quite an experience.
Owner, Rod Miller with 3 week old piglet. He raises
his pigs with love, kindness and wholesome food.
More on E & R Pork in a moment, but let's get down to beans.

BOSTON BAKED BEANS
Beans are not difficult or complicated to make; they just take a long time to cook. I cook them on top of the stove, probably because that is how my Mom made hers, but you can also do them in the oven or a slow cooker. The ingredients are simple:

Ingredients:
4 cups; about 2 #'s navy beans
1 whole onion, peeled
4 whole cloves
2 tsp. dried mustard
1 1/2 cup molasses (not black strap)
1/2 cup  brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into chunks
2 Tbsp. Salt
Black pepper to taste

Preparation:
Rinse beans in a large colander to make sure there are no little stones. Place in a large bowl with enough water to cover by 3 inches and soak overnight.
Next morning, drain beans, place in a large (at least 6 Qt.) Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot, and add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Press the cloves into the onion and add the onion to the beans. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and skim off the foam. Simmer for 15 more minutes.
Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Cook on low heat for 4 to 5 hours or until beans are tender. Add water if necessary to keep beans just covered with liquid. This makes a huge quantity of beans, but they freeze well and will keep in the fridge for up to 10 days.
With the ham and beans, I served my husband coleslaw and biscuits.

FLAKY BUTTERMILK BISCUITS
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. baking power
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. salted butter, melted

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Transfer to a food processor. Cut butter into cubes and add to flour, then pulse 6 or 7 times until the mixture resembles rough crumbs. You can also cut by hand using 2 knives or a pastry cutter, but the food processor is much easier. Return dough to bowl, add buttermilk and stir with a fork until it forms a rough ball. It may be a little sticky, which is not a problem.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll it into a rough rectangle about an inch thick.
Fold it over and gently, roll it down again. Repeat 6 times. The key to flaky biscuits is a gentle touch. You don't want to over-work the dough and as you continue folding and rolling it all comes together.
Cut the dough using a floured glass or biscuit cutter. Do not twist cutter when cutting; this will crimp the edges of the biscuit causing it not to rise.

I used parchment paper for baking, but they can also go right on your baking sheet.
Brush the biscuits with the 2 Tbsp. of melted butter. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown; approximately 10-15 minutes.
E & R PORK
This is a family affair. Rod Miller, his wife Erika Pacheco and Rod's parents are all in the farm together. Originally from Iowa and farming for many years there, they have been raising pigs in Arizona now for 25 years. They use no hormones or antibiotics and are non-GMO. They sell every part of the pig to individuals, stores, and restaurants all over the world. I bought a ham for Jerry's birthday and it was unlike any ham I have ever had. It actually tasted like real meat: Cured, lightly salted, smoked, and fully cooked. This was a beautiful piece of meat. The cut is called a Short Shank which comes from the back butt/leg. It has a nice outer layer of fat and marbling throughout. Because these pigs are raised so gracefully and in a beautiful environment the fat is very good for you.
The 3 breeds E & R raise are Red Wattles, Berkshire, and Duroc, but over time they will concentrate on the Red Wattles, which according to the Red Wattle Hog Association are a rare breed. Read more here: http://www.redwattle.com/

The Red Wattle is the little guy in front.
Pigs are social creatures and for the most part enjoy each other's company.
Rod also treated us to some cured meat(chacuterrie) he makes using a coffee crust.

Coffee Crusted Cured Pork. Rich, succulent, nicely
smoked with a very subtle coffee flavor on the crust.
Never wanting to waste, I am making stock for a lentil soup with the ham bone, carrots, onion, celery and fresh herbs: chives, oregano, sage.
I also fried some of the fat into little bites resembling Chicharrones. The difference is Chicharrones are deep fried pork rind, and these are all fat, slowly rendered in a frying pan. They taste like bacon on steroids. Totally awesome!
And finally, here is the rendered fat, which I will use to baste my turkey this Thanksgiving. It has a very delicate flavor.

I can't wait to try some of their other cuts. I have always wanted to make hogs-head cheese so possibly there is a pigs head in my future! That will make a fun blog! To order your own pork, text Rod at 520-490-0166.

To conclude Jerry's birthday I made Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes. I am going to save that recipe until next time, but here's a tease. This is a very chocolatey dessert!

WISHING YOU ALL A TASTEY, LOVING
AND FUN-FILLED THANKSGIVING!
I AM GRATEFUL TO YOU ALL FOR FOLLOWING MY FOOD BLOG AND FEEL BLESSED IN SO MANY WAYS.
LOVE, GRATITUDE, AND PEACE!
UNTIL NEXT TIME, KEEP ENJOYING
THE ART OF CREATING FINE FOOD.
Sometimes you just got to go crazy with big knives!