Wednesday, June 28, 2017

BAKERY STYLE BANANA NUT MUFFINS

My husband, Jerry is on a serious banana kick. He buys at least 2 bunches a week and sometimes can't keep up with them before they get too ripe. With 2 overly ripe bananas I decided to make Banana Nut Muffins. I found this recipe online and they came out perfectly! The "muffin tops" were very generous and the muffins had a wonderful light texture; not at all dense like some banana bread or muffins.
Jerry is about to dig into one of these freshly baked muffins!
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup White Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs
3/4 cup Milk
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 cup (2 medium) Mashed Bananas
1 cup Chopped Walnuts, divided
Muffins ready to pop into the oven.

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. This initial high temp helps the muffins to rise. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners. In a large bowl toss together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In a medium bowl whisk oil, white and brown sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla and banana. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir gently with a rubber spatula. When ingredients just come together fold in 2/3 cup chopped walnuts. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups. Top with 1/3 cup chopped walnuts. Bake 5 minutes at 425. Reduce heat to 375 and bake another 12-15 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
So easy and so delicious!
 
NEXT WEEK OUR SONS ARE COMING TO IRELAND. I'M GOING TO TREAT THEM TO SOME
IRISH FAVORITES-IRISH SEAFOOD CHOWDER, HOMEMADE BLOOD PUDDING, COLCANNON...
AND MORE!
 
TUNE IN AGAIN FOR ANOTHER EPISODE OF:
 
 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

NASTY STINGING NETTLES TAKE ON A NEW PURPOSE!

Nettles may be Ireland's most prolific weed. They are everywhere and if you like to garden, like me, sooner or later no matter how careful you are, you will be stung. Because I am such a sensitive creature I tend to get a very nasty lingering bright red painful, burning itch and sometimes the skin that has been touched even swells. Not nice!

But I just learned recently that the Irish have used nettles to make soup for years. When food was scarce they were a nice change from potato soup, but just as crubeens , which are pigs feet (Go to: http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.ie/search?q=crubeens if you want to make pigs feet yourself) are not so popular today, nettle soup is no longer a staple. I have mentioned the soup to a couple Irish friends and they get this wistful, far-off look remembering a nourishing and delicious dish from their past.

NETTLE SOUP
I garnished with a full-fat Irish plain yogurt.
I made up the recipe and since making the soup have done some research to learn that often milk or cream is added. I thought this soup was perfect without it. There is something very satisfying about going into your back yard and gathering ingredients for dinner. I also learned that nettles are very good for you; high in iron, calcium, potassium, and also vitamins A and C.

Ingredients:
5 potatoes
3 leeks, white and light green part only
2 very big (gloved) handfuls nettles
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Qt. chicken stock (you could also use water or vegetable stock)
Crème fraiche, yogurt or sour cream for garnish
Parsley, chives or chive blossoms for garnish (My parsley has gone to seed so I did not use. I also did not want to add anything to alter the true nettle flavor so just used plain yogurt for garnish.)

I think next time I would add a clove or 2 of garlic. Again, I did not want to use it this time as I wanted to really taste the nettles. Some recipes also call for herbs: lemon thyme, marjoram...variations are endless. I even found recipes with oats or rice.

Preparation:
Pick the nettles carefully wearing gloves. Choose young leaves. Wash and remove leaves from the stem. I am not sure where you would 'source' nettles if you don't have acres of them growing in your back yard as I do here in Ireland, but you might get them at a Farmer's Market. Peel and dice potatoes.

Wash leeks thoroughly. Dirt collects in the leek layers so you may have to slice down the middle to get all the dirt out. Chop the leeks. Cook potatoes and leeks with salt and pepper in the butter for 10-12 minutes until potatoes are gently browned. Add chicken stock (vegetable stock or water) and bring to boil. Carefully drop in nettles.

Lower heat, cover and steam for about 30-40 minutes. As the nettles cook they lose their stinging quality. Cool completely and blend in a blender until smooth. Taste and correct seasoning.
I could not decide on garnish design so tried a couple different ones.

The soup is reminiscent of asparagus and spinach, but definitely has its own special flavor. The soup also has a bit of a spicy bite! Rich, quite thick and extremely delicious! I think Nettle Soup will become a staple in our Irish home!

Here's a ditty that impoverished Irish mothers would sing to their children when serving this soup:

"She fed them on potatoes and a soup made out of nettles
and a lump of hairy bacon that she boiled up in a kettle."

All for today from Spiddal, Co. Galway, Ireland!
 
You'll hear from me again soon!
 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

PASTA PERFECTION!

I'm going to share 2 recipes with you today, both from our Easter Feast. First, our Intermezzo course, a very simple Italian Granita. I like to serve Granita when doing a big, fancy dinner. It acts as a palate cleanser and gives folks a chance to rest a bit between courses.
 
MELONE e MENTA GRANITA
HONEYDEW MELON and MINT GRANITA
Ingredients:
1 Honeydew melon, seeded, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white wine
Zest of 1 lime
12 large mint leaves
 
Preparation:
Heat water in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Stir sugar into the hot water until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large blender puree the melon, zest, wine and syrup (sugar water). At this point I put the puree in the fridge overnight and froze next day. When ready to freeze, pour puree into a large baking pan (I used a 9" square metal pan which is the perfect size.) and place in the freezer. Stir the mixture with a fork about every 20 minutes until you have a nice grainy texture with fairly small crystals; about 3 hours. 

My favorite course at Easter dinner this year was the Il Primo.

QUATTRO RAVIOLI di FORMAGGIO
FOUR CHEESE RAVIOLI
I served these raviolis in brown butter and garnished with fried sage leaves. The pasta recipe is from the cooking class my husband and I took when we were in Tuscany last summer. The only difference is, in the class we hand-rolled the pasta, and cut into fettucine. This rustic pasta is called STRANGLE THE PRIEST. There are lots of interpretations for the name of this pasta, but my favorite is this one: On Sunday's women in villages across Tuscany would make a weeks worth of pasta for the parish priests. Sometimes their own husbands would feel neglected as the women toiled over mounds of pasta for the priests.  The men would become enraged and were ready to STRANGLE THE PRIEST!
 
Making pasta is fun!
 

My husband, Jerry, very happy with his result!
Ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
Water (to moisten)
Chef Marta starts incorporating the egg to make the pasta.
Marta's is perfect, but she has made this a few times!

Preparation:
Mound flour on a board or directly on your counter. Make a large well and drop the 2 eggs into it. Stir the eggs with a fork and as you stir gradually start incorporating the flour into the egg. Add water as needed to keep dough soft and together. Knead until smooth and elastic; about 5 minutes. The dough should feel very smooth and silky. Let dough sit for 10 minutes. Cut the dough into 2 portions and press on the dough to thin it down enough to fit into your pasta machine. Start rolling it out on the widest setting and keep folding and rolling until you are down to the #8 setting. Continue folding each time you run the pasta through. When finished you will almost be able to see through the pasta. Cut into ravioli shape. Add about 1 Tbsp. of the cheese filling. Top with a second ravioli. Moisten your fingers and crimp the edges together thoroughly so the raviolis don't lose their filling while cooking. I also pressed a fork around the edges of the raviolis to ensure the filling stayed inside. Cover a large cookie sheet with waxed or parchment paper. Top with a fairly thick coating of flour. Rest the raviolis on top of the flour uncovered for about 2 hours.
To cook:
Add raviolis to gently boiling water that has about 1 tsp. of salt and a splash of olive oil. Cook until just al dente; about 5-7 minutes. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon.
To make brown butter:
Heat a stick of butter in a frying pan over medium high heat until the butter becomes brown and bubbly.
To fry sage leaves:
Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a small pan until hot, but not smoking. Drop in sage leaves and fry, turning once. Drain on a paper towel.

FOUR CHEESE FILLING:
3/4 cup Ricotta Cheese
2/3 cup Parmesan
2/3 cup Asiago
2/3 cup Pecorino Romano
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Salt/Pepper to taste

Stir all ingredients together. As with most recipes there are endless variations to the filling (add garlic, herbs, different cheeses, etc.), but I wanted to keep fairly simple since it was only the first course of a big meal!

If you don't have a pasta machine try making this pasta as we did in Italy, simply by rolling it out with a rolling pin. It will be a little inconsistent and not as thin as using a machine, but that is the charm!

NEXT TIME WE WILL GO RIGHT TO
IL SECONDO COURSE...THE PORK!
 
THANK YOU FOR TUNING IN
TO ANOTHER EPISODE OF:


 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

TANTALIZING TUSCAN TIDBITS...!

Easter 2017--To Tuscany...with Love--fabulous celebration of food, friends, laughter and love. I want to share a couple of the Hors D' Oeuvres that got our Easter feasting underway.

PEPERONI ARROTOLATI
 
Rolled Bell Pepper Delights

Peppers are front and center.
Having just come off a total hip replacement I needed lots of help prepping this years Easter dinner...and I got it! My good friends, Debby Vis and Myrna York did hours of work on Saturday, which made finishing the dinner on Sunday much smoother. All of the guests pitched in on Sunday to pull the final details together. Truly...a Cook with Cindy! event.

These little bites of Red Bell Pepper were stuffed with 3 kinds of meat. Super yummy!
Deb is mixing the meat stuffing for the peppers.

Here is Deb with peppers all rolled up and ready to
bake on Easter Sunday. She is already working on
her next project: Limoncello Tiramisu.

Ingredients:
6 large Red Bell Peppers, cut into 1 inch strips. Cut along the longest length after they are roasted.
1 lb. Mortadella (I could not find Mortadella so used 2 Italian sausages out of their skins.)
1/4 lb. Cooked Ham
1/2 lb. Ground Beef
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 Egg
Salt/Pepper to taste
Toothpicks
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preparation:
Soften peppers by placing 2 at a time inside a plastic bag and heat in microwave for 3 minutes. I did this the day before to make assembly a little faster. The microwaving did soften the peppers, but they were still too firm to peel so I placed them under the broiler until they just started to singe. Cool. Remove seeds and skin. Cut into 1 inch strips along longest side.
Prepare the meat filling by processing the mortadella (or sausage) and ham in a blender or mini-food processor. Stir in the ground beef. Because we used raw pork instead of mortadella, Deb lightly cooked the 3 meats in a large saute pan. Cool and then add the rest of ingredients. In a large bowl add bread crumbs, egg and mix well with the ground meats. Add salt/pepper.
Spread about 1 Tbsp. of meat mixture on the Bell Pepper strip. Roll up until you have a small roll. Fasten with a toothpick. Pour enough olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of a large cookie sheet or baking tray. Put peppers in one layer on the tray.
At this point we covered and refrigerated overnight until ready to bake.
Next day, bring to room temperature. Drizzle a little more olive oil over tops of peppers. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 30-35 minutes until tops of rolls are slightly browned. Remove and let cool 10 minutes before serving.


SOLE POMODORI SECCHI e FORMAGIO SPALMABILE PESTO
 
Sun Dried Tomato and Pesto Cheese Spread
Yes, I did also add some thinly sliced Sopresato to the platter.
Ingredients:
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp. fresh basil leaves
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 2/3 cups softened cream cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
1/3 cup tomato paste
3/4 cup butter
Salt/Pepper to taste

Myrna is putting together the Cheese Spread
 on Easter Eve. Lots of steps, but well worth it!
Preparation:
Chop garlic in food processor. Mix in basil, lemon juice, pine nuts and olive oil. Process until well blended. Mix in 1/3 cup cream cheese and Parmesan cheese. Blend using pulse setting until almost smooth. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.
Coarsely chop sun-dried tomatoes in the food processor. Mix in tomato paste and 1/3 cup cream cheese. Blend until smooth.
Place 2 cups cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.
Lightly grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish (Myrna opted to use a couple smaller dishes which made the presentation much more elegant.) Line the dish (or dishes) with plastic wrap so that the wrap extends over sides of the dish.
Evenly spread 3/4 cup cream cheese and butter mixture in the prepared dish. Layer alternately with 1/2 the sun-dried tomato mixture, 1/2 cup cream cheese and butter mixture and 1/2 the pesto mixture. Repeat layering, topping with remaining cream cheese and butter mixture. Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight. Carefully invert dish onto a platter and remove plastic. Garnish with pine nuts and fresh basil leaves.
The third hors d'oeuvre we had was Cecina (Farinata), a Tuscan flat bread made with Garbanzo (chickpea) flour. The story behind this bread is better than the actual bread. I served the Cecina with a dipping oil laced with garlic and fresh herbs. Here is the story:  Cecina was "invented" by accident along the coast when a ship carrying garbanzo flour was caught in a storm. The flour was all wet, but not wanting to throw it out, some oil was added and then it was baked like bread...voila, Cecina! If anyone wants the recipe please send me an email. It's really easy to make (3 ingredients: chickpea flour, water and oil); has an interesting flavor and somewhat odd texture, but I love the story!
Lots of wines accompanied our feast, both Italian and others. Here are a few:
Dennis and Diana Makes with 2 lovely bottles of Italian wine.
Getting one of these giant bottles of wine open is not all that easy.
Centine is on the left and the 'normal' bottle beside
is Educated Guess-gorgeous cab from Napa.
From l to r: Dick York, my husband Jerry and Steve Vis.
This is a big bottle of Centine. Very smooth blend from Tuscany.

Diana enjoying a laugh with Jack Zittere!
I HAVE MANY MORE RECIPES TO SHARE
FROM EASTER 2017!
STAY TUNED...
 

UNTIL NEXT TIME, HAPPY COOKING!
 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

BEEF TONGUE!

Before you say, YUCK, let me describe how I prepared this delicious dish and then  you decide. I had never cooked or even eaten tongue before so I was pretty excited. OK, some of the photos are pretty gross, but the end result was surprisingly good.

I did not realize that Beef Tongue is so large. This one was nearly 3 lbs. and a little over 12 inches.


BEEF TONGUE in DIJON CREAM SAUCE

Ingredients:
1 (3 lb.) Beef Tongue
1 large onion, sliced
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf (I used 2.)
1 whole star anise (Also added 2.)
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
2 Tbsp. salt (Next time I would double amount of salt.)
This gives you a better idea of just how big this thing is!

Preparation:
I did quite a bit of research before beginning to prepare the tongue and somewhere read that soaking your tongue overnight in salt water is a good idea so that is what I did.

Rinse tongue well with cold water and place in a deep 6-8 qt. pot. Add cold water to cover by 3 inches, then add remaining tongue ingredients. (I added all the ingredients first and then placed the tongue on top.) Cover pot and bring to boil. Simmer, partially covered, until tongue is fork-tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. (The recipe called for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, but my tongue needed more time.)
Once tender, transfer tongue to a cutting board (reserve 1/2 cup liquid) and when cool enough to handle, peel off skin and trim any fat or gristle. (This part was pretty gross.)

Cooked, unpeeled.
 
Cooked, peeled. The skin is quite thick and leathery.
Skim off fat from cooking liquid (--there really was not much fat. My tongue was very lean.) and pour liquid through a paper-towel lined sieve into a large bowl, discarding solids. Keep tongue warm, covered.

DIJON CREAM SAUCE
Ingredients:
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 cup heavy cream (I only had light and it worked well.)
2 Tbsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. prepared Horseradish
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. dill, chopped
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice


Preparation:
Cook shallot in butter in 2 qt. saucepan over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until softened. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking for about a minute. Gradually whisk in reserved cooking liquid and cream, then bring to a boil while whisking. Simmer sauce, whisking, until slightly thickened; 2-3 minutes. Whisk in mustard, herbs, lemon juice, salt/pepper to taste.

Thinly slice across the tongue (not length-wise) and serve with the sauce. I served with Pickled Asparagus and a thinly sliced French Baguette. There was lots of leftover tongue, which I cut even finer--nearly shredded--and used for Lengua Tacos; very popular where I live on the Mexican border!

QUICK PICKLED ASPARAGUS
Ingredients:
3/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar (I used brown sugar.)
2 Tbsp. pickling spices
1 - 1 1/2 lbs. asparagus, rinsed, tough ends removed
Preparation:
In a wide 4-5 qt. pan combine: vinegar, salt, sugar, pickling spice, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add asparagus. Make sure asparagus is completely covered with water. If not, add more. Simmer, stirring occasionally until asparagus has faded to dull green and is tender-crisp-about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup ice cubes to stop cooking. Let stand at least 30 minutes (I let mine stand an hour so it would get a little more pickled.) Drain asparagus and either serve right away or store in a container in the fridge.

THAT'S GOING TO DO IT FOR TODAY...!
 
I LOVE TRYING NEW THINGS AND HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS ONE, TOO!
 
TUNE IN AGAIN SOON FOR
ANOTHER EPISODE OF...


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

HAPPY EASTER! BUONA PASQUA!

This year, in honor of our fabulous trip to Italy last summer, I am doing an Easter feast featuring Tuscan favorites.

TO TUSCANY...WITH LOVE
 
 EASTER CELEBRATION 2017
 
Olives groves and grapevines as far as the eye can see.


ANTIPASTO:
Peperoni Arrotolati-Rolled Bell Pepper Delights
Cecina-Chickpea Flatbread
Sole Pomadori Secchi e Formagio Spalmabile Pesto-Sun Dried Tomato and Pesto Cheese Spread

IL PRIMO
Ravioli di Zucca con Burro Fuso e Salvia Fritti-Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter and Fried Sage Leaves

INTERMEZZO
Melone e Menta Granita-Honeydew Melon and Mint Granita

IL SECONDO
Lonza di Maile Arrosto con Riduzione di Vino-Roast Pork Loin with Prunes and Red Wine Reduction

CONTORNI
Toscano Asparagi Arrosto con Parmigiano e Pistacchi-Tuscan Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan and Pistachios
Pure di Patate con Olio d'Oliva Toscano-Tuscan Potato Mash with Olive Oil

IL DOLCE
Tiramisu al Limoncello-Limoncell Tiramisu
Cantucci-Tuscan Almond Biscotti

Vin Santo-Sweet Tuscan "Saint Wine" for dipping the Biscotti
Cappacinno/Espresso

This dramatic crucifix resides in St. Francis of Assisi's Cathedral.
WISHING YOU ALL A JOYOUS, BLESSED
AND VERY HAPPY EASTER!
 
THANKS, AS ALWAYS, FOR TUNING IN!

Of course, we have many EXQUISITE Tuscan wines for each course!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

FARRO SALAD

FARRO AND GREEN OLIVE SALAD
WITH WALNUTS AND GOLDEN RAISINS

I just made this salad today. I didn't have golden raisins, but dark raisins work, too.
 
A daily staple in ancient Rome for thousands of years, Farro was also consumed throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. It is still a popular grain and recently making a resurgence in swanky American restaurants.

Farro is in the wheat family and it is believed farro may be the "mother" of all wheat. It contains lots of goodies (high fiber, protein and iron) and has a delicious nutty flavor and chewy consistency. It is excellent in salads, soups, and mixed with vegetable stir-fries or other side dishes.

Here's a recipe my good friend Debby V. gave me, which I love--perfect balance of salty and sweet.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups Farro
1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
2 1/2 cups pitted green olives, preferably Castelvetrano; chopped
4 scallions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
1/3 cup snipped chives
2 Tbsp. golden raisins (I used 4 Tbsp.)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (I used 1/4 tsp. white pepper and 1/2 tsp. ground West Indian Pink Peppercorn--any pepper combo would work well.)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. honey
Sea salt to taste (But use cautiously as both the olives and cheese are already salty.)
Shaved Pecorino cheese for serving (I used Parmesan.)

I bought these Castelvetrono Olives online, but you could
probably get them at Trader Joes or other similar stores.
Note, the word, WHOLE. Make sure you buy them pitted!
 
Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 375. (I skipped this step and lightly roasted the walnuts in a dry frying pan on top of the stove.) If using the oven, place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 15 minutes.
In a medium saucepan combine the farro with 4 cups of water (I used 2 cups chicken stock and 2 cups water), and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered until the farro is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain (Save the liquid for future soup stock.) the farro and spread it on a baking sheet to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the farro, toasted walnuts, scallions, chives, raisins, crushed red pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, honey and season with salt. Toss well. Transfer salad to a platter and garnish with the cheese. I made it the day before and I think it helped meld the flavors. 
 
From Serious Eats:
"Castelvetrano olives are Italy's most ubiquitous snack olive. Bright green, they are often referred to as dolce (sweet), and come from Castelvetrano, Sicily, from the olive variety nocerella del belice. They have a Kermit-green hue, meaty, buttery flesh, and a mild flavor."
 
To find recipe for Poached Salmon, go to:
http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=Poached+salmon

In the above recipe I used wild Coho Salmon versus a high-quality farm-raised Scottish salmon pictured below.
Poached Salmon with a creamy lemon sauce on a bed of spinach
and cherry tomatoes were the perfect complement to the Farro Salad.
I dressed the greens with a citrus vinaigrette.

LEMON CREAM SAUCE
Ingredients:

3 Tbsp lemon juice.
1/4 cup chicken broth, fish stock, clam juice, white wine, or water. (I used chicken stock.)
2/3 cup heavy cream (Light cream is OK, too.)
1 Tbsp butter
Salt/ White pepper to taste
 
Preparation:
Melt butter in a frying pan. Add stock. While stirring, bring to a gentle boil. Add lemon juice. Keep stirring. Reduce heat. Add cream. Stir some more. Season with salt/pepper. The secret to a good sauce is to bring everything together over a moderate, not high heat, and stir continuously. This sauce has endless variations: add rosemary, garlic, chives, dill, or almost any other herb you can think of!

THAT WILL CONCLUDE THIS EPISODE OF
 
COOK WITH CINDY!
 
Until next time...Keep on Cooking!