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!





 





 

 

 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

CHOCOLATE MOLTEN LAVA CAKES

Rich, elegant, delicious...all describe this dessert for a very special occasion. This recipe is from Paula Deen, apparently before she began her reduced sugar/low fat diet! To her credit she 'same clean' regards to her diagnosis of Type2 Diabetes. EVERYTHING IN MODERATION...that was even Julia Child's mantra about butter.

So make this simple, wonderful dessert...just don't make it every day! Once you cut into this exquisite bite it is easy to see why they call it "lava" cake. It really does erupt like a volcano!

MOTLEN LAVA CAKES

Ingredients:
6 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
2 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
1 1/4 sticks salted butter (10 Tbsp.)
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. orange liqueur

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease 6 (6 ounce) custard cups. Melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave or slowly on top of the stove in a double boiler, which is what I did. Add the flour and sugar to chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and orange liqueur. Divide batter evenly among the custard cups. Place in the oven and bake for 14 minutes. The edges should be firm, but the center will be runny. Cool slightly on a rack. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and invert onto dessert plates.

I made this for my husband's birthday last year. He loved it!

It is so chocolatey that a little vanilla ice cream or whipped cream is the perfect complement.

Spring is right around the corner.
Loving our warm and sunny Arizona days and cool nights. Spring flowers are beginning to bloom!
Goodding Verbena
This purple verbena helped herself to our yard.
The Goodding verbena variety grows wild throughout southern Arizona.
Carolina Jasmine...this one we planted!
UNTIL NEXT TIME...
HAPPY SPRING!
The Penstemmon also cultivated naturally.
Things grow where they want to grow!
 


We planted the Gerbera Daisy several years ago and each spring it returns!
This hearty daisy comes in shades from soft pink to brilliant orange, crimson red, and golden yellow.


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!