Saturday, July 25, 2020

SURPRISINGLY TASTY COLD LETTUCE SOUP!


You might not believe that lettuce, having such mild flavor, would be a tasty enough vegetable to make soup, but it is! Of course we generally think of lettuce as a salad ingredient, not something to cook. Several years ago over a memorable evening of fine food, wine, and fabulous conversation, my good friend Peter Wells introduced me to Lettuce Soup. I cannot believe it has taken me this long to make it, but am glad I did! Very few ingredients make this soup easy to put together. The parsley helps to keep it green and gives it a little punch. Because of COVID-19 I have not seen Pete or his beautiful wife, Leslie in months, but later in this blog I will give you an update on what he's been up to.    
I found this recipe online, developed by NYC
Chef Daniel Gritzer.
I was not familiar with him, but he has a
very interesting background. Check him out: 

As is often the case, I made a couple little tweaks to the recipe.
Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. butter, He calls for unsalted. I used salted
1 medium onion, diced. I rough chopped about 1 cup of onion.
4 medium garlic cloves, about 2 Tbsp. sliced
2 cups homemade chicken stock*
Lettuce** Chef Gritzer calls for 8 ounces (225 g). I used 4 cups of chopped Romaine Lettuce
1/4 cup (One small handful) loosely packed parsley
Salt/Pepper
A couple drops of fresh lemon juice to brighten the soup.

Preparation:
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat until foamy. Add onion, garlic and a pinch of Kosher Salt (my addition), stirring until softened; about 3 minutes. Add chicken stock. Bring back to simmer, and cook until veg are very tender; about 10 minutes. Add lettuce and parsley and cook until wilted and softened; a couple more minutes. I turned off heat and let it sit, covered, until cook enough to blend.
Working in batches, thoroughly blend the soup until it is very smooth. If it is too thick (mine was perfect), add more chicken stock. Season with salt, pepper (I used white pepper.) and just a touch of lemon juice. The idea here is to jazz the flavor, not turn the soup tart. Garnish as you like. Gritzer garnished with radish and pea shoots, which sounds wonderful. I think finely diced shrimp sauted in garlic would also be nice, but the possibilities are endless. I garnished with crispy chopped bacon over a dollop of Greek style yogurt. If I had some cherry tomatoes I would have added them for a deconstructed BLT!

*In these times of "staying at home" it seems I am making chicken stock every week so putting a soup like this together literally takes just a few minutes! Store bought stock would also work.

**A note from Chef Gritzer regarding choice of Lettuce. He says the recipe works with many varieties of lettuce, including romaine, Bibb, oak leaf, arugula, and cress. He does not recommend iceberg because of its extreme lack of flavor. You can substitute shallots or leeks for the onions.

I love cooking with herbs and never in my life have been without an herb garden. Here is my small, but robust field of parsley!

Here's another soup I made recently that was perfect on a hot summers day.

CLASSIC COLD TOMATO SOUP
I made this Classic Tomato Soup, and served it hot, a few years ago for my husband's birthday lunch. Go to:  http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=tomato+soup
It was quite a day of feasting so you will find the other indulgences we ate on his special day!

THAT'S ALL THE FOOD FOR TODAY, 
BUT I WANT TO SHARE A BIT MORE 
ABOUT MY FRIEND PETE WELLS.
After 30 years in education, as both teacher and administrator, Pete has retired. ...But not for long! Being idle is not in Pete's nature. He recently took on the job of Executive Director at this fabulous and important organization in Tucson.
THERAPEUTIC RIDING OF TUCSON
TROT is a nonprofit that uses Equine therapies for those with special needs and physical disabilities. It has been around since 1974. Check out their website:
www.trotarizona.org

THANKS FOR TUNING IN AGAIN...
MORE FOOD TO COME!!

Tuesday, July 28th is my birthday! Impossible to celebrate without 
my dear sister top of mind. Here is a photo of me and my twin sister, 
Cathy, who passed away September 7, 2007. 
We loved planning meals, parties, creating recipes and menus 
and that is what we are doing here. 
She is on the left and I am on the right. 
Photo Circa 2004!! We sure did a lot of cooking together!

WWW.COOKWITHCINDY.COM



Thursday, July 16, 2020

SWEET AND SALTY COCONUT RICE!

I served with Asian Carrots and an Asian influenced hamburger.
My good friend, Debby Vis, served this Coconut Rice at a dinner party she had a while back. It is just as the name says; perfect combination of sweet and salty. I cannot remember where she got the recipe. You can easily cut the recipe in half, but why would you want to?? It reheats beautifully and is quite addicting!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups Jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
1 (14 oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk, full fat, not light
1 1/4 cups water (which can be measured using the coconut milk can-exactly 1 1/4 cups!)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

Preparation:
In a dry skillet toast the coconut over medium-high heat, stirring until lightly browned; about 4 to 5 minutes. Because of the high sugar content it "catches" quickly so watch to ensure you don't go from light brown to burned. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Do not leave in the pan as it may overcook. You can do this ahead of time and even the day before. The toasted coconut stores well on the counter in a glass container with tight lid.

In a saucepan combine rice, coconut milk, water, sugar and salt and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to barely a simmer, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is done; about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Re-cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with toasted coconut. So easy and such an incredibly wonderful combination of sweet, salty, crunchy and creamy. You will not want to stop eating it!

I served with hamburger patties that I marinated in a little soy sauce, Teriyaki, dried ginger, and garlic powder. Press about 2 Tbsp. per burger of sesame seeds into the meat, both sides. Grill to your preferred doneness. They are super juicy!

And finally served the dinner with Julienned Carrots cooked down with: 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, 3 Tbsp. Teriyaki sauce, 3 Tbsp. honey, 5 pieces candied ginger, sliced thinly, juice and zest of one clementine. Gently simmer, covered, on low heat for about 20 minutes. Remove cover and increase heat for the last 10 minutes to thicken the sauce. This also burns quickly. I made this a second time while also cooking some chicken on the grill and returned to the kitchen to find blackened carrots! Not so good!

WHAT ELSE IS COOKING?...

PIZZA!
Here's the funny story behind this pizza pie. My full-size oven is on the blink and because of Coronavirus I have hesitated to get a repair person in to check it out. I finally made an appointment and learned that the technician had Coronavirus so put the service off for another few weeks. I had been unable to buy yeast at the store, but finally found some with pizza in mind. My husband Jerry and I have been craving pizza so I put a meaty, cheesy pizza together. When I went to place the pizza pan in my little oven it did not fit. Fortunately I have a nice, big gas grill and the pan just barely fit in it. 

Here's the best news...the tech has fully recovered and will be down next week to fix my oven!
The pizza had a slightly smokey
taste like it just came from a pizza oven!
Click on this link to find the recipe for both red pizza sauce and Giada DeLaurentis's dough recipe. Keep scrolling all the way down to find the dough!
http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=pizza


THE ALTERNATIVE PIZZA...PORTOBELLO!
I would be lying if I said I like a Portobello Pizza as well as a real pizza, but they are a fairly good substitute if you are watching calories, which I always am! I grilled these, as well, on a piece of aluminum foil so the mushroom would not stick to the grill. Simply remove the stem from the Portobello, rinse and dry the mushroom thoroughly. Add a couple tablespoons of red sauce in bottom of the mushroom. Next add your favorite toppings-green pepper, onion, meat, alternating with parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Add another tablespoon of sauce and then top with more cheese. Either bake in the oven at 400 degrees until mushroom is cooked and toppings are bubbly; about 15-20 minutes, or grill over high heat for about same time.

CHILLED CELERY SOUP!
These 100+ degree days call for a cold cup of soup. This one is very celery-forward so if celery is not your favorite veg you probably want to skip this recipe.

Ingredients:
14 stalks celery, divided 10 and 4
1 quart chicken stock
1/4 onion, rough chopped
Salt/Pepper to taste
Optional: Greek style yogurt or sour cream for serving

Preparation:
Roughly chop 10 stalks of celery and bring to boil with the onion in the chicken stock. Cover and reduce heat to simmer and cook for another 3 hours.  Taste for seasoning. Cool completely and blend until very smooth. Finely dice the last 4 stalks of celery and return to the blended soup. Cook until the celery is just barley tender. Serve with yogurt.

MORE FRUIT PARFAITS!
I continue to make fruit parfaits with fresh fruit and yogurt. Here is one made with cooked strawberries, which were left over from the Red/White/Blue cheesecake I made for 4th of July! Here is the original recipe, which I made 2 years ago in Ireland: http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=cheesecake.

I also used Mango puree in the parfait, which was left over from the Decadent Mango Pie I made recently--http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=decadent+mango+pie.

Some refer to me as the "Left-Over Queen"! I do not like to waste food!


THAT'S GOING TO DO IT FOR TODAY. 
WISHING YOU LOTS OF FUN ADVENTURES 
COOKING BOTH INSIDE AND OUT!

TUNE IN AGAIN SOON FOR ANOTHER EPISODE OF...

WWW.COOKWITHCINDY.COM





Thursday, July 2, 2020

DECADENT CREAMY MANGO PIE!

I still had a few mangoes in the fridge so decided to make this rich and delicious pie.
I found the recipe online (www.girlversusdough.com) and tweaked it just a little bit. I used less sugar in the graham cracker crust, more mango puree in the pie, and less sugar in the whipped cream topping. These mangoes were super ripe so extremely flavorful and sweet.

Ingredients:

FOR THE GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST:
12 full sheets Graham Crackers
1/4 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. butter

Preparation for the crust:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Add 6 Tbsp. butter into the 9 inch pie plate you will bake the pie in. Put in the oven while it is heating to melt the butter.

Add the Graham Crackers to a large zip-lock bag. Smash them into fine crumbs using a heavy rolling pin.
That marble rolling pin was my Mom's;
a very special gift from my Dad to her one Christmas.
She cherished it. I do, too.
Add 1/4 cup sugar right into the bag and mix thoroughly. When butter is melted add the crumb/sugar mixture and mix in the pie plate.
Once thoroughly mixed with the butter, firmly press the crumbs into the bottom and sides of the 9 inch pie plate. This made a fairly thick crust so a 10" pie plate would have worked even better. Plus once I made the pie filling I had a little filling left over so next time will use a slightly bigger pie plate. Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack or can even be made a day or two in advance and kept in refrigerator until ready to fill. Reduce oven temp to 325 degrees.

INGREDIENTS FOR MANGO FILLING:
4 egg yolks
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup mango puree
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
Big pinch of salt (The original recipe did not call for salt, but I figured with all this sweetness we needed a little balance.)

Preparation for the mango pie filling:
To make the mango puree, peel and chop mango and blend in blender, mini-max or use a hand blender until the mango is very creamy with no lumps.

In a large bowl beat egg yolks, using an electric mixer, on high speed until they are thick and a creamy, pale yellow; 3-4 minutes.
This is the color you want the egg yolks to be.
Add sweetened condensed milk and beat an additional 2 minutes. Add mango puree, lime juice and salt and mix until well combined. Pour mango mixture evenly into the fully cooked and cooled Graham Cracker crust.
Pie ready to go into the oven.
Bake 25-30 minutes until center of mango mixture is just set. If the crust begins to get too brown, cover the edges with foil.
I 'tested' the pie to see if a knife came out clean as it would in a custard. It did not, but the pie sets up beautifully as it cools. Place on a rack and cool completely, then cover and put in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING:
2 cups cold heavy cream
2 Tbsp. sugar

1 cup toasted coconut

Preparation for the topping:
You can toast the coconut several days before serving the pie. Keep in a tightly covered glass container on the counter. TO TOAST THE COCONUT:  I use the oven-top method. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet to medium high. Add the coconut and let it brown, stirring often until desired toastiness. Coconut catches quickly so watch closely and stir often for 3-5 minutes.
I like to place the bowl and beaters for whipping cream in the freezer before beginning. The cold utensils help the cream whip faster. Place 2 cups cream and sugar and whip at high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the pie and top with about a cup of toasted coconut.

My husband, Jerry enjoying a slice of Creamy Mango Pie!
This pie is ridiculously good and fairly easy to make, especially if you do in steps. The mango puree, Graham Cracker crust and toasted coconut can all be made in advance. Once you have topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut, place a few tooth picks into the pie and cover with plastic wrap to store in fridge until ready to serve. That way the plastic wrap does not stick to the topping.
As you may notice, this pie has already been dipped into!

I LIKE TO PLEASE PEOPLE WITH FOOD,
ESPECIALLY MY HUSBAND JERRY!
 
UNTIL NEXT TIME...












Friday, June 26, 2020

HEIRLOOM WINTER SQUASH!

My good friend, Karen Sykes, recently gifted me with some beautiful squash, two of which I had never heard of.

Kabocha is on the left, Delicata in the center
and of course a beautiful Butternut Squash,
which we're all familiar with.
The big, round green squash is KABOCHA, also known as Japanese Pumpkin. It is the sweetest winter squash variety and has a taste and texture somewhere between a pumpkin and a sweet potato. The flesh is a beautiful bright orange and the skin is edible! Filled with lots of fiber, beta carotene, iron and vitamins B and C, it is also good for you. Being in the winter squash family it was a little tricky cutting, but I brought out my big knife to do the job.
I decided to roast the Kabocha with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. cinnamon, a drizzle of maple syrup-about 1 Tbsp., and liberal amount of salt. Wash the squash and cut into 2 to 3 inch chunks removing seeds. I used a grapefruit spoon, which works well to remove seeds and stringy pieces. Rinse the seeds and add salt. They can be roasted along with the squash, but won't take as much time. You want them crispy, but not burned. I roasted for about 15 minutes. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the Kabocha with the olive oil and other ingredients and roast for 30 minutes or until tender.

The pale yellow squash is called DELICATA. It is also known as Peanut Squash, Bohemian Squash and Sweet Potato Squash. Technically a summer squash, however Delicata is classified in the winter squash family because of its hard flesh and late harvest. As with all winter squash it is rich in Vitamins B and C, fiber, potassium and manganese. The creamy flavor and texture is also reminiscent of sweet potato with hints of corn and as with the Kabocha the skin is tender so no peeling necessary. Some varieties are striped in green or orange. This sweet little squash is only about 6 inches long. Since I have not had this squash I decided to keep it really simple so I could taste the true Delicata flavor. Wash the squash and cut off both ends. Cut the squash into rounds and pull out the seeds using a grapefruit spoon. Coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or until tender.

Now that I have experienced both Kabocha and Delicata I look forward to trying some new recipes. The Delicata would be excellent stuffed with ground meat--possibly ground lamb with pine nuts and feta cheese; or sausage with lots of fresh herbs and parmesan. I think the Kabocha would be great roasted and then pureed to use as a spread. They both would make a rich and delicious soup flavored with curry. Thanks again, Karen, for introducing me to 2 delicious winter squashes! My husband wants me to make another Squash Pie with the Butternut Squash. http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=butternut+squash+pie Scroll down to find the recipe.

I served the squash with a ROULADE OF BEEF.
I didn't have any real parmesan,
but this grated cheese worked OK
with all the other luscious flavors!


Using Round Steak, salt/pepper on both sides of the steak, sprinkle with dried tarragon, stuff with cheesy bread crumbs, finely minced garlic, lots of fresh spinach. Roll the steak the long way and wrap with a slice of thick cut bacon. Cook on the grill until bacon is crisp.
The two squash were a perfect complement!

THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY.
 
UNTIL NEXT TIME...
CONTINUE STAYING SAFE.
 
COVID19 IS SURGING HERE IN ARIZONA
SO MY HUSBAND AND I ARE
CONTINUING TO STAY AT HOME.
 
THAT MEANS LOTS MORE
COOKING AND BAKING!
 
 



Saturday, June 13, 2020

PORCHETTA IS MY NEW PREFERITA!

I like to stuff and roll all kinds of meat and have stuffed pork many times, but this time I wanted to make a very traditional stuffed Italian pork called PORCHETTA. The Italian word for pork is Maiale. When we were in Tuscany a couple years ago I ate maiale nearly every day. Porchetta is traditionally wrapped in pork belly, but unfortunately I could not get my hands on any, so decided to wrap the pork loin in bacon. And just to make sure there was enough pork flavor I chose to stuff with some beautiful Italian salami and provolone cheese. This is not traditional, but as with so many dishes there are regional differences so this is my version from the southwest of Arizona region.
PORCHETTA
2 lb. pork roast
8 slices good quality salami or enough to fill the pork in one layer with slight overlap
4 slices provolone or enough to fill one layer with a bit of overlap
8 slices (or more) thick-cut bacon

4 fresh sage sprigs and 4 fresh rosemary sprigs for the overnight 'resting'

Ingredients For the Spice Rub:

1 tsp. whole fennel seeds
4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 Tbsp. fresh sage leaves, finely sliced
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Lemon zest from 1 lemon
1 tsp. Kosher salt, or more to taste (I used about 1 1/2 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flake
1 Tbsp. olive oil or more to make a thick paste

This amount of spice produced a very herbaceous flavor heavy on the pepper. For my husband, Jerry, whose pallet is a bit more delicate than mine it was a bit much, but for myself I thought it was perfect. Adjust spices up or down as you like.

Spice Rub Preparation:
Crush the fennel seeds in a mortar with a pestle until mashed; about 1-2 minutes. Add garlic, sage, black and red peppers, rosemary, salt and lemon zest. Pound into a thick paste. Add olive oil and pound until all ingredients are totally blended.


Cut a slit 3/4 of the way through the center of the pork so the pork opens like a book. Spread about 1/2 of the spice mixture over one side of the pork. Top with salami and cheese. Close the pork and evenly spread the rest of the spice mixture over the top. Wrap the pork loin with thick-cut bacon so bacon ends or seams are on the bottom of the roast. I topped the wrapped pork roast with big long sprigs of fresh sage and rosemary. If you want less of an herby flavor, skip this, but I think this is part of what made this pork loin so delicious! Wrap the pork roast tightly in foil and refrigerate at least overnight. I refrigerated for 2 nights, which enhanced the flavors of the Spice Rub.

Heat a gas grill to 400 degrees. I chose to add a smoker box into the grill to give the roast a little smoky flavor, as over the centuries in Italy they would often roast Porchetta over a wood grill with open flame. Bring the meat to room temperature for about 45 minutes before grilling. Place the roast on the grill and grill on all 4 sides until bacon is nice and crispy.  Lower the heat to 350 on the pork side of the grill (keep the other half of the grill at 400 degrees) and continue cooking until a meat thermometer reads 135 degrees. This cooked very quickly and was up to temp in about 20 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before carving. The meat will continue to cook and final temp will reach about 140-145 degrees.

Tender, juicy, perfectly succulent pork.
I served with lightly steamed broccoli,
and pasta with sauted mushrooms, lots of garlic,
olive oil, coarse salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
Alternatively you could roast this in your oven. Preheat to 450 degrees. Place roast on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast until internal temperature reaches 135 degrees. Follow the steps, as above.

I love cooking outside on the grill, especially when my husband joins me!
 
Our back yard as night approaches.

THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY!
Not only is my brother a fantastic cook, but also a great gardener!
At their home on the farm, Eliot, Maine. July 2019

MY DEAR BROTHER
WHOSE BIRTHDAY IS TODAY!
Enjoying an Empress Gin on the back patio at the farm.
June 13, 2020
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SKIP!
Me and Skip at the Wells, Maine food-truck rally. July 2019
 
Skip and his beautiful wife, Esther, Portsmouth, NH August 2017
TUNE IN AGAIN SOON FOR ANOTHER EPISODE...
 
 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

EASY NO-CHURN MANGO ICE CREAM!

No ice cream maker...No problem!

I spend a fair amount of time using the internet to search for new and different recipes. I found this one online. I also have tons of cookbooks and love to pour through them. And, of course, I use my own blog to search for recipes I have made in the past that I have forgotten about.
Thanks again to the generosity of our neighbors, Brian and Lori Itule, we are still eating beautiful mangos. Plus my good friend Leslie Jackson gifted me with a few more. This ice cream is super creamy, easy to scoop and totally delicious. The mango flavor is subtle, but just enough so you know what flavor you're eating, and only 3 ingredients!

Ingredients:
2 large ripe mangos (2 1/4 cups mango chunks equal about 2 cups puree)
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy cream, whipped

Preparation:
Dice the flesh of the mango removing both skin and stone. Puree in a blender or food processor then measure out 2 cups mango puree. Pour the puree into a nonstick skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 8-10 minutes. As it reduces you lose some volume, but that is OK. I ended up with 1 1/2 cups puree. When you are able to drag a wooden spoon across the puree and the path remains clean you are at the right reduction.
Cool the puree.
Combine cooled mango and condensed milk in a bowl. Whisk until well combined. I decided not to strain the mango puree through a fine-mesh sieve as I thought the little pieces of mango would bring extra texture and flavor. They did.
Beat the heavy cream until soft peaks are formed. Take a scoop of mango puree and mix gently, but thoroughly until mostly combined. This will lighten the mango puree before the rest of the cream is added.
Keep adding mango mixture and cream alternately gently folding until both are well combined. Do not beat vigorously or use a mixer as you will take the air our of the whipped cream. It will be quite soft.
 
Pour the mixture into a glass container and seal with the lid. Place in the freezer and freeze for at least 12 hours.
 
 
Let it soften a couple minutes before scooping and serving.
 
With all these beautiful mangos, the week before I made Mango Sorbet, which has a more mango-y flavor and no heavy cream or evaporated milk so gentler on the waistline. On these hot pre-summer days in southern Arizona they are both a wonderful treat!
http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=mango+sorbet
Scroll to the end of the blog to get the recipe for Mango Sorbet.
 
I have just enough mangos left to make a Mango Sponge Cake and will share that with you soon!
 
NEXT I AM GOING BACK TO ITALY
 
TO SHARE A RECIPE FOR PORCHETTA!