Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A LITTLE OF THIS AND THAT...

What strange and disturbing times we are all living through. My husband and I are extremely fortunate that our small, rural community in southern Arizona seems to have very few cases of the Coronavirus, but we are taking the extra precaution of "sheltering in place"; "staying at home". I have been to the grocery store once in 2 weeks (very unusual for me!) and should have enough provisions to last another couple of weeks. Because I am unsettled and disconcerted, I am cooking a lot, which always makes me feel better. This morning I spatchcocked a chicken, which I will roast with garlic, lemon juice and zest and lots of fresh herbs from my garden. Last week I made a huge batch of beans and a chili con carne. Bread, cookies, and even tomato aspic has been on the menu. Here are a few things I've been making recently...

ROSEMARY LEMON SALT
It's easy and so much fresher than store-bought
to make your own herbed salts.
Ingredients:
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped.
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups Kosher salt

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 110 degrees. Finely chop rosemary, leaves only; discard the stems. Zest the lemon. Mix rosemary and zest with the salt and spread onto a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 just enough to release some of the moisture. Cool and store in glass jars. If you're making as a gift you can garnish the container with a fresh rosemary sprig tied with raffia. Here in Arizona my rosemary is ready to pick year round!

In times of uncertainty a tasty Margarita does not hurt...
TIN CAN MARGARITAS
I brought these margaritas to our neighbors family birthday party before we decided to discontinue socializing. I found the recipe online, but altered it a bit for maximum flavor! I am not a big margarita fan, but the reviews were favorable at the party and I really enjoyed them, too! Possibly I will become a convert. I LOVE the name!
I was running late for the party so had
no time to take pics. I nabbed this one online.
Ingredients:
2 12 oz. cans frozen limade, slightly thawed. I used Minute Maid.
2 cans tequilla, I used Jose Cuervo Gold, plus a little extra splash
1 can triple sec liquer
Juice from 12+ key limes, more limes to float in the pitcher and use as garnish
2 cans water

Lime wedges and coarse salt for serving

Preparation:
In a blender add limade, tequilla, triple sec, lime juice and water. Blend thoroughly. Taste and add more freshly squeezed lime juice, tequilla, triple sec if you like sweeter, as is necessary. This will depend on how juicy your limes are, too.

Use a lime wedge to moisten rim of glass. Dip and coat rim of glass in a saucer of coarse salt. Add ice and fill with the Margarita. Salud!

MONTE CRISTO'S
Our son, Michael was recently here for a visit (also before Coronavirus) and one of my favorite things is asking the kids what they want for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and then being able to come up with it on the spot! Mike requested Monte Cristo's for breakfast one morning. I didn't have quite the exact ingredients for the classic, but this came close enough! A Monte Cristo is a variation of a French Croque Monsieur; fried ham and cheese sandwich, but is so much more! Traditionally both ham and turkey are used, but I had no turkey. Also Gouda is the cheese of choice, but I had only Swiss and Provolone, which worked perfectly! Usually white bread, sometimes with crust removed, but I only had a whole grain seed and nut bread.

Ingredients:
4 slices bread (for 2 sandwiches)
Enough mayonnaise to liberally cover each slice
Cheese: at least 4 slices per sandwich
Ham: at least 4 slices per sandwich unless you're using turkey, too; then 2 and 2
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
Splash of milk
Salt/Pepper
1 Tbsp. butter/1 Tbsp. olive oil

Preparation:
Either remove crusts (if you are serving for a Brunch you might want to do this; fancier!) or just open the bread and lay on slices of cheese. You want the cheese closest to the bread so it gets very melted. Next, slather with mayonnaise on each open face. Then add the ham (and/or turkey). I also added a very thin coating of grainy mustard. Close the sandwich carefully. In a bowl, beat 2 eggs, add a splash of milk, salt and pepper. Very carefully dredge the sandwiches in the egg bath and let it get soaked until it takes all the egg. Some suggest just slightly coating it in the egg, but this sandwich is much better totally saturated! I like to use a cast iron skillet for these Croque Monsieurs, but any heavy bottom skillet is good. Get your skillet very hot and add butter/olive oil. VERY carefully place the sandwiches (It's easy for them to slip and slide and fall apart) in the skillet and cook thoroughly on each side; about 5-7 minutes per side. This depends how thick your bread is.


After the sandwiches are cooked, cut in half and serve with strawberries, oranges or other fruit. Some like to dust with confectioners sugar, but I like it savory, and you may also serve with a dollop of fruit preserves. This is a hearty, ooey, gooey, wonderful Brunch treat. Thanks, Mike, for suggesting.

I think our pets know when we are feeling uncertainty. Not that it is USUAL for JoJo to join us at the table, but we have made some exceptions.
I'm going to close with a couple shots of other food I have been making in the last couple weeks of such unsettled time.
Gelatin can be made with either sweet or savory juice.
This time I used 2 envelopes gelatin; 1 cup cold V-8.
Sprinkle gelatin over the cold juice.
3 cups hot V-8 heated to boiling.
Mix together and stir until dissolved. Chill.
The secret to really great cookies is European style butter!
This is the Spetzzatino, which I will tell you about soon!
And finally, the spatchcocked chicken, which we will have tonight.
http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=spatchcock

TOGETHER WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS.
WE TRY TO FIND A LITTLE JOY
IN EACH DAY (AND, DO!)
AND HOPE YOU DO, TOO!
 
LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH, AND
REMEMBER
WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT...
 
LOVE!
 
UNTIL NEXT TIME...
 
 

 



Monday, March 9, 2020

SCRUMPTIOUS SHRIMP SCAMPI!

Shrimp Scampi is one of those meals that comes together very quickly. The hardest part is peeling and deveining the shrimp, but this time my husband, Jerry did it for me! I used large wild-caught Argentine red shrimp, which really made this meal delicious.

Ingredients:
6 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped
Shrimp, peeled and deveined. I use 5 to 6 shrimps per person depending on the size.
1/2 cup dry white wine, I used Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, but any white wine works.
Salt/Pepper
Dash of red pepper flake
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1/2 the lemon
Generous amount fresh parsley, both for cooking and for garnishing; about 1/4 cup in total.

Preparation:
Bring large pot of salted water to boil, then reduce heat while you are preparing the scampi. Peel and devein the shrimp. Place the cleaned shrimp on paper towels so they are dry by the time you place them in the hot butter. Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet until sizzling. Add garlic and reduce heat as you don't want the garlic to brown.  Add salt/pepper, then drop in the shrimp and cook until just pink, about 2-3 minutes per side, again depending on size of shrimp. Add 1/2 cup white wine and gently simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Add parsley, red pepper flake, lemon juice lemon zest and adjust salt/pepper.

I served over a Barilla spaghetti which takes about 10 minutes to cook to al dente. Once the pasta is cooked, drain leaving a small amount of pasta cooking liquid (about 1/4 cup) and add the pasta and liquid to the shrimp. Stir thoroughly to coat the spaghetti with the sauce. Serve at once. Top with freshly chopped parsley. I served with roasted asparagus, big, chunky pieces of garlic bread and a simple side salad made with local hydroponically grown lettuce and radish sprouts. I topped the green salad with balsamic, citrus vinaigrette.


ON TO DESSERT...

I have always wanted to try this "guilt-free" 1 ingredient ice cream.
 
ONE-INGREDIENT BANANA ICE CREAM
Ingredients:
4 very ripe bananas, plan on one banana per person/serving

Preparation:
Peel bananas and cut into 1 inch pieces. Place in a zip-lock baggie and freeze for at least 6 hours.

Remove from freezer and blend thoroughly in a food processor. I tried blending in my blender, but it was not powerful enough.

That's it! Either eat right away (consistency will be quite soft) or place in an air-tight container and freeze for a couple hours. This is not a perfect ice cream, as the consistency, even after freezing, is a bit odd, but it tastes delicious, despite no cream or eggs, and if you're dieting and looking for a low-cal treat, this is it!
I served on a slice of buttery grilled banana bread.
There goes the diet!
NEXT TIME I'M GOING TO SHARE
A LITTLE OF THIS AND THAT...
 
STAY TUNED!
 
OUR SON, MIKE HAS BEEN VISITING THIS LAST WEEK. WE'VE HAD A FABULOUS TIME COOKING TOGETHER, EATING, IMBIBING, ENJOYING EACH OTHERS COMPANY AND SEEING SOME BEAUTIFUL SIGHTS
IN SOUTHERN ARIZONA!
Jer and Mike at Patagonia Lake State Park.
 
The Café, Sonoita, AZ



Monday, February 24, 2020

CHICKEN PESTO PATTIES!

We eat a lot of chicken in our house and I am continually thinking of different ways to prepare it. There are many chicken burger recipes out there, but this one I put together the other night is a little different, very moist and delicious!
I topped the Chicken Pesto Patties with a sauce
made by mixing one part mayonnaise to two parts pesto.
Served with old fashioned peas and carrots and mashed cauliflower.
Ingredients:
I large boneless, skinless chicken breast or 2 small breasts, diced
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
Scant 1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 heaping Tbsp. prepared pesto (or your own)
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs, more for coating
1 tsp. salt; 1/8+ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Butter and oil for sauting, about 1 Tbsp. each

Preparation:
Dice the chicken. Finely dice onion and red pepper. Mince the garlic. Add all to the diced chicken breast along with the pesto, egg, 1/2 cup Panko, salt and pepper. Gently, but thoroughly mix and form into 6 generous patties.

The patties will be quite loose, but firm up when chilled and then cooked. Cover a plate or tray with a coating of the Panko and place the patties into the bread crumbs. Top each patty with an even amount of crumbs and using your hands press gently into each patty. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or longer. Bring to room temp before sauting in butter and oil.
These patties also freeze well uncooked. Wrap them individually before freezing.

Since I had a little pesto left over, the other night I topped the pesto onto plain chicken breasts with a little grated cheese, which really jazzed up the chicken. Using either a thin chicken breast or pounding to 1/4 inch thickness, dredge the chicken in flour, salt, pepper, other herbs or your choice. Very quickly pan sear (about 2 minutes per side) in hot oil and butter until golden. Top with generous amount of pesto and grated cheese. I used a nice, aged Irish cheddar as that is what I had in the house. Heat in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes until cheese melts.
Served with roasted sweet potatoes and roasted asparagus.
THERE'S A REASON HERBERT HOOVER PROMISED
"A CHICKEN IN EVERY POT"
IN HIS 1928 CAMPAIGN AD...
 
IT'S INEXPENSIVE, VERSATILE, TASTEY
AND GOOD FOR YOU!

NEXT TIME I PROMISE TO TALK ABOUT
SOMETHING OTHER THAN CHICKEN!



Wednesday, February 12, 2020

CHICKEN MARSALA!


Found on Sicily's western tip, the town of Marsla served as a major port city
after the fall of the Roman Empire, called by Arabs
"the port of Allah," or "Mars-el-Allah."
 
Chicken Marsala is very easy to put together. What's not easy is making brown food look pretty, but Chicken Marsala is one of my husband's favorites; it's a great crowd pleaser, and easy to make-ahead, so I make it often. This is a recipe to feed a group, but cut it in half if cooking for less.

Dating back to 19th Century Sicily, where Marsala wine is produced, this recipe also has conflicts of origin. Some say the English introduced to Italy. Some say it's French, who like to claim the origins of almost all dishes, and often rightly so. Others say the Arabs created it and now some even claim it's Italian-American! Almost all agree the best recipes come from our grandmothers and get slightly tweaked over generations. Growing up in New Hampshire's rural dairy country I can assure you my Nanna never made Chicken Marsala, but somehow this recipe has seeped into my DNA.
Topped with freshly chopped parsley, the
Chicken Marsala would've looked much more appealing.
Ingredients:
12 thin boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. oregano
3/4 cup flour

4 cups sliced white mushrooms
8 Tbsp. butter
8 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups marsala wine**
1/2 madeira wine
1/4 cup cream or half and half
1 pkg. stevia or 1/2 tsp. sugar

Freshly chopped parsley for garnish

Preparation:
*If not using thin chicken breasts already cleaned from your grocery, cut breasts in half and pound to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut each piece, if necessary into serving sized pieces.

**I like to use a combination of Marsala and Madeira wine, but ok to use all Marsala.

Add flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano and flour to a large zip-lock bag. Drop in chicken. Seal and shake until all chicken pieces are coated evenly. Place chicken on a platter ready to saute. Save any leftover flour/seasoning from the bag.


Add 2 Tbsp. butter and 2 Tbsp. oil to a hot, heavy-bottomed pan and sear chicken breasts in batches for about 2 minutes per side until golden. Do not crowd the breasts in the pan. Continue adding butter/oil as needed and continue sauting chicken in small batches.
Set chicken aside and reduce pan heat to medium. Shake in whatever flour (about 3-4 Tbsp.) is left from the dredging of the chicken and the rest of butter and olive oil. Add at least 2 Tbsp. butter and 2 Tbsp. olive oil if you have used all to saute the chicken. Heat stirring the butter, oil and flour together. Scrape up brown bits. Add 11/2 cups Marsala, 1/2 cup Madeira, then all the mushrooms. Reduce to simmer. Add the sugar.  Simmer until mushrooms become tender and sauce is a bit thick; 15-20 minutes. Add the cream and simmer another 10 minutes.
At this point, if  you are serving next day, cover cooked chicken breast and reserve marsala sauce in a container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temp next day on counter and then add the chicken to the marsala and heat either on top of stove at low heat or in a low oven until bubbling.
If you are serving right away, slip the chicken breasts into the Marsala sauce and let simmer another 15 minutes until chicken is warmed through and takes on the flavor of the sauce. Serve over linguini with generous amount of sauce. Sprinkle freshly chopped parsley over the chicken. Add a veg of choice.

ALL FOR TODAY!
 
BUON APPETITO!!
 
TUNE IN AGAIN SOON!
 


Thursday, January 30, 2020

CELEBRATING A BIG BIRTHDAY!

Judy helps Joe blow out the candles!



WITH ROASTED POBLANO CREAM SAUCE

Our friend, Joe Hammond just turned 94...that's a lot to celebrate! So my girlfriend, Debby thought a cocktail party was in order. Everyone participated in the food and it was all delicious! My contribution were the fish cakes.
I was lucky enough to find fresh sea bass from Mexico at my local market. Traditionally fish cakes are made with cod, but you can use any fish you like, even salmon. I used the ingredients I generally use for crab cakes, but they work very well for fish cakes, too. I like them better than the classic mashed potato fish cake recipe. These are almost all fish with very little filler.
Fish Cake Ingredients:
1 lb. white fish, chopped
1/4 cup Red Bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup Green Bell pepper
Scant 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1 egg, slightly beaten
Dash Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. mustard
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs, more for crusting
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil/1 Tbsp. butter for frying

Preparation:
Finely chop the fish. Add all other ingredients and mix gently, but thoroughly. The mixture will be quite loose. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and liberally cover with Panko bread crumbs. Using your hands, form small, bite-sized cakes. Press the cakes into the Panko turning so both sides are covered.
Place the fish cakes in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. In the meantime make the...

ROASTED POBLANO CREAM SAUCE

Ingredients:
2 roasted Poblanos
1/4 lb. cream cheese
1 Tbsp. Mexican crema, or heavy cream
Salt/Pepper to taste
Preparation:
Roast the Poblano peppers on stove-top if you have a gas range or under the broiler until they are very charred on all sides. Use tongs to turn the peppers. Carefully cover (either in a brown paper bag or big piece of foil) and let cool completely before peeling and seeding.

Scrape off the charred skin. Remove seeds, white spline and stem. Add the peppers, cream cheese, Mexican crema, salt and pepper to blender or food processer and blend until very smooth.

Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Bring the fish cakes to room temp. Heat oil and butter in a frying pan and fry the cakes in small batches. Cook the fish cakes for about 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through and golden brown.

Arrange on a tray and put a dollop of Roasted Poblano Cream Sauce on each fish cake.
This is only a fraction of the food served at Joe's party.
We also had filet mignon bites topped with gorgonzola;
beautifully steamed shrimp with two different dipping
sauces; luxurious liver pate; ham and manchego cheese
cooked on the raclette and more!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR JOE!
Deb made the cake!
MORE FOOD TO COME...TUNE IN AGAIN SOON!









Saturday, January 25, 2020

FILIPINO PORK ADOBO!

One of my New Year's resolutions is to make a new dish each month from another country; something I have never tasted or possibly even heard of! I made this dish for my good friend Myrna. Myrna's family had this dish once a week when she was growing up in Manilla. When I arrived at her house, I told her to close her eyes and inhale, so she could guess what I'd made. Once I lifted the cover, she didn't hesitate, and said, "Pork Adobo!" I guess I got the flavors right.

I did lots of research prior to making this dish and what I learned is there are nearly as many variations as there are Philippine Islands! There are over 7000 Philippine Islands, but only 2000 are inhabited, so that may still be a slight exaggeration. Reading about different methods and slightly different ingredients and different ratios of those ingredients, gave me confidence that I could not go wrong. I combined a little of this and a little of that from several recipes, but stayed true to the main ingredients: Pork, soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves, garlic, and whole peppercorns.
Myrna dishing out the Pork Adobo
in her beautiful coconut bowls from the Philippines.
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water, more to reduce sauce consistency if necessary
20 black peppercorns
10 red peppercorns
9 bay leaves
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 onions, chopped coarsely (Myrna's Mom did not use onion.)
1 head garlic, chopped coarsely, OK to leave some cloves whole
1 lb. pork belly, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb. pork loin, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 lbs. pork loin on the left; 1 lb. pork belly on the right.

Marinade is cooling.

Pork has been added to the marinade.
Ready to sit overnight in the fridge.

Preparation:
Stir together all ingredients, except the pork, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Cool. Add pork to the marinade and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Next day, remove the pork pieces from the marinade. Drain the pork pieces in a strainer, over a bowl so you don't lose any liquid. Return what does drain to the marinade.

Brown all sides of the pork in olive oil on high heat. When all the pork is browned remove from the pan and de-glaze the pan with a little marinade making sure to stir up any little pieces of pork. Add these pan drippings to the marinade.

While pork is browning bring the marinade back to a boil and then reduce heat and continue cooking until liquid is reduced by half; about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. Return the browned pork to the marinade. Cover and continue simmering for 1 more hour or until pork is very tender. Uncover and cook for another 20-30 minutes to further thicken so the marinade becomes the luscious sauce that makes this dish so special.
My husband, Jerry on the left and Myrna's
husband Dick ready to start feasting!
In doing my research I learned that fluffy Jasmin rice is traditionally served with Pork Adobo and sometimes green beans either added directly or on the side.
The trick to fluffy Jasmin rice is through
rinsing until water flows clear before cooking.
 
Yours truly giving the French style green beans a quick stir fry.

 

Myrna's using a cup to mold the rice.
 
The next time I make this recipe I am going to place all ingredients in my slow cooker and cook for a few hours and see what happens! I will also use all pork belly, which is so tender with fat rendering perfectly and giving the sauce lots of depth of flavor. Pork shoulder can also be used and some recipes even called for chicken. Some marinate overnight, as I did, others do not. Some recipes call for browning the pork, but not all.

THANKS, MYRNA FOR INTRODUCING ME
TO THE WONDERFUL CUISINE OF YOUR HOMELAND!
 
STAY TUNED FOR MORE FUN IN THE KITCHEN!