Monday, July 26, 2021

A SCONE BY ANY OTHER NAME...

I am attempting to make the perfect traditional Irish scone, but have yet to fully accomplish my mission to my total satisfaction. This last batch is a recipe from Darina Allen's Mom. Darina is like the Julia Child of Ireland; a fabulous and creative chef and baker and runs the Ballymaloe Cookery School including organic farm and gardens, just outside of Cork City in Shanagarry. Some day I am going to attend her school. I figured if I used a recipe from her family I could not go wrong. They were not bad by any means, but they just were not perfect. I did a couple things wrong. First, I completely missed the sugar in her list of ingredients. She calls for 50 grams, which is 2 oz. or 1/4 cup of castor sugar. I thought it odd that there was no sugar so used only 2 tsp. Not quite enough. My husband remedied that problem by having them the first time doused in maple syrup and the next serving heaped with Irish marmalade. Second, I used a bit too much butter 8 oz.; not 6; and finally, I think I needed a touch more flour. Next time I will weigh it! They were still quite delicious!

MUMMY'S SWEET WHITE SCONES

Ingredients:
900 g (2 lbs. or 3.8 cups) white flour
175 f (6 oz.) butter. (I used 1 stick, which is 8 oz. Next time I will follow recipe exactly!)
3 free-range eggs
A good pinch of salt (I used a big pinch of Maldon flake salt.)
50 g (2 oz. or 1/4 cup) castor sugar
3 heaping tsp. baking powder
450 ml (15 fl. oz. or 1.875 cups) rich milk to mix (I used 3/4 cup heavy cream and the rest regular whole milk.)

Eggwash Glaze with crunchy Demerara sugar or course granulated sugar for coating the top of the scones. To make the Eggwash Glaze whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones before baking to help them brown in the oven. Then top with the sugar. 

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 250C/475F. Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour mixture and using your fingers run in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk 3 eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. My dough was very soft!
Turn out onto a floured board. Don't knead, but shape just enough to make a round. Roll out to about 2 1/2c (1 inch) and cut or stamp into scones. 

Here's her tip: Stamp them as little as possible. The first scones will be lighter than the second rolling. 

I used a 1 cup measuring cup to cut them, but the dough was so soft I shaped them with my hands. 
Put on a baking sheet--no need to grease. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in crunchy Demerara or course granulated sugar.
Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.
No complaints from my husband, Jerry, particularly on the size of the scones. I cut them a bit larger than traditionally sized scones. Next time...!

A few weeks ago I tried another scone recipe. I knew these were not Traditional Irish, but they sounded really different and delicious...and they were.

ORANGE CARAWAY SCONES
I found this recipe in an old Gourmet cookbook, called Gourmet's Weekends. These scones are also lacking that beautiful scone height I am hoping to achieve, but the taste and texture were really good. My husband dubbed them "SCOOKIES" as they are part scone; part thick cookie.

Ingredients:
 2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed Orange Juice
1 Tbsp. freshly grated Orange Zest
1 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds 1 1/4 cups all-purpose white flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
2 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease a baking sheet. In a small bowl whisk together eggs and cream, reserving 1 Tbsp. egg mixture, and stir in orange juice and zest, and caraway seeds. In a separate bowl whisk together the flours 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Add orange juice mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well with a fork until a dough just forms. The dough will be quite sticky.
With floured hands knead dough lightly on a floured surface for about 30 seconds. Pat dough gently into a 3/4 inch thick round and cut out rounds with a 2 inch cutter dipped in flour. Arrange scones on a prepared baking sheet. 
Form any scraps gently into a ball. Pat out dough and cut out more scones. Brush tops of scones with reserved egg mixture and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake in middle of oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack. These were excellent hot from the oven, slathered with butter and marmalade. 

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT! 

I'M GOING TO KEEP MAKING SCONES 
UNTIL I GET IT JUST RIGHT!

NEXT TIME I'M GOING TO SHARE 
A RECIPE FOR DUCK LIVER PATE!

UNTIL THEN...

www.cookwithcindy.com











Monday, July 12, 2021

4th of JULY FESTIVITIES FROM AFAR!

For the last several years, excluded last year of course, because of COVID, we have been in Ireland for the 4th of July. I like to try to make something that is very American to honor our biggest national holiday. I have made cheesecake in the past for the occasion, but this year I tried a new recipe. I also slow-roasted a duck, which is not traditional July 4th fare, but because it was 50 degrees and drizzling all day, it seemed fitting to have the oven going for hours and very comforting to smell the delicious flavors of roast duck. But first, we're starting with dessert!

RED, WHITE, AND BLUE CHEESECAKE

The decorations are a bit amatuerish, but it sure was fun putting this cake together! I found the recipe online and liked the sounds of a blueberry cheesecake as I have never had that before, but decided to add the strawberries and blueberries to create the American flag. Corny...I know, but made us both feel very festive!

Ingredients:

BLUEBERRY PUREE:

2 cups blueberries

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. lemon juice

FOR THE CRUST:

This recipe calls for a traditional Graham Cracker crust, but because you can't find Graham Crackers in Ireland I used tea biscuits. Digestives are buttery and not, too sweet.

1 1/2 cups finely crushed Graham Crackers or Digestives

5 Tbsp. butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

FOR THE CHEESECAKE:

4 (8 oz.) blocks of cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs (Eggs in Ireland are so fresh!)

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup sour cream (I used plain Greek yogurt.)

2 Tbsp. white flour

1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

1 cup blueberry puree

FOR THE TOPPING:

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 Tbsp. sugar, more if you like the cream very sweet.

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (160 Celsius). In a food processor, blend blueberries until very smooth. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, add blueberry puree, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until slightly reduced, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. I used only about 1 1/2 cups of the puree, but it's a great left-over to make blueberry parfaits.

Next, make the crust. In a large bowl, mix together Graham Cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar until well combined with mixture resembling wet sand. Press into bottom and up side of an 8"or 9" springform pan that you have previously wrapped tightly in foil.

I love the look and color of the blueberry puree! It is refreshingly tart, which makes for a beautiful contrast with the rich and sweet cheesecake.

To make the parfaits: 
Layer Granola, plain yogurt sweetened with maple syrup, blueberry puree and fresh blueberries. 

Scroll all the way down for the Granola recipe: 
http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=granola
On to the cheesecake:
In a large bowl using either a hand mixer, stand mixer or good old fashioned whisk, beat the cream cheese and sugar until no lumps remain. Add eggs, one at a time, then stir in vanilla and sour cream or yogurt. Add flour and salt and beat until just combined. Fold in blueberry puree, but don't mix it completely. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the crust. 
In a perfect world, I would have done the next step...

Place the cheesecake into a large roasting pan and pour enough boiling water to come halfway up the springform pan. That is why you wrap the cheesecake pan tightly in foil. No matter how good your springform pan clasp is you do not want any water seeping into the cheesecake. This is called a bain marie water bath; a French method used to prevent cracking and help cook evenly. 

Because I was already roasting the duck and my oven is very little, a large roasting pan did not fit in the oven along with the duck so I just placed the cheesecake in the oven sans bain marie and baked for 1 1/2 hours until the cake was slightly jiggly, but not completely set. If I didn't have the duck in the oven, you would then leave the cheesecake in, turn oven heat off, keep the oven door ajar, and let cheesecake cool down in the oven for 1 hour. This also helps prevent cracking. 

I could not use this technique either (because the duck was still cooking), but the good news is I took the cheesecake out after 1 1/2 hours and let it cool on a rack. No cracking! After cooling, cover and place in the refrigerator and let chill for at least 5 hours or overnight. I didn't have that much time, but it did cool for about 2 hours at which point I frosted with the whipped cream and then topped with blueberries and strawberries.
It was a little soft and texture was definitely better the next day, but boy was it delicious!!

I have previously made duck in Ireland and this slow-roasted 4 hour recipe is the one I used for our holiday meal. I made the traditional orange sauce, which was awesome, but not sure it is truly authentic. For the recipe, go to:
http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=duck






Thanks for sharing the 4th of July with us! 

I also made some interesting scones for our 4th of July breakfast. Not exactly traditional Irish, but delicious! 

Next time, I will attempt the perfect traditional Irish scone!

Tune in again soon...

www.cookwithcindy.com


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

MUSHROOM SHALLOT TRUFFLE TART!

It seems like ages since I last blogged, which is not to say I have not been cooking; just no time to write about it! We spent 3 weeks in New England visiting family--our first trip since COVID. From Boston we flew to Ireland and are now getting settled in our quiet, beautiful little village of Spiddal. Quintessential Ireland! Lots of Irish goodies to come, but first, I want to talk about this tart I made for my friend, Dorita before leaving Arizona. I didn't realize until she arrived for dinner that she is not a big truffle fan, but she really liked this tart! The truffle flavor is subtle.

Because I used frozen puff pastry, this tart is quick and easy to throw together and paired with a salad turns an ordinary weeknight supper into something a bit more elegant. 


Ingredients:

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2 Tbsps. truffle butter, divided

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced, about 1 cup

1/3 cup shallots, sliced

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Salt/Pepper to taste

1 large egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. of water to make an egg wash

8 oz. goat cheese, softened

A few sprigs of fresh thyme, plus fresh thyme leaves for finishing the tart

Generous sprinkle of truffle zest

I bought this Italian black truffle butter online. It is awesome!

What I like about this truffle zest is that it tastes very authentic;
exactly like truffles, unlike truffle oil, which
can be very harsh and artificial tasting. 

Preparation:

Take puff pastry out and let it thaw for about 40 minutes until soft and pliable. Meanwhile, make the mushroom/shallot mix. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. truffle butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and saute until dry and are starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the second tablespoon of truffle butter and saute shallots until they are soft and slightly caramelized; about 4 more minutes. Add nutmeg, sprigs of thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.


When puff pastry is pliable, preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a 15x10 inch baking sheet with parchment paper.

Flour a smooth surface and roll out the pastry to be a little bigger (about an inch) than the baking sheet as you want to make a lip around the edges. Place the pastry on the baking sheet and crimp the edges. Gently poke the pastry with a fork. When the puff pastry cooks it will puff up and this helps keep the tart in shape. As it cools it puffs down. Brush the pastry with the egg wash.

Pre-bake the tart shell for 10-15 minutes, or until golden in color. 

When the puff pastry comes out of the oven, if it is very puffy, as mine was, very carefully re-poke the crust to deflate making sure you don't poke all the way through the crust to the bottom.

Spread or sprinkle the goat cheese over the entire tart. Top with mushroom/shallot mixture. Sprinkle with a little more fresh thyme.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. This tart is good served warm or at room temperature.


I'm going to close by sending another very happy birthday wish to my dear brother who celebrated on June 13th, and also share a couple shots from our trip to Boston. My brother is a constant inspiration to me. His 'joie de vis', positive attitude and good nature is so uplifting. You are a joy to be around my brother! You make me SMILE and my heart HAPPY!

My brother, Skip getting birthday kisses from Maggie!

And here's the cake I made for his special day. In our family, the only birthday cake was an Angel Food cake. I have made angel food from scratch, but quite honestly Betty Crocker does it better, which makes putting this cake together a snap! Make the cake the day before filling and frosting. After the cake is baked, place upside down on a bottle and let it sit on the counter overnight.

To assemble the cake:
Using a serrated knife, cut the cake into thirds. Whip about 1 1/2 cups heavy cream with 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/4 cup confectioners sugar. Adjust both if you want it more chocolatey or sweeter. Add a pinch of salt.

Generously fill each layer with the chocolate whipped cream and then frost the outside of the cake with a generous amount of cream. Place about 1 1/2 cups of raspberries in the center of the cake and garnish the edge with additional berries. So simple, but looks kind of impressive.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SKIP!!

NEXT TIME, I PROMISE SOMETHING IRISH!!
North End, Boston. My wonderful 2 sons,
Justin and Michael and husband, Jerry.
Happy family! After 3 attempted wedding
 dates due to COVID...it's official!
Alison is our DAUGHTER (in-law)!


WWW.COOKWITHCINDY.COM







Sunday, May 16, 2021

LOCO FOR LOCAL!

 Last weekend I attended a fabulous art festival in Tucson with my friend Dorita Pina. "Art in the Urban Grove" was held at the The Urban Grove on W. Orange Grove Road. The estate, owned by Sabrina Rigas was originally part of the historic 450 acre citrus grove dating back to the 1920's and founded by amateur horticulturist, M. L. Reid, father of Gene Reid, first director of Tucson City Parks and Rec, later to become the namesake of Reid Park. 

Dorita on the left and Sabrina on the right.

The event featured 42 mixed media vendors, all from Tucson. It was a warm day, but the nearly 40' tall date palms provided beautiful shade. And if you have never had a date palm, which I had not, try one! They are succulent little morsels; sweet and rich with deep hints of butterscotch. The variety of date I bought are called Barhi. Sabrina refers to them as "nature's butterscotch candy". They are quite phenomenal!

This is an oasis in a very hectic city resplendent with a variety of fruit trees, citrus and the date palms, offering 3 varieties of dates. The Urban Grove offers cooking classes, catering, and makes the estate available as a unique and very beautiful event space. 
www.oururbangrove.com
If you want to purchase dates, contact Sabrina by text/phone at:
520-248-2418

NOPALES!
Opuntia Cacti aka Prickly Pear

Nopal is from the Nahuatl word "nohpalli" meaning the pads of the plant. The Nahuas are a group of indigenous people of Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. 

Nearly 2000 different cactus live in Arizona and many of them offer edible parts, but one of the most common is the Prickly Pear Cactus. Preferably young paddles are harvested and carefully peeled to remove tough skin and large thorns. Gloves are a must! The older, larger paddles can be tough. I have not peeled the paddles myself, but have encountered their thorns many times, while weeding around them. I am amazed each May when this thorny, rugged cacti bursts forth with the most gorgeous, delicate pale yellow blossoms; a true contrast in nature. 

My friend Dorita has been bringing me bags of these wonderful Nopales all cleaned and ready to cook for the last couple of weeks. 
She explained the way her mother, and mother's mother before her, cooked the Nopales. Put them in a dry saucepan over very low heat and cook covered for about 30 minutes until they have dried out. Stir occasionally to help release the liquid. Nopales are similar to okra in that they are filled with a thick viscose, slimy goo. It doesn't sound appealing, but slow cooking removes nearly all of this goo.
This is what they looked like after being cooked. You can also boil them, but that requires multiple rinsing and a long boiling time, which will remove some of the good nutrients. These cacti are touted for their high vitamin content; some believe they are a good hang-over cure. The Nopales have a citrussy, crisp, clean taste, almost lemony. After a little research I tried a different method of cooking them.

Place a cast iron pan over high heat. Add about 1 Tbsp. oil and once hot, drop in the Nopales and a dash of salt. Stir until they are just slightly browned. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking uncovered until all the goo is gone, stirring occasionally. 
They are delicious in salads, eaten plain as a veg, or mixed with eggs. 



I should call this blog, HOMAGE TO MY FRIEND DORITA!!
I love learning about different food cultures from around the world and Dorita has inspired me to learn more about Mexico. Even though we come from different backgrounds/cultures we share so many more interests than differences. Dorita is from an Hispanic/Mexican culture and I am from a half New England/Yankee-Hungarian culture. Is that a culture? We love talking about our pasts and sharing stories about harvesting and cooking, what our lives were like growing up, art, literature, history, gardening and so much more, but especially FOOD!
Here is Dorita's grandmother's recipe for a refreshing salsa fresca. 
I love recipes that are passed down generationally and have so much meaning to our families. This salsa is truly fresh, full-flavored and good on just about anything, and the story about her grandmother making batches of it and giving it as gifts at Christmas to friends, family and ranch workers is priceless!

That will do it for today! 

In a perfect world, I would always prefer 
to eat locally grown produce. 

Here is a shot from yesterday's beautiful 
pre-birthday celebration for ME!

Cake compliments of my dear friend Debby's husband, Steve--a coconut cake with coconut Italian merengue frosting!

YUM! YUM!

Soon off to New England for a couple weeks 
and then to Ireland...

Many more food adventures ahead!!

Please join me again soon...

www.cookwithcindy.com





Sunday, May 2, 2021

FORBES MEAT COMPANY---MY NEW FAVORITE MEAT MARKET!

A couple weeks ago my friend, Dorita Pina took me to a fabulous meat market in downtown Tucson. This shop is packed with such a variety of wonderful products. Truly a cooks dream! We were served by Sean who was very knowledgeable of all their products and a delight to spend time with.
He told us that every week the store gets in two different fresh fishes. Sean is holding two beautiful Branzino's. Both Dorita and I bought one. Branzino is a Mediterranean white fish known as the European bass. It has a mild, delicate flavor. I cooked with the head on, as Sean had just cooked the whole fish the night before and said the eyeballs were delicious! I can't say I found them delicious, but didn't find them unappealing either. These were my first eyeballs! There are a lot of bones in this fish, but it is well worth picking through them. 
  ROASTED BRANZINO IN LEMON CAPER BUTTER
Ingredients: 
1 Branzino; about 1 1/4 lbs. 
1 stick unsalted butter at room temp; I used the leftover tarragon butter that I poached the cod in at Easter. The tarragon added a nice, almost sweet flavor to the fish. You will have lots of butter leftover.
1 Tbsp. capers 
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice 
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley 
Salt/Pepper 
1 large rosemary sprig 
3 Tbsp. olive oil 

Preparation: 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the butter with the capers, lemon juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Keep at room temperature.
Run water down the cavity of the fish and using your finger remove any stuff that might still be in there; a trick my mother taught me.  Dry with a paper towel. Season the branzino with salt and spread about 2 Tbsp. of the compound butter inside the fish coating both sides of the cavity. Add one sprig of rosemary to the inside of the fish. In a large cast iron or nonstick skillet, heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil until shimmering. Add the branzino and cook over high heat until the skin is browned and crisp, about 3 minutes per side.
Roast the fish in the oven for about 10 minutes until just cooked through. To serve, I filleted the fish to remove the back bone. It could have easily been served whole, 1 fish per person, but with brown rice and green peas it made a complete meal. Serve with about 1 Tbsp. of the Lemon Caper compound butter on the side. 


This is not a pretty picture, but I wanted you to see his little head popping up. 
My husband did not opt for the head. Lucky me, since we were splitting one fish, I got the whole thing!

I was impressed that Forbes Meat Company sells such a variety of meats, fish and poultry. They make their own sausages, cure their own bacon and make unbelievably huge meatballs! Here is the sausage, bacon, meatball freezer with Dorita trying to decide...
So many choices...it's not easy. I wanted one of everything! The meatballs are about 3" around.
I hope I've remembered this right, but I believe Sean told me they are made with 60% ground beef, 20% ground veal, and 20% ground pork. The fat ratio is perfect and they are spiced gently, but nicely. Last night I served them plain with some old fashioned corn and mashed sweet potatoes.
They were also delicious as a traditional spaghetti and meatball dinner with sauted zucchini and mushrooms.
From all of those beautiful sausages, I chose lamb merguez.
Merguez is a spicy lamb sausage originally from North African countries of Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia. They quickly became popular throughout the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Western Europe. You don't see them offered that much in America. The ground lamb is combined with spices, such as chili, cumin, harissa, garlic, fennel, sumac, etc. Recipes vary regionally. Although often grilled to bring out the smoky flavor, I decided to pan sear the merguez in a little olive oil, sliced the merguez and mixed with some rich cooked lentils and mushrooms that I had made the other day. I cooked the lentils in shallots, garlic and a pork/lamb broth. I always save the bones from our meat and just happened to have both pork and lamb and thought that would enhance the lamby flavor of the merguez. It did, but chicken stock would work well, too.
I love the way the spices ooze out when you slice the sausage and also love the texture of the finely minced lamb. Traditionally merguez sausage are quite thin, less than 1" in diameter as lamb intestines are not huge, and links are made about 4" long. 
If you have not had lamb merguez you really must try it! 

Forbes Meat Company also had some plump and luscious looking chicken feet! That is a product you do not see in US meat counters! I actually have only cooked them one time before when my husband, Jerry and I were in Virgin Gorda. I admit these may not be for everyone, but they are more tasty than you might believe and as they cook in chicken stock make a deeply, rich flavorful broth. The feet become very tender and meat falls off the bone!...so to speak!
In the Caribbean I made chicken feet soup and that is what I plan to do again. 

To find the recipe, go to: http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=chicken+feet+soup 

Forbes had a wonderful selection of wagyu beef and I had to buy the chicken feet! Oh well, my friend Dorita got some wagyu rib-eyes and said they were out of this world! I can't wait to go back to Forbes! Thanks Sean for being so helpful on our fist (and not last!) visit to Forbes Meat Company.

My blogspot is a Google product and as with so many techie companies they are constantly changing. In July, they are doing away with the SUBSCRIBE feature so thanks to a person much smarter than me, I have imported your emails into a new email server and you should continue receiving an email from me each time I blog. Just click on the link in the email you receive and it will take you here. I apologize if you get two emails each time I blog until they take their SUBSCRIBE feature down in July. I am learning so just not sure. 

Kirk was also able to import the new SUBSCRIBE button so if you are seeing this blog for the first time and want to SUBSCRIBE, simply put your email in that spot in the upper left hand corner of the blog and you will start getting emails, too. 

UNTIL NEXT TIME... 

STAY ADVENTUROUS IN YOUR OWN KITCHEN! 

BE BOLD!

www.cookwithcindy.com