Monthly Archives: March 2013

Moghalai-Style Chicken with Spinach, Almonds, and Raisins

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Hi Karla,

So, it’s hilarious that you just wrote a post about Indian food, because I have been cooking Indian food too! I was going to try to avoid posting these recipes for a while because (spoiler alert!) this is going to be your birthday present, but then I realized, there was no way of doing that.

People, meet 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer.

Long story short, I discovered, through some friends of mine, the most amazing cookbook I’ve ever bought. This sounds like hyperbole (I have a lot of cookbooks,) but it’s not. There are a few reasons for this. 1. It has recipes for food that you have never heard of and would never have any idea how to make otherwise. Obviously, you have probably never heard of Moghalai-style anything. You would have no idea that it requires a spice mix of coriander, cloves, cumin, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom, tumeric and cayenne. Most things you see in cookbooks are not that different from things that you could make normally. This is. 2. There is a reason that this stuff is so complicated. It’s amazingly good! The spice mixes will blow you away, and the experience of making them, with whole spices, and understanding how to bring out different flavors in different spices, is amazing. 3. Indian food makes really really good leftovers.

So, I, along with everyone I know who has this book, have been cooking Indian pretty non-stop since I bought it. I’ve made coconut-chile-peanut stuffed eggplant, coconut milk chicken, and now Moghalai-Style Chicken with Spinach, Almonds, and Raisins.

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One note on this recipe: The spice mix is actually a cinch to make, and you should totally do it, exactly as he says. Some of the spices require going to an Indian grocery store, but you should be pretty safe with what is in this recipe. If you don’t have whole spices, GO GET SOME. It is so worth it  to make this right, and toasting the spices makes a big difference in their flavor. If you absolutely have to substitute something with it’s ground varient, add it after you have toasted the other spices. Toasting ground spices often means burning them, and you don’t want to ruin the flavor of the other spices.

There are a lot of awesome indexes in this book that explain different ingredients and styles. So everyone should just buy the book. His explanations are clear and sometimes sassy, which is awesome. They also explain how to make your own everything, from ghee to paneer to rice and breads as well. And then there are the 660 curries.

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Moghalai-Style Chicken with Spinach, Almonds, and Raisins
(Kishmish Waale Murgh)

1/4 cup canola oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon Punjabi Garam Masala (see below)
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
8 oz spinach fresh or frozen

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, raisins, and almonds, and cook until the onion softens and then turns dark brown with deep purple hues and the raisins turn honey-brown and look succulent, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Stir in the chicken and cook until it sears and turns light brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the garam masala, salt, cayenne, and turmeric and cook for 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Stir in the spinach and 1/2 cup water. bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium low, cover the skillet, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink inside, 5 to 10 minutes.

Punjabi Garam Masala

1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds from black pods
3 cinnamon sticks broken into smaller pieces (3 inches each)
3 Fresh or dried bay leaves

1. Preheat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add all the spices and the bay leaves, and toast, shaking the skillet every few seconds, until the coriander and cumin turn reddish brown, the cloves, peppercorns, and cardamom turn ash-black, thDickinson and bay leaves appear brittle and the mixture is highly fragrant, 1-2 minutes.

2. Immediately transfer the nutty-smelling spices to a plate to cool (be very careful not to burn them, as they will become unpalatable.) Once they are cool to the touch, place them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and grind them until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper. (If you don’t allow the spices to cool, the ground blend will acquire unwanted moisture from the heat, making the final blend slightly “cakey.”) The ground blend will be reddish brown and the aroma will be sweet and complex, very different from that of the pre-toasted and post-toasted whole spices.

3. Store in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat, and humidity, for up to 2 months. (In my option, refrigerating the blend adversely affects its flavor.)

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Anything Goes Indian Stir-fry

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Tonight I got home at 9pm, after a long day of checking off all my “t0-do’s” like laundry, grocery shopping, running to target, etc. I even snuck in some time to visit a nearby lake (see pic) to get a nice walk in and watch the sunset. No, this is not my evening routine– I just felt like being alone with the outdoors. Anyway, when I got home I was so hungry, but i really wanted a nice hearty meal so I made this delicious stir-fry with some new spices I got (after reading about their nutritional benefits). There’s nothing more satisfying and comforting than asian food, and Indian is high on that list. I followed it up with some mango sorbet dusted with cinnamon, and chamomile tea. Bliss! And I’m ready for bed.. after a quick blog of course. : )

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It’s really important not to follow the recipe too closely here. After all, who has time to go out shopping during the weekday for special ingredients? And even if you do, it’s always so much more satisfying making dinner with what you already have, and using up what won’t be good much longer. The key is to combine at least a few different vegetables, some protein, starch, and tons of delicious and healthy spices/herbs. Whatever you got. To add moistness to this dish, I like to add coconut milk, something I always have on hand. But you can also use cream, clarified butter (ghee), or add a touch more oil to make a nice sauce to accompany the rice (quinoa, barley, potatoes, bread, whatever!).

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Weeknight Indian Stir-fry

*I didn’t put measurements here since you may want to make just one or two portions, or enough for lunch (to take to work) the next day

Sweet potato, broccoli, carrots (red peppers and eggplant would be good in this also, remember anything goes)

Chicken (tofu, edamame or shrimp would taste great)

Brown or white rice (quinoa, potatoes, soft bread, or any other grain works too)

Cashews

Sesame seeds

Sesame oil

Spices: Curry powder (cumin, tumeric, corriander, saffron), paprika, cayenne, dried basil

Coconut milk (remember cream, ghee, or add more oil)

Garnishes: fresh herbs, siracha, soy sauce, chopped green onion

Just boil, blanch, or steam vegetables to desired consistency and cook meat (I simmer it in water or chicken stock, turning occasionally) until just barely cooked through. Prepare rice or grain (I use packs of instant brown rice to it is ready on the stovetop in less than 10 minutes). Add oil to fry pan and add vegetables, protein, and nuts. Add sesame seeds and spices and stir until well incorporated and until nuts are starting to brown. Add coconut milk to give it a nice sauce and let simmer, stirring occasionally for  few minutes on med/low heat to let juices absorb and flavors come together. Plate on top of a bed of rice and add green onions and herbs. Serve with siracha and soy sauce–which will give it a nice kick and add the perfect saltiness). And that was all in less than 30 minutes! Enjoy!!

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Saint Valentine’s favorite Plum Pie

I was going to make this post about all the yummy Mexican food I’ve been eating since I moved to California. From chile spiced mangoes, to tripa (tripe) and lengua (toungue) tacos, to the greatest posole in the world.. which of course came out of a kitchen much like yours and mine. But looking back on many of the holidays we’ve missed since the New Year, I remembered an important one… Valentine’s Day. So my post about my obsession with Mexican food will just have to wait.

Valentine is truly a food holiday. Whether you’re hitched up and celebrating your love at a swanky restaurant, or home alone watching movies and eating little boxes of Chinese food and yummy chocolate… you know what you’re eating on Valentine’s Day.

This Valentine’s Day for me was unlike past years. Rather than celebrating at one of the city’s most praised restaurants and planning for weeks about the perfect night for me and my (now ex-) boyfriend, I decided I was going to celebrate my love of cooking and share something with the people I have recently come to love and care about in my life. After perusing through many an article in my Bon Appetit magazines (yes–I save them all!), I came across a perfect one, a Plum and Mascarpone Pie. Perfect Valentine’s material.

Now not only was this a test to my pie-making skills (Lauren, you know, is the pie master), but it was my first time using the oven in my new apartment. Finger’s crossed. Nevertheless, it turned out perfect, slightly sweet with a rich (lusty) plum color and deep flavors of ripe plums and the mascarpone cheese. A hint of lemon really makes this pie pop! So try it not just on Valentine’s Day, but for whenever you want to celebrate your love of cooking (baking, really). By sharing with others, you’ll let them know you love them too. : )

So, without more ‘ado… Here’s the recipe.

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Plum and Mascarpone Pie

adapted from Bon Appetit August 2012 Magazine

1 pie crust, home-made preferably (see epicurious basic flaky pie crust recipe)

5 lb firm ripe plums (about 25), quartered with skin on

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

8 oz mascarpone

1/3 cup creme fraiche

2 tbsp honey or agave nectar

[Optional crumble topping: 1/2 cup quick oats, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tbsp chilled butter, slivered almonds, agave nectar]

Equipment: 9″ pie pan

Preheat oven to 350. Line pie dish with crust and bake according to pie crust instructions. Place plums in a large bown, add 1 1/2 cups sugar, lemon juice, and scrape in half of vanilla bean seeds. Toss. Arrange plums cut side down on glass baking dish(es) and bake until tender, about 40-60 minutes. If using crumble top, bake only 20 minutes.

Use the juices from the plum mixture to create a sauce by pouring juices into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened and reduced to a half cup (about 4-5 min).

Combine 2 tbsp sugar, mascarpone, creme fraiche, and honey or agave in a medium bowl. Scrape in the other half of the vanilla bean seeds and using an electric mixer on high, beat until firm peaks form.

Crumble topping: Make glaze with plum juices. Combine crumble ingredients together with hands and mush together until crumbs form and butter is mostly incorporated. Place plums in pie pan and top with crumple, adding more slices almonds on top. Bake for additional 20-25 minutes until golden brown and bubbling on edges. Set aside to cool. Scoop Serve with mascarpone mixture and plum glaze.

Standard: Make sure crust if fully cooked and plums are chilled. Spread mascarpone mixture evenly over bottom of crust. Arrange chilled plums on top and serve with plum glaze.

Note: For a healthier guilt-free version or on a hot summer day, go crust-less with the crumble topping and use a mixture of greek yogurt and honey or agave to serve with. And glaze, of course! Happy eating!

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New Year, New Ideas

ChicagoHi Karla,

Happy 2013! We’re only… three months late.

This year has been crazy, with all sorts of new stuff, not the least of which is our new blog design, which is pretty cool, if I may say so myself!

I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, but most of it has been rather rushed. I cook when I come home from work in order to wind down, chill out, and prepare myself to get back to work. I’ve taken on a number of freelance projects, which are more exhausting than I had imagined they would be, and they took up a lot of my free time.

Now I’m looking forward to the weather warming up and spring hitting us hard with some warm weather… sunny days… porch beers…

But then I remember, I live in Chicago.

So, despite the fact that it might be sunny and beautiful outside, it’s still about 30 degrees, and t-shirt and sandal weather are still an elusive dream.

Biscuits

This, of course, makes me turn to my favorite food blogs for some rich, hot food-spiration. I’ve been making buttermilk biscuits, the recipe for which you should totally check out on Smitten Kicthen: My Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits, and Shakshuka, as well as some serious breads from The Breadmaker’s Apprentice.

But in my quest for more posts to ogle, I found some great new blogs! Check these out. I’ve added them to our sources and inspiration page!

Spoon Fork Bacon: This blog is awesome. Not only do they have some fantastic food photos and tantalizing treats, but they post all the time which is great, since every time you go back, there is something new!

My Little Expat Kitchen: Magda is a Greek chica living in the Netherlands. She has some awesome Mediterranean recipes (your favorite!) and tales of life in Greece and life away from Greece. I love her breads and cakes. They look fabulous!

Thug Kitchen: I hope you already clicked on that link and already figured out what a hilarious awesome thing Thug Kitchen is. Any time you want a good laugh, go check it out. My favorite is his post about Strawberries. Also, the recipes he talks about are actually really good! Check out that Agua Fresca. Pretty awesome. This guy rocks.

Keep warm!

Lauren

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