Lamb Korma at Home

Preparing Indian cuisine does take some time and lots of spices. But the rewards are worth the trouble. This lamb korma at home recipe comes from the same source as the oven-baked chicken tandoori that I posted previously.

What is korma and how does it differ from curry? Korma is a mild curry made with yogurt and nuts and includes lots of coriander. It is rich in flavor and texture with many layers.

As I have mentioned before, while Indian recipes call for lots of spices, the same ones are used often in both Indian and Mediterranean cuisines. I like to buy the whole spice and grind them as needed, which takes only minutes if you use and inexpensive coffee or spice blender. The difference from the pre-ground spices that you buy in stores is huge and will make or break these dishes. Once you get in the habit of grinding your own spices you may never go back to buying them ground again.

As with many cuisines, organizing your ingredients before you actually begin to cook is essential. Things get added quickly and there is no time to suddenly start chopping or blending ingredients once the cooking commences. Preparing these recipes with someone else to help makes short work, but they can be done by one person.

For some ideas of how to put together a complete Indian meal, check out the suggestions I give on my post for tandoori chicken. And always be sure to have some good naan, roti or other bread and basmati rice to soak up the delicious sauces. Even if you only serve the lamb korma at home with a simple rice and a veg, you won’t be disappointed.

Recipe

Yield: About 6 to 8 servings as part of a full Indian meal

Ingredients

2 ounces of garlic cloves (about 8 large)

2 ounces of fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into small pieces

1/2 cup of milk

2 ounces of raw cashews

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

1/2 cup butter or ghee

1/4 cup of Canola or vegetable oil

1 pound (about 1 large) onion, finely chopped

2 pounds of lean lamb, cut into 1/5 inch cubes

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1.5 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground green cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 pound tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

Directions

Puree the garlic and ginger in a processor or blender and set aside.

Combine all of your spices and the salt and set aside.

Mix the milk with the cashews and poppy seeds in a blender and process until smooth. (I found that this worked best if I first ground the cashews and poppy seeds in my spice grinder.)

Melt the butter or ghee in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until lightly browned. Increase the heat to high and add the garlic/ginger puree. Brown lightly.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the lamb pieces. Saute until lightly browned on all sides, turning as needed. This takes about 8 minutes. Scrape the skillet as necessary to prevent sticking. You can add a few drops of water to loosen any brown bits, but I found that the butter and oil was sufficient.

Add the spices and mix well being sure to coat all of the lamb pieces. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes until the lamb is nicely glazed.

Add the tomatoes, yogurt and cashew, poppy seed milk mixture and stir through.

Serve garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired.

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Oven-Baked Tandoori-Style Chicken at Home

Now anyone can make delicious Oven-Baked Tandoori-Style Chicken at home. If you follow my blog it’s easy to tell that my favorite cuisines are Indian and Mediterranean. Both are incredibly varied, complex and have some huge regional differences. That said, however, these cuisines are lively with spices and use lots of vegetables and pulses. The spices are similar, albeit in different combinations and quantities. The meals are accompanied by salads and pickles and both have wonderful flat breads. And its easy to feed both vegetarians and omnivores since there are so many great non-meat options.

Because spices are at the heart of these cuisines, I have relatively recently started grinding my own as I use them. It is incredibly simple and quick to do with a coffee grinder and the difference is incomparable. Smell freshly ground coriander versus store bought and you won’t even recognize them as the same spice. And while the spice list may appear long in many Indian dishes, if you do this kind of cooking, they are spices that I always have on hand in my pantry. If you purchase the whole spice or seed – only grinding what you need – the fragrance and flavor will last longer too.

But I digress. My husband and I have found that eating out is very expensive and often a less than totally satisfying experience. And, of course, I enjoy cooking and my husband and family are such an appreciative audience that I have chosen to learn how to prepare many of our favorite foods at home. And the aromas! There is nothing like walking into a house where the air is redolent of spices or the smell of fresh bread.

All of this is by way of introducing Oven-Baked Tandoori-Style Chicken at home. This recipe dates back to a May, 1980 Bon Appetit article on the cuisine of northern India. The chef is Paul Bhalla and his recipes do take some preparation, but they are all well worth the effort. I hopefully will be blogging his recipe for Lamb Korma and Alu Gobi in the coming weeks. The only change I have made in the Tandoori Chicken recipe is to reduce the quantity. This can easily be doubled. The other slight change is that my oven unfortunately shuts down if I try to heat it to 500 degrees F. So I have slightly reduced the temperature to 475 degrees F. at the beginning of the cooking time and will zap it under the broiler at the end to get that caramelized look.

For a complete Indian meal, check out some of these ideas:

Indian Sides with Something to Please Everyone

Red Lentils with Ginger

Punjabi Chana Dal

Moong Dal and Lemony Ground Lamb

Eggplant Raita

Eggplant Pate (Bharta)

Karhi (Yogurt Sauce)

Indian Rice Pudding (Kheer)

Carrot Halwa (Gajar ka halwa)

Be sure to have plenty of naan, roti or one of the other many Indian breads on hand for all of the wonderful sauces and dips. If you cannot locate these breads easily and don’t feel like making them, the ubiquitous pita and wheat flour tortillas are acceptable substitutes. And definitely cook up basmati rice.

And if you don’t eat meat, check out Salmon in Bengali Mustard Sauce. These wonderful recipes are just a sampling of delicious Indian foods on my blog.

Recipe for Oven-Baked Tandoori-Style Chicken at Home

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, cut-up and skinned

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1 Tablespoon boiling water

4 large garlic cloves

4-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into about 8 pieces

1/2 cup plain yogurt (I do not use Greek yogurt here. Find a good plain, whole milk yogurt to use instead like a Bulgarian yogurt.)

1/4 cup beetroot color extract (See note)

A couple of drops of red vegetable food coloring (optional)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Rounded 1/2 Tablespoon ground coriander

Rounded teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seed

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Garnishes (Optional)

Lemon or lime wedges and lettuce leaves and sliced onions.

Directions

Remove the skin from the chicken. I find it helps to use a paper or cloth towel to gran and pull off the skin in one piece. Cut 4 to 5 slits (almost to the bone) in the thighs and breasts. Place in a glass or stainless bowl.

Soak the saffron in the water for about 5 minutes. I heat the water and saffron in the microwave for about 20 seconds or you can simply boil water and then add the saffron. Brush the mixture generously over the chicken pieces on both sides and into the slits. Cover and allow to stand for 20 minutes at room temperature.

In a blender, puree the garlic, ginger and then add the yogurt, beet extract and spices. Continue pureeing until you have a smooth liquid. Using a pastry brush, generously paint the chicken pieces with the spice mixture, making sure that it gets into the slits. You can also just place everything in a heavy duty plastic freezer bag. Massage the chicken pieces once you have gotten out as much air as possible and the bag is sealed. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Remove the chicken from the fridge about an hour before cooking. Heat your oven to 500 degrees F if you can or 450 to 475 degrees F if your oven doesn’t go that high.

Use some of the melted butter to coat a shallow roasting pan. Add the chicken pieces and drizzle with remaining butter. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue roasting until the chicken tests done and is a poppy red color – the perfect Oven-Baked Tandoori-Style Chicken. This will take about an additional 25 to 39 minutes. Arrange on a platter with lettuce leaves and the garnishes of your choice. [I did not use the red food coloring and my beets were a bit anemic in color this time, so my chicken was not that lovely poppy red. It does NOT, however have any effect on the taste.

NOTE: To make beet extract, cut in eighths 1 large or quarter 2 to 3 small beets. Combine in a saucepan with 1/2 cup water. Cover and boil until the beet is fork tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well, reserving the liquid. Use the cooked beets for salad. The reserved liquid is your extract. You can also buy canned beets and use the liquid from the can.

Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms, Eggplant and Tomatoes

Flexibility

I love when I come across a recipe with almost infinite possibilities – AND they are ALL EASY! A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for Chicken with Garlic that I saw on the Valerie Bertinelli show. This week, I made a few changes but kept all of the cooking instructions and it was unctuous, comforting and best of all – simple.

If you want a great company dish that requires minimum effort and maximum flavor or if you just want to treat your family, then try this dish. And then make it your own. And while the fresh herbs are removed at the end of the cooking time, you could choose to use either dried crushed herbs or chopped fresh herbs mixed through when the vegetables are added. The herbaceousness of the final product will be more subtle if the herbs remain on the stems and are removed after cooking than if chopped or dried herbs are used. Both will be delicious.

Aren’t You Over Cooking This?

Some of you may be asking how could the chicken be good after such a relatively long cooking time. I can assure you that the thighs end up being succulent and tender with a crispy skin and the vegetables are just right. And while the cooking time may be over an hour, the prep time is minimal. So go read a good book, work out, sip some wine and enjoy time with your partner, children or friends while your oven does the work!

HOT TIP

Whenever you are frying or browning something, there is an easy and inexpensive way to protect yourself and your stove from nasty oil/butter splatters. Treat yourself to a splatter screen guard. They will make clean-up easier (which I am ALL about) and they also will protect you from burns. They come in different sizes to fit your needs and there are versions even cheaper than this one, although those usually don’t last very long….

Recipe

For Chicken – 4-6 servings

Ingredients

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter 

1 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil 

3/4 cup dry white wine 

1 cup of halved grape tomatoes (I like the multi-colored variety but any will do)

4 ounces Cremini or other button-style mushroom, quartered

1 baby eggplant, ends trimmed and cut into large dice (about 1-inch)

4 sprigs fresh thyme 

1-2 sprigs of rosemary

1 head garlic separated into cloves and peeled (about 10 cloves)

1 medium shallot, sliced into thin rings

Garnish

2 Tablespoons chopped parsley (Optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Season the chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a large, deep cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook, undisturbed, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and turn off the heat. Add the wine, then nestle the eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, garlic and shallot around the chicken. Return the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat, then transfer to the oven and roast uncovered until the chicken is golden and cooked through, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Discard the thyme and rosemary.

Serve the chicken with some of the sauce, garlic cloves and veggies. The garlic has become sweet and oozy with the long cooking so don’t be afraid to eat it. I simply served this with a packed tossed salad but if you want a carbohydrate, it would go well with almost any grain – rice, farro or polenta.

Kung Pao Chicken at Home

Restaurant vs. Home

I don’t do a great deal of Asian cooking. And eating out is expensive and often disappointing. So when I get a craving for a good stir-fry, ramen, pad thai or a hearty soup, I have to make it.

Good Ingredients

Fortunately, we do live within easy distance of a well-stocked Asian market. Admittedly, I don’t know what three-quarters of the things are, especially since many of the labels are not in English. However, the ever-present “aunties” trolling the store aisles try to be helpful. I love to go shopping there whenever Frances’ mother is in town visiting. She makes all kinds of treats for us after each foray.

While I don’t like sending people to buy special ingredients for a single dish, I have learned that certain spices and condiments really define a culture. Sometimes there just are no good substitutes for the real thing. That’s another reason why I like to shop at the Asian market for these ingredients because the cost is about a fifth of what I would pay in my supermarket – assuming I could even find what I need.

Once you taste this, I have confidence that you will easily use up whatever you buy.

Cooking with Andrew

The blog is called Lisa and Frances Cook and Frances and I do share A LOT of recipes and cook together on holidays. But Frances is busy with a full-time job and a baby on the way. So her energies go into cooking not blogging. But now that my husband is retired, he has taken an interest in cooking. So in fairness, I need to give credit where it is due. Andrew chose the recipe, shopped with me for ingredients and did most of the prep and cooking. Which proves that anyone can make this with just a little effort.

The recipe comes from Christine Gallery of TheKitchn.com and appeared in the Chicago Tribune Food and Dining Section.

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

Chicken and Sauce

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white or black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese black or rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek or chile-garlic paste

Stir-fry

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 medium bell peppers, large dice
  • 2 medium celery stalks, thinly sliced on a slight diagonal (optional)
  • 1 baby bok choy, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger (from a 1-inch piece)
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 4 medium scallions, thinly sliced (optional)
  • Steamed rice for serving

Directions

  1. Marinate the chicken. Place the chicken in a medium bowl or a one-gallon freezer bag. Place the tamari or soy sauce, wine or sherry, cornstarch, sesame oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the mixture over the chicken and toss to combine; set the chicken aside. [You do not need to refrigerate it while preparing the remainder of the dish.]
  2. Make the sauce. Add the vinegar, sugar, and sambal to the remaining marinade and whisk until the sugar is dissolved; set this sauce aside.
  3. Stir-fry the chicken. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons oil into the wok or large frying pan. Add the chicken and spread into an even layer. Let cook undisturbed until golden-brown and seared on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir-fry until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Stir-fry the vegetables and aromatics. Heat the wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat until very hot (a flick of water should sizzle and evaporate right away), about 2 minutes. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of the oil, add the bell peppers, bok choy and celery, and season with about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir-fry with a metal spatula until crisp-tender and browned in spots, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Return the chicken to the pan and stir-fry with the sauce. Add the reserved chicken and peanuts to the pan. Re-whisk the reserved sauce to dissolve the cornstarch. Pour into the pan and stir-fry until the sauce thickens, is glossy, and evenly coats everything in the pan, about 1 minute more. Sprinkle with the scallions if using and serve immediately with rice.

Chicken Thighs with Garlic and Olives and Kale Salad with Lemon Anchovy Dressing

My Addiction

I love to watch cooking shows. Not the contests – I hate those. Just good old-fashioned cooking shows with a pleasant host and accessible recipes. Sometimes I watch things on YouTube, especially if they are for Middle Eastern or Indian cooking. The two dishes that I made for dinner tonight came from Valerie Bertinelli. They are perfect for a summer evening and the prep time is minimal with no crazy techniques. If you are really not a fan of olives, you could substitute mushrooms. While you could serve this chicken dish with an accompanying grain, I served it with some crusty bread. Dessert was fresh cantaloupe melon and ripe strawberries. Okay, there were also some dark chocolate caramels.

The Perfect Pan

A few months ago, Frances and Matthew gave me a gift certificate and I used it to buy this Staub multi-use braising pan that I had my eye on. It’s just the right size for so many dishes when you are cooking for 4-6 people. Staub makes very high quality cookware that will last forever if you take care of it and I definitely recommend making the investment. However, a heavy-duty, deep cast-iron pan will also work for this recipe and the Lodge cookware is very budget friendly.

Fads

I mentioned in a previous post that I am not into food fads. So while kale is no longer the “IT” vegetable, I still love it. This kale salad is easy to make especially because it actually is better if made a couple of hours ahead. It’s a great foil for the chicken but would be good with any grilled or roasted meat or fish. While I pretty much stuck to the recipe, my version is ever so slightly less fussy to make. And because I didn’t make any grain with the chicken, my husband and I polished off what easily could have been a salad for 4 to six people! And if you think that you are not an anchovy fan, you MUST give this a try. You won’t see the anchovy as it melts into the garlic but it gives a wonderful briny flavor that you don’t get from anything else.

Recipe

For Chicken – 4-6 servings

Ingredients

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter 

1 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil 

3/4 cup dry white wine 

1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved 

4 sprigs fresh thyme 

1 head garlic separated into cloves and peeled (about 10 cloves)

1 medium shallot, sliced into thin rings

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Season the chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a large, deep cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook, undisturbed, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and turn off the heat. Add the wine, then nestle the olives, thyme, garlic and shallot around the chicken. Return the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat, then transfer to the oven and roast uncovered until the chicken is golden and cooked through, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Discard the thyme.

Serve the chicken with some of the sauce, garlic cloves and olives. The garlic has become sweet and oozy with the long cooking so don’t be afraid to eat it.

For the Kale salad – best made 1 to 2 hours ahead

Ingredients

2 to 4 tablespoons pine nuts that have been lightly toasted in a dry frying pan

1 bunch purple or red kale, stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces

1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces

2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons) 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

1/3 cup grated Parmesan 

Torn fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Directions

  1. Fill a large bowl or pot with very hot tap water. Add the kale and stir for a few seconds just to slightly soften the leaves. Drain and squeeze well to dry. [If you have a salad spinner, this will make this part a snap.] If you want to get fancy, gather and stack the kale leaves on top of each other on a cutting board, roll them up and thinly slice. [This is what is known as chiffonade.]
  2. Mash the anchovy and garlic to a paste on a cutting board with the flat side of a knife. Transfer to a small bowl and add the lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt and about 25 grinds of pepper. Whisk in the olive oil.
  3. Toss the kale with the Parmesan and pine nuts in a salad bowl. Add the vinaigrette to coat, tossing well to combine. Top with the basil. Taste and add more Parmesan if desired.

Mina de Carne (Meat-Potato Matzah “Pie”)

The In-Between

So we are now in the in-between days of the Passover holiday, which lasts eight days in the Diaspora and seven days in Israel. I could simply broil or roast some meat or fish, make a salad and potatoes and call it a day. However, I like to make the holiday special and there are certain dishes that I only make during Passover even if I could serve them at other times.


Flexibility

This Sephardic dish is wonderful because it is so flexible. The simplest version of it is ground beef or lamb, mashed potatoes, matzah and eggs with a bit of seasoning. But with a little bit of imagination and time this dish can become something really special. And a little bit of meat will feed a family. I guess you could say that it is a Sephardic Shepard’s Pie.

If you are not feeling ambitious at all, then just use the basic technique that is given and season it to suit your tastes.

Recipe

Yield: 4-6 dinner servings or more if used as part of a multi-course meal

Ingredients

1 roasted eggplant* (optional)

1 pound lean ground beef or lamb

1.5 pounds Yukon Gold or “new” potatoes (They are the smallish red ones)

3 sheets of square plain matzah (NOT EGG Matzah)

Non-dairy “buttery” sticks (margarine)

2-3 Tablespoons olive or other oil, divided

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

2-3 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro or dill

2 rounded teaspoons hawayij or ras el hanout or other spice mix (Make your own or they can be purchased online and through spice shops). You could even use Garam Masala for an Indian twist.

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

3 large eggs

Paprika for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

If using the roasted eggplant, make this first and set aside to cool. Chop it coarsely.

I don’t bother to peel my potatoes. The skins not only have nutrients, but they are relatively thin and add extra flavor, in my opinion. Simply cut each potato into quarters and then each quarter into half so you en up with eight pieces. Place them in a 3 quart saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook them uncovered for 20 minutes or until quite tender. Drain the potatoes well and then mash them with a potato masher or a fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the potatoes aside to cool.

Place some warm tap water into a deep 9-inch square baking dish and then add the whole squares of matzah. Allow them to soak for about 1+ minutes. You want them flexible but not falling apart.

Carefully lift each sheet of matzah out of the water and place it flat on paper or a tea towel to drain. Then dry the baking dish and grease it well with the margarine and then 1-2 Tablespoons of the oil. If you only use the oil the matzah won’t crisp up and it will stick. Set the pan aside.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add one Tablespoon of the oil and brown the ground meat, chopped, roasted eggplant, if using, the onions and the garlic. Break up the meat as you brown it. I used a very lean meat so I did not have any extra fat or liquid to pour off. Add your spices, about 1 teaspoon of salt and some cracked black pepper. Add the chopped fresh herbs and mix everything through.

Lightly beat 2 of the eggs and add it to the mashed potatoes. Stir about 1/2 cup of the potato mixture into the ground beef mixture to bind it together.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat the remaining egg and pour it into a platter with a slightly raised edge. Coat both sides of one softened matzah sheet lightly with the egg. Lift it out carefully and allow any excess egg to drip back into the platter. Place the matzah in the bottom of the prepared pan. Use part of a second slice of matzah, if necessary, to cover any gaps so that the bottom is completely covered. Repeat with a second layer of matzah. Reserve any left-over egg. (I didn’t have any.)

Spread the meat mixture on top of the matzah in the dish. Spoon the potato mixture over the to and spread it evenly. Pour any left-over egg onto the potato mixture. Sprinkle with some paprika.

Bake the Mina for about 40 minutes or until the top is browned and the filling is firm. Remove the Mina from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Cut it into large squares. I serve mine with a large tossed salad.

Chicken Khao Soi

Spice Up Your Life

So it’s not winter but it’s also not quite Spring. It’s the “drears.” I don’t know about you but I desperately need a bit of spice in my life. This recipe showed up in my inbox and I had to have it. It’s a Thai dish so I cannot speak to its authenticity, but I can tell you that it is delicious – after a few small tweaks. The soup is pretty rich and VERY satisfying. So while it may not seem as if it would feed six people for a dinner, I found that a relatively small amount goes a long way.

Pet Peeves

I don’t know about you, but I really hate when a recipe calls for a tiny amount of something that I otherwise would not have in my pantry – and which isn’t available in my local stores. And which I may never use again.

Since I do a lot of Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, I’m always happy to buy the right spices or grains to complete my recipe. I will even grind my own spices for those dishes because they are so integral to truly experiencing the food. But I do not make a great deal of Asian or South American dishes.

So when this recipe called for a type of dried chili pepper that three well-stocked grocery stores didn’t carry I said ENOUGH! I know that each pepper has its own flavor profile but surely the dish could be made with some more easily available option. And while I would have liked to use bean sprouts, the only ones around were very sad looking… Yet despite these small disappointments, the final dish was so yummy that I have to share it with you. The smell of the khao soi paste alone was intoxicating.

A Word About Measuring

Spices and herbs make a dish. I recently made my Christmas Lamb Shanks and made the mistake of not tasting it before serving. It needed salt. It would have made all the difference. In the case of this dish, do NOT skimp on the spices. This isn’t baking. I generally measure spices, garlic, onions, cilantro etc. with a heavy hand. I know what I like and rarely do I regret my choices. If you don’t feel comfortable, start out with even measuring and add more as you taste. Otherwise you can pretty much assume that I used somewhat rounded measurements.

Recipe from Bon Appetit

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

Khao Soi Paste

4 large dried chiles, stemmed with seeds (I used a combination of Poblano and Negro Chiles. The original recipe called for large dried New Mexico or guajillo chiles, stemmed, halved, seeded. )

2 medium shallots, halved

8-10 garlic cloves

1 rounded tablespoon of grated ginger

1/2 cup chopped cilantro stems

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder

Soup

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 14-oz. cans unsweetened coconut milk (Use the regular – not “lite”)

4 cups chicken broth (low sodium or unsalted)

1½ lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs, halved lengthwise

1 lb Chinese egg noodles

3 tablespoons (or more) fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)

1 tablespoon (packed) brown sugar

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Sliced red onion, bean sprouts, cilantro sprigs, crispy fried onions or shallots, chili oil, and lime wedges (for serving)

RECIPE PREPARATION

Khao Soi Paste

  1. Place chiles in a small heatproof bowl, add boiling water to cover, and let soak until softened, 25–30 minutes. Alternatively, heat in the microwave for about 2 minutes and cover the bowl for 30 minutes.
  2. Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid. Purée chiles, shallots, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems, coriander, turmeric, curry powder, and 2 Tbsp. soaking liquid in a food processor or blender, adding more soaking liquid by tablespoonfuls, if needed, until smooth. (I ended up using almost all of my soaking liquid.)

Soup

  1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add khao soi paste; cook, stirring constantly, until slightly darkened, 4–6 minutes. Add coconut milk and broth. Bring to a boil; add chicken. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, 20–25 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool slightly; shred meat.
  2. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.
  3. Add chicken, 3 Tbsp. fish sauce, and sugar to soup. Season with salt or more fish sauce, if needed. Divide soup and noodles among bowls and serve with toppings.

Beef Stufato with Buckwheat Pilaf

You Say Stufato

A stufato is simply the Italian way to say stew. The version that appears below comes from my handwritten notes dating back about 40 years. Since writing a blog was the furthest thing from my mind then, I did not write down the author. Soooooooo, my apologies to the person(s) who came up with this delicious and easy peasy beef stew. For an old-fashioned Irish beef stew check this out.

So What is Kasha?

You could serve this warm and welcoming dish with some good chewy country bread, over rice, pasta or mashed potatoes, but I am serving it with a kasha pilaf. Kasha is roasted, whole grain buckwheat. And buckwheat is a great source of healthy fiber anti-oxidants and is rich in minerals. Best of all, it tastes great! While I am not in any way gluten-free, buckwheat is. I always make a lot because it is great as left-overs and stuffed in pita with chopped tomatoes and lettuce for a vegetarian or vegan lunch.

The Sum of Its Parts

I often find recipes with multiple parts and after I have made them, it turns out that I really only like the topping or the base but not what was in between. That’s how I came to make my Sriracha Cashews. So while beef stew definitely would not be appealing to a vegan, the buckwheat pilaf would. I have found inspiration in some unlikely places. I have successfully turned non-vegan recipes into vegan ones and clearly non-Kosher recipes into Kosher acceptable meals. So before you go dismissing a recipe, see if you can’t find some take-away that you can use.

Recipe for Stufato

Yield: 4-5 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 4 Tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • Up to 2 cups of a dry red wine like a Cabernet (use whatever you plan on drinking)
  • 14.5 ounce can of a quality diced tomato (preferably San Marzano)
  • About 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1.5 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 2 bay leaves, dried or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon each dried basil and thyme
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Additional chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish (Optional)

Directions

  1. Heat EVOO in a heavy-duty saucepan with a cover. Add meat in a single layer, without crowding and brown on all sides. (I did this in batches. If you crowd the pan, the meat won’t brown.) Remove the meat to a dish while you prepare the rest of the stufato.
  2. Add the onion to the same pan that you browned the meat in and sprinkle with the brown sugar and about a teaspoon of salt. Saute the onion until it becomes soft, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. (The juices from the onion should be sufficient to de-glaze the pan and all of those browned bits from the meat add flavor.)
  3. Once the onion has softened, add the wine to just cover the meat (you don’t want to drown the meat – just barely cover it), tomatoes, garlic, and herbs and stir through to mix. Now add back your meat and any juices and give another stir. Add some cracked black pepper and stir once more. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook on low for 2 hours. Adjust your seasonings and discard the bay leaves before serving.

Recipe for Buckwheat Pilaf (Vegan)

Yield: About 4 cups (Can be doubled)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of roasted whole grain buckwheat (Kasha)
  • 2 Tablespoons of EVOO or butter
  • 2 cups of hot broth (Vegetarian, chicken or beef, preferably unsalted) (If using salted broth, eliminate the additional salt mentioned below.)
  • 1/2 cup each: chopped yellow onion, sliced mushrooms, celery and carrots
  • About 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the butter or oil and add the vegetables. Saute the vegetables until slightly softened.
  2. Add the hot broth (and salt, if adding) and bring to a boil. Add the kasha and stir through. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 12 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. Uncover the pot and fluff the pilaf with a fork before serving.

Zucchini Bake

I have been hesitant to add recipes like this to the blog because they seem so obvious to me and because I really don’t measure when I make them. However, I realized that what may appear obvious to me just may not be to someone else.

Just Plain Good

This zucchini bake doesn’t have strange new combinations of ingredients or use sous vide techniques. It is simple to make, very flexible and the results are delicious almost no matter what you do. The fact is that the zucchini bake is just plain good. Zucchini bake goes beautifully with any grilled meat, poultry or fish. It could also be a main feature of a vegetarian meal.

East Does It

When my son was little, I always looked for new ways to get vegetables into him. Since most children – and adults – like pizza, I took the basic elements of a vegetarian pizza but changed the emphasis of the ingredients. Even though my son thought that he wasn’t a fan of zucchini, he always gobbled this up. Below are some basic guidelines for this easy and delicious side dish. However, feel free to add or change the cheeses or switch up the herbs to make it your own. You can also easily double or triple the ingredients to serve a crowd.

Switching It Up

If you decide that you like the zucchini bake but want to switch it up a bit, you could try the following:

  • Change the herbs – use thyme instead of basil and oregano
  • Change the cheeses to match. Use a good Gruyere, Comte or aged Cheddar cheese instead of one of the Italian cheeses
  • Add some sauteed onion to the layering
  • OR use feta or other goat cheese mixed with some Swizz, Mozzarella or Greek Kaseri cheese and Za’atar and Aleppo pepper

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 1 pound zucchini, cut into 3/8-inch rounds
  • 14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes
  • EVOO (preferably garlic flavored) for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and cracked pepper, to taste
  • About 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • About 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 cup (or more, to taste) of shredded or grated cheese (I like a mix of Mozzarella, Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, Fontina, Provolone or Asiago. Use cheeses with flavor – not like that soapy stuff that you get on some pizzas.)
  • About 1/4 cup of dried bread crumbs, plain or seasoned

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the zucchini and partially cover the pot, if necessary to maintain a good simmer. Cook the zucchini for 3-4 minutes and immediately strain the zucchini under VERY cold water. Spread the zucchini out on a tea towel and pat dry. You want to just barely blanch the zucchini. (What you want to absolutely avoid is mushy zucchini.)
  3. Use a heavy baking dish that is large enough to hold the zucchini when layered. (The shape of the dish is irrelevant.) Drizzle the bottom of the dish with EVOO. I like to use garlic-flavored EVOO but plain is fine if that is all you have.
  4. Place a layer of broken up stewed tomatoes on the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of zucchini. Sprinkle with cheese and bread crumbs. Crumble some of the basil and oregano over the bread crumbs, along with a sprinkling of salt and cracked pepper. (I never measure, but don’t be stingy with the herbs.) Drizzle a little EVOO on top and then repeat the layering until you have used everything up. I like to end with tomatoes.
  5. Spoon the liquid from the tomatoes over the top. Add a bit more cheese and drizzle with EVOO. (There is no magic here, so it is hard to mess this up. If this is part of a main dish vegetarian meal, I might add more cheese than if it is simply a side.)
  6. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden and the cheeses are melted. The zucchini bake can be made ahead and reheated.

Tuna Puttanesca

When the Weather Outside is Frightful

Well, we had four easy winters so I really can’t complain – too much. But this winter has seesawed between a polar vortex and just plain dreary and wet. So going shopping – even when it is from my garage to the supermarket’s – holds little to no appeal. This pasta tuna puttanesca is the perfect answer because it is made almost entirely from pantry staples. And the best part is that it can be thrown together in under an hour.

Good for Your Health and Your Budget

We all know that it is healthier and more budget-friendly to cook at home than to order in or go out. This dish is so flexible and so quick to prepare that it can feed a crowd or a couple. There is no need to buy fancy canned tuna, although it’s certainly fine if you do. Use what you have on hand or would normally buy. Whether you like tuna packed in olive oil or water – chunk “light” or albacore – it all works.

This pasta dish is low in fat, high in flavor. Make it as puttanesca-like and spicy as you like or add just enough hot pepper flakes to tickle your taste-buds. If you have fresh parsley – great. And if you don’t, it will still be good. However, you do need a flavorful pitted olive (I usually use pitted Kalamatas myself) and I personally think that briny capers are a must. Mario Batali said that you should never use cheese on pasta dishes with fish or seafood. It may be breaking one of the sacraments of Italian cooking, but
I happen to like cheese with fish. There is no judgment here. I leave that decision in your capable hands.

So Easy!

Don’t even measure. I will give you some measurements below, but please use them only as a guide. If you want more tuna, use more. More olives – go for it. If you really enjoy anchovies, they can be added when you are browning the onion and garlic. The anchovy will break down, again adding a bit of briny flavor.

Let’s Get Started

Ingredients for Dinner for 4-6 People

  • 2-3 Tablespoons EVOO
  • 12 ounces of canned tuna, drained
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 28 ounces (or 2 smaller cans) of chopped tomatoes in their own juice
  • 2 Tablespoons good quality tomato paste
  • About 1 Tablespoon, finely chopped garlic
  • About 6 ounces coarsely chopped, flavorful pitted olives
  • 1-2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2-3 strips of anchovy, drained (optional)
  • Hot pepper flakes and salt, to taste (you can always add more but you can’t remove it once added)
  • 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water
  • One bunch of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped and divided in 2 parts
  • 13 ounces to 1 pound of a firm pasta like a penne or rigatoni, preferably rigate (with ridges)

Directions

  1. Heat a large pan and add the EVOO. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the edges are just beginning to brown. Add the anchovy, if using, It will break down, melting into the EVOO and garlic.
  2. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir through.
  3. Add all of the ingredients (half of the parsley) except for the starchy pasta water. Mix through and cook on simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes. This can be made ahead and reheated or made right before eating while the pasta cooks.
  4. When you are ready to eat, cook your pasta according to directions. Just before the pasta is al dente, remove 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and add it to the puttanesca sauce. Stir through and continue cooking while you drain the pasta.
  5. Toss the drained pasta into the pan of sauce (if the pan is large enough) or pour the sauce over the pasta when you serve it. Garnish with the remaining parsley and grated Reggiano Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano or Asiago cheese, if desired. I like to serve a salad alongside, but if your fridge is bare, this will satisfy on its own.