September, 2004

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Chicken Curry
Sep 30th, 2004

Chicken Curry was the first recipe I made with my new curry powder. It's a very easy recipe and fairly flexible in terms of cooking time. I set the stove to low and wandered off to a neighbors house to retrieve Jay from a play date while it was cooking and when I returned 45 minutes later all was well and tasty. It's very good the next day too.

I followed the recipe pretty closely except that I cut down the amount of butter by half, took the skins off my chicken thighs, and didn't bother adding the raisins, cashews, and green onions at the end. None of those choices seemed to affect the recipe adversely, and they definitely cut down the calories. Plus, yuck, I hate chicken skin that's been stewed. Nasty.


Chicken Curry

4 tbsp butter or ghee [I used 2]
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
3 pounds chicken, cut into small serving pieces [or a package of chicken thighs -
whatever parts you use leave the bones in, it gelatinizes the sauce]
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup dry-roasted salted cashews
3 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise


In a large frying pan with a tight-fitting lid, heat the butter over medium-high heat until melted and bubbly. Add the onions and cook, uncovered, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and continue cooking for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the chicken pieces and cook until evenly browned, turning once or twice, about 8 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the curry powder, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, yogurt and lemon juice and stir well. Scrape the mixture into the frying pan and turn the
chicken and onion to combine well.

Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer, turning the chicken once or twice, until it is tender and cooked through, 50 to 60 minutes.

Stir in the raisins and cashews, transfer to a serving dish, and sprinkle with green onions. Serve with basmati or jasmine rice, a bowl of chutney, and a green salad.

-Nancie McDermott , The Curry Book
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Curry Powder
Sep 29th, 2004

Alright, I have a foodie sin to confess. I'm pretty sure that the little container of curry powder sitting on my spice shelf is the same container my mom bestowed upon me as I went off to college. In 1989. Given that she did not buy me new spices but gave me the old ones from her shelf, I shudder to think how old that bottle really is. So you might understand why I found the idea of making my own curry powder attractive.

The recipe comes from an odd little cookbook that I've had for years and recently rediscovered, called The Curry Book. The author, Nancie McDermott, combines curry recipes from all over the world as well as some decidedly of her own invention (Vegetable Ravioli in Curry Cream Sauce anyone?). Flipping through it inspired Spice Week. This recipe makes about a half cup of curry powder, which is a lot considering you usually only need 1 tablespoon per recipe. I've used it in two recipes so far and they both turned out fabulously. Definitely an improvement over my 15 year old jar!

This is the Easy Curry Powder recipe. I'm excited to try the Basic Curry Powder (evidently a step up in complexity) and the Sri Lankan Style.

If you have any of the required spices in whole rather than ground form, just clean out your coffee grinder and use that to grind 'em up. I had to do that for the black pepper and cardamom and I like to think Jim's latte the next day had a vaguely exotic flair.


Easy Curry Powder

3 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp ground clove
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cayenne
2 tbsp ground turmeric


Measure all the spices except the turmeric into a medium, dry frying pan and stir to combine them well. Have a plate handy next to the stove on which to cool the spices.

Place the frying pan over medium heat and toast, stirring constantly, until the spices darken a little and release their fragrance, about 3 minutes. Wisps of smoke will rise up from the pan as the spices toast.

Tip them out onto the plate to cool to room temperature. Add the turmeric and stir with a fork or small whisk until the spice powder is evenly colored. Seal airtight and store away from heat and light.

Use within 3 months.

-The Curry Book, Nancie McDermott
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Spices continued
Sep 24th, 2004

My spice week continues; since I last posted we've had Burmese Pork Curry and a Curried Roasted Red Lentil Soup. My house smells terrific, but I'm getting behind in posting my recipes. So to start getting caught up, here is the recipe for Aromatic Brown Rice Pilaf. It was printed in the Spokesman Review and adapted from “Secrets From a Caterer's Kitchen” by Nicole Aloni.

You can skip the raisins/dates if you don't like fruit in your rice (I don't), but do try to get ahold of some pistachios. Mine were pre-toasted and salted so I just shelled a few and chopped them up. The salt didn't seem to make any difference (the recipe calls for unsalted). They're really good scattered over the top of the pilaf, it gives it a nice crunch. I had whole cardamom pods instead of ground, so I just threw a few of those in. They can be fished out after cooking. Also, I cut down the butter and oil to 1 tablespoon each with no discernable ill effects.


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Spices
Sep 21st, 2004

I've had some fun cooking with spices this weekend. Sunday I made a fabulous chicken curry using a homemade curry powder blend.I'll save that recipe for another post. On Saturday I wanted to try cooking up some chicken breasts using the peach jam I made as a glaze. I got all excited when I got to pull out my little jar of Star Anise. If you haven't used star anise before, it's an 8 pointed woody spice that looks kind of like a tiny little starfish. It has a slight licorice aroma, like aniseed, as well as a unique taste that is hard to describe. It's an ingredient in Chinese 5 spice powder, so if you've tasted that or had a 5-spice rubbed chicken or duck you've tasted star anise. I've used it before in a recipe for slow cooked Asian spareribs that is really tasty. I'll try to remember to put that recipe up here some day.

Anyway, to make the glaze I put some of the peach jam in a pot over low heat. I added some soy sauce, a splash of chicken broth, and a couple star anise. I let that cook for ten minutes or so, stirring it often until the jam melted and the sauce came together. Then I just poured it over the chicken breasts in a small Pyrex baking dish and put it in the oven at 400F for about half an hour. The chicken breasts were organic and had their little rib bones intact. I think using the bone-in breasts in this preparation makes the meat more moist.

The chicken was delicious, moist and tender and sweet and salty and aromatic. I would definitely recommend trying this simple dish if you get your hands on some star anise. Apricot jam would probably be my first choice if I were going to buy a jam to make this with, as it's a little tangier somehow than the peach.

We ate the chicken with broccoli and an Indian spiced brown rice pilaf, which continued the exotic spices theme, and about which I'll post a separate post, as it's a keeper as well.


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Failure
Sep 16th, 2004

It's all well and good to report the successes you have in the kitchen - the recipes that turn out yummy, the jam that actually sets, the idea that makes it on to your dinner plate. But it's the failures that people really want to hear about. They want to know about the 'perfect recipe' for rice that came out perfectly crunchy and inedible, or the expensive ingredients you buy only to learn that you hate them and leave them to mold in the fridge. Just the other day I was thinking about this site and realized I wanted a good failure to post about. Luckily, I got one as ordered.

Unfortunately it wasn't a spectacular failure, no cookware exploded, and there were no poisonings. But the recipe looked good on the page, all the ingredients were good going in, and the resulting dish totally sucked. So I think that counts as a failure.

The recipe was for Cabbage and Asian Pear Slaw with a gingery lime vinaigrette. It still sounds good, but it ain't. I got it from Kathleen Daelemans' Getting Thin and Loving Food, a cookbook that has given me mixed results. And I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that she and I part ways when it comes to salads, as both the recipes I have not liked from her book are salads.

Anyway, the recipe calls for shredding/julienning some cabbage and asian pear and then dressing it with lime juice, fresh ginger, scallions, and Vietnamese chili paste. I may be leaving something out but I think that was it. It sounds so simple and tastes so nasty. I think the problem with it is that the tastes are too spiky - there's no oil or neutral ingredient rounding them all out. It tasted raw in a flavors-not-melding sense.

I served the slaw with dinner one night and we each took an obligatory mouthful and then politely ignored it. I carried it back and forth to work for a few days trying to make myself eat it for lunch but that plan failed too. Last night I threw it out. Tonight I'm making spaghetti with a roasted tomato sauce, and I'm hoping for a success, because a failure every now and then is sort of fun, but I wouldn't want to make a habit of it.


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Pork Cutlet with Miso-Red Wine Sauce
Sep 13th, 2004

Here's another quick dinner for the meat eaters among us. The recipe comes from one of Mark Bittman's 'The Minimalist Cooks...' series, so you know there won't be a lot of fussy steps. It took me a while to try this because I didn't have any miso about, but I picked some up at the supermarket near my work that has a pretty good selection of alternative ingredients. It seems like it will keep well in the fridge, which is good because I don't know how I'll use it up. There might be some miso soup in our future...

I didn't get home from doing the grocery shopping for the week until 6:00 pm yesterday, and I wanted to make meatloaf for later in the week, so I needed a quick dinner that I could get on the table while assembling the meatloaf at the same time. This fit the bill, the most time consuming part was the rice, and you can get that down to 20 minutes if you use white rice.

Pork with Miso-Red Wine Sauce
Brown Rice
Green Beans tossed with sesame oil and soy
Green Salad with olive oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy dressing

I really liked this pan sauce a lot. Sometimes pan reduction sauces can just taste 'too much' to me, if that makes sense. They're too intense, too rich, too something. Maybe I reduce them too much, I don't know. Anyway, this one has an intense flavor without being cloying after several bites. I used a crappy Shiraz that we didn't want to finish and it turned out fine, so I think it might be even better if you used a good wine!


Pork Cutlet with Miso-Red Wine Sauce

Four 1-inch thick bone-in pork chops, each about 6 ounces
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup sturdy red wine, like Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon
2 tblsp red miso
¼ cup roughly chopped shiso, basil, or parsley (optional)


Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat for 2 or 3 minutes, then add the chops. Sprinkle them with a little bit of salt and a lot of pepper, then brown them on one side for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and brown the other side until firm and nearly cooked through, another 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer to a warm plate and turn the heat to medium.

Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to loosen any bits of meat that have stuck to the pan, until the wine reduces by about half. Turn the heat to low and add the miso, stir briskly to make a smooth mixture ( a wire whisk will help here).

Taste the sauce and add more salt (unlikely) and pepper, if necessary. Spoon it over the pork, garnish and serve.

*Prefer bone-in chop from the rib end of the loin. May use boneless pork steaks from the loin or tenderloin or beef – rib-eye, strip, or skirt steaks are all fine. Reduce the cooking time slightly. [KC- I used boneless loin chops, works fine but I wouldn't reduce the cooking time - I think he must like his pork raw].

-Mark Bittman, The Minimalist Cooks Dinner
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Plum Chutney
Sep 10th, 2004

Our lovely 80 year old neighbor has several fruit trees in her yard, and seems to take great delight in foisting huge boxes of fruit onto her neighbors. Last month it was a big box of figs, and this month an equally large box of Italian plums. These plums are the dark purple, oblong shaped plums that I generally encounter on people's trees rather than in the grocery store. I remember having a couple of these trees growing up. Anwyay, the plums were delicious, but there was no way we could even come close to using them up just by eating them fresh. They were rapidly crossing over to the great plum land of no return, so last Saturday when I was at the library, I grabbed a book called Well Preserved: A Jam-Making Hymnal. The book itself isn't great as a sit down and read it cover to cover cookbook, the recipes are repetitive (cook fruit, add sugar, can) and the hymnal parts fairly trite, but there was a recipe for plum chutney that said it was best made with Italian plums.

All of a sudden visions began dancing in my head of cute little jars of various chutneys and jams and sauces stored away in my basement to be pulled out for Christmas gifts and special dinners. I was hooked. So I spent the rest of the afternoon driving around from store to store looking for canning supplies, only to find them finally in the little market nearest my house. That night I only had time to chop up the plums, but the next morning I got to work making the chutney.

The smell of vinegar cooking is a bit overpowering, especially first thing in the morning, and I burnt my fingers putting jars in my improvised canner (which could only process one jar at a time), but the chutney worked. We had some later in the week with a pork roast and it is very tasty - sweeter than the quick chutneys you make up, more like a tangy jam. In fact, I got so inspired that the next day I bought a flat of peaches and made peach jam in the cutest little half pint jam jars. Sigh of happiness. Now I'm roaming my house thinking of things I can boil and throw in a jar. My mind is truly a scary place sometimes.

I halved the recipe because I had to throw away half my plums as they were going bad, but I would recommend making the whole thing.


Plum Chutney
Makes 10 - 12 eight-ounce jars

10 cups chopped purple plums
4 cups cider vinegar
6 cups brown sugar
1 cup chopped preserved ginger
The following dried spices tied up in cheesecloth:
3 cinnamon sticks
8-10 whole cloves
8-10 whole allspice
6 cardamom pods
1 tbsp Chinese chili bean paste


Put the ingredients in a large nonreactive pot. Simmer until thick, approximately 1-2 hours, depending on how ripe the plums are. When thick, pour into hot, sterilized jars. Make sure the covers are on securely but not too tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water. Tighten covers. Allow to cool. Store in a cool location.

-Joan Hassol, Well Preserved: A Jam Making Hymnal
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Meatloaf
Sep 8th, 2004

That's funny, Shannon asked for a meatloaf recipe in the comments on the last post and just this week I've been thinking about making this meatloaf that I like. I haven't made it all summer, I guess that's another sign that fall is coming.

The recipe is for a turkey meatloaf, and while I've made it with both ground turkey and ground turkey breast (which is leaner), it's better with the slightly higher fat content of the regular ground turkey. It's still a pretty low-calorie meal either way if anyone cares about that sort of thing, and in fact you could use one package of the extra-lean and one package of the regular if you wanted. I like to serve it with oven-baked sweet potato fries.

What follows is the original recipe, but I've only ever made it by halving the ingredients, as it makes a terrifyingly huge amount of meatloaf. Even only making half the recipe makes a pretty big loaf. I think you can cook it for slightly less than the recommended cooking time too because you're halving the recipe.


Turkey Meatloaf
makes a terrifying amount

3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large onions)
2 tbsp good olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (1/2 tsp dried)
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
5 pounds ground turkey breast
1 1/2 cups plain dry bread crumbs
3 extra-large eggs, beaten (to halve this I use the liquid egg whites and pour out enough for 1 1/2 eggs, but I think you could use 2 regular size eggs)
3/4 cup ketchup


Preheat oven to 325° F.

In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F and the meatloaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking [I've never bothered with this -K]). Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.

-Ina Garten
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Quick dinner
Sep 2nd, 2004

Okay, here is a super quick dinner. I'm not even sure you'd call it cooking. More like heating really. I think even Scottie could do this one, with or without the bourbon.

Menu
Bottom Broiled Chicken Breasts with Spice Rub
Corn on the Cob
Green Beans with Shallots

So I've talked about my chicken breast method before. Put in Pyrex baking dish, rub with olive oil and spice mixture of choice, then put in bottom rack of a 500F oven. Turn over once during cooking time.

Corn on the cob - you all know how to do this. Heat water in pan until boiling. Add corn. Cook about 8 minutes or so. Drain and let cool a bit before eating - with lots of butter and salt if that's your thing.

Green Beans with Shallots: This is the only one that's actually a recipe, but really, you're just blanching the beans and then sauteeing them in butter and oil with some shallots. Yum.


Green Beans with Shallots

1 1/2 cup water
1 lb thin green beans with tips snapped off (preferably from a Farmer's Market)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp peanut oil (you could use olive if that's what you've got. I just recently got some roasted peanut oil and it's so so good)
2 shallots (2 tbsp's worth)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper


Heat water in a large saucepan until boiling. Add beans and cover, cook for 4 to 6 minutes or so. Drain what water is left and set aside.

Just before you're ready to eat, heat the butter and oil in a large skillet on medium-high. Add the shallots and saute for about 20 seconds. Then add the beans. Stir everything around so the beans get nice and coated with the oil, add the salt and pepper, and saute for about 2 minutes until heated through. Put in bowl and serve.

-Jacques Pepin's Table: The Complete Today's Gourmet
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