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Archive for August, 2008

We have all been there…you have a main dish you have worked hard on and then, oh!, you realize you need a side to go along with it, something healthy and delightful to the senses. My good ‘ole sister-in-law Maggie clued me in on one of the best accompaniments out there, and one of the easiest!

 

Buy a big head of broccoli, chop off all the little crowns, place them in a shallow dish, lightly salt and pepper them. Put a little water in the bottom of the dish, maybe 1/4 inch. Squeeze an entire lemon over the top of the broccoli. Wrap parchment paper around your dish to provide a little steaming insulation. Steam in the microwave for two minutes — it probably won’t be done, but see if it is al dente and, if not, microwave in 30-second intervals until it’s just perfect.

 

This dish complements almost anything — everyone will love it!

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With fake naan bread, basmati rice, butter beans and okra side

With fake naan bread, basmati rice, butter beans and okra side

It doesn’t take much to know that Devin and I like almost every kind of cuisine out there, and it’s certainly not a surprise for us to be craving food more exotic than Italian or Chinese. It can be so fun to go out on a limb and try something very different from your usual diet! One of our favorites is Indian cuisine….and I would love to go into more geographic detail here, as I know there is much difference between North Indian, South Indian and other Asian cuisines, but I am afraid I do not know enough on the subject to speak intelligently, so I will just say Devin and I both love light and spicy Eastern recipes that include lots of cilantro and fresh ginger, which you can see in many Indian and Thai recipes.

One of our all-time favorite standbys that we have made time and time again is Chicken Jalfrezi. This dish is basically browned chicken in a chunky tomato sauce rife with curry, cilantro, fresh ginger, onion and garlic. Oh, all of my favorite things!  Let me tell you what, this dish is a crowd-PLEASER, and it would do you well to hurry out and plan a dinner party around it right this moment. Without further ado, let me dive into the recipe:

 

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, grated (when it gets small enough that it is difficult to grate, toss it — you’ve worked hard enough!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped (I usually throw 1 or 2 extra in for good measure!)
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut in half (you can also use chicken breasts; Devin and I disagree here, I like the chicken breasts but he prefers the darker-meat thighs)
  • 9 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, grated
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
First, heat the oil and add the garlic and onion and cook until the onion is clear and the garlic is fragrant.
Add the chicken, curry powder, chili powder and salt and cook until the chicken is browned on both sides. 
Add the tomatoes, cover and simmer over medium for 20 minutes or so.
Uncover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Add the ginger and cilantro and simmer another 5 minutes. Serve over BASMATI RICE — this dish must never be served with anything but basmati!
Which brings me to the sides. If you have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s around you, you must purchase some naan bread for this dish — delicious buttery flat bread that complements the Chicken Jalfrezi wonderfully. The reason I labeled the picture “fake naan bread” is because I could not find it the day I made this batch, and a reasonable substitute that Devin discovered is a Boboli pizza crust brushed with butter and chopped garlic and baked until golden brown. Delicious. Another side we included was a Crispy Okra Salad from Epicurious, but we didn’t have the fancy Indian spice it called for, so it’s basically fresh okra fried in oil, salt and pepper, with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, chopped red onion, diced tomatoes and chopped cilantro. So fresh and tasty! Finally, my brother John was in the mood for butter beans after seeing them for sale at a Charleston roadside market we stopped at, so we bought them, simmered them for a looooong time, and served them right up. And you know what? That Southern delight worked just perfectly with our otherwise-international cuisine. Another to-die-for meal!

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It’s still summer and certainly no time to be roasting a turkey — that’s why my dad and I decided to smoke one outside last weekend. If you’ve never had smoked turkey breast (not the deli meat kind – but smoked on the bone), you’re missing out. It is an intensely flavorful and moist preparation and yeilds a tasty and crispy skin.

It would have been the perfect meal – if only we had fully defrosted the turkey first!  We knew that smoking is a long, slow low-heat cooking process, but it became unbearably so given that the inside parts of the turkey were still iced over.  After many hours, we had to finish the bird in the convection oven and even still had to cut it into pieces to get it fully done.  Disappointing process, but the payoff was delicious.

And it yielded plenty of meat for leftovers and for freezing.  This week, I defrosted a couple chunks of smoked turkey meat and used it in a recipe for turkey potpie with cheddar biscuit crust courtesy of Gourmet. The smoked flavor re-defined this comfort dish. And I made enough to enjoy all week!

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I highly recommend this menu for a Saturday or Sunday evening family dinner at home. We enjoyed the meal last night, outside on the patio, with clear skies, cool temps, and low humidity.  Might as well have been in the south of France on an autumn night!  Perfect atmosphere for a meal of garden-fresh, seasonal herbs and vegetables and a grilled, savory meat.

The Menu: caprese platter with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, proscuitto and yellow pepper; fresh gnocchi with pesto; charcoal-grilled sirloin steak with green sauce; steamed French-style string beans; fresh crusty bread; & red wine.

Caprese Platter

Caprese platter

Fresh potato gnocci with pesto

Fresh potato gnocchi with pesto

The green sauce, courtesy of Saveur Magazine, provided an intense and savory flavor to the grilled sirloin. It consisted of fresh parsley, anchovy, fresh garlic, capers, red wine vinegar and olive oil.

Grilled sirloin with green sauce

Grilled sirloin with green sauce

I prepared the “sauce” as written, and it was incredibly salty.  I recommend at least halving the number of anchovies and halving the amount of oil.

Fresh parsley, garlic, anchovy and capers

Fresh parsley, garlic, anchovy and capers

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Among the memories I have of summertime visits to grandma’s house are the mounds of fresh-picked vegetables that would be piled on her kitchen counter. My mom, brother and I never left grandma’s house without a brown paper bag filled with an assortment of her goodies: Cucumbers, squash, green beans, rhubarb, carrots, tomatoes… If we were lucky, we also got a jar of her homemade pickled beets, tub of homemade apple sauce, or a container of refrigerator pickles.

I love dill pickles, and one of my favorite summer traditions is enjoying fresh, cold slices of cucumber that have been marinating in onion, sugar, salt, vinegar and garlic — in the fridge. These “refrigerator pickles” make a great accompaniment to any summer meal.

Last weekend, I got a tip from Diane on one quick way to “pickle” those cucumbers picked in the garden. She writes:

“To be honest, we were almost out of pickles, but we had cucumbers that I just picked from the garden. So, I sliced our fresh cucumbers and put them in the Vlasic jar that had the last pickles in it- the cukes soaked up some of that juice. I happen to like Vlasic flavoring, I think it has a perfect balance of tart, garlic and spice. I thought it would be good in a pinch, and actually, they came out tasting better than I hoped!”

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