Sunday, April 27, 2008

Curry that Cures

I have always loved eating Indian food, and it is only the past couple of years that I have tried my hand at making it. Indian food, at the base, is not that separated from Arab food - there is a strong reliance on lots of onions and garlic; vegetables are often the centerpiece; and the food often cooks for long periods of time to get that perfect flavor - the only difference is in spicing and style.

This curry has been in the making for a while now - I have made it several times, with only a few minor variations the other times. The only reason why I did not post this recipe earlier was because I kept forgetting to measure how much of each spice I used. Now you can thank me when you are lying around in a state of delirious happiness that can only appropriately be called, "food coma."

3 tbs butter
3 tbs light olive oil
2 medium sized onions (any kind)
4 garlic cloves
4 tbs "curry" mixture (recipe follows)
2-3 bay leaves
7 chicken drumsticks
1 lb frozen peas
1 jalapeño (or any pepper)
3 cups water
1 cup milk (any kind, I used 1%)
Sea Salt
Fresh ground Black pepper
2 tsp PATAK Hot Curry Paste, Tomato and Cumin flavor (optional)

Utensils: large/extra-large saucepan; wooden spoon; cutting board; chef's knife; measuring cups and spoons

Prep work:
1) Chop the onions and set aside. 2) Crush the garlic with the side of your knife, pull off its skin, then mince. 3) Slice jalapeños in half, lengthwise, and slice into half-moons. If you do not want the curry to be too spicy, remove the seeds and the ribs with your knife. Remember to not touch your eyes with your hands after handling peppers! 4) Remove the skin from the chicken drumsticks and set aside.

Cooking instructions:
Heat the pan over medium high heat for a couple of minutes. When it gets hot, add the oil and butter; once the butter fully melts and starts to crackle, toss in the onions. Stir occasionally for a few minutes, adding one or two pinches of salt. Stir in the garlic, and after one minutes, add your spice mixture, bay leaves, optional Patak paste, and black pepper to the pan.* If the spice mixture seems to be sticking to the pan too much, add enough water (from the 3 cups) to coat the bottom. Allow this to come to a simmer, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Then, add the rest of the water to the pan, and let it come to a simmer. Gently drop in the chicken, one by one so you don't splash yourself with hot water. Turn the chicken every 5 minutes or so, and during this time add in the milk. Leave this over medium heat for about 30 minutes to reduce and thicken. Add in your frozen peas, stir, and let cook until the curry reduces further, about 20 minutes. The curry is done once it has reduced by about half and has a thick sauce.

Serve with freshly made basmati rice and/or naan bread.

*If you add the jalapeños now, the spiciness will only increase during the cooking time. If you add them later, the curry will be less spicy.

Recipe for Curry Spice Mixture:
3 tbs Cumin
2 tbs chili powder
1 tbs coriander
1 tbs turmeric
1 tbs oregano
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Add all spices, mix thoroughly to combine. Makes about 6 tbs.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mixed fruit Mojito

So I'm apparently on a blogging binge today (not quite Georgetown-girl style, but almost). Last night, when hanging out with one of my dearest and best friends, we decided to make mojitos, but not having mint or limes, we decided to go the fruit way. I think you could use any fruit you want, but I like this mixture in particular. My recipe is for 3 people, but you could obviously change it to serve as many or as few people as you like.

2 Kiwis
1 pint blueberries
1 large handful grapes (red and green)
Pinch of sugar
About 3 shots of good, aged rum (Bacardi is what I used)
crushed ice
ginger ale

Large plastic cup; ladle that fits inside said cup; knife; shot glass; 3 glasses to serve in

Prep Work:
1) Peel the kiwi and cut into large chunks. 2) Rinse the grapes in cold water and slice the grapes in half, lengthwise. 3) Rinse the blueberries, set aside

Mixing Instructions:
Gather your fruits, with the pinch of sugar, putting them in the large plastic cup; then take the ladle and mash the fruits. You should stop mashing when about 2/3 of the fruit look pulverized but there is still about 1/3 in chunks. Fill three glasses halfway with crushed ice, then ladle some of the fruit mixture into each one. Add one full shot of the rum to each glass, then top off with ginger ale. A nice spring drink to enjoy with a couple of friends...

Za'atar Manoushi: food of the gods

Za'atar (زعتر) is a wild thyme mixture (blended with some other herbs) from the Middle East - the people who use it the most are the Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, and Jordanians. It comes in many different styles and flavors - meaning every person who makes their own blend customizes it to their preferences, making it more sour, more grassy/green, etc by adding more of the other herbs to the mixture (like oregano, mint, sumac...). Za'atar also has sesame seeds mixed in with it. Ultimately what you do is either mix it with some olive oil to create a liquidy paste, smearing it on a soft, chewy piece of pita bread, or sprinkling some on top of other foods. It's one of the foods that I absolutely cannot live without, and you will never go to the house of an Arab family and not find several jars of it - if you don't find it, clearly they are infidel Arabs and you should leave their house ASAP.

1-3 tbs of za'atar, any kind (you will find different varieties at Middle Eastern stores, bagged according to where it comes from)
1-2 tbs olive oil
1 Package Trader Joe's plain pizza dough
Extra olive oil for the baking sheet

baking sheet; 1 small bowl and spoon

Prep Work:
1) Preheat your oven to 425 or whatever it says on the package. 2) Leave the dough out for at least 20 minutes or so to warm up. 3) Put a few drops of olive oil on your baking sheet and rub it around with your fingers, covering the entire sheet.

Cooking Instructions:
Take the pizza dough and gently stretch it with your hands until it is about the size of the baking sheet. Lay it on the oiled sheet; mix the za'atar with the olive oil (زعتر و زيت) until it forms a paste, albeit a rather liquidy one. If the dough has disobeyed you and shrunk to its original size, teach it a lesson by stretching it out again. Try to stick the edges of the pizza to the edge of the pan so that it stays put. Spread the paste across the dough so it covers its entirety. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the dough has turned slightly golden on the edges. If you prefer a crispier crust, bake it for longer; for a softer crust, bake for less time.

***If you do not have access to pizza dough, you can also spread the za'atar on a piece of pita and toast it in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until it's golden. This method makes it more chip-like, and is the perfect way to dip into labni (or other dips).

You have many options in which you can eat your manoushi: spread or dip it in some labni (yogurt, drained of its water, that is roughly the consistency of cream cheese); slice up cucumbers and tomatoes and make it into a sandwich; add some other types of cheese and roll into a sandwich; the list goes on. Za'atar's versatility, along with its inherent delicious properties, is what makes it one of the best foods in the world.

Chicken salad with edamame

So the other day, we had some leftover grilled chicken drumsticks sitting around. Now normally no one wants to eat slightly old grilled chicken that is a little dry and bland...but then I realized that it is the perfect item to turn into chicken salad! And since I'm not the biggest fan of mayo, I decided to change things up a bit. Here is my healthy-ish and damn delicious version of chicken salad.

3-4 chicken drumsticks, grilled (cooked in any way, or any piece of chicken that is about 1 cup of chicken pieces)
2 tbs yogurt
1 tbs fresh squeezed lemon
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 cup edamame (shelled)
Sea salt
Black pepper

bowl; spoons; sharp knife

Prep work:

Cooking Instructions:
Take any skin off the chicken and discard; pull off the chicken meat and put it into a bowl. Once you have done that with all the chicken, add the yogurt, stir, and add the lemon juice to it. Once they have been mixed, add the curry powder, cumin, and a pinch of salt and some black pepper to the bowl. Once everything has been mixed together, add the edamame to the bowl, mix to incorporate, and it's ready to serve. Tastes great in a pocket pita, or for something really fresh and crunchy, spoon the salad into a large lettuce leaf (iceberg, romaine), or for some extra color, red cabbage.