Friday, May 27, 2011

Coconut-Cashew Brown Basmati Rice

I love Basmati rice! As it cooks, a nutty, mouth-watering fragrance fills the air. The flavor is sweetly complex and I think it is awesome served up plain without any extras to dress it up. However, this recipe dresses basmati up particularly nice for a special event. I have been working on this recipe for a few years but I think this is it!
While I cooked this as a side dish  when I made it for our friends to check out the chicken curry recipe, it also works well as a meat-free main dish.

    The recipe works well using brown basmati however you could substitute white.  Why should you use brown rice? Well, brown rice is a whole grain, much less processed than white. In brown rice, the whole kernel left intact and is still surrounded by all layers of bran. White rice is milled which removes the bran, germ, and most of the aleurone layers. These contain the fiber, B vitamins and most of the fat content which are the source of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin E as well as many other nutrients. Brown rice has a bit more protein and iron, too. On the down side, brown rice does take about twice as long to cook and the fat content can reduce shelf life. (Most of this information is from Whole Foods website.)

I have included two ways to cook this. Many of you have a rice cooker and would like to use it. Others want to use a pan and saute' the rice for extra flavor so I have included instructions for using a pan also.

Coconut-Cashew Brown Basmati Rice
2 tsp. canola or veggie oil
½-3/4  cup cashews (raw is great but I have used lightly salted canned)
1-2 more TBSPN oil
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 -1 ½ TBSPN ginger paste or freshly grated ginger
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked dried coconut or fresh coconut
2 cups brown basmati rice, rinsed
1 tsp salt
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups water
1/3  cup sliced green onions
1/3  cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 or so TBSPN toasted sesame seeds

Pan method: In a large wide pan with a tight fitting lid, heat the 2 tsp oil. Add cashews and toast them up till golden. Remove to plate.  
Add another TBSPN oil and sauté garlic and ginger for a minute or so. Add unsweetened coconut and brown rice. Sauté for another 2 minutes then lower heat and add 2 cups hot water, coconut milk and salt.  Cover with lid and cook on low for 50 minutes.
Once rice is tender yet al dente, add cashews and mix. Fold in sweetened shredded coconut, cilantro and green onions. Put in serving dish or on plate and top with toasted sesame.

Rice cooker method: Put brown rice coconut milk, water, 2 tsp oil and salt into rice cooker and set for brown rice.
 Once the rice is cooked, which takes about 50 minutes, heat a large pan, add a TBSPN or so of oil. First toast cashews for a couple minutes until golden and crispy. Add unsweetened coconut and then garlic and ginger, cook for 1 minute. Add cooked rice. Gently stir until well mixed. Fold in sweetened shredded coconut, cilantro and green onions . Put in serving dish or on plate and top with toasted sesame.

Copyright by Denise Birdsall. 2011 All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chicken Curry in Yogurt sauce

I want to share with you one of the recipes I have adapted from the delicious Indian dinner we had to celebrate Litto’s graduation. Two of Litto’s friends from school came to visit and see the graduation and they did most of the cooking for the dinner. I watched her wonderful and talented friend Nahid prepare Chicken Curry and it was truly the best Indian Chicken Curry I have ever enjoyed!

However, I am a little nervous in posting this. One reason is that my pictures do not do it justice. I think I understand why baked goods and desserts are posted much more often in the food blogosphere. They look so much better in photos than saucy, soupy dishes!  The other thing that makes me nervous is that I am not very knowledgeable about Indian food. I wanted to adapt this recipe to what most American households can find at their local grocery store and to try some different things. I have changed it just a bit from Nahid’s version. However, I worry that it is either not authentic enough or confusing. Please let me know if you try this or have any issues with the recipe.  

This recipe may seem complicated but really is easy to cook and I think it is very delicious. The texture of the sauce and the tenderness of the chicken are what makes it stand out among curries. The tastes is simply wonderful. The photos…well, ya can’t have everything. Make it, it looks much prettier in person!

Thank you Nahid !!!

Chicken Curry in Yogurt Sauce

Adapted by Denise Birdsall from recipe by Nahid Ahmed

 1- ½  large onions, halved & thinly sliced
6-8 chicken thighs, bone in* (or boneless or you may use 4-6 chicken breasts)

2 -3 cups plain yogurt  (Low fat calories is fine but whole is really good in this )

2 tsp crushed garlic paste

2 tsp crushed ginger paste

2-3 potatoes, quartered lengthwise and cut in 1/2inch chunks

Spice**:  2 large bay leaves   2 tsp cumin, 1 ½  -2 tsp coriander, ¾ tsp turmeric, ¾ tsp ground red pepper, 1 ½  tsp garam masala powder,  ¼ tsp cinnamon(optional),  ¼ tsp ground cardamom,  1/8   tsp cloves ( Optional) [ OR you may use whole spices, see note below**]
Salt and pepper to taste,
2 tsp brown sugar, optional
Canola or vegetable oil

About 5-7  black prunes or 1/4 cup golden raisins  and/or 3 tbsp plain apple sauce to bring sweetness, complexity and reduce heat  of spice, optional

Chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

* Nahid made this with bone-in Chicken thighs and they were great. You could also make this with chicken breasts but may need to adjust cooking time. I want to try it with boneless chicken thighs and see if it works as well.

1   Begin by heating enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the large pan (such as a big dutch oven). Put in sliced about ½ of the slice onions in the pan and fry on medium heat, stirring frequently for even cooking until golden brown and crispy.
Mmm, curry goodness. This is enough spice for a double batch

2   While the onions cook, place yogurt in a very large a mixing bowl. Okay, here is Nahid’s short cut. Rather than cook the spices she added them right to the yogurt. Since you do cook the yogurt they do have time to meld and it turned out awesome. Add ground spices, salt and pepper, garlic and ginger paste directly into the yogurt and mix well . Remember you may adjust the spices to fit your palate. Add a little less if you are not sure and check it now but also check again after it is almost ready. You can add more spice later but now is the best time. If you get too much spice, you can try to cool it of by removing a little sauce and add in more plain yogurt and a bit of sugar.

(Note: If you prefer, you could add the spice, garlic and ginger to the pan of onions and sauté for about  4-5 minutes then then add them along  with the onions to the yogurt.)

3      When onions are done, remove with a slotted spoon to the bowl of yogurt,  leaving the oil in the pot for the chicken. Mix together yogurt, spices and onions.

4      Heat pan again and add extra oil if needed. When the oil is hot add the chicken, cooking in batches if necessary so that it has plenty of room between pieces. This helps it brown better. Add the bay leaf (see note on using whole spices, if you are using them, add them now.) Cook on medium until chicken is lightly golden brown on both sides , don't fry them too long, a few minutes per side should be sufficient.

5         If there is a lot of oil, remove and disgard a spoon or two. Add the yoghurt mixture and stir thoroughly to evenly coat the chicken. Put the chicken on low, cover and let cook.  It should take between 20 and 28 minutes for this step

6              While the chicken is cooking, brown  the potatoes and the other half of the onions . Heat some oil in a separate frying pan. When it is hot, add the potato pieces and sliced onion. Put on medium-low to medium heat, and fry until all the potatoes are evenly golden brown then lower heat till they are tender but not too soft or mushy. (take your time with this- don’t let the potatoes cook too quickly). They should not break up easily. This can take about 15 minutes or more. They will finish cooking with the chicken.

7          Make sure to stir the chicken occasionally to ensure even cooking .  Once the potatoes are done,set aside for a little later.

8            After the chicken has cooked about 10 minutes ( 5 if boneless) you may add prunes or apple sauce if you are using it. These can help add flavor and tone down heat of the spices without lessening flavor.

9          At 20-25 minutes (10 minutes for boneless) begin to  check if chicken is ready for next step. Chicken will be tender and if you cut into a piece, it should not be pink inside.

10          Okay, this is an optional step I added. When chicken is  almost done, remove all the chicken to a bowl or the pan with potatoes. Remove bay leaves and discard. Let the sauce cool a little. Using a hand held emulsion blender (or a food processor in small batches),  blend yogurt sauce until smooth. Return sauce to pan.
11           Add chicken back in pan along with potatoes and reduce heat to med-low. Heat everything for about 20-30 or so  minutes more, until chicken is thoroughly cooked, easy to take off bone and soft enough to break apart with the wooden spoon. Potatoes should be very soft. This step may take longer.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice. This recipe may be doubled but you may need two pots for all of the chicken.

****Note on whole spices--- You may use whole spices for authenticity although I don’t use them because we don’t usually have them and we prefer to use ground versions, but Nahid used them and it was awesome so your call. If you use whole spices, skip the garam masala powder, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves in recipe above.   

Whole spice version- 2 large bay leaves   1 ½  -2 tsp cumin, 1 ½  -2 tsp coriander, ¾ tsp turmeric, ¾ tsp ground red pepper, 2 cinnamon sticks broken up, 3-5 cardamom, 2 star anise, 4-5 black cloves, 4-5 black peppercorns (everything after cardamom is optional)
Add the whole spices when you are browning the chicken. One other note, if you use whole spices, do not puree the sauce is with a emulsifier or food processor, just skip that step.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spicy Asian Peanut Dip


Here is a great dip that is a happy surprise of flavor. Made with peanut butter and flavored with a blend of spicy goodness that has an Asian flair. This dip is awesome as a starter but try to make enough for leftovers. Heat it up and add a bit more water to the left over dip and you will have a great sauce for pasta. Or add extra vinegar and a bit of oil for a tasty salad dressing. The only problem is that it is difficult to make enough to have leftovers!

Spicy Asian Peanut Dip by Denise

¾  cup smooth natural peanut butter

1-2 TBSP brown sugar

1 TBSP honey

1 – 1 ½ TBSP soy sauce  

 1 TBSP rice vinegar

1 TBSP lime juice

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

Pinch of Cayenne pepper 

1 tbsp. or more freshly grated ginger or ginger paste from a jar

1-2 cloves garlic, pressed or 2 tsp. minced garlic from a jar

Garnish with 1-2 chopped green onions or toasted sesame seeds or chopped peanuts

Mix together and taste to adjust everything. I think it is best to refrigerate for a few hours. Make sure to take it out of the fridge 30 minutes or more before serving to bring it to room temperature Top with green onions or toasted sesame seeds.

Serve vegetables for dipping . You could make it a bit thinner with extra water, soy sauce, vinegar and serve with grilled chicken skewers.

 Left over dip is great as a pasta sause with pasta, veggies, and chicken. Just add a bit more water and soy sauce.  Also makes a great salad dressing if you add extra vinegar and oil.

Baked Cheesy Artichoke Dip

 I know I was in the middle of telling you about all the great Indian food but I have had a few requests for some of the appetizers served at another party this weekend. So here is one of my favorite party starters. People seem to really like the little additions in this recipe, including adding marinated artichoke hearts for flavor, cream cheese for creamy texture, and the bit of heat from garlic and spicy chili pepper.

Baked Cheesy Artichoke Dip by Denise

1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts(quartered), drained and chopped

½ to 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, regular or spicy, drained and coarsely chopped

¾ cup Real or Light Mayonnaise

2-4 oz light cream cheese, optional, for added creaminess

½-¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus ¼ cup for top (I prefer Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend, plus ¼ cup for top

1-2 clove garlic, finely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder ½ tsp onion powder

Dash or two of cayenne chili or hot sauce or red chili flakes

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a large bowl, combine artichokes, mayo,  1/2 c parmesan, 1/2 c mozzarella, seasoning. Place a 1 ½-2 quart casserole.Top with rest of cheese. Bake uncovered 25 minutes or until heated through and golden brown on top.If it gets hot before it browns you may briefly broil it if you want. The golden brown top is very desirable! 

Serve, if desired, with sliced French bread, crackers, vegetables or tortilla chips.

May add :

Spinach artichoke dip 8 oz- 10 of thawed spinach rinsed under hot water and squeeze dry. Add it in with artichokes.

Green chili artichoke dip – 1 can mild green chilies, drained and ½ tsp cumin. I like to use sharp cheddar in place of the Italian cheese blend for this version.

Lower-fat version- use low-fat mayo, cheese and cream cheese and cut down on the cheese by a third or so.

You may add other herbs, such as an Italian blend.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Red Lentil Dahl with Sweet Potato

This last week, we celebrated the graduation of a very dear friend who is now a Doctor of Veterinary medicine. She is from India so one of the parties was an Indian dinner. I had the privilege of cooking with a couple of her friends from elementary and high school in India.

The food was fabulous and I will post a couple of recipes starting with one that may not be quite traditional. This is my favorite Dahl recipe that I pieced together after much research, trial and error. Dahl is a thick stew or soup like dish made with lentils or split peas. This recipe is made with Red lentils which, besides being a beautiful salmon color, are a good, though incomplete, source of protein. They are also high in fiber and some B vitamins.

It may look like it has a lot of ingredients but many of them are optional. Even the list of spices can be streamlined by using a ready-made curry powder, if you prefer.  Make this as complicated or as easy as you like.

I serve this a bit on the brothy side on a bed of basmati rice and topped with a dollop of thick greek yogurt.

Red Lentil Dahl with Sweet Potato

2 tbsp vegetable/ olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped ( red onion is a good choice but any will do)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut in small chunks
1 – 1 ½ TBSP ginger paste, or minced fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, chopped or 2 tsp garlic paste
Spices*: 1 1/2 tsp. coriander
2 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp. ginger
½ tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp powdered chili pepper or red pepper flakes ( may use less)

You may add additional, optional spices- ½-1 tsp pumpkin pie spice and/or cinnamon or a tsp. curry powder (preferably red)
Salt and pepper to taste,
2 tsp brown sugar, optional
About 3 -4 cups of vegetable broth, depending on how “soupy” you want this. You may use some water in place of broth
One can ( about 14 oz) coconut milk, optional ( If you don’t use it add an extra cup or so of water or broth
2 TBSP tomato paste, very optional
1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce, optional
½ tsp or so Srirachi Asian hot sauce if you want to make it extra spicy
1 ½ cups red lentils
* You may substitute curry powder for the individual spices.

Sort and wash the lentils in cold water and strain until the water is clear so the lentils won’t be "scummy".
Add oil to a large saucepan over medium or med-low heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens for about 5 minutes. Raise heat to medium and cook 2 more minutes then add ginger, garlic, curry spices and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add sweet potato and continue cooking for a few more minutes.

Reduce heat, pour in broth (water), and stir in the lentils and tomato paste, if using. Taste broth and add curry paste or extra spice if needed. If it needs more heat, add a bit of cumin or red pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the lentils break down and the sweet potatoes are tender, 20-30 minutes. Check spice level again and season with salt and pepper.
Serve on basmati rice with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Picnics, parties, anniversaries and graduations

I just wanted to squeeze in a short post to say life has been a bit crazy with my daughter's  art show, mother's day, anniversary, and much graduation fun this week. I will post some from food from our festivities. But for now, let me share a couple pictures from our picnic ( food not shown :-) I will tell you that I made some delicious sandwiches. I had some fresh mozzarella so I made tomato and cheese on crusty rolls--mmmm!

Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwiches

I sliced fresh mozzarella and ripe tomato and stacked them with baby spinach leaves on the roll. Drizzled with a robust olive oil, slivered basil, a few drops of balsamic vinegar and generously sprinkled with salt and pepper.

I wrapped them tight for the short trip up the mountain and spent a lovely afternoon walking and picnicking in Rocky Mountain National Park. It is really wonderful to have a national park about 50 minutes away!  There was still some snow on the ground here and there but the day was quite warm, in the 70's, and it was bright and sunny. The smell of pine trees and fresh air permeated everything and made us quite hungry for our mother's day picnic. Wonderful! I think food tastes better out here.

Spraugue Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

Art show

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Green Chili Stew- with Pork or Vegetarian

Happy Spring!

I thought I would share a recipe that I taught to cooking class here last night. Green chili peppers are popular here in Colorado and especially irresistible when you walk by the chili roaster at the farmers market.   
Here is my own take on Green chili stew. I don't know if this recipe is authentic or not but most green chili recipes seem to have pork in them. I added in potatoes for the vegetarian version and liked it so well I added them to the meat version too.
Just a note on nutrition. Green chili peppers are high in vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A. Capsaicin  has anticoagulant properties which may help lessen chance of heart attacks. Lots of good antioxidants in green chilies.
Okay, here is my version of a Colorado classic. By the way, at cooking class, i thought I would tone it down by skipping the jalapeno and it was bland. I ended up adding jalapeno back in half way through. It may be easiest to use a portion of canned jalapeno if you are worried about cutting it up.

Green Chili

All amounts are approximate, it is fine to vary this recipe.

7-9   large mild green chilies, more is better *

Oil, vegetable or canola,( or you could cook a few slices of bacon to throw in and cook in some of the rendered bacon fat)

2 lb. pork for chili, more or less ( trimmed and cut up loin or shoulder would be fine) [ You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs or skip meat for vegetarians but pork tastes great!)

1-1 ½  onions, diced

1-2  jalapeno, de-seeded and finely minced in food processor or by hand OR use a couple TBSPN canned

3 garlic cloves, crushed

3-4 cups of broth or 1 can chicken broth  plus 1-2 cups water

5-6 medium red potatoes or 3 or 4 large russets, peeled and chopped

Cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon pepper, kosher salt, black pepper – some to sprinkle meat before cooking and then starting with  about ½ tsp.each – add to taste.Maybe a pinch of red pepper.

Optional-1 can diced tomato or a couple fresh, seeded (visually nice to keep this white and green but tomato tastes good-your call)

A TBSPN or two of lime juice

1 bell pepper diced

1 can white kidney beans or Pinto beans ( may use one can of each)

Corn tortillas

* This can be made partially with canned green chilies if fresh chilies are not cheap. I usually use a couple small cans  along with 5 or so chilies except during summer months when there is an abundance of fresh Anaheim, poblano/ Pasilla or New Mexico chilies.  These are in order of hotness. I like to mix Anaheim and poblano.

Anaheim are mildest, great for dicing, pureeing and perfect addition to most Mexican dishes. Skin can be  tough and so it is best to roast and then peel skin. 

Poblano or Pasilla is my favorite, especially for chili rellenos . Thinner skin and both hotter and sweeter than Anaheim but they often cost more. Dried it is called Ancho.  While it is great to  roast and peel these, it can be difficult sometimes, I am not sure why. If you have difficulty or if you want, puree these without peeling and see what you think. I think skin is even thinner in summer.
New Mexican chilies are a lot like Anaheim with a deeper, hotter flavor. These are not as hot as jalapeños but can be a bit intense for some palettes. They are best roasted and peeled. They have an awesome flavor.
Jalapeños are not mild but not too hot if you remove the seeds and white ribs inside. I use gloves to do this and am careful not to touch my eyes or breathe too deeply. Once cooked it is much less caustic. I really like the idea of canned jalpenos! Just use a Tablespoon or two and freeze the rest for next time.

First roast the mild chilies. To roast, Clean chilies, but don’t dry. You could remove top at this time or later.  Place on foil on a pan and spray or brush with oil. A note on spraying  with oil- never use commercial spray for this! I bought a Misto oil sprayer and I love it. You can just put olive oil in it and pump it up and spray. Brushing with oil is fine too but a Misto may be good if you use things like Pam now for stuff.

Broil on high, watching carefully till skin is blistered and black. With tongs, turn chili during broiling.  
Remove and roll chilies up in foil for at least 15 minutes. Unroll and let cool. Remove top, seeds and skin. Mince chilies or better yet, place in food processor and purée. ( I throw in the garlic, too) I don’t roast jalapeños. This can be done ahead of time and even be stored in freezer for whenever you need some.

If I have my food processor out, before I purée the chilies, I use it chop the jalapeno as finely as I can. Add a little lime juice to help with the process. Then I add the chilies and continue to purée both together.

 Heat a bit of oil or 4-5 slices of bacon in large pan, heavy dutch oven is best. Pan should have generous width. You can do this while chilies cook. If using bacon, cook till crispy and remove from pan (re add when you add cooked meat back to pan later) but leave the rendered bacon fat and just add some  olive oil if needed.
Sprinkle spices and plenty of salt over pork( or chicken) and brown pork pieces over med heat , being careful not to crowd pan or turn them too soon. You can do this in batches. Let them sit and brown and check one after a couple minutes. If it releases and is brown turn them over. Remove to plate as they are brown on all sides.

Once all meat is browned and removed from the pan, add onion and sauté over low heat for 5 minutes. Add pureed chilies and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Add potatoes and about a ½ tsp of all the spices and maybe 1 tsp salt. After a minute, add broth, water, lime juice, tomato if using and bring to low simmer over low heat and add pork back in but hold off for 15 minutes if you are using chicken.
After 15minutes check spice level. If it is not spiced to your liking, add more a little bit at a time, but be go slow, it can sneak up on you. This dish can be pretty spicy depending on the heat of the chilies so make sure before adding more. Then add minced bell peppers and chicken if using. Add more water or broth if desired. I like a soupier consistency so I add another ½ -1 cup.
For richer texture, dice a few corn tortillas and throw them in with the bell peppers. This will help thicken consistency and give a nice flavor.
Continue low-med simmer for about 20-30 more minutes. Check meat, potatoes and overall consistency. 
Quick fry some corn tortillas in veggie oil to serve. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot. Or may serve with corn bread.  Can top with cilantro and sour cream.
To make this vegetarian, skip the meat :-)   (really?) and use the tomato and two cans of beans, one pinto and one white kidney. I would also add the 2nd Jalapeno for extra punch. Use veggie broth instead of chicken.

  Recipe byDenise Birdsall All rights reserved. October 2010