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Chicken Saagwalla

This is a new, go-to spicy chicken dish that I can throw together on a work night and serve with rice. I’ll give you the whole recipe, which makes 4 servings, but I usually only make a half recipe, since there’s only two of us, and I multiple the number of tomatoes so that I am using 2 or 3 tomatoes in a HALF recipe. Because I take the seeds out of my tomatoes and I prefer Roma or plum tomatoes to any other kind, 1 tomato yields much less for me in quantity.

Chicken Saagwalla
whole recipe serves 4

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 tsp. curry powder, mild
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. ginger root, fresh, finely chopped*
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped**
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed in to bite-size pieces
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped in to 1/2″ pieces
10 oz baby spinach leaves
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. water
2 Tbsp cilantro, optional***

*I use ground ginger from a jar, particularly the Lee Kum Kee brand.
**I use minced garlic in a jar, whichever brand I happen to have on hand. Notice a pattern?
***But cilantro tastes like soap. Why would I put it on my food?

Place half the olive oil in large nonstick skillet with curry powder, coriander, cumin, ginger, and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until toasted and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. The spices and oil will create a thick sort of paste.

Add remaining oil and all the chicken to skillet. Stir thoroughly to coat with the spiced oil paste.

Add tomatoes to skillet. Cover skillet and cook for about 10 minutes. Uncover skillet and stir to combine.

Add spinach leaves to skillet. Cover and cook for 5 minutes more. I leave the lid ajar at this stage to let some of the liquids evaporate, or else I find the final dish to be too liquidy.

Add salt, water as necessary, and cilantro, if you are using it, to the skillet. Simmer for 1 minute. Yields about 1 1/2 heaping cups per serving, or you can visually divide it in to four portions.

I make the half recipe for two people, or:

1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. curry powder, mild
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. ginger root
1 clove garlic
1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed in to bite-size pieces
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped*
5-6 oz baby spinach leaves
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 c. water

*I found one tomato was not enough, so now I’m up to three tomatoes.

Cook as directed for the full recipe.

Serve with 1 cup of freshly cooked white rice.

Barbecued Turkey Joes

Turkey is such an underused meat. Most of us eat it, deliberately, only once a year — at Thanksgiving. Well, I avoid even that since turkey at Thanksgiving is so cliche. But this year I find myself planning more turkey main dishes and craving the taste of a well-spiced, nicely complemented turkey dish. This is an easy and tasty place to start Adventures with Turkey.

We all know sloppy joes, right? Well, this is Barbecued Turkey Joes, using barbecue sauce as a base instead of ketchup, since barbecue sauce comes with spices and flavorings already added. Just chop up your fresh veggies and you’re good to go.

Barbecued Turkey Joes
serves 4

1 lb. ground turkey breast
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 c. barbecue sauce, your choice

Brown turkey in a nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain off liquid.

Add peppers and onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.

Add barbecue sauce and cayenne pepper; heat thoroughly, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.

Serve on the bun of your choice, but a whole grain or multigrain bun is a great foil for the tangy, sweet barbecue turkey.

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com

Note from the challenge host: The most important thing is not to overcook your noodles, or you will end up with a gelatinous mass. Have a bowl of cold water and ice standing by, and once you have drained and rinsed your soba place it in the water. The great thing is once that’s done you can leave it in the fridge for up to a couple of hours and it will still be nice and fresh. Take your time and complete each step all of these items work well prepared beforehand, so don’t rush.

I made this soba dish twice this month, and both times forgot to go unpack the camera from vacation and take pictures! Rest assured that it was passably lovely and incredibly tasty. Usually by the time I remembered that I should take a photo, my bowl of soba was practically gone. Sad face.

Soba is a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour, as opposed to European-style pasta which is traditionally made with durum wheat flour, semolina, or egg. The brand of soba noodle I bought is conveniently packaged in paper-wrapped bundles, three bundles (or incredibly generous servings) to a bag. This style of soba, called hiyashi soba, is a cold soba noodle salad with toppings of the diner’s choice sprinkled in, and a thin sauce or broth to accompany it. The recipe from Lisa serves 4, but this can be easily adjusted to serve 1 or 2 or 20.

Hiyashi Soba
serves 4

Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.

Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stop the cooking process, but it also removes starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside, allowing them to cool completely.

Lisa also gave us two recipes for dipping sauces, a traditional one called mentsuyu and made with dashi, soy sauce, and mirin, and a spicy one. After surveying the ingredients in each, I chose the spicy dipping sauce, and I’m glad I did.

Spicy Dipping Sauce

3/4 c. green onions or scallions, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. English mustard powder*
1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil or vegetable oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste**

*I found powdered Colman’s in the spice section of my nearest large grocery store.
**Roughly 1/3 tsp. of each.

Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water. Season again if needed.

Common hiyashi soba toppings that Lisa suggests are:

thin omelet strips
ham
boiled chicken
cucumber
boiled bean sprouts
tomatoes
toasted nori (dried seaweed)
green onions
wasabi
grated daikon radish
pickled ginger

The first time we made this, I used just what I had on hand, which was some shaved deli ham and julienned cucumbers and some more chopped green onions. We decided that tofu would be a good topping as well, and also filling, which might let us reduce the amount of pasta per serving, since one serving-sized bundle of soba made for a huge serving! So the second time we made this, I prepared and cooked half of a brick of extra-firm tofu and split one bundle of soba in to two servings (one bundle makes about one cup and three-quarters, cooked). I also bought some bean sprouts, which I love, but then I forgot to add them to my dishes! (It’s been a very forgetful sort of month for me.) It’s nice to be able to use pretty much whatever you’ve got, as long as it’s germane to the flavors of the dish (I nixed the idea of using peppers) — fresh, not overwhelming, and well-balanced. I loved the way the shaved ham’s salty savoriness played off of the dipping sauce’s spicy saltiness, and the cucumbers are clean and crunchy, playing up texture while toning down the sauce a bit. The tofu experiment turned out well, but I need to perfect my skills for cooking with it!

Hiyashi soba definitely earns repeat appearances at the Eatery!

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

Following up on the success of the Leek Confit (Daring Cooks Challenge Part 1), I thought, Hey, this cassoulet won’t be too difficult. I did have the vague apprehensions in the back of my mind that haunt me every time I attempt making a soup, and that is that the soup will taste exactly like food floating in water, instead of tasting like soup. But I swept those aside by saying to myself:

“It’s a recipe from Gourmet, it has to taste good.”
“It’s a Daring Challenge; I don’t have to be stellar the first time around.”
“If we don’t like it I never have to make it again.”
“If we don’t like it, maybe we can find ways to improve the recipe the next time around.”

Armed with such positive thinking, I embarked one Saturday evening on An Adventure in Cassoulet. What is cassoulet, you ask? That’s a very good question. Cassoulet originated in the southern, Occitan region of France, and is easily described as a slow-cooked bean stew or casserole containing meat (pork sausages, goose, duck, or mutton) and white haricots beans, which are familiar to us in America as cannellini beans. Occitan cuisine itself is mostly Mediterranean and shares similarities with Catalan cuisine to the west and Italian cuisine to the east, and indeed this particular cassoulet recipe reminds me strikingly of the Tuscan bean soup ribollita, which also features cannellini beans. The name cassoulet itself comes from the dish the meal is made in, a deep, round earthenware dish called a cassole. Think of American casseroles from the 1950s and you’re along the same track. Same etymology and same basic idea.

Despite the recipe being easy to read and clear in its instructions, my worst soup fears came true: It tasted like not much more than vegetables floating in a bowl of water. Even the herbs and spices, which smelled so divine during the cooking, couldn’t do much to make this taste like something other than a bowl of tender veg in boiling water. I don’t know where I go wrong with soup, but I have noticed one thing: Using only water, NOT stock, is not the way to go. To keep this vegetarian, a vegetable stock may well have been used; but if we use this recipe again, and we might, we’ll use chicken stock and toss in some chicken or turkey meatballs. It makes it a sort of Occitan Wedding soup, but what’s wrong with that? Nothing, I say. A part of me thinks that half the point of these challenges is getting our creative cooking brains jump-started, thinking about possibilities and tweaks and hacks and improvements. Maybe if we get a rainy spring I’ll revisit this cassoulet and make some adjustments to the recipe.

Vegetarian Cassoulet
serves 4 to 6
originally appeared in Gourmet March ’08; online recipe here

FOR CASSOULET
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 (19-oz) cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 qt water

FOR GARLIC CRUMBS
4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, then wash well and pat dry. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.

Discard the herb sprigs and bay leaf from the cassoulet pot. Mash some of beans in the pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.

I put a dollop of leek confit on the top of the soup, since part of the challenge was incorporating our confit in to our cassoulet; but it didn’t do much to improve the dish.

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

I’m noticing a trend with the latest Daring Cooks challenges…soufflé…confit…cassoulet… Can we do something next month that pronounces ALL the letters? LOL! I’m definitely feeling the French cooking vibe going around in the Daring Kitchen lately. I never thought I’d be learning to do soufflés and confits and cassoulets, but really, I don’t think I knew what to expect. Just that I’d be challenged with “exotic” recipes. Some would turn out, some wouldn’t, and I’d probably learn something new. So far, so good.

Here’s the thing about cassoulet, though. I’d never heard of it before I read The Matchmaker of Périgord a while back, and let me tell you — it turned me off cassoulet forever. I didn’t even know what it was supposed to be, but in the book it’s a dish that’s been going for 40 or 50 years, and there’s a button in it, and GOD HELP YOU if you take the button out. And there’s a 40-year-old goose leg floating around in there somewhere. It’s incredibly unattractive. So my reaction to this challenge was “Ack! A cassoulet! Noo!” 😦 But the helpful, wonderful hosts, Jenni and Lisa, included vegetarian options, and I embraced this. Not just because it avoided the abundance of duck fat necessary for the carnivorous confit, but because it was leek-based, and you know how much I love that particular vegetable. And as a BONUS, the Leek Confit was Molly Wizenberg‘s recipe.

Leek Confit
Makes 2 cups/480 ml.
originally appeared in Bon Appétit Oct ’08; online recipe here.

Ingredients:
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into ¼ inch thick slices (about 5 cups) and rinsed, rinsed, rinsed, rinsed.
2 tbsp water
½ tsp salt

Directions:
1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium-low heat.

2. Add well-rinsed leeks, stir to coat. 3. Stir in water and salt.
4. Cover pot and reduce heat to low.
5. Cook leeks until tender, stirring often, about 25 minutes.
6. Uncover and cook to evaporate excess water, 2-3 minutes.

Serve with Melba toasts and a thin smear of spreadable chevrie goat cheese.

First of all, my apologies to any other Hough’s Neck/Quincy Center-area Daring Cooks: It was I who pretty much cleaned out the Super Stop & Shop’s selection of leeks on the evening of January 7. There were exactly two bundles of leeks left after I was done stocking up for the confit and the vegetarian cassoulet.

Make sure your leeks are pre-approved by your local Welsh representative:

I personally approve this leek.

Enjoy.

Crab Cakes & Broccoli Slaw

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Christmas Salad

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