Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chicken Tikka Masala

Indian food is my new addiction. I've always liked it, but there's now a restaurant much, much closer to my house. The Professor and I have been there 4 times in the past month - putting it ahead of my beloved local Margarita Makers.

And last year, my bis sis found herself in an Indian restaurant for the first time and called to ask what she should order. I don't remember much of the conversation (I was at a party and the wine was flowing), but I *do* remember what dish she had - Chicken Tikka Masala - because she couldn't stop talking about it.

Since it's also one of my favorites, we decided to try and make it while I vacationed at her place a couple of weeks ago (necessitating a trip to my favorite spice store). It was good - really good - so I tried it again this weekend, and Holy Spices, Batman am I getting close to a great recipe.

The major sticking point in my house is the heat level: We all know by now that The Professor doesn't like spicy foods; he does, however, love Indian food and is usually willing to over look a lot of heat. This time, I went a tad too far for him - although I thought it was dang near perfect. I solved this crisis of opinion by putting the yogurt next to his plate, letting him mix in more as he needed.

My next hurdle with this: I want to make it with lamb.

I started with this recipe from Tigers & Strawberries, and now I know to try more of her recipes in the future.

I made this with whole spices, but I think a good rule for using ground spices is: 1 Tbsp whole = 1 tsp ground.
This also makes about 6 servings - perfect for us, because the leftovers taste better than the original!

Chicken Tikka Masala

2 small onions
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
Seeds from 10 cardamom pods
1 tsp peppercorns
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp whole cumin
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp paprika
4 Tbsp butter, divided
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala (optional, but I love it)
1 tbsp sweet paprika
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup yogurt
3/4 cup half & half
1-1/12 lbs chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces

First, make your spice blend: Put the cardamom seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin and pepper flakes in a spice grinder and ... grind. Take a deep breath and enjoy the aroma that will soon be wafting through your kitchen. You can almost smell the picture:

Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large skillet. Saute onions until they begin to caramelize.

Add garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Add your spice blend, ginger, garam masala (if using) and paprika.

Stir everything together until it's well combined. Take a deep breath. Or five. Let it all mix together in the skillet for a few minutes.

Add tomatoes and water and stir everything together. Turn your heat down and simmer for about 10-15 minutes - it will thicken up a little and reduce.

Whisk the yogurt into the sauce, then add the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter and the half and half, and whisk everything together.

When the sauce is simmering again, add the chicken pieces and let it simmer until they are completely cooked.(about 10 minutes).

Serve over rice, hopefully with some kind of bread to sop up all the sauce.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sesame Noodle Salad

The Professor has another Department Event tomorrow night. BBQ from a local place is being provided, but we're all bringing side dishes or desserts to add to the Festive Atmosphere - that will likely be rained upon as we sit in a public park. All I can say is, thank god this has been an unusually cool August.

I've seen plenty of Chinese Noodle recipes that call for peanut butter, but the thought of mixing sacred carbs with that substance makes my stomach revolt. But tahini is almost the same thing - made of sesame seeds instead of peanuts - and I will actually eat that stuff. Which is good, because if NO ONE ate my dish, I'd be mightily upset.

I didn't so much "measure" anything because I basically "flung them with wild abandon". So the dressing ingredients can easily be adjusted for your taste. (See the notes at the bottom for more info).

Sesame Noodle Salad

8 oz spaghetti noodles
1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
bunch green onions, chopped (mine was 5.5 ounces, and I chopped almost half the way up the stalks)
1 cup Shredded Carrots, chopped a little
1/2 cup tahini
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
1//2 - 1 tsp red dried red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic granules
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp sesame seeds
Terriyaki sauce (optional)

Cook spaghetti noodles as directed on package.

To make the dressing: Mix the tahini up in the container - since it's most probably separated. Add 1/2 cup to a food chopper (or do to a bowl, and do the rest by hand). Add sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, pepper flakes, garlic, & ginger. Thoroughly combine.

I put the white parts of the green onion into the strainer that I used to strain my pasta - that way, they get just the tiniest bit cooked when you pour the hot pasta & water over them.

After you drain the pasta, toss it (and the onion parts) with a tablespoon or two of terriyaki sauce. I did this because I wasn't ready to combine everything and I didn't want the noodles to lump together.

Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet over low heat for 2-3 minutes.

Put the chopped bell pepper, carrots and green parts of the green onions in a large bowl.

Add the drained noodles.

Pour the dressing over, and toss (tongs are great here) to thoroughly combine.

Add the sesame seeds and toss a few more times.

Refrigerate and serve cold.

The onion taste was too strong for me. The Professor didn't seem to notice; I'm just not a fan of raw onion.

I couldn't taste the red pepper at ALL. I would at least double this - and probably more - next time.

The dressing - after I got past the onions - was VERY YUMMY. I tasted it before I tossed the pasta/veggies with it, and loved the taste, so I think we can assume that I will be trying something like this again.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Not Really Swordfish Spiedini : Grilled Swordfish & Zucchini

One of the deficiencies of living in My Little Corner of The South is that I'm too far from fresh seafood to buy it, unless I want to drive for 45 minutes up to The Big City and spend half of my weekly food budget on a couple of pounds of fish. So when Publix had a "sale"* on "fresh, never frozen" swordfish a couple of weeks ago, I had to jump on it. Kind of like how sales of porn go up in hotels during conservative conventions.

Maybe that was a bad comparison? Do you think I'm going to just leave that alone for the rest of this post?

*I say "sale" because it's still more than I like to spend on my proteins, but this was a bargain for seafood 'round these here parts.

But then life got in the way, so it ended up getting frozen after all - in my freezer. Simple grilled swordfish steaks weren't in my future after all.

But then I found a recipe from the Queen of Food Porn* for grilled swordfish, and decided that would do nicely for someone needing a quick fix. Except, buying pancetta in my corner of the world is - again - more than I want to spend, and Publix didn't have any obliging sales. So I just left it off, like a Porn Star might "forget" to wear underwear for a shoot.

*Giada De Laurentiis. Do I really need close-up shots of her taking a bite of a chocolate covered strawberry with cheesy music playing in the background? I get it, she's hot, but: Short answer: NO.

So this was our dinner this evening: Not Quite Swordfish Spiedini with Zucchini Thrown in Just Because.

And? It was spectacular. My only sorrow is that fish really doesn't reheat well at all, so we had to eat it all tonight - which isn't really a sorrow now that I come to think of it, more like how (apparently) a conservative convention would react to a free-porn-night in their hotel bedroom.

And I think I may have talked about porn enough to give my mother a headache. Sorry, Ma. The fish was just that awesome.

Not Really Swordfish Spiedini with Zucchini

1 lb swordfish steaks, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 large zucchini, cut in 1-ish inch slices
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp dried basil
3/4 tsp dried savory
3/4 tsp dried thyme
3/4 tsp dried oregano
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
dash of salt

If you happen to have NOT left your metal skewers at your best friends house 8 months ago and forgotten to retrieve them since, then use them. Otherwise: Set 3 wooden skewers to soak in water for 30 minutes.

Cut up your swordfish and Zucchini.

Mix the olive oil, herbs and seasonings in a bowl.

Add the swordfish and zucchini and marinate for the remainder of the 30 minutes.

Alternating swordfish with zucchini, skewer the suckers and reserve the marinade.

Heat a gas grill (or broiler).

Grill (or broil) skewers for about 8-10 minutes, turning every couple of minutes and basting with reserved marinade. Make sure to cook for a couple of minutes after you baste them the last time.

I had more fish than would fit on the skewers, so I just grilled them separately - because who's gonna complain about extra fish?

You could serve this over rice if you feel the need. Or maybe toss them with some pasta, butter and parmesan...that sound great now that I think about it. Since The Professor had a quarter of a watermelon waiting for dessert, he didn't want to get too full.

These things were AWESOME. I cooked them on high, and the swordfish and zucchini got a slight char that was delicious, while the fish remained wonderfully moist inside. This may be the first time I haven't dried out any fish but salmon on a grill. Marinades are the key, I've found.

Monday, August 3, 2009



--pic from Michelle of Thursday Night Smackdown, The Goddess Who Made This Life-Giving Substance.

Chocolate Mousse