Sunday, February 22, 2015

It didn't really go with the soup

When I made the curried cauliflower soup several weeks ago, I wanted something fresh and herbal to go alongside it. I thought, "cilantro," which often comes as a garnish on curries. I also figured chicken, to keep things light.

I came across this recipe on Epicurious and was sufficiently intrigued. I love pesto in many shapes and forms. Basil, sun-dried tomato, olive, and a cilantro one seemed like just the ticket. I did however, make one major change, and then when eating the leftovers, one minor one. I'll be interested in what y'all think.

  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/3 cup salted roasted macadamia nuts 
  • 1/4 cup chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin (I went with boneless thighs here. They're cheaper, have more flavor and I really don't like poultry skin)
The big change I made was not switching out the breasts for thighs, but I substituted cashews for the macadamia nuts. I already had to buy the cashews and I thought this would tie the two dishes together.
Combine first 5 ingredients in processor (If you don't have a processor, you can use a blender, but be prepared to dig a lot of the pesto out from under the blades). Blend until nuts are finely chopped. Add 6 tablespoons oil and process until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before using.)
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté until brown and cooked through, about 6 minutes per side. 
Transfer chicken breasts to plates. Top each with some pesto and serve.
As you can see from the title of the post, they didn't go well with the curried cauliflower soup. On their own, they're delicious, but the pesto was a bit thick and it really needed a little bit of acid somewhere. Nexx suggested lime juice, which I squeezed over the leftover. That made a lot of difference and is definitely on the list of things to use when I make it again. Possibly a touch of black pepper as well, but only a touch. I'm excited to make this for friends because it's so different. It's also suitable for the friends I have on low-carb diets, though some Old Bay potato salad with crispy onions might work for those of us who do eat carbs.

If you make it, with cashews or macadamias, let me know!

You can also friend me on Facebook and comment there. Just let me know you read the blog when you send the friend request.


Friday, February 13, 2015

I haven't made anything curried in a while

This was something I picked up a while ago--I actually made it back in January.  Like a lot of people, I need to eat more vegetables, and I couldn't recall last time I had made anything with cauliflower. I've made curried carrot soup, and I've made aloo gobi, and this recipe seemed to evoke some of the best of both: 

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to season
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cut into florets 
  • 4 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Freshly-ground black pepper, to season
  • 1/4 cup roasted cashew halves, for garnish (optional, see Recipe Note)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)
  • red chile pepper flakes, for garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Cook the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt until onions are soft and transluscent, 8-9 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add garlic and cook for 2 additional minutes. Add cauliflower, vegetable broth, coriander, turmeric, cumin, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring pot to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer until cauliflower is fork-tender, about 15-17 minutes
Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender until smooth, and then return the soup to the soup pot. (Alternatively, use an immersion blender to purée the soup right in the pot.) Stir in the coconut milk and warm the soup. Taste and add more salt, pepper or spices if you’d like.
To serve, ladle the soup into favorite bowls and garnish with a handful of toasted cashews, a few springs of parsley, sprinkle of red chile flakes and a dash of olive oil to top.
Maybe it's because I smoked for many years, but I do have a heavy taste for spice. I tripled the spices, and keep thinking I maybe just should have gone with garam masala. The flavor was tasty, and very warming, but not spicy on the tongue. I felt like there was something missing. The condiments did make a lot of difference. The hot pepper was a nice contrast and the cashews added a richness not present in the cauliflower naturally. I tried some cilantro on top, but it didn't work for me. The addition of the olive oil was nice as well, especially when I had some pita bread with the soup.
Nexx suggested the addition of ginger next time and I tried that with some of the leftovers. It added a brightness that made a lot of difference, so that's definitely going in next time. Overall, a decidedly worthy experiment. There's also a link to a recipe to a roasted cauliflower and potato soup with dill that you may be seeing a blog entry about in the future.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Chili therapy

When I turned 30, one of my nearest and dearest gave me a copy of Gloria Steinem's Revolution From Within. It's a self-esteem book, and at that time I was in a relationship that wasn't very healthy, depressed a lot, and probably quite tiring. I love Steinem's writing and some stories at the end of the book stayed with me.

They were about creating as therapy. Painting, throwing pots, using your senses in the process of making something beautiful.

Oddly enough, she did not mention cooking, but I can't think of a better example. Cooking uses all the senses. Does the lamb look lean or fatty? Toast the seeds until you hear them pop. Does the fragrance of one spice stand out or did they all blend well? Do the vegetables feel firm under your hands? I could go on about kneading bread dough, but I think I have in a previous entry and this is about chili. This is all before you even get around to tasting things.

Guess what I did this afternoon? It was going to be tomorrow morning because I thought I was going to a write-in today, but the write-in is tomorrow, so chili today. Currently simmering on the stove I have:

  • 2 pounds of cubed lamb
  • One bulb of garlic, minced
  • 4 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes with green chiles 
  • 4 15oz cans of Goya small red beans. They smell pretty sweet.
  • 3 baseball-sized onions, chopped
  • 2 poblano peppers, chopped
  • 2 T ground dried chiles (more on that below)
  • 2 T ground cumin
  • 1 T chopped ginger (there's always at least one jar in the fridge)
  • 1 dried habanero, crumbled to bits
  • 2 shakes of ground coriander
  • 2 bottles of Magic Hat not-quite-pale ale

The apartment smells fabulous, but the chili won't be ready for hours. It will simmer for quite a while, then be reheated in the morning, and it will be served with some crusty rolls. I'll try to get Nexx to comment.

When I went into my severely overloaded spice cabinet for the chili powder, I found two things that made me smile. Dried red chiles (the type you find in some of your spicy Asian dishes in American restaurants. (I am not getting into Asian authenticity here. You can't make me.) Also a bag of dried chiles de arbol. There was also cumin seed, probably from my last batch of garam masala.

So, I used my trusty spice grinder instead of the usual jarred stuff. Assuming this isn't atomically hot, I think this chili will be quite tasty.

It was certainly sensuous.