Chicken Curry with Cashews and Cous Cous

I’m home from work, drinking a glass of red wine, and watching Fight Club on T.V. thinking about how neglected my blog has been this week. The cooking has been done (so has the eating) and the picture have been taken, but I have yet to share the deliciousness that is Chicken Curry (how?!). Unfortunately, my dog has other plans for me, so with an arsenal of toys to throw across the room every time he gets particularly demanding of my attention, I prepare to write about one of my specialties. I think I can call it that… It’s kind of my own recipe. I mean I learned the concept somewhere along the line, but this is how I make it and it’s one of those things I’ve perfected over time.

It starts out with one medium onion, 2 shallots all chopped up – it’s about a cup – and 2 cloves of garlic (which I leave whole so that I can remove them later, but then again I do this with every recipe because I really don’t like eating garlic even though I like the taste it adds to food). Anyway, back to curry: I add this to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. I start to cook this slowly while I wash, dry and cut one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into one-inch cubes. Once the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes, add the chicken, a teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of curry powder. Curry powder on its own isn’t really very spicy, so I also add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper – add more or less depending on your preferences.

Stir this mixture every minute or so until the chicken is almost fully cooked, about 5 more minutes. Then add a whole can of unsweetened coconut milk, one cup of chicken broth, and 3/4 cup of roasted, unsalted cashews. Unsalted is best so that it doesn’t make your curry too salty, since you can’t really control the amount of salt on the cashews. Bring this mixture to a simmer and keep it on low heat simmering, uncovered for about 20 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit.

This is how it looks when it’s done. Take it off the heat and in a small saucepan boil one cup of chicken broth and 1/4 cup of rasins. When it comes to a boil take it off the heat, add one cup of cous cous, stir and cover immediately. In about 10 minutes, take the cover off and fluff the cous cous with a fork.

Serve one cup of cooked cous cous into a shallow bowl and spoon the Chicken Curry over it. This recipe makes 4 servings and curry is twice as good the next day…just sayin’.

Here’s an ingredient list:

Curry:

  • one medium onion, finely chopped
  • two shallots, finely chopped
  • two cloves of garlic
  • one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into one-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • one teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • one can of unsweetned coconut milk
  • one cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup unsalted, roasted cashews

Cous Cous:

  • one cup cous cous
  • one cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup rasins

Creamy Spaghetti with Shrimp and Veggies

After an incredible 5 course meal on Valentine’s Day we needed something a little lighter later on in the week. More than a recipe, this is more a concept you can use to make super healthy, yet satisfying pastas. Instead of using cream to make an alfredo-style sauce, use low-fat cream cheese and pasta cooking water to make a light sauce that tastes rich and creamy, but without the fat. It tricks your taste buds, for real.

For two servings, start out with about 3 cups of fresh veggies of your choice, all thinly sliced.

I chose onion, red pepper, carrots and mushrooms. But you can make any combo you prefer. Another good combo I made some time ago was fresh spinach, shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, and bacon (cook the bacon, set aside on paper towels and drain the fat from the pan before cooking the veggies, chop it up and add it at the end – 1 slice per serving adds a lot of salty delicious flavor but if you get rid of the fat, it doesn’t ruin a “light” recipe).

Anyway, this is super simple: while you bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook your choice of pasta (spaghetti, linguini, fettuccine…) according to the package directions, start by sauteing shrimp on high in about a tablespoon of olive oil. I use a lot of frozen shrimp which I don’t even bother to defrost for these types of things, but it’s important that the heat is on high so that you don’t end up with a ton of liquid from the shrimp. Once the shrimp are almost cooked, about 3 minutes, add all of the veggies. Sauté 3-5 more minutes on high, add a pinch or two of salt and pepper to taste.

When the pasta is cooked al dente (slightly firm), scoop a cup of the pasta water and reserve, then drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the veggies and shrimp. Add 3 tablespoons of low-fat cream cheese and a little bit of the reserved pasta water. Toss until the cream cheese is evenly incorporated and add more pasta water, if needed. As soon as it’s mixed, serve and sprinkle with Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese.

So, super simple and fast, but healthy and very satisfying. The majority of the bulk is vegetables so it’s a great way to cut down on the simple carbs in pasta (you could even add whole-wheat pasta for a more fiber-full version) and get in a days worth of veggies (very important!).

Enjoy! And let me know if you come up with any delish combinations I need to try!

Here’s the ingredients as adapted by me:

  • 4 oz uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup small frozen shrimp
  • 3 cups assorted sliced veggies (1 small onion, 1/2 a red pepper, 5 white mushrooms, one carrot and a clove of garlic)
  • 3 tbsp low-fat cream cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • Grana Padano cheese, freshly grated

*Recipe adapted from CookingLight.com (link)

Shrimp Pad Thai

I’m a little late this week posting my latest culinary creations because I spent the weekend skiing in the Pyrenees. Before you say, “oh, fabulous!”, let me tell you that the average temperature this past weekend was between 5 and -5 degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily, the hotel had a spa for some relaxation after a long day of freezing my butt off…and skiing.

Also, hot chocolate…

Not a lot of snow, a lot of cold! But still a great time!

Anyway… Shrimp Pad Thai. One of my favorites and I’ve never made it…with the exception of the boxed Trader Joe’s version. But, oh do I miss the availability of endless options of foods from around the world. Asian food is sometimes a bit intimidating because usually recipes call for a million sauces and ingredients, but this is a super easy recipe with ingredients that even I could find (at the corner store that’s owned and run by a Chinese family and has a little corner reserved for Asian ingredients – it was there that I found rice noodles, teriyaki sauce, and sesame oil).

I made this recipe twice because I added a bunch of veggies and ended up over-cooking them the first time while allowing the sauce to reduce, so the second time I sauteed the veggies and then set them aside while the sauce reduced and then added everything back in. This way they come out crunchy and add texture to the soft chewy noodles. The great thing about a recipe like this is that you can add any kind of vegetables and/or protein you like (I used soy bean sprouts, carrots, onions and shrimp). Also, it’s so quick and easy – perfect for a fast lunch or dinner!

Here’s the recipe (bonus: it’s from Cooking Light!):

  • 8 oz uncooked spaghetti (or rice noodles, if possible)
  • 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/4 tsp Sriracha (or hot chili powder – if you have neither, a pinch of cayenne pepper or pepper flakes)
  • 2 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 pound peeled shrimp (or your preferred protein e.g. chicken, tofu…)
  • 4 cups snow peas (or any combo of veggies that you prefer)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts (optional)
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Combine teriyaki sauce, water, peanut butter, and sriracha in a small bowl, mixing with a whisk or fork.

Boil a large pot of water (no salt or oil) and add rice noodles or pasta. Cook according to package directions.

Heat sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic, sauté one minute. Add any veggies that need to cook longer (e.g. carrots, onion, red pepper…) and sauté 3 minutes. Add shrimp, sauté 2 minutes or until almost cooked through. Transfer vegetable and shrimp mixture to a plate.

Add teriyaki sauce, water, peanut butter, and sriracha mix to pan and cook over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, until sauce thickens.

Once the sauce has thickened a bit, turn off the flame, add noodles and vegetable mixture back into pan and toss until evenly coated. Sprinkle chopped peanuts and cilantro on top. Serve with a lime wedge.

*Recipe adapted from CookingLight.com (link)

Strawberry and Chocolate Chip Scones

Last summer I ate the best scone ever. At Arzimendi Bakery in Emeryville. They have the best pizza and some of the best baked goods. Anyway, this scone attracted me because it was a strawberry and chocolate chip scone. Sounds amazing, right? It was. So for Sunday brunch-day, I decided to pay homage and attempt to replicate.

Using a basic blueberry scone recipe from foodnetwork.com, I substituted blueberries for chopped fresh strawberries (which oddly, I found even though it’s 20 degrees out and definitely not strawberry season) and chocolate chips. The only small problem I ran into is that strawberries release a lot of liquid, so my dough was quite wet and hard to handle, but the outcome was still incredible and moist. They just don’t look as perfect and pretty as scones usually do.

So, since I can’t leave any recipe alone, I made another substitution other than the choice of filling – I also substituted cream for 1/2 plain yogurt and 1/2 milk. This makes something similar to buttermilk, and while not necessary, a little healthier while still guaranteeing moist baked goods.

This recipe is pretty straight forward, the only trick is to cut cold butter into the dry ingredients so that the flour is full of little butter pieces (just like you’d do when making a pie crust). This is important so that when it bakes, the butter melts and forms air pockets which add moisture. That could be the difference between a light flaky scone and a dense pasty one.

Here it is uncooked. As I said, it’s a bit sticky because of the strawberries, but as long as you don’t over work the dough, it’s not a problem – they stay whole and don’t dye all the dough pink.

I had a bit of coconut milk left over from that delicious soup in the last post, so I brushed the tops of the unbaked scones with that, rather than cream, and then sprinkled a little sugar on top.

Just look at that deliciousness. They are still warm and the chocolate is melted…

Here’s how to make it:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients and cut in butter using a fork until it looks like coarse crumbs. Fold in strawberries and chocolate chips carefully so as not to mash the fruit (the color will bleed and make the dough pink). Mix yogurt and milk in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add in yogurt and milk mixture. Gently combine to incorporate, don’t overwork the dough.

On a lightly floured surface, press the dough into a rectangle about 12 in x 3 in x 1.5 in. Cut the rectangle in half and then each half in half again. Cut each quarter diagonally making 2 triangles. Makes 8 scones.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet and brush the tops with coconut milk (or plain milk/cream) and sprinkle white sugar over top. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-17 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.

Enjoy!

*Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence on foodnetwork.com (link)

Calabaza, Corn, and Coconut Soup

Calabaza Squash looks similar to a Butternut Squash, but has the texture and flavor of a pumpkin or Kabocha Squash. They sell this squash here in Spain and call it “Calabaza”, and the first time I bought it, I mistook it for Butternut Squash thinking that, since calabaza means “pumpkin”, it was just a generic name for squash. Imagine my disappointment when the recipe I was making turned out badly.

So, when I came across a recipe that had this mysterious gourd in it’s title, I had to try it. This recipe got four out of four forks on epicurious.com and rightfully so – the soup is creamy and satisfying and the relish adds a complexity of contrasting flavors. Basically, it’s a party in your mouth.

Start with a base of onion and garlic, and then add cubed Calabaza and chopped Cilantro stems (save the leaves for the corn relish). Water and coconut milk get added to this mix and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Once the Calabaza is tender, turn off the heat and use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.

The corn relish is marinated in a dressing of lemon juice, salt, a pinch of sugar, Cilantro and olive oil. After serving the soup, add a spoonful of this relish and the tangy flavor of the lemon and cilantro provide a clean, fresh balance to the coconut milk’s creaminess and cayenne’s spice. I had some coconut milk left over so I drizzled a little bit at the end just to make it look awesome.

The recipe, which is below, says you can substitute Kabocha Squash if you can’t get your hands on Calabaza. Also, the relish calls for lime juice, but I can’t always find limes here (same old story) so I used lemon, and just a tad less than the recipe calls for because lemon is more bitter than lime. The spice level is right on in my opinion, spicy but not detracting from the flavors, but if you are more sensitive you could use less. Lastly, my boyfriend is not completely on board with Cilantro, so I used about half of what the recipe called for – still delicious!

OK, here you have it (it’s really easy, so you should definitely try it!)

Soup:

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Cilantro stems
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (2 1/4 lb) piece of Calabaza Squash, or 1 (2 and 1/2 lb) piece of Kabocha Squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (6 cups)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, well-stirred
  • 3 ears of corn (fresh or frozen), kernels cut off and reserved for relish
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Relish:

  • 4 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped Cilantro
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped shallot

To make soup: Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add onion and saute until lightly browned around the edges, about 4 minutes. Add Cilantro and garlic, cook 3 more minutes. Add Calabaza pieces, cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add water and coconut juice, corn cobs, salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

To make relish: Mix lime juice, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add olive oil and whisk until combined. Cook corn in boiling water until just tender, about 3 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Drain completely and add corn, cilantro and shallot and toss well to coat.

To finish the soup, discard the corn cobs and puree with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. Serve in bowls and add a spoonful of relish to be gently stirred into soup.

*Recipe courtesy of Gourmet on epicurious.com (link)