Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chicken Curry

My memories of my mother's cooking always make me smile. She wasn't the most creative cook, and during my younger years, she tended to fall into a pattern with our weekly meals. Each week followed roughly the same menu - baked chicken, spaghetti, hamburgers, steak every week. I swear Tuesday was spaghetti day. These were easy meals, using convenience foods. In the early days, they were budget meals - and were punctuated by the occasional casserole. When I was growing up, Mom was a college student and artist, and later became an art teacher. She worked for the satisfaction of doing what she loved more than the necessity of a paycheck. But still we followed a tight budget. We never ate out until I was in college. Birthday dinners were at home. Weekends we had dinner at my grandmother's house.

My mother made this recipe as one of those occasional casseroles I mentioned above. She didn't cook it often, but I became so smitten with it that it was always my requested meal on my birthday. This recipe is slightly modified from the original, but in essence it is the same. I wish I could take credit for inventing it. It first appeared in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook in the 1930s. It is well loved in my home.

Chicken Curry
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup tomato juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon curry powder
4 cups cooked chicken, cubed
4 cups cooked rice
4 tablespoons butter or ghee
6 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the vegetables in the butter until onions are translucent. Add flour and curry powder and mix well.  Add broth, tomato juice, seasonings and allow to simmer and thicken. Add chicken and heat through. Serve over rice.  I like to mix the curry powder up a bit - a couple teaspoons of Penzey's Maharajah Curry Powder with one teaspoon of hot or Madras curry powder. The Maharajah curry has lots of whole saffron threads and has an amazing flavor.  

Chicken Curry on Foodista

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Barbeque Sauce for Beef

One year a long time ago, my father took one month off work and hauled my family across country in a station wagon. We made a loop around the United States, visiting national parks, kitsch tourist spots and the best of the cities. It was the trip of a lifetime. Our breakfast was instant oatmeal or cold cereal with milk from our cooler, and our lunch was always a sandwich at the side of the road somewhere. The only meal we ate out was dinner. It was the way people traveled back then, we were always in good company at the picnic stops. Now when you travel, the picnic tables are empty and the fast food joints at the rest stops are full. You eventually got tired of ham or peanut butter sandwiches, but in observing this little economy, we were able to see the country.

This recipe is my mother's. One of our dinners out was at Jackson Lake Lodge at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. My mother ordered a beef dish with a barbeque sauce. I remember her asking for the recipe, but I don't know if she got the recipe from the chef or developed this sauce on her own. But when we returned home, this easy sauce was always served with her roast eye of the round.

Barbeque Sauce for Beef

1 cup ketchup
1 cup water
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
garlic salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat until thick. Serve over roasted eye of the round or any other roasted beef.

Barbeque Sauce on Foodista

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Persian Chicken and Rice Pilav

(Morgh Polo)
My daughter Zoë has been known to pack some strange things for lunch. On our trips to the Strip District in Pittsburgh she has been known to purchase Crickettes - cheese and bacon flavored crickets and dried mackerel snack packs and take them to school in her lunch for their shock value. Grove City is a small town and things like that are pretty shocking. She also loves to pack rice and noodle dishes to school each day. The more exotic and spicy the better. This recipe was my response to her request for more rice dishes. I have been informed that when Zoë is away at school next term, I must bring some of this dish each time I visit. Even Mira, who is much pickier likes this dish.

I have used two sources in the creation of this dish. I have always used a steamer to make rice, so I turned to Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen: A Culinary Journey Through Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan by Sonia Uvezian for her detailed information on the proportions and mechanics of cooking rice and vermicelli. The book Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook also provided inspiration.  

Morgh Polo
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1/2 cup vermicelli, broken into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup long grain rice
6 tablespoon butter
1 cup almonds, blanched and slivered
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup dried currants
2 teaspoons baharat
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups cooked chicken, chunked
In large pot, saute onions in 4 tablespoons of the butter until translucent and moisture from the onion has evaporated. Add uncooked vermicelli and saute until golden brown. Add rice and broth and simmer covered for approximately 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked.

In a skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and gently brown almonds until golden, making sure not to overcook them. When done, add almonds to the pot with the rice. Add baharat, currants and chicken and serve.

You can purchase Baharat from Amazon, Zamouri Spices and from DedeMed. You can also make your own. 

Baharat (Seven Spices)
Equal parts of:
Ground cumin
Ground cloves
Ground cardamom
Ground coriander

Persian Rice Pilaf on Foodista

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mexican Hot Peanuts

(Cacahuates Enchilados)
My favorite place to shop is Pittsburgh's Strip District - an old warehouse district that comes alive every Saturday morning. There are ethnic groceries, excellent restaurants and lots of people. The streets are full of musicians, craftsmen and food carts, as well as an open air vegetable market. I love this place and could go weekly if I lived closer. Hidden between my favorite haunts is the man with the outdoor peanut roaster. On a cold day the roaster is warm and the air smells delicious. You can take a peek of my favorite place in the world here. I adore peanuts. I will take them sweet, hot, salted, in brittle, covered with chocolate and sprinkled on anything.

Zoë and I are the only ones who eat these little treats. We are okay with that - it's more for us that way!

Cacahuates Enchilados
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 cups raw shelled peanuts
3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons garlic salt

Heat peanut oil in a large skillet (cast iron heats the best). Stirring constantly, toast peanuts until golden over medium-high heat for about 4 or 5 minutes. When peanuts just begin to take some color and start smelling really good, reduce the heat to low and add the cayenne and garlic salt. Keep the peanuts moving and be ready to take off the heat if they begin to get too dark. Cast iron holds the heat really well, so you have to be very careful to not overcook. Let the peanuts cool completely in a tray lined with paper towels. You can adjust both the cayenne and garlic salt to your taste.

Mexican Peanuts on Foodista

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sausage and Spinach Soup

We recently held a Soup and Chili Cook-Off at work. While I did not submit any entries, I made certain to sample the tastiest looking soups. There were two entries that I couldn't resist having a full bowl of. This soup is adapted from one of them, a soup created by my co-worker Betty.

I have added a few ingredients to Betty's soup. When I first tasted it I couldn't help but think it was Wedding Soup with a punch. I decided to add a few of my favorite ingredients from Wedding Soup, along with some extra punch. I thought about adding pastina too, but then decided to save the carbs for something else! Feel free to dump in the pasta. Betty was one of the contest winners tied for first place!

Sausage and Spinach Soup
2 quarts of chicken broth
1 cup chopped onion
1 10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach
1 pound hot Italian sausage
2 teaspoons fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 large eggs, beaten
Parmesan cheese

Defrost spinach and squeeze out extra liquid. Brown hot sausage in a skillet until cooked through and drain well. Combine sausage, broth, spinach, fennel and red pepper flakes in a pot and bring to a boil. Slowly drizzle egg into soup while stirring well. Reduce heat and simmer. Serve with Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Italian Wedding Soup on Foodista

Rice Pudding

I you were to put a dessert selection in front of me you would find that I would grab the tapioca before the cake. Sweet and creamy always comes first. The little bumps in rice pudding are far better than a cake to me. When I was growing up, Mom always made box pudding or jello for dessert. And yes, we did typically have dessert with every meal which we ate at home - every day. I only remember my Mom making this once. It's my grandmother's recipe, and I appreciate it much more than I did back then.

I like this best warm from the oven. The raisins are all soft and everything is singing sweet comfort.

Rice Pudding
1 cup cooked rice
3/4 cup golden raisins
1 can evaporated milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine cooked rice and raisins in a 1 quart casserole; set aside. In mixing bowl, beat together remaining ingredients until smooth; pour over rice and raisins. Place casserole in pan of hot water. Bake at 350 for 50 to 60 minutes or until custard is set. Be careful not to overcook as it will dry out. You can stir in a couple of tablespoons of butter at this point, for extra moisture and flavor. Cool and serve. Garnish with cinnamon and currants if desired.

Rice Pudding on Foodista