Bindya Bedi’s chicken curry

Adapted from The Age and read at NewsELA

  • 1 kilogram chicken thighs 

Ingredients for the marinade:

  • 2 tablespoons of ginger garlic paste 
  • 1 squeeze of lime 
  • 1 teaspoon of salt 
  • 1 tbsp ghee

Ingredients for the curry:

  • 1/4 cup of neutral oil (coconut oil or ghee, my pref)
  • 4 medium-sized brown onions, peeled and roughly chopped 
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled 
  • 2 cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely diced 
  • 1 to 2 green chillies (we used 1 Jalapeño chili pepper)
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick 
  • 4 to 5 cardamom pods 
  • 8 to 10 peppercorns 
  • 4 to 5 cloves
  • 4 tomatoes, or 1/2 a cup of tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder 
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder 
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander 
  • 1 teaspoon ground garam masala 
  • Salt, to taste 
  • cilantro, to garnish

Directions:

  1. In a large glass bowl, marinate the chicken thighs in the ginger garlic paste, lime juice and salt. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, use a mortar and pestle (or food processor?) to grind the onions, garlic, ginger and green chillies to a paste and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the cumin seeds. Roughly pound all of the whole spices (bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns and cloves) and add to the oil. Once they start to make popping sounds, add the onion paste. Heat over a low flame, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a golden-brown paste and the oil starts to separate. 
  3. Next, add the tomatoes, salt to taste, turmeric, red chili powder, and ground coriander. Cook until the tomatoes just start to form a paste. Add the chicken, garam masala and 1/2 cup of water. Bring the curry to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover with a lid and continue to cook over a medium heat.
  4. After 20 to 25 minutes, uncover the pan and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until the water evaporates and the curry starts to thicken. Once the curry is ready, switch the flame off.
  5. Serve with your choice of naan or basmati rice and top with fresh cilantro leaves, if desired.

I read this in a NewsELA article, which I subscribed to as a science teacher. They offer loads of readable current news, including in science and health and social justice. Some changes from the original recipe: we used organic coconut oil, although I would have been equally happy with ghee. We speeded things up with using a garlic press and grater for the ginger for the marinade, and added a coconut oil to keep the chickens moist. I ran out of whole cloves, so I added some black mustard seed for appearances.

***Marinade reminder: we mixed ACID (lime) + SALT + OIL (ghee) + HERBS/SEASONINGS/SUGAR (ginger / garlic) + TIME (30 minutes).***

~Jessica

Polpette al sugo (Italian meatballs)

Adapted from Lidia and Recipe Tin Eats Yield: 6 servings, plus about 3 quarts extra (total of about 4 dozen meatballs and 3 quarts sauce)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano (omitted)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped (basil sub!)
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (or parmesan), freshly grated

Sauce ingredients:

  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • black pepper
  • 1 fresh bay leaves, or 2 small dried bay leaves
  • 3 tsp dried Italian herb mix (parsley, basil, thyme, oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes
  • 24 oz / 700 g tomato passata, preferably San Marzano
  • 1 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, optional to serve

Directions:

  1. Grate the onion using a standard box grater in a large bowl until you have about 1/2 cup of grated onion and juices. 
  2. Add bread, mix to combine so the onion juice soaks the bread and disintegrates. Set aside while you prep the other ingredients (5 min or so).
  3. Add all the remaining Meatball ingredients. Use hands to mix well.
  4. Measure out a heaped tablespoon and roll lightly to form a ball. Repeat with remaining mixture. (Note 5)
  5. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a large non stick fry pan over medium high heat. Add the meatballs and brown all over – about 3 – 4 minutes. 
  6. When they are browned but NOT cooked through, carefully transfer them onto a plate.

Sauce Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil into the fry pan. 
  2. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add the remaining Sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then turn down to medium low so it bubbles gently rather than splattering everywhere. Let simmer for 2 hours.
  3. Carefully transfer the meatballs and any juices that have pooled on the plate into the Sauce.
  4. Cook the meatballs for 8 – 10 minutes, turning and stirring occasionally. Adjust Sauce salt and pepper to taste.
  5. While the meatballs are cooking, cook your pasta of choice.
  6. Serve the meatballs on pasta, garnished with extra parmesan and parsley if using.

I wanted to cook Lidia’s recipe authentically, but it was so much quantity! And I’m not a fan of beef, much less veal, so… I incorporated another website (she has delicious chicken stew!) that fried the meatballs instead of baking them. These were wildly delicious and approved by all. We didn’t incorporate the carrot and celery (considering the 2 lbs. or meat vs. 3 lbs from Lidia), but we did use the red onion, eggs, and basil instead of parsley (Jesse’s family doesn’t like oregano for some reason). I would throw in a bay leaf into the sauce next time (we forgot). We used gluten-free bread crumbs, and crumbled Grana Padano into the meatball and on top to serve. Grana Padano was not incorporated into the sauce. Ground meat came from the Ossining Farmer’s Market, Sunset View Farm. I also made some garlic bread with EVOO and rubbed garlic to clean up the sauce after, demi baguette from Farmer’s Market too.

~Jessica

LotR mushroom soup

Adapted from Middle-Earth Recipes and The Hungry Hobbit

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of mushrooms, divided in half
  • 4 + 2 + 2 tbsp of butter
  • 1 tbsp of chopped onion
  • 2 cups of finely chopped carrots
  • 2 cups of finely chopped celery (we used leeks)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups of broth / bouillon
  • 1 small can of tomato paste (~6-7 tbsp; we used 1-2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of dry sherry (we used a dry red wine)
  • Garnish: sour cream, herbs (optional)

Directions:

  1. Chop 1/2 pound of mushrooms very fine.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion, 2 cups of finely chopped carrots, 2 cups of finely chopped celery, and 1 clove of garlic, minced. If you have wine, you can use it now to deglaze the pot. Stir, scraping the bottom bits.
  4. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add the 1/2 pound of finely chopped mushrooms, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add to the soup.
  5. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of broth, 3 1/2 cups of water, 1 small can of tomato paste, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/16 teaspoon of pepper.
  6. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer 1 hour (30 minutes minimum).
  7. Purée the soup with an immersion blender. Season and taste.
  8. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add the 1/2 pound of reserved sliced mushrooms, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add to the soup.
  9. Add 1/4 cup of dry sherry. Heat thoroughly and serve.
  10. Garnish with sour cream or herbs.

Titled “Mushroom Soup from the Inn at Bree”, there is only one main inn in Bree, however: the Inn of the Prancing Pony. We didn’t have a bundle of celery, so we subbed with a leek instead. Next time I would use 2 leeks! I would also had herbs like thyme. Instead of beef broth, we used Better Than Bouillon chicken base. Feel free to use more tomato paste if you prefer a more reddish product, but this was grand — I would also like to try a medley of mushrooms in season. Instead of dry sherry, we used a red wine, but I would also try a white wine next time.

~Jessica

Flourless brownies

Adapted from Unicorns in the Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 8 oz chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Coat an 8×8 baking pan with non stick spray and line with a parchment paper.
  2. Place butter, sugar and chocolate in a pan over medium heat until all melted. Let cool for a minute.
  3. Mix in the eggs one at a time using an electric mixer (this is important). Beat very well after each addition.
  4. Add in vanilla and cocoa powder. Mix well.
  5. Transfer the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan. Pound the pan on the counter twice.
  6. Bake in the heated oven for 25 minutes until the top is crackled.

Tips: It’s best to melt the butter, sugars and chocolate in a sauce pan over medium heat and NOT to use a microwave. Make sure all the ingredients are well mixed. Since this flourless brownie recipe has no leavening agent such as baking powder, over-mixing won’t cause a problem. Don’t over bake the brownies. We did not have nonstick spray — just the parchment paper. These kind of tasted like flourless chocolate cake — so really, no one could be disappointed. Mookie the cat got chastised for walking across the counter to inspect the mixing bowl (it was too far from his usual perch on the high chair by the bar counter).

~Jessica

Gordon Ramsay’s scrambled eggs and smoked salmon

Adapted from Gordon Ramsey and Goodto

Ingredients:

  • 4 butter croissants
  • 300g smoked salmon slices
  • 12 eggs (3 per person)
  • 4 tbsp double cream
  • 50g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1–2 tbsp snipped chives (or scallions in a pinch)

Directions:

  1. Trim off the ends of the croissants, then slice each one into 4 or 6 thick rounds and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  2. Break the eggs into a cold heavy-based non-stick saucepan; do not season. Place the pan over a low heat and add a few knobs of butter. Using a wooden spoon, stir the eggs frequently but not constantly, just to combine the yolks and whites.
  3. As the eggs start to scramble, take the pan off the heat and use a spatula to scrape the egg from the sides and base of the pan. Return to the heat and keep stirring and scraping the pan until the overall texture of the eggs is like soft curds. This should take 5–6 minutes. Don’t overcook the mixture – it should be moist and soft.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat and toast the croissants on each side for 1–2 minutes until golden. Place the toasted slices on individual plates.
  5. When the eggs are nearing the end of cooking, take the pan off the heat, add another knob of butter and then season well. Return to the heat and stir in the cream. Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat and fold through the chives.
  6. Drape the slices of smoked salmon on top of the toasted croissants, spoon the scrambled eggs over, and serve immediately.

I had some extra lox in the fridge, and a fresh carton of eggs. After practicing it all week, I felt ready to make it for a larger audience (Jesse’s family). It was a success. I could not find chives (not the season?), so subbed with scallions chopped extra fine.

~Jessica

Cinnamon granola

Adapted from Alton Brown

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup flax seed (can be grounded)
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (oats, nuts, coconut, brown sugar, etc.).
  3. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients (maple syrup, oil, and salt).
  4. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.
  5. Remove from oven and cool.

I find the granola is done when it all feels dry as you stir it, and doesn’t clump together all sticky-like. I still don’t have a baking sheet, but this time I tried baking the granola in two separate dishes to cook faster. The maple syrup was a souvenir I picked while visiting my friend Francesca in Montreal. It’s some good stuff, and came in a can! Last but not least, Jesse’s tip: don’t spill.

~Jessica

Store-bought pizza dough pizza

Adapted from The Kitchn, makes 2 pizzas. Serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. store-bought dough, at room temperature for at least 1 hour
  • 1/2 cup (or 3 tbsp) of Rao’s Pizza Sauce, per pizza
  • 4 cloves of garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil
  • prosciutto
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced and sautéed
  • handful of mushrooms, sautéed
  • 1 cup mozzarella di bufala, thinly sliced
  • handful of basil, torn
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • cornmeal or all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Set your oven to 450 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Defrost pizza dough on top of stove.
  2. Sautee raw toppings.
  3. Tear off a large piece of parchment paper roughly 12 inches long. Working with one piece of the dough at a time, form it into a large disk with your hands and place it on the parchment. Use your hands to flatten the dough until it is 1/4-inch thick or less. If the dough starts to shrink back, let it rest for 5 minutes and then continue rolling. Brush a thin film of olive oil on a baking sheet. 
  4. Pre-bake the crust for 3-4 minutes before adding toppings.
  5. Top the pizza. Spoon half of the sauce onto the center of the pizza and use the back of the spoon to spread it out to the edges. Pile on half of the toppings and half of the cheese.
  6. Bake the pizza right on the baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pizza. If using parchment, slide it out from under the pizza and discard. Bake until the crust is golden-brown and the cheese is melted and browned in spots, 3 to 5 minutes more.
  7. Repeat making a second pizza with the remaining dough, cheese, and toppings.

Tips I came across on multiple websites:

Crust

  • Let the refrigerated dough sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes or more before rolling.
  • Let the oven heat for at least half an hour before baking your pizzas. If you have a baking stone or steel, place it in the lower-middle part of your oven.
  • Set your oven to 450 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your comfort. You can make good pizza at 450ºF/232ºC. 
  • Flour a clean wood chopping board (if big enough) to use as a work surface.
  • Don’t roll out the dough — press out the edges to make a crust (don’t press the middle), then stretch with one hand and rotate with other hand, then toss from hand to hand. video
  • Cover the dough and give it a 10-minute break to relax the gluten, when needed.
  • Pizza size: no more than 10 inches/25 cm in diameter.
  • Use olive oil on the sheet, and on the edges before baking. Spread olive oil on both sides of the crust.
  • If you don’t have cornmeal, use Parchment paper. FYI: The paper catches on fire if it touches the heating element.

Sauce

  • Pre-bake the crust for 3-4 minutes before adding toppings.
  • Add enough sauce so that when you spread it, you can still see the dough underneath: 2-3 tbsp of sauce per pizza. Less is more!

Toppings

  • Preheat the oven; While you’re waiting, set up your toppings.
  • Pre-cook raw ingredients (mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, meat, etc.)
  • Keep the toppings to just a handful at most. If you load homemade pizza down with a ton of toppings, it may take too long for the crust to cook.
  • For the cheese, use a low-moisture, whole milk mozzarella. If you want to use fresh mozzarella, drain it and pat it dry. 
  • If you plan to add some fresh arugula or herbs to your pizza, top the pizza with hand-torn basil after it’s out of the oven.

References: Good in the Simple, Garlic Delight, Pillsbury, The Kitchn

Next time I will try Brie, Sage, and Prosciutto toppings; or pesto in place of sauce and top with chicken, fresh tomato, and buffalo mozzarella. I would also try to make garlic knots (dough knotted together with garlic, parsley, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese). I forgot to defrost the dough ahead of time, so I followed this trick from Baking Kneads to wrap the oiled up put it in the oven at 100 degrees Fahrenheit (used the bread proofing setting) for one hour, then check if it is ready (risen to double its size). If it is not fully defrosted, back in the oven for 30 minutes. We used a baking sheet, not a pizza stone, and Parchment paper.

~Jessica

Lunar New Year 2021

February 12th was the first day of the Year of the Ox! Happy “niú” year!

Prepared Menu:

Desserts:

  • pastéis de nata (or the traditional Chinese version I’ve always known: 蛋撻, dàn tǎ)
  • Japanese mochi ice cream

新年快樂! Xīn nián kuài lè

恭喜發財! Gōng xǐ fā cái

~Jessica

Stir-fried nian gao

Adapted from The Woks of Life

Ingredients:

  • some marinated meat (I used leftover chicken dumpling filling)
  • 1 pound rice cakes (I had frozen from my aunt)
  • 8 ounces baby bok choy
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 3 scallions, cut diagonally in 2.5 cm pieces
  • shiitake mushrooms (I had fresh! from SkyFoods)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Marinate the julienned protein with light soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, vegetable oil, and cornstarch for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Rinse the rice cakes and drain. If using fresh or frozen rice cakes, you do not have to soak or thaw them. Only soak (according to package instructions) if using dried rice cakes.
  3. Thoroughly wash the baby bok choy. Drain, shaking off excess water. If using baby bok choy, separate into individual leaves. Also prepare the garlic and scallions.
  4. If using fresh mushrooms, slice them thinly. If using dried shiitake mushrooms, save the soaking liquid.
  5. Place your wok over high heat until it begins to smoke lightly. Add the vegetable oil to coat the wok, and add the pork and garlic. Cook until the pork turns opaque. If using mushrooms, add them now and stir-fry for 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the scallions, bok choy/cabbage, and Shaoxing wine. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, and move everything to the center of the wok to create an even “bed” of vegetables and meat. Distribute the rice cakes on top (this prevents them from sticking to the wok).
  7. Add water (or mushroom soaking water for extra flavor). Depending on how hot your stove gets, you can add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup. Cover, and cook for 2 minutes to steam the rice cakes and cook the vegetables.
  8. Remove the cover, and add the sesame oil, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper, and sugar. Stir-fry everything together for 1 minute over medium heat. Taste, and season with additional salt if necessary. Continue stir-frying until the rice cakes are coated in sauce, cooked through but still chewy. Plate and serve!

Apparently, stir-fried rice cakes are known in Chinese as “chao niángāo” (炒年糕), which is different from the sweet nian gao “cake” that is also traditional New Year’s fare. We substituted with ground chicken because of dietary preferences in the party, and we had some leftover carrot matchsticks from the summer rolls. This would have been an even more elaborate dish to make, but thankfully there was a real wok! And thankfully there were multiple hands on deck to help with the preparation. No one had ever tried something like this before, so it was a fun experiment! ^_^

~Jessica

Chicken zucchini dumplings

Adapted from The Woks of Life

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium zucchini, seeds removed and shredded
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • 1/2 pound ground chicken
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 2 packages dumpling wrappers (see recipe from Pork dumplings)

Directions:

  1. Take the shredded zucchini, put it in a clean kitchen towel, and squeeze out as much water as you can. Add it to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. In a wok over medium low heat, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and the minced ginger. Allow the ginger to fry in the oil until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add to the bowl of zucchini.
  3. To the bowl, add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, ground chicken, ½ teaspoon white pepper, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine. Mix well, stirring vigorously in one direction for about 5 minutes, until it resembles a paste.
  4. Wrap the dumplings and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, so that the dumplings are not touching each other. You can fry them right away, or cover the dumplings with plastic wrap and freeze them on the tray. Once frozen solid, you can transfer them to freezer bags and store for up to 3 months.
  5. You can boil them, steam them, or fry them. Frying tastes best, boiling is quickest (especially if you have many hungry mouths to feed), and we tried steaming with Napa cabbage leaves and sesame oil in a metal steamer.

Serves 6. Would love to whip out the bamboo steamer next time! Don’t forget some chili oil for dipping sauce (preferable over black vinegar, in my opinion).

~Jessica