Friday, February 25, 2011

Homemade Chai Latté

Save yourself $4 next time and, instead, invite your friend over for meaningful conversation over your homemade Chai Lattés.

Where I come from, the words chai and tea are redundant. They mean the same thing in several Indian languages. But when the western world speaks of chai tea, people are talking about a deliciously hot tea drink that is steeped with spices and served mixed with milk, simmered to spicy goodness. Here's my version of how to make Chai Lattés it at home with just a few pantry staple ingredients, (and you don't need a fancy steaming machine to do this):

Homemade Chai Latté

You will need:
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 2" strip orange peel
3 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 or 3 black peppercorns
1 pinch nutmeg
2 teaspoons sugar (or more if you like)
2 teaspoons black tea leaves

Combine the milk and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When warmed, add the orange peel, cloves, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, nutmeg, sugar and tea leaves into the pan.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the color deepens to your liking - mine takes about 2-3 minutes. Strain, and pour into teacups. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tilapia in Lemon-Butter Sauce (fakeroo Sole Meunière)

I've been on a roll lately with these decluttering food experiments. So, after some frustrations all day today, I was craving a tasty yet easy - and, of course, decluttered - weeknight dinner that would not disappoint. Crispy, buttery, and tangy...Sole Meunière is just that. Fans of Julia Child (including yours truly) know all about the Sole Meunière that was a unique part of her story about falling in love with French food. A classic French dish, it is a fillet of fish (Sole) that you dredge in flour, then pan-fry in butter, and serve with a pan sauce of butter and a generous twist of lemon. However, the slight problem for me was that none of the supermarkets in my little town had Sole. But I did have plenty of Tilapia, and discovered that you can achieve the desired results with Tilapia and pantry staple ingredients. Here is this very simple recipe:

Tilapia in Lemon-Butter Sauce
(fakeroo Sole Meunière)

You will need:
4 tilapia fillets
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons + 4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley (or ½ teaspoon dried)

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a large shallow dish. Pat tilapia thoroughly dry, then dredge these in the flour mixture on both sides. Shake off excess flour, and add to the pan when the butter is hot. Cook for four minutes on medium-high heat, then carefully turn over and cook on the other side for another four minutes. Remove these, and set aside. Turn heat down to medium-low, and add remaining 4 tablespoons butter to the same pan, along with the 4 tablespoons lemon juice, and parsley. Stir well, making sure to scrape together all the yummy bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tilapia fillets back into the pan, and spoon the sauce over each fillet. Turn the fillets over and do the same. Best served immediately, but it would also make a terrific next-day-lunch. Enjoy!

P.S.:  This decluttering thing may be my most successful new year's resolution yet! See some of these earlier posts for inspiration if you're inclined to do this in some creative ways  :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts with Brown Butter

So far so good on the "decluttering" New Year's resolution. We had a nice quiet Saturday night dinner at home and, in keeping with our resolution, enjoyed an utterly uncomplicated Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts with Brown Butter, accompanied by sides of peas and corn, and egg noodles. I am starting to really enjoy these simple meat dishes. (Remember the Salt and Pepper Roast Chicken post?)
Yes, there is a way to make very simple bacon wrapped chicken breasts, sans stuffing and other fuss. But, okay, maybe there's a little basting involved...

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts with Brown Butter

Serves 4
You will need:
2 chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally, and pounded thin
4 slices bacon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 toothpicks

For Brown Butter:
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

Nicely pepper both sides of chicken breasts and roll up on short side. Wrap each piece of chicken with a strip of bacon, and secure with toothpicks on either end. Lay these in a large skillet heated up to medium-low, and cook covered for 10 minutes, turning over halfway through. Uncover the skillet, and add the butter, rosemary, and garlic. As the butter melts, it will combine with the juices in the skillet, and will come together with the rosemary and garlic to make a beautiful basting liquid, brown butter. Baste this all over the chicken periodically, and cook for an additional 7 or 8 minutes on each side - you want to be absolutely certain that the chicken cooks all the way through. Enjoy!

Pina Colada Ice Cream Sundaes with Rum Raisin Sauce

I've gone tropical. We had dinner with some friends  last night, and my brilliant friend Paula had suggested a Tropical food theme! Duly inspired by sandy beaches, cold beverages, and warm weather, I came up with an appropriately tropical dessert to contribute: Pina Colada Ice Cream with a super easy Rum Raisin sauce to top it off. Oh, and did I mention, all of this can be made AHEAD of time?

Pina Colada Ice Cream with Rum Raisin Sauce

Makes 12 servings

For the Pina Colada Ice Cream Sundaes, you will need:
1 cup heavy cream
1 13oz. can coconut milk
1 20oz. can crushed pineapple in 100% pineapple juice
1 12oz. can evaporated milk (fat free will do just fine)
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together heavy cream, coconut milk, and sweetened condensed milk. Then add the crushed pineapple, and stir to combine. Add evaporated milk, and thoroughly whisk again. Pour into shallow freezer safe containers, cover, and freeze for about one and a half hours (until partially set). Remove from freezer, whisk again for at least three or four minutes, then freeze in covered containers again. Repeat this whisking-partial-freezing process at least twice – this action is what allows the ice cream to become creamy and increase in volume. When done, freeze again for at least eight hours or overnight. Serve with warm Rum Raisin sauce (recipe below). Enjoy!

For Rum Raisin sauce, you will need:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup water
¼ cup butter
¼ cup dark (spiced) rum
¼ cup raisins (golden or dark)

In a small saucepan, heat up rum until just warm, and add raisins. Cover, remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes. In a separate saucepan cook brown sugar and water together on medium-low heat until bubbly and syrupy, and let boil away for about twenty minutes, until thickened. Add butter in and stir until melted. Then add in rum and raisins, and stir to combine. Let cook for another ten or fifteen minutes. Serve warm, drizzled over ice cream.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Valentine's Day Dessert: Brownie Cherry Bites

Brownie Cherry Bites...a dessert that I made for Valentine's Day. But I bet it will be good on any other day too.

You can make two desserts out of one regular batch of brownie batter. Use half for this recipe, and make a half pan of regular brownies with the rest. Easy as pie. Or I should say, easy as Brownie Cherry Bites!

Brownie Cherry Bites

You will need:
1 half batch of brownie batter (half of a package enough for a 9x13 pan, if you use a mix)
1 jar maraschino cherries, drained and wiped thoroughly dry
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Line a 24-cup mini-muffin pan with paper baking cups and coat with cooking spray (they might stick a little anyway, but licking it off the paper cups is half the fun of eating it - if you ask me!)
Drop brownie batter into the muffin pan using a spoon or small scoop until each cup is about about 1/2 full. Bake at 350 F for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, melt chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl at 15 second intervals for about one minute, stirring at intervals, until melted and smooth. Remove mini-muffin pan from oven after the 5 minutes are up, but leave oven on - these will be going back in. Dip cherries in melted chocolate and drop them straight on top of the semi-set brownies.
Bake brownies for an additional 10 minutes at 350 F.
Let cool completely and put in covered containers in the refrigerator for about an hour to finish "setting". Then store in airtight containers at room temperature. Just before serving, microwave each brownie bite for about 7 or 8 seconds, just until slightly warmed. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chicken 65

A true favorite from South Indian cuisine. This immensely popular dish is probably the most ordered appetizer at non-vegetarian restaurants in Chennai (and elsewhere in South India).

You might be wondering - what the heck does Chicken 65 mean anyway? There are so explanations for this name, depending on who you ask. Some say it was named for the year (1965) in which it was invented, some say it was the cook's/inventor's street address.
While the name debate continues...I am enjoying my Chicken 65 for dinner tonight. Here is the recipe:

Chicken 65

You will need:
1 lb boneless chicken, cut into small pieces
4 teaspoons red chilli powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon garam masala (available at any indian/asian store - or substitute with equal parts ground cinnamon and ground clove)
5 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
6 drops red food coloring
2 cups vegetable or canola oil to deep fry
optional - fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

In a bowl mix red chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, lemon juice, yogurt, garlic, ginger, food coloring, and salt until it forms a thick paste. Add chicken to this and coat well. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Heat oil in a wok, or deep frying pan, and deep fry the marinated chicken on medium high for about six minutes on each side. (Cooking time may vary according to the size of the chicken pieces, my chicken pieces usually no more than a half-inch thick, so takes about 6 minutes frying time on each side to cook through.)
Drain on paper towels, garnish with cilantro and lemon wedges and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oranges, picked fresh off a tree...and Girl Scout Cookies

Two really random things happened today. They may have been random, but they sure made me smile.

First, a guy came in to my work place today to pick up something - this was in the middle of a particularly busy morning. While I rushed about trying to get his stuff ready, he patiently waited off to the side and then asked me "do you like grapefruits or oranges?" I was a bit flustered, and yet a bit curious to see where this would go, so I answered "oranges". He then asked, "what kind?" I answered "those little Florida tangerines." He said "I'll just go see if I have any of those." He immediately ran out to his car, and disappeared under the front seat. He came back in three minutes later with these two gorgeous oranges.
He proudly announced as he handed them to me "I just picked them this morning!" Leaves and stems still on and everything. What a sweet gesture.

The second event happened this evening when we were on our way to the hospital to visit Ryan's mom in recovery from a minor surgery. We stopped to get flowers, and right outside the flower shop - sheer feet inside the doors keeping out -6 F temperature - a brave little Girl Scout troop had set up a booth and was selling cookies.

Oh my. Girl Scout Cookies. Probably the most dangerous of all impulse buys. 

We came away with three boxes. Enough said.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Honey Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

It is Life Group season again! Our group starts tonight, and that means in addition to learning about love and respect in our relationships, we will be enjoying these Honey Ginger Cookies that I whipped up...don't you just love the smell of cookies baking?

This recipe is really simple. If you liked my Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, or the Butternut Squash Chocolate Chip Cookies you are sure to love these...

Honey Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

You will need:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place oven racks in top third and lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Beat butter in a large mixing bowl just until creamy using an electric mixer. Add brown sugar, mixing on medium until combined. Add egg, honey, fresh ginger, and ground spices just until blended. Gradually add flour mixture to this wet mixture beating on low until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto wax paper lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 F for 13 to 15 minutes just until cracked and lightly browned. Switch baking sheets between top and lower racks about halfway through baking time. Cool completely, then store in airtight containers at room temperature. Enjoy!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ginger, Chicken, And Coconut Soup

I stumbled upon a recipe for Tom Ka Gai (Ginger, Chicken, And Coconut Soup) in one of my Asian cookbooks tonight, and drooled over it for about five minutes before it occurred to me that I had most of the ingredients to make it for dinner tonight. Lacking some of the specialty ingredients, and the nearest Asian store being fifty minutes away, I came up with some fair substitutions…and they work!

Ginger, Chicken, And Coconut Soup
(Tom Ka, sort of)

You will need:
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can light coconut milk
1 cup milk (skim works just fine)
1inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
10 black peppercorns, crushed
2 teaspoons grated lemon or lime zest
1 cup skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
1 cup mushrooms, thinly chopped
1/2 cup corn, thawed if frozen
1 green chilli pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
chopped green onions, and cilantro for garnish

Combine broth, milk, and coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add lemon or lime zest, ginger, and peppercorns and lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Then add chicken, mushrooms, corn, chopped chilli peppers, and simmer for 5 - 7 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in lime juice, and fish sauce. Serve hot garnished with chopped green onions, and cilantro. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chilli Fried Fish

Fish cooked to crispy perfection on a bed of caramelized onions. I can guarantee that unless you've been to restaurants or someone's house in Southern India, you have never had fish that is anything like this. You must try this.

This fried fish reminds me of home like nothing else does, and brings food memories flooding back that are among my fondest. My mother would tell you that I have been eating this kind of fried fish ever since I was in diapers.

My recipe below is only a humble approximation of the fried fish (meen varuthathu, especially karimeen varuthathu) that is so popular from Kerala cuisine. The big the type of fish that is available here. My mother made this with Salmon while she was visiting me last year, and it was really good. I have since made it again and again with various other fish, and have grown accustomed to using tilapia due to it's abundance at my local grocery stores. It stands up to the high heat decently, absorbs the spices well, turns crispy, and is entirely delicious.
Chilli Fried Fish

You will need:
1 lb tilapia filets cut into 3" chunks
2 heaped teaspoons red chilli powder
1 heaped teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium red onion, sliced
3 tablespoons veg oil

Mix red chilli powder, pepper and salt together and rub it all over the fish, both sides. Let marinate at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium heat, then lay a single layer of sliced onions in the pan to make a "bed". Lay the fish on top of the bed of onions, then cover the skillet and cook on medium heat for about 4 minutes. Do not stir. Turn the fish over, and cook covered for another 4 minutes. Do not stir. Then, remove the lid and crank the heat up to high, and cook an additional 3 minutes on each side, until fish is nicely browned. Serve hot, with some of the browned onions from the pan. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Braised Artichoke And Spinach Soup

I had artichokes leftover from yesterday's Mushroom Bisque recipe and, craving soup again, I was happy to come up with a similar use for it tonight. I decided to do braised artichoke hearts in lemon juice and olive oil, and make a soup out of it, adding some green goodness spinach. Creamy, lemony, comforting, and so good! The method is essentially the same as the Mushroom Bisque recipe, so if you've got artichokes leftover, and all the other ingredients on hand, just do what I did and make this for the next night's dinner :)

Braised Artichoke And Spinach Soup

You will need:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained, halved, and patted completely dry with paper towels
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons good white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1 box chopped frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly squeezed dry
2 cups vegetable, or chicken stock
3/4 cup cream, or half and half
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt if needed

Serves 4 - 6.

Heat olive oil in a shallow skillet on medium heat. Then add artichoke hearts and sprinkle the lemon juice over it, and add black pepper. Let hearts cook for about two minutes, then turn over and let cook on the other side for another two minutes, then remove from heat.
Melt butter in a soup pot on medium heat. Turn heat to low, add onions and garlic. Stir until translucent, about 2 minutes on low heat, careful not to burn. Stir in the artichoke hearts. Then add flour, and allow it to coat the artichoke mixture well. Add the dried herbs, white wine and stir. Add the chopped spinach and stir to combine. Add the stock, milk, and cream. Allow soup to simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Puree the soup either in a food processor in batches, or using an immersion blender. Add pureed soup back to pot on low heat. Let sit on low heat for 10 minutes. Adjust salt if needed (I didn't need to add any). Serve warm. Enjoy!