Friday, January 29, 2010

African Peanut Soup with Chicken

I can’t precisely remember what led me to make this peanut soup. I think I was cruising through food blog space and saw Gluten-Free Girl’s post on Marcus Samuelsson’s new book, The Soul of a New Cuisine, and that mouth-watering photo of those squash and apple fritters. Ever since I’ve had African-inspired food on the brain.

I don’t know about you but I always think peanut stews when I think African cuisine. Mark Bittman contributed one such recipe in his Minimalist column last June in the New York Times so I thought that would be a good place to start. After reading through a handful of other recipes, I came up with the following version – a smoother textured soup with a spicier kick.  

This is delicious hot off the stove but even better reheated the next day.   

African Peanut Soup with Chicken
More of a stew, this thick, flavorful soup goes well with a scoop of brown rice. 

3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into chunks
Salt and pepper
½ tablespoon curry powder
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 jalapeño, diced
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups chicken stock
28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
1 pound yams (1 large or 2 small), peeled and diced
1/3 cup crushed, roasted peanuts
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed and cut into ribbons 

In a large pot over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoon peanut oil until hot. Add chicken pieces and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink and just beginning to color, 6-8 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.
In the same pot over medium heat, add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add curry powder and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add onions and cook for 4 minutes more. Add the garlic, ginger, jalapeño and cayenne and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Add the stock, entire can of tomatoes and the diced yam. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer the soup to a food processor or blender and pulse, leaving it with a bit of texture. Return soup to pot and add chicken pieces along with any juices collected on the plate plus 1/3 cup crushed peanuts. Cover and simmer over low for 10 minutes. 

Swirl in 1/3 cup peanut butter until dissolved. Stir in kale, cover and let simmer on low for 10 minutes or until kale is tender.

Season to taste. Serve hot garnished with crushed peanuts and freshly chopped cilantro or green scallions.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Warm Roasted Pepper Salad

We don’t have cable, but if we did we’d be in trouble. Tristan for his sports addiction and me for being a cooking show junkie. We actually get by quite nicely with Netflix. But can I say thank god for PBS? Not only do they air old black and white Julia Child episodes, they have Ming Tsai, Lidia Bastianich and America’s Test Kitchen in their line-up. And in my opinion, these shows are far superior to anything you’ll find on the Food Network.

That said, I was half awake one night on the sofa watching Lidia’s Italy. I really should’ve retired to bed but she was about to make a roasted pepper salad that sounded incredible. I watched, salivated and hoped I’d remember it the next day.

Good thing I did because this salad blew our socks off. The oven-roasted peppers were sweet and juicy while the capers, anchovies and olives contributed earthiness, saltiness and brine. I served it with pan fried white fish for dinner and then alongside scrambled eggs the next day for breakfast. The muffled “mmmm’s” and “ahhh’s” between forkfuls proved its worthiness.

Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Capers, Anchovies and Olives
Don’t even consider using jarred roasted peppers – the slightly warm, just roasted flavor is what knocks this out of the park. Adapted from Lidia’s Italy.

6 bell peppers, preferably 2 red, 2 yellow and 2 orange 
Olive oil
6 anchovy fillets, minced
1 heaping tablespoon capers
Rounded 1/3 cup oil-cured black olives
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Wash and dry bell peppers and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush outsides with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake until charred and very soft (they’ll start collapsing), about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
When cool enough to handle, peel skin away from peppers. Pull out stems, cut each pepper open and scrape out seeds. Using your fingers, tear peppers into 1-inch wide strips and place in a bowl. Add anchovies, capers, olives and parsley and mix well. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Shepherd's Pie with Lamb Mince

Tristan was horribly sick last week and had to fend for himself for two days straight. After one too many bowls of instant ramen and salt & vinegar potato chips, all he wanted was some home-cooked comfort food. “Something plain with meat,” he said.  “What’s more comforting than Shepherd’s Pie,” I thought?

Last spring I bought 2 packages of Olsen Farm’s freshly ground lamb (they claim to butcher the youngest, freshest lambs resulting in succulent meat with virtually no gamey taste) from the U-District farmers’ market with hopes of turning it into lamb ragout over homemade pappardelle. That never happened. So they’ve been sitting in my freezer all this time awaiting their big reveal. There hardly seemed a better way to showcase them than in an 18th century English peasant dish.

I read through at least a dozen Shepherd’s Pie recipes before feeling grounded enough to just wing it. For Tristan’s sake, I wanted something straightforwardly delicious and not too fancy. The following recipe delivered just that. It was so tasty that we ate it for both breakfast and a midnight snack the following day.

Shepherd’s Pie with Lamb Mince
The lamb in this recipe can easily be replaced with ground beef, but then be sure to call it Cottage Pie.

Serves 4

1 ½ pounds waxy potatoes
1 pound ground lamb
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1 – 1 ½ cups frozen mixed vegetables (peas, corn & carrots)
2-3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Peel and quarter potatoes. Place in a medium saucepan, cover with salted water and boil until tender, 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook ground lamb in a large skillet over medium heat until no longer pink (feel free to add a drizzle of oil if the pan needs it). Drain on paper towels and wipe out skillet.

In same skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add diced onions and sauté until tender and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook a minute or two longer. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the raw, tinny taste cooks out, about 2 minutes. Add broth, Worcestershire sauce and frozen vegetables. Cook, uncovered, over low heat until thickened, about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste (and more Worcestershire sauce if necessary).

When potatoes are tender, drain and return to saucepan over low heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and enough milk to mash until smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle in parsley and mix well.

Pour the lamb/vegetable mixture into an appropriate size baking dish. Spread mashed potatoes evenly over the top, then use a fork to create little peaks that will brown when baked. Transfer to oven and bake, uncovered, until brown and bubbly, 20-30 minutes. If desired, place under the broiler for the last few minutes to ensure browning and crisping on top.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nude Food's Got a New Kitchen

Wow, it’s been a long time. Not only was I a.w.o.l. during the holiday season (overseas again), but I was incommunicado for a length of time beforehand. This I blame on moving. Yep, we finally said adios to the University District and heeell-o to Capitol Hill. Not only do we finally have some peace and quiet (not many drunk 19 year olds partying at 4am on a Tuesday in this neck of the woods), but NudeFood scored a new kitchen!

And I’m in love.

It’s super spacious with a gas stove-containing island that was made for entertaining. It has built-in spice racks, a marble-topped work surface, track lighting and lots of windows. And did I mention a gas range?! Agghhhhh!

There is, however, one point of contention. The oven is the old-school sort with a teeny, tiny little broiler drawer in the bottom. As the New York Times so aptly pointed out, the broiler is under appreciated by most people, an unsung hero of sorts. For years it was my preferred method for making toast, steaks, baked eggs (that one's gonna hurt) and fish. Well, they say change is good so I’ll embrace this as a chance to perfect the pan-sear-then-finish-off-in-the-oven-steak and, well, probably buy a toaster. It’s all good.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled to be back. All boxes have been unpacked, all items have found a home, and all suitcases have been tucked away in the basement. So be on the lookout for lots of (non-broiler) recipes coming out of NudeFood’s new cucina in 2010. I think it will be a splendid year.