Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sneak Peek at Madhur Jaffrey's New Cookbook: Tandoori-Style Chicken with Mint

Not only does Madhur Jaffrey have the notch of award-winning actress in her belt, she's the Julia Child of Indian cuisine. Born in Delhi, she first pursued a career on stage and on the big screen with much success. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that her culinary skills were noticed and she was catapulted into the world of cooking shows and cookbooks. Thanks to her, much of the Western world was introduced to the fragrant foods of India and the Far East.

I’m still somewhat of a novice when it comes to cooking Indian food but when I do, I often seek out Jaffrey’s recipes. So of course I was delighted when Borzoi Cooks (via Knopf Publishing) included a sneak peek from her new cookbook, At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, which will grace shelves on October 19th, in their latest newsletter.

Like many of her recipes, this Tandoori-Style Chicken with Mint did not disappoint. The yogurt marinade, full of fresh ginger, onion, garlic and spices, produced fantastically flavorful, tender chicken. And the best part? No tandoor required. 

Indian cooking can seem complex but this recipe eliminates the intimidation factor. Get the chicken marinating the night before (it needs at least 8 hours) and all you have to do the next day is cook some basmati rice, whip up a little mint yogurt sauce and chop cucumbers for salad. New to Indian food? This is a great place to start.
Tandoori-Style Chicken with Mint Recipe
This chicken is incredibly versatile since it tastes just as good cold as it does hot. From At Home with Madhur Jaffrey. Serves 4.

Note: An 8-24 hour marination period is required.

4 whole chicken legs (about 2 3/4 pounds), skinned and separated into drumsticks and thighs
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
One 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons ground cumin seeds
1 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons olive or canola oil or ghee
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Cut 2 deep diagonal slits into the fleshy parts of each thigh and 2 diagonal slits into both fleshy sides of each drumstick. Rub both sides with the salt and then the lemon juice. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the onions, garlic, ginger, cayenne, garam masala, cumin, and yogurt into a blender and blend until you have a smooth paste.

Put the chicken and all accumulated juices in a bowl. Add the paste from the blender and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight or 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Remove the chicken from the marinade (smoothing off the excess) and lay the pieces in a single layer on a baking tray. Brush with oil and then sprinkle with half the mint. Bake 15 minutes.

Turn the pieces over, brush with more oil, and sprinkle the remaining mint over the top. Bake another 5 minutes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ricotta Spinach Pesto Pasta

My mom is an extraordinary cook so, naturally, I look forward to my trips home. This past July was one of those times. Per usual, I packed at the eleventh hour, got little to no sleep and showed up on the east coast like death warmed over. Mom, being the nurturing type that she is, made sure to have a light meal ready. Enter this pasta dish.

Originally printed in the August 2004 issue of Cuisine at Home, this is admittedly the type of recipe I would overlook. Pasta? Pesto? Been there, done that. But this one is a touch different. 

In addition to the usual suspects, this particular pesto contains fresh spinach, lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon juice. It's then tossed with hot pasta, corn and green beans (yes, corn and green beans! Crazy!) and a healthy dose of ricotta cheese. And for a little acid, the whole shebang is topped with vinegared tomatoes. The result? A protein- and fiber-packed flavor explosion. It's really addictive, and even tastes delicious cold (read: packs great for lunch the next day).

Pasta with Vegetables and Ricotta Spinach Pesto Recipe
Any type of pasta can be used here (I used brown rice fusilli). If you don’t have any nuts on hand, they can easily be omitted from the pesto. Adapted from Cuisine at Home|August 2004.

For the pesto:

2 cups fresh spinach, tightly packed
1 cup fresh basil, tightly packed 

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 
1/4 cup pine nuts, almonds or walnuts, toasted
2 tablespoons lemon zest 

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons kosher salt 

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

12 oz. dry pasta of choice (I like fusilli with all its crevices)
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 cups green beans, fresh or frozen (if fresh, trimmed and cut in half)
2 cups ricotta cheese

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (or regular tomatoes seeded and diced)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & pepper

Parmesan cheese for garnish

Place all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. 

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to package directions. If you’re using frozen corn and green beans, add them to the pasta during the last minute of cooking. If using fresh, add them 2-3 minutes before the pasta is finished. Drain.

Place the ricotta cheese in the bottom of a large pasta bowl; season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the pasta, vegetables and spinach pesto; toss well.

In a mixing bowl, toss the tomatoes with the white wine vinegar, olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Spoon on top of the pasta. Garnish the entire dish with shaved Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Salted Chocolate Almond Cookies

I don’t bake cookies very often, maybe three times a year at best, but Ina Garten did it again. I was at the gym watching The Barefoot Contessa when she had Kathleen King, the owner of Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton, on as a guest. Kathleen shared her recipe for a bakery favorite: Double Chocolate Almond Cookies. I could see why they were so popular – chewy, chocolaty dough packed with chopped almonds and two types of chips. As Ina would say, "What's not to love?"

So when I was planning dinner for our group camping trip in the San Juan Islands last weekend, I decided to give her recipe a go. We were responsible for Saturday night dinner and I thought that a chocolaty hand-held dessert after plates of chicken tikka masala, cardamom rice and cucumber salad would be just perfect. I made the dough ahead of time, baked off a few for taste testing purposes*, formed the rest into balls and froze them. Come Saturday, all I had to do was pop them into the cabin’s oven for 15 minutes.

*Taste testing proved key. While the cookies were incredibly yummy, they were a bit sweet, which I remedied with a light sprinkling of sea salt before baking.

The Henry Island crowd gave them rave reviews. I actually remember Cecily saying, “This is the best cookie I’ve ever had.” And Jared, I’m pretty sure, gave up on his diet that night.

Since then, I’ve tweaked the recipe further by using dry roasted almonds and omitting the white chocolate altogether. The result: sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy, chocolaty goodness. Does your cookie do that?

Salted Chocolate Almond Cookies Recipe
Brown sugar is hygroscopic, meaning that it attracts water. This property is what keeps these cookies nice and chewy. As for sprinkling salt, use one that can stand up to baking (kosher salt will melt instantly). Adapted from a Tate’s Bake Shop recipe.

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 

3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda 

3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) room temperature butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup roughly chopped dry roasted almonds
Good quality semi-course sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light a fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla; mix to incorporate. Add the dry ingredients and mix
just until combined.

Add the chocolate chips and almonds. Using a large wooden spoon and some old fashioned elbow grease
(dough will be stiff), stir to combine. Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop balls of dough two inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle each cookie with a small pinch of sea salt. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets. They will be quite soft out of the oven but will firm up as they cool.