Tag Archives: chicken

Delicious Detox: now I’m ready

I was serious. I mean, I am serious. I fully intend to take the entire month of May to eat intentionally and thoughtfully. Spring is actually a tough time to eat healthily because at our house we have to eat a lot of cake. Starting in February with Martin’s birthday which is quickly followed by Leo’s, then Alistair’s, with Siri’s trailing a month after, I make and eat more cake in the spring than at any other time of the year. In the midst of all that cake-eating celebration we have school auctions as well, which are festivals of even more towering desserts. So it’s not so much Spring (which was awfully cold, wet and un-spring-like this year) as cake season. The abundance of cake works well actually, as a slice of cake with a small cup of dark coffee and a splash of cream on a rainy day makes Seattle seem less soggy. If you lived here you’d agree with me. Anyway, here’s a photo of the final cake – Siri’s. Genoise with cream, custard and raspberry jam, covered in marzipan turned green with matcha tea…

Delicious doesn’t even come close. We finished that one off yesterday.

So, because of the last birthday coinciding with the beginning of May, today I’m resetting the start date of the delicious detox. This means plain yogurt and fruit for breakfast, a single egg omelette with cheese for lunch. If I must snack, an apple will have to suffice. Dinner could be almost anything and tonight it’s a big salad. Trawling through the grocery store, I found radicchio, a bulb of fennel, more asparagus. Tonight I will splash them with olive oil (just a little), sprinkle sea salt over the top, roast everything until crisp, arrange over lettuce and arugula, toss in some leftover grilled chicken. Then, I’ll strew toasted walnuts over the top and maybe a bit of goat cheese – and be done with it. The kids will get basil pesto and spaghetti to fill in the gaps. (I will not be having any of that!)

Roast Vegetable Salad with Chicken – serves 2 generously

  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered with a little core attached to each piece to hold it together
  • 12 asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1 head radicchio, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • two handfuls arugula, washed and dried
  • a small red lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite sized pieces
  • either a shallot, thinly sliced or a couple of scallions, thinly sliced
  • a handful of toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (Just crumble it yourself. The pre-crumbled kind is weird.)
  • leftover grilled chicken
  • olive oil
  • 2 tbsp walnut oil
  • 2 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • sea salt and black pepper

1. Set the oven to 425.

Raw fennel

2. Toss the fennel slices with a little olive oil and set them on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and roast for 30 – 40 minutes until caramelized and cooked through. You may want to turn them after 20 minutes. Set aside.

Raw radicchio

3. Do not dry the radicchio thoroughly. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and the fresh thyme leaves.  (Or, as you can see, whole sprigs if you are in a hurry.) After the fennel has been in the oven for 10 minutes add the pan with the radicchio. Turn the radicchio after 15 minutes and continue to roast until tender. The fennel and radicchio should be done at approximately the same time. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Roast radicchio and fennel

4. Set the oven to broil.

5. Toss the asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Broil for 4 minutes, turning the asparagus once half way through.

6. Whisk 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp walnut oil, and 2 tbsp champagne vinegar together until emulsified. Add a pinch of sea salt and several grindings of pepper.

7. Arrange the arugula and lettuce on a large platter. Place the radicchio, fennel, asparagus and chicken over the leaves. Toss the walnuts and goat cheese over the top. Dress.

The heat of the oven transforms the floral notes of fennel to caramel. The radicchio loses it’s bitter edge and the flavors turn round, rich and warm. I like the contrasts too. Cool creamy and tangy goat cheese. The bitter crunch of toasted walnuts. Soft green leaves. The slick of walnut oil in the dressing adds another compelling note.

I don’t know if the kids would have liked this or not as they didn’t end up getting any. Martin and I ate so quickly. We were starving.

Roast Chicken 101

I remember my first roast chicken. I was in college. Somebody had given me a copy of The Frugal Gourmet. (I quickly graduated to The Silver Palate – thank god!) The “Frugal” recipe called for a lot of olive oil, a moderate oven and just over an hour of roasting. I probably don’t have to tell you that this produced one very blond bird. The skin was pale, glistening, floppy and kind of freaky. It was very very moist and the flesh perhaps a tinge more pink than I am comfortable eating. For some inexplicable reason, I made roast chicken from that recipe for years. I wasn’t really up on the beauty of a perfectly roasted fowl. (The Silver Palate wasn’t big on things like that – it was more like “Glazed Blueberry Chicken” than roast.) So I didn’t make a roast chicken very often. It was just too gross.

A lot later, years and years actually, I was introduced to the Judy Rodgers method.  By that time, Roast Chicken had acquired a retro-chic and was often offered “for 2 – in approximately one hour” at fashionable bistrots. Ms. Rodgers’ recipe was one of those and involved salting the bird 3 days in advance, gently placing herbs under the carefully loosened skin and something called “bread salad”. Please don’t quibble that bread cannot really be salad. Relax, follow the directions and don’t look back. Just don’t. Judy Rodgers’ Roast Chicken with Bread Salad is the ultimate in ludicrously delicious comfort food made of mainly humble ingredients. I had it once in her restaurant in San Francisco, Zuni Cafe and only later discovered the recipe. It’s a little laborious – don’t let that deter you.

Roast chicken should be the workhorse of at least a monthly recipe repertoire. It can be dinner, then leftovers can be sandwiches or quesadillas the next night. The bones and drippings from a roast chicken make an excellent base for stock. Which can be made into soup on day three or four. Roast chicken makes the house smell like you’ve been slaving in a hot kitchen in order to lavish affection on those who are lucky enough to be eating dinner with you. However, a three day marathon is a tall order on a weekday. So after a little trial and error, I’ve tweaked the recipe. Taking a cue from an excellent teacher at Mugnaini Cooking School, I’ve combined recipes and a little common sense that comes from cooking for a family of five. This Roast Chicken requires only a little time and tastes wonderful. The pan drippings are liquid gold. Even though the method is streamlined, you won’t be giving up much. (You really should make Ms. Rodgers’ bread salad version some rainy Sunday though.)

Roast Chicken 101

the secret is the salt rub

The chicken will need to rest in the refrigerator for one night. The prep takes only 15 minutes though. All that’s left is to roast the following day.

  • (1) 4 pound (or thereabouts) free range chicken
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt, I like the Real Salt brand for this, and everything else actually – it really does make things taste better
  • 1 tbsp mixed fresh herbs – the shrubby ones, like rosemary, sage and thyme
  • the zest of one unwaxed organic lemon, removed with a Microplane grater
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 heavy duty skillet, not cast iron, it will get too hot. The skillet must be able to go from the stovetop to the oven
  1. Rinse the chicken in the sink in a large colander. Pat dry with paper towels and set it in a small roasting pan that will fit, with the chicken in it, in your refrigerator.
  2. Rinse and dry the herbs and remove the leaves. With a sharp chef’s knife finely chop the herbs, the salt, the pepper and the lemon zest.
  3. Rub this seasoned salt thoroughly all over the bird.
  4. Cover lightly with parchment and place in the refrigerator overnight, breast side up.
  5. When you are ready to roast, preheat the oven to 475.
  6. When the oven is hot, take your heavy duty skillet and place it on the stove over medium heat. Leave it for 5 minutes. 
  7. After five minutes, place the chicken, breast side up, in the pan. There will be a loud dramatic slapping sound as the cold chicken hits the hot pan. Put the whole thing in the hot oven. Set the timer for 30 minutes.
  8. After 30 minutes you’re going to need to flip this bird. Don’t worry, it’s not such a big deal. Using a metal spatula, carefully loosen the bird from the pan. (Because you placed the cold bird on a very very hot pan, this should be quite easy.) Drape a mitt over the skillet handle so you don’t forget and grab onto it. This has happened to me and it was not funny. I couldn’t grab onto anything for days afterwards. Using a few wadded paper towels, grab the bird by the legs and quickly flip it onto it’s breast. With mitts, put it back in the oven for 20 minutes.
  9. After twenty minutes, flip the bird back onto it’s back. Place it back in the oven for 5 or 10 minutes to recrisp the breast skin.
  10. Remove the chicken from the oven and then the skillet and let it rest on a platter or cutting board while you deal with the drippings.
  11. Pour off all the clear liquid on the bottom of the skillet. I usually pour it over those paper towels I used to flip the chicken and throw it away. The clear stuff is just chicken fat. It’s the browned bits on the bottom that you want.
  12. Pour a couple of tablespoons of water into the pan and set over medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up all the browned bits until they blend into the water, forming a glossy brown liquid – this is actually liquid gold. Believe me.
  13. Cut up your chicken. I use kitchen shears for the job. Arrange the pieces on a platter and dribble a tablespoon or two of the pan drippings over the top. Save the rest with all the bones for stock. You can freeze the bones and drippings together and do this later. Maybe on the weekend.
This probably looks like a lot of directions. Yes, it takes a little planning. Just do it once when you have a little extra time, perhaps on a Sunday afternoon. You’ll soon see it’s a little bit of work with a huge pay-off.
My final piece of advice to the cook is, make sure you get the wings. They will be crisper than the most crispy delicious thing imaginable (better than pommes frites!) and perfectly seasoned. The small amount of flesh will be moist and simply fall from the bones. Be very careful not to make a big deal out of it. Just make sure you get them. My nine year old has caught on to my little land grab so now he gets one of the wings, but that’s just between the two of us. No one else is the wiser.
We served our roast chicken with a salad of shaved fennel, julienned apples, toasted hazelnuts and white cheddar. I’ll tell you how to make that next time.

My Desert Island Food: White Bean and Kale Soup, Fennel Variation: Part 1

Consider that for years I have scrupulously avoided all dark mineraly leafy greens. Chard, spinach, escarole, kale. So bitter and chewy – not what I was after in a vegetable. So no one could be more surprised than I that my current obsession is with lacinato kale. Dinosaur Kale. Black Kale. The blackest, most tooth-y leafy green of them all. I’m still not quite sure how it happened. And of course kale’s healthy. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s the healthiest thing at the grocery store. It gets a 1,000 point ANDI* score, right up there with mustard, turnip, collard greens and watercress, making it almost 30% more healthy than even spinach! Why the fixation on kale? The strange dark chewiness – intriguing! I have a girlfriend who is so into lacinato kale that she eats it raw. But first she has to massage the kale. She said it was part of being macrobiotic or something. Massage. Kale. Really?! I should be on the receiving end of any massage, not mere kale.

Anyway I don’t eat it raw. No. I like kale blanched then sauteed with little rings of shallots and ribbons of prosciutto. Tossed with sherry vinegar and a knob of butter. Or in white bean soup. And make that cannellini beans not navy beans. For me, white bean and kale soup is the pinnacle of all soups. I have been working on variations of this soup for over a year and I think I am nearly there. White bean and kale soup might be a strange thing to crave on a desert island, I know, but for me this is the best kind of food: flavorful, nourishing, and more-ish. So today, I am going to start a two-part article on my desert island food which, shockingly, turns out to be White Bean and Kale Soup with Fennel. The creamy beans, the blackish intensity of the kale, the delicate, particular perfume of fennel. Not to mention the chicken broth holding the whole thing together.

Store-bought stock will not cut it in this recipe. I don’t want you to try this with Pacific Organic Chicken Broth or anything else from the soup section at your grocery store. The full experience starts with a deeply flavorful but light-handed, deftly salted broth. If you start with stock from a box, I can’t be responsible for your impression of my favorite soup! You will think I’m a nutcase if you start with industrial broth. (You probably think I am a nutcase anyway!) We have to start from the beginning. Chicken bones, water, salt and pepper, carrots, celery, etc. And go from there. This is how I do it. Part One.

Chicken Broth

People like Ina Garten start their stock from whole chickens. In Ms. Garten’s case, from 3 whole chickens. I have tried this with 2 whole chickens (my pot, while huge, is not that huge) and it is very nice, but it costs $28 just to buy the birds. Stock should be about thriftiness, though not mean frugality. The components should be fresh and plentiful, but whole chickens?! Not here. Save them for roasting and do as I do. Fresh backs and necks with maybe a leftover roast leg or thigh for richness.

Don’t freak out about the length of the recipe. This is fifteen minutes of hands on work. Fifteen minutes! You can handle it.

  • 4 pounds of backs and necks
  • if you have them, any frozen roasted chicken bones or leftovers from a roast chicken
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, washed and chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 2 red onions, peeled and cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 head of garlic cut in half across the equator
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 24 peppercorns
  • parsley, tied up and tied to the pot
  • olive oil, sea salt, ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450.

Toss the raw chicken backs and necks in a wide roasting pan, giving the bones plenty of space with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 heaping tsp of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

Roast for 4o minutes, until deeply browned and very fragrant.

Put the bones in the bottom of your soup pot. I used to use an enormous stainless steel pot, but it was so unwieldy and the process became too much of a production. Now, I use an 8 quart Le Creuset stock pot that I think of as medium sized and make enough stock for 2-3 pots of soup. I use 8 cups of stock for the soup and freeze the leftovers.

Once the bones are in the soup pot, the roasting pan will be a sea of chicken fat and olive oil, pour all of it off and dispose of it properly (not down the drain!). Then take about 1/2 cup of water and scrape up all the brown flavorful bits off the bottom. Do this while the pan is still hot! Be thorough – there is a lot of flavor there. Pour all of the browned pieces and now very flavorful water into the stock pot as well.

Add any leftover roasted bones from a roasting chicken now, or any leftover cooked chicken on the bone if you have it.

Place the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bay, peppercorns and parsley into the pot. You can tie the parsley to the side, or not. I like to fish the parsley out at the end as it is kind of slimy and soggy – even though I strain the stock anyway.

Add water until it completely covers the chicken and vegetables and is dangerously close to overflowing.

Heat the water over high heat until just about to boil. Then lower the heat and simmer very, very gently (barely bubbling) for 3-4 hours. Skim off any scum that forms on the top.

When the level of the soup has dropped about an inch and your house is redolent with the the warm scent of chicken broth, it is time to taste. Be thoughtful – you haven’t added sea salt yet.  You have to think carefully about what you are tasting. And you have to choose, salt the broth now or salt the soup later?  I usually salt the soup later – at the beginning when I am cooking the onions, carrots and celery. If you can’t wait that long to start to see that it is perfect already, add one teaspoon of sea salt (I love Redmond Salt from Utah), taste and then add very small increments until your stock tastes lightly salted and totally delicious.

Now it is time to strain off all the vegetables and chicken and bones which will be sapped of anything worthwhile and need to be thrown away. Line a colander with 3 layers of paper towels and ladle the broth through them into a large bowl. You will probably need at least two large bowls.

Then, if you are making soup the next day, ladle 8 cups into a storage container that fits into your refrigerator. Ladle the rest into Ziplock bags in either 4 or 8 cup increments and freeze, labelled and with the date.

I do this every 3 weeks and now I have a huge stockpile of…errr, stock!

*Aggregate Nutrient Density Index    http://andiscores.com/

P.S. Ok…after some thought – who am I kidding?! Kale and White Bean Soup may be my desert island food right now – but how long will this obsession really last!?!?! When I change my mind, I’ll let you know.

Faux pho

Faux pho (which I guess is pronounced “foh – fuh”) is a lot easier to make than true phở. True phở has a bunch of exotic ingredients which, in this house anyway, make it a tall order – especially on a day like crazy Thursday. Saigon cinnamon, star anise, roasted ginger, black cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed and clove.  Out of those I know I have the coriander, the fennel and the clove. And the star anise. Most people don’t have star anise and I have to admit, mine has been sitting around for awhile. Also the broth has beef bones and chicken parts and a lot of other things that make true phở not for the faint of heart and really not for last minute, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants types. A bummer if you ever crave phở in the middle of the week and it’s not practical to go out.

Faux pho is a different story. I made faux pho last Thursday and although it was a little insane to make it for the first time mid-week, I know that I’ll make it again and that next time it will be MUCH easier.

You might look at the picture and the list of ingredients for this soup and then see that I categorized it as Fast and Easy and come to the conclusion that I’ve either lost my mind or that my chopping hand is bionic (it’s not). I’m not crazy either. The prep for this soup isn’t bad at all. Do all of the knife work up front. If you chop everything before you start a recipe, the process goes a lot faster and there’s a lot less fumbling around as you cook. Also here is a Rule of Thumb (I can’t emphasize this enough):

The first time you make any recipe with a long-ish list of unfamiliar ingredients, don’t make it mid-week. Make it on Sunday afternoon so you can read the directions carefully and leisurely play around with it.

With this recipe it’s especially important because it’s not that hard or time consuming. Trying a recipe with more prep than you are used to mid-week might be so stressful that you’ll never try to make that really great recipe again. In this one there are no difficult techniques. There is some chopping, not too much.  Just the shallots, ginger, the green onion and the chili.  Think about it. How long could it possibly take to chop the ingredients in those small quantities?!

If you’ve never prepared lemongrass before, you’ll want to read the directions about trimming and removing the outer layer a couple of times before you start (since the line of directions has only 17 words – it won’t take that long). And you’ll see very quickly that lemongrass is not a big deal, no more difficult than prepping a scallion.

A couple more things: First, I rewrote the recipe and tried to break it down into essential parts.  It looks longer this way but the scope of work should be crystal clear. Also I adjusted the role of the chilies. In the original recipe they are added with the basil, the lime juice and the soy sauce. Since I had green thai chilies they were nearly indistinguishable from the scallions. It was as if those innocuous little green rings were crazy spicy naval mines in the soup – ambushing unsuspecting children and less seasoned adults. Those bird’s eye chilies are hot! So I specify using the red variety (so you don’t confuse them with the scallions) and using them as a garnish.

Chicken Noodle Soup with Lemongrass

Serves 4

The Soup:

  • 2 1/2 tbsp canola oil
  • 3/4 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 shallots (4 oz total), peeled and sliced into thin rings
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, ends trimmed, outer layers peeled off and discarded, halved lengthwise, whacked once hard with a mallet
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 tsp packed light brown sugar
  • 5 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3 1/2 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 12 ounces fresh udon noodles
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1 medium lime, half juiced and half cut into 4 wedges
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

To Garnish:

  • 2 medium scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks (or coarsely grated)
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 1 red thai bird chili, sliced into thin rings

Preparing the chicken:

  1. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp canola oil in a 6 quart heavy bottomed soup pot until shimmering.
  2. As oil is heating, season chicken breasts with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper.
  3. Cook chicken breasts without disturbing for 2 minutes, or until the chicken easily releases from the pan. Flip and cook until the second side is browned, 1-2 minutes more.
  4. Place chicken on a cutting board to cool.

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil for the udon as you are preparing the broth.

Making the broth:

  1. Add the remaining 1 tbsp canola oil and shallots to the pan.  Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes or until shallots begin to soften.
  2. Add lemongrass, ginger and brown sugar, cook until ginger and lemongrass become fragrant and the pan starts to sizzle – about 1 minute.
  3. Add the chicken broth, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  Raise the heat to medium high.  Bring the broth to a boil, then lower heat and simmer.
  4. Add the mushrooms and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.

Preparing the udon:

  1. In the pot of boiling salted water, cook the noodles, stirring once or twice to ensure they aren’t sticking together.
  2. Simmer for 3 minutes or until just tender.
  3. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.  Drain well.

Assembling the soup:

  1. Shred the chicken with your fingers or the tines of a fork and add it and the noodles to the broth.
  2. Simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and the noodles are tender, about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove and discard the lemongrass.
  4. Add the basil, lime juice and soy sauce, seasoning with more soy to taste.
  5. Divide the noodles and chicken between 4 large bowls, ladle the broth over the top.
  6. Serve with bowls of the garnishes at the table.

*What makes this pho really faux is that the recipe developers at Fine Cooking decided to make it with udon, not rice noodles. Initially I was suspicious. Why substitute udon for rice? They are equally easy to find and prepare. After trying the soup with udon though, it tasted more substantial than with rice noodles.  I might not use the japanese noodles every time, but it was fun to eat the bouncy chewy udon here.

Curried Cubanos with mojo, baby

What should be done with leftover curried roast chicken?  I’m still not sure why the answer turned out to be Curried Cubanos. I know, it should have been velvet butter chicken, but we have had a glut of curried chicken in the past few weeks. I was sick of chicken leftovers in quesadillas and chicken salad and even though I love chicken enchiladas, there is way too much prep to build them on a Tuesday night. Considering that the chicken was, in fact, curried, almost anything not Indian would be weird.  I was in the mood for a Cubano with Mojo* anyway. Even one with an incongruous Indian accent.

Cubanos with Mojo? (I have to say that looks really funny to me. I can’t write about mojo and not think of Austin Powers – even if they aren’t actually pronounced the same way) Anyway, this recipe for pork Cubano sandwiches from Fine Cooking uses a mojo to perk up the flavor. Although I have to say, that the curry from the leftover roast chicken probably contributed more mojo than the actual mojo did.  Which is not to say that the curry worked brilliantly – I kept thinking: Curried Cubanos…really?! I don’t know…as I was eating them, not ever being entirely convinced. Still, the kids liked them; we liked them. In terms of whether or not I might make them again, and for whom, well, I might serve them to my sister but never to her husband. I just don’t think he would approve.

With the Cubanos we had Black Bean Soup.   It has been at least a year since the last time I made Black Bean Soup. I had been following the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated’s The New Best Recipe.  I often turn to this book, especially for basic renditions of ethnic foods. They do a pretty good job of transforming supermarket fundamentals into things like pho and pappa al pomodoro which are a lot more fun than macaroni and cheese or broiled chicken breasts as midweek fare.

That being said, their black bean soup recipe stinks. Really. Their recipe stopped me from making Black Bean Soup at all. For a while, I couldn’t figure out why it was so terrible. They start with all the right ingredients. First, they cook the beans with a ham hock. Then, adding soffrito with red pepper, garlic and herbs. The weird part is that they finish the soup with this cornstarch slurry, promising to keep the soup nice and black and thickening without pureeing too many of the beans. It doesn’t work at all and there were a lot of extra steps.

What I realized when I went back to look at the recipe though, is that they expect the soup to be done in just 2 1/2 hours!  And that’s without soaking the beans.  No way is that going to work. What I have come to realize is you just can’t rush beans. Not black beans anyway. Thickening the soup with cornstarch is a cheater’s method. Black bean soup should be basic and easy going. It requires nothing more than a little planning.  10-15 minutes worth of work will give you back three days of deliciousness.  You don’t want to go messing around with a 3 part recipe to get an inferior soup with a lot of extra work. No. Soak your beans ahead of time and this soup materializes practically out of thin air! I read a bunch of recipes and cobbled this recipe together. This black bean soup is the color of the deepest chocolate. It has a velvety consistency and a gentle, easy, burn. You won’t break a sweat pulling it together.  Count on at least 3 hours of simmering though and on soaking the beans.

Black Bean Soup

  • 1 lb black beans, picked over and soaked overnight in a large bowl. The water should cover the beans by at least 2 inches
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • A 2 inch chunk of salt pork
  • 1 quart chicken broth, boxed is fine – I like Pacific brand
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained of their juice and cut up.  (I like to do this right in the can with my kitchen scissors as I learned from Laurie Colwin in her book Home Cooking, which I love)
  • 1 heaping tsp ground cumin
  • 2 or more minced cloves garlic
  • 1/8-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp of salt, more to taste

Grated cheese, chopped green or red onion, sour cream or greek yogurt for garnish

  1. 3 hours before dinner Put the chopped onion, the olive oil and the piece of salt pork in a large enameled cast iron pot or a heavy bottomed soup pot and turn on the heat to low.  Put the lid on the pot and cook 12-15 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times.  You don’t want the mixture to get crisp or brown, just to gently soften.
  2. Add the beans, the stock and the water and simmer for an hour or so until the beans are soft.
  3. 2 hours before dinner Add the tomatoes, cumin, garlic,chili flakes and salt.
  4. Leave to very gently simmer for a long long time – about 2 hours.  If you put it on a flame tamer and you are feeling brave you can run an errand or pick up the kids from school.  This makes me a little nervous but I still do it.  I would use a flame tamer though.  It would be very sad to scorch this wonderful soup.

Curried Cubanos

If you have leftover roast pork in the fridge, use that and you won’t have to make excuses about the curry.


  • 1 medium clove of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro
  1. Mash salt into the garlic with the back of your chef’s knife or a mortar and pestle.
  2. Transfer to a small bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes

The sandwiches

  • 4 oval shaped subs or bulky rolls, split, not too crusty
  • 3 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 6 oz leftover curried chicken
  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced ham
  • 4 slices swiss cheese
  • 2 dill pickles, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  1. Heat a sandwich press or use a grill pan heated over medium heat.
  2. Brush the inside of the rolls with the mojo and mustard.
  3. Stack the bottom part with equal amounts of pork, ham cheese and pickles.
  4. Top each sandwich with upper half and brush top with the butter
  5. Place in press or on grill pan.  If using grill pan, weight sandwiches with a plate with cans set on top.  Flip sandwich when bottom side is browned. Brown each side and let the cheese melt.

Since I had leftover chicken anyway, this menu was a breeze.  I soaked the beans after dinner the night before and started the soup at about 1:30 pm the following day, when the little guy started his nap.  I spent about 15 minutes on it, about 5 of those minutes at 1:30 and 10 at 2:30.  I didn’t do anything else with dinner until 5:15.  We were eating by 5:45, and that included heating up the panini press.

*Mojo: In Cuban cooking mojo applies to any sauce that is made with garlic, olive oil and a citrus juice, traditionally sour orange juice. It is used to marinate roast pork or plantains.

Serendipity: Potatoes with Many Seeds

On Sunday I was going to try this Roast Boneless Pork Loin recipe from Fine Cooking that has you roast pork for Sunday. Then, you eat Chinese Pork and Mushroom Wraps on Monday and New Mexican Pork and Green Chile Stew on Tuesday. On Wednesday, if there was any left, I could make Cubanos – a sandwich with sliced roast pork, ham, swiss, pickles and mustard.  I put mine in the sandwich press.  All of those porky things sound very good on their own but then I thought about eating pork for 4 nights straight and all of a sudden it didn’t sound so good anymore. So I kept flipping through Fine Cooking and there in the “Dinner with Friends” section I found an Indian Spiced Chicken recipe with cilantro and limes.  The menu was designed with Friday night in mind, an afterwork affair – very straightforward and easy. I thought if I made enough chicken, I could slice the leftovers and use them in an ersatz kind of Cubano – with chicken replacing the ham. In the menu in Fine Cooking, they served the chicken with basmati rice pilaf and a spinach and yogurt saag. I had a bag of fingerlings though, that had been meant to go with the pork and another of haricot vert. The haricot vert could become Gujerati Style Green Beans from Madhur Jaffrey and the potatoes, well, I thought those might get roasted with the chicken with a bunch of Indian spices and garlic. I figured I would be able to wing it but I steamed the potatoes, just in case, so they would be ready for anything.


  • Indian Spiced Chicken with Lime and Cilantro, Fine Cooking
  • Gujerati-Style Green Beans, see Capitol Hill Indian Food post for recipe
  • Potatoes with Many Seeds – Madhur Jaffrey

Game Plan

  • 45 minutes before you want to eat: Assemble all spices.  Measure out the spices and seeds separately that you will need for the chicken, beans and potatoes.
  • Make chicken marinade.
  • 35 minutes before you want to eat: Steam potatoes and green beans.  If your pot is big enough, you might be able to fit both into one pot, separated on either side of the steamer basket, bearing in mind that the beans will come out after 5-7 minutes and the potatoes after 15-20, depending on how big they are.
  • 30 minutes before you want to eat: Start broiler
  • 25 minutes before you want to eat: Put the chicken in the oven
  • 15 minutes before you want to eat: Start potato recipe and bean recipe. Slice potatoes lengthwise. Ideally you will have 2 large non-stick skillets to cook the beans and potatoes in simultaneously.  It’s a little bit of a duelling skillets moment.  Read the recipes over carefully though; it’s very easy to do them at the same time if you are aware in advance of what you need to accomplish.

Indian spiced chicken with lime and cilantro

for 4 (with leftovers for the next days Cubanos)


  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin seed
  • 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • the juice from a medium lime
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt – plus more to taste
  • 6 small chicken breast, skin-on, bone-in, trimmed of excess fat and skin.
  • lime wedges
  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Combine first 10 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth.
  3. Put the puree and the chicken into a large bowl and toss to coat all sides.  Set aside while broiler is heating or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  4. Position oven rack 8 inches from broiler and heat broiler on high. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Arrange chicken, skin side up on top. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt.
  5. Broil until chicken is brown with singed bits at the edges, about 20 minutes. If the chicken seems to be getting too dark, turn off the broiler and set the oven to 450F. Test with instant read thermometer or by cutting into chicken after 20 minutes. The chicken should be 165F when it is done; the juices clear. You may need 5-15 minutes more, depending on the size of the breasts. If it is done before or after the potatoes or the beans, no harm done. Any of these recipes could be served less than piping hot.
  6. Arrange chicken on plates or platter, garnish with cilantro. Serve with a squirt of lime juice.

Potatoes with Many Seeds

If you like making Indian food, it will be worth your while to keep black mustard seeds and cumin seeds in the house. There will be endless uses for them. I came to this recipe at the last minute last night, because I realized I wouldn’t be able to do both the potatoes and the chicken at the same time. I know it’s weird, but I was glad my oven was small and that I only have one. (I dream of having double wall ovens) But if I’d had two ovens, I would never have discovered this amazing recipe! There I was, about to toss the potatoes in the oven and I thought about it; it would never do. The rimmed sheet pan with the chicken was too large. The potatoes wouldn’t brown properly. The timing on the chicken could be compromised! Quickly I flipped through Madhur Jaffrey and came upon a recipe she calls Potatoes with Sesame Seeds. If I hadn’t been desperate – I never would have looked twice at that recipe. It sounds too boring. But I had steamed potatoes already and I knew I had sesame seeds. Again, lucky me. I also had the cumin and black mustard seeds. I am so happy I tried this recipe! These potatoes are encrusted with crunchy, salty, seeds, their warm, toasted scent permeating the whole house.  They’re beautiful, very more-ish and so unusual.  The sesame seeds are the least of their charms. We couldn’t stop eating them.  In fact, I was just now eating them cold, straight from the fridge – and I am a person who almost never eats leftovers (I know that’s weird for a cook). I highly recommend eating them this way. They were almost as satisfying right out of the refrigerator as they were hot.  I had to change the name. Potatoes with Many Seeds – not very inspired perhaps, but hopefully somewhat intriguing.

  • 2 lbs fingerling potatoes, steamed and sliced lengthwise
  • 4 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/8-1/2 tsp chile flakes
  • 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Put the potatoes and the seeds right next to the pan, ready to go.
  3. Add the oil and when it is very hot, add the seeds. They will pop almost immediately and start to jump right out of the pan like crazy. Rather messy but so worth it.
  4. Quickly add the potatoes and fry for 5 minutes – they will start to become golden and crisp.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes and salt and fry for another 5 minutes until browned on the outside.
  6. Sprinkle with lemon or lime juice and serve.

We liked this menu so much. The chicken was crisp, the spices warmly fragrant and the final squirt of lime juice, piquant. Then the potatoes…the potatoes…the potatoes. Delicious.  I would serve them on a platter as an hors d’oeuvre with a champagne cocktail; although that might be kind of odd – it would certainly be satisfying.  I got the same desire for them as I get for potato chips or caramelized onions. The saltiness, the nuttiness of the seeds, the crisp crunchiness.  The green beans as always, were a hit. This menu might be a little salty if you are a person who is sensitive to salt.  But we loved it.  This one is a winner at my house.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when the leftover chicken will reappear in Cubanos with mojo…you may want to soak a pound of dried black beans in preparation.

Why is there no Indian food delivery on Capitol Hill?

I hate to start a conversation like this:  Why is there no good Indian food delivery in Capitol Hill? And I hate it even more when a conversation takes this turn because it sounds so whiny: When I lived in San Francisco there was…Indian food. Just 1 phone call plus 10 minutes away! I can’t help but long for San Francisco though, when I think of times I was deliriously tired with a 2 year old and a new born and wasn’t up to hauling out my mortar and pestle and standing in the kitchen cooking for hours. Star India was there.  Ten minutes after I called  I would have 3 or 4 paper bags with pakoras and samosas, raita, naan, chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, aloo gobi and these wickedly spicy chickpeas with ginger that my newborn (who is now 7) probably still hasn’t totally forgiven me for eating.

Fortunately, I love making Indian food myself – when I’m not wiped out from parenting.  I have this pal in San Francisco, and we used to get together and make our own garam masala and all kinds of other things that would have  friends who are actually Indian in stitches and wonder.  Why would you make that yourself?!  Well…it’s really really fun.

I have even less time now, three kids, a wiggly puppy, a mountain of  laundry, all those other meals I’m in charge of, there isn’t time to make elaborate Indian meals on a whim. And, there isn’t any delivery. Not in my neighborhood anyway. Sometimes I need an Indian food fix mid-week. Now, I’ve found a recipe which may not be authentic, but is very satisfying. What it lacks in nuance, it more than makes up for with how easy it is to throw together. Combined with a few sides that are quick (one is from my old Madhur Jaffrey book, Indian Cooking), I can have a great Indian meal on the table in 45 minutes.  It’s practically crazy Thursday worthy.

Mid-Week Indian Menu in 45 Minutes

Chicken Curry

Gujerati Style Green Beans with Black Mustard Seeds Or Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin and Coriander

Basmati Rice

Work Plan: Cauliflower Variation

The plan may seem complicated at first.  Don’t give up on this menu!  The second time around it will be a LOT easier.

  • clean and cut up cauliflower, toss with olive oil and spices
  • make the curry spice paste, slice the onion and begin to cook
  • Start the rice
  • Pop cauliflower in the oven
  • Add the yogurt to the curry and continue simmering
  • Remove foil from cauliflower
  • Add chicken to curry
  • Flip cauliflower

Chicken Curry – 20 minutes prep.  25 minutes on the stove

The recipe comes from The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. Ms Kasper uses chicken thigh in her recipe and I have tried it.  Too greasy and gamey for me, and I like chicken thighs. Breast worked better; it tasted fresher. Ms. Kasper also uses a spice blend with coriander, cumin and pepper. I tried it and it was fine but I found it easier and closer to what I was looking for when I used Murchi Curry Powder from the Whole Foods line of spices. The turmeric adds the right warm notes and color.

Curry Paste

  • 1 large onion cut in half
  • 6 fat garlic cloves
  • 3″ fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 tbsp excellent yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1-2 jalapenos, stemmed and seeds removed if you like it less hot
  • 1/2 cup water


  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 cups whole milk yogurt
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, in 1″ pieces
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp minced cilantro leaves
  1. In the food processor, puree one of the onion halves, garlic, ginger, curry powder, salt, cinnamon, tomatoes, jalapeno, and the 1/2 cup of water.
  2. Slice the remaining half onion thinly.  Film the bottom of a 12″ heavy bottomed sauté pan with vegetable oil  and heat it over medium high heat until it shimmers.  Add onion and sauté until lightly colored.  Add the purée and reduce the heat to medium.  Sauté for 10 minutes.  Don’t skimp.
  3. Blend 2/3 cup yogurt into the sauce and simmer again, scraping the bottom of the pan until thick – 8-10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the chicken, adding remaining yogurt and 1/3 cup water. Slowly simmer, uncovered for 8-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Because you are using breast meat there is less margin for overcooking.  Do check carefully to see it is done and then remove to a serving bowl.
  5. Raise the heat on the sauce and boil it down until quite thick.  Pour the sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle with cilantro.  (I had time in the morning to make this and none at night.  When the chicken was done, I cooled it as the sauce reduced.  I reheated the sauce at dinnertime adding the chicken for 3 minutes just before serving. The time in the fridge allowed the flavors to blossom.)

Roast Cauliflower

  • a two pound head of cauliflower
  • 3 tbsp mild olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp powdered dry coriander
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 475 F
  2. Trim off leaves of cauliflower. Cut  head into 1″ – 1 1/2″ florets.
  3. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and pour olive oil onto sheet.  Toss florets with oil directly on sheet.  sprinkle with spices and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cover cauliflower with another sheet of foil and place in oven on rack set in lowest position
  5. Cook 10 minutes and remove foil.
  6. Cook a further 8-10 minutes and then, using tongs, flip over each floret.
  7. Cook another 8-10 minutes.

Basmati Rice

This is hardly a recipe, just a method for those pressed for time. In her book Classic Indian Cooking, Julie Sahni says you have to rinse the basmati until the water is clear and then soak for 1/2 an hour before draining very carefully because the grains are so delicate from soaking. Well, I have done that and it is lovely; but honestly, who has the time on a week night?  When I am set on getting dinner on the table AND having Indian food in a short period of time, this is what I do:  I take 2 cups of water and set it on the stove on high, with a big pinch of kosher salt added when it boils. While the water is heating up, I put a cup of basmati rice in a sieve ( I have a little one) and I rinse it for a couple of minutes under running water. When the water boils, I dump the rice into the pot and stir. Then I wait until the water reaches the boil again. Quickly, I clamp the lid onto the pot and turn the heat down low. I set the timer for 18 minutes. Then I turn off the heat. I NEVER PEEK. The rice can sit like this for 20-30 minutes. It’s usually quite good this way.

Gujerati Style Green Beans

I have served these beans with so many  meals.  They’re great with grilled chicken, tandoori chicken, steak and potatoes. I have also substituted broccoli (ok – maybe that was not so great).

  • 1 lb. frozen haricot vert, defrosted under hot running water and dried
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat.  When shimmering, put in the mustard seeds.
  2. As soon as the seeds begin to pop (you’ll hear it!) put in the garlic.  Stir the garlic until it just begins to brown.
  3. Add the chile flakes – stir a few seconds.
  4. Add the beans , salt and sugar.  Stir and turn down the heat.  Cook for 3 – 5 more minutes.
  5. Add black pepper and serve.