Spicy Tomato Soup

Looking for something easy, tasty and low-carb that I could make in a large batch to take for lunches at work, I adapted a few soup recipes into the following. I’ve been enjoying it for a few weeks now!

dsc01312SARAH’S SPICY TOMATO SOUP

1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 green onions, chopped
4 cups broth, beef or chicken
1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (24oz) jar prepared salsa
2 tablespoons cilantro, or cilantro chutney
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder (the spice mix for making for chili)

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan or stockpot. Simmer on medium low for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Process with an immersion blender for a puree-style tomato soup, or leave as is for a chunky-style soup. Garish with extra cilantro. For a hearty twist, top with shredded cheese and/or sour cream. Enjoy!

Chicken Cacciatore

I make this recipe all the time, and decided I should finally blog it, since it’s tasty and works every time. What I find interesting about the recipe is how the ingredients are very simple, but getting it right involves patience and technique. Strictly speaking, I don’t think I use all of the traditional cacciatore ingredients; but another nice thing about the recipe is that it’s very forgiving about the vegetables you can use, which I always think is a plus, and anyway, fuck tradition or whatever.  I present it to you with the vegetables I like to use the most. Oh, and another nice thing about the recipe is that it’s a one-pot meal – well, two pots, since you’ll want to be making rice or pasta simultaneously. But still.  The following makes enough for my husband and I for dinner, and enough leftovers for at least one of us to have lunch the next day.

Chicken thighs, frying away.

 

You’ll need:

4 chicken thighs
Oil
All-purpose flour
1/2 large white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2/3 cup white wine
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch red kale, destemmed and torn into small pieces
1 small BPA-free can of diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen Organic), or 4 fresh roma tomatoes if they’re in season, diced
1/2 – 1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or 1/4 teaspoon regular old salt)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Brown rice or pasta

 

 

Get a heavy-bottomed lidded pot or deep skillet. I have Le Creuset Dutch oven that’s coated cast iron and it is worth every single cent of the $150 it cost and more – I use it constantly. But the point is, you’ll need a good heavy pot or deep skillet with a lid. Heat it over medium heat, and add enough oil to coat the entire bottom. Olive oil adds a nice flavor to the chicken, but canola can be heated to a higher frying temperature, so a mix of both is ideal, but failing that, if you use olive oil keep the heat at medium, but if you use canola you can go to medium high.

CAN YOU SPOT THE DORITO BAG?

Coat your chicken thighs in flour, and then fry them gently until they’re golden brown; it takes about 5 – 7 minutes per side. Set them aside on paper towels. Pour most of the oil out of the pan, but leave a little.

Dice half a large white onion and crush four garlic cloves and add them to the oil, turning down the heat to medium low. Sautee until golden brown, about 10 minutes. When everything’s starting to carmelize (don’t burn the garlic!) deglaze with the white wine. Bring the wine to a simmer.  Drink the remainder of the open bottle of wine – remember, NEVER cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.

Add the can of tomatoes* and juice. Chop the red bell pepper and add that along with the pepper, salt, and oregano. Stir and bring to a simmer. De-stem and chop your red kale into bite-sized pieces (you can do this while the chicken is frying) and put that into the pot – cover it and allow the leaves to wilt, about five minutes.

Nestle nestle.

Give everything a good stir, and then nestle your chicken thighs back into the mix. Turn the heat to low+ – somewhere between low and medium low – and cover the pot or skillet most of the way, but make sure steam can escape. Braise the kale and chicken thighs this way for 45 minutes.

Traditionally cacciatore is served with pasta, and that’s perfectly tasty, but I personally like to serve it with brown rice because I think that the rice soaks up the sauce better. My husband insists that this recipe should also be served with grated parmesan cheese – I might put a few red pepper flakes on the table as well.

Look at all that glistening health!

*If Muir Glen Organic seems pricey (though they’re not so bad, maybe $0.25 more than store-brand for just the small tomatoes), Hunt’s also offers BPA-free can linings, I hear.  Because it’s better not to get cancer, you know?  Oh, and FYI, Muir Glen’s canned tomatoes are BPA-free, but their other canned goods aren’t, so don’t like, assume the beans are non-carcinogenic just ’cause the tomatoes are.  Of course, @javelinwarrior shamed me about canned beans so often that I bought some damned dried beans, so the point’s moot in my house now.

 

Speaking of @javelinwarrior, I submitted this recipe to his made-from-scratch noms blog:

 JWsMadeWLuvMondays

Curry Sauce Victory, plus Spinach Kofta

A few weeks ago I took my first foray into Kofta (i.e. Meatball) Curry. The meatballs I made turned out quite pleasing, but the curry sauce recipe I made to accompany them was disappointing. Somehow a recipe that looked to contain all manner of interesting flavors ended up underwhelming and bland.

I resolved to have another go at Kofta Curry, in particular the curry sauce. I contemplated what might have gone wrong in the sauce recipe I used last time, and how it might be fixed. I considered what makes other, similar tomato-based curries (such Tikka Masala or Makhani) that I know and love so tasty. I resolved to pool several curry recipes, including my Tikka Masala and Makhani recipes and a number of Kofta Curry recipes I found online, comparing and contrasting them, taking the common ingredients, adopting uncommon ingredients with special promise, and getting rid of ingredients or methods that appeared troublesome… all with the hope that the resulting recipe would embody all of the glorious flavor one could ever hope for in a Kofta Curry!

Well, at least I wanted it to be tastier than the recipe I tried two weeks ago. And in that goal, at least, I succeeded. While I don’t claim it is the pinnacle of all curry on Earth, it turns out to be a pretty darned good tomato curry with its own character, similar in some ways, but also distinct from the other types of curry recipes I consulted.

SARAH’S DEFINITIVE KOFTA CURRY SAUCE

Kofta Curry Sauce1 oz butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic (1 teaspoon minced)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground red pepper or paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 can diced tomatoes
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
water, as needed
1/2 to 1 cup cream or beaten yogurt
cashews
cilantro

Saute the onion and garlic in the butter. Add spices and other ingredients as they simmer. After adding the tomatoes, a little water may be needed if the sauce is too thick. Depending on how long you simmer the sauce (i.e. if you’re going to use it to stew meat, or just keep it warm on the stove while cooking other things), you may need to add a little water as it cooks to keep it at that desired gravy-like consistency.

I’m a fan of smooth sauces, so I used my immersion blender to process this sauce; however if you prefer a chunkier sauce there is really no need to process it, as there are no whole spices in this recipe. Add the cream shortly before serving, and heat through. Serve with kofta meatballs or vegetable balls. Garnish with cashews and fresh cilantro.

The only adjustment I made to this recipe after trying it was that I added an option for less lemon juice. I used the full 2 tablespoons when I made this recipe; when I ate the sauce a second time as leftovers, I noticed it was just a tad acidic after sitting a day in the fridge. Probably adding additional cream would help to tame this acidity, but I may use only one tablespoon of lemon juice in the future.

One day soon, I hope to try this sauce with my previous Kofta Meatball recipe, but in the interest of keeping my repertoire varied, but this past weekend I decided to try a recipe for Spinach Kofta.

I spoke in my afore-referenced blog about different varieties of kofta. Among the Malai (i.e. vegetable) koftas, there seems to be quite a lot of variation from one recipe to another in terms of what vegetables are used. Sometimes the variance is minor, sometimes two recipes will use different vegetables altogether.

I decided to start with a recipe for spinach kofta, as it looked easy enough to make with things I already had around the house. As the recipe called for mashed potatoes, rather than chopped potatoes, I knew I could use my favorite potato substitute, canned yams.

Kofta Close-UpSARAH’S SPINACH & YAM KOFTAS

1 (29oz) or 2 (16oz) can(s) of yams, thoroughly rinsed and drained
1/2 lb. frozen spinach (i.e. half a 1 lb. bag), thawed
2 green chilis, diced
2 tablespoons cottage cheese (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon paprika or cayenne
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 egg
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
corn flour or besan (chickpea) flour
oil

Mash the yams in a bowl with the spinach. Mix in the remaining ingredients up to and including the breadcrumbs. Form golf-sized balls (add more breadcrumbs if the mixture is too moist). Roll the balls in corn flour.

Heat oil in a small skillet or deep fryer. Fry the kofta balls, drain on a towel, serve with my Definitive Kofta Curry Sauce.

A few notes on this recipe. I indicate that the cottage cheese is optional, not because I think that one would want to omit it for any particular reason, but rather because I accidentally left it out when making my kofta balls this weekend (in fact, now I’m stuck with an enormous tub of cottage cheese and nothing to do with it). They were tasty enough without it, but cheese can only make them better, right?

Finally, a note on frying. When a cooking method akin to deep frying is called for, as in this recipe, I use a modified shallow fry. Deep frying can be such a waste of oil that I try to avoid it. For these koftas, I used my smallest skillet filled with about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of oil (i.e. about half the diameter of the kofta balls). I let the koftas fry a half at a time, rolling them around until they got done on all sides.

Sarah’s Garbanzo Salad

This salad is one of my favorites, and I had nearly forgotten about it until last week when I was paging through some old recipes to get ideas for a dinner I was cooking. It has a sweet and tangy flavor and offers an attractive mix of colors. It makes a great complement to a first course plate, doubling as a light side and attractive garnish. It also works well as a summer picnic salad, providing a great alternative to lettuce salads and pasta salads.

SARAH’S GARBANZO SALAD

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup kalamata olives or ½ cup black olives, coarsely chopped and pitted, if necessary
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh basil or 2 tablespoons parsley or 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Whisk together vinegar, olive oil and mustard in a medium sized bowl.

Add tomatoes, olives, green onion, garbanzos and herbs; toss with vinaigrette.

You can eat this salad right away, but I’ve found that it tastes best if you chill the salad and let the flavors meld for a couple hours. Grape tomatoes could be substituted for the cherry tomatoes, in a pinch, but I find that brighter, sweeter flavor of the cherry tomatoes makes a big difference in this salad, so if given the choice, stick with cherry.