Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chickpea and Pita

Imagine one or more of the following scenarios:
1. It is 90 degrees outside.
2. It has been 90 degrees for several days in a row, all before the month of June has begun.
3. The thought of turning on any part of your oven/stovetop makes your brain melt.

What can you eat that is tasty, healthy, and (hopefully obviously) not made from opening a cardboard box?

Answer: see below.

Inspired by a recipe I found in Real Simple magazine a long time ago! One of my very favorites.

Ingredients (to feed 2)
  • 14 oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed
  • 1 tub hummus, any flavor
  • 1 package of pitas
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced or diced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • plain yogurt (optional)
  1. Spread hummus onto a pita.
  2. Dress with chickpeas, tomato, and onion.
  3. Top with plain yogurt, if using, and a squirt of fresh lemon juice.

Alterations could be made simply by adding whatever veggies or spreads you want! You could also jazz up the plain yogurt by making it into tzatziki sauce by adding in diced cucumber and some lemon juice. Other tasty additions to the dish could include fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped up. My brother-in-law experimented by replacing the hummus on one of his pitas with tahini (sesame butter), which he enjoyed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

the Red Curry Challenge

Today I found this amazing recipe on The Tasty Kitchen and immediately brought it home to make. However I ran into a problem that poses a question I must work around somewhat frequently: How do you cook ethnic cuisines when living in an area without adequate supplies

I intended to try the recipe exactly as it was printed, but neither grocery store in the area carried sweet Thai chili sauce (okay, this is understandable) or flat rice noodles. Seriously? My pathetic Italian heart was broken. 

Rather than giving up, I asked the omniscient Internet for assistance. By using a couple recipes for food and method replacement inspiration, I was able to come up with the delicious Red Curry you see before you. 

Don't mind all the julienning - it just refers to long, skinny pieces so the vegetables cook fairly quickly and carry the flavorful sauce on them. Enjoy!

Ingredients (serves 5)
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 hearty Tbsp red curry paste
  • 1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 large chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 onion, julienned
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • about 1 1/2 cups carrots, julienned (I used baby carrots)
  • 1/2 cabbage, julienned (I used a Savoy cabbage)
  • salt and pepper
  • rice (2 1/2 cups dry rice would be enough to match the amount of veggies)
  1. Cook rice according to package directions.
  2. Heat a large pan to medium-low heat. 
  3. Scoop the solid coconut milk out of the can and add to pan.
  4. Add in red curry paste and freshly grated ginger. Stir well.
  5. Add chicken. Cover and cook until chicken is done.
  6. Add onion, red pepper, and carrot. Cover again and cook until red pepper has lost a bit of its crunch (5 minutes or so).
  7. Add cabbage, stir well, and cook uncovered for another 3-5 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and transfer to a big serving bowl if you have one. Let sit for about 5 minutes, giving it time to thicken.
  9. Serve on rice, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
The process was much easier than I thought, and the final product was very good although I might try adding a little more curry paste next time as I enjoy spicier things. I enjoyed the creaminess of the coconut milk that carried throughout the dish and the fact that the cabbage was just a little crunchy. Next time I might add a little salt at the beginning when adding the curry paste - it would be easier to taste if it's enough, although my guests were happy to salt their own dishes.

This dish could easily be made vegetarian by replacing the chicken with tofu or another vegetable protein. It is naturally dairy-free and gluten-free (red curry paste is gluten-free).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How to Finish a Tub of Plain Yogurt

So you bought a big tub of plain yogurt because of the beautiful packaging (hello Stonyfield Yogurt!!) and now have no idea what to do with it. Okay, I bought a 32 oz. tub of plain yogurt, and rather than letting it go to waste, I had to brainstorm.

Unlike flavored yogurts like vanilla or strawberry, plain yogurt is a bit sour and is perfect for adding a creamy tang to certain dishes. Regular plain yogurt is different from Greek style yogurt, so I don't know that you could replace one for another.

Three ways to use up plain yogurt:
  • Add a dollop onto an Indian curry or soup (I made a vegetable and lentil soup with curry and other Indian spices, and we topped each bowl with yogurt)
  • Make buttermilk style waffles, replacing the buttermilk with plain yogurt and then thinning out the batter with 1/2 - 3/4 cup milk as needed (The yogurt adds a subtle tang which pairs well with the sweetness of the syrup, and the dish is lower in fat)
  • Have a falafel party and make your own tzatziki sauce (plain yogurt, diced peeled cucumber, a little lemon juice, and some chopped fresh parsley if you've got it) to top the pitas.

If you'd like me to elaborate on any of these recipes, let me know!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think the most beautiful, classic cookie ever invented was the one involving oatmeal. I loved oatmeal raisin cookies as a kid, and upgraded my favorite when I began making my own oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. My favorite kind of chips to use are Nestle's white "Swirled" morsels, or what I like to call zebra chips. Each chip was a twist of milk chocolate and white chocolate. They are hard to find but apparently are still made. If you ever find them in the store, be sure to try this recipe using them!

Anytime you use oats in baking, be sure to use real "old fashioned" oats. This means they are not instant, partially cooked (like "quick oats"), or cut in a way to reduce cooking time. You want them to take the full amount of time to cook so they can absorb the proper amount of liquid and leave you with a cookie, rather than a blob. 

I've made this recipe so many times I don't really remember where it came from, but if I had to guess I would probably say that this is my own twist on a recipe found in the The All-American Cookie Book.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 bag chocolate chips, or chips of your choice
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease two cookie sheets.
  3. In a large bowl, mix butter, sugar, and brown sugar until blended.
  4. Add vanilla and eggs and mix.
  5. In a medium bowl, mix flour and baking soda.
  6. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture. Stir well.
  7. Add oats. Stir well.
  8. Add chocolate chips. Stir well.
  9. Roll into golf ball sized balls and place on cookie sheet.
  10. Bake 9-12 minutes at 375 degrees. Centers should be slightly soft when taken out of oven.
  11. Let cool on rack for at least 5 minutes before eating or packing into containers.
The trick with baking these is removing them at the perfect time so you get soft, chewy cookies. I usually remove mine at around 10 minutes when the centers still look gooey but the outsides seem almost browned. I kept them in a sealed tupperware container and even a week or so later they were still very moist. This recipe makes about 30-40 cookies at the size specified.