The $14 Chicken

Months ago my work bestie told me about the “best chicken” she “ever tasted” – Griggstown Chicken. Griggstown is a small farm in/around Princeton, NJ.  I ignored her. There was no way that I was going to pay $14 for a chicken, and a small chicken at that!

I have always scoffed (been too cheap to buy) at the prices of all natural (antibiotic and hormone free) free range chicken. I don’t need to pay all that money for something I don’t even like! Chicken is my least favorite meat.

THEN, one of my favorite food blogs Serious Eats published a recipe for “Perfect Roasted Chicken.”I bookmarked the recipe and kept it moving.

A few months later, they republished the chicken recipe in their top recipes of the year recap. Apparently more people bookmarked that recipe than any other recipe Serious Eats had posted that year.

Today, I bit the bullet and purchased a Griggstown chicken. One of the first things I noticed that it wasnt super wet like the other brands I usually purchase (Perdue and Tyson). It was very easy to dry the chicken.

The skin crisped up beautifully with salt alone. The chicken was flavorful and juicy. My coworker was right – this is the best chicken I have ever tasted.

http://www.griggstownquailfarm.com/

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Easy Samosas

Samosas are perhaps the most famous Indian appetizer.  I did not grow up eating samosas at home, but always enjoyed eating them when we went to visit our local “little India” aka Edison, NJ for groceries.  Who doesn’t like a deep fried snack? I have a bit of a fear of deep frying after having seen the scars of many aunties who have been splashed by the oil in one cooking mishap or other.  My solution, and also the secret to making these samosas quick and easy, is to use puff pastry and bake the samosas.

 Easy Samosas

  • 2 boxes frozen puff pastry (I use Pepperidge Farm brand), thawed
  • 4 yukon gold potatoes (or any medium size potato you like), boiled until just cooked, peeled, small chop (about 1/2 in cubes)
  • 1 package frozen peas
  • 1t cumin seeds
  • 1/2t  chili powder (karam)
  • pinch turmeric powder
  • 1/2 onion, small chop
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1T canola oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • flour for rolling out the pastry

1) Heat the oil on medium flame. Add cumin seeds and cook until they become fragrant, don’t burn them!

2) Add the onion and garlic and fry until onion becomes translucent and begins to turn a golden color – about 5 minutes. Make sure the garlic doesn’t burn or it will turn bitter.

3) Add the frozen peas and cook about 8 minutes until they soften.

4) Add the potatoes, salt, chili powder, and turmeric. Cook another 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat and reserve potato mixture.

5) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

6) Sprinkle some flour over the area where you will be rolling out the dough, so the dough doesn’t stick to your work area.  Each package of puff pastry will come with two sheets of dough. The  dough is folded in such a way that there will be three rows. Let these rows be your guiding point. Roll the rough out a bit, then cut each sheet of puff pastry into 9 squares – cut each row into 3 sections.

7) Put a little bit of the potato mixture onto each square, leaving room around the edges,  Brush two adjacent sides of the square with a little egg wash. Fold the pastry over to form a triangle, then seal the edges using a fork – you will get a sort of a crimped look to the edges.

8) Repeat step 7 for the rest of the squares. Brush a little egg wash on the tops of the squares.  Use a knife and make one small slit in the top of each samosa to let the steam out.

9) Bake the samosas for about 18-20 minutes, or until the samosas puff up and turn golden brown.

Enjoy fresh from the oven.

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Healthy Snack

I made a new discovery – Kale Chips! Sounds gross, but they are actually quite tasty.  I am aware I am late to the game with Kale Chips, but I have cooked with kale perhaps only once in my life. I am more of of  Spinach/Swiss Chard kind of girl.  Next time you are craving something crunchy, pass on the potato chips and try these out.

Kale Chips   serves 2-3 (really 2)

  • 1 bunch curly kale
  • kosher salt (to taste – I used about 1 1/2 tsp)
  • freshly crushed black pepper (to taste)  (I used about 6 turns of the pepper mill)
  • garlic powder (optional) (a couple of shakes)
  • chili powder (optional) (a pinch or two)
  • non-fat cooking spray

special equipment:  salad spinner

1) Pre-Heat Oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

2) Rinse the Kale with water

3) Tear the kale leaves from the stems into potato chip size pieces (medium to large).  Throw the stems into the trash.  Reserve the leaves.

4) Use the salad spinner to dry the kale leaves.

5) Once the kale is dry, spread the kale onto a cooking sheet into a single layer.  (I needed two pans in order to have a single layer)

6) Spray the leaves with cooking spray.

7)  Sprinkle the salt, chili powder, and garlic powder, and pepper onto the leaves.  (For a simpler chip – just use salt and pepper).

8) Bake for about 12 minutes.

9) Remove from oven and enjoy!

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Summer Cocktails

With Memorial Day around the corner, I thought I would share some easy summer cocktails. Enjoy Responsibly.

MangoPom

This is exactly what it sounds like – mango juice and pomegranate juice.  You can make these virgin or with the booze.

  • 1 part “pom” pomegranate juice
  • 3 parts mango juice (I like to use the kind you buy at the Indian grocery store – Maaza or Looza brand)
  • 1-2 parts rum/coconut rum (optional)

Fill a highball glass with ice and add ingredients. Stir.

Henny and “Coke”

  • 1 part cognac
  • 3 parts coconut water

Fill a lowball glass with ice. Add ingredients and stir. Add a slice of fresh coconut for garnish!

Red Sangria

  • 1 750 ml bottle dry red wine (cabernet sauvignon/merlot/pinot noir)
  • 1 1/2 C Sprite or other lemon-lime soda
  • 1 1/2 C orange juice
  • 1/2 C brandy
  • 2T Cointreau/Grand Marnier/Triple Sec
  • 2 T Grenadine
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 T lime juice
  • fresh fruit, chopped/sliced – your choice -  apples, strawberries, pineapples, oranges

Mix, Chill. Serve.

note:  if you use orange slices, add it right before serving. The pith can make the sangria bitter if left to sit. Everything else can be added ahead.

Passoa

Passoa is a passion fruit liqueur.  These are a few easy cocktails to make with Passoa. Serve over ice.  All recipes are 1 part passoa and 2 parts mixer.

Mixer suggestions: Orange Juice, Mango Juice, Sprite

Real Margaritas

None of those gross mixers. Margaritas are very easy to make – just three ingredients: lime juice, tequila, cointreau or triple sec

  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2  oz cointreau/triple sec
  • 1 1/2 oz blanco  tequila

Fill your rocks glass with ice, add ingredients, stir! Garnish with a slice of lime. Get wasted. just kidding.

You can rim your glass with salt if you’d like. I opt not to. Or to do just a half rim. You can do this by running the lime around the rim of half the glass, then dipping it into a plate full of salt.  If you want your margarita a little sweeter, you can add simple syrup – maybe 1/4 oz.

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Lunchables

Eating lunch at my desk solves the issue of having to rush through a half hour lunch break.   Another problem presents itself.  What foods are appropriate to eat at one’s desk?  I don’t know if I have burned off all of  my tastebuds, but I seem to really only enjoy spicy (code: stinky) foods.  Garlic, Ginger, Chilies…bring it on.  For some reason, I get the feeling that people don’t want to smell my chicken penang (extra spicy).  The other day, I saw someone eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.  I felt bad for him.  Is that what it has come to?  Have we reverted back to kindergarten lunches?

I hate sandwiches, well most sandwiches.  I really enjoy bánh mì, which are Vietnamese subs filled with pickled carrots, cucumbers, green chilies, pate, mayo, cilantro, ground pork, and sriracha sauce – stinky (awesome) sandwiches. ::sigh::

Everyday, at around 10pm, I take some time to decide what to bring for lunch the next day.  What can I bring that will be least offensive to those around me?  I think I am obsessed with not being labeled a smelly Indian.  I can’t help it.  Maybe I am.  I enjoy stinky food! I just do my best to try not to smell like it.  Febreze anyone? Chew gum after eating to avoid stinky breath. This week I will be taking leftovers from my judgment day meal extravaganza.  I am also contemplating making roasted vegetable sandwiches.  There is a catering place nearby that serves roasted eggplant and peppers with goat cheese on a toasted baguette.  I am thinking of trying to recreate that.  Suggestions for work friendly food?

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Left Behind

So either the rapture didn’t happen or I got left behind.  I’m going with the former rather than the latter.   I never thought it would happen on May 2 1.  But anyway, back to business.  I had marinated lamb kebobs,  roasted shrimp and orzo and a plum tart – all courtesy of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa herself.  Was I invited to one of her fabulous parties at her Hamptons abode?  No.  Alas, Ina is quite private (especially after that whole ‘Make a Wish’ fiasco), so I was left to hide behind the bushes and watch Jeffrey and Ina from afar.  Just kidding.

ANYWAY, the Marinated Lamb Kebobs came out fantastic! I took the advice of some of the reviewers on the Food Network website and added some chopped garlic to the marinade.  One change I would make would to be chop a little bit of the rosemary rather than add only whole leaves.

Next up was the plum tart. This was an epic fail.  I dont know what happened.  Apparently I dont know how to pick plums.  I thought choosing a plum that had a bit of give meant that it would be juicy and ripe, when in reality this means you are choosing a discolored and mushy plum.  I thought I had AP flour but instead had to sub whole wheat.  This could be where the recipe went south.  Then the ‘crumbles’ weren’t forming, so I added a little bit of water to help it come together, and instead it turned into a paste.  I plopped all the paste into the bottom of my springform pan (I finally used it!) and hoped for the best.  Although it didn’t look horrendous, the taste was just not up to par.  The crust/crumble was not sweet enough, nor was it crumbly enough.  Also, I was expecting the plums to be juicy and syrupy but instead they looked dried out on the outside. I had a slice or two (don’t waste!) drizzled with a bit of honey.  ::sigh::  If at first you don’t succeed…

Finally, I made the roasted shrimp and orzo.  I have made this before, so I knew it would be good. The recipe feeds an army, so I have lots of leftovers and will be bringing it to work for lunch. Which brings me to my next post…

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Indian Food on a Budget

Many people often think of “ethnic” foods when they want to eat on a budget. It is true that Indian food is often a bargain at your local restaurant. These days food prices are rising, so nothing seems to be a bargain. Three foods that are “cheap” that find their way into Indian cuisine are: chickpeas (senagalu), potato (bangaladumpa), eggs (gudlu), and toor dal/kandi pappu (a kind of lentil).

These ingredients are low-cost no matter what kind of cuisine you are preparing. Three recipes you can make using these ingredients are: chickpea & potato curry served with plain parathas, egg porutu served with parathas or basmati rice, and tomato pappu served with basmati rice. Most Indian homes will have most, if not all, of the ingredients needed for these recipes at any given time. They are basically pantry dishes.

Chickpea & Potato Curry

One of my favorite memories from childhood is having poori and potato curry for breakfast on Sunday mornings. My mom would get up early and fry up some pooris for us kids. Yum! These days, I don’t really feel like stinking up the house frying pooris, nor do I feel like eating deep fried dough. One way to to get a similar taste is by eating parathas instead of pooris. Parathas are a flat bread made of wheat flour. The dough is cooked on a pan instead of deep frying it like a poori. I didn’t have time to make parathas, so I bought them at my local Indian grocer. You can buy 5 plain parathas in 1 pack for about $2-3. Heat one up on a pan and you are good to go. Chickpeas were on sale at ShopRite 3 cans for $2. Potatoes are always cheap. I bought a 5 lb bag of Yukon Gold potatoes for $3.99. If I bought them by the pound, they were $0.99/lb. Canned chickpeas will obviously keep for a long time. The sign above the potatoes said they will keep for 2 weeks. In my experience, we have kept potatoes for up to 2 months. The keep well if stored in a cool dry place. Parathas probably won’t keep for more than a week in the fridge, but don’t worry – you will eat them up soon enough! I added chickpeas to the usual recipe of potato curry to add some protein to the meal.

Recipe is as follows: serves 6-8

2 15 oz. cans chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
8 yukon gold potatoes, boiled, peeled, and medium-small diced
7 small green chilies
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2t mustard seeds
3T canola oil
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2t turmeric powder
1t chili powder (karam)
salt to taste
3-4 curry leaves
1-2T split cashews
1-2C water
juice of 1/2 lime (optional)

Heat the oil on medium flame, then fry mustard seeds until they begin to pop. Add the onions, garlic, green chilies and curry leaves. Add salt to taste. Fry until onions are golden in color. Make sure the garlic doesn’t burn, or it will turn bitter and you will need to start over. Add the potatoes, chickpeas, turmeric, salt, chili powder and stir well so the potatoes get a coating of the turmeric powder. Cook for a few minutes and add water. You can add between 1-2 cups of water depending on how much ‘gravy’ you want. This is supposed to be more of a stiff curry so that you can pick it up with the paratha, so I keep it to about 1C.  Stir and use your wood spoon to mush up some of the potatoes. This will help the potatoes to form a bit of a paste/gravy.
In a separate small pan, fry the cashews in a bit of oil until golden brown. Add the cashews to the potato curry and turn off the flame. Serve w/ poori or paratha.

Egg Porutu

Egg porutu is sort of an indian style scrambled eggs (but more cooked). This recipe serves 5. I am assuming 2 eggs per person.  This recipe is super quick and easy to make.

2-3 yellow onions sliced
3 small green chilies, split lengthwise (optional)
1/2 t cumin seeds (optional)
1/4 t mustard seeds (optional)
3 curry leaves (optional)
2T canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2t chili powder
10 eggs, beaten

Heat the oil in the pan on medium flame. Add the cumin and mustard seeds. Fry until mustard seeds pop. Add the onions, curry leaves, and green chilies. Season with salt to taste. fry until golden brown. Add the chili powder to the eggs, season mixture with salt and pepper.  Combine mixture well. Add the egg mixture to the onions. Let it cook and scramble. You will cook these eggs more than you would scrambled eggs which are often cooked until just beginning to set. You want these eggs thoroughly cooked, but not overcooked!  Serve w/ basmati rice or paratha.

Tomato Pappu

One of my favorite Indian dishes is Pappu. Pappu is a very important part of an Indian vegetarian diet because of its high protein content. Although my diet is far from vegetarian, pappu is still my favorite perhaps because it was one of my Mom’s specialties. Her pappu was famous! Once my uncle told her she needed to be more humble about her cooking after she referred to herself as a “pappu expert” hahaha.  I never got her recipe, I had to ‘settle’ for my Aunt’s. Still, it came out pretty good. My mother would be proud.

Pressure Cooker
1C toor dal, rinsed
2 plum/vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 in dried tamarind (broken into 2-3 pieces)
salt to taste
pinch turmeric powder
3 small green chilies sliced lengthwise
2 1/2 C water

Talimpu
3 T canola oil
1t  mustard seeds
1 1/2 t cumin seeds
5 dried red chilies
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 curry leaves (or leaves of 1 stem)
1 medium-large yellow or red onion, chopped

Add dal, tomatoes, tamarind, salt, turmeric, green chilies and water to the pressure cooker. Stir and cover. Place on medium flame. Once the pressure cooker starts to make noise, turn the flame to low and cook for 5-7 minutes. Once this time has passed, it will be time to make the talimpu. You can open the cover and look to see how the pappu is doing. If it is too much water (should be loose porridge consistency), then turn the flame on medium-high and cook uncovered and let it reduce to the desired consistency. Too little, obviously add more. You dont want the pappu to burn on the bottom especially since there is no oil added at this point. You can always reduce the amount of water by cooking it longer.

Talimpu- this is the seasoning you will add to the tomato pappu. In a separate pan, heat the oil on medium-low flame. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and red chilies. Fry until the mustard seeds pop. Then add the garlic, onions and curry leaves. Stir and fry until light brown. Don’t let the garlic burn or it will become bitter.

Once the pappu is the desired consistency, add the talimpu, stir and serve with hot rice. Serves 4.

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