9.15.2014

TANDOORI DRY RUB CHICKEN WINGS

About last year I had posted my first take at creating a tandoori dry rub.  I made the original rub on a piece of tofu; -- a slab of absolutely flavorless protein -- to get the flavors in the rub correct. In this recipe, I've taken that dry rub recipe and created a spice rub for chicken wings that hits the tandoori taste buds.

This recipe requires you to first brine the chicken wings. The brine allows the chicken wings to hold in moisture as you cook them on a grill. Because you brine the wings, you need to omit the the salt from the the actual dry rub, otherwise the wings will come out overly salty. 

The second "trick" in making these wings absolutely perfect, is to add a little cornstarch to the dry rub, prior to tossing on to the wings.  This "trick" is one that I learned from watching Cooks' Country on PBS. The effect of the cornstarch is to counteract the effect of the brine, which can cause the chicken wings to stick to the grill when cooking.  Another trick that I learned from Cook's Country was to cook the wings on low heat for a longer period of time; I cooked these wings for almost 30 minutes on low heat, until they registered an internal temperature of 180 F.

This recipe certainly came out to my liking. The salt and the spices were correctly proportioned, and the brining really helped to keep in the moisture. I added some chopped fresh cilantro for garnish and drizzled a little garlic olive oil to carry through a little more of that garlic flavor.




Ingredients

12
1 Tbsp
1 Tbsp
1 Tbsp
1/2 Tbsp
1 tsp
1 Tbsp
1/2 Tbsp
2 tsp
1 1/2 tsp
1 clove
1/4 cup
1/2 cup
Chicken wings
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Ground coriander
Ground cumin
Cayenne powder
Ground ginger
Ground turmeric
Ground black pepper
Cornstarch
Garlic, chopped
Olive oil
Chopped fresh cilantro


Directions

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Brine chicken wings for 15 minutes (1/3 cup salt in 2 ounces water)
In a bowl, mix all dry spices and cornstarch
After brining the wings, pat dry on paper towels and toss to coat in spice mix
Grill on low-heat for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 180 F
Mix chopped garlic and olive oil and allow to stand
Remove from grill and allow to rest for five minutes
Drizzle with garlic olive oil and garnish with chopped cilantro

9.01.2014

NUTHIN BUT A "J" THANG

I miss many things about California, but one of the things that always tops my list is how easy it is to find a Jamba Juice out there. These stores were seemingly in every other shopping center throughout Orange County, and when you walked into one, you could feel the vitamins just punching you in the face. With the sounds of Vitamix blenders whirling away and the smell of wheat grass being pressed through sieves, you could hear your immune system singing to you like a choir. 

Located at the exact opposite end of the country from California is Delaware. And what California has in terms of healthy food options, Delaware meets 1-for-1 with Dunkin' Donuts. I literally pass by four Dunkin' Donuts on the way to work every morning, and they are ALL PACKED. These people are out of their Dunkin' minds!

The closest Jamba Juice is in the Philadelphia Airport Terminal D. Yes, I'd have to buy myself a plane ticket and go through security just to satisfy a hankering for a Mango-A-Go-Go. So where's a Californian stuck in Delaware to go to get his juice on?  The answer, I found, is California. However, with my career being on a good track, and the low-cost of living in a tax-free state helping us save for retirement and our daughter's college fund, I didn't think that packing up the house and goin' back to Cali (just to get some juice) was in good form.  

The good ol' First State' wins this round; she'll have her claws in us for the foreseeable future. But just because we couldn't move back to California doesn't mean I can't bring a part of California back to Delaware. I just needed to create a tasty healthy breakfast treat. And that is exactly what I did. My daughter may have been born in Delaware, folks, but I could not just stand by and allow her to grow up to be a Dunkin' Junkie!

Here is my spinach and oatmeal smoothie recipe. It's a recipe I created to get my mornings started off right, and to give me an option to drink my vegetables, fruits, and a full heart-healthy serving of oatmeal. This doubles as a cholesterol buster but actually tastes great. I've tested it with a bunch of people now, so this recipe is good to go. The most important person to give it the seal of approval is my daughter. This is kid tested, father approved.

As for all of those Dunkin' drivers I pass along the way, I sip on this green deliciousness from a reusable mug and shout out "Cali-For-Ni-A."


Ingredients

1/2 cup
3/4 cup
1/2 cup
1
1
5
1/4 cup
1/2 tsp
1 inch
1 tsp
Almond Milk
Oatmeal (old fashion)
Baby Spinach
Apple, skinned and diced
Banana, sliced
Baby Carrots
Frozen Cherries
Turmeric
Cilantro, chopped
Clover Honey*

*Clover Honey for extra sweetness. I actually omit this in my smoothies.

Directions

1
Blend all ingredients until smooth

8.31.2014

PANEER BIRYANI

Sorry for the long hiatus in blogging. To make it up to everyone, I thought I'd come back with a really good recipe. This one is certainly up there as one of my favorites, as well as one that has received the most repeat requests from friends and family.

Without much further ado, here is my recipe for a Paneer Biryani.  A biryani, is a traditional Indian rice dish that's full of spices, colors, and aromas. It is commonly made in one pot with two or more layers of meat and rice, cooked in a savory spiced broth. The things I like the most about a biryani is the richness of flavors it provides, and the way all the ingredients complement one another in each bite.

Although a biryani is traditionally made with meat, this particular recipe is made with paneer, a hard non-melting cheese.  If you don't know what paneer is (or can't find some), you can try making this dish with tofu, but I highly recommend finding yourself some paneer (or another cheese that can stand up to frying, like halloumi or a firm ricotta). Okay, so why the paneer? Well, simply put, my wife is a vegetarian. I always wanted her to have the experience of eating a biryani, and she would never back down from her vegetarian ways even to sample a bite off my plate at a restaurant. So I thought I'd try and create a briyani that captures all the elements of what I like in the dish, but completely vegetarian, just for her.


The development of this recipe was truly a journey, being built upon a very long period of trial and error. I started experimenting with my biryani recipes sometime in early 2008. Much of what I tried early on just didn't come close to hitting the mark. I must have tried over ten different chicken biryani recipes, attempting to convert them into a vegetarian version. I tried two or three vegetable biryani recipes, and even ones that used paneer as the meat substitute. I tried different methods of introducing the spices, playing around with sieves, cheese cloths, mortars and pestles, and spice grinders. I tried marinating the paneer (sometimes even a combination of paneer and tofu) in a combination of spices and herbs. But, all those attempts failed. I didn't develop a recipe that captured all the elements of a good biryani until almost a year-and-a-half later, in the fall of 2009. And even after I discovered it, I ran it through a few variations in ingredients and cooking methods, until I perfected it. For example, once I found the right ingredients, I started to experiment with different cooking methods and equipment. I settled on this one, which requires the use of a cast iron dutch oven.  Get out your Le Creusets!


In the end, what I present to you here is, by far, the most experimentally-true approaches I've taken to cooking. And, when my daughter is old enough to understand, this recipe will certainly be one that I'll use in teaching her about never giving up in the pursuit of perfection, and to never settle for something that's "just good enough." 




Special Equipment:

A cast iron dutch oven. Get out your Le Creusets!

Set-Up:

Rinse rice under cold water to remove starch.  The way I do this is to place the rice in a mixing bowl and run cold water over it.  I allow it to sit for a few minutes until the water get cloudy. I exchange the water a few times (6-8 times) until no more starch is extracted.

Preheat oven to 375 F.


Ingredients:

1
1
2 Tbsp
3 Tbsp
1 Tbsp
1 tsp
1/2 cup
1 cup
1/2 cup
2
1 quart
2 cups
4 Tbsp


Block of paneer, cubed
Large red onion, julienned
Large cloves garlic
Ginger root, finely chopped
Tomato paste
Garam masala
Turmeric
Full bodied red wine (I use a Shiraz)
Cilantro, chopped
Serrano peppers, chopped
Slivered almonds
Tomatoes, diced
Vegetable broth
Basmati rice
Canola oil

Directions:


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Fry paneer cubes in batches, drain on paper towels, salt with 1/4 tsp salt and set aside
Heat dutch oven to medium heat and caramelize onions
Add ginger and garlic and fry until fragrant
Fold in tomato paste and stir to incorporate
Add garam masala and turmeric, stirring vigorously until fragrant (1 minute)
Pour in red wine and deglaze the dutch oven.  Reduce to near dryness
Fold in the paneer and stir to coat in the gravy
Pour in vegetable broth to cover contents and allow to cook for 10 minutes
Add 2 Tbsp cilantro, Serrano peppers, salt and pepper 
Reduce the mixture down to a thick gravy (test for salt, ensure that the gravy tastes salty)
Remove the dutch oven from the heat
Carefully layer the rice atop the gravy
Drizzle the vegetable broth down the sides of the dutch oven to cover the rice
Cover the dutch oven and place into the pre-heated oven
Bake for 45 minutes
While the biryani is in the oven, toast the slivered almonds in a pan
After 45 minutes, remove the biryani from the oven, fold in the diced tomatoes
Top with slivered almonds and cilantro prior to serving

10.06.2013

MUSHROOM & ASPARAGUS OMELETTE

This is one of my most optimized recipes. I worked on getting the flavor combinations right in this omelette for over three years. I don't really know where I got the inspiration for it, but the flavors I was most intrigued by were on the "earthy" side of the palate. It took a while to find the right ingredients, but I settled on the following: goat cheese, dill, mushrooms, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and asparagus. There's nothing too complicated about this recipe, spare the cooking of the filling prior to cooking the omelette itself.




Yield: Approx 3 omelettes


Ingredients
5


10 spears
1 clove
1 Tbsp
1/4 Tbsp
2 Tbsp
4 Tbsp
1 tsp
1 tsp
2 Tbsp

Medium eggs, beaten
Large cremini mushrooms, sliced
Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped finely
Asparagus, chopped on a bias
Garlic, chopped finely
Fresh dill, chopped finely
Herbes de Provence 
Goat cheese, crumbled
Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil
Directions
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8

In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil and saute asparagus.
After 1 minute, add the garlic and mushrooms
Saute for 2-3 minutes, season with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence
Stir to combine, remove from heat.
In an omelette pan, heat oil and add eggs. Allow the omelette to set
Flip the omelette and fill with cheese, filling, and sun-dried tomatoes.
Fold the omelette over
Top with dill and Parmesan cheese

9.29.2013

SALMON w/ LEMON CAPER SAUCE

This is my copycat version of a salmon entree I had at a local Italian restaurant named Capers & Lemons. The dish includes a fillet of salmon, grilled and served over a bed of spinach sauteed in garlic olive oil, and a side of orzo. I think the beauty of this dish really lies in how it introduces all five tastes into every bite -- sweetness from the orzo and salmon, bitterness from the spinach, acidity from the lemon and white wine base, and lastly the salty umami flavor from the capers and garlic. This recipe is, of course, my take on that Capers & Lemons salmon dish, however, I really tried to stay true-to-form here, not deviating too far from the flavors I remember.

The following recipe is actually just for the salmon and lemon caper sauce. The spinach recipe is exactly the same as the one I posted for the kale. The orzo recipe, will follow in due course. A few comments about this recipe. I baked the fish instead of grilling it. I thought it would give me a better handle on the slow-cook needed to prevent the albumin from surfacing. Unfortunately, there was a little albumin present (which didn't hurt the dish at all, but reminds me of the reason one of the chefs got sent home in an old episode of Top Chef). Next time I may actually go with a lower temperature setting on the oven and cook the salmon a little longer.






Ingredients
1 fillet

1
2 Tbsp
2 Tbsp
1 Tbsp
1/4 cup
1 Tbsp
1 Tbsp
2 tsp

Salmon, patted dry
Shallot, finely diced
Scallion, cut into strips
Champagne vinegar
Savignon blanc
Butter
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon zest
Capers
Parsley, chopped

Directions
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8

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
Combine shallot, vinegar and wine in a sauce pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the butter and olive oil and stir to incorporate.
Add in the lemon zest, followed by the capers.
Fold-in fresh parsley, remove from heat, and spoon over fish.
Top with scallions and serve. 




9.28.2013

SAUTEED KALE IN GARLIC OLIVE OIL

I love kale, and this is really a very healthy and simple preparation. This recipe can really be used on any dark leafy green (spinach, collard greens, broccoli rabe, etc.) 


Ingredients
2 Bunches
4 Tbsp
6-8 Cloves
½ tsp
1 tsp

Kale, rinsed and spun dry
Olive oil
Garlic, sliced or rough-chopped
Red pepper flakes
Salt

Directions
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3
4
5
Heat a large sauce pan to medium heat and add oil.
Toss in garlic, reduce to low heat and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.
Remove the garlic and reserve on paper towels.
Add the kale to the hot oil and sautee until wilted (2-3 minutes).
Fold in the the red pepper flakes and the reserved garlic.



TANDOORI DRY-RUB... TAKE ONE

As the title of this post suggests, I will more than likely experiment with this recipe a few more times. This dish needs a lot of work, but I thought I'd get it out there for other palates and minds to mull over. 

But before you run off an try this, or just cast it off as some sub-par vegetarian/vegan take on a standard meat dish, I'd like to share why I choose to use tofu and not an actual meat. I've had this thought about creating a two-layer barbecue recipe that builds on the the traditional tandoori chicken concept for a long time now -- a thin crust of savory herbs and spices on top of which you baste a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. Together the layers will provide the classic flavors one would associate with tandoori chicken. My thought is that the ultimate meat to put this on would be a rack of baby-back ribs, but that is a long ways off, as I'm not going to waste a perfectly good piece of meat on a recipe that is no where close to where I'd like it to be. So... getting back to the tofu... it's about as bland a protein substrate as you can get. If you can get this slab of bean curd to taste good, you've done something right with the rub. And that, my friends, is why I chose tofu. 

This recipe is really focused on one of the two components: the dry rub. I thought that if I can get this base rub right, it shouldn't be too difficult to find a tangy sweet sauce to accompany it. I may be wrong, but I'm going to go with that assumption for now. This rub is a good starting point. It actually works very well with chicken, and more specifically, baked chicken. I've used it on chicken that I've prepared over a grill, but I think the high and direct heat of the grill may actually char some of the spices, rendering them more bitter than what I care for. Again, I'm looking for a subtle crust, that provides a savory background where you can taste all the individual herbs and spices. The base of this rub is built on onion and garlic powder, coriander, cumin, and a little bit of cayenne pepper. I added a little turmeric, mainly for the color, but I think it may have actually been the main culprit of that bitterness I pointed out earlier. In addition, I thought that I could dial in a little tang with some ginger powder, but again, I think I can pull back on it in the rub and rely on the ingredients in the sauce to bring in that flavor. I also think that with ginger, you're always walking a tight rope with respect to its spicyness vs. its tanginess, a little too much, and it's biting back at you.

Alright, so please let me know if you try this. Also, if you do take it to the next step and experiment with sauces, I'd love to know about it.


Ingredients
1 Tbsp
1 Tbsp
1 Tbsp
½ Tbsp
1 tsp
1 Tbsp
½ Tbsp
2 tsp
2 tsp
1 lb
2 Tbsp
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Ground coriander
Ground cumin
Cayenne powder
Ground ginger
Ground turmeric
Ground black pepper
Salt
Extra-Firm Tofu, drained, pressed dry, and cut into 2"x 3" slabs @ ½" thickness
Canola Oil

Directions
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Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a bowl, mix all the dry spices.
Drizzle canola oil over tofu and toss gently to coat.
Add ½ Tbsp of the dry rub to each slab of tofu, ensuring that all sides are coated evenly.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, turning half-way through.