Chicken Tikka

Still facing a mountain of leftover rice, I decided it was time to throw something saucy over it.

I sometimes shy away from Indian food because the overly spicy-hot dishes scare my digestive system. But my husband loves it, and we both really enjoyed a chicken tikka pizza I made about a month ago, from Cooking Light. I was struck by how this recipe gives just the right amount of heat so it is pleasant and neither bland nor sweat-producing. Here’s a look at how it turned out.
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This time, I easily made it workable for an entrée over rice. For a side, I made another fairly universally liked Indian recipe, cucumber raita. It just happened to work out that the cucumber crop is one of the few that is currently thriving at my CSA farm!

Chicken Tikka
adapted from Cooking Light

12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup plain greek or regular low-fat yogurt
2 teaspoons garam masala*
, divided
Cooking spray
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt
, divided
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
, peeled and grated, which is easily done with a piece kept in the freezer
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 garlic cloves
, minced
1/2 Cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons half and half, cream, or milk — whatever you have should be OK

*Although I have a fairly broad span of spices in my pantry, garam masala is not one of them. Instead, I have many of the ingredient spices that go into a freshly ground garam masala. One of the reasons I have some of these whole spices is that last Christmas/Hanukkah I decided to make homemade mulling spice bags as gifts to some of my family. Here’s the recipe I followed for garam masala, with some substitutions — I didn’t have whole coriander seeds, just ground, and no black cumin seeds, so I just increased the regular cumin seeds. My cardamom was also green, not black. The fact that is still turned out well leads me to believe that you could also fudge this a little bit and still make it tasty! You could also just buy the garam masala, I suppose–preferably from a place where they sell it in bulk by the ounce.

Preheat broiler to high. Cut chicken in half horizontally. Combine chicken, yogurt, and 1/2 teaspoon garam masala. I let mine sit in the mixture for about 15 minutes while I prepared some of the other ingredients, and raita, so it would marinate a little bit.
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Place on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt.
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Broil 5 minutes on each side.

Add diced tomatoes to a food processor, blender, or mini chopper and pulse until almost smooth.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala, ginger, red pepper, garlic, and red onion. Cook 1 minute.
DSC_5036Stir in tomatoes; simmer 4 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and cream. Cook on low for 1 minute.

Cut chicken into pieces. Add chicken to pan and mix.

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad
Adapted from Food Network

1 1/4 Cups 2% Greek yogurt, or regular plain yogurt strained a bit
1 Cup cucumber, a combination of chopped and coarsely shredded
1/4 Cup carrots, shredded
1/2 large clove garlic, finely minced, about 1 Tablespoon
a few springs of fresh cilantro, finely minced to make about 1/4 Cup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoons raisins
Freshly ground black pepper

I followed the original recipe for this recipe pretty much exactly one time before, and it was a hit. This time I modified it a bit because I had some carrots that were starting to languish, and some reviewers said that you can use any vegetables. Also, cilantro and mint are apparently interchangeable for this. Lastly, I ran out of golden raisins, but I remember that the burst of sweetness they provided was especially tasty, so I had to try it with regular raisins.

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Careful not to add TOO much garlic to this recipe, as it can really "bloom" as it sits.

Careful not to add TOO much garlic to this recipe, as it can really “bloom” as it sits.

Whisk the yogurt until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients, grinding a little black pepper in to taste.
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Stir, chill, and serve.

I found a great list of variations on raita from The New York Times online. Some of them seem so crazy to me I may have to try them someday!

Serve chicken tikka mixture over basmati rice with cooling yogurt salad on the side. Top with a few fresh cilantro leaves.
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Weekend Cooking – Part 2

Among the other ingredients I had lying around was red cabbage. A portion of the red cabbage had been dressed with lime juice and olive oil for slaw for fish tacos earlier in the week, but that barely made a dent. How is it that such a small-looking head of cabbage can make SO MANY shredded cups?
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The simply dressed slaw wasn’t doing it for me. I needed to bump it up a notch. And I was already pickling something, so I didn’t want to go that route. Little did I know that a raspberry vinaigrette would do so well!

Here’s my inspiration: Red Cabbage Salad with Green Apple, Lingonberry Preserves, and Toasted Walnuts. Old Viki might say, aw man, I don’t have lingonberry, do I have to go out and buy those to make this recipe?
New Viki says, hmm, I have all this raspberry jam I just made with the berries from my proliferating raspberry bush, could that work?

The answer is, of course. It works wonderfully.

Red Cabbage Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette, Green Apple and Toasted Walnuts
Adapted from Epicurious/Bon Appetit again
Servings: 4

3 Tablespoons raspberry jam or preserve, preferably seedless but oh well
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of lemon/lime juice
, or just more red wine vinegar
1/3-1/2 Cup canola oil
1 unpeeled Granny Smith apple
, cored and coarsely grated
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted
4 cups thinly sliced red cabbage

To slice cabbage, first cut the head into quarters and then slice out the white core.

Toast the walnuts in the oven, on the stove, or in the microwave – be careful not to burn them like I always do.
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To make the dressing, puree 1 tablespoon fruit jam/preserves, mustard, vinegar and lemon/lime juice in blender or food processor. Gradually add oil, with machine running if possible. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

Set aside 1/4 of grated apple and several walnut halves for garnish.

Toss cabbage, remaining 2 tablespoons jam/preserves, apple, and walnuts in large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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Garnish with reserved grated apple and walnut halves and serve.
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Result: a pleasant Saturday lunch–when accompanied 1/2 a grilled cheese sandwich 🙂

DSC_4876And lastly, Saturday’s dinner. I once again tackled the stock of brown rice in my pantry. In spite of the fact my husband is a virtual carb-o-tarian, grains aren’t consumed as quickly as I would like. So I cooked the rest of a package of brown basmati rice on Friday night and had the leftovers ready to go on Saturday for a deliciously simple preparation of fried rice with ground turkey. Which meant I got to use my wok!

Turkey Fried Rice
from Taste of Home
Servings: 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 pound ground turkey
2 green onions
, thinly sliced (about 1/3 C)
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
3 cups cold cooked rice
1 cup bean sprouts (I used sprouts from a can)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

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Wine is one of the most essential ingredients shown in this picture.

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In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Pour eggs into skillet. As eggs set, lift edges, letting uncooked portion flow underneath.
When eggs are completely cooked, remove to a plate and set aside.

In the same skillet or wok, cook turkey, green onions, and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. While turkey cooks, whisk until blended the soy sauce, peanut butter, sugar, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and ginger in a small bowl and set aside.
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Stir the rice, bean sprouts and cilantro and cook briefly until heated through. Stir sauce into skillet.
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Chop egg into small pieces; stir into skillet and heat through.

Serve with a lime wedge. Then, if you’re like me, settle in front of the TV to watch a movie.
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Weekend Cooking – Part 1 – Chard

I hadn’t done much cooking during the week, with dinners out and social gatherings, so I had big plans to use up a lot of ingredients on Friday night. It was to be a “cook the pantry” type of night. Then it got to be 8:30pm before I started. Why so late? Well, there was some drama in discovering that one of our cats was refusing to eat the dry food we had always fed her, so there were two trips to Petco to find alternatives. Then I was so sleepy that I tried to take a preliminary power nap. And one of the floors desperately needed to be vacuumed, and that needed to be done before too late so as not to disturb the neighbors. So, I didn’t have time to cook everything I wanted before bed. Fortunately, there was time on Saturday too!

I was facing another batch of swiss chard, so I decided to try something a little different. Why not puree it? This soup recipe was great because it also utilized parsley, which I received in the farm share at the same time it happens to be thriving in my garden. With the added tang and creaminess of lemon juice and greek yogurt and the salty zing of feta, we had a pleasant summery soup on our hands.
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Chard, Herb, and Feta Soup
adapted from Bon Apetit
Serves 4

I’m not sure why the Bon Appetit recipe refers to this as a winter soup. Unless you have your own green house, the fresh herbs would be a big investment at the grocery store during the winter. I’m certain you could substitute spinach in this recipe, but there is no substitute for the fresh herbs.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion
, coarsely chopped (I used about 1 C of onion I had left over)
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 pound Swiss chard leaves (center ribs and stems removed), coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/2 C fresh cilantro
1/4 C fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon dried mint
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 C plain Greek-style yogurt

Optional garnishes:
Plain Greek-style yogurt
Mixed chopped herbs
(such as parsley, cilantro, and mint)
Feta, crumbled
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lemon juice
Olive oil

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Heat oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until translucent and soft (do not brown), 7–8 minutes.

While they cook, roughly chop your herbs.
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Add chard, parsley, cilantro, fresh and dried mint, nutmeg, and broth to the pan.

It might seem like there isn't enough broth...

It might seem like there isn’t enough broth…

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, less than 10 minutes.

.....and then the chard shrinks!

…..and then the chard shrinks!


Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Take out your immersion blender tool and go at it. DSC_4866I like the idea of an immersion blender because it is very easy to clean compared to a food processor or blender. Yet it makes a mess with its splattering. Even with an apron, I don’t recommend wearing dry-clean only clothes with this one! Especially if you want your soup really really smooth, you could purĂ©e it in batches in a blender. Return to pan.

Place a few Tablespoons of the yogurt in a separate medium bowl. Add a ladle-full of warm soup and whisk until smooth. Repeat process twice more, using the yogurt and adding a total of 1 cup more soup.

Whisk yogurt mixture into soup in saucepan. Stir 1/4 cup herbs and about 1/4 cup of crumbled feta into soup. Season to taste with lemon juice, pepper, and salt, remembering that you will be garnishing with additional feta–and my feta at least was very salty.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with herbs and feta. Drizzle with oil, if desired. Serve with a good crusty bread, ideally.
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I had almost 3 Cups of leftover swiss chard stems, which I saved from disposal and pickled using this Bon Appetit recipe as guidance. I didn’t quite double the recipe–I ended up using about 3 Cups of Sugar, 1 3/4 Cups white vinegar, 4 Tablespoons Siracha, and 3/4 tsp of celery seed. Since they are supposed to sit for a few days, I have no idea how they will turn out, but I’ll let you know!

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Get Pot-lucky

Last weekend was a full weekend. On Saturday, we had a friend in town visiting so we went to a Yankees day game. On Sunday morning I was participating in the Color Run and then in the afternoon had a party to which I was expected to bring something. When we arrived home on Saturday evening, I still didn’t know what I was making.

A peek into my pantry revealed that I had some neglected sweet potatoes. I wondered about making potato salad with sweet potatoes, and with a little research I settled on this. From the time I started brainstorming to the time the salad was done was probably just 45 minutes. The parsley was in my garden and everything else was in my pantry or fridge. Score!

This salad has a lot going for it. There’s potential for substitutions, it develops flavors overnight, and it can safely sit out and be eaten at room (or outdoor) temperature. My vegetarian friends liked it, but I bet it would have been even tastier with bacon or prosciutto! (Check out this recipe for a fall or winter sweet potato dish, with prosciutto, that will knock your socks off).
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Summer Sweet Potato Salad
Adapted from a recipe by “NINABSLOAN” on SparkRecipes
Serves 6-8 if it is a main side dish, and many more at a potluck

1.5 pounds sweet potatoes or yams (about 2 potatoes that are on the large size)
1/2 C dried cranberries
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/3 C pecans, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Dressing:
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
to taste

Set a pot of water to boil. Peel and cube sweet potatoes.
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Add potatoes to water and boil until tender but still firm. Meanwhile, prepare remaining ingredients:
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Combine with drained sweet potatoes and then toss with dressing.
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Chill and serve. Could it get much easier?

Even better in a festive bowl!

Even better in a festive bowl!

Candidates for Mayo

I have mentioned the fact that I worry about forgotten items accumulating in the refrigerator or pantry. I am revisiting that category of cooking this week. There was a reprieve from the pressure to use up fresh produce because my farm share drop-off day fell on July 4, and therefore was not distributed. And I actually managed to use up most of last week’s bounty within a few days!

The particular item on my mind was a jar of mayonnaise. I have been known to have mayonnaise reach its expiration date before it is used up. Neither Matt nor I are big cold cut sandwich eaters, I don’t especially like coleslaw, and I prefer vinegar-based dressings for my pasta and potato salads. As for this current jar, I have a confession to make- somehow the expiration date became illegible, so I don’t know when I am supposed to retire it. I planned to “chance” it for a few more recipes, and then no more.
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I almost forgot to mention that around this same time I learned that mayonnaise turned 100 this year. Who knew?

For the first application, I used the mayonnaise in a chocolate cake recipe I found on the website that seems to be a sister site in England. I made it MUCH harder for myself by going back and forth between internet searches to convert the grams to ounces when apparently I could have switched the units on my kitchen scale. Dang it. I was a little concerned about how the cake would turn out, particularly its texture, when I noticed that my mayonnaise was eggless. And clearly eggs are one of the common cake ingredients that the mayonnaise was supposed to fill in for!

Fortunately, it turned out fine. (And it didn’t make anyone sick. Woo hoo!). Even my pastry chef friend liked it. And the frosting, with the coffee flavor added (I used espresso powder), was killer.
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The next mayonnaise application would be oven fried chicken. Again, a random internet search taught me that mayonnaise could be an important player in making moist meat. What is great about this recipe is that you can make the coating out of pretty much anything you have hanging out in your pantry! I used melba toasts that somehow sat in my pantry for 9 months, and crispy rice cereal left over from marshmallow treats I had made to bring to a July 4th barbecue.

Oven Fried Chicken
adapted from Everyday Maven
Servings: It depends! This makes enough coating for at least 6 bone-in skinless chicken thighs, or at least 2 pounds of skinless chicken parts you are using. Most people would need two thicken thighs for a serving.

Approximately 2 pounds chicken pieces, skin removed (thighs, legs, breast, whole)
1 Cup Melba Toast, from 3 sub-packages
3/4 Cup crispy rice cereal
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 Cup mayo
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
cooking spray or oil mister

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (The original recipe said 400 degrees, and a very similar recipe said 350. I went with 350 because, honestly, I had time to kill. My thought was that the different temperature meant a different cook time but may not affect the chicken’s tenderness. It might be better to keep the temperature lower in case the breading gets too brown before the chicken reaches temperature.) Arrange a metal cooling rack over a jelly roll pan.

Crush the Melba toast in the packages, and then add to food processor to grind further. You want there to be some slightly larger pebbles after pulsing. Add any other, smaller crumbs, like crispy rice cereal, along with the rest of the spices. Pulse again.
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In a separate bowl, combine mayo and Dijon mustard.

At this point, you have two options: 1) use two bowls and coat each chicken piece individually by going from the mayo mixture to the crumbs, or 2) Use a zip lock bag and the “shake and bake” method.
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Place on rack on pan and spray with cooking spray.

See how much leftover breading I had?

See how much leftover breading I had?


Cook until chicken is done (juices run clear and temperature reaches 165 degrees – 40 minutes for my thighs) rotating the pan about halfway through. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes. The resulting chicken is amazingly juicy and delicious.
See how much leftover breading I had?
While prepping the chicken, I came to my senses about the fact that I couldn’t serve chicken alone for dinner. I should have planned to offer a vegetable, but I hadn’t thought about that. Canned beans didn’t appeal to me, and the only appropriate vegetable in my freezer was peas. Here is a rare glimpse at my nearly empty refrigerator crisper drawer!
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What could I serve with this fried chicken? Well, waffles of course!

I still had leftover waffle mix from a Christmas gift box. I added a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the recipe on the can, because sugar wasn’t on the ingredients list and I like a touch of sweetness in my waffles, even for dinner. Then I drew on the information gained from a friend—who became obsessed with replicating the flavor and texture of European-style waffles, Belgian waffles like they serve from the Wafels and Dinges truck in NYC, and learned that one of the secrets to crispy waffles is an abundance of butter—and doubled the recommended amount of butter. The waffles came out great.
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A little hot sauce, a little maple syrup, and we had a “complete” meal.
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It’s Burger Season!

Who doesn’t love a burger?

I may be misleading you with the title of this post, because what I will be featuring is a veggie burger. But this veggie burger is one of the best I have ever tasted.

I found the burger on Pinterest, drawn to this picture:

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The author described the original burger, which was discovered at a well-known vegetarian restaurant, as quite burger-like, vegetarian or not!

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I’m particularly proud of how my version turned out because I truly improvised on this one. The recipe called for approximately one onion. We all know that onions vary widely in size, so that kind of recipe instruction bothers me. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, but a lot of times new or hesitant cooks would appreciate more precision. To represent that onion in this recipe, I used about 3/4 of a cup of “stuff”: a little bit of yellow onion, a little bit of leftover chopped red onion I had (from a recipe that actually stipulated the number of tablespoons), and—-chopped swiss chard stems! Swiss chard came in my share last week and I had yet to fully utilize it. I used a few leaves as a substitute for spinach in a blue cheese, sundried tomato, and greens sourdough bread I made in the bread maker the day before, and I saved the stems.
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If you’re not familiar with swiss chard, I would say that it has more of an earthy flavor than other greens. I’m sure it has some similarities with beet greens (which could also be used here, if you have beets with the full tops!).
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Beet and Bean Burgers
Adapted from theKitchn’s recipe inspired by the veggie burgers at Northstar Cafe in Columbus, Ohio
makes about 4 medium burgers

1/4 cup brown rice (doubled if you like more rice-they say it makes a crispier burger)
3/4 cup of some combination of onion (red, yellow, white, or even green) and swiss chard stem, diced small
About 8 ounces of beets, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced (to taste…at least 2 tsp for me)
1 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 can black beans (about 3/4 cup), drained and rinsed
1/2 juice from 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon parsley, minced
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
, minced
2+ Tablespoons all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste

cheese (optional) – provolone, monterey jack, or cheddar

Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a handful of salt and the rice, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the rice until it is no longer al dente. You want it a little over-cooked. This will take at least 40 minutes, depending on your rice. Drain the rice and set it aside.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and swiss chard mixture, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the onions are translucent and softened.

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So pretty!

Stir in the beets. Cover the pot and cook until the beets are completely tender, stirring occasionally. Give it at least five minutes and then taste for tenderness.
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Add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan using the cider vinegar.

Empty the black beans into a large bowl and use a fork to mash them up a bit. Add the cooked rice, the beet and onion mixture, the lemon juice, the olive oil, and all the spices. Stir to combine.
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Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the flour and stir. I needed to add a little extra flour for keeping the mix together, and it still fell apart a bit. Reviewers on the recipe’s webpage mentioned using rolled oats as a binder as well.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over the highest heat. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat until it flows easily and shimmers.

Using your hands, form about a cup of the burger mixture into a patty between your palms. (Get ready to have horror-flick gory hands). Set it in the hot pan. Continue shaping and adding as many patties are you are making at one time and add to pan as they fit. Reduce heat.

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What’s wrong with this picture? Answer: not enough oil in the pan.

Note: the recipe says that the burgers are best eaten immediately. The mix can be kept in the fridge for a few days if you want to save it and make additional burgers at another time. I formed a few burgers and stuck them in the freezer–I’ll let you know if they hold up.

Cook the patties for 2 minutes, working to get a nice crust, then flip to the other side. If you’re adding cheese, lay a slice over the burgers now. Cook the second side for another 2 minutes.

Serve the veggie burgers on a toasted english muffin, burger buns or sandwich bread.

Seriously, this was so delicious.

Seriously, this was so delicious.

OK, OK, I know you want to see some meat. Here’s the burger I consumed at a friend’s house a few days later, made by our own Chef Chris Davila:

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The picture is blurry, but I’m sure you can see how it was cooked wonderfully medium rare.

He ground his own beef and used a combination of short ribs, sirloin, and flank steak. The recipe was from Saveur magazine’s June/July 2013 issue: Ultimate Grilled Cheeseburger. Special sauce and all.

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Happy burger season!

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