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This is a really healthy and quick dish to make. Everyone has a ‘go to’ ingredient in a pinch and mine is chicken sausage. I was in the mood to make a really healthy pasta- I had just bought some whole wheat penne. I used to be a big skeptic when it came to whole wheat pasta- it tasted like cardboard, but things have really improved over the years. The pasta now tastes really delicious and nutty. The texture has improved as well- soft, just like regular pasta. Now, my husband and daughter cannot tell when I have used whole wheat pasta.
In this dish I used some mushroom and fontina chicken sausages- my daughter, Sia loves them!!! I had also purchased the most fabulous looking grape tomatoes and baby spinach. I decided to incorporate all the items in this dish including some basil- the more the merrier! It took all of 30 minutes to make so it is very quick. While I was putting it together, I noticed I had feta cheese in the fridge- “perfect”, I thought. I took some pasta out for Sia, since she finds feta too salty (and I can’t get enough of the saltiness!!). I added the feta into the rest- the mixture of some left over pasta water and the cheese made the sauce really creamy and light at the same time. Since this was a one pot meal- the only other thing I had to worry about was the wine. I opened the German Pinot Noir!
- ½ pound whole wheat penne, cooked (save ½ cup of the pasta water)
- 5 chicken sausages, casings removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 pound grape tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 ounces fresh baby spinach
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ½ cup basil, chopped
- Salt to taste
In a wide frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the sausages and brown on medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute. Add the tomatoes and salt. Cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes or till the tomatoes soften and begin to burst- push down with the back of the spatula to crush some of them. Add the cooked pasta and the pasta water and mix well. Add the spinach and cook till it has wilted. Add the basil and feta, mix well and adjust seasonings.
Everyone has rice in their pantry. I have a few different ones in mine. I have the Indian basmati which is my ‘go to’ rice. I also have Jasmine- to use when I am making Asian dishes- it isn’t as aromatic as the previous but has a very nice sticky texture that goes very well with stir-fries, etc. I also keep brown rice- I have started using more of it now. It is so healthy and I personally love the nutty flavor of it. It is not as quick to cook as the others so it requires a little more planning. Lastly I have Arborio rice- for risottos. I love making risottos- all kinds- with shrimp, mushrooms, peas, asparagus- the sky is the limit (I just realized I have not posted any risotto recipes on this blog!- will have to do it very soon!). Anyway, a few other things I always have to make all the different kinds of rice I mentioned, are chicken broth and coconut milk. I used to cook my rice with water but realized a few years ago how much flavor these liquids impart.
I was thinking about the lemongrass rice I had at Ming Tsai’s restaurant, Blue Ginger. It was creamy and buttery with a subtle citrus flavor. I decided to use coconut to cook this rice since it is always on my mind and I thought the mango shrimp would go really well with the creamy rice. If you cannot find lemongrass, lime zest can be easily substituted. I also needed to make a vegetable with the dinner- so I decided to add baby spinach in the rice. It worked well with all the flavors and best of all with the cilantro I added, my daughter didn’t even notice she was having a vegetable!
So, my question to you is- what is your ‘go to’ rice?? Also, what is your family’s favorite rice dish?
- 1 cup jasmine rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup light coconut milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup lemongrass, chopped (just the white part in the center)
- Zest of one lime (If not using lemongrass, add zest of 2 limes)
- Juice of ½ lime (If not using lemongrass, add juice of 1 lime)
- 6 ounces fresh baby spinach
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
In a wide shallow pan, heat the olive oil. Add the jasmine rice and sauté for a minute on medium heat. Add the coconut milk and broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat once bubbles begin to form on the surface. Once the liquid has evaporated from the top, lower the heat and place the lid on the pan. Cook for 20 minutes. Take the lid off and add the lemongrass, salt, lime zest and baby spinach. Place the lid back and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat off and mix the spinach into the rice well. Add the limejuice and taste for seasonings. Garnish with cilantro.
Shrimp is a staple in our family. We all love it and I am challenged to prepare it in different ways while incorporating it in different cuisines. These days with the way the economy is, I buy frozen shrimp from the market to save money and keep it in my freezer. There is a big price difference between the fresh and frozen. I always look for wild shrimp caught in the US. While making dishes with very bold flavors, frozen shrimp is perfect- but I wouldn’t use it for a shrimp cocktail or a ceviche- fresh is the way to go with such dishes.
I had the mango puree in my fridge and I had read a recipe for a fish glazed with a mango sauce. I decided to use shrimp instead and add the puree instead of using fresh mangoes- my daughter does not want me to use the fresh mangoes for anything but her consumption! I decided to make the sauce tangy and a little spicy- perfect for a summer evening dinner. It was a warm day and I knew I was in the mood to grill. The dish didn’t take very long to make at all. The sauce was done in 20 minutes and the shrimp took all of 5 minutes to grill. I prepared a coconut lemongrass rice with it- I will post the recipe tomorrow. My daughter does not like anything too tangy- so I didn’t glaze her share of the shrimp on the grill. She really enjoyed them especially with the rice. It was a perfect meal for a warm evening and we drank a yummy sauvignon blanc with it.
With warmer evenings ahead of us my goal is to come up with dishes that are easy to prepare, don’t take a long time to cook and are delicious! What do you cook during the summer months and are you buying less or different items to save on your grocery bill??
- 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 serrano chilies, deseeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoons fresh ginger
- Juice of one lemon
- ½ cup mango puree
- 1 pound shrimp
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
Combine the vinegar, brown sugar, cumin, salt, Serrano chilies, ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes or until caramelized. Mix in the mango puree and simmer for another 10 minutes on low heat. Add the lemon juice and taste for seasonings. Keep aside.
Coat the shrimp with olive oil and salt. Right before grilling add ¼ cup of the mango glaze to the shrimp and mix well. Place the shrimp on the grill and brush the mango glaze on top. Cook for a minute, change sides and brush with mango glaze. Remove from grill and set aside on a warm plate. Garnish with cilantro and a drizzle of the mango glaze on top.
I remember meals growing up always included yogurt and kachumbar on the side. Since most Indian dishes are cooked well, the texture is usually soft and creamy- the chopped crunchy salad goes very well with the food-the texture contrast is wonderful! Yogurt serves a couple of roles with the food- it provides a much needed coolness with the spicy preparations. It also is a good protein to serve especially if the dishes are vegetarian. Lastly the bacteria in yogurt are great for digestion.
I made a crunchy salad with the biryani but instead of adding lime and cilantro I mixed it with my cilantro chutney. I always have this chutney in my fridge. It doesn’t take very long to make and I use it as a condiment with a lot of dishes. Typically the green chutney is quite spicy but it is not necessary since it provides a punch of flavor regardless of spice. I sometimes add Serrano chilies if I want a kick and add the olive oil to increase the shelf life. I serve the chutney on the side with Chicken Tikkas and Seekh Kebab. It can also be used as a spread for a sandwich. Rotisserie chicken mixed with some of this chutney and a little mayo makes a delicious chicken salad. Also, it can also be used as a sauce for pizza- the chutney on the base, with some low fat mozzarella cheese and topped with chopped Rotisserie Chicken, Chicken Tikka or even the Seekh Kebab.
- 2 plum tomatoes, chopped into ½ inch pieces
- 1 medium red onion, sliced thin
- ¼ cup cilantro chutney (more if you like spicy)
- ¼ cup golden raisins
- Salt to taste
Fill a small bowl half way with some cold water and a few ice cubes. Add the sliced onion to the water and let it sit for about 30 minutes. The cold water makes the onion crispy and also takes the bitter taste away.
In a medium bowl mix the tomato, red onion, raisins and chutney. Mix well and check for seasonings.
- 3 cups cilantro, washed and chopped roughly
- 4 green onions
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup water
Add all the ingredients to a blender. Blend till everything turns into a smooth sauce.
Raita with Dried Mint
- 2 cups low-fat yogurt- whisk smooth with 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon dry crushed mint or 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
Mix all the ingredients together. Check for seasoning.
- When I think of biryani, visions of ancient India during Mughal times come to mind. While doing research for this post, I learnt a lot of things I was not aware of. I knew there were many different kinds of biryanis out there but I didn’t know just how many!! All regions in India seem to have their own version. I also learnt that biryani was brought to India by muslin travelers and merchants- no wonder I think of Mughal times when I am eating the rice dish. Cooked meat is layered with parboiled rice and then cooked on a very low heat for hours- this style of cooking is called ‘dum‘- another technique that came from the Mughal era. I can picture cooks in the olden times cooking large handis of biryani in their out door kitchens!
- Usually when I think of cooking a biryani I get quite lazy- it’s quite a production. The meat is cooked in a delicious aromatic masala; the rice is cooked separately and some fresh herbs are incorporated into the layers as well. The end result is fabulous but it is time consuming and so this dish is usually cooked for a party or a special occasion. My husband who grew up in the South of India is a rice lover (it is a staple in the south) and so he loves anything made out of rice including a nice flavorful biryani! We usually go out to this hole in the wall pakistani restaurant- they really know how to make a delicious biryani- it is extremely flavorful and aromatic with the meat tender and just falling off the bone. They serve the rice dish with an onion relish and a raita on the side. I made a dry mint raita with mine and an onion tomato relish as well. The combination of the silky rice and meat with the cool raita and crunchy relish is out of this world! The recipe for the two will be posted tomorrow.
- I made this particular biryani with only dry aromatic spices (more like a Kashmiri style biryani) – I did that for two reasons. First, because I find the aroma and flavor of just dry spices unbelievably delicious; second, because the chicken curry is a lot easier and faster to make- there are no onion and tomatoes to saute for hours! The other thing I did that was a bit unconventional is that I took the meat off the bone- it makes it easier to eat, especially for my daughter. Overall it was a very successful attempt and I plan to try a few other biryanis from different regions very soon.
- 2 pounds skinless chicken, mix of thighs and drumsticks (cubed mutton, pork, lamb or beef can be used)
- 3 tablespoons extra light olive oil or ghee
- 4-5 cloves
- 2 big black cardamoms
- 3 small cardamoms
- 1 3 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons shahi jeera- black cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons yogurt mixed with 1 tablespoon half-and-half
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups parboiled basmati rice (cook in 4 cups of chicken broth for more flavor)
- 1 teaspoon saffron mixed with 2 tablespoons warm milk
- ¾ cup cilantro, chopped
- ½ cup mint, chopped
- A large cheesecloth
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
In a large pan, heat the olive oil or the ghee on medium heat. Add the cloves, black cardamoms, small cardamoms, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, shahi jeera, coriander powder, turmeric, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and garam masala. Saute for a minute or two until the spices begin to sizzle. Add the yogurt mixed with the half and half. Add the chicken pieces and cook the meat till well browned on medium high heat for about 5-7 minutes. Add salt to taste. Add the chicken broth and mix well. Cover the pan and cook on medium low heat till chicken is done- about 20-25 minutes. Take the cover off and raise the heat to evaporate some of the liquid. The consistency should be similar to a thick soup. Take off heat and let cool. At this point you can leave the pieces on the bone or take the meat off and shred with your hands and add it back to the gravy. Check for seasonings and keep aside.
Divide the chicken mixture leaving one half in the original pan. Divide the rice and put one half in the original pan with the chicken. Add cilantro, mint and the saffron into the pan and mix well and spread evenly. Next, add the remaining half of the chicken mixture on top spreading it evenly over the previous rice and chicken mixture. Now take the remaining portion of the plain rice and spread it all over the chicken (idea is to layer the ingredients). Wet the cheesecloth and spread over the rice and cover with lid. Bake in the oven for 90 minutes and serve with a relish and yogurt.