My cooking these days feels torn. On the one hand, we’ve been having people over for dinner all the time and when we do, I take it as an opportunity to make those dishes that are just a bit too much of a production for any old night with me and Jonah (i.e. anything from my newest and also favorite cookbook Six Seasons). On the other hand, when it is just me and Jonah I tend to turn to what I have in the fridge. This is a great practice, but when I go to the grocery store, I generally buy the same things for weeknight dinner staples: I pick up some tofu, mushrooms, peppers, leafy greens, onions, occasionally some sweet potatoes, and a bulb of fennel if I’m feeling fancy. These ingredients most often turn themselves into a rice or soba noodle bowl because, well, we love Asian flavors, and it’s simple enough that we don’t have to think about it too much before it can become dinner. But the key to any good rice or noodle bowl is the right sauce.
In my recipe box that sits in my spice drawer, I’ve got at least 3 different asian marinades/sauces. They all have roughly the same ingredients, with a couple extras thrown in or substituted. They are ingredients that are used almost daily in my kitchen: soy sauce, rice vinegar, sriracha, garlic, lime juice. Occasionally there will be honey or maple syrup, sesame oil or miso. But this sauce, the one below, it’s different. Instead of being the base sauce for a meal, it’s a sauce that I keep in a small jar in the fridge. I drizzle it on a plate of food when it needs an extra kick, that beloved tingling on the lips, the gentle burning on the edges of your tongue. It’s not too hot – you can still taste all the ingredients in it because the heat is just at the right level where the flavors don’t get lost. I put it on noodles and rice bowls, but I also put it on fried eggs in the morning, orzo salads that need a little jazzing up after a few days in the fridge, and an afternoon snack of avocado. It has gotten to a point where I like to always have a jar on hand, should the need for it arise. And the need does arise. It always comes in handy.
It has been HOT in Portland, you guys. I’m talking like 90 degrees, humid, blech. The kind of hot that just makes you want to dip your toes in a fountain, drink milkshakes, and take a nap in the afternoon with the fan blowing full force. When it’s this hot, it officially becomes salad season. Here are some weekend finds to help deal with the heat.
Jonah claims he doesn’t like gazpacho, but I’m convinced I can change his mind if I find the perfect recipe. I haven’t committed to one yet, but I’m determined to make some this week, before it cools off too much. I’ve been looking at recipes like this, this, and this. Let me know in the comments if you have a great gazpacho recipe.
2. Tomato, Corn, Cucumber Salad
Earlier this week, we needed a quick, crunchy, cold dinner before we went to play a show. I picked up some corn, grape tomatoes, and feta on the way home, we sliced it all up, added some cucumber, and voila, dinner (via this recipe). Then last night we went over to a friend’s house for salad night and we pulled out the leftovers, threw them on top of some spinach, added some chickpeas and a tahini dressing (this one minus the ginger and garlic, plus a little more vinegar). It was filling and refreshing and really delicious.
3. Crispy Tofu with Sriracha Honey Lime Sauce
On the nights it isn’t so hot, we cook things like this crispy tofu with sriracha lime honey sauce from I Am a Food Blog. I think this might be my new favorite way to make tofu. Be warned though, that sauce is spicy. (I like eating spicy things when it’s hot out – why not be hot on the inside and the outside?) Also, if you don’t know about I Am a Food Blog, you should. Go to her site and poke around. Everything we’ve made from her has been awesome.
4. Cleaning out your spice drawer
We are re-signing our lease, and that means we are doing a massive cleaning of our house. We’ve probably cleaned out our spice drawer(s) multiple times since living here, but it can’t hurt to do it again. It’s important to know how long you can keep things before they lose their punch. This guide from The Kitchn is a great help.
5. Miso Quinoa Pilaf with Eggplant and Cucumber!
I don’t usually like quinoa. I find that it tends to be underseasoned/underdressed, and as a result is awfully bland. But my roommate is slowly changing my mind… We made dinner together a few weeks ago from some leftover, and we made this really delicious quinoa bowl with roasted vegetables. Anyway, point is, I’d like to try to eat more quinoa, and this miso quinoa pilaf looks like a great place to start.
Again, it’s been a little while. But you guys, I have so much food to share with you! There has been much eating lately. And good eating too. YUM. This first recipe is a super easy recipe from Martha that was adapted into chicken tacos. Originally it was just the cayenne-rubbed chicken with avocado salsa, but everything is better in a tortilla (and sprinkled with cholula), am I right? So chicken tacos it is. This meal was so simple because we had everything except the chicken and the avocado. I love quick and easy trips to the grocery store that don’t require you to buy too much stuff for a meal.
Chicken Tacos with Cayenne and Avocado Salsa
salt and ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you can use breast too, but we like dark meat a little better, plus it’s cheaper)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Hass avocado, pitted and cut into chunks
tortillas of your choosing (the little taco ones are good for this)
other condiments (think sour cream, cholula, salsa if you want, cheese…)
In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cayenne, mix to combine. Rub this spice mixture all over the chicken. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until cooked through and browned on the outside. Shouldn’t take too long (think 10-15 minutes). My trick with chicken is to cook it with a lid on the pan to get it cooked through, and then once it’s cooked through, take of the lid and turn up the heat a little bit to get the nice browned outside.
While the chicken is cooking, put the onion and lime juice in a bowl, and cut up the avocado. You can also heat up your tortillas now, which I did by throwing ours in a lightly greased pan, flipping them, and then storing them between two plates so they stayed warm. Just before serving, fold the avocado pieces into the onion mixture and season with salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy!
For a while now, I’ve been wanting to cook an Indian dinner. But I don’t have a cookbook with the kind of curry I wanted to make, so I took to the internet. After much hunting, I found many websites with the same Chicken Makhani recipe, so I decided to try it. If you’ve never had Chicken Makhani, you should. It’s a very creamy, mild curry that is this beautiful orange color. And I’ve been wanting to make it forever. Let me say before you jump in here that this recipe did not taste like the dish I get at our favorite Indian restaurant. Not at all. It was still good, just not what I was expecting. So if you have had Chicken Makhani before, just know that this won’t taste like the dish you’re thinking of. (My grandmother would kill me for ending that sentence with a preposition, but whatever.) Also, I will say that I forgot the step with the cornstarch and water at the end… So maybe it would have turned out different, but I don’t think the taste would have been affected at all. So there you go.
Now, when I was at the grocery store, shopping for this lovely meal, I thought to myself, “Gee, I really should cook a vegetable too.” So I quickly looked up a recipe on Smitten Kitchen (have I made it clear that I love this site yet?) for Indian spiced cauliflower and potatoes. I adapted this so that I wouldn’t have to buy too many more ingredients. I also didn’t do the full recipe; I probably ended up making 3/4 of the original, which yielded plenty for both of us plus leftovers.
Chicken Makhani and Spiced Cauliflower
2 Tbl peanut oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 white onion, chopped
2 Tbl butter
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbl garlic-ginger paste (I wasn’t sure what this was, so I just minced one Tbl worth of ginger and garlic and called it good)
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup half and half
1 cup tomato puree
1/4 tsp plus a pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch each of salt and pepper
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
1 Tbl cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 (1 3/4-lb) head cauliflower, cut into 3/4-inch-wide florets
1 1/4 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (the recipe called for Yukon Golds, but I just used Russets)
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup water
In a large saucepan, heat 1 Tbl peanut oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and the onion and cook them until they’re soft and translucent. Add the butter, lemon juice, ginger-garlic paste, 1 teaspoon of the garam masala, chili powder, cumin, and bay leaf. Phew. Cook for a minute, stirring to combine everything thoroughly. Add the tomato sauce and cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently. Now stir in the the half and half and the yogurt. Bring the heat down to low, and allow the curry to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper to taste, remove the curry from heat, and set it aside (preferably covered).
In a skillet, heat the rest of the oil over medium heat. Add the chicken, and cook until lightly browned. Reduce the heat, and add the rest of the garam masala and the cayenne, mixing around until the chicken is evenly coated with the spices. Add a few spoonfuls of the curry to the chicken, and simmer until the liquid has reduced and the chicken is cooked through. Then stir the chicken into the sauce. (Now is when you’re supposed to do the cornstarch: mix together the cornstarch and water in a bowl, then add to the sauce. Stir in thoroughly and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened.)
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. In a bowl, toss the cauliflower and potatoes with 3 Tbl of oil, 1/2 tsp of the cumin, and 1/4 tsp of salt. Spread the veggies onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the cauliflower tender and browned in spots.
While the veggies are roasting, cook the onion, garlic, and ginger in the rest of the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir frequently, and cook until the onions and garlic are soft and starting to brown. Add the rest of the cumin (1 tsp), the turmeric, cayenne, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring to evenly coat the onions in the spices. Add the water, being sure to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and stir in the veggies. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the potatoes are tender.
Serve curry and cauliflower with rice (I like to add a capful of rice cooking vinegar with the water to give it a little extra flavor), and enjoy!