Posts tagged spicy
Sunday, July 3, 2011

roasted salsa

roasted salsa

Come tomorrow, I suspect many of you will be firing up your grills and having a celebratory cookout. I have one thing to say to all of you planning on doing this – I am extremely jealous. We, urban dwellers, try as we might to boast that city living is the way to go, are actually quite jealous of all the backyard fun everyone else is having. Which is probably why New Yorkers love to invite themselves over to summer houses, suburban havens, and anyone in the tri-state area lucky enough to own a grill (there are some lucky balcony owners out there).

This Fourth of July, Andrew, Russell, and I will be grill-less, but that won’t stop us from celebrating in as much style as we possibly can, with fried chicken, corn on the cob, and blueberry cobbler. Really, we’re just trying to make our friends with grills jealous (far fetched as that may be). When life does not give us grill, we deep-fry instead.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

beef randang – malaysian beef curry

beef randang

Today in New York is a rainy, sleepy day. The kind of day that makes me want to take a long walk in the park, wrapped in a sweater, with a scarf draped around my neck. It’s the kind of day that makes me realize that there is no place like New York, no city that actually makes the rain so welcome. Paris is lovely in the rain, but Paris is lovely in any weather. In London rain is pretty much expected and has a long tenure. But to me New York is loveliest when the skies are grey, the rain is falling, and there are puddles on the ground. The grey and rainy New York is lovelier than the sunny New York, at least to me.

beef randang beef randang

I took a walk through Central Park today en route to work, making my journey slightly longer, but much more pleasant. I looked at the runners wishing I could join them – I love to run in the drain, and while I know that sounds counter-intuitive, trust me – once you do it, you’ll be hooked for life. It’s my favorite running weather. Now, I’m not talking a deluge here – just rain and slightly cooler temperatures. It makes for a refreshing, invigorating run. I smiled at all the dogs jumping from grass to pavement and back again, sniffing roots of trees, grasses, wet leaves, greeting one another, their wet tails wagging in excitement. The mothers were pushing their babies in strollers – some were running, some were walking briskly; all had an air of contentment about them. It was the perfect fall walk.

star anise, cardamom, cinnamon

I love days like this. I love weekends like this even more. When you’re “forced” to hang out in your apartment, putting around the kitchen, wearing sweaters and leggings, drinking endless cups of tea with Ma Rainey playing in your living room. Even better if you have a record player, and can hear the scratches in Ma Rainey’s voice. Give me more of such weekends, autumn, and I will make more beef randang in your honor. Who doesn’t love a hearty, soupy, spicy curry, spooned over rice and served in a deep bowl?

beef randang

I’ve been thinking about beef randang, ever since the lovely Colleen and I went out to Laut near Union Square. I haven’t had Malaysian food in I can’t tell you how long, but I realized after our dinner, just how much I had missed it. Malaysian food is made for days like this when you want something cozy and warm, and salads just won’t do, and soup seems to be not filling enough. It’s the equivalent of a wearing a blanket, minus the actually literally wearing one. But should ever decide that blanket-wearing is a must for dinner, you are now equipped with the perfect recipe for such an occasion, where sit at your table and eat it wearing whatever you like: a blanket, flannel pajamas, fleece pants and a hoodie, or yoga pants and a sweater. Sometimes, it’s just best to stay in and dress down, don’t you agree?

beef randang

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

harissa-roasted chicken with chickpeas and red onion

harissa-roasted chicken

Oh, chicken! You are so maligned sometimes. You’re the thing people probably order the least in nicer restaurants. And you’re easily relegated to boring and blasé. Sometimes you are cooked into dry oblivion, upon which you, at best, taste like pressed wood chips. To make matters worse, you’re far too humble to ever speak up for yourself. Instead, you wait. You wait for a cook to realize your true potential, and elevate you to your well-earned exalted position. Just as a concept, chicken, you are bland. Commonplace, even. But there are so many way to prepare you, that you possess the versaility other meats simply to not. You can be dressed up, or down, depending on the occasion. Different version of you have legions of loyal followers. Roast chicken. Chicken braised in Riesling. Chicken braised in milk. You can take on so many roles that it is, indeed, unfair to call you boring. Chicken, you are the Meryl Streep of food! There’s no one more versatile than you! [And thus, I end my ode.]

the magical ingredientsmarinading!

Despite chicken’s apparent versatility, writing excitedly about it, does present a bit of a problem. I think what makes or breaks a chicken dish, in particular, is how you make it. I know that this rule applies to just about everything, but I like think of chicken as the true, great, blank canvas. There’s an endless range of possibilities, but chicken generally needs a bit of direction, be is just a bit of salt and pepper, and roasting; or a more elaborate cooking process. And with a few great ingedients and some gentle prodding, what you can wind up with is nothing short of a miracle.

onion

I’ve been on a harissa kick lately, so much so, that I am thinking of just biting the bullet and making my own. Luisa’s recipe has been on my mind for awhile now, but as per usual, I am slow to get things done. Work, you consume me so! I made this a few weeks ago for a very special dinner. I’ll leave it at that, but suffice to say, I was trying to impress. I was intrigued by the marriage of yogurt, spices and harissa as a marinade for the chicken – I knew, in an instant, this would be fragrant, flavorful, intense. I wanted a chicken dish that wasn’t delicate with its notes; I wanted a bold, daring dish that would hold its own against the carrot salad. And the flavors worked beautifully. The yogurt added a lovely tang that took the heat of harissa and deepened its structure, all the while softening its heat just a bit. I wanted a slightly earthy aftertaste, so I mixed some cumin into my marinade – a decision I was particularly happy about once we tasted the final product. And because there were chickpeas in the salad, I opted to skip them this time around (fearing the mighty chickpea overload), but added some extra onions to roast and flavor the chicken.

onion, scattered
harissa-roasted chicken, ready for cooking

I’m always on a lookout for a chicken recipe that will be a real stand-out in a crowd of just-so recipes. I’ve gotten quite lucky with the Riesling one, and this apricot-Sriracha one (among a few), and this will take a place alongside my keeper recipes. If you think that making chicken is a snooze-fest, I implore you not to give the bird a chance – it will play any role you want and will transform itself so much so that you might just exclaim, “This is chicken?!?” and never look back. Except, maybe, to get second helpings.

harissa-roasted chicken

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Friday, June 25, 2010

carrot and chickpea salad

spicy carrot and chickpea salad

My mother recently said to me that she isn’t the least bit surprised that cooking is such a big part of my life. She said she could see it when I was a wee little thing getting overly excited to go to the market, or picking berries, or foraging for mushrooms. She recalled that she didn’t know any kids my age who would have rather been digging in the garden for vegetables than playing with other kids. I have a hazy recollection of accompanying my grandmother to the market where I could walk among farmers and booths and be seduced by all the smells and sights. My favorite find was a stand with the red currants in hand-made newspaper cones. So much for playing with dolls and a game of tag. My heart belong to fruit and vegetables, and summer reigned as king of all seasons in my six-year-old brain.

stacked
golden brown

When I was even younger, I once ate so many carrots that I turned slightly orange. I remember looking at my palms thinking I should do the same with blueberries (unfortunately it didn’t work!). Mom likes to remember how the first thing I’d eat in chicken soup were pieces of cooked carrot, and how excited I would get to eat a fresh carrot from the farmers market, freshly dug up and cleaned. Growing up, a carrot was my favorite go-to snack, and my grandmother would hand-press for me carrot juice – a very special treat. It’s no wonder that my father used to affectionately refer to me as “rabbit”. I am, unabashedly, a fan of this humble root vegetable, and it is amazing to me that something that grows underground, sees no sunlight, and turns into something so lovely and festive-looking. You know well by now that I have quite a soft-spot for root vegetables in general. They’re totally under-appreciated and I’m on a mission to give them some love. When you pull a turnip or a carrot out of the ground, you get a rather dirty and downright unattractive vegetable, it is what’s hiding underneath, however, that is truly glorious and delicious. If you’ve never pulled out a carrot from the ground, washed it and eaten it right away, you really should – it’s quite an experience. And it’ll be the best-tasting carrot you’ve ever eaten!

the magical mix that made this salad so good

There’s been some carrot salad love shown lately when Deb of Smitten Kitchen posted a salad that made me want to get up from my office chair and immediately go home to make it. Luisa also waxed poetic about it, and I was all, “What’s taking me so long!” And then, right as I was about to make it, finally, I came upon this recipe and decided that since Deb’s salad deserved an honorable mention all its own, I wanted to give a bit of a spotlight to this one. There’s cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper in it. There’s cilantro, which I cannot resist (but those who loathe it can always sub in mint!). And because there are chickpeas and almonds in here, you have a meal in and of itself if you so desire. Or a side-dish, as I served it (though I managed to have the leftovers for breakfast (I know, right?) the very next morning.) Which brings me to a question, is it some kind of a grammar violation to have parenthesis inside a parenthesis?

spicy carrot and chickpea salad

This salad here packs some serious heat, so if you’re sensitive to it, dial down the cayenne, m’kay? Because I don’t want some of you to burn the roof of your mouth and then tell me I didn’t warn you! This is spicy, but I love my spice, so I kept the proportions the same. Also, this salad is very considerate of your time, which means this is a rather well-brought-up salad, if you ask me. If you have a picnic to attend, you can make this (even the day before) ahead of time and chill it, needing only to remember to bring this along. Translation: you should have as many picnics as this season allows, as you will miss them in the winter when you’re wearing fleece head to toe and eating tomato soup. This salad with its lemon and cilantro got this fantastic summer vibe to it, and is bound to please everyone, including your gluten-free, vegan, or low-carb friends. With a salad like this, I know that your next trip to the farmers market might be packed with as much excitement as mine are to this day. Who knew that something that has the word “salad” in it could be so exciting?

spicy carrot and chickpea salad

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Friday, June 18, 2010

asian-inspired slaw with mango

asian slaw with mango

All right, my dears. I don’t have much time, so I’ll be brief. And I’m sorry to be so hasty and short. This salad right here – please make it. It’s going to help you get through the hot and sticky days of summer. The crunch of the cabbage, the sweetness of mango, the bite of the chili pepper, the cool, sweet burst of corn. This salad here – a keeper. And transports well for things like picnics and backyard barbecues. And I hope that you plan on going to a lot of those this season.

asian slaw with mango

There are many a joke made about Russians and their love of cabbage. We are a people that loves our cabbage pickled, stuffed, stewed, in soups and in pies. Cabbage, in Russian cooking, will be the main event, not an accessory. Perhaps, outside of the potato, it is the most loved vegetable in Russia. We, Russians, take our cabbage seriously. And here, I took the beloved Russian vegetable and put an Thai-ish spin on it. I should’ve thrown some peanuts in, but I didn’t have any on hand.

asian slaw with mango

The slaw is quite a deviation from a traditional slaws that involve mayonnaise. I’m not one to knock mayo, especially if it’s homemade, but sometimes, when the summer days grow sweltering and muggy, it is not exactly a condiment you dream of. Or maybe that’s just me. On the other hand, things like lime juice and a little spice are always welcome in my kitchen, especially when it’s warm outside.

asian slaw with mango

You might think to yourself, cilantro and mint together – an herb overkill, perhaps? I thought so before, until I accidentally combined them in a similar salad once and I haven’t looked back since. Somehow, oddly, they are complementary to one another and both are summery and crisp.

asian slaw with mango

I notice that around this time of year, I want more salad on my plate and less meat. And I know we’re entering grilling season, but still, my heart (and stomach) crave vegetables. Last night, at book club, one of the girls served a lovely goat cheese and spinach tart (oh how the wheels in my head are turning), a simple cucumber salad with parsley and creme fraiche, and some rocket with a simple vinaigrette. It was simple, it was crisp and it was perfect.

And in thinking this morning about the salad here, I realized that in the summer, what we want is to feel as light and breezy as the summer breeze itself. A cinch to put together, easy take along, wonderfully uplifting. What could be a better way to greet the summer season?

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

apricot glazed sriracha ginger chicken

apricot-glazed sriracha chicken

I was going to write about roast chicken. I had it all planned and figured out. I was going to tell you of a glorious weekend on the North Fork, and wine tasting, and meeting Claudia Fleming (swoon). But all this must wait. Because I have to tell you about the chicken I made Monday night for our monthly book club. We ate it up and licked our fingers. Well, I licked my fingers, and I think the other ladies in the book club were better behaved.

It’s not often that I find a recipe I like so much that I am thinking about it non-stop and so much so that I would be willing to serve it to my guests again. I’m quite fanatical about not repeating dishes as I try to always cook something new and different and thus maybe have something new to write about, but in this case, really, this will be made over and over and over again.

apricot-glazed sriracha chickenapricot-glazed sriracha chicken

Particularly for dinner parties and more particularly for those dinner parties hosted on a weeknight, when I have roughly an hour and a half to pull dinner together. Because what comes out of your oven is, well, nothing short of stunning. I would even dare say, celestial. I know, I use superlative language here, but if you know me, and I think by now you do, I’m not prone to descriptions that don’t live up to expectation. I’m all about meeting those expectations, folks.

apricot-glazed sriracha chickenapricot-glazed sriracha chicken

And they will be met. Because a slurry of garlic, ginger, apricot jam, soy sauce and the recently written about Sriracha – does something to the chicken that makes it somewhat irresistible. You know it the second you take it out of the oven and smell it that you will be licking your fingers. And the plate, and whatever is left of the sauce. And when your guests go to get seconds and praise your cooking prowess, you might be tempted to tell you that the whole thing took mere minutes to put together. But you won’t. Because you’ll be too busy licking the sauce off your fingers to talk.

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