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Spicy Thai Fried Rice

21 Feb

IMG_2480

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think leftover rice? I bet its “fried rice” –the widespread solution for leftover rice. Any disagreements on fried rice being the common answer for leftover rice can be resolved by the 36million plus results on Google for “fried rice”.IMG_2476

While rice and vegetables or meat are common to this classic one-pot dish the herbs and spices used vary by region and personal taste. This recipe uses Thai Basil, fish sauce and bird’s eye chilies to create a “Thai” version of a favorite one-pot meal. The “Thai” touch adds a little oomph to a comfort classic, creating a dish that will tantalize your taste-buds and satisfy your soul.

Spicy Thai Fried Rice
Recipe adapted from Food.com’s Thai Spicy Basil Fried Rice by Chef Bolistoli
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons Oyster sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon low sodium soy
1-2 thinly sliced bird’s eye chilies
1.5 tablespoons of vegetable oil
½ cup sliced green onions
6 cloves of garlic, minced
½ medium red pepper, sliced
½ medium yellow pepper, sliced
1/3 cup bean sprouts
¼ frozen green peas, thawed
3 cups of a day old jasmine, basmati or brown rice
1/3 cup Thai basil, roughly chopped
1 cup boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed (Optional)
1 egg
Salt and white pepper to taste

Method:
1) In a small bowl mix the oyster sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce and bird’s eye chilies and set aside.
2) In a wok or large frying pan, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the green onions and garlic and cook for a minute.
3) Add the red and yellow pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes until the peppers are slightly tender. If using chicken add it now and cook until the chicken is fully cooked through.
4) Add the peas and bean sprouts and cook for another minute.
5) Move all the ingredients to the side and break the egg into the center of the wok. Stir constantly to quickly scramble the egg.
6) Add the oyster, fish and soy sauce mixture and stir well with all the ingredients.
7) Turn the heat to high and add the rice and blend everything well together. Add salt and white pepper per your taste. You can also add more fish sauce or soy sauce at this time.
8) Once the rice is heated through remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Serve hot.

Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul

8 Feb

IMG_2487My Facebook news feed is flooded with updates of plans and preparations for the potential historical blizzard – winter storm Nemo. Since you cannot really beat Mother Nature at her game, why not stay in and warm up with an effortless, delicious and hearty one-pot soup-based meal? And even if you are not caught in the eye of this storm this is the ideal flavorful and healthful one-pot meal for any chilly night.

This soup is a detour from a classic chicken noodle soup; it is in fact a Far East variation of it. Ginger, lemongrass, lime and Thai birds-eye chilies breathe new life into a classic chicken broth, while the bacon adds a layer of smokiness to it. The chicken, noodles, bok choy and mushrooms come together to create a well-balanced meal. There’s nothing wrong with a traditional chicken and egg-noodle soup, but this feisty and flamboyant cousin is sure to gratify your soul on a cold and dreary day.

Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul
Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats: Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup with Lime and Ginger Recipe
Yield: 4 servings
Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth (Store bought or homemade)
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut into 2 inch pieces (see note)
2, 1 inch pieces of ginger, peeled
2 -3 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
2 Thai birds-eye chilies, seeded and diced
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast (or 2 small ones)
½ tablespoon of good olive oil
3 slices of center cut bacon, diced
½ cup scallions (whites and greens), minced
2-3 bunches of baby bok choy, roughly chopped
6-8 thinly sliced shitake mushrooms (see note)
1/3 cup thin Thai basil, shredded (see note)
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
4 ounces of rice noodles or ramen-style Japanese noodles, cooked al dente per package instructions
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon of cilantro
Optional condiment: Siracha sauce, to be added per taste at the time of serving

Notes:

  • Fresh lemongrass is available at all Asian grocery stores and several large grocery chains. If you cannot find fresh lemon grass then, substitute it with the bottled kind that can be found in the international aisles of most grocery stores.
  • Thai basil is available at all Asian grocery stores and several large grocery chains.
  • You can substitute the shitakes with crimini or white button mushrooms.
  • The fish sauce and broth are salty, so make sure before you add any additional salt you taste the soup to determine how much you need.

Method:
1) Pour the chicken broth into a large stock pot. To this add the lemongrass, ginger, garlic cloves and birds eye chilies. Bring these ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the broth reaches a roaring boil, reduce the heat to low and add the chicken breast. Cover and simmer until the chicken breast is fully cooked.
2) Turn-off the heat and remove the pot from heat. Remove the chicken breast and it set aside to cool. Remove the ginger pieces and garlic cloves from the broth and discard. At this point you can even discard the lemon grass, but I prefer to remove it right at the end as it keeps infusing the soup with flavor. Set the broth aside to use in the soup. Use a fork to shred the chicken once it has cooled and is easy to work with.
3) In a medium Dutch-Oven or soup-pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the diced bacon and cook it through. Now add the scallions and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
4) Add the broth to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil (uncovered). Once it reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat to low and add the bok choy and mushrooms. Cook for a minute and then add the shredded basil, chicken, noodles, fish sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Give everything a good stir and then turn-off the heat.
5) Stir in the lime juice and garnish with cilantro. Serve with Siracha sauce for some extra heat!

Mac & Cheese with an Indian Flair

19 Nov

Photo credit: Sneha (www.prettyinpic.com)

While the turkey is the superstar of a Thanksgiving dinner, guests also gather around the holiday table eager to load up on its supporting cast members – the side dishes. So if you are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, remember while these side dishes may seem slightly less import than the Turkey they are still an integral part of a Thanksgiving meal. These are also the dishes that can showcase your creativity and ingenuity as a cook. Take comfort classics and classic Thanksgiving side dishes and brighten them up with some exotic flavors or unexpected textures to add a little extra panache to your holiday table.

Macaroni and Cheese is a comfort classic side dish of cheesy goodness that satiates the appetites of all age groups. While the base is always macaroni (or another pasta), cheese, milk and flour, people all over the world add different ingredients to their Mac and Cheese to personalize it.  A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Reem Rizvi’s (of Simply Reem) “Mac & Cheese – An Indian Touch” guest blog post on Life of Spice. Just reading the recipe I could imagine the flavors and aroma’s that the Indian spices added to this Mac and Cheese. My recipe is an adaptation of Reem’s with a few minor changes (specifically reducing the fat content a bit without reducing the flavor at all).

Photo credit: Sneha

Photo credit: Sneha

The warm and aromatic spices and the cilantro-scallion cheese crust in this Mac and Cheese add a layer of flamboyance to a familiar classic. So why not surprise your friends and family this Thanksgiving by treating their taste buds to a quick trip to the Indian sub-continent?

Mac & Cheese with an Indian flair
Recipe adapted from Reem Rizvi’sIndian style Mac and Cheese” on a Life of Spice
Serves: 6-8 people
Time: Active: 15 -20 minutes; Inactive: 30-35minutes

Ingredients:
3 slices of bread
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped.
2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
1 ½  tablespoons of butter, divided
3 cups cheddar cheese (grated)
2 cups dried macaroni
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup, finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 jalapeno seeded and diced (optional).
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne powder (or to taste).
½ teaspoon Garam Masala powder
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric powder
2 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour
3 cups 1 % or 2% milk, warmed up
Salt & pepper per taste

Note:
This is a great do-ahead recipe.  Prepare and set aside everything till step 7 (including step 7) a day before. Just before you are ready to serve, top the macaroni and cheese mixture with the bread crumb mixture and bake everything together.

Method:
1) Pre-heat the oven to 350F and grease a 9” by 13” baking dish or 8, 5oz ramekins with little butter or cooking spray.
2) In a food processor, add the bread, cilantro and scallions with 3/4 tablespoon of the butter. Give it a quick pulse, till it starts to look like crumbs. Do not over pulse it as a little texture taste great. Add 1 cup of cheese and mix everything well. Set it aside.
3) Cook the macaroni according to the direction on the packet and set it aside.
4) In a large non-stick saucepan, heat the olive oil with the remaining 3/4 tablespoon of butter on medium heat. Once the oil is heated add the chopped onions, stir and cook until the onions soften and are just beginning to change color. Now add the ginger and garlic paste along with the jalapeno and cook for another minute. Keep stirring.
5) Add the garam masala, cumin, turmeric and chili powder, stir for about a minute.
6) Add the flour, salt and pepper and stir for about 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the warm milk and continue to stir as the milk mixture starts to thicken about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 2 cups of the cheddar cheese. Stir well till the cheese melts into the sauce. Set the cheese sauce aside.
7) Stir the drained macaroni into the cheese sauce and give it a nice mix.  Taste the salt and pepper at this stage and adjust it accordingly.
8) Pour everything in the greased baking dish or ramekins, top with the bread and cheese mixture that was prepared earlier.  Bake in 350F oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly on the top. Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving it.

Dinner for Two: Skillet Chicken and Rice

26 Oct

Ever faced a conundrum where you need 2 chicken breasts for dinner and have a package of three chicken breasts? I have had more than my share of these nights when I have a package of three chicken breasts and only need to grill or bake two for our dinner. The third is usually saved for a salad or a soup except per chance I stumble upon a great dinner idea.

I recently purchased Monica Bhide’s latest cook book – Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen and have a running list of all its recipes that I have to try. Earlier this year, I also took a food writing course with Monica. She has been a great source of inspiration for me and was the final push I needed to start writing this blog.

The Sunday Night Skillet Chicken and Rice recipe from the book was one of the top recipes on my list. It so turned out that I recently found myself with one chicken breast in the fridge and had the ingenious idea to use that recipe to create a hearty meal for two. I scaled down Modern Spice’s recipe to feed two, and made only a few minor modifications. This is really a heartwarming meal with big, bold flavors and is easy enough to make on any night of the week.

Skillet Chicken and Rice Recipe
Recipe adapted for Modern Spice’s Sunday Night Skillet Chicken and Rice
Yields: 2 servings
Time: Active 20 minutes Inactive 20 minutes

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil
1-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
½ large red onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 green chili, seeded and diced (optional)
1 medium-large Roma tomato, diced
½ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander powder
Salt to taste
½ pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces (See note)
½ cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of water
Cilantro, chopped for garnish

Notes:

  • Depending on the size of the chicken breasts ½ pound is either one large chicken breast or 2 smaller ones. You can also use boneless skinless thighs.
  • This recipe is very easy to scale up. Just double all the ingredients and use 2 cups of water. Cooking times will vary very minimally.

Method:
1) In a 10-12 inch deep lidded skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Within 1-2 minutes when you get the aroma of these spices, add the onion, ginger paste and garlic paste. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, until the onions soften and change color. Add the green chili (if using it) and cook for 1 minute.
2) Add the tomatoes along with a pinch of salt and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and the oil separates from the side of the mixture. Adding a pinch of salt at this stage speeds up the process of breaking down the tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to mash the tomatoes as they cook. Make sure you stir this mixture occasionally to ensure it does not stick to the skillet.
3) Add the chili powder, turmeric, coriander and salt to taste. Cook stirring constantly for another minute.
4) Add the chicken pieces and cook for 3-4 minutes, until all the pieces are white on the outside and almost cooked through.
5) Add the rice and water and bring to a rolling boil. Once is has reached a rolling boil, reduce the heat cover and cook for about 16-18 minutes on low heat, until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is fully cooked. The final dish will be barely moist.
6) Fluff the rice with a fork, garnish with cilantro and serve.

Ginger-Garlic Fried Quinoa

9 Oct

One of my favorite restaurants in New York City is Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s  Spice Market. It is a chic and sexy restaurant in the Meatpacking District that specializes in South East Asian street food. Over the years, my husband and I have worked our way through most of its food and cocktail menu and every taste is worth writing home about. Some of our all time favorites include the spicy Thai fried chicken wings, the Nonya seafood laksa, and the ginger fried rice. Spice Market’s ginger fried rice is possibly my favorite fried rice.

I recently came across an old New York Time’s post where Mark Bittman shared Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Ginger Fried Rice recipe with a few modifications to it. Bittman uses Jasmine rice but I decided to recreate this dish with quinoa. I have come to realize that quinoa works as a great rice substitute for bold Asian flavors as it absorbs the flavors very well.

The quinoa soaks in the flavors and aromas of the nutty sesame oil and savory soy sauce. It comes together with the crisped ginger-garlic and softened leeks to create a party of flavors and textures in the mouth. So go ahead and try this recipe with quinoa or use up leftover brown or white rice to make this. Either way you will be creating a scrumptious crowd pleaser.

Ginger-Garlic Fried Quinoa
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Ginger Fried Rice
Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 3 servings

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa (See note)
2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
3 tablespoons vegetable, canola or peanut oil, divided
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and green parts, rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon sesame oil
3 large eggs (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Notes:

  • You can use leftover rice – brown or white rice work great in place of the quinoa. Just make sure the rice is a day old, otherwise you will have mushy fried rice.

Method:
1) Place the quinoa and broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When it has reached a rolling boil, reduce to a simmer and cover and cook till all the water is absorbed (10-15 minutes).  Quinoa appears soft and translucent when it is cooked and a ring is visible on the outer edges of the grain. Use a fork to fluff the cooked quinoa and set it aside.
2) In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook till it is crisp and brown. Keep stirring this so that it does not burn. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the fried garlic and ginger to a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
3) In the same skillet add the remaining oil and add the leeks. Cook the leeks until they are tender but not brown. Make sure you stir the leeks occasionally to ensure that they do not burn.  Season them lightly with salt once they are cooked.
4) Now add the quinoa to this skillet and stir it with the leeks. Season this with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and ½ tablespoon of sesame oil. Taste the quinoa and adjust the soy sauce and sesame oil as needed.
5) If using the eggs in a small skillet fry them to sunny-side up, till the edges are set but yolk is still runny. Season the eggs with some pepper and drizzle with a little soy sauce and sesame sauce.
6) Divide rice among 3 plates. Top each with the fried garlic and ginger, followed by an egg (if you are using eggs).

Thai Noodle & Chicken Salad

1 Oct

If you roast a whole chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken for a meal, it’s extremely plausible that you are left contemplating about what to do with the leftovers. Leftover classic roast chicken is one of the most versatile ingredients that can be pieced into a multitude of recipes.

Last week I was working on creating a recipe of a fall inspired whole roast chicken (recipe to follow in a few weeks) and found myself with plenty of leftovers. I decided that we would use the leftovers in a chicken salad the following night. The next day I found myself overcome by an urge to indulge in some Thai food and opted to give the leftover chicken a Thai twist.

My favorite Thai salad is Yum Woon Sen Salad – a bean thread salad tossed with a tangy and spicy dressing and crunchy peanuts. The protein in the salad is typically shrimp and occasionally ground chicken or ground pork. I was confident that the cooked chicken would absorb all the wonderful flavors of the dressing and would make a great substitute for the shrimp.

I used Rasa Malaysia’s Yum Woon Sen(Thai Noodle Salad with Shrimp) Recipe, but made several modifications as I wanted to work with ingredients in my pantry and fridge. This is usually a first course, but it makes a delectable and well-rounded one pot entrée for 2 people.

Thai Noodle & Chicken Salad
Adapted from Rasa Malaysia’s Yum Woon Sen Recipe
Serves: 2 (as a main course), 4 (as a salad course)
Time: 20 minutes from start to finish

Salad Ingredients:

4 oz rice sticks/rice vermicelli (See note)
1 ½ cups of shredded cooked chicken
⅓ cup peeled and thinly sliced red onions (See note)
½ cup diced tomatoes
1 ½ tablespoon coarsely chopped mint leaves
1 ½ tablespoon coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
2 peeled cloves of garlic, minced and fried
2 tablespoons of either roasted peanuts or fried noodles (See note)

Dressing Ingredients:

1 ½ tablespoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of chili garlic paste (See note)
1 ½ tablespoons of lime juice
1 ½ tablespoons of light brown sugar
2 tablespoons of warm water

Notes:

  • Traditionally a Yum Woon Sen salad is made with cellophane or bean thread noodles. Feel free to use those, if you have them on hand.
  • If you do not like raw red onions, shallots are a great milder option.
  • Traditionally this salad is topped with slightly crushed roasted peanuts. I had a box of La Choy Fried noodles, so decided to use those instead. You can use roasted peanuts or fried noodles.
  • Chili Garlic Paste can be found in the international aisle of major grocery stores and in Asian markets.

Method:

1) Cook the noodles per the package instructions and set aside.
2) In a medium bowl, mix together all the dressing ingredients. Make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved.
3) Toss the shredded chicken in the dressing.
4) Place the cooked noodles in the bowl that you are going to serve the salad. To this add the onions, tomatoes, mint, cilantro, fried garlic, dressing and chicken.
5) Toss everything together to blend well. Taste and adjust the lime juice, chili garlic sauce or fish sauce as needed.
6) Top with the crunch of your choice (fried noodles or peanuts) and serve immediately at room temperature.

Indian Summer Tomato and Shrimp Orzo

14 Sep

If you live in the North East, summer is that time of the year when everyone and everything seems vivacious, buoyant and liberated.  It’s the time of the year to pack in barbecues, pool time, camping, movies under the stars and everything summer related before it all fades away. In our household summer includes consuming copious amounts of fresh summer produce and seafood.  While, a lot of summer produce and seafood is often found year-round, the quality and assortment are extremely disparate from when they are in season.

My summer menus are usually inspired by all summer produce, but my partiality towards TOMATOES is often a rather controversial topic in our home. This is the consequence of feeding my husband every conceivable version of a hot and cold tomato soup and tomato salad last summer, till he was “tomatoed” out! This year I had to tread carefully and find less blatant approaches of working tomatoes into our dinners.  I worked furtively to reposition tomatoes – the Queen of Summer Produce from being the meal to the background essence of most of our meals.

This recipe is the outcome of one of these covert experiments. The union of tomatoes with onion, garlic and ginger – the trinity of Indian cuisine gives a traditional Italian orzo an exotic and exciting twist. Versatile orzo absorbs the favors of the tomatoes and Indian spices creating a light and healthy one-pot dinner.

Indian Summer Tomato and Shrimp Orzo

Servings: 4 servings (1 cup per serving)
Active time: 30 minutes    Start to finish: 45minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked Orzo
26 uncooked medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
6-8 curry leaves, torn up if they are very large (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick, 1 inch piece
3 cloves
2 green cardamoms
1 medium red onion, diced
2 green chilies, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 Hot House red tomatoes, grated (See Cooks’ note)
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons table salt, divided
Frozen Peas, ½ cup defrosted
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice

NOTES:

  • To grate the tomatoes cut them in half across the width and remove the seeds with a paring knife. Use the larger side of a box grater to grate the meat side of the tomatoes. Discard the peels once done.
  • Leave out the shrimp and increase the peas if cutting back on shellfish.
  • While this recipe can be made year round, it’s the best to make it in the summer when tomatoes and shrimp are at their best

METHOD:

  1. Bring 6 cups of water to boil in a 2 quart or larger pot. When the water is at a rolling boil add 1teaspoon of salt and the Orzo. Cook the Orzo stirring constantly. Cook till the Orzo is al-dente (firm to bite) about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a 4 quart heavy pot over medium heat till it shimmers. Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to pop, about 1-2 minutes. Add the curry leaves if using them and cook for a minute. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the onions to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, green chilies and ginger and cook stirring, 2 minutes.
  4. Add the turmeric and chili powder along with 1 tablespoon of water and cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes along with 1 teaspoon of salt and cook till the oil separates, about 4 minutes.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the shrimp and peas to the pot and cook till the shrimp is cooked through, about 4 minutes.
  7. Stir in the cooked Orzo and toss everything together for a minute.
  8. Add the lime juice, garnish with cilantro and serve hot.
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