A Way of Life-Chaat

You guys, our libraries are OPEN. I must say the book pick-up process has been pretty user friendly for the past year but I was so excited when I pulled up and saw the “we are open!” sign.

There was quite the wait list for Maneet Chauhan’s lastest cookbook Chaat, so when I finally got it, I couldn’t wait to dig in. After choosing a few recipes to try, then came the hunt for the ingredients. Not wanting to go to all of the stores looking for a few key ingredients, I improvised.

But first. Gouda turned 3 years old on July 4th. Part sweetheart part asshole, she didn’t even say thank meow.

Back to Chaat. I didn’t even know what chaat was, I just knew that there were different varieties out there, such as Paneer chaat and Aloo chaat. I found that the word describes a way of Indian life, more than just street food snacks. After more reading I learned that there are many regional variations of chaat but all of them have one thing in common. Each recipe of chaat has a combo of five essential components; the base, the sauce, the crunch, the vegetables and the umami. After that, the creative mashup is up to you.

We chose to make the Tabakh Maaz (twice-cooked caramelized ribs) and the Gajar ka Halwa (carrot pudding with pistachios and saffron). And obviously I would also make the cilantro-mint chutney because that is always a must at every Indian meal.

Back to the ingredient hunting. You guys, we have international markets on every corner but I could not find Paneer and I could not find lamb ribs. Turns out that paneer is easy enough to make and pork ribs would be a quick pinch substitute that would end in an abundance of food moaning.

I took an entire afternoon to make this meal, dipping into the sun every so often.

First up, make the cheese. Paneer, a farmer’s cheese made with milk, lemon and salt. That’s it, that’s the recipe.

Next was the carrot pudding, although the final product tasted amazing, the end result did not turn out how the cookbook promised. And no, it was not user error. Somehow grated carrot boiled in saffron, cardamom and milk was supposed to turn into a velvety pudding consistency. This did not happen and I even let it simmer for a lot longer than suggested. This picture is what I had after the recommended 30 minutes.

Nothing like pudding. I even used the emersion blender at the end but still no avail. This recipe just didn’t work, although it sure did taste good.

The cilantro-mint chutney came together in under five minutes, however I didn’t seed all five of the serrano’s because I like to live on the edge of pain.

Then we have the ribs. You guys, these are ridiculous. Once I got over the fact that I wasn’t making lamb, sigh, I went in open minded. These ribs are simmered in water with the addition of milk with a handful of spices; cardamom’s, cinnamon, tumeric, fennel seeds and of course garlic. Once they were “fall off the bone” tender. I let them rest until I admitted to myself that the carrot pudding was not going to in fact be “pudding”.

I heated a cast iron pan, added some ghee, and lightly sprinkled some cane sugar over the ribs (not in the recipe) and fried them until perfectly caramelized.

And then……

So now I have a new way of cooking ribs. I can’t wait to make this for friends and family, it’s that good. Next time I would like to make pork and lamb side by side. And the chutney, just smother it on the ribs or eat it by the spoonful.

This is a cookbook that I could definitely cook my way through, so many good looking recipes, even if the carrot pudding recipe was a lie. Ha!

Chrissy’s Chicken Satay

I made this recipe on a whim. It was a what can I make that doesn’t require the grocery store recipe. Turns out I did have to run to the store for the pepper sauce ingredients, sigh…but this dish was totally worth dragging three children to the store. I definitely suggest you make all three recipes because all together it’s phenomenal. It has the makings of a really good salad. We have to talk about the peanut sauce real quick. I have made hundreds of different versions from using coconut milk, to heating all the ingredients. This one is the best I have ever made, and it’s so easy.

This paired well with a rosé and a soccer match. Kids optional

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Ingredients for Chicken Marinade

1 pound chicken boneless and skinless chicken thighs cut into good size pieces

8 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons brown sugar

4 teaspoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

14 oz. canned coconut milk

Ingredients for the Peanut Sauce

½ cup creamy peanut butter

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

3 tablespoons Soy sauce

1½ tablespoons Sriracha

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

 

Ingredient for the Sweet Hot Pepper Sauce

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon distilled vinegar

1 Shallot finely chopped

1 Fresh Thai Chile, minced

Kosher Salt to taste

Directions:

Marinade the chicken: In a bowl, combine the coconut milk, garlic, cilantro, brown sugar, salt, turmeric, and ginger in a bowl. Add the chicken and cover, and marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours in the refrigerator. *Soak wood skewers for at least 30 minutes before grilling.

Make the peanut sauce: In a bowl (or I used my bullet blender so I didn’t have to mince garlic) combine the peanut butter, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, Sriracha, vinegar, and 1⁄4 cup water, thinning with additional water if you prefer a thinner sauce.

Make the sweet hot pepper sauce: In a bowl, combine the sugar, 1⁄2 cup water, the vinegar, cucumber, shallot, and chile. Season to taste with salt.

Heat grill to medium high heat.

Thread chicken onto the skewers and grill until cooked through. About 5-6 minutes for side.

Serve with the peanut sauce and hot pepper sauce. Make sure you eat all three together and then  be prepared swoon. SO GOOD!

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Cookbook Review

I love flipping through cookbooks and marking all of the recipes that I want to make some day. But what about the recipes that don’t automatically appeal to you, they get left out. You may be missing a really delicious meal.

A few of us started a cookbook club. What better way to hear about recipes you might not have ever made? So much better than reading random reviews, you actually know the people who make it and if they say it’s good, it probably is.

We started with Milk Street by Christopher Kimball. He used to host the cooking shows Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen. A great cooking show that tests a recipe a hundred different ways until they come up with the best possible outcome.

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I started off with the Vietnamese Caramel Fish and Herb and Pistachio couscous. Both definite do-overs.

I have never prepared fish this way, it’s poached in a aromatic caramel sauce and topped with jalapeños and cilantro.  The Couscous was really good. It’s a make ahead dish and gets better the longer it sits, perfect for a party. I would suggest not tossing in the pistachios if it’s made far ahead in advance, reserve for the last minute.

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I went on to make the Spanish Pork Bites (pinches Morunos)

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Crispy, tender and flavorful tidbits of pork, it was good, no leftovers good.

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Along with that I made the Brussels Sprouts with anchovies and garlic. I am convinced you can add those two ingredients to anything and it will be good. The anchovies take on another flavor once cooked. The sprouts were charred and crispy and the honey adds a hint of sweetness. I will make these again but next time try roasting them in the oven opposed to on the stove.

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I was happy with this cookbook and have a couple more recipes saved on my “to-make” list.

Cooking Cravings- Butter Lettuce + Blue Cheese + Cayenne Candied Walnuts

I wanted to love this salad, with that….I make a whole hell of a lot of salads like this, I pick a lettuce, add a fruit, a cheese and a candied nut. Sometimes I throw spices on the nuts but I never make them spicy spicy.

It lost me with the lettuce. Butter lettuce is just too delicate, especially paired with crispy apple and nuts. Maybe grapes would be a better choice? Or just stick with a spring mix blend of lettuce and herbs. The other thing that didn’t work for me was the vinaigrette. It was a tad bitter, it need a bit of sweetness so next time I will add some honey.

All said and done, this is a good salad but for me who makes them daily, not good enough. Although the walnuts can be eaten every damn day, so good!

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Dressing Ingredients

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Salad

1 large head of butter or Boston lettuce, separated into leaves, larger leaves torn
Apple, halved and cut into thin slices- I used Fuji
1/2 small red onion, sliced into thin rings
1/2 cup cayenne-candied walnuts

In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, blue cheese, shallot, salt, and pepper.

In a salad bowl, combine the lettuce, apple, and onion. Drizzle in the dressing to taste, toss lightly, and top with the cayenne-candied walnuts.

 

Cooking Cravings-Sweet Chili and Mustard Glazed Salmon

Sunday I took three recipes out of Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook Cravings to try this week. Usually  during the week I don’t actually “make” dinner. I figure out something easy for me and the picky girls. But this week, with Shane working from home I decided to meal plan. I thought it would be the perfect time to knock out a few of Chrissy’s healthier recipes. She has some really good looking dishes in there but those need to be saved for “special occasions” or otherwise known as Saturday’s.

Monday night I made the sweet chili and mustard glazed salmon. This is a really simple dish and cooks in no time. It was good, good enough to make again but not good enough to “put on rotation”.

Ingredients

4 skin on salmon fillets

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2/3 Thai sweet chili sauce

2 TBS Sambal oelek

2 TBS large grain mustard

Position oven rack 4-6 inches from heating element and preheat the broiler.

Season the salmon all over with s and p. In a small bowl, stir together the sweet chili sauce, sambal and mustard.

Pour the mixture into a large cast iron skillet or oven proof pan. Set the skillet over med-high heat and heat until the mixture begins to simmer. Lay the salmon, skin side up, in that sauce. Cook until the salmon starts to turn pale pink on the outside, about 2 minutes, then move the skillet to the oven and broil until the skin crisps and the salmon is med-rare, about 3-4 minutes.

Remove the salmon from the oven and transfer the salmon to a plate. Return the skillet to the stove, add 1/4 cup water and cook over high heat, stirring and scraping, until the sauce thickens. Pour the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.

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I served the fish with pesto zucchini noodles and tomatoes. I made the pesto and spiralized the zucchini earlier in the day. Then when time came, I blistered some cherry tomatoes over high heat, added the pesto just to heat it through and tossed in the noodles. Very easy and delicious.