Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tandoori Chicken - 2 Ways




What is your take on helping strangers?  I guess it depends on the circumstances, right?  If I see old people need a hand to unload their shopping cart, I will be more than happy to help.  What if some stranger asks for a ride in your car?  I will be little intimidated to offer the help.  One such incident happened when we were done with our 5K run which happened in downtown where the instruction was to park the car in downtown and commute to the starting point of the race.  Since me and my friends were a year old veterans of the 5K run, from our past experience we parked at the finishing point which is half a mile walk away from the starting point and that was a wise choice to avoid the commute back to the downtown parking lot which needs transportation by either subway or cab.  After the run was complete 2 ladies approached us and asked if we could drop them to the train station.  I knew their situation and the mistake they made by parking in downtown and going back was not easy other than getting a cab.  But they told us that they used all the change to get to the starting point of the race by getting a cab and they had no choice other than asking for a ride from fellow desis.  Being complete strangers and knowing their situation, I was in a dilemma if I should let these strangers into my car or my inner conscious telling me to help the ladies who really need help.  I quickly checked with my friend who was with me for the run and we decided to give them the ride through silent gestures.  I was glad that I could help them and they were so thankful for the ride to the train station.  Looking back I feel good that I was able to help those ladies who were doing their 5k for the first time who might have ended up with trouble getting back to their cars and dropped the idea of the doing the 5K next time.  If I was alone, I am not sure if I would have acted like that, I would rather call some volunteers to help the runners.  It is hard to be a Good Samaritan when you hear the scary stores daily in the news.



Today I went to grab some potting soil for my gardening at lunch from work and the bags were so heavy that I was struggling hard to get it into the trunk of my car.  An elderly man who was walking into the store kindly offered me the help and I couldn't thank him enough for offering me a hand to lift those heavy bags.  It  is relieving to realize that goodness like integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity and moral courage still exist in this world where evil and crime has a huge share.  




Tandoori Chicken is a very popular Indian dish that has traversed a long way across the seas and don't need any special introduction.  Traditionally the well marinated chicken is prepared in a cylindrical clay oven called Tandoori oven which imparts the distinct flavor for this dish.  Convenience is the motto these days and this dish has evolved so much from its traditional way of preparation.  Here I have depicted 2 different methods of preparation of Tandoori Chicken.  Both methods produces almost the same results, but I prefer preparing it over the grill which is much easier.  Hope you will try this recipe for your next BBQ.




Ingredients:
10 - Chicken drumsticks or thighs

Marinade
8 - fat garlic cloves
1 inch - fresh peeled ginger piece
1/4 cup - fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp. - freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp. - kashmiri chili powder (refer notes)
1/2 tsp. - Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. - red chili powder
4 - dry red small hot chili (optional)
2 tbsp. - yogurt
4 tbsp. - freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp. - oil
1/2 tsp. - Dry Fenugreek leaves/Kasuri methi (refer notes)
salt to taste

Directions:

  • Skin, trim the fat and wash the Chicken drumsticks/thighs.  Drain them in a strainer and use paper towel to remove any excess water. 
  • Prepare the marinade by grinding all the ingredients under Marinade except dry fenugreek leaves to a thick paste.  If needed add excess lemon juice and a tbsp. of water.  Taste the marinate at this time for salt.  Rub the fenugreek leaves between your palm and add to the marinade and mix well.
  • Take 1 tbsp. of the marinade into a separate bowl and reserve for brushing later.
  • Using a kitchen glove you can rub the marinade over the chicken pieces or put the chicken pieces in a gallon ziplock bag, add the marinade to it and shake well to coat over all the chicken pieces evenly.  If using ziplock bag, add additional tbsp. of oil to ease this step.  Using a wooden skewer poke on the thick fleshy parts of the chicken to enable even absorption of flavors.
  • Keep the chicken in the refrigerator preferably for overnight or at least 4 hrs.
Method 1 - Baking directions
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, grease the aluminum foil.
  • Arrange the chicken pieces on the baking pan.  Using a pastry brush try to apply the marinade over the chicken where you missed the spot.  Discard the excess marinade liquid.
  • Leave it open and bake for 30 minutes.  Flip the chicken pieces and bake for another 20 minutes.  Carefully take the baking pan/tray out, there will be juicy marinade along with the chicken broth which has all the required flavor in the baking pan.  Tilt the pan so that you can collect the flavorful juice into the same bowl where you reserved the 1 tbsp. of the marinade.
  • Heat a grilled cast iron pan, apply little bit of oil on the pan, place the chicken pieces on the pan, 2 at a time, apply the reserved marinade on top of the pan.  Cook on very low heat till the brown marks starts to appear on the chicken.  Flip the side;apply the marinade and repeat the process till the raw smell of ginger and garlic is gone and the chicken has no pink inside.
Method 2 - Grilling directions
  • Add 2 tbsp. of oil and 1 tbsp. of lemon juice into the reserved marinade and mix well.
  • Pre-heat the grill to 350°F.  Line the grill with aluminum foil.  Use a skewer to poke few holes.  Line the chicken on the grill.  Cover and cook for half hour.  Flip the side and cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Using the tongs, take the chicken piece into a bowl.  Remove the aluminum foil.  Cut a onion into half.  Use a big fork to hold the onion; dip it in a tbsp. of oil.  Brush the grill with this onion.  Now place the chicken directly on top of the grill.  Lower the temperature to 300 F.  Apply the marinade on the chicken, flip the sides and cook till the chicken is well done and brown grill marks appear on the chicken.
Plating
  • Use lemon slices/wedges, red onion rings and chopped Cilantro as toppers for these spicy delicious chicken.
Notes:
  • It is important to drain the chicken well in order to avoid lots of moisture oozing during the time of baking.
  • Don't discard the juice or broth that is used in this recipe while baking.  It adds the juiciness and flavor to the chicken.
  • Marinating the chicken for overnight enhances the flavor of the chicken.
  • You can find dry fenugreek leaves/Methi leaves and Kashmiri Chili powder in any Indian store.  Kashmiri Chili powder and turmeric powder gives the distinct red color for this dish.  I have not used any red color for this dish.  
  • Kashmiri Chili powder is milder than the regular chili powder.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cranberry Apple Pecan Salad With Apple Cider Dressing




It feels great when you can inspire others.  All it might take is to just talk and you can make a difference.  It's worth a try, we don't have to wait for a perfect moment to do anything, just take the moment and make it perfect.  There is no need to be perfect to inspire others. 





It was few months ago when we had a family get together and a topic of healthy life style popped up.  As I had done one 5K run in the past with my friends I asked around if anyone was interested.  Few agreed to join.  I forgot about the run till I got the email reminder to register for this year's run.  I reminded few of my friends and we registered for it.  Few weeks ago we had another family get together and I reminded them again.  To my surprise 7 other family members including kids registered for the 5K.  We were super thrilled to attend the run, even though none of us did the serious practice.  Last Saturday was the 5K run/walk and everyone performed their best.  Kids even got within first 50 participants out of 600 or more participants in the race.  The next day guys ran the half marathon.  It seemed to be like a Thomas family affair in the Marathon.  Certainly there was pain and aches but the end of the day everyone felt so good and made a determination to continue the saga of running for a healthy life style.  Some 5K runners even thought they will be pursuing with 10k next year.



Today's recipe is a light fruity salad.  It's a very simple fix I do mostly every week when I want a quick salad.  I rely on this quick salad because I always keep a batch of the dressing in the refrigerator as handy.  The rest of the greens and fruits will be always found in my refrigerator.  I don't have to ponder a lot for a quick fix and this handy salad is not only very simple but also delicious too.  Hope you will give this recipe a try.



Ingredients:

Apple Salad
2 - medium size apples cored and cubed
1/4 cup - dried cranberries
2 tbsp. - pecan
1 cup - torn lettuce/salad greens of your choice
3 - 4 tbsp. - Apple Cider Dressing

Apple Cider Dressing
1 - fat clove garlic
1/3 cup - extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. - water
1 tbsp. - Apple cider Vinegar
1/2 tsp - freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp - dry basil/fresh basil
1/4 tsp - dry oregano/fresh oregano
1/4 tsp - salt
2 - 3 tbsp. - honey

Directions:
  • Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a blender.  Or mince the garlic and throw rest of the ingredients into a bottle with tight lid.  Shake well that it forms a emulsion where the liquid and oil is not separated.
  • Arrange the lettuce/green in a plate.  Top them with the cubed apples, pecans and cranberries.  Now drizzle the apple cider dressing over the salad per your desired taste.  Toss them and enjoy.
Notes:
  • I find it better to use a blender for the dressing which helps to bring out the right flavor of the dressing.
  • Left overs can be refrigerated.  If the dressing seems to get thick and solidify when taken from the refrigerator, just run the bottle under warm water for few seconds and it should be good to use.  Shake the bottle well before using the dressing.
  • Adjust the amount of pepper and honey per your taste.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Beets And Carrots Stir Fry / Beet Root Carrot Mezhukupuratti





How often do you waste food?  During my early days of cooking I had wasted lots of food.  As you age and mature, you understand the necessity and value of the food you prepare.  The amount of exertion that goes behind each meal does not start when the meal is prepared.  I would say it starts from where the ingredients originated.  Each and every ingredient that goes into a meal might have came from different parts of the world and it is combined into one dish.  If we think that way each meal will be special.  I hate to waste the food because of taste and excessive quantity.  So I try to make only what we need.  Especially when you hear the news of people who are starving, it hurts to waste even a bit.  It’s so easy to waste food, but it’s hard to prepare it.  The value of food is known only when the real feel of hunger is struck on the body. 





Today's post is a simple stir fry that is very colorful and nutritious.  The 2 main ingredients used in this stir fry are well known for their nutritional values.  The combination of sweet root vegetables and the heat from the chili flakes and freshly ground pepper makes it’s a perfect side to serve along with steamed rice.

Here are some health benefits of beets:
  • Beets are very low in calories and has zero cholesterol.
  • The phytochemical compound glycine betaine provides cardiovascular health.
  • The top greens of beets are excellent source of Vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoid anti-oxidants, and Vitamin A.
  • Beets are rich source of B-complex vitamins and minerals such as iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium.
  • They compose moderate level of potassium which provides heart health and helps digestion.
Always try to choose fresh, bright, firm textured beets with rich flavor and uniform size. Avoid  those with soft texture, over-mature and big size.  If you can get hold of the beets with green leafy part, you can make stir fry (thoran) with shredded coconut.  They resemble the red spinach stir fry.  Beets can be used in a wide variety of dishes ranging from savory to sweet desserts.  Their unique and vibrant color makes them nutritious and healthy.  So try to avoid over cooking of beets which will tend to spoil their color and hence lose their nutrients.
Facts to know
Did you know that eating beets and their greens can slightly pigment your urine to red or pink?  The harmless condition of beeturia can be found in people who are genetically unable to break down betacyanin pigment.

Carrots can also give a slight yellowish orange color to your skin when eaten in excess. You may notice the changes in babies if you feed them homemade carrot puree.



Ingredients
3 - medium size beets, peeled washed and cut into long pieces (refer picture)
1 - carrot peeled and cut into the same size as beets
2 - garlic crushed
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. - fresh ground pepper
2 - green chili slits
1/2 tsp. - red chili flakes
2 tbsp. divided - oil
1/2 tsp. divided - mustard seeds
4 - shallots thinly sliced
2 sprig - curry leaves
salt to taste

Directions:
  •  Splutter 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds in 1 tbsp of oil in a wide cast iron or non stick pan.  Add half of the sliced shallots, 1 green chili and 1 crushed garlic and saute for 30 seconds.  Now add the carrots pieces along with 1/2 tsp of chili flakes.  Adjust the salt and cook it covered on low to medium heat for 5 minutes or till the carrots are cooked but not mushy.  Add the curry leaves, saute for another minute and transfer to a bowl.
  • Repeat the above step in the same pan.  Instead of the red chili flakes, here you will be using fresh ground pepper powder.  Stir in between to enable even cooking.  Adjust the pepper powder per your taste. 
  • Plate the beets first in the serving bowl, then add the carrots on top of it.  Use a fork to gently mix the carrots.  This will help to keep the beets and carrot pieces retain their shape without breaking and carrots will not absorb the color of beets.
Notes:
  • If possible use a wide cast iron pan to make this stir fry.  This helps even cooking of the vegetables without burning.
  • Don't over crowd the beets or carrots in the pan if the pan is small.  This will tend to mush the vegetables and lose their shape and texture.
  • Try not to over cook these vegetables as it will lose the nutrients and color of the dish.

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