Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Garden Enchilada Bake

Garden Enchilada Bake Makes 6 servings ~ Adapted from Peas and Thank You by Sarah Matheny
  • 1 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 c. vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce, divided
  • 2 1/2 t. chili powder, divided (consider using less, depending on how flavorful your chili powder is)
  • 1/2 t. dried oregano
  • 1 zucchini, shredded and squeezed to release all excess moisture*
  • 1/3 c. cream cheese (Could be non-dairy, i.e. Tofutti. I think you could also use Greek yogurt here.)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 t. cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c. cheese, shredded (Optional, could be non-dairy. We like using Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack.)
  • 1 3 oz. can sliced olives, drained (or other olives)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • cilantro for garnish (optional)
*Try adding whatever additional fresh veggies you have on hand, including shredded carrots, corn kernels off the cob and/or torn dark, leafy greens
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium stockpot, combine quinoa, broth, 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, 2 teaspoons of chili powder and oregano.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat, stir and cover, simmering for 15-20 minutes.  Remove lid and cook for an additional minute or two, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed and quinoa is fully cooked.
Add shredded zucchini, remaining tomato sauce, remaining chili powder, cream cheese, garlic and cumin and heat until fully incorporated.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer mixture to a casserole dish (2 qt.) that has been lightly spritzed with olive oil or cooking spray.
Top casserole with grated cheese and sliced olives.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. To brown the top of the casserole, you can switch the oven over to the broil setting for the last several minutes.
Garnish with avocado slices and fresh cilantro, if desired.
( You could make two and stick one in your freezer for later.)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mushroom Onion Pot Roast

This is a really easy slow cooker pot roast that doesn't take much time to prepare, and is easy to get going when you leave to work. The most labor intensive part is skinning the onions, but our local grocery store often has them pre-skinned.


2-3 pound beef roast (we like London broil a lot)
1-1.5 pound small mushrooms (our store sells them bulk, so its easy to pick out the small ones)
1 pound pearl onions, tops bottoms and skins removed
1/2 bottle brown ale (preferably malty, low bitterness)
1/2 c. water or broth
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp (or less) dried rosemary
S and P

If time allows, brown meat, them combine remaining ingredients in slow cooker, and cook until you get home from work. Serve with mashed, baked or roasted potatoes, or add potatoes directly to the pot for a one dish meal. The juice is pretty flavorful, but if you like you can reduce it. I recommend drinking one of the beer's brethren alongside the meal.

I prepare this the night before - I pour 1/2 of the beer into a container, drink the rest (beer in the morning is not as much fun) and skin the onions. In the morning, I wash the mushrooms really well, brown the meat if I have time, then throw everything into the slow cooker and forget about it until I come home.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


This is a hearty, colorful stew, with a variety of textures. I invented it in my head before I went to the store, so I selected the ingredients intentionally. Of course, it is a great way to combine root veggies that have accumulated in the fridge, and it doesn't matter if they are a bit wrinkly. I do, however, suggest that you peel the vegetables for a smoother and more savory taste without too many unwanted earthy tones. Refrain from adding leafy veggies, at least the first time you make it.

Ingredients: (these quantities will make a large batch, at least enough for 4-6 servings)

1 large onion
2-3 each: (cut into small/medium sized cubes)
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Beets (any color)
  • Turnips
  • Rutabaga

1 cup quinoa
1-1.5 quarts of broth or water
Salt, pepper, Tabasco or other peppy additive
Sour cream or yogurt for topping


Chop onion in big chunks and saute in oil. A Dutch oven is perfect, or you can transfer the cooked onions to a slow cooker if you choose. Cook according to slow cooker directions for stews and soups.

When onions are almost transparent, add all the veggies and one quart of liquid. Stir and bring to a boil. (If you have made a massive quantity, this is a good time to put some of the veggies aside to freeze for future meals.) Add quinoa and stir. Cook on medium heat, stirring from time to time, until the potatoes and sweet potatoes have become very soft and the quinoa is fully cooked. You may have to add more liquid as the veggies cook. 

Stir briskly with a whisk to break down the soft vegetables. This will create a nice, thick stock, leaving the firmer veggies to add texture and taste surprises. Season and serve with a lovely dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.

Bon appetit!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Spicy Slow Cooker Butternut Squash and Chicken Chili

I adapted this from a recipe found in the winter issue of Progressive Farmer, a magazine to which we subscribe and is full of interesting tidbits and arcane information. It caught my eye, as it was the strangest combination of ingredients I've ever seen and couldn't imagine how it would taste. Always looking for more ways to camouflage winter squash for my hubby, I decided to give it a try. The original recipe called for beef stew meat and ground beef, but I used chicken thighs and ground chicken breast. It is one of the most delicious concoctions I have ever made!

1 lb. ground chicken (or beef)
1 lb. cubed skinless, boneless chicken thighs (or beef stew meat)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (I used kabocha because it is my favorite and I had one)
2 cups hot salsa
1 small can peppers (3.5 oz - Anaheim or chipotle)
1 (12 oz) beer
1 cup water
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree

In skillet, brown chicken and onions (if using chicken, be sure to brown in oil)

In a slow cooker*, combine all ingredients EXCEPT pumpkin puree and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours until everything is cooked and tender.

Add pumpkin puree and heat through. Serve with toppings of your choice (avocados, sour cream, jalapenos, etc. Corn bread is a delicious accompaniment.

*To make without a slow cooker, use a large pot or Dutch oven on the stove, and follow the directions above. Simmer for about one hour, adding the pumpkin puree at the end.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sweet and Savory Crockpot Roast

This recipe is really simple and easy to make, but shockingly delicious - the first time I made it I was trying for something that wasn't too much like American Chinese food but still had elements of sweet and savory. I was surprised how balanced it turned out. It's not overly sweet, nor is it overwhelmingly soy-sauce flavored. It's as easy to eat as it is to prepare.


Pork or Beef Roast (I used a 3 pound pork blade roast most recently - whatever is cheap)

1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. water
1.5 Tbsp cider vinegar
2-3 Tbsp brown sugar (more if you want it sweeter)
1 Tbsp yellow mustard powder
1 tsp ground pepper
1 2" cube of ginger, cut into slices
2 medium cloves garlic, cut in half
1-2 dried red chilis (to taste)

Combine sauce ingredients. Taste for balance. Place roast in crockpot, pour sauce over roast, let cook until it's dinner time.

If you're feeling fancy, you can add some veggies to the crockpot at the very end. Make sure it is on high, and you may want to remove the roast so they can get immersed and cook in the liquid which is faster than waiting for them to get steamed. I added carrots, then 10 minute later mushrooms, then 5 minutes later broccoli and cooked the broccoli until it was al dente. I served it on white rice. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Minestrone II

Adapted from recipe by Martha Rose Shulman (perhaps my favorite chef...She also has a version with squash that I'll have to try some day.)
Serves 4-6

2 Tb. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 Tb. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 garlic cloves, put through garlic press, divided in halves
1 can (14 oz.) crushed tomatoes (If necessary, use diced, and then mince them.)
1 1/2 lb. (or one small head) green cabbage, cored and chopped fine
1/2 lb. (1 heaped cup) dried white beans, picked over, rinsed, soaked in water for 6 hours or overnight OR 1 can cannelini beans
8 cups water (Optional: Substitute some broth for water, especially if you’re not adding meat)
1 Parmesan rind (No parmesan rind is fine. But then be sure to serve with Parmesan on top if possible. It adds great flavor!)
1 Bay Leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup elbow macaroni other small pasta
Sausage optional (I like to use a half dozen pre-cooked poultry sausages, chopped fine.)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and parsley. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is fragrant and tender, about 10 min.
Stir in half the minced garlic and cook, stirring, about a minute, until the garlic begins to smell fragrant.
Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes, until they have cooked down a bit.
Add cabbage, stir for a minute.
If using dried beans, add now.
Add water and bay leaf.
Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low, cover partially and simmer 1 hour or until beans are just about tender. If using canned beans, add them around the 45 minute mark.

2. Add remaining garlic, cover, and simmer another 30 minutes to 1 hour, until beans are thoroughly cooked and the soup very fragrant. Add pepper and salt. Remove parmesan rind and bay leaf.

3. Add pasta (and meat, if you like). Cook about 5-10 minutes, until pasta is al dente and meat is done.

Advance Preparation: The soup can be made a day ahead through Step 2 and refrigerated. Bring back to a simmer and proceed with the recipe. It keeps for a few days in the refrigerator and freezes well.

Variation: The original recipe includes 4 to 6 thick slices toasted bread rubbed with an additional clove of garlic (cut in half first). These croutons are placed one in the bottom of each bowl, before ladling the soup.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Braised Pork Belly - Hong Shou Rou

My goal in making this recipe was to explore Asian recipes that would translate well into American holidays. I think this would be a great recipe for Thanksgiving or Christmas, as it has a rich, special-occasion quality to it, as well as spices such as cinnamon which are traditional at the holidays. It turned out great, and really wasn't that difficult. Maybe not an everyday meal, but certainly worth making a few times a year. The pork becomes glazed with a sweet, flavorful sauce, and the meat is fall apart tender, with the fat completely melting in your mouth.

There are many versions online, and mine is primarily based on this video. You can add puffed tofu or hard boiled eggs at the end for more variety in texture.

Finished product, with stir fried Chinese broccoli and scallion pancake.
Towards the end of the cooking time, before you add the sugar and cook down to create the final glaze.

The assembled ingredients. The pork has already been blanched and is ready for browning.
1.5 lbs pork belly, sliced into 1.5" pieces (pick a piece that offers a good combination of fat and lean, according to your preference)
1 Tbsp oil
1/3 c. rock sugar, divided (or brown sugar)
6 cloves garlic
1" piece ginger, sliced
3 scallions
2 pcs. star anise
2" piece cinnamon stick
~2 c. chicken stock or water
2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce (I recommend Pearl River Bridge brand)
1 Tbsp. Shao Hsing cooking wine
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
4 eggs, hard boiled and peeled

The pork belly should first be blanched to remove impurities, and then rinsed well. Place the pork in a saucepan with cold water to 1" over the meat. Bring to a boil and boil 3 minutes. Rinse well under cold water and drain well.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy pot, such as enameled cast iron. Add 2 Tbsp. of the sugar and stir constantly as it caramelizes. When it is a nice caramel color (do not burn!), add the pork chunks, searing the edges and tossing frequently to coat with caramel. Pour off any excess oil.

Add the dark and light soy sauce and cooking wine. Add the chicken stock so that the pork chunks are ~80% submerged. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add the garlic, ginger, star anise, and cinnamon. Cover and simmer for 50-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The liquid should be reduce by now to at least half of its original amount. Remove the aromatics from the pot as best you can. With the lid off, increase the heat, stirring occasionally, until there is only about 1/4" of liquid in the pot. Add 2-3 Tbsp of rock sugar to taste, and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is reduced to a glaze on the meat (there should still be some liquid left to spoon over the meat chunks for serving). The hard boiled eggs should be added just before the end to coat them with the glaze, but take care not to break them when stirring the meat.

Serve garnished with scallions, with fluffy white rice.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Baeckeoffe - Alsatian Hotdish

We had this wonderful, hearty dish during a brief stop for lunch in Mulhouse in the Alsace region during our Europe trip this year. Using a recipe from an actual Alsatian, Hubert Keller, we found that our version actually far surpassed the simple fare we had in Mulhouse. The principle of the Baeckeoffe is similar to the Jewish cholent tradition: make a casserole in a earthenware or enameled dish, seal tightly, and allow to cook untouched for several hours (traditionally, by leaving in a baker's oven Friday before sabbath, then retrieve Saturday after sundown, when you are allowed to pick things up again). I opted not to seal the pot with dough because my lid has no vent (see original if you want to try). The heavy cast iron lid provided a plenty good seal. This dish takes some pre-planning because it should marinate overnight, but it is well worth it. Also, amazingly, I was able to find Alsatian Riesling at Total Wine!

Protective and delicious layer of potatoes.

The final product is not much to look at, but is packed with savory flavor and the meat is ultra tender.
The town hall of Mulhouse as viewed from our lunch cafe!


  • 2 yellow onions, minced
  • 2 small leeks, white and tender greens sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut into 18" slices
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. juniper berries
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • 3 c. dry white wine, such as Alsatian Riesling
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper


  • 1 lb beef chuck roast, cut into 1.25" cubes
  • 1 lb boneless pork butt, trimmed and cut into 1.25" cubes
  • 1 lb boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1.25" cubes
  • 1 lb pigs feet (optional--you can substitute one more pound of one of the above meats)
  • 2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8" slices
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. butter

The Day Before

Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add all the meats and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate overnight or longer. After it has marinated, remove the bay leaves, juniper berries, and thyme sprig.

Cooking Day

Preheat the oven to 350.

Butter a 4.5 qt or larger enameled cast iron pot or casserole. Arrange 2 layers of potato slices in the bottom, sprinkling each layer with salt and pepper. Place the marinated vegetables and meat into the casserole, and pour over the remaining marinade liquid. Arrange another 2 layers of potato slices on the top, sprinkling each layer with salt and pepper. Dab with butter and cover with a heavy lid. (Using the pastry seal is optional at this point.

Place in the oven and bake for 3.5 hrs. I recommend putting a tin-foil covered baking sheet on the rack below the casserole to catch drips.

Potatoes should be cooked through and golden brown, and meat should be tender. Serve with crusty bread and more Riesling!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Moroccan Chicken with Tomatoes and Honey

My wonderful siblings got me a cookbook in Morocco that is both inspiring and idiosyncratically translated. The quantities are along the lines of "heaping coffeespoonful" and "one teaglassful". Many of the dishes have combinations of sweet and savory, fruit and meat, which intimidate me. I should try out more of these recipes than I do, but I thought this relatively simple one would be a good start.

Moroccans must be quite fertile, as these recipes often begin with "take 2 whole chickens, add 11 pounds of tomatoes...", so I scaled this one back for our 2-person family. The result was a deeply hearty, warming, satisfying stew, and I am finally reconsidering my dislike of sweetened meat dishes.

A thoughtful gift from Alex and Melanie for a food-obsessed person like me!
This dish has a wonderfully mellow, warming character. Almonds are supposed to be whole and blanched, but I couldn't find those.

1 whole cut-up chicken
1 stick butter
1 28-oz can of tomatoes, drained, and then diced
1 large onion, shredded (i.e. chopped finely in food processor)
2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. saffron (*see below)
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. honey
1/4 c. blanched almonds
1 Tbsp. oil

*My understanding is that in Morocco saffron often comes in a packet, mixed with marigold flowers for color. My substitution for this was one packet of Sazon Goya con Azafran + a pinch of real saffron.

Melt the butter in a heavy pot (I use a Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot). Brown the chicken for a couple minutes on each side to add some flavor. Honestly, I remove the skin before I do this because neither of us likes to eat jiggly chicken skin.

Add the diced tomatoes. You can use fresh, but they are supposed to be peeled and seeded, and seriously, who has the time? Stir in the shredded onion, pepper, and salt, and bring just to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 45-60 minutes or until the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender. Stir occasionally.

Remove the chicken pieces and set aside. Increase the heat and cook off much of the remaining liquid until the butter and schmaltz rises to the top and the tomato sauce is thickened. Add the honey and cinnamon and simmer a few more minutes to combine the flavors. Salt to taste.

At this point I removed the chicken from the bone and added it back to the pot, but the original recipe says to put the whole chicken pieces back in before you add the honey and cinnamon. I think it's easier to eat with the chicken off the bone.

Top with some blanched almonds that have been lightly toasted in oil. Serve over fluffy, buttery couscous.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Stschi - Meat and Cabbage Stew

My lovely brother accused me of posting elitist bourgeoise recipes using the steam oven, so here's a recipe for the people--LITERALLY. This is from DDR Kochbuch - Das Original, a cookbook of East German recipes that we got in Weimar. This clearly influenced by the multitude of Russian recipes for shchi, or cabbage soup. Being on the eastward side of the iron curtain, many GDR recipes were influenced by cuisine from within the USSR.

I believe this could be made with sauerkraut rather than fresh cabbage. If you use kraut, rinse it a couple of times first, and then don't add vinegar later on.

The humble appearance of this soup belies wonderfully rich flavor. For this version we used pork loin, but can be made with other cuts of pork, or with beef or veal. The meat is cooked until tender, but still with some chew to it.

2 lbs.  boneless stew meat: beef, pork, or veal (or 3-5 lbs bone-in)
1 large celery root (celeriac), cubed
1 large leek, separate the leaves, wash thoroughly and dice
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 white cabbage, shredded finely (~4 c.)
OR 1 can sauerkraut, rinsed and drained (omit vinegar)
1 stick butter
2 bay leaves
1 bundle thyme (optional)
white pepper
~1 Tbsp cider vinegar, to taste

Place the whole meat chunk (no need to cube) in a large pot and cover with 2 qts. water or broth, add the bay leaves and thyme, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1.5 hrs or until tender. Remove from the pot and allow to cool enough to cut into cubes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed soup pot, melt the butter. Add the leeks and cook over low heat until they are softened. Increase the heat and add the celeriac and carrots. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the edges of the vegetables start to brown (do not burn).

Strain the broth into the soup pot, and bring the broth and vegetables back to a gentle boil. Add the cabbage/kraut and simmer for 5 minutes or until just tender. Add the chopped meat and adjust the seasoning with salt, white pepper, and vinegar. When heated through, serve hot, with buttered bread.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Miele Steam Oven Pulled Pork

I've been debating whether I should post some of these more niche recipes--now that we have a steam oven and a high powered stove, I am making recipes that not everyone can reproduce with other equipment. I've decided to post some of them 1) for my own records, and 2) because there are very few recipes available online for these devices (especially the steam oven). Perhaps these recipes will be of use to others. I don't have a photo for this one because I decided to post the recipe after the fact.

3-5 lb pork shoulder roast (~3 lb without bone, ~5 lb with)
1 large white onion, 1/4" slices
1 Tbsp. butter
1 chicken boullion cube
1 c. water

2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. whole coriander
1 Tbsp. coarse ground salt
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. celery seed

Saute the onions in the butter in a saute pan over medium for 10 min until the onions are somewhat softened, but not caramelized. Crumble up the boullion cube and add it to the pan, then add the water and bring to a simmer 1-2 min or until the boullion is dissolved.

Pat the pork roast dry and place in a deep, solid oven pan. Grind the thyme, sage, and coriander together in a mortar and pestle until, then mix in the remaining spices. Rub the spices onto the pork roast. Place the onions around the roast (don't pour on top, or the broth will wash the rub off). Tent with foil.

Place in the steam oven on surround mode, at 250 F, and 75% humidity, for 6 hours. Every two hours, add ~1 c. water to prevent the onions from burning. Turn the roast a couple of times. NOTE: I think that more liquid could be added at the beginning to prevent having to tend it during cooking. The onions should produce a dark, flavorful goo.

Once the pork is tender, pull apart with tongs or forks. Spoon over some of the onion goo. Place on a toasted bun and add BBQ sauce if desired. This would be great with Carolina style mustard sauce, but regular sweet BBQ sauce is good too.

Zingy Cauliflower Salad

Inspired by our trip to Germany and the many wonderful composed salads we had, I created this cauliflower salad. I served it with pulled pork sandwiches, as an alternative to cole slaw, which went well together.


1 head cauliflower, in small florets
1 carrot, julienne
1/3 c. red onion, sliced thin
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
~2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves


1/4 c. red wine vinegar + 2 tsp. cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt or to taste
1/2 tsp. black mustard
1/4 tsp. cayenne

Blanch the cauliflower and plunge into cold water to cool, then drain thoroughly. Combine the cauliflower, carrot, onion, and celery in a large bowl. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, and then pour over the vegetables, then mix. Adjust salt to taste. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes or longer.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Chicken with Red Curry Paste - Gai Pad Prik King

This is a wonderfully flavorful dish that can be easily prepared in a pinch. If you cannot find the kaffir lime leaf, omit it (although it adds nice flavor). You can also use standard string beans instead of the long beans. Make sure to cook the dish on as high a heat as possible so that the chicken sears quickly and doesn't dribble out all its juices in the pan. I recommend cooking only 1 lb of chicken at a time so you don't overcrowd the pan. My recipe is based off of the one here at Eating Thai Food.

1 lb chicken breast, cut into 3/4" slices
1/2 c. Chinese long beans, cut into 1/4" slices (or string beans)
3 Tbsp. Thai red curry paste
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
4 kaffir lime leaves, chiffonade
2 Tbsp. peanut oil

Heat a flat bottomed wok on medium high and then add the oil. Add the curry paste and stir/chop with a wok spoon or spatula so that it sizzles and softens for 30 seconds. Ensure it does not burn.

Add the chicken, fish sauce, and sugar and toss over high heat for 4-5 minutes, until the chicken is mostly cooked through. Add in the lime leaf and long beans and continue to toss and cook an additional 3-4 minutes. The beans will be crisp in texture.

Serve with jasmine rice and a fried egg. In Thailand the eggs are traditionally fried in a wok so the edges are crispy and the yolks are cooked through. Enjoy!

Yellow summer squash curry

This recipe is a perfect one for summer - it uses yellow summer squash which is always in abundance and ends up tasting very light.  It takes very little time to cook, and there's not really very much prep. The hardest part is getting the spices together, but overall there's not that much chopping or cooking. It was meant to be sort of a one-off recipe, but as soon as we tasted how well it turned out, I started writing it down to keep from forgetting it.


1 tsp whole fennel
4 cloves
1 tsp whole coriander

4 green cardamom pods, lightly smashed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you want it spicy)
1 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 heaping tsp black mustard seeds

2 medium yellow squash cut into thin circles or half circles
1 can coconut milk
1/3 c. chicken broth (i.e. one muffin tin cube's worth, optional)

1 chicken breast cut into thin pieces


Toast the fennel, cloves and coriander in a high sided skillet on medium heat until fragrant. Pour into a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind. Combine with the cardamom pods, tumeric, cayenne and pepper, set aside.

Sautee onion in the same pan with a Tbsp of oil on medium high, cook until the edges are start to brown. Add garlic, ginger, cumin and mustard seeds. Cook until everything is getting browner. Add the other spices. Stir for 30 seconds, then add squash, stir for 30 seconds or so and add coconut milk (and optionally chicken broth). Stir until everything is mixed, then add chicken and simmer until just cooked (should not take long). 

Serve over rice.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Savory chicken apricot pie

There is a restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin, called "Mediterranean Cafe" aka MedCaf and they have perfected how to do 'fast food' right. They make huge batches of homecooked food, and have such quick turnover that it's always really fresh. Every day they have 4 specials, in addition to some standby items that are always available - it's hugely popular, and at lunch time there's often a bit of a line out the door.

One of my favorite dishes that they had, which was a special and so only available certain days, was a chicken apricot pie. I don't think this is an authentic dish in any particular country, but represents the kind of fusiony approach that make MedCaf so popular. This is the recipe from my third time making it, since the first couple just didn't come close enough to what I remember.

This recipe requires one unusual ingredient, "Qamar ad-din" paste. It's basically unsweetened apricot fruit leather that is normally used to produce a beverage during Ramadan. You can buy it at most Middle Eastern markets year round. Here's a picture of one brand of it:


  • 250 grams qamar addin
  • 3 cups water
  •  2 large chicken breasts, or 3 small
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 cloves
  •  1 stick butter
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 2 c. milk
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon


The night before making this, roughly chop the qamar addin into chunks, then soak in the water. You're hoping to create a fairly viscous liquid that is pourable but won't slosh around, a bit like a pie filling or something. Check how things are going in the morning, you may need to add a little bit more water, and it helps to shake the container a little bit. If by cooking time there are still chunks or it is too watery, you can cook it on the stove until everything is dissolved and it reaches the correct consistency. 

Boil the chicken breasts with the spices (cinnamon, garlic, allspice, pepper, cloves) until cooked. Remove, let cool, shred chicken. Retain some liquid.

Grease a brownie pan (9x9 or 9x13), preheat oven to 400, put the shredded chicken in the pan, pour the apricot over it, and then begin preparing the bechamel sauce as follows: Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour, whisking it in vigorously to ensure it's fully mixed. Cook the roux until it is just barely starting to brown.Very slowly add the milk, mixing continuously with a whisk. Add the spices. Simmer and stir on low heat until the sauce is beginning to thicken. Remove from heat, whisk in eggs, pour over everything in the brownie pan. Bake at 400 until the top is browned, about 30-40 minutes. 

I recommend serving this with rice, cooked with a pinch of saffron and 1 tsp of turmeric, and a green side salad. The rice helps cut down on the richness of it.  

I don't have any pictures of it since we tucked right in. Maybe next time!