Monday, June 11, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala

International Kitchen

This week, I traveled way outside of my comfort zone in the kitchen, traveling to India for dinner. Okay, so we didn’t jump on a plane and fly across the world to Mumbai - however, our kitchen, pots and pans took us on a delicious exploration of this colorful culinary destination.  The dish... Chicken Tikka Masala. Oh my goodness, we enjoyed the fragrant spices and colorful aromas of a fabulous dish. Of course, my inspiration for this redolent dinner was found on Pinterest. Seriously, who needs cookbooks clogging your counter space, when you have this worldwide collection of expressive people sharing their recipes in cyberspace for all who crave and seek?   (Just in case you don’t know what Pinterest is, explanation below.) I was so pleased with the results of making this dish! I want to thank the Jackie for posting this great recipe; her posting inspired me to make it for dinner.

I love Indian food. The intense flavors tickle and tease my palate. I’ve only enjoyed this international fare in restaurants, never attempting it at home. For no reason other than I was a little intimidated. But this recipe seemed too easy not to try it ourselves, and the coolest part, my husband and I could prepare the entire dinner together. I had most of the ingredients, with the exception of two- fenugreek leaves and cardamom pods. There’s a great Italian specialty market here in town that also has a lovely Indian section. I ran over picked up the items, along with some yummy Naan and authentic Basmati rice. While I was there, the owners suggested a delish yogurt and cucumber side dish to serve with the Chicken Tikka Masala. It was awesome! Fresh, creamy and just the hint of heat from toasted Cumin seeds.   Overall, I am kicking myself for not making this type of cuisine before now. Easy, aromatic and yes, yummy!

There are a couple of changes I will do the next time. For example, the paste for the sauce was a bit thick, and we thought it should be looser. Also, I would try broiling the chicken for more of a charred flavor, rather than baking it. However, the flavors of the chicken from start to finish were exceptional!  Also, even though I got the authentic basmati, I am used to the gourmet style, I had to rinse this type and even though I rinsed several times, it was still a smidge sticky. All in all, this recipe is something I will add to my list of must-make dishes. My husband and I enjoyed making it together. Quality time in the kitchen makes for a delicious marriage.  

Cucumber-Yogurt Salad
1 sm.     Cucumber shredded
1 C.        Greek Yogurt
½ T.        Toasted Cumin Seeds – ground

Shred cucumber; mix with yogurt, and cumin. Let flavors meld together in refrigerator for at least one hour.

See recipe below for Chicken Tikka Masala.

By the way, recently, it was brought to my attention that not everyone knows what Pinterest is... I am a little shocked because of the popularity and international attention this photographic social media site has received. So, for all of those out there that are not aware of this site, please let me introduce you... Pinterest these are my readers, readers, this is Pinterest!

Okay, Pinterest is a swell site full of images with a smidgeon of text. It’s different from Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter – it’s a pin board style social media site. Members post pictures of things like food, fashion, photos, home décor, make-up, drinks, and pets - really anything.  They are arranged by boards, sort of like a corkboards of things they have done, places they’ve been, or want to go, or just things that inspire them. It’s really quite addicting. Every day, you see new postings. Some, like my most of my postings, are directed to this blog, or the image might be linked to a website.  It’s so much fun to find images of ways to decorate your bedroom, make something for dinner, or buy something on the internet.  Where it differs from Facebook and the other interactive social sites is that the only interaction is by “following” someone, where you elect to receive their postings on your page, or... if you leave a comment, or “repin” their image to one of your boards.  Some members are anonymous and others share a little about themselves. The cool part is there are pinners from all over the world. Personally, I have found some really scrumptious recipes to make for us, and some fantastic decorating ideas. It sparks my creativity. Hopefully, it will do the same for you! 

The other bright side to Pinterest, most of my page views on this blog has come from fellow members of Pinterest. To date: It’s Just That Good has received over 2,800 page views with readers from England, India, Russia, Germany, Canada, and of course, the U.S. I’m grateful that through Pinterest, I have connected with like-minded people all over the world. It’s quite flattering honestly, and quite good for my confidence.

Well, I think that’s it for now... If you’re interested in what inspires me, here is my Pinterest page link: SRQ Foodie

Until next time...
Life is like a glass of wine... always better when it’s filled with something you like!
SRQ Foodie

Original Chicken Tikka Masala on Pinterest
For the marinade:
1 lb                        Chicken, cut into cubes
1 cup                     Yogurt
1 tbsp                    Cumin powder
1/2 tbsp                 Coriander powder
1/4 tsp                  Turmeric powder
3 cloves                Garlic
1/2 inch                Ginger – made into a paste or grated
1 tsp                      Salt
1/2 tsp                  Chili powder

For the sauce:
1 medium sized                Onion, cubed
1/2 roasted                       Red Bell Pepper (about 1/2 cup when pureed)
6                                        Cashews
1 tsp                                 Cumin powder
1/2 tsp                              Coriander powder
3                                        Cloves
 1/2 inch                            Cinnamon
2                                        Cardamom pods–ground into fine powder
1 tbsp                                 Kasoori Methi (dried Fenugreek leaves, found in Indian grocery stores)
1/4 cup                              Cream
2 tbsp                                Tomato ketchup
1 tbsp                                Butter
1 tbsp                                 Oil
1/4 tsp of                            Chilli powder, or to taste
Salt to taste
Cilantro for garnish

How to make it:
Marinade the chicken with all the ingredients for about 20-30 minutes
Grill or pan roast the marinated chicken and set aside.  In the meantime, roast the onions in the pan with a few drops of oil until lightly browned.

Add the red bell peppers and cashew and toss them around for a couple of minutes. Take if off the stove and cool until ready to handle.  Blend the mixture into a fine puree. Add a few tablespoons of water if necessary.

Heat a pan (you can use the same pan used for roasting) with a tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon of butter.  When the butter just melts, add all the powders (clove, cinnamon, cardamom powder, cumin and coriander) and sauté until their aroma wafts around.  Add the red bell pepper, onion and cashew puree and gently sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the chili powder and salt and the tomato ketchup. Mix well and add the cream. Crush kasoori methi in your hands before adding to the mix and cook for 2 minutes.
Now add the grilled chicken pieces and toss to coat well in the sauce. Check taste and adjust salt or chili powder as desired.

If you want a thinner consistency, add a few more tablespoons of water and a sparing splash of cream. Gently simmer for 5 minutes.  Garnish with cilantro and serve with Naans (Indian bread) or Basmati rice.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Super Supper Club

Bonding Over a Bite
A few months ago, my neighbor Tricia and I inadvertently started a Tuesday night supper club.  Our first Tuesday night was on Valentine’s night... both of our husbands were working, so I invited Tricia over to watch the premiere of Cougar Town and spend the evening not by ourselves. 

So the story goes – “Picture it, Valentine’s night 2012 – both Tricia’s husband and mine are working, leaving us alone on the most romantic night of the year. What to do - what to do? Sit at home alone feeling sorry for myself, or... invite my neighbor over to watch TV and have a little party.”  (Okay, so I was channeling Sofia from the Golden Girls)

I’m so glad I made the right decision! We had a blast! We ate, we laughed, and we got to know each other a little better. I worked all day making a feast for us... bruschetta, goat cheese and fig pastries, pate and lingenberry jelly and of course, I chilled some Champagne. Whether our husbands were there or not, you have to have Champagne on Valentine’s Day!  We were lucky, my friend Aimee joined us as well and she added to the flavor of the evening. 

So back to the Supper Club... as we were cleaning up, Tricia suggested “we should do this again next week!”  Well, that was all it took, and now our get-togethers are one of the highlights of my week. Our dinners have evolved from just me cooking to a collaboration between Tricia and I. Each Tuesday, we either cook together or take turns making dinner. We start the day with Tricia and I texting back and forth deciding on what to have for dinner that night.  I have to mention that one week Tricia made this amazing crock-pot beef and peppers dish that we served on fancy buns... They were fabulous – spicy and quite tasty. I had never had them before, slow-cooked chuck roast with a jar of pepperoncini peppers.  WOW!  Me, I usually make something that I want to feature in my blog (like my Amatriciana pasta), or a recipe that I want to try out, or a family recipe that I want to show off to Tricia.

This week’s supper club was extra delicious. As usual, Tricia texted me in the morning inquiring about what should we do for dinner? Since she had mentioned earlier that she wanted to do a burger night, I simply replied  Burgers... (Luckily, I had a pound of ground sirloin in the fridge). That simple word “burger ” was a big hit, Tricia replied back, “you take care of the patties - I’ve got the rest!” She sure did take care of the rest, pow! T went all out, making one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen... a burger toppings bar! Fresh crisp iceberg, sweet sliced tomatoes and onions, she even hand sliced the pickles! In addition to the fresh veggie choices, we also had sautéed onions and mushrooms, cooked bacon,  two variety of cheeses and fancy buns. There wasn’t a burger that we couldn’t make with her abundantly wonderful toppings bar.  Me- I made one of my favorite burgers – Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed onions and a little A-1. Only one word can describe my ethereal meal... Burger-licious! 

She also brought a zesty pasta salad that she had made the night before. It was a penne salad with herbed feta, pretty little cherry tomatoes and Italian dressing. The vividness of the Italian herbs with the tanginess of the feta was a perfect combination. If I were Italian, I might say... “Molto Bella”!

My contribution to the meal was the patties... recently I had seen an episode of the Food Network show Meat Men about mixing the ideal hamburger. The star, Pat LaFreida talked about combining different beef together for a flavorful patty.  LaFreida explained a great hamburger has to have the exact ratio of fat and muscle for good flavor and texture. I had a pound of ground sirloin and while I was at Publix, I picked up ¾ lb. ground chuck. Mixing the two together, along with a sprinkling of garlic powder, salt and pepper, and Worcestershire, I got the combination right. They were juicy and really flavorful. The perfect base for Tricia’s toppings bar.

Feeling a little bad that Tricia was making almost the entire meal after working all day long, I wanted to make a surprise dessert. Looking in the pantry for what I could make, I decided on my Mama’s Cup a – Cup a – Cup a Peach Cobbler. It’s so simple; 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of milk and 1 teaspoon of baking powder, along with 4 tablespoons of melted butter and one 15 oz. can of sliced peaches in heavy syrup.  Directions: preheat oven 375°, melt butter in 9 x 13 casserole dish, mix flour, sugar, milk and baking powder, and pour in dish. Add canned peaches with syrup and bake for 40 minutes or until golden and bubbling brown.  If it sounds familiar, Dolly Parton’s character Truvy in Steel Magnolias shares that same recipe with the girls in the salon. I’m sorry, there isn’t a photo of this dessert - we ate it all up before I could take the picture. It’s so good, I’ll make it again and share soon.

Our Supper Club nights aren’t exclusive girls’ night in... Normally, my husband joins us and enjoys helping with the preparations. This week, we were lucky that Niles, Tricia’s husband had the night off and could join in the fun too. We had a great night – good food, and great conversations.

I highly suggest that you start your own night of cooking and camaraderie: it’s a supremely delicious evening! 

Until then... Good Cooking! 
SRQ Foodie