Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cutting the Heat with Corn Raita

If the Chicken Tikka Masala is a bit spicy for you, bring down the heat by serving it with corn raita. This chilled yogurt salad is a perfect accompaniment to curries and other spicy food. Corn raita is a mainstay salad in Indian cuisine. The mild tartness of the yogurt, coupled with the sweet richness, of the corn is enhanced by a touch of parsley and chili powder at the end.

To top of off, this dish insanely simply to make. Not counting the cooling time, it shouldn't take you more than 5 minutes to complete.

Equipment Needed

mixing bowl
sieve or colander
plastic wrap


15 oz. can of corn
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
pinch of salt
chopped parsley and a pinch of chili powder for garnish


Pour the corn into a sieve or fine colander to completely drain the canning liquid.

Put the yogurt in a mixing bowl, add the corn and a pinch of salt. The salt will enhance the sweetness of the corn, just don't add too much. Stir with a spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to chill. Chilling the dish lets the flavors mix better, so make sure to chill it well.

When you're ready to eat, transfer the raita to serving bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and a pinch of chili powder.

Was that easy, or what?

Serves 6.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Not Quite Indian Food - Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala isn't actually an Indian recipe, but the flavors are such that you wouldn't know that it comes from Great Britain. An amazingly popular dish, “chicken tikka” refers to the chicken being marinated in yogurt and spices before cooking. A “masala” is simply a mix of spices, referring to the sauce.

Normally this curry is served with turmeric rice or nan bread, although it's just as good with white rice. The recipe calls for chicken breasts, but you could use the thigh meat or even pork and still get good results. If you can't find garam masala, curry powder can be used instead. Try them both and find out which one you like better.

The first time I made this recipe, I followed the recipe exactly. It was way to salty – enough to make you gag, salty. I've dropped the quantities down and allowed for adding more salt at the end as needed. Much better.

Keep the ingredients for the marinade and the sauce separate. It will make things easier.

Equipment needed:
cutting boardkitchen knife2 frying pans
measuring spoonsmeasuring cupsmixing bowl
large spoon


4 chicken breasts, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
3 tablespoons light olive oil

For the marinade

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon garam masala
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
6 tablespoons plain yogurt

For the sauce

3 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
32 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained well
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons water
chopped parsley for garnish
Extra salt as needed


To make the marinade, put the salt, garam masala, garlic, ginger, and yogurt into a mixing bowl and blend with a fork. Add the chicken pieces and toss them in the marinade, coating them completely. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

To make the sauce, heat the canola oil in the first frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until soft and slightly brown. Add the remaining garlic and ginger and saute for a couple of minutes. Stir frequently so you don't burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes and saute just for a few moments until most of the moisture has evaporated.

Stir in the cumin powder, garam masala, salt and sugar. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to saute for about 2 minutes. Stir in the water and simmer, uncovered, about 2 minutes more.

In a second frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of light olive oil over medium heat. Add the marinated chicken and gently saute until completely cooked. Don't bother wiping off the marinade, just toss it all in.

Add the sauce mixture to the chicken and mix well. Adjust the salt and other spices, as needed. Bring the sauce to a brief boil and remove from the heat.

Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and garnish with chopped parsley and additional yogurt, if you want to tone down the spices. Serve with turmeric rice, white rice, or with nan bread.

Serves 6

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to Make Nan (Indian Flat Bread)

Nan is a teardrop shaped flatbread that originates from the Punjab region of northern India. Like turmeric rice, it's one of several starch dishes that are traditionally served with curries or with tandoori meat or chicken dishes. This makes sense, considering nan is baked in by slapping the dough onto the side of a hot tandoor oven. Tbe weight of the dough pulls the dough down the side of the oven, creating it's characteristic teardrop shape.

I don't have a tandoor and I'm not about to try and build one. We'll just have to trick the regular western oven into thinking it's a tandoor. This won't be a problem. Oven's are easy to hypnotize.

The central ingredients of this bread are yogurt and white flour. You can add an egg to the dough to enrich it, if you'd like, although I don't. Poppy seeds (like I did), sesame seeds, flaked almonds, garlic, onions or other spices can also be added to the dough, or mixed with melted butter and brushed on one side before cooking, to add more flavor.

The rise time is a little longer than most breads, although there's no proofing to worry about. The quick cooking time more than makes up for it. Nan is best eaten while still hot and fresh. It can be eaten the next day if you put it in a plastic bag, as soon as it's cool enough, to keep if from drying out. It's wonderful taste will pretty much rule out any being left over, though.


2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 cup milk
3 1 /2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1 /2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons ghee or melted butter


Pour the milk into a bowl and sprinkle on the yeast. Leave it in a warm place for 5 minutes and then stir to dissolve.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine 1 cup of the flour and all the salt. Make a well in the center. Add the dissolved yeast and milk, sugar, yogurt, and ghee or butter. Begin mixing the dough using a hand mixer with dough hooks, a stand mixer, or a wooden spoon. Add additional flour, a little at a time, until it all combines into a sticky, slightly stiff, dough. You may not need to use all the flour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Put the dough into a clean, oiled, bowl and cover with a dish towel. Place it in a warm area of the kitchen and let it rise until doubled in size, about 3 or 4 hours. Punch down the dough and let it rest for ten minutes.

Now we're going to start turning your oven into a makeshift tandoor. Turn on the broiler in your oven to about 500 degrees Fahrenheit, if you can control it's temperature, to preheat it while you take the next step.

Divide the dough into four equal pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each piece and shape into a round loaf, about 6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick. Pull one side of the dough until it's about 10 inches long, and slightly teardrop shaped.

Place a baking sheet in the upper-middle of your oven, under the broiler, but not too close, for about 2 minutes. Place one or two pieces of dough onto the hot baking sheet. The number of pieces you can get on there will depend on the size of your baking sheet. Broil the pieces of dough for about 2 or 3 minutes per side, until puffy and golden. Use tongs so you don't burn yourself.

Stack the flat loaves on top of each other and cover with a clean, dry cloth to keep the crust soft and to prevent the bread from drying out.

Quick tip: You can make your own ghee by melting butter in a pan until it stops foaming. This is a signal that the water has boiled out. Pour the melted butter into a small bowl and let it cool completely. Homemade ghee!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How to Scramble Eggs

One of the first things I learned to cook was a scrambled egg. They turned out as a flat, slightly browned disc. While perfectly appropriate for an egg sandwich, I've since learned to make the light, fluffy kind of scrambled eggs. There's something to be said for age and experience, I think.

It's best to use a non-stick skillet or saute pan. Believe it or not, a cast-iron skillet with a great patina, built up over, time, is just as good. You just don't wan the eggs to stick to the bottom and burn.

The secret to fluffy, creamy, scrambled eggs to cook the eggs gently and slowly over medium-low heat, stirring all the time. They can be served plain but I like spicing them up with chopped herbs like dill or parsley.

Ingredients (for each adult serving)

2 eggs
1 tablespoon of milk or water
dash of salt
dash of pepper
A sprinkle of dried or freshly chopped herbs, to taste (optional)
1 tablespoon of butter or cooking oil


In a bowl, whisk together all the ingredients, except the butter. If you're going to use chopped herbs, add them now. Don't whisk the eggs to long, trying to get a perfect homogeneous yellow mixture. It's not worth the time and the eggs will get rubbery if you beat them too long.

Heat the butter in a pan over medium heat until the butter stops foaming. Reduce heat to medium low. You can use other oils for this, but I find that butter seems to work best both for taste, and to help stop the eggs from sticking. Butter is always better for taste, but, to be honest, I'm not sure why it would help things stick less than oil. Maybe you'll leave a comment and explain it to me. Pour in the egg mixture.

Now you need to decide if you want a large “curd” or a small one. If you want large curds, stir gently with a non-stick safe spatula, fold the egg bits over them selves until almost set. There will be no browning.

I prefer a smaller curd so I just use the same whisk I beat the eggs with. I think the eggs turn out more fluffy that way. Be careful so you don't scratch the bottom of the pan. Better still, use one of the new non-stick whisks made with heat resistant plastic. Use the same one you used for whipping the eggs in the first place. In either case, make sure you're pulling the egg up off the bottom of the pan as it cooks.

Once it is almost set, remove it from the heat and let it set for one more minute, still stirring. Don't worry. There's plenty of heat left in the pan to cook the rest of the eggs.

Serve immediately.

Quick tip: Because you don't want to beat the eggs too long, anyway, the only reason to whisk the eggs in a bowl before hand is to avoid getting bits of egg shell in the pan. If you want to save some time, and you don't usually get shell bits in your egg when you crack them open, anyway, crack the eggs directly into the heated pan. Add the milk, salt, pepper and herb, and go at it with the whisk. Why dirty another dish if you don't have to? My kids like to put ketchup on their scrambled eggs. Once in a while, try adding a dash of soy sauce to the egg mixture before you cook them. It adds extra complexity and deepens the egg flavor. If you really want to “guild the lilly” though, replace the milk in this recipe with cream and serve the eggs with very thin slices of smoked salmon or fried salami.

Photo by Steve Woods

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How to Cook Indian Turmeric Rice

Turmeric Rice is one of several Indian recipes designed to hold up perfectly to the curries and spices of Indian food. A savory, fragrant rice dish, various seeds, nuts and raisins can be added to the dish for variety, if desired.

The health benefits of turmeric are pretty amazing. It's been used as an anti-inflammatory for hundreds of years in India and China and modern medical researchers are finding it may be useful in combating Alzheimer's and other neural diseases as well as some cancers and liver disorders

You can make this dish in a rice cooker if you want, just saute the rice before you put it in the machine with water or stock to cook.


3 cups uncooked rice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric powder
3 cups chicken stock or water
3 tablespoons butter or margarine


Put the rice into a sieve or mesh colander and then into a bowl of water. Wash the rice well and drain off the water. Move the sieve to a fresh bowl of water and soak the rice for 20 minutes. Remove the sieve from the bowl and drain off the water. Rinse the rice one more time under the faucet with cold water. Drain as much water off the rice as you can.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Reduce to medium low and add the rice to pan. Saute the rice for about 1minute, constantly stirring. Add the salt and turmeric and mix well. Continue cooking and stirring until the spice is evenly distributed, about one more minute.

Add the chicken stock (or water) and stir the rice once. Raise the heat to medium high and bring the stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook the rice for about 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the rice continue steaming under the lid for about 5 minutes. Give the rice a stir to bring it up from the bottom and transfer to a serving bowl.

Serve with your favorite curry, or just about anything else you can think of eating with rice.

Serves 6.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hand Processing Tools

I know. I've said it before, but it's still true. The right tool for the right job makes things easier. It's as important in house repair as it is in the kitchen. Using the wrong tools is just a frustrating waste of time and effort. Using the right tools means wasting less time, effort, and less of the food you buy. Here are some basic processing tools that every home cook should have.

Box Grater
Box grater's are so much better than those large flat hand graters. You know the ones I mean. They've got two different sized grates separated by a whole that's desperate to pass itself off as a slicing tool. For one thing, box grater's stand up on their own. That means less wear and tear on the hands trying to hold that flat thing I was talking about. Just pull the grater off the food every so often so the food doesn't get too compressed.

Potato Masher
It takes effort to make the perfect mashed potatoes, but why kill your hands and wrists mashing them? Choose one with a comfortable handle. I prefer the round flat ones over the bent wire ones, but they can both be useful. They're not just for potatoes, though. They're the perfect tool when mashing avocados for guacamole.

Mortar and Pestle
I have to admit, I avoided buying one of these for a long time. I bought an electric spice grinder, instead. Still, there are some things that a mortar and pestle are great for (including making a oleo, a mixture of crushed garlic and olive oil). Buy the biggest one you can afford. You want them to be heavy, and marble is a good choice. Porcelain works great, too. It has the weight of marble but isn't quite so expensive.

Salt & Pepper Mills

Fresh ground pepper has much better aroma and flavor than the pre-ground stuff, so a pepper mill is a must have item. You want a mill with a comfortable grip that puts out a decent volume of pepper with each turn. A salt mill makes up the pair, crushing crystals of sea salt.

Just like peppercorns, nutmeg loses aroma and flavor pretty quickly. Instead of buying a dedicated nutmeg grater, though, buy a microplane. They come in varying cuts and sizes and make short work of nutmeg, hard cheeses and other foods for quick grating jobs that just don't a large box grater.

Lemon/Lime Squeezer
Fresh lemon juice is so much brighter in flavor than it's bottled counterpart, it's hard to imagine they came from the same fruit. The same holds true with lime juice. Don't get me wrong. I still buy bottled lemon and lime juice. They're more economical. But whenever I can, I hold out for the fresh stuff. Some of the best new ones come out of Mexico. They look like over-sized garlic presses. They're a little counter intuitive, though. You want to put in a half of lemon or lime backwards, or what seems backwards. The big inverted press should press down on the round skin side, inverting the fruit as you squeeze.

Garlic Press

A garlic press can make short work of a garlic clove, releasing the maximum flavor. Research has also shown that mincing garlic through a press, instead of just with a knife, retains more of the vital nutrients that make garlic so good for you. Yeah. I was surprised, too. The problem with cheaper presses is they're hard to clean. Buy a sturdy garlic press with a detachable grill to make the work, and the cleaning, a lot easier.

Do know of any other hand processing tools that you consider important, or uses for these I haven't mentioned? Feel free to share your kitchen wisdom by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Parden My Dust

If you've been perusing the blog for a while, you may have noticed that the categories (i.e. "flavor labels") have really been acting up. Don't worry. I'm in the process of re-categorizing all of the posts to help you find older recipes and posts more easily. We're just still in the "re-modeling" phase so, things are looking a little skeewumpus. I should have everything cleared up in the next few days, and get back to a regular posting schedule.

In the mean time, if you have any suggestions about the kinds of categories you'd like to see, or even topics for future posts and recipes, feel free to leave me suggestions in the comments.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Conference Cornbread

Twice a year the LDS Church holds a General Conference where we get to hear sermons and advice from the General Authorities – the top brass in the Church. In Utah, we're lucky enough to have most of the sessions broadcast over TV. As I sat in my living room watching the Saturday session I was in the mood to bake some bread. I didn't want to wait for hours tending a yeast bread, so I pulled out my cook books looking for a quick bread recipe. Cornbread at conference? That sounded great.

After looking at few cornbread recipes I'd tried before, and a few I hadn't, I was feeling pretty unsatisfied. I like making cornbread in a cast-iron skillet. Most recipes call for an 8 or 9 inch pan. Mine's 10 1/2 inches and I really don't need a smaller one. When I'd made these recipes before, the bread had been good, but it hadn't been as thick as I'd wanted. I'd have to do something else. I threw caution to the wind and came up with my own cornbread recipe that had an uncommon nuttiness to it. Served warm with butter and honey, my whole family kept asking for more.


1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups corn flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons cooking oil


Grease a 10 1/2 inch cast iron skillet with butter. Place the skillet in the oven and preheat them both at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

While the oven is heating, mix the wheat flour, corn flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, and oil. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and blend into a thick batter.

Remove the skillet from the oven. Use a pot holder so you don't burn yourself. Pour in the batter, you should hear a little sizzle when it hits the pan. Return the pan to the oven and raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. A toothpick inserted into the bread should come out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool, in the pan, for ten minutes. Remove to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way. Serve warm with honey-butter.