Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dogs: Rescue UPDATE

The dogs that have been seized by the SPCA are now being screened for adoption, as the judge in Popolizio's trial has awarded custody to the SPCA.  I am thrilled at this development.  For the full story, please click the link above.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Food: Chicken Saag

Chicken saag, or saag chicken, is my very favorite Indian food dish.  It is a very mild curry with crushed tomatoes and cooked spinach and chicken and a touch of milk, and it is simply fabulous.  I would serve it to any novice Indian food taster who is tolerant of spinach.  I adapted a recipe that I found on several websites, including, which is a veritable treasure trove of Indian recipes and curries.  My main source for this recipe is Indian Food Forever, but I did change a few things.  Here's the lowdown.

You need to know that this recipe serves four to six people rather generously, especially if served with rice, naan bread, and the various chutneys.  Served with only rice, it fed my husband and myself generously for one dinner, a lunch portion for each of us, and then a lunch portion for me and my friend John.  The other thing to know is that you need a BIG pot or pan to do this.

You need:

  • 3 pounds chicken pieces (boneless and skinless)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large onions, minced
  • a 1" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
  • 2 crushed tomatoes (I used about a cup and a half of crushed tomatoes from the can)
  • 4 tablespoons of milk
  • 14 ounces of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander (ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 large cardamom pods (I used green ones - evidently there are multiple types)
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala (you can find this spice mix at Penzey's, or you can make your own)
  • salt to taste
First, fry the chicken pieces lightly in some canola or other flavorless oil of your choice, until they are browned lightly.  Set aside.

Make your mise-en-place.  First, I mixed the cayenne, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, and cloves together in a prep bowl because you add them to the recipe at the same time.  This saves a lot of headaches over measuring later.  Trust me. :)

Then, the magic of curry-making begins.

Fry up those onions and that garlic and that ginger until lightly brown.  Inhale and enjoy.

Add them thar tomatoes and all the spices you put in your prep bowl (cayenne, coriander, turmeric, cloves, and cardamom).

Sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of water and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat.  Inhale.  (I still think half the enjoyment of cooking Indian food is the smell spectrum that comes from cooking it!)

Add the chicken and milk.  Simmer this until the chicken is tender.  Or so says the original recipe.  I say: add the chicken and milk, and simmer until the chicken is just about to fall apart.  Also: make sure you use a mix of light and dark meat.

At this point I ran out of room in the pan, so I switched everything to my big lasagna pot.  So don't fret that the photo shows a different pot in the next one.

Add the spinach and the Garam Masala.  Cook this until the spinach starts to stick to the pan (which is about 10-15 minutes of constant stirring).  Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and stir through.  Salt to taste.  Keep warm until it is ready to serve.

So that's the basics of what I did.  The first time I served it, it was downright bland.  The second time I served it, it was considerably better and really tasty.  The third time I served it, it was just about perfect.  So my thought is that it needs time for the flavors to meld.  I almost think it's like beef stew (according to my father, beef stew was always best after the second heating).  So my thought is: simmer the chicken and tomatoes together with extra water and reduce it down until it is even more flavorful.  Add the spinach and garam masala at the end, as directed in the original recipe, and use salted butter.

But it was good.  And I'm going to make it again before the rest of my hunk of ginger goes bad.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Food: Mahi Mahi with Cream Sauce

Last night my awesome cousin-to-be Sara came over, and I decided to do a variation on a recipe I saw once for Mahi-Mahi with cream sauce.  I didn't want to have asparagus and bell peppers with it, though, so I decided to do garlic orzo and sauteed spinach.  It turned out delicious, oh me oh my.

For the cream sauce (which makes plenty enough for 4 filets and then some) you need:

  • 1 quart heavy cream (see what I mean?)
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (I used Penzey's but also recommend Dinosaur BBQ's Cajun Foreplay)
  • 1 can crab meat (I used Bumblebee white crab), drained profusely and pat dry
First, reduce the cream until it coats a spoon.  At first I was confused by this because when it's cold, it coats a spoon.  Turns out when it's hot, it doesn't.  So, wait until it's hot to see if it coats a spoon or not.  Whisk in the crab meat and seasoning and taste it.  Try not to drink it.  It's that good.  Keep it warm while you cook up the fish.

To cook the fish, I simply sauteed it, unseasoned, in extra-virgin olive oil.  I'm thinking of baking it next time with a little seasoning on it (perhaps seasoned salt and pepper), but it was just fine as it was with the cream sauce on it.  You want one filet per person.

While I was cooking the fish, I boiled the orzo according to the package directions and drained it.  Then I added some olive oil to the pot, 3 or 4 cups of fresh spinach, and a few cloves of minced garlic (I think 3). Once the spinach was almost cooked, I put the orzo in and stirred to coat it.  Had to add a little extra olive oil, but I tried to stay conservative with it because I didn't want it to interfere with the cream sauce.

While this dish seems simple enough, I thought it required some fancy plating.  So I put down some of the cream sauce on the plate, laid a small bed of orzo, and put the piece of fish on top and then drenched the piece of fish with cream sauce and put a small sprinkling of fresh chopped chives on top.  It looked so pretty that I'm really angry with myself for not taking a picture of it.

But it received rave reviews from Sara and "fine" from my husband, who has only ever exclaimed over food once in his life.  I also thought it was delicious, and am enthusiastic to try it again.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Food: Scarborough Fair Mock Risotto

Oh man, oh man.  Now I've done it!  I finally created something with the Scarborough Fair oil that is not only worthy of serving, but it's completely and utterly sinful and carb-laden and delicious!  Plus, it's fusion food, if you want to take the "Scarborough Fair" song to be British Isles origin and risotto is Italian, so... there we go!

Here's what it really is: orzo with tons of butter, Scarborough Fair oil, spices, half and half, shallots, and Parmesan cheese.  It looks kinda like big-grained risotto.

Here's what I did.

You need:

  • 1 pound orzo pasta, cooked
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • about a quarter cup of Scarborough Fair Oil - make sure it's REALLY dense with herbs, almost like Scarborough Fair pesto...
  • Lotsa garlic - probably 4 cloves, chopped
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup half and half
Once I cooked the orzo, I melted the butter and blended the oil in.  Once it was warmed through, I added the shallots and garlic and cooked until the shallots were translucent.  At that point I stirred the orzo into the mixture and made sure it was well-coated.  This is when the to-taste moments started happening.  I added a whole bunch of crushed red pepper (we like it spicy here), salt and pepper, and the Parmesan and half and half.  Once it resembled risotto in its creaminess, it was tasty as heck.

But be sure to serve it immediately.  I learned during dinner that the oil liked to separate from the herbs and yummies sticking to the pasta and collect underneath the pasta.   It still tasted fantastic.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dogs: Rescue Mission Update

I have noticed that some of my readers have stumbled upon my blog because they are searching for more answers about Southside Dogs and the 49 counts of animal cruelty charged on its owner.  Unfortunately, there's not much more to tell.  The trial has been delayed to sometime this month, and hopefully the judge will throw the book at him.  At his last court appearance, he requested the dogs that had been seized and the litters (4) that had been born while they were in foster care, and he was denied.  I have a friend attending all of his court appearances and she keeps me very up to date on this, and I will post as soon as I know anything.

Thank you, as always, for your loyal readership.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Food: Curry

I am studying up on curry, because I want to learn more about them and learn how to cook my own from scratch.  Of course, the curries I fell in love with came from India, which is the first kind of curry I tasted.

 My first Indian food experience was taking my father out for Indian food for Father's Day or his birthday (I can't remember because the dates are close together) one year, and he introduced me to naan bread, samosas, and all these other delicious things he had discovered while traveling in Great Britain and India.  I ordered chicken tikka the first time and enjoyed it, though it was very, very hot to my traditionally bland-eating tastebuds.  But I loved its complexity, even though I ate tons of bread and drank tons of water.

The second time I ate Indian Food was in Georgetown near Washington DC and had chicken saag.  Oh lord.  That was some amazing food.  Later in life I tried Biryani chicken and loved that too.  The occasions weren't that notable (dinner with various friends) but I loved the food.  I still order chicken saag regularly when I go to an Indian restaurant.

Bringing us to the past couple years, I've been using Butter Chicken curry paste from Kitchens of India as my go-to curry shortcut.  My father introduced it to me, and I loved that I could make "Indian Food" easily without having to pay restaurant prices.  It's very good, but I've been told from some people that it's a little salty (the sodium content is quite high).

My most recent curry adventure was at the home of Winston's dog breeder when she had me, my husband, and another owner of one of her dogs over.  She is British, and she told me that Indian food has now surpassed fish and chips as the number 1 take-out food in Great Britain.   Wowzers!  I always knew you could get good Indian food in Great Britain, but not that it was that popular.  At any rate, she made us Madhur Jaffrey's recipe for Prawns with a Dark Sauce (this recipe is available with a quick Google search).  It was hot, but delicious, and I am definitely in love with more curry now.  I want curry all the time.  I'm on a curry kick.  Give me more curry!

So I went to Indian Food Forever and found lots of recipes for the dishes I've tried and many for dishes I've not tried.  I made a list of basic spices I need, and I placed my order to Penzey's today for my little Indian food "kit."  I hope that this makes for some delicious food and some interesting blogs.  I do have some occasions to cook for in the near future, so I plan to blog more soon.

"And here's to curry vindaloo!" - Rent