Archives for posts with tag: Spicy

I have tried to write this post for a few days now, finding it kind of out of place.  With so many people suffering right now, I felt a sort of guilt that I have the luxury to write a blog post about soup whereas for many this would be the last thing on their mind.  I couldn’t find a way to fit it together without sounding forced.  Usually I have an idea about what my blog post is going to be about.  Here I am just typing, whatever words come out, I don’t know.  Let’s hope it makes some sense.

The world has been a tumultuous place lately–revolutions, earthquakes, floods, poverty, slavery, injustice.  I guess these things have always existed, maybe I just notice more now, now that I’m older and not as aloof as I used to be.  I watch the news in a daze sometimes, in awe of the hate and the suffering in the world.  My eyes often well up with tears and I hold them in.  My husband would tease me and call me a softy.  I feel safe where I am, just as people all over the world feel safe in their homes, eating meals cooked by loves ones everyday.  Sometimes we are shaken, as life can throw a curve at us.  It’s amazing how resilient the human spirit can be–how strong we are.

We do what we have to to get by.  A mother will still look after her children even when her world is shaken.  She will find a way to feed and comfort them.  Eating gives us fuel, gives us a feeling of the familiar.  We all have our favorite meals and sometimes when you sit down to a meal after a long hard day, you can unwind and just relish in food.

This Thai Soup is a family favorite.  Usually in restaurants, it’s called Tom Yum Goong, but I couldn’t find lime leaves, galangal, and Thai Basil, so I improvised.  The results were still delicious.  I also added coconut milk, because something about the aroma of coconut milk soothes the soul–comfort.  Chilies and spiciness are also soothing for me.  We always ask for our Thai food extra spicy.  Sometimes we regret it, but most times we enjoy the fiery spice.  How ever you like your soup, enjoy it and take a minute or two to reflect on life and be grateful for the small things.

Thai Style Soup with Shrimp

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

Vegetable oil of your choice

2 shallots, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic roughly chopped

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 stalk of lemon grass, bruised with a knife and roughly chopped

zest and juice of one lime

6 dried red chilies, or to taste and a few extra for the broth

1 tablespoon brown sugar

15 sprigs of cilantro, stems included

1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, any size you prefer

crimini mushrooms, quartered

handful of pea pods, optional

6-8 cups chicken stock

salt, to taste

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 3/4 cup coconut milk, I used light

1 red chili, sliced

1 green chili, sliced

cilantro, basil, limes, for garnish (or any combination)

Method

Put the shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, lime zest/juice, dried red chilies, brown sugar, and cilantro springs in a food process and pulse until it forms a smooth paste.

Next, heat a large pot on medium and heat about 1 tablespoon of oil and add the paste to the oil and mix for 3-4 minutes.  Add in the chicken stock and mix the paste and chicken stock well so tat they become uniform. Taste for salt, and add salt, if necessary.  Also, throw in a few extra dried red chilies into the broth, optional.

Cook until the stock boils, once the stock boils add in the coconut milk and let it come to a boil again.  Add in the fish sauce and let the soup boil until you can see the oil separately.

Add in the mushrooms, pea pods, and shrimp and cook until the shrimp turns pink.  Garish with the red and green chilies, cilantro, basil, limes.  Serve hot.

A few other recipes of Thai Soup:

Temple of Thai

The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook

Thai Food About

Rasa Malaysia

**A good breakdown of a few organizations you can donate through for earthquake/tsunami relief via Slow Like Honey**

Pakistani street-foods are the ultimate in sweet, salty, and sour deliciousness.  I am a huge fan of chaat and when I miss the taste of chaat I usually opt for this version with potatoes and chickpeas.  In these hot summer months, it’s the perfect light snack.  The temperature is scorching hot and I feel so very lethargic that I just want to  make something easy.  I no longer have the patience to stand in front of the stove and sweat, even in air conditioning.

I last went to Pakistan for my wedding shopping, I haven’t been back since due to schedules and the like.  But, the thing I miss most, besides family, of course, is the street food.  My mom, my aunt, and I went crazy during my wedding shopping, getting my bridal dresses, jewelry, and the various other outfits.  Despite all the rush and chaos, we could calm down with a bowl of chaat practically everyday.  Sitting on a rickety chair with an even ricketier table at a street vendor, we would just relax with our chaat.  The scorching sun in the market, the pollution from traffic and rickshaws, the fan that was blowing around hot air didn’t even phase us.  It was our time to unwind.  Let me tell you, wedding preparations are stressful.

Now that I’m way beyond my newlywed days and back to reality, I have the responsibility of making the chaat.  As we have established before my husband is good for nothing in the kitchen.  Thankfully, chaat is simple and pantry-friendly.  I always have potatoes and chickpeas on hand.  I don’t think my household would run without them.  The tamarind chutney adds the right amount of tang.  I love tamarind, I love tamarind candies coated in chaat masala.  I am salivating just thinking about them.  (You can get similar candies in Mexican/Latin American grocery stores).  My chutney recipe isn’t 100% authentic because I make mine in 5 minutes.  The real version is slowly simmered on a stove all day and I haven’t learned how to make it yet.  My shortcut chutney is just fine for the time being.  Chaat is a nice departure from usual summer fare and could also be considered a salad of sorts.  You don’t even need to go to Pakistan to try it, but I must admit, even though mine is pretty tasty, it is not even close to Pakistani chaat.

Potato and Chickpea “Chaat” with Tamarind Chutney

Serves 3

Ingredients

2 cups cooked chickpeas

1-2 medium-sized potatoes, boiled until tender and then peeled and cut into a small dice

1/2 a medium-sized red onion, finely chopped

1 long green chili, finely chopped (seeds and ribs removed for less spicy)

1 tomato, finely chopped, optional

1/4 bunch of cilantro chopped (use as much as you like)

a few mint leaves, optional

chaat masala, (as much as you like, I like to add a lot, about 1 tablespoon, you can find it in Indian/Pakistani grocery stores, I use Shan brand)

for the Tamarind Chutney:

2 heaping teaspoons of tamarind paste

juice of 1 lime

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon chaat masala

1/4 teaspoon red chili powder (as much as you like)

1 tablespoon raw sugar

Method

First, make the chutney by combining all the ingredients for the chutney in a small saucepan on medium heat and melt the tamarind until it becomes liquidy, about 5 minutes.  If your chutney is thick, thin it out with some water.  Chill for an hour.

Next, combine all the ingredients for the chaat; the chickpeas, potatoes, red onion, green chili, tomatoes (optional), cilantro,  mint (optional), and chaat masala.  Check for salt.  I don’t add salt because the chaat masala already has it in it.  I got ahead of myself and mixed in the tamarind chutney with the chickpeas, usually I just drizzle some on top of the chickpeas.  If you would like you can mix the chutney in with the chickpeas as I did here.  Chill the chaat for an hour in the refrigerator.  Some people like to drizzle on thinned out yogurt on top as well.  Garnish with cilantro leaves and a sprinkling of chaat masala.

Chickpeas

My husband always requests this dish.  He has his set in stone favorites and maybe it is a good thing that he knows what he likes.   Chickpeas stew (channay ka salan) is a favorite of his.  My sister and I tease him with the nickname, “woohoo, channay.”  Okay, you might think we are completely bonkers, but there is a reason why we call him that.  About 3 years ago, at his sister’s wedding, my sister, my husband, and I were at the dinner buffet and my husband spotted this dish in the lineup and exclaimed, “woohoo, channay!!!”  My sister and I looked at each other in utter amazement.  Out of all the dishes, he was most excited about the chickpeas.  I was drooling over the biryani and the haleem.  The chickpeas were an afterthought to me.  Partially, because this dish is something I can easily prepare at home with almost no effort.

You could say it is good for me that he likes this dish so much.  It is so easy to prepare, much like many Pakistani dishes.  I do not post too many Pakistani dishes (although, I do cook them frequently), because a lot of them have the same ingredients with a different protein and/or vegetable combination.  I am not that adept at making some of the more difficult ones, yet.  Any Pakistanis reading this might also be unimpressed because this is a basic home-cooking recipe that xyz million people can make blindfolded.  It is also very hard to get these items to look pretty, because most dishes are stewed.  Hopefully, this one appeals to your senses!

My husband says I never give him credit for helping me choose dishes to make, so here I am giving him full credit.  Hopefully, he will be happy with this.  He will probably mock me and say, “out of all your entries, you give me a tribute in your chickpeas post!”  To this I will respond, “you were the one who ‘woohoo-ed’ over them.”

In my family, this dish is usually served for brunch, but it is also great for dinner!  Enjoy!

Spicy  Stewed Chickpeas

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

vegetable oil

3 cups of cooked chickpeas (soaked then boiled in water with a pinch of baking soda until tender)

1 medium-sized red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped finely (optional and not necessary)

1 large tomato, chopped (I prefer to purée the tomato, but chopped is fine)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

3/4 teaspoon red chili powder, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder, homemade is best

salt to taste

water

long green chilies (available at Indian/Pakistani grocery store and even at regular grocery stores, they are usually about 3 inches long and thin).

handful of cilantro, chopped

a few slices of red onion, for garnish

a little extra garam masala, for garnish

Method

Heat some oil (about 2-3 tablespoons) on medium heat in a medium-sized pot.  Add in the onions and cook until light brown, about 7 minutes.  Make sure they are not too brown, just about to turn light brown.  Add in the garlic, if you re using it and allow it to melt in with the onions.  Next add the chopped tomatoes and fry for a minute or so.  Add all the spices and allow the raw taste to cook out of the spices, about 2 minutes.  Add in the chickpeas and mix around so that everything is distributed.  Add in some water, the amount is up to you, the water will evaporate.  You can add more water as it is cooking if you do not like the consistency.  I would start with 2 cups.  Cook on medium-low heat until you do not see any individual pieces of tomatoes or onion.  The gravy should be uniform.  This will take 30-45 minutes.  About 10 minutes before it is ready I like to throw in a whole green chili for some extra flavor.  Garnish with chopped green chilies, cilantro, sliced red onion, and a sprinkling of garam masala.  Serve with fresh naans or roti.  If you are feeling decadent then try paratha or poori.

I love my food to be spicy and flavorful.  Many times, I find some cooking too bland for my taste.  Not to say that I don’t appreciate subtle and delicate flavors, I do as long as they are well-seasoned.  It is amazing to me, how taste buds can vary so much.  What is bland to me might be spicy to someone else.  By well-seasoned, I do not only mean spicy, I also mean the salt content.  Yes, salt is bad for you, but to the point where your food has no real taste?  Sometimes, I really ponder about these things.  Strange?

It’s just how my taste-buds are, I guess.  I like powerful flavors, just how I am drawn to bright and vibrant colors.  My rendition of fried rice is just that–powerful.  Savory, sweet, herbacious, and last but not least spicy.  It is in the style of Pakistani Chinese cuisine, sometimes called, Hakka Chinese.  It is of course not at all authentic Hakka Chinese, but a corrupted and masala laden version of it (in my opinion, at least).

I used ketchup, cauliflower, turmeric, and long green chilies, an out of the ordinary combination to add to fried rice, but it works.  I do not use ketchup often, not even for for French fries, so my addition here is only because it adds a great taste component.  When you are stumped on cauliflower, go Pakistani.  The South Asian flavors go so well with the bland nature of cauliflower.  Ginger and cauliflower are soulmates, I do not know how or why this pairing works, but it is one of those things just does.  Also, to keep it a little healthier I used brown rice and could hardly notice the difference.  Use any vegetable and/or meats/seafood you like or have on hand, anything works!  🙂

Sesame Chicken and Vegetable Fried Rice with a South Asian Twist

Serves 2

Ingredients

vegetable oil

1 cup of brown rice (dry), and then cooked according to instructions and cooled in the refrigerator

1 chicken breast, in small chunks

1/2 a red onion, chopped

5 cloves on garlic, roughly chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped

1/2 a head of cauliflower, in small pieces

2 cups mushrooms (any variety), sliced

1 long green chili, sliced on an angle

1/2 a bell pepper (orange, red, or yellow), in chunks

1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted

1 egg beaten

2 scallions, sliced on an angle

fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

For the sauce combine all the following ingredients together:

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons Vietnamese chili garlic sauce

2 tablespoons ketchup, preferably organic

2 tablespoons chili oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used low-sodium)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

pinch of turmeric

salt, if needed

(Extra soy sauce and hoisin sauce may be needed for the end when tossing in the rice)

Method

Saute the onions on medium high heat in a wok or large skillet until they start to become transparent.  Next, add in the garlic and ginger.  Turn heat down so that the garlic does not burn.  Add in the cauliflower and the chicken and allow them to cook, about 5-7 minutes.  Next, add in the sauce and let it to coat the chicken and cauliflower.   Toss in bell peppers and green chilies or any other vegetable you may be using.  Also, at this point, add in the toasted sesame seeds.  Cook until the chicken is done.  Move the contents to the rims of the wok and fry the beaten egg in the middle so that it is like an omelet.  Then, using your spatula break the egg up into strips and toss in the chicken and vegetables.  Turn up the heat and toss in the rice, scallions, basil, and cilantro.  If necessary, add more soy sauce and hoisin sauce to the rice.  Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, a sprinkling of chili oil, scallions, basil, and cilantro.

When I returned to my apartment from my vacation, the fridge was practically empty and nothing was in the cabinets.  I had to do a major grocery haul.  My grocery cart was exploding like a volcano and yet when I came home and put everything away it looked like I had bought very little.  Isn’t that always the case :).  But, I did stock up on olives, lemons, mint, and other Moroccan ingredients.

Oh, and guess who’s *thinking* about going back on P90-X…you guessed it, the husband.  He bought salmon filets this time instead of chicken breasts.  I think his culinary mind just might be expanding.  But, thankfully instead of 30 chicken breasts, he picked up 1 salmon filet.  Of course, he wanted me to saute the salmon and give him a side of asparagus with it.  But no!  I did not yield to the p90-X ways!

I decided to make salmon cakes slightly influenced by my Moroccan vacation.  (That is so me, I’ll probably be cooking Moroccan for 2 weeks now, hehe).  Well, Morocco was definitely sensory overload and makes you feel all inspired to bring the beauty of the cuisine into your own kitchen.  Though you probably will not find salmon cakes available in Morocco, I used Marrakech as inspiration for my dish.

My attempt at a Moroccan spice pyramid 😉

I was ready to cook up the salmon cakes and then my husband’s friend calls him to go out for dinner.  His wife was not joining them so I decided to stay home.  Therefore, I made some salmon cakes for my husband’s lunch the next day.  Much to my absolute dismay, when he got home and I asked him where they went for dinner he told me it was an Italian chain restaurant that I have not even thought about going since I was probably 7 years old.  He left my dinner for that!  I know we live in a small city, but still, there are many better options out there.  There are men for you ;).  At least he told me it was not good.  Anyway, here’s the recipe for Moroccan Spiced Salmon Cakes.  Enjoy!

Moroccan Spiced Salmon Cakes

Serves 4-5

adapted from Ina Garten’s Salmon Cakes Recipe

Ingredients

3/4 pound wild salmon filet

1/2 a yellow pepper

1/2 an orange pepper (use any colored pepper you like)

2 jalapeno peppers (seeded if you don’t want it very spicy)

7-8 baby carrots or 1 whole carrot, peeled

3 scallions

1/2 cup pitted olives

1/2 a small red onion

1 small shallot

3 cloves garlic

15-20 sprigs of chives, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano (probably the only case in which I will use dried herbs)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 egg

1/2 cup bread crumbs ( I just used old bread and toasted it and crumbled it up.)

2 tablespoons mayo

2 tablespoons creme fraiche

1 heaping teaspoon stoneground Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot sauce

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

salt to taste (1/2 tsp or so)

pepper if needed

olive oil for frying

lemon wedges for serving

lettuce of your choice for serving (I used red and green Bibb lettuce)

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the salmon on a baking tray and lightly salt and cover with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until almost done.  Meanwhile, take all the vegetables (including the olives and except the chives) and pulse them in a food processor until they still have some texture.  If you don’t have a food processor, just finely chop them all.  Lightly saute the vegetables on medium heat with the salt and a little pepper in olive oil for about 10 minutes.  Place the vegetables in a bowl and allow to cool slightly.  Next, combine the mayo, creme fraiche, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice together in a bowl.  By this time the salmon should be ready, allow it to rest for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes flake the salmon (remove skin) and combine it with the vegetables.  (If the salmon is still hot then allow it to cool down a little more.)  Next, mix in half of the mayo/sour cream mixture (reserve the rest for drizzling afterwards), the egg, and the chives with the salmon and vegetables.  Combine and add in the bread crumbs.  Allow the whole mixture to cool for at least an hour.

Heat a pan and just lightly coat it with olive oil.  Form into cakes, about the size of your palm (they don’t have to be perfect) and fry on each side until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Plate on top of lettuce or greens of your choice and with a wedge of lemon.  Drizzle a little of the remaining mayo/sour cream sauce on top, garnish with chives and serve.

Before you roll your eyes and say, “great, another chicken wing recipe,” give these a chance.  No matter how pedestrian or how “pub-grubish” wings are, you know you all secretly like them.  They are sticky, messy, spicy and most of all comforting.

Before my Mother-in-Law left for her home in Dubai she gave me an insane amount of chicken wings that she wasn’t able to prepare.  She loves to buy groceries and bought a TON, therefore I was left with wings galore :).  I separated them into smaller and more manageable packets and have only made them once for company (sesame sticky wings–on a side note; I followed a recipe from Gourmet magazine, but they disappointed me—TOO BLAND).

Back to these spicy wings, they are buffalo inspired but not so true to the original as they are not fried and have more than hot sauce and butter.  I made a blue cheese dip speckled with herbs to add some coolness to these uber spicy wings.  These weren’t spicy for me but for the average palette they would be a bit much to handle.  Take that into consideration if you have a low spice tolerance, which I most certainly do not!

Spicy Wings

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

15-20 chicken wing pieces (already separated and tips removed)

3 cloves garlic

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons, Frank’s Hot Sauce or your preferred brand

2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

1 chipotle pepper along with 1 tablespoon of the adobe sauce it comes in

juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Method

Pour all the ingredients except for the wings into a food processor or blender and pulse till combined.  Transfer the marinade over the wings for 1 hour.  Have the oven ready at 450 degrees and put the wings on a flat baking dish covered in aluminum foil.  Spray the foil with a little non-stick spray or olive oil.  Spread the wings on the tray (reserve the marinade for basting) and bake for 12 minutes.  After 12 minutes flip them over and  baste with the marinate.  Continue to bake for another 10 minutes, but baste them ocassionally.  After 10 minutes switch the oven to broil; flip the wings again and pour the rest of the marinade over the wings and broil for 3-4 minutes be careful that they don’t start to burn.  Remove and serve with the Green Goddess Blue Cheese dip and assorted vegetables.

Green Goddess Blue Cheese Dip

Makes about 3/4 cup

Ingredients

1 clove garlic

1/3 cup mayo

1/4 cup sour cream

1/3 cup crumbled mild blue cheese

juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup packed cilantro

12 sprigs of chives

1 small serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Method

Put all of the above ingredients into a mini food processor or blender and pulse until combined.  If you don’t have a food processor or blender just chop everything finely and combine in a bowl.