Monday, March 27, 2006

The Spice is Right #1: Ancient Spices - Curried Chicken in Boston Lettuce Cups

Curry Powder is based largely on four spices: coriander, cumin, fenugreek and turmeric, with the possibility of many other ingredients including: Cloves, Garlic , Curry Leaves, Fennel Seeds, Ginger, Chillies, Mustard, Red Pepper, Salt, Cassia, Black Pepper, Poppy Seeds, Anise, Bengal Gram, Cardamom, Cassia buds, Celery Seed, Cinnamon, Dill Seed, Mace, Nagkeser, Nutmeg, Onion, Trifala, and White Pepper

Reasons for chosing curry powder - #1
I love the absolute smell of this spice. The second you smell it, you know what it is, and one never forgets the smell. It really is so unique, and has the power to completely transform the foods with which it is working. I don't consider it a spice that enhances, I consider it a spice that defines.

Reasons for choosing curry powder - #2
A July 11th article on titled Curry Spice Shuts Down Melanoma states that “Curcumin, the ingredient that gives curry its yellow hue, blocked the growth of melanoma tumor cells and even stimulated their death in the laboratory, researchers report.” The article then went on to highlight all the research that has been conducted about the spice and its documented cancer fighting abilities.

There have also been a number of articles describing the link between curry and decreased incidents of Alzheimers disease. Curry powder is largely composed of
turmeric. Turmeric is the source of Curcumin, among many other compounds. The other spices and herbs in curry powder, almost every one, are known from early times for improving mental functioning. This may help explain why India has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimers disease in the world.

It seems that right now, all signs point to including curry in your diet. Some unpleasantness may be noticed if one suffers from advanced gall bladder trouble, since curry powder stimulates the gall bladder. But if you do not suffer from gallbladder ailments, load it on and help your body fight disease in more ways than one. It seems this ancient spice is a wonder drug in and of itself.

Curried Chicken in Boston Lettuce Cups
I watched Dave Lieberman make this recipe and thought that it looked extremely easy and delicious and it is. I use the left over stock from cooking the chicken thighs to cook rice, cous cous or orzo. It gives more flavor than if I just used water, and it’s a great alternative to just throwing away the stock pot.

4 whole chicken thighs

1 lemon, quartered
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro stems
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3/4 cup halved seedless red grapes

Boston Bib lettuce leaves, for serving

Put the chicken thighs, lemon, cilantro leaves and stems into a skillet or saucepan. Fill with water just to cover the chicken and season generously with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cook until the chicken is tender and falling from the bones, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and allow to cool. When cool, remove the skin and strip the meat from the bones, discarding the skin and bones. Reserve the meat.

In a bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, curry, honey, and lemon juice. Stir in the scallions, celery, and grapes until combined. Add the cooled chicken meat and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve heaping portions of the salad in butter lettuce leaves.

Want to play along in the next Spice is Right Blog Event? See information at Tigers and Strawberries website.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Armoniche with Prosciutto and Spinach

I've been traveling for work and spending time in our new condo doing renovation work, so my opportunities to cook have been sparse. It was such a relief to come home last night and be able to pull together a wonderful and easy dinner. Move over Rachael Ray - I've got a 30 minute meal here that is sure to please.

When I first started cooking about 4 years ago, I was literally a novice in the kitchen. In order to cook the easiest of dishes, I needed to follow a recipe strictly outlining ingredients and directions. I knew that I was becoming a better cook when I started to pull dishes together sans recipes. I love spending time in the kitchen now and just putting ingredients together and seeing how they work.

This particular dinner came about because we had a ton of proscuitto left over after a party last week where my mom and I made a crap ton of scallops wrapped in prosciutto - which literally flew off the tables into peoples mouths, it was amazing. Anyway, the whimsy recipe is as follows:

1 lb Armoniche pasta (or whatever pasta you so desire)
3 cloves garlic
1 half red onion
proscuitto thinly sliced and chopped
1 lb organic spinach
1/2 c dry white wine
Butter and olive oil to coat bottom of saute pan

I heated the onion and garlic for a few minutes over low heat then added the proscuitto and let cook for a few minutes. When the pasta was half way done I added the spinach to the sauté pan, poured in the wine and covered until the pasta was done. After draining I added the pasta to the sauté pan and mixed together.

I sprinkled the top with parmesan cheese. Everything tastes better with a little sprinkling of the parmesan.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

30 Ain't So Bad

The day has been approaching for some time now. The day I leave the carefree twenties behind and forge into the world of the unknown. That world being the world of people in their thirties. A world where I wake up in the morning and inspect the landscape of my face for newly created lines, forage the strands of my brown hair for flickers of silver and white, and begin to think that every pain is the onset of arthritis. You know, it didn't sound so fun to me and I have not been looking forward to it.

That was until I realized that my life is awesome. I have somehow surrounded myself with the most amazing people. Beginning with my husband, who I was convinced could not surprise me for my birthday, who pulled off the most amazing weekend in the Berkshires. A weekend that I was lead to believe was going to be just the two of us, relaxing, but turned out to be a weekend filled with the company and laughter of my friends.

If the measure of a person is somehow quantified by the people who choose to share their lives with them, then I am truly a blessed person. I was so surprised that my friends drove three hours clean across the state, just to surprise me and spend time with me. Time that was well spent with multiple bottles of wine, good food and great conversation. There are certain times that you look around you and what your life has become, and you smile, because it is good. I love thirty, especially if it means that I get to grow old with these people, and experience life with these people. Especially CB, who will undoubtedly be the one to put the smile lines on the landscape of my face, because everyday that passes I am glad to be with him. To have someone in your life that can know your wants and needs without you ever having to verbalize them; that is truly amazing. That I have found that somone at the young age of thirty is the best gift of all.