Sunday, July 26, 2009

Creamy Herb Dressing with Two Uses (a.k.a. Grilled, Breaded Chicken and salad)

Lately, we've been working on the part of our cookbook that we call "Two-Use Sauces." It's a kind of clumsy name for one of my favorite sections (suggestions?). It's sort of a salad dressing chapter, but it's so much more than that. In each recipe we make a no-cook sauce, usually a vinaigrette, and then divide it in half to use as both marinade and salad dressing. Sometimes there's a slight variation to the sauce to make it better for one thing or the other. This buttermilk herb dressing - yes, it's pretty much Ranch - is so good that whenever I make it I want to spread it on everything - potatoes, crackers, vegetables, hot wings...

Creamy Herb Dressing with Two (or more!) Uses
makes about 1 cup - enough for the chicken marinade and the salad dressing, or serve with a plate of hot wings or crudites

3 garlic cloves
6 sprigs fresh herbs
3 T sour cream
3 T mayo
1/4 c cider vinegar
1/4 c buttermilk
1/3 c olive oil
1/2 t mustard
salt & pepper

1 c fine, dry breadcrumbs
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
salad greens and salad accessories (tomatoes, avocado, etc...)

  • Start by making the dressing. Grind the garlic, herbs (I usually use rosemary, thyme, and oregano but you can also add/combine in basil, cilantro, dill, tarragon, etc...), salt, and pepper in a Cuisinart or something like it (or if you want to go low-tech, chop everything extra fine, put it in a jar, and shake it very very well). 
  • Add the rest of the elements, but just half of the oil, and blend. Taste to adjust salt and pepper. 
  • It should be a little strong right now, which is perfect for a marinade. Reserve about 1/4 c of the dressing for the salad and pour the rest over the chicken.
  • Finish the dressing by blending in as much of the remaining oil as you want.
  • When you're ready to cook the chicken remove it from the marinade and give it a little shake to get off the excess. Have the bread crumbs ready in a shallow bowl and coat the chicken on both sides.
  • Grill the chicken by first using indirect heat* for about 10 minutes per side. Move the chicken over the heat to toast the breadcrumbs for about 2 minutes per side (or until you like the color).
  • Compose your salad and eat!
*This just means that you keep it to the sides rather than over the flames so that the bread crumbs don't burn. You're basically using your grill like a very flavorful oven.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cilantro or Basil Pesto

This is a special post for my friends who came over for tacos the other night. I don't have a good photo of it, but I made a cilantro pesto for the tacos and I can't believe we ate it all (as usual there was way too much of everything else). It was a nice night for trying something not traditional because we made our own tortillas and Tres Leches cake, and tried to do an authentic Al Pastor pork for the filling. It was all muy sabroso!

Cilantro or Basil Pesto

3 - 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 bunches of cilantro or basil, stems removed (probably about 4 cups, loosely packed)
2 limes or 1 lemon
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cheese (parmesan with basil, half parm and half cojito with cilantro)
Salt & Pepper to taste, as usual

  • Grind the garlic and S & P in a food processor.
  • Add the cilantro/basil and the lime/lemon and grind again.
  • Add the cheese and 1/4 cup of the oil and mix it all again. Add more oil (drizzle in while it's grinding if possible) until it is the consistency you like.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I'm surprised by how hard I'm finding it to write about this simple chicken curry recipe. I think of it as the first recipe that I really developed on my own, but it's also a recipe I strongly associate with my Mom. When I was 19 and getting ready travel around the world, with a 3-month stop in India, Mom thought I should probably try Indian food before I left. We ended up at a little Indian place on Broadway (where there is now just an empty pit waiting for a train station). I don't really remember the food, but I remember how much she wanted me to be happy and fed on my long trip. We worked on this recipe together when I got back. I found several empty cans of the spice mixture (that I gave as gifts one Christmas) among Mom's things. I was gone for 9-months in the end and tried so many types of food, but the foods of France and India are the ones that have stayed with me.
I'd hate to make this curry for someone who really knows Indian food and find out that it is terrible. This has become a comfort food for me. It works just as well in the slow cooker or bubbling away for an hour on the stove top. Make up a batch of the spices and use it to coat potatoes before roasting or chicken before grilling.

Simple Chicken Curry
Spice Mix:
1 T whole mustard seed
1 T whole cumin seed
3 T ground cumin
1 T turmeric
2 T coriander
1/2 t cayenne (which makes it a little spicy)

The Rest:
1 large yellow onion, diced
6 chicken thighs or 3 breasts
3 T butter
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 T tomato paste
1 15 oz can of  Garbanzo Beans, drained
1 cup of stock (or even better a stock paste like Better Than Bouillon)
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and saute until the edges are just starting to brown. If you worry that the butter is starting to scorch, add a little oil (anything but olive) and this will stop the butter from browning.
  • Have your tomato paste and canned tomatoes ready to go, but first sprinkle all the spices over the sauteed onion. Stir the onion and spices until the bottom of the pan is starting to get coated with brown (usually the mustard and cumin seeds will just start to pop), then add the tomato paste and cook all of this until you're worried it will start to burn.*
  • Add the chicken (this should add enough juice to prevent burning, but if you're worried add just a little of the liquid from the tomatoes) and stir this for a few minutes to coat the chicken with spices.
  • Dump in your cans of tomatoes and Garbanzo Beans. If you have liquid stock, add 2 cups now. I always prefer to use a paste stock like Better Than Bouillon because then the water can come from the rinsed out can of tomatoes, the packaging is way less than liquid stock, and I can control how much I add much (I always start by making it half strength and then add more if needed).
  • Once this has started to bubble you can either put it in a slow cooker for about 6 hours on high, or reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cook on the stove for about an hour (stirring a few times to be sure it doesn't stick).
  • Serve with plain, full-fat yogurt and Basmati rice.
*This step of toasting the spices and cooking the tomato paste is really important. I do this now whenever dried spices or tomato paste are called for in a recipe (don't do it to dried or fresh herbs).

Remember, big T is tablespoon, little t is teaspoon.
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