Thursday, October 29, 2009

Simply the Best Curry Chicken Salad

It's that time of year... the trees are lustrous hues, the air is crisp(er), and the flu is going around like a bad catch phrase. My poor sister is the first in my family to become victim to the flu. Her school kindly said, "thanks, but no thanks" and sent her home. Presently she is quarantined in her room with a hefty supply of tissues and some on-demand movies, waiting for me to come home for the weekend with chicken soup -- my grandma's chicken soup, to be precise.

I don't mean to psych you out, but I'm not giving you the chicken soup recipe. I've been sworn to keep it secret by the powers that be (and the wrath of Flo). BUT what I can do is tell you what to do with the leftover chicken after you've made soup of any sort. Extra chicken that's begot from making stock is a magical thing: flavorful, moist, lean... perfect for chicken salad.

Let me tell you a little bit about this chicken salad:
1) No mayo, no sour cream.
2) There's curry powder in it.
3) It's amazing! You actually feel better after eating it.

Intrigued? Let's get started.

Simply The Best Chicken Salad
3 cups Shredded Chicken
*If you didn't just make soup, you can boil either a whole cut chicken, or just the breasts (if you only like white meat) until cooked.
1/4 cup Roasted Sunflower Seeds (no shell)
1/4 cup Dried Cranberries
1/2 Macoun Apple, diced small
3 tblsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tblsp Curry Powder (I like Red Curry)
Salt and Cracked Black Pepper

1) Mix the above ingredients in a bowl until well incorporated, let sit for 5 minutes for flavor to marry.

2) Enjoy!

Don't you love making salads? So easy! I felt very Emeril, as though I needed a BAM! when I threw my sunflower seeds into the bowl.

I had just came back from the gym, and this is just what the doctor ordered. I got a full serving of fruit (I made a bowl out of the other half of the apple), lean protein, healthy fats (olive oil is SO good for you), and fiber.

And, if that isn't enough to convince you, imagine the savory curry and chicken, combined with the sweet apples and cranberries, and the salt... then there's the crunch from the apples and the sunflower seeds... I can hardly contain myself. It's like a tasty party.

Simply the best.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sauteed Bok Choy and Shittake Mushroom Caps... Buddah's Delight!

Asian culture was a huge influence in my upbringing. My Aunt Debbie is my mom's sister. Growing up, she was one of my favorite people (still is). I knew her as being elusive, enigmatic, and adventurous. For the first chunk of my memory, she was living in Hong Kong. I don't remember exactly how long she was over there, I believe she was working for a bank. I do remember getting pictures in the mail, the best and most creative birthday presents ever (know anyone else who learned to use chop-sticks at the age of 4 with a Hello Kitty set?), and being completely enthralled in her bi-annual visits. She taught me as much as a 4-10 year old could absorb. I loved eating at Dim Sum restaurants with her, just to hear her order in Mandarin. She'd also pass along recipes she learned over seas, my mom had some too, and our home-made Chinese dinners were always my favorite meals.

We still make them frequently, and I've held on to most of the recipes, as well as branching out in to other Asian cuisine. My favorite times are visiting Debbie up in New Hampshire. We sit on the dock in the morning and plan a huge Chinese feast. I can remember piling in to her car and trucking down to Boston in the dead of winter to hit up the markets in China Town. Star Anise? Check. Szechuan Peppercorns? Check. Chicken Feet... ugh, check.

I promise there are no chicken feet in this recipe.

Sauteed Bok Choy and Shittake Mushroom Caps
1 Head of Bok Choy, chopped in to 1" pieces
(if Bok Choy isn't available, Chinese Cabbage will give you a similar flavor)
2 containers of Shittake Mushrooms, stemmed
2" of Fresh Ginger, pealed and chopped into sizable pieces
2 cloves Garlic, smashed and loosely cut
2 tblsp Vegetable or Peanut Oil
2 tblsp Sesame Oil
4 tblsp Soy Sauce

1) Over medium heat, heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the ginger and garlic and saute.

2) Once the garlic begins to brown, add the bok choy. Saute until the leaves begin to wilt.

3) Add the whole mushroom caps. If they seem too big to you, you can slice them in half, but there's something great about those big mushroom pieces. Add the sesame oil and sautee the vegetables until the mushroom caps are soft.

4) Finally, add the soy sauce. Just stir the vegetables until they are lightly coated. Transfer to a bowl and enjoy!

Tip: This dish takes less that 10 minutes to cook, so you want to make this last.

I'm sure I've said this before, but there are just some foods that make you feel good for having eaten them. This is one of those instances. Bok Choy is one of those veggies that stays crisp and flavorful and holds a lot of refreshing flavor, even after you cook it. Shittake mushrooms have this wonderfully earthy, meaty, flavor. They are by far one of my favorites. This is such a good vegetable dish to compliment any meal, and it's easy to make. I usually make it with a good piece of marinated steak or home made dumplings!

Yum! No forks allowed!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Vichyssoise, Sir. It's supposed to be cold.. or not?

When I was a kid I used to spend a lot of time at my Grandma Crowley's house. I always looked forward to the summer because her lawn would become riddled with onion grass. One of my favorite things to do was to pluck the little onions, which I quite vividly remember always grew around the gazebo and behind the hydrangeas. I was like a pig with truffles when it came to onion grass.

I was caught, on more than one occasion, with the stem hanging out of my mouth -- which was probably not the best idea. Man, I loved that onion grass. I remember my grandma telling me that I could make Onion Soup... I couldn't think of anything that could possibly be better than onion soup. So, in the summer, I'd sit there with my sand-castle bucket filled with luke-warm water stirring onion grass. I didn't really get why she wouldn't let me use warmer water.

Thank God for adulthood. I still think about sitting in the sun behind the hydrangeas, picking onion grass, every time I cut open a leek.

I like to keep it in the family in this recipe, the onion family. Potato Leek Soup is one of my favorites, especially when the weather gets colder. In the warmer months, I eat it cold and call it Vichyssoise which is equally (if not more) fantastic. Traditionally, Vichyssoise is served cold... I like it hot, too. I think its just a question of semantics. If it's hot, it's potato leek. Cold = Vichyssoise. Either way, its taste is heartwarming.

Potato Leek [Vichyssoise] Soup
3 Leeks, chopped
1 Shallot, minced
5-6 Cloves of Roasted Garlic
2 tblsp Butter
2 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
2 Bay Leaves
1/3 cup half and half
Black Pepper

1) In a medium sauce pan melt the butter over low heat, add the shallots and one bay leaf. Saute until the shallots are soft and sweet.

2) Add the chopped leeks to the pot and cook until they are soft, about 10 minutes, remove the bay leaf.

3) Add roasted garlic, potatoes, and stock. Turn heat to high to bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the second bay leaf and keep the lid on the pot.

4) As the soup cooks down and thickens, add liquid to keep it the right consistency, alternating broth and water. Cook until the potatoes are soft.

*Something to keep in mind is that potatoes absorb salt, so you'll definitely need a generous amount. Just make sure you are tasting as you go.

5) With an immersion blender, puree the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste, let cook for 10 more minutes.

6) Add half and half after the flavors have settled. Serve hot or cold!