Saturday, June 16, 2012

curry chicken & mango salad

london, england is one of my favorite places in the world. i was lucky enough to live there twice (briefly) - once on a semester abroad and then for 6 months soon after i graduated from college. coming back after that 6 months was almost physically painful. every day for the next more-than-a-year i actively missed the city and cursed the work visa restrictions that had sent me home. 

now it's been TEN years since i was there (!). i still can't really believe it, but a combination of no money and little time (among other things) has kept me from going back to visit. i'm hoping to go soon, though, once i start raking in the big lawyer cash (ha! just kidding! i specialized in public interest law like a sucker!). now that i have several dear friends living there, it's become even more of a priority, so ojala i'll be visiting ye olde towne sooner rather than later.

in the meantime, i can make things like this curried chicken salad and pretend it's coronation chicken. during my after-college stint there, i worked as a medical secretary in an oncology hospital in central-ish london. it was somewhat depressing work, as can be imagined, but it paid well and everyone i worked with was charming. there was also an adorable little park nearby and virtually every day i would go to the pret a manger and get a sandwich, then go to the park and read. they had several iterations of coronation chicken which i never got to try, since i was a vegetarian then. but they probably weren't as good as this version, anyway, so hopefully i didn't miss out too much. 

start with perhaps a cup and a half or two cups of bite-sized-ed chicken. i like to use some white meat and some dark, because that's how i roll (flavorfully and with pleasing texture), but you can use whatever. it could be roasted or poached or even grilled. usually i just roast some bone-in breasts and drumsticks in the oven for one dinner, then use the leftovers for salad. 

i only used half a mango for this batch, but more wouldn't be bad. cutting up a mango is easiest if you slice down one of the flatter sides of it, use a knife to score the flesh in whatever size you'd like, making sure not to cut through the skin, then push it sort of inside out so you can just slice the cubes off the skin part. you probably want to cut it into pieces a little smaller than those above.

then just mix everything together, let it sit for a bit to meld the flavors better, and pile it on a sandwich or in a pita or have it with crackers or little toasts or even stuffed into tomatoes, once they get really summer-good. the curry isn't overpowering, but it's a welcome change from regular chicken salad and the sweetness of the mango and slight tartness of the yogurt are really nice. it's basically a perfect summer salad. whether you imagine yourself in london when you eat it is up to you. 

~ 1 1/2 - 2 cups chopped cooked chicken (i used about 2/3 of a large breast + 2 drumsticks)
1/4 cup each mayo and yogurt
1/8 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp curry powder
juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 a mango
handful cilantro
4 or 5 thinly sliced scallions

listening to: the herbaliser, solex

Sunday, June 10, 2012

zucchini & corn fritters with herbs and cotija cheese

tasty at room temperature, these little pancakies are perfect for zucchini season, when (possibly) well-meaning neighbors sneak up to your house and leave giant bags of them on the doorstep and you can't face one more chunky zucchini pasta thing. 

they are totes simple and work well for potlucks or a quick dinner. also you can make them teensy and pretend they're fancy appetizers. they were inspired by a recipe from the delightful nigella lawson (although, being british, she probably calls zucchini "courgettes"), but instead of being feta-y and mediterraneanish, i added corn and used cotija cheese, cilantro, and mexican spices for a more south of the border feel. i left the mint, though, because it really works here for some reason. 

the first thing to do is to get some water out of the zucchini. grate them (i used a food processor and it was so easy!), set the gratings in a strainer or colander over the sink, and sprinkle with a couple of pinches of salt. then let it sit for 20 minutes or so while you get the other stuff ready. 

i ended up using some leftover corn that we'd already grilled, but i think some nice fresh sweet corn would be fine to use raw. cut the kernels off and put them in a bowl with a couple of ounces of crumbled cotija cheese (you could also use feta or ricotta salata) and 5 or 6 sliced scallions and a handful each of cut-up mint and cilantro. 

is your zucchini done yet? after the 20 minutes (or longer), use all your might and squeeze as much liquid as possible from the grated shards. i find it mildly therapeutic. 

then mix the vegetables, herbs, and cheese together and add another pinch of salt, the zest from one lime, a minced clove of garlic, perhaps 1/4 teaspoon of chipotle powder if you have it, and 1/2 teaspoon or so of cumin. it'll still be good without the spices, but if you have them, you might as well throw them in there. 

finally, add 2 eggs, beat them a little to get things going, and then add ~ 1/2 cup of flour and mix until it all comes together. try not to go crazy with the mixing at this point, though, as you don't want the fritter-pancake things to get too tough. the batter will be quite thick, so don't freak out. it'll be fine.

i like to have two pans of these cooking at once to make it go faster. add perhaps a tablespoon of oil to a largish pan and let it heat over medium until the oil shimmers. you can use less oil and/or a nonstick pan, but the oil helps them brown and crisp up better, so keep that in mind.

then dollop the batter into whatever size you prefer. i like to flatten them down a little to ensure that the middle cooks before the outside burns. but if you like that sort of thing, by all means...

cook over medium to medium-low (depending on your stove - ours runs hot) until the outer edges are getting a nice burnishy brown. you can edge a spatula underneath to check them, but i wouldn't make a habit of it. flip and get the other side nicely brown (maybe 4 -5 minutes per side), then set them on some paper towels or a rack or something. serve with limes for squeezing over and, if you want, a simple yogurt sauce. they're good with just the lime, though. and they really are oddly great at room temperature, which is nice because you can make them ahead of time and get all freshened up before company comes over or whatever.

we have them as a side for roast or grilled chicken or fish, but they would also be a good lunch with a salad or, if tiny, as little blintze-y things to eat with a kalimoxto, some gin & elderflower, a pink greyhound, or a fruity tequila & tonic. and if you still have zucchini left over, you could try this delightful salad with corn, zucchini, tomatoes, and goat cheese.

*ingredients* serves 2-3-4 as a major side dish, more if making as appetizers
2 zucchini
1 1/2 - 2 ears of corn
~ 1/4 cup cilantro
~1/4 cup mint
~ 2 1/2 ounces cotija cheese
5 scallions
2 eggs
1 clove garlic
zest from 1 lime
1/2 cup flour
~ 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder or hot smoked paprika (optional)
~ 1/2 teaspoon cumin (optional)
pinch or two of salt (optional)

*yogurt sauce* (optional)
1/3 cup greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (or more, to taste)
pinch salt
maybe 1 tablespoon or so lime juice, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder or smoked paprika (optional)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

frozen ice cream-yogurt with cherries & yogurt-covered pretzels

 okay, real talk: if you have an ice cream maker, you owe it to yourself to make this right now. unfortunately, there are some steps involving cooling things, so it's not like you can just eat it right away, but at least you'll have it started, which is the main thing.

the base is essentially like if ice cream and frozen yogurt got together and had an adorable and tasty child. actually, it's more like frozen custard + frozen yogurt, because eggs. the important thing, though, is that it has the soft creaminess of ice cream and a little (but not too much) of the tangy-ness of frozen yogurt together in one delicious spoonful. then you gild the lily by adding lots of cherries and (meta!) chopped up yogurt-covered pretzels. the sweetness, saltiness, and crunch may just make this your new summer favorite.

there are a few different steps to this, but none are difficult or really that time-consuming. the main thing is that once you make the base and the cherries, you have to let them chill for a good long time - preferably overnight. so it's something to plan ahead for. but the anticipation just makes it better. 

i got the notion for the base for this from a recent rhubarb ice cream recipe in the ny times. i actually first used the base in a rhubarb-blackberry crumble ice cream, which was delicious but for which i forgot to make any note of amounts of things, so i can't really tell you how to make it. maybe i should revisit that soon. 

although that recipe was sort of an inspiration, the main thing i took away from it was the use of sour cream. but i never have sour cream lying around, so i used yogurt. if you've never made ice cream with a custard base (i.e., using egg yolks to thicken it), it might be somewhat intimidating. but it's really not hard. first, separate 4 eggs so they're ready to go (here's a video) - put the yolks into a bowl big enough to hold at least 3 cups. you can save the whites for something else (pavlova?!). then heat 1 cup each of milk and heavy cream with 3/4 cup sugar (in a saucepan over medium heat). stir it pretty diligently. once it's hot and the sugar has dissolved (you'll see steam, but you don't want it to boil), add it verrrry slowly to the yolks while whisking them heartily. this tempers the eggs so they don't scramble. basically i usually start with pouring it in a very thin stream for at least the first half of the milk/cream mixture, then going a little faster once the eggs are a bit heated. you can certainly find videos of this if it doesn't make sense. once everything's mixed, put it back in the pan and let it cook, stirring assiduously but not too speedily. as the custard (look! you just made a custard!) cooks, it will thicken up. most recipes say it's done when it coats the back of a spoon. here's what it looked like when i took it off the heat:

pour it through a strainer into a largish bowl. you don't absolutely have to use a strainer, but it's nice just in case there are a couple of bits of egg that have congealed. then just add a cup of greek yogurt and a teaspoon or so of vanilla, mix it up, and put it in the fridge for at least 3 or 4 hours and preferably overnight. it needs to be nice and cold before you freeze it.

you can also go ahead and make the cherries now. they need to chill, too, so you might as well get it over with. i used this recipe by david lebovitz. it was easy and worked a treat, although they didn't get as candied-y as i was expecting them to. but they are simple if you use frozen cherries and only a little less so if you use fresh and have to pit them. i am no great fan of pitting cherries (which is why i usually just eat fresh ones or use them in something like clafoutis, where they don't have to be pitted), but this was worth it. though i think frozen would be just as good. so yeah, make those and put them in the fridge.

now it's the next day and you can finally make ice cream! first, chop up ~ 3/4 cup (~ 7 ounces) of the cherries and drain them over a bowl or something (the juice is good, but you don't want it in the ice cream) for at least an hour. it would be good to do it in the fridge if you can, so they are cold. ice cream is sometimes temperamental and it's best if all of the components are cold. 

then just freeze the base in whatever ice cream maker you have according to the directions. in my kitchenaid bowl thingy it took about 15 or 20 minutes. while it's going, chop up about a cup or so (~ 5 ounces) of yogurt-covered pretzels. you don't have to be super-obsessive in chopping them - just get them roughly in bite-sized pieces. 

 when the ice cream's cold, use a sturdy utensil to mix in the pretzels and cherries, then pack it all in some airtight containers and freeze for a couple of hours. you can also eat it right away - it'll be almost soft-serve-y. you might want to make it to bring to a party or something, though, because otherwise you will want to eat. it. all. 


ice cream base
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
3/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 cup full fat greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

cherries (by david lebovitz)
1 pound cherries
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

~ 5 ounces yogurt-covered pretzels (maybe you could use regular pretzels, but yogurt ones are where it's at)

listening to: this insane and hilarious mix of songs sent in as demos in the 90s. also a preview of grizzly bear's upcoming album. and santigold. always santigold.