Spicy Tomato Chicken Masala

This chicken is tangy, spicy, and richly fulfilling.  The vibrant spices really make the meal not only taste divine but also make it incredibly captivating for the eyes.  What’s even better is that it is super easy to cook.

Spicy Tomato Chicken Masala
Serves 4-6 full portions

Spice Mix:
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
Pinch cardamon
Pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
3 large cloves of garlic, pressed
2 serrano chilis, minced with seeds included
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons red curry paste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 lime, juiced

Spicy Tomato Chicken Masala:
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups diced onion
3 cups diced tomato
4 cups diced chicken breast
2 teaspoons arrow root
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Coarsely chopped cilantro, garnish
Kasmati rice, cooked according to package instructions

In a medium bowl, mix spice ingredients and whisk until a smooth paste forms.  Next, add canola oil to a dutch oven and bring to a medium-high heat.  Add in onions and tomatoes and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring several times.  Next, mix in spice mix and add in chicken.  Stir until all ingredients are coated with spices and cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Simmer covered for 25-30 minutes until chicken is fully cooked and tender.  Next, in a small bowl mix arrow root with 2 teaspoons of cold water until you have created a paste.  Whisk that paste into your chicken mixture in order to thicken the sauce.  Continue to stir till sauce has thickened.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve warm on a bed of kasmati rice with cilantro leaves as garnish. Enjoy!



Aloo Gobi

Strictly vegetarian and darn tasty- this Indian inspired dish is an absolute favorite of mine.  I add chickpeas to pump up the protein and really turn this into a complete meal.  Served with toasted garlic naan and a crisp IPA or even a mango lassi and you have a killer meal.

Aloo Gobi
(Serves 8-10 full portions)

Spice Blend:
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cardamon
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 serrano pepper, minced with seeds included

Aloo Gobi:
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 cups (about 3 medium) diced white potatoes
2 1/2 cups (1 large) diced yellow onion
5 cups (1 head) cauliflower florets
2 (15 1/2 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed in collander
2 cups frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lime, juiced
Cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped for garnish

In a medium sized bowl, mix all ingredients for spice blend and whisk until a smooth paste forms.  Next, add canola to a large dutch oven.  Bring to medium-high heat and add potatoes and onion.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring several times and then add in 1 cup of water along with cauliflower florets and spice blend.  Mix until spices are evenly blended and then cover with a lid.  Lower heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add in chickpeas and frozen peas and mix until fully incorporated.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  This is a large recipe so don’t be stingy on the salt.  Just taste as you go.  Finish with lime juice and remove from heat.  Top with chopped cilantro and serve with garlic naan and beverage of your choice.  Enjoy!


Steak Filet with Cabernet Sauce

Sometimes you just have to treat yourself and there’s nothing like a meat treat! Okay, meat treat may sound like a cruel high school joke but I think of it as something decadent, rich, and somewhat naughty.  Filet Steak– YES-that’s what I’m talking about.  Now add a wine based sauce to dip those tender nuggets in and you are talking a truly satisfying meal that looks as decadent as it tastes.

Steak Filet with Cabernet Sauce
Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 (6 ounce) filet steaks (cut from tenderloin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup cabernet sauvignon
1 cup beef stock
1 teaspoon minced capers
1 teaspoon dijon

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a large saute pan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Bring to high heat. Season filet steaks with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Add to a pan and make sure it sizzles! Sear on all sides about 2 minutes per side.  Then place on a baking sheet and bake till medium-rare.

A tip on perfectly cooked red meat: POKE IT! Test it with your finger–here’s the trick.

As your meat is cooking, take your saute pan and add 1 tablespoon minced garlic.  Cook on low for 1 minute with 1 tablespoon butter then add in red wine and beef stock.  Bring to a boil then whisk in dijon.  Continue cooking until the liquid has reduced by half its volume–about 10-15 minutes. Finish with 3 tablespoons of butter, stirring constantly as you add. Season cabernet sauce to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Allow steak to rest and then slice and serve along with your cabernet sauce.  Additional great sides: oven-roasted red potatoes, roasted portabella mushrooms, and steamed broccoli.  Enjoy!


Shredded Pesto Chicken Linguini

Pesto is like a secret weapon for taste. You can add it to protein, pasta, or vegetables and it tastes phenomenal.  I had pesto shredded chicken left over from a party- it made a great mini appetizer.  I was like- sandwich? salad? soup? pasta? You may be just beginning to sense my obsession here…

Shredded Pesto Chicken Linguini
Serves 6-8

3 cups basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large boiled chicken breasts (if you boil the chicken in chicken stock you create a super rich broth for use in soup-2x the chicken taste!)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large zucchini (makes 2 cups when diced)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 box linguini, cooked according to package instructions
4 cups baby arugula

To make your pesto:

In a Cuisinart, mix basil leaves, olive oil, parmesan, and pine nuts and pulse until evenly blended.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Shred boiled chicken after it has cooled and mix with pesto (add additional olive oil if necessary to spread the pesto through all the chicken).

Next, in a large saute pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bring to medium-high heat.  Add zucchini and cook for 4-5 minutes, until it starts to become tender and takes on a golden brown color. Stir in minced garlic as well as cooked linguini, chicken, and arugula (I worked in batches since its a large recipe and then stirred once cooked in a large bowl).

Mix fully and serve warm.  Enjoy!


Roasted Tomato and Shredded Beef Cannelloni

Sometimes pasta is just so appealing.  For a little something different I stuffed these cannelloni noodles with a shredded, mushroom infused beef instead of a typical cheese or ragu filling.  The roasted tomatoes add a freshness and a depth of flavor to take the whole idea of an oven baked Italian dish and make it even more enticing.

Roasted Tomato and Shredded Beef Cannelloni
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups beef broth
1 large handful of shiitake mushrooms (about 2 cups with stems), washed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sherry
5 tablespoons Boursin cheese
1 package cannelloni pasta (cooked according to instructions)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

In a large sauté pan add canola oil and bring heat to high.  Season beef generously with salt and pepper.  Working in batches, begin to sear the beef, about 2 minutes per side.  Work until all beef is fully browned on all sides.  Set beef aside.

Remove the stems from your shiitake mushrooms and dice the caps finely.  Add the stems to a medium-sized stock pot.  Cover with beef stock.  Then add the diced caps to your saute pan along with olive oil and cook over medium-high heat for about 1-2 minutes.  Add in sherry and cook until liquid is no longer visible.  Set aside mushrooms.

Bring the stock pot with beef broth to a simmer and add in seared beef.  Cover and simmer mixture for 2 hours (until meat is tender when pierced with a fork).  If you really want super tender shredded beef another way of going about it is using a slow cooker and cooking your meat the night before.

As your meat is cooking, you can get started on your tomato sauce:

Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cup small diced onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (28 ounce) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, pressed
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 (16 ounce) carton cocktail tomatoes
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

In a large sauté pan add 1 tablespoon olive oil and bring to medium-high heat.  Add in onions and cook 2-3 minutes until onions start to become translucent.  Add in pressed garlic, canned tomato sauce, and basil.  Keep at a simmer.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Rub cocktail tomatoes with remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 20 minutes then add them to the simmering tomato broth.  They will easily break apart in the sauce with a wooden spoon.  Continue to simmer sauce as meat cooks.  Then finish with red pepper flakes and smoked paprika.  Season to taste and remove from heat.

Once meat is tender, remove and shred with a fork.  Discard mushroom stems and return remaining broth to the stove.  Simmer until the broth has reduced by half and is nappe consistency (meaning it coats the back of a spoon when you put it in to test).  Add shredded beef to the reduced stock.  Add in cooked mushrooms and boursin cheese and stir until all elements are blended and the result is creamy, flavorful, and richly meaty.

Next, fill the bottom of a 9 x 12 inch baking pan (its sides need to be at least 2 inches high) with 2 cups of prepared tomato sauce.  Then, carefully stuff the cannelloni pasta with your shredded beef mixture.  Layer the stuffed cannelloni in rows and cover with 2 additional cups of tomato sauce.  Finish with shredded parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 450 oven for 40 minutes.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!

Eggplant Caprese Salad

Upping the ante on a traditional caprese salad- I added breaded and fried eggplant.  That’s right all the wonders of eggplant parmesan in classy appetizer form–winner!

Eggplant Caprese Salad
Serves 4

1 cup basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup shaved parmesan
4 tablespoons olive oil

Eggplant Caprese:
1 medium eggplant (the smaller and more cylindrical the better for plating)
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large tomatoes on the vine (or heirloom), cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 (8 ounce) ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch slices
Balsamic vinegar to finish
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  Then, in a Cuisinart, mix all pesto ingredients and pulse until a smooth paste forms.  Set aside.

Next, start a breading station for your eggplant:

Fill one bowl with flour, one with breadcrumbs, and in the remaining bowl mix the egg with 1 tablespoon of water-whisking to blend.

Peel your eggplant and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Start by dredging the slices in flour, dusting off excess, and then dipping into egg wash.  Finish in breadcrumbs and repeat till all slices are breaded.

In a large saute pan add 2 tablespoons olive oil and bring to medium-high heat.  Fry eggplant in batches until golden brown (3-4 minutes per side)-add remaining olive oil between batches.  When finished place onto an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  Pat off excess oil with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble salads: start with your largest slices of fried eggplant, then spoon a 1/2 teaspoon of pesto on top.  Stack a slice of mozzarella and a tomato on top of that and repeat till you have two tiers.  Finish with a dollop of pesto and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  Season slightly with salt and freshly ground pepper and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

Okay onto the classics! I used to beg for chicken pot pie as a kid.  It’s decadently hearty and so utterly comforting.  When you make it yourself it is even better–oh so much better.  Though the recipe may seem complicated it really isn’t.  If you don’t have time to do it all at once- just make your crust and velouté in advance then refrigerate until you’re ready to throw it all together.  It’ll be worth the wait.

I started by taking a derivative of the Betty Crocker pie crust recipe that is known so well.  Betty herself says that pie is the ultimate “man bait”–well, not exactly in those words–but I’m sure we shared the same sentiment. Now for my crust–instead of the shortening or lard that she suggests I just use good ol’ simple butter–much less scary than lard–and really a lot more appealing.  Here goes:

Individual Chicken Pot Pies
Serves 4)

2 cups all purpose flour
10 2/3 tablespoon butter (its better if you keep the butter in the refrigerator or even freezer)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4-5 tablespoons cold water

Bowls: to make individual pot pies instead of one large one, I used 4 large Pyrex custard bowls measuring 4 inches on the diameter at the top to 3 inches at the bottom with a height of 2 inches. But any oven-safe bowls or mini pie tins will work well.

In a large bowl, add flour and slice in cold butter (you are using cold butter so that it won’t start to melt as you work–very important).  Add in salt and then mix with your hands until butter and flour form an even grainy mixture– breaking apart large butter clumps as you go.  When mixture is even in consistency, start adding in your cold water one tablespoon at a time.  When you can pull the dough away from the bowl to form two compact balls you are done.

Lightly flour the surface of a table or large cutting board. I also flour my rolling pin to prevent it sticking as well.  Next, take one of your dough balls and begin to roll it out into a thin circle.  As I go, I make sure to turn my dough and add extra flour to avoid the dough sticking– this especially important with a butter crust.  Here’s a great look at rolling out dough if you need a little more help: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/11/pie-crust-103-rolling-and-crimping/.

Once you have a thin and evenly rolled dough, start cutting out circles for the top of your crust.  I simply inverted my oven-safe bowls and pressed them down like a cookie cutter to mark the dough. Then I took a paring knife and cut out those circular shapes.  You should have enough dough left to fill the pie base of one of your custard bowls.

Roll out the remaining dough and then divide it into 1/3’s and cut each section apart– they will not be perfectly circular–just give yourself enough to work with and pinch the dough to make it even.  Since it is a butter crust you can work as you go, filling in holes with extra dough scraps.

Take one of the dough 1/3’s and fold it in half–then place it into your custard bowl.  Unfold the dough and gently press it around to fill the shape of the bowl.  Make sure it reaches up on all sides to the top–add in extra dough in places or pinch out as needed.  Then trim the extra with a paring knife.  Repeat procedure until all bowls are filled with crust.

If you want to save the dough for later and will not finish the recipe tonight: spread parchment paper on a cookie sheet, and place your pie crusts and pie bowls onto the cookie sheet.  Cover tightly with saran wrap and place in refrigerator so that pie crust will maintain its integrity until you are ready finish the recipe.

Velouté Sauce

This is a creamy, chicken flavored sauce that you can use as is or that can serve as the base for many other wonderful sauces.  You start by using a roux (a mixture of butter and flour) which is used in quite a few recipes, many of them Cajun based such as gumbo.  And then by adding that roux to your chicken stock and allowing to simmer you create a rich and thick base for your chicken pot pie.

4 cups of homemade chicken stock (you can substitute store bought if needed)
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
Salt and white pepper to taste

(okay I love herbs and other aromatics so I also included a dash of: poultry seasoning, a dash more ground thyme, and a dash of garlic powder.  My dashes are less than 1/4 teaspoon-more a quick shake of the wrist)

Start by bringing your chicken stock to a simmer in a medium sauce pan.  In a separate small pan, mix your butter with flour over medium heat, stirring frequently.  You don’t want to brown either ingredient- you just want to cook long enough to incorporate the two and remove the taste of the flour– about 2-3 minutes should do it.  Next whisk your roux into your chicken stock and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.  Season with salt and white pepper to taste and finish with a dash of poultry seasoning, thyme, and garlic powder.  Allow to cool and set aside.

Individual Chicken Pot Pies:
1 cup small diced, peeled white potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
1 cup (1/2 pound) diced chicken breast
1 cup frozen peas and carrots mix
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425F.  In a small stock pot, add diced potatoes and cover with water by 1/2 inch, salt heavily.  Bring to a boil and then immediately strain.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan add olive oil and onion and cook on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add in steamed potatoes, rosemary, and sage and cook for 5 minutes.  Then add in diced chicken and saute another 5 minutes until chicken is just fully cooked. Add in frozen peas and carrots and season with salt and pepper.  Cook 1-2 minutes till vegetables have defrosted, stirring often and then remove from heat.

To assemble and complete those gorgeous meat pies: take each bowl of the pie crust and fill with 1 cup of chicken and vegetable mix.  Then top with 1/2 cup of prepared veloute.  Finish with a circular pie top then with a fork press down on all sides to create a finish along the outside of your crust.  Using a pairing knife slice a small X in the center of the pie to allow steam to release.  Repeat on the 3 remaining pies.  Then pop the pot pies on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet in the oven and cook till golden brown (40-50 min).

Serve warm-but remember this is bubbly, delicious chicken pie goodness so don’t just dig right in and pop it in your mouth-HOT.  Let it cool a bit then enjoy.


Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

(serves 3-4)

prep time: 20 minutes

cook time: 30 minutes

Rainy days bring my appetite to soup.  I want something warm and utterly comforting.  Now, broccoli not every child’s favorite becomes an instant classic once you cream it into a soup and add extra sharp cheddar cheese for extra flavor.

2 tablespoons butter, divided

2 cups diced yellow onion

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

salt and freshly ground pepper

4 large cloves garlic, pressed

4 cups homemade chicken stock

3 cups coarsely chopped fresh broccoli

1 cup sliced scallions

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 cups of blanched small broccoli florets for garnish

In a medium-large stockpot, add 1 tablespoon of butter and bring to medium-high heat.  Add in onion and mustard seeds and cook about 5 minutes (until the onion is translucent).  Season slightly with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Add pressed garlic cloves and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.  Then add in chicken stock and broccoli.  Cook 10 minutes then add in scallion.  Finish cooking for 5-8 minutes until broccoli is tender.

Remove from burner and stir in cheddar cheese and cream.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and then finish by swirling in remaining butter.

Spoon into serving bowls and top with broccoli florets for garnish.  Serve warm.

Hurricane Brunch

Hurricane Brunch

Well, Irene has come and gone and now its time to eat up the ridiculous amount of supplies I had compiled to weather the storm.  I’d say its time for a little hurricane festivities to celebrate making it to Sunday dry-well we are speaking about the weather here-my supplies definitely included the necessary wine and spirits.


Tropical Fruit Platter

Caesar and Cilantro Deviled Eggs

Chicken Salad Sandwich Rolls

Music Suggestions:

I’ve got my love to keep me warm (Ella Fitzgerald)

Stormy weather (Billie Holiday)

Come on Irene (Dexy’s Midnight Runners)–sorry couldn’t help myself

Tropical fruit platter: slice one mango, one ripe nectarine, and one star fruit.  Layer on a plate and top with a handful of raspberries.

Caesar and cilantro deviled eggs:  6 hard boiled eggs, 2 teaspoons favorite caesar dressing, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon minced cilantro, salt and freshly ground pepper, dash of hot smoked paprika, one cornichon sliced thin for garnish.

Chicken salad sandwich rolls: 1 cup of cooked chicken meat, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons thinly sliced celery, 2 tablespoons raisins, dash poultry seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, salt and freshly ground pepper.  Assemble with romaine lettuce in small potato rolls (I used 2 hot dog rolls sliced in 1/3’s)

Sauted Kielbasa and Portabello Mushroom

Sauted Kielbasa and Portabello Mushroom

Fast, delicious, and super meaty this recipe makes a fantastic side or an easy entree once you add rice. It also goes great as an accompaniment to a tortilla espanola.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 (8 ounce) carton of baby portabello mushrooms, washed, stems removed, quartered

1 tablespoon sherry

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 (14 ounce) turkey kielbasa, sliced

1 roasted red pepper, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon Tapatio or favorite hot sauce

1/4 cup sliced scallions

Add olive oil to a large saute pan and bring to medium-high heat.  Add in mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes.  Pour in sherry, season with salt and pepper (don’t over season since kielbasa is salty by nature), and cook until almost dry (about 2-3 minutes).  Add in kielbasa, red pepper, garlic, and paprika.  Cook for an additional 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently.  Finish by mixing in hot sauce and serve warm.  Garnish with scallions.