Monday, March 3, 2008

Garlicky shrimp and spinach with pasta

Major confession: this is one of my "toss stuff in a pan" dinners where I don't measure anything. So if you're okay with figuring out what works for you, then read on. If not, then read on anyway!

Garlicky Shrimp and Spinach with Pasta

shrimp (I used frozen, uncooked, peeled shrimp -- fresh would be better)
spinach (I used frozen chopped spinach - fresh baby spinach would be nice here)
olive oil
minced garlic
salt & pepper
crushed red pepper
parsley flakes (yes I know fresh is better, but this is what I had)
lemon juice
"light" butter spread (you can use real butter if you want) (or use fake butter spray if you're being REALLY good)
pasta (I used Ronzoni Smart Taste rotini)

Start boiling water in a saucepan for the pasta. Make the pasta according to directions on package. While cooking pasta, start shrimp and spinach.

Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add shrimp and spinach -- all the water will come out so you're kinda steaming it all. Cook off the water, then add the olive oil and minced garlic, salt & pepper, and crushed red pepper. Cook for a few minutes, the shrimp should be nearly cooked at this point. Now add a small spoonful of the light butter spread, the lemon juice, and the parsley flakes. It should smell very yummy at this point.

Once the pasta is done, drain it. By this point the shrimp and spinach should be done, so dump the pasta into the frying pan and mix it all up. Try to coat the pasta with the garlic and spinach. Taste for seasoning and add whatever you think is lacking. Does it taste right?

Eat up! I sprinkled a little parmesan cheese on mine and we served with garlic bread. If you're piggies like us you'll eat the whole pan and won't have yummy leftovers for the next day.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Recipe Review: Chicken Korma

Mmmm, chicken korma. So many versions, not enough time to try them all! I think every recipe I've looked at or tried is different, so I'm not really sure what is a "true" korma. What korma means to me is a dish with a fragrant, creamy, light-colored gravy. Is that vague enough?

Anyway, I've tried making korma on my own based on what I thought it had in it or based on one of those conversations with your mom where they don't really tell you amounts or precise steps, but rather what's in it. These usually result in something that smells kind of like what I remember but something still isn't right. I tried making a korma out of a low-fat Indian cookbook that was okay, but didn't quite taste like what I remembered either. I didn't want to try recipes that looked too involved or required me to make a nut paste since I'm lazy and that's not really how it was made at home. I'm sure someday I'll get around to trying all the different recipes, but for now I wanted something that tasted familiar. I think I've come close, even though it may not be exactly how my mom makes it.

As you know, I've been on a cookbook buying spree the past couple months. Before I buy something I usually research it, unless it's one of those cookbooks in the bargain book section at Borders or Barnes and Noble, and then I grab, buy, and question its usefulness later because it may not be there next week. Anyway, in my Amazon-fueled research, Julie Sahni's "Classical Indian Cooking" kept popping up as a must-have. Indeed, I remembered that we even had a copy of it at my parents' house so I figured it must be pretty good. So to get to the point, I bought it, perused it, and decided that I needed to test it so I figured making the chicken korma recipe was a good start because it met my criteria of no nut pastes, no long spice lists, and low-complexity.

Verdict? Good call! It smelled so freakin' good as it was all cooking and we were not disappointed when dinner came around. It got a thumbs-up from both the hubby and me.

And as usual, I have to tweak something in each recipe I try. In this case, I used boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of the breasts specified in the recipe, drastically reduced the amount of oil called for, used nonfat plain yogurt, and opted out of the heavy cream originally called for at the end of the recipe.

Chicken Korma


1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tbsp. canola oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp ginger paste
12 cardamom pods (I smashed them slightly)
24 whole cloves
4 bay leaves
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 tsp salt

Heat the oil over medium-high in a large pan and add the onions, cooking for a few minutes, then adding the garlic and ginger. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the whole spices and keep cooking until the spices and onions begin browning. Don't brown it too much if you want your korma paler than mine looks in the picture.

Add the coriander and cayenne pepper. Now begin adding the yogurt a few spoonfuls at a time, combining thoroughly each time. The onion-yogurt mixture will be really thick at this point. Add the chicken and make sure everything is combined thoroughly. Cook for a few minutes to brown the chicken. Add the salt and water, stirring before you lower the heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes. If the gravy is still liquidy, then increase the heat and keep stirring so that the gravy reduces. You want the gravy to be thick and clinging to the chicken. Adjust salt if necessary.

This makes about 4 servings. We ate it with regular long-grain white rice, but basmati would be better.

Recipe Review: Achaar Gosht

I will admit to being an achaar addict. Even if my food is spicy and flavorful enough, I always feel that some achaar will make it even better. I love it -- spicy, sour, hot, what's not to love? If it tastes good with my food, then why not go one step further and cook it with my food? Well, I guess I wasn't the only one with this idea, because I've seen this dish in cookbooks and in the prepackaged spice mixes at the Indian stores.

This is a recipe I've actually made a few times before, all to rave reviews. Unfortunately I can't take credit for the recipe. I discovered this gem in Anjum Anand's book "Indian Every Day," and I'm so glad I gave it a try. It earned me brownie points with the in-laws AND my parents!

I tweaked the recipe a bit for my tastes -- Anand's original recipe calls for lamb, which I'm not so fond of, so I used beef. But if you like lamb or goat, then go for it. She also calls for cumin seeds, brown mustard seeds, fennel seed, nigella seeds, and fenugreek seeds individually. Since panchforan mix contains all these ingredients and I'm lazy, I just used that instead. One thing I didn't tweak was the mustard oil. I think that and the unique spice mixture are the key to the dish.

Achaar Gosht


2 tbs. mustard oil
5 tsp. panchforan mix (or 1 tsp each of the spices listed above)
2 small onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp ginger paste
2 serrano chilis
2 tsp. coriander powder
1 lb. beef -- I use stew meat from Publix
3 cups hot water
1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tsp crushed black pepper
1 tsp garam masala
salt to taste
2 tbsp lemon juice

Heat the oil in a large pan on high heat and then reduce to medium. Add the panchforan and fry until the seeds start sputtering. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger and cook for a few minutes, until the onions begin to brown. Now add the chilis, coriander powder, and meat, bringing the heat back up to high so that the meat browns after a few minutes. Lower the heat again to medium and keep stirring for about 10 minutes.

Add salt, stir, and then cover and lower heat to medium-low. After about 10 minutes, add half the water and stir again. Cook beef for an hour and a half or until tender, adding small amounts of water and stirring periodically. You don't want the mixture to burn and start sticking to the bottom of the pan.

When the beef is done, add the yogurt and rest of the water, combining thoroughly. Increase the heat and stir the beef in the gravy for about 10 minutes or until the gravy begins to reduce and thicken around the beef. Add the lemon juice, crushed black pepper, and garam masala. Add more salt if needed.

This makes about 4 servings and goes great with basmati rice, pita bread, or parathas.