"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Recipes–Cold Curried Chicken Salad; Cold Asian Eggplant; and Hummus

These recipes are very simple, tasty, and also go well together. The chicken and eggplant dishes require a little watching to be sure they are cooked right, neither over- nor underdone. The advantage to these dishes is that they can be made beforehand and all benefit from sitting for a few hours or more. There are many good varieties of prepared hummus around, but with this recipes you can control the taste.  Often the store-bought varieties have too much garlic and salt, and are meant for nibbles before dinner.  This recipe is for the hummus to be one of the dishes of the meal.

Cold Curried Chicken Salad

This recipe is for four people.  The only trick is not overcooking the chicken; and I will give some tips below on how to avoid this.

* 3 –4 lg. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (sometimes the breasts are really big, probably a half-pound each; other times they are smaller)

* 2-3 cups whole milk yoghurt (if you are really particular about fat, you can use lowfat yoghurt; but the whole milk variety gives creamy texture and there is no risk of separation

* 1 cup sour cream (same issue as above – whole fat sour cream is best)

* 2 Tbsp. Madras curry powder (this is approximate.  Tasting for strength is the only way, and it is hard to put in too much)

* 1 Tbsp. ground cumin

* 1 Tbsp. sweet mango chutney

* 3-4 shakes hot pepper flakes

* 1 Tbsp. sugar (more, if necessary, to taste)

* 1 cup hydrated, halved prunes (or raisins). 

* 1/2 cup salted, roasted almonds (you can get good ones at Whole Foods or most supermarket.  If you prefer, buy the unroasted ones and roast yourself in iron skillet, no oil, until they are slightly blackened.  Careful not burn).

- Boil the whole chicken breasts in enough water to amply cover them.  The cooking time will depend on the size of the breasts, but they should be first checked after 10 minutes, no more.  While cooking you can take one out, poke it, and if juices are pink, more cooking is required.  Also, the breast should give a little to the touch, and if it is not done, it will be soft.  You do not want them to be cooked until they are hard.  Take the thickest one out after 10 minutes or before if you suspect they are done, and cut a large piece off the end.  If they are done, there should be no red, raw part on the inside.  They should be not quite cooked, for when you remove them, they will continue to cook.

- Let the breasts cool, then cut them into 2” cubes, letting them drain on the cutting board. This is important because you want as little running juice as possible in the curry sauce

- Mix all the above ingredients in a serving bowl, taste and adjust for spices, add salt to taste

- Add the chicken pieces, mix well, chill and serve.

Cold Asian Eggplant

* 1 1/2 lg. unpeeled eggplant, cut into 2” pieces (the skin adds a lot of flavor to the dish, and after grilling will not be tough)

* 1 Tbsp. olive oil for sauce, and 1 tsp. for broiling

* 2 tsp. (approx.) soy sauce

* 2 tsp. (approx.) balsamic vinegar

* 1 tsp. sesame oil

* 3-4 shakes hot pepper flakes

- Spread the eggplant pieces on an oven tray, covered with tin foil (the tin foil is only to save work cleaning the tray)

- Broil for about 10 minutes (pieces should be lightly browned)

- Add a drizzle of olive oil, then mix them well with a spatula (you don’t have to do piece by piece, just turn and mix)

- Broil for another ten minutes or so, checking frequently to be sure the pieces are browning but not burning.  They will be done when all pieces have browned and they are still a bit soft, but not underdone.  Eggplant is one of those vegetables that is not very appetizing if undercooked (watery and strong taste), but delicious when cooked right

- Put in a serving bowl and add the above ingredients.  Mix well, taste, adjust if necessary, finish with a few grindings of fresh black pepper

- Chill and serve

Homemade Hummus

* 1 can garbanzo beans, drained

* 2 heaping Tbsp. tahini (easily available these days in supermarkets)

* 1 lg. lemon, juiced

* 1 lg. clove of garlic, chopped

* 5-6 black Greek olives

* 1Tbsp. olive oil plus 2 tsp. for garnish

* 1-2 Tbsp. water

- Put the beans, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil in a blender and blend until smooth.  You may have to add water to get the right consistency, and you will know the mixture is too thick if the blender is having trouble blending.  Taste for the ingredients, and add if necessary and to your taste.  I do not put salt because the garbanzos are already salted, but taste and add if you want.

- Pour the hummus on a serving plate, drain the  the black olives well, and place them however you want (presentation).  It is important to drain the olives because the black juice will stain the hummus if you don’t. 

- Drizzle the olive oil in swirls over the hummus, add grindings of black pepper and serve.

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