Five Minute Meal: Chili Shrimp

I really love shellfish, almost all of them, and especially when they are cooked with Asian and Indonesian flavors like sambal oelek (chili paste), soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Recipes like this pop up a lot when the sun is out and the grill is hot, but in the meantime, it makes a nice dish for a chilly night in too.

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Equipment:
1 large nonstick pan
1 large microwave-safe bowl
tongs
plastic wrap

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Homegrown Summer Ghee

I’m sure by now you have heard plenty about clarified butter. No? Let me explain, ’cause it’s pretty wonderful. Clarified butter, also known as ghee, is made by separating milk solids from butterfat and removing them. This Yahoo article sums it up quite nicely: “A staple of Ayurvedic medicine and Indian cuisine, ghee is made by heating butter until the milk solids are separated and then removed, meaning it’s not dairy, just fat—mostly saturated—which is essential to brain health, muscle recovery, and immunity.” … “It’s ideal for cooking at high heat (less prone than olive oil to go rancid when crisping or frying). And, with a rich, nutty flavor, it’s delicious on everything from lobster to Brussels sprouts.”

Now that you know the truth, it’s easy to see why the dairy-free product has become so popular with slow carb and paleo eaters. The best part is… it’s ridiculously easy to make. I’ve made clarified butter before, it really is quite simple, but I tried a few new things this time and it’s pretty damn hard not to eat this batch straight off a spoon!

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Putting my little garden to work! Fresh homegrown basil.

Appliances/Equipment: 
1 large pot
1 fine mesh strainer (small)
1-2 ice cube trays
1 sealable container (preferably glass)
Measuring Teaspoon
Measuring cup or small pitcher
Large bowl or pitcher with pouring spout

Ingredients: 
~ 1 lb grass-fed butter, unsalted
4 oz fresh basil (bonus points if it’s homegrown!!)

Cut butter into chunks and add to a clean pot. Over medium-low heat, melt butter until completely liquefied, stirring often to prevent burning. While the butter is melting, rinse basil with cold water. Gently pat/roll dry with a paper towel and remove all leaves from the stems – I do this by lightly pinching the base of the leaf between my thumb and forefinger and it just pops right off; discard the stems.

Lay the leaves out and pat both sides dry again. Using your hands, tear the basil into small pieces – small enough to fit several into each individual ice cube mold (but don’t throw them in yet).

Once the butter has melted completely, remove it from the heat. Set up your strainer or a piece of cheesecloth over a large bowl or pitcher and pour the liquid through – this is the first step in separating the milk solids from the butterfat.

Now, set the strainer over a measuring cup and pour butter through again – you don’t actually need to measure anything here, I just found my measuring cup to be the best shape for the steps that follow.

At this point, you should see the butter start to separate – the milk solids will sink to the bottom while the butterfat will float to the top. Using a measuring teaspoon, layer a small amount of the butterfat only into the bottom of each ice cube mold. On top of this base layer, place a small piece of basil. Cover with butter and repeat the butter-basil layering process until all the cubes are full – I think I got 8-10 pieces of basil in each one, possibly more. Remember to only use the butterfat for this, the idea is to keep it separate from the milk solids!

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So I used an entire pound of butter for this and ran out of ice cube trays. If you encounter the same problem, you can repeat the layering process on a larger scale in any container with a lid, but glass is preferable. Remember to put a layer of the butterfat in first so the basil doesn’t stick to the container.

Place ice cube trays in the refrigerator until the ghee solidifies – at least 12 hours. You can toss them into the freezer just like that, or if you are lazy like me, bang them all out at once and store them in the freezer in a ziplock bag for easy access later on.

Enjoy!

I’ve already used these little ghee cubes a few times and they paired wonderfully with my Saturday Morning Shakshuka and my Thai-ish Spicy Peanut Chicken.

Red Lentils are Dal-icious!

Red Lentil Dal w/ Chorizo

Dal. Daal? Dahl? However you spell it, the stuff is awesome. My first attempt was stove top with yellow split peas, and while it too was delicious, I’ve moved to a way easier and less-involved process: this time, I’m whipping out the crock pot!

Packed with protein and a pretty hue, I went with red lentils this time, but I think yellow split peas will work just fine (let me know if you try it out).

Ingredients: 
4 cups red lentils
2 medium yellow onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced (or Dorot cubes)
3 heaping tsp minced ginger (from a jar is fine)
6 cups (1.5 qt) chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup coconut oil
8 oz baby spinach

Seasoning: 
1 tbsp curry powder
2.5 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp celery salt

Appliances/Special Equipment: 
Slow Cooker/Crock Pot

Rinse lentils in a fine mesh strainer under cold water for two minutes. Drain, pick out any discolored pieces, and add to crock pot. Melt coconut oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat and mix with minced garlic and ginger. Add diced onion and sauté until fragrant, about 5 minutes, then add mixture to crock pot (the whole thing, just dump it in).

Add four cups of stock to the crock pot as well as all seasoning. Mix well. Set crock pot to high, cover, and allow to cook for two hours; mix every 20-30 minutes.

After two hours, add the remaining two cups of stock to your dal-in-progress. Set crock pot temp to low and continue cooking for an additional two hours; mix every 20-30 minutes.

Sort through spinach leaves, removing any wilted or chewed up pieces, and add as much as you like to your dal (in the crock pot). We usually use about half of the large plastic tubs (8 oz). Mix spinach into dal, cover with lid, and allow to cook for an additional 10 minutes or so, until the spinach has wilted.

Serve immediately; as is, with chorizo (pictured), fried eggs, or any number of other dishes.

Red Lentil Dal w/ Chorizo

Recommended Pairings:
Nice Rice! Cauliflower
Thai-ish Spicy Peanut Chicken
Chicken Satay-Kebab with Peanut Sauce
Coconut-Curried Chicken

Coconut-Curried Chicken & Broccoli

I won’t pretend to know a whole lot about Indian or Thai cuisines, but I do love the flavor profiles most commonly associated with these dishes and crave them often – especially with chicken. We picked up a 5 lb bag of frozen chicken breasts from Costco a few weeks ago, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to play around and came up with this tasty stir-fry-esque dish.

You will need to prepare a few hours ahead of time (or even the night before) so the chicken has time to marinate.

Ingredients: 
3 large, boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 medium yellow onion, sliced into thin half-moons
2 cups broccoli florets
2 tbsp vegetable/olive oil, for cooking
Sriracha, for serving (optional, but recommended)

For the brine:
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp cayenne
1.5 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp onion powder

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In a small dish, combine all herbs and spices for marinade and set aside – do not add coconut milk at this stage. Rinse chicken breasts with cold water and pat dry; cut into 1/2″ – 1″ size pieces, they should be a smidge larger than bite size. Since I was using frozen breasts, I cut them before they were completely defrosted to get really nice clean slices and finished defrosting them in warm water for a few minutes.

Add chicken pieces to a large ziplock bag and cover with 2 cups of unsweetened coconut milk. Add your spice mixture to the bag and seal, removing as much air as possible without making a huge mess. Mix the chicken, coconut milk, and spices inside the ziplock bag by tossing and turning it (though I would refrain from lifting it completely upside down). Once the mixture looks uniform, place the bag in a large bowl (to prevent a mess in the event of a leak) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, up to 24.

Cut larger broccoli florets in half, lengthwise, and discard any offensively large stems (this step is completely optional, I am just really picky about broccoli and this is one of the few dishes that will get me to eat it …yes I’m 25).

Heat a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat and add 1-2 tbsp of vegetable or olive oil. Drain chicken in a strainer and allow to drip for a few minutes, removing as much of the marinade as possible. Add broccoli and onion to the pan first, cooking for 2-3 minutes before adding chicken. Cook chicken and veg at medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked through and browned on all sides.

Serve immediately as is or with Sriracha for an added kick.

Chicken Satay-Kebabs & Peanut Sauce

Inspired by Moroccan flavors, a craving for peanut sauce, and beloved ingredients in my pantry, I had a ton of fun experimenting with the marinade for this satay/kebab mashup today. If you are using wooden skewers, you should soak them in water for about 30 minutes before cooking to prevent the meat from sticking. Unfortunately I was super excited about this recipe and prepared the marinade before realizing that I (a) am out of skewers, and (b) no longer have a grill pan, so my photos won’t be exactly what I envisioned but the taste was all there!

A sneak peek into my brainstorming session

A sneak peek into my brainstorming session (click to buy your own Smashbook from Amazon)

Ingredients: 
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lemon, juiced (~2 tbsp)
1 tsp minced garlic (~2 cloves)
2 tbsp olive oil + more for cooking

For Peanut Sauce: 
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (creamy)
1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
1.5 tbsp tamari
1-2 tsp sriracha
1 tsp lime juice
1/4 cup hot water
salt to taste

Seasoning: 
1.5 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp ground ginger

Skewer-less, we got creative with toothpicks for serving.

Skewer-less, we got creative with toothpicks for serving.

Cut the chicken into 1″ pieces. In a small bowl combine: olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and all seasoning/spices (paprika, turmeric, cumin, salt, cayenne, pepper, coriander, celery salt, onion powder, ground ginger) and mix well. Combine chicken and spice mixture in a Ziploc bag, toss to coat, and marinate in refrigerator for at least one hour (overnight is fine too).

When ready to prepare, heat olive oil in a grill pan on medium-high heat (if you do not have a grill pan, a regular skillet will do). Slide several pieces of chicken onto each skewer and place in the pan. Grill until cooked through, 4-5 minutes per side. As stated above, I realized late in the game that I didn’t actually have skewers at home so I just sautéed all the chicken at once, cooking time is the same.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the peanut sauce. In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, rice vinegar, tamari, sriracha, and lime juice. Mix well. Add hot water 1 tbsp at a time to thin out the sauce, mixing well before adding more, until you reach desired consistency. I only ended up using 3 tbsp of hot water, but to each his own – there is no wrong answer here.

Serve chicken satay-kebabs immediately with peanut sauce and additional sriracha if desired.

Nice Rice: Cauliflower

I’ve been hearing about making “rice” from cauliflower for months now, but hadn’t tried it at home yet. Since I made that Spinach Dal the other day, it was finally time for a rice component, and oh boy is this stuff delicious!!! Any dish where you could want or need rice, this is the most perfect of substitutions. We’ve had it with the dal and some stir-fry, and I can’t wait to try it with my chorizo and eggs tomorrow morning.

All you’ll need for this tasty dish is a food processor, like my beloved Cuisinart Prep-9.

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Ingredients: 
1 large head cauliflower, washed
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp clarified butter or ghee

Seasoning: 
2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper

Rinse cauliflower thoroughly with cold water, removing leaves and stem. Cut cauliflower into medium-sized florets and spread out on a cutting board or baking sheet. You need to allow the cauliflower to dry after washing it or it will mush together in the food processor.

Once cauliflower has dried (I just let it sit out  for about 45 minutes while we watched Intel’s CEO’s keynote speech for CES 2014), add to the food processor in small batches. Pulse in short intervals until the cauliflower begins to look like rice. Remove to a separate bowl, and repeat with the next batch – I tried doing it all at once and it started to stick together so I ended up doing 3 or 4 smaller batches.

Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a large non-stick pan on medium heat. Add cauliflower and salt, mixing gently to prevent sticking and help expedite water evaporation. Cook cauliflower on medium heat for about 10 minutes, mixing often. Add butter/ghee, onion powder, garlic salt, and pepper(s); mix thoroughly. Continue heating the cauliflower “rice” for at least another 5 minutes, or until heated through and has the mouth feel of regular rice.

Serve with Spinach Dal or any other dish requiring a rice component. Enjoy!

Fish Sauce Chronicles: Episode I – Chicken Stir Fry

EDIT: This post was edited on 03 September 2013. Further experimentation has resulted in a slightly updated and improved recipe, but still quick and easy!

Now that I have floated down from cloud nine, I’m ready to share all the wonderful experiences I had in Oregon, culinary and otherwise. One of my favorite food adventures on this trip was the fish sauce chicken wings at Pok Pok Noi, Chef Andy Ricker’s (Best Chef NW 2011) crazy addictive creation. Don’t worry East Coast kids, you can find Pok Pok in New York too! Between the flour for the crust and the sugar to balance out the salty fish sauce, this majestic treat is definitely not slow carb, so naturally I’d be the one to find a way to make it so! My Slow Carb Fish Sauce Chicken Wing recipe is still in the works – first attempt was so salty that even my grandmother, the queen of salt herself, couldn’t eat them.

Until I master that elusive recipe, I’ve been getting creative with fish sauce in other ways, and so here we are: Thai Chicken Stir Fry – a much less complicated recipe with many familiar ingredients, giving you and me a chance to really understand how fish sauce can work. There is a fantastic article on choosing the right fish sauce, which I’ve shared on my Facebook page here (posted on 15 Aug 2013). Philly readers – I get most of my Asian-y ingredients at the market on 12th and Washington (including FRESH QUAIL EGGS, which we can talk about later).

Ingredients: 
1 whole chicken breast (boneless, skinless), cut into 1-2″ cubes
1-2 serrano peppers, sliced into rings
1 long hot pepper, sliced into rings
1 whole red onion, halved and sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced (1/2 for marinade, 1/2 for stir-fry)
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 cup fish sauce
2.5 tsp Stevia or Truvia (~2 packets)
olive oil

Seasoning: 
freshly cracked white pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander

Other than the time it takes to marinate/brine the chicken, this is actually a pretty quick and easy recipe!
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup fish sauce, 2 tsp stevia, 2 tsp ginger, 2 tsp rice vinegar, and 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic; stir well. In a large Ziploc bag, combine the sauce mixture with the chicken pieces and marinate for 1-3 hours. In the meantime, prepare the vegetables (peppers, onion, remaining garlic) and set aside in another bowl – if you are planning on making this dish later on, I recommend covering the veggies and sticking them back in the fridge for a while.

In a large non-stick pan, sauté the vegetables with some olive oil over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until the onions and shallots start to soften. Heat a second pan on medium-high heat as well, and using tongs or a slotted spoon, add the chicken to the pan. You can add some of the fish sauce mixture if you like, but keep it to a minimum – I made the mistake of doing this the first time and my chicken was super salty. Add turmeric to the chicken pan and mix well. Continue sautéing the veggies and chicken separately for another 5-7 minutes, or until chicken is almost completely cooked through. In the last few minutes, using a slotted spoon again, move the chicken to the pan with the vegetables and continue cooking for an additional 3 minutes or so, mixing well. Your chicken should be white inside (NOT pink) but still juicy.

Place stir-fry in individual bowls and drizzle with sriracha for an extra kick.

Got leftovers? Unlikely if you’re cooking for two or more, but if you’re eating solo, this dish makes for a great breakfast too.
Prepare 1-3 eggs however you like, I recommend sunny side up with clarified butter ’cause there are few things I love more than a nice creamy, runny yolk. Remove eggs from the pan and set aside in a bowl or plate, season with salt and white pepper. In the same pan you used to prepare the eggs, reheat the chicken stir fry by sautéing for a few minutes on medium-high heat. Add the stir fry to the eggs, crack those yolks open, and dig in!

fish sauce chicken stir fry