Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Chicken Saag

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Last week I shared a long-awaited treasure, the recipes for Sanaa's famous bread service dipping sauces at Walt Disney World. The homemade naan bread and sauces were not the only items on the menu that day.


Believe it or not, this Chicken Saag recipe rivals the saag at my favorite local Indian restaurant! It was crazy easy to make, and so flavorful. It contains nearly a dozen spices and aromatics in the pureed spinach sauce (this is what the term "saag" refers to). The saag sauce cooks quite rapidly, as does the chicken, which is cut into bite-size pieces.


This is also a lot easier and quicker than some other Indian recipes I have made in the past, like this delicious but more time consuming pork vindaloo. It's also quite healthy! There is only a bit of oil used (you can likely reduce that a bit too if you'd like) and some thick yogurt stirred in at the end. The chicken I used is white meat, which is leaner than thighs.


I served this curry with plain basmati rice, and of course the homemade naan bread and dipping sauces. The recipe comfortably yields 4 servings, and is just as delicious reheated the following day. I took a portion to work for lunch and will admit it was probably the best lunch I've had at work in ages!


Chicken Saag
Serves 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more as needed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon Indian chili powder or cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup water
8 ounces baby spinach (or trimmed regular spinach, washed and dried)
1 pound chicken breast or tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup plain yogurt, preferably thick Greek-style yogurt

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (if you plan to double the recipe, definitely use a pot instead of a skillet so you have room for all the spinach!). Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and saute until softened, stirring regularly, and lowering heat to medium-low if it starts to brown too quickly.

Over medium heat, add the salt, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, cardamom, and chili powder, and stir on medium-low heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so. Add the tomato paste and water, and stir gently to dissolve the tomato paste and all the spices into the water, creating a thick spiced sauce.

Add the spinach and gently stir to combine, as the skillet will be very full. Cover and raise the heat to medium-high, allowing the spinach to start to wilt. Occasionally remove the lid, stir, and then cover again until most the spinach has begun to wilt. Remove the lid and finish stirring the spinach until it is completely wilted but still bright green.

Transfer spinach mixture to a blender and puree until relatively smooth but still a bit chunky (you don't want it to be super smooth, a bit of texture is good). Taste and adjust salt and spice if necessary.

Meanwhile, wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel, return it to medium-high heat, and add another tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the cubed chicken pieces, sprinkle salt over the top to season, and cook until almost completely cooked through. Pour the spinach mixture back over the chicken, using a rubber spatula to get every last bit out of the blender, and cook for another few minutes to allow the flavors to meld and the chicken to finish cooking. Stir in the yogurt, and serve immediately with basmati rice and/or naan.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Homemade Naan & Sanaa Dipping Sauces

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A few years ago I posted a review of Sanaa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village. One of the most popular menu items is the bread service, which comes with a selection of bread options and amazing dipping sauces and spreads!



In that post I mentioned that the chef had shared the recipes with us but at the time hadn't posted them (they were scanned by a friend as a PDF file). I have had so many Disney fans request the recipes, and although it's taken me a while I am finally sharing them with all of you! I didn't want to simply share the recipes, but I wanted to actually try them out myself.


As with all Disney recipes, they are not typically tested for home kitchens when you get them directly from Disney. In this case, these spreads and sauces are already scaled down quite a bit from the quantities they make in the restaurant kitchen, and I actually scaled them down a bit as well when I made them.


The recipes below are exactly the way they were written by Disney, but I added some personal notes in italics in the Garlic Pickle recipe, along with my scaled down measurements. All the recipes are below in the same order as they serve them on the bread board, from spicy to mild, except for the Tomato-Date Jam recipe which seems to be missing from what the chef shared with us.


I only tried making three of the sauces: the Garlic Pickle, which I scaled down significantly but still yielded delicious results; the Coriander Chutney, which I halved but really struggled to get it to properly puree into the smooth sauce you get at Sanaa (if the quantity is too small, even a small food processor won't get the job done quite as smoothly as with a larger quantity in the bowl--I ended up adding a bit more lemon juice and even a little water to try and get it to blend. It tasted good but the texture wasn't as smooth as Sanaa's); and finally the Cucumber Raita, which I also halved--it was the easiest of the three to make, and very tasty.


I also made homemade naan to go with my sauces. The recipe I used is very easy, and bakes the naan on a cast-iron skillet instead of using the oven. Home cooks don't typically have tandoor ovens at the ready, so this is a great trick to use to get nicely charred naan bread without a special oven.


I'd like to thank my readers for their patience, as it's taken me a while to get these recipes onto the blog. I hope they were worth the wait!


Homemade Naan
Makes 6
(Adapted from Once Upon a Chef)

2 cups all purpose flour, plus more as needed
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing

In a medium bowl, dissolve the active dry yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar with 3/4 cup warm water (about 100°F). Let it sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar, flour, and salt. Set aside. Once the yeast is frothy, add the yogurt and olive oil to it and whisk to combine. Pour the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients and mix the dough together with a fork. When the dough is about to come together, dust your hand with flour and knead gently into a soft, slightly sticky dough (you may need to add a bit more flour if it's too wet and sticky, but it will still be a relatively soft dough). As soon as it comes together, stop kneading.

Lightly oil or spray a clean bowl with nonstick cooking spray (the bowl should be large enough to allow the dough to double in size). Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Let sit in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 3 hours, or until about doubled in size.

Dust a work surface with some of the flour and dump the dough on top. Sprinkle some of the flour on top of the dough and on your hands. Shape the dough into a long rectangle and cut into 6 equal portions, dusting with more flour as necessary so the dough doesn't stick.

Warm a large cast iron or heavy nonstick pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Use your hands to gently stretch one of the dough balls into an oval shape about 1/8-inch thick (it should be about 9 x 4 inches). Dust off excess flour, and gently lay the dough in the dry skillet and cook until the top is bursting with air bubbles and the bottom is golden and blackened in spots, a few minutes. Flip the naan and cook about 1 to 2 minutes more until the the bottom is lightly browned and blistered in spots. Remove the naan from the skillet and brush with melted butter. Place the naan in a tea towel-lined dish to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining naans, adjusting the heat lower if necessary as you go (I usually find it necessary to lower the heat to medium after the first naan). Serve warm.

To keep the cooked naan warm, place them in a 200°F oven. Store leftovers in a Ziplock bag and reheat in a 350°F oven wrapped in foil.

Sanaa's Jalapeno Lime Pickle
Yields 1 quart

3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups shallots, peeled, sliced thin
6 tablespoons kosher salt
l tablespoon ancho chili powder
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons lime zest
1/2 cup lime juice, fresh squeezed
2 cups fresh jalapeno, stems removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick

Heat the oil in a heavy bottom sauce pot. Add the shallots and salt. Cook until the shallots are soft and translucent. Add the ancho chili powder, paprika, curry powder and cayenne pepper. Cook this stirring frequently to avoid burning the spices and until the spices are fragrant. Add the sugar, white vinegar, lime juice and lime zest and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the jalapenos and let steep at room temperature for thirty minutes. Chill in refrigerator and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Sanaa's Red Chili Sambal

20 ounces fresh tomatoes, diced
12 ounces red onion, diced
4 ounces scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, stems and seeds removed, diced
2 tablespoons canola oil
l ounce minced garlic
2 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes, red onion and peppers with canola oil, season with salt and pepper. Lay the vegetables out flat on a sheet pan and bake until slightly charred, remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Place the vegetables in a blender with the white vinegar, lemon juice and cilantro, and puree until smooth.

Sanaa's Garlic Pickle
Yields 1 quart

1 pound fresh garlic, whole, peeled
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup tamarind paste
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
Pinch cayenne pepper

In a two quart pot (you'll need a much smaller saucepan if you reduce the recipe like I did) add garlic, turmeric, salt, rice vinegar and tamarind paste. Place the pot on the stove on a high heat. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly to make sure everything is well mixed (I lowered the heat to low once it came to a "boil" and covered the saucepan so it wouldn't dry out--I would uncover and mix occasionally, and add a few drops of water here and there if it got too dry). Cook until the garlic is soft but not mushy (mine cooked about 8 minutes). Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the pot.

In a large pan (or small pan if you reduce), heat up the canola oil and add the chili powder, mustard seed, fenugreek and cayenne pepper and cook for thirty seconds. Pour the spiced oil in to the cooked garlic and mix well. Allow the mixture sit out for fifteen minutes before cooling down in the refrigerator. Store in a refrigerated airtight container for up to two weeks.

*Note* I reduced the above recipe to the following measurements, and yielded about 1/2 cup:
2 ounces peeled whole garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons (1/2 tablespoon) tamarind paste
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Pinch black/brown mustard seeds
Pinch fenugreek (I used the whole seeds and fished them out after, but in the future would grind them in a spice grinder instead for more flavor)
Pinch cayenne

Sanaa's Coriander Chutney

2 cups cilantro, washed and dried, large stems removed
1/2 cup mint leaves, washed and dried
1/4 small jalapeno pepper, seeds and stem removed
2 teaspoons peeled minced ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
Juice from one lemon
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons coarse salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Refrigerate and eat within 4 to 5 days.

Sanaa's Tamarind Chutney
Yields 1 1/2 cups

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
l teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon dried hibiscus flowers
2 cups water
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 tablespoons tamarind paste
1/2 cup soy sauce

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin, ginger, garlic powder, fennel and garam masala. Cook until the spices become fragrant, careful not to burn. Add the dried hibiscus flowers. Whisk together water, brown sugar, tamarind paste and soy sauce, add to the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Continue to simmer the sauce for approximately thirty minutes, or until it's thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve. Store refrigerated for up to five days.

Sanaa's Mango Chutney
Yields 4 cups

3 large mangoes, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup minced ginger
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons madras curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine mangoes, red pepper, sugar, onion, vinegar, and ginger in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, and boil gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until fruit is tender and mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice, curry powder, nutmeg and salt. Boil gently for 5 minutes.

Sanaa's Red Pepper Hummus
Yields 3 cups

3 cups chickpeas, drained (do not discard the brine)
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 teaspoon sundried tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Blend all of the ingredients together in a food processor, stopping the food processor every sixty seconds to scrape the sides. Add teaspoons full of the chickpea brine until desired consistency is reached.

Sanaa's Cucumber Raita
Makes 2 cups

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
l cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced into small pieces
1/2 small jalapeno pepper, seeds and stem removed, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and freshly ground
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
l teaspoon coarse salt

Stir all the ingredients together a large bowl.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Pasta Shells with Spicy Sausage Red Sauce

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Pasta is certainly one of the most versatile dishes around, and I'm always happy to add new recipes to my repertoire. One of the true delights of making pasta is its ease to prepare. This particular recipe for shells with spicy sausage sauce is no exception.


It may sound a little odd at first to mix your sausage meat with cold water, but it really yields a smooth meat sauce rather than having large chunks of sausage throughout the sauce. The tomato juice melds with the sausage, and reduces beautifully to nicely cloak the pasta shells in a vibrant red-orange sauce.


I halved the recipe when I made it, and would happily make it again in the future. It was spicy, but not too spicy, cheesy, but not too cheesy, and satisfied my pasta craving completely.


Pasta Shells with Spicy Sausage Red Sauce
Serves 6 to 8 as a first course or 4 to 6 as a main course
(From On Top of Spaghetti)

8 ounces sausage meat or 2 hot Italian sausages (8 ounces), casings removed
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 plump garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
1 1/2 cups cold water
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (I omitted this)
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups tomato juice, preferably organic
1 pound dried pasta shells, rigatoni, or spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more to pass at the table

Combine the sausage meat, onions, garlic, and fennel seeds in a bowl with the cold water. Break up the meat with your fingers or two forks, combining it with the other ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours.

Transfer the sausage mixture to a large, heavy saucepan with a lid--an enamel-coated cast-iron pot is ideal. Stir in the cayenne (if you would like it more spicy) and salt, and pour over the oil oil. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring often, over moderate heat until all the water has cooked away and only the oil remains to moisten the ingredients.

Add the tomato juice, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer for 30 minutes with the lid slightly ajar. Adjust seasoning as necessary, but be careful not to over-salt, as you will be adding cheese later.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt and drop in the pasta. Cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain the pasta and return to the pot, off the heat. Ladle on enough sauce to generously coat the pasta with a little puddle on the bottom. Sprinkle over the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss. The cheese will thicken the sauce. If it seems dry, add more sauce (I like mine extra saucy so I used all the sauce). Serve right away with extra sauce and cheese passed at the table.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Warm Stuffed Piquillo Pepper Bruschetta

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Last October I visited Barcelona, where I had the pleasure of eating countless meals bursting with extraordinary flavors. The Spaniards definitely have the culinary know-how to keep all who visit their beautiful country happily sated.


I particularly fell in love with the baked stuffed red peppers with goat cheese and rose jam at La Alcoba Azul. Holy hot goat cheese, Batman. These peppers were sublime, between the perfectly roasted exterior, the warm goat cheese filling, and the sweet rose jam to offset the savory and tang.


When I discovered this recipe for warm stuffed piquillo pepper bruschetta I immediately knew I had to try it. Finding canned or jarred piquillo peppers was a potential challenge, but I actually found them at my local Shaw's, which had them stocked in an aisle featuring an abundance of Pastene jarred goods.


The jar I purchased contained 14 piquillo peppers. I made this recipe for a recent game night, following the recipe below, and then a couple days later I prepared the remaining 6 peppers with a slightly scaled down version of the filling.


This is one of my new favorite appetizer recipes! I'm not even remotely exaggerating. Picture a warm roasted piquillo pepper filled with soft goat cheese blended with roasted garlic, thyme, and basil. This plump stuffed pepper sits atop a crispy/chewy toasted slice of baguette, and is finished with a drizzle of sweet balsamic glaze and a sprinkle of basil chiffonade.


It's glorious, epic, outstanding. The colors themselves lend this dish perfectly to your next Christmas gathering (it's not too early to start bookmarking and pinning recipes!). It's not time-consuming or overly fussy. It's beautiful, delicious, decadent, and definitely worth making over and over again.


Instead of making your own balsamic glaze, you can also use store-bought balsamic glaze or balsamic reduction if you prefer. I've done it both ways, making my own glaze the first time (these photos showcase the homemade glaze), and trying a store-bought fig and balsamic glaze the second time, and both were excellent. The store-bought glaze seemed to cling to the peppers a bit better than the homemade version, but the flavor was great regardless.


Warm Stuffed Piquillo Pepper Bruschetta
Makes 8 servings
(Adapted from Share)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil
6 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 small canned or jarred piquillo peppers, drained and patted dry with paper towels
8 (1/2-inch thick) slices baguette bread (slice on the bias to yield greater surface area)

To make the balsamic glaze, in a very small saucepan heat the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar over medium heat until it reduces by about one-third (this can happen quickly for such a small amount of vinegar--keep an eye on it). Let cool. It should be syrupy. If it's too thick, dilute with a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar. If it's too thin, boil it down a bit more. Set aside. Alternatively, you can use store-bought balsamic glaze.

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees F. Place the garlic cloves on a small piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil. Wrap the garlic cloves with the foil and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until tender (open the foil and poke with a fork--it should be completely fork-tender). Remove from the oven and remove the skins from the garlic cloves--they should slip right off.

Add the roasted garlic cloves to a medium mixing bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Add the goat cheese, 1 tablespoon of the basil, and the thyme, and mix with a rubber spatula until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Snip the corner from a 1-quart plastic bag (or snip the tip of a small pastry bag) to make a 1/2-inch wide opening. Transfer the goat cheese mixture to the bag. Pipe equal amounts of the cheese mixture into the peppers. The peppers can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before heating.

Position the broiler rack about 8 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler on high.

Put the bread slices on a broiler pan and toast them in the broiler, turning occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes. Arrange the toast on a serving platter. Turn off the broiler.

Put the stuffed peppers in a flameproof baking pan and transfer to the turned-off broiler. Heat the peppers just until they are warm and plump, about 3 minutes (you can also heat them very quickly in a 350 degree F oven if the leftover heat from the broiler isn't warming them through, just be careful not to overheat them or the cheese will melt).

Using kitchen tongs (let's be real, I used clean fingers), carefully top each toast with a pepper, taking care not to squeeze the filling out of the pepper. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon basil and finish with a drizzle of the balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.

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