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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Authentic Indian Lunch

My lunch today was a beautiful celebration in the mouth!  So many flavors came together to form a truly exquisite feast.  Cilantro, mint, curry, cardamom, coriander and cumin were all team players in this artistic cuisine experience.

My friend Sunita, invited me over to enjoy lunch and to show me how to cook real chicken curry.  I have to say, not many lunches i've had in my lifetime have been more inspiring or enjoyable than this one!

The first thing I learned from Sunita is that in any Indian kitchen you will find a spice box.  This holds whole spices that have not been processed at all.  For example, she grinds and toasts her own cumin and cardamom.  She makes her own tikka masala spice blend.  You should smell these flavors!  Oh yum!

Any great feast starts with a salad.  This elegant dish was crisp, sweet and savory.  Sunita doesn't go by a recipe, but here is the approximate method she used to bring together this party in a bowl.

1 Apple
1 Asian Pear
1 Cucumber
2-3 Radishes
1/2 cup Roasted Corn
1 Red or Orange Bell Pepper
Handful of Cilantro
1/2 cup Pine Nuts
1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dice all fruits and vegetables and roast corn over medium-high heat until starting to brown.  Whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.  Toss all ingredients together in a decorative bowl with the vinegar mixture and serve.

We've probably all had cucumber sandwiches at one time or another.  I was really inspired by Sunita's version of this classic.  She makes them a little healthier by using mostly Greek yogurt with a small amount of cream cheese.  Her garnish of fresh basil and sesame seeds really take them to the next level of foodie-pleasing status!

(makes 4 sandwiches)
1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup Cream Cheese
handful fresh Dill (chopped)
1 Cucumber (peeled, seeded and diced)
Salt and Pepper to taste
8 slices Whole Wheat Bread
Sesame Seeds and Fresh Basil for garnish
In  a bowl, mix yogurt, cream cheese, dill, cucumber and salt and pepper together. A helpful hint here is to dry the cucumber as much as you can so that the juices don't make your filling too runny.  You can do this with paper towels and you dice it.  Cut the crust off of the bread and spread mixture evenly on the bread and form the sandwiches.  If you would like to make them fancy, cut each sandwich into four triangles.  Pour your sesame seeds onto a plate and simply dip the sides of each sandwich into them.  Place on a decorative plate and top with the basil.

After lunch, my friend taught me how to make true Chicken Curry.  Let me just tell you, it looks, smells and tastes amazing!

And here is a word and recipe from Sunita herself...
Food transcends all boundaries. It brings people together.  I want to thank Lauren for allowing me to share a cooking experience. I enjoyed creating a dish and spending time with her. Though I am not an expert cook, I love cooking with my family and friends.

Lauren and I cooked butter chicken. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients to marinate chicken:

Chicken breasts (3) (cut into small cubes)
Yogurt (thick and whisked) (1/2 cup)
Ginger paste (2 teaspoons)
Garlic paste (2 teaspoons)
Coriander powder (1 teaspoon)
Cumin powder (1 teaspoon)
Light olive oil (3 teaspoons)
Lemon juice (1 tablespoon)
Salt and pepper according to taste
Turmeric powder (1 teaspoon) (optional)

Marinate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight

Ingredients for gravy:

Onions (2) thinly chopped
Ginger garlic paste (2 teaspoons) 
Tomato puree (1 cup)
Cumin powder (1 teaspoon) (dry ingredient)
Coriander (1 teaspoon) (dry ingredient)
Cinnamon stick (1/2) (dry ingredient)
Red chilly powder (according to taste) (dry ingredient)
“Garam masala” or any Curry powder (1 tablespoon) (dry ingredient)
Butter (2 teaspoons)
Vegetable oil (2 tablespoons)
Salt and pepper according to taste
Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish
Water (1 cup)

Instructions for cooking:

Grill chicken or broil in oven (400 degrees for 15-20 minutes)
Heat the pan
Add butter and oil with cinnamon stick
Sautee onion till translucent, then add ginger garlic paste on medium heat
Cook for 2 minutes
Add tomato puree
Cook for 5-6 minutes with the lid on 
Add all dry ingredients, salt according to taste
Cook an additional 5-10 minutes
Add cream and cook for 5 minutes
Add previously cooked chicken
Pour water
Mix to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes
Turn off the stove
Garnish with cilantro

Serve and enjoy with rice or naan

Food is fun and inspiring because it bonds people together.  I love how cooking and eating with others leads to closer relationships.  Just spending time in someone's kitchen creates opportunities to tell life stories and find out what all you have in common with them.  I hope after reading this, you will be inspired to reach out to someone you would like to get to know better and invite them over to cook and eat with you.   Try one of my recipes and tell your friend about 1cookingchick!  Love to all! -1CC

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Chunky Greek Orzo Salad

If I had a very large quantity of this salad and a diving board overhead, I would literally dive in head first!  There are just some flavor blends that work.  The mix and meld of fresh basil, garlic, kalamata olives, cucumber, tomatoes and feta cheese is a timeless classic that agrees most taste buds that I'm acquainted with...even those that are only a few years old!  My kids love all these foods.  Orzo, a small, rice-shaped pasta, is the perfect canvas for the artful taste these combined ingredients create.

Chunky Greek Orzo Salad

8 oz. Orzo Pasta (cooked)
2 Cucumbers 
1 box Cherry Tomatoes
1 jar Kalamata Olives (drained and rinsed)
1/2 Red Onion
1 package Feta Cheese Crumbles
Handful of fresh Basil Leaves
3/4 cup Olive Oil
splash of Red Wine Vinegar
2 minced Garlic Cloves
Salt and Pepper to taste
1.  While the pasta is boiling, peel and finely chop the cucumber.  Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, finely chop the olives and red onion and roughly chop the basil leaves.
2.  Mix all ingredients in a decorative bowl or large tupperware if making ahead.
3. In a measuring cup, whisk vinaigrette ingredients and then pour over the salad.
4.  Stir everything together and enjoy.

Packed with veggies, this would be a great make-ahead lunch for a busy work week...that would leave you feeling energized throughout the rest of your day.  Want to make it one level healthier?  Substitute a healthy grain like quinoa or farro for the pasta.  The picnic season is upon us!  So make this the next time your family and friends gather for a lovely outdoor feast!  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Strawberry Ricotta Scones with Essence of Lime and Mint

Inspiration happened to me this the form of a community strawberry picking, pancake eating, beautiful weather morning!  I live in a very inspiring town called Tupelo, MS...the birthplace of Elvis Presley if you didn't know!  There are so many unique and creative happenings in our city.  I can't help but write and cook about this glorious Saturday morning I spent in a strawberry patch, picking ripe red berries and indulging in a fine breakfast treat.

My friends, Will and Amanda Reed run Native Son Farm.  It is a twenty acre, multi-location farm, that grows seasonal fruits and vegetables with the intent of feeding our community.  You can sign up for a crop share knowing that your food will be free from chemicals, synthetic pesticides and herbicides.  Other events they host are honey harvesting and tomato tasting.  For more information, go to

Chefs from my favorite local restaurant, Kermit's Outlaw Kitchen,,,affectionately known as KOK, fried up stacks of pancakes in the strawberry field.  They offered a lovely strawberry topping for the cakes, fresh mint lemonade and coffee punch.  Long tables topped with farmhouse tablecloths lined the edge of the crops.  Families and friends gathered round to dine and socialize in the fresh air and sunshine.

So naturally, I was inspired to give you an original recipe that captures the essence of my lovely morning!  I wanted to do a breakfast treat because I was inspired by a breakfast event.  My family enjoys pastries that are not overly sweet, so that is why I chose scones.  We think that moist pastries are much better than dry, so ricotta cheese was the way to go.  I love the fresh flavors of lime and mint leaves and they reminded me of the visual experience of Native Son crops.  Therefore, Strawberry Ricotta Scones with essence of Lime and Mint were born.

Strawberry Ricotta Scones 
with Essence of Lime and Mint

2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1 heaping tablespoon Lime Zest
1 stick Unsalted Butter (cold)
1 large Egg (beaten)
1/2 cup Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
3 tablespoons Half n Half
1 to 2 cups Fresh Strawberries (diced)
1/2 cup Confectioner's Sugar
the juice of 1 Lime
5 Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and lime zest.
3.  Cut the butter into tiny cubes and work into the mixture with your hands until it looks like a coarse meal.
4.  In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg, ricotta cheese and half n half.  Add to the flour and butter mixture and use a fork to stir together until moistened.
5.  Add the diced strawberries and fold into the mixture with a spatula.  Apply pressure to the fruit to release the juices into the dough.
6.  Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured work surface.  Shape the dough into a flat circle and cut into 8 wedges.  (I wanted mine smaller, so I cut each of these wedges in half)
7.  Carefully transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.  (I wanted mine soft and moist, so I baked for only 15 minutes)
8.  While scones are baking, prepare the glaze.  Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.
9.  Drizzle the lime mint glaze over the strawberry scones and serve warm (with coffee).

Not many things inspire me more than cooking with fresh and natural ingredients.  I would encourage you to go out and find your closest source of organic foods.  My goal is to inspire you to create something amazing in your kitchen!  Let me know what you imagine!  Love to all, 1cookingchick.