OvenBits

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Nut and Seed Crackers with Rosemary

by Lydia Whitlock — Jul 26th, 2016

These crackers are delicious -- light, crunchy, full of the textures and flavors of nuts and dried fruit, with a hint of herbs and spices. They’re amazing on a cheese plate. Seasoned with Vanns Dried Rosemary, they have a piney, sophisticated flavor, perfect for goat cheese, but any cheese will make a happy partner. Feel free to experiment with different nuts, dried fruits, and spices as well!

INGREDIENTS

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit (if using larger pieces, chop to be cranberry-sized)
  • ¾ cup pecans (or walnuts, or almonds, or any other nut you’d prefer)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat, rye, spelt, or other whole-grain flour
  • 1 Tbs. Vanns Rosemary
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk (or 1 cup yogurt mixed with 1 cup milk)
  • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Evenly coat a loaf pan (or 4 mini loaf pans) with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Place the cranberries in a small bowl and cover with very hot water. Let them soak and plump for at least 15 minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Place the pecans on a baking sheet in an even single layer and toast in the oven until fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Allow them to cool slightly, then chop them roughly on a cutting board while the pecans are still a bit warm.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, Dried Rosemary, baking soda, Kosher Salt, and brown sugar, making sure to break up any big clumps of brown sugar. Pour the buttermilk over the dry ingredients and stir gently until no more dry flour remains. Be careful not to overmix.
  5. Drain the cranberries after at least 15 minutes. Add the cranberries, chopped nuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds to the batter and stir gently to mix them in evenly.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s), making sure to divide it evenly if using mini loaf pans. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes (for mini loaf pans) and 35-45 minutes (for a regular loaf pan), until the tops have risen to domes and turned golden brown, and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  7. Remove the loaf or loaves from the pans and allow them to cool completely on a rack. If you are using a large loaf pan, you can slice the loaf in half lengthwise at this point, in order to create bite-sized crackers. Or you can leave the full-size loaf whole and have larger crackers -- it’s up to you!
  8. Wrap the loaves tightly in foil and freeze until solid, overnight. You can stop at this point and leave the loaves in the freezer for up to 3 months, pulling them out to make crackers whenever you’re in the mood!
  9. When you’re ready to make the crackers, preheat the oven to 300°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove one of your loaves from the freezer, unwrap it, and slice it as thinly as possible with a serrated knife, aiming for a thickness between ⅛-inch and 1/16-inch. Lay the slices in a single layer on the baking sheets. The crackers can be quite close together, but be careful not to let them touch. Slice as many crackers as you want, then bake for 15 minutes. Flip the crackers and bake for another 10-15 minutes, keeping a close eye on them. They’re done with they feel dry to the touch, are golden brown, and are curling up a bit at the edges. Don’t worry if they still feel a bit soft in the middle -- they’ll crisp up as they cool.
  10. Cool crackers completely on a cooling rack and serve! Goat cheese and brie go wonderfully with these crackers. You can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for around two weeks, if they even last that long.

Makes around 12 dozen small crackers. Adapted from The Kitchn.


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Homemade Gin

by Lydia Whitlock — Jul 12th, 2016

It's really summer now -- time for barbecues, picnics, and that ever-refreshing simple summer cocktail -- the gin and tonic. But sometimes the drink can get a little monotonous with affordable storebought gin. The solution? Make the gin yourself and tinker with the flavor profiles to create something that you really love!

Did you know you can make gin at home? And it doesn’t even involve a bathtub or a still or any kind of equipment that looks like it came from Prohibition times! All you need is some vodka, some aromatics, and some time. 

This gin will be warmly flavored, with floral notes from the Vanns Dried Lavender and chamomile. But you can experiment with your own flavor combinations -- try steeping the Vanns Juniper Berries for another 12 hours for more juniper flavor, or adding a little bit of Vanns Dried Rosemary or Vanns Cinnamon Sticks (in moderation -- those flavors are strong!)

This gin makes for a truly special gin and tonic, one where the flavors of the aromatics really shine through and combine beautifully with the tonic and a squeeze of lime juice. But try it in any cocktail in which you’d usually use gin -- you’ll be surprised by the amazing results!

INGREDIENTS

 

PREPARATION

  1. Place the vodka and Vanns Juniper Berries in a sealable glass jar and allow to steep at room temperature for 12 hours, covered.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to the jar, seal the jar, and shake to mix everything up. Let steep, still sealed, at room temperature for another 36 hours.
  3. Strain the solids through a fine-mesh strainer, or a regular strainer lined with cheesecloth. Make sure you got everything -- a gin and tonic with a chamomile leaf floating through it isn’t the best. Pour the now-gin into a glass bottle or clean jar and store at room temperature for up to a year.

Makes 2 cups gin. Adapted from Serious Eats.


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Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma

by Lydia Whitlock — Jul 7th, 2016

There’s a small restaurant chain in Los Angeles called Zankou Chicken that is well known for its super secret chicken shawarma recipe, which is crispy and juicy and beautifully spiced and comes with a crazy-good garlic sauce that will make your breath reek for at least the next few hours if not days. It’s a place that causes cravings, and while it’s not that pricey, I much prefer to be able to make my own chicken shawarma whenever I want to, rather than being held hostage by the operating hours and cash-only rules of Zankou. 

This recipe is as close as I’ve come to replicating their delicious chicken. It uses the leftover spice blend from the Tabbouleh recipe -- making both for the same meal would be a wonderful idea, as the spiced coolness of the Tabbouleh complements the savory crispiness of the chicken. If you don’t want to use the Tabbouleh spice blend, you can add some cinnamon, which I’ve specified in the ingredients.

This is a great dish for a dinner party, or to keep in the fridge for a few days’ lunches or dinners. It reheats beautifully, crisped up in a pan with some olive oil.

INGREDIENTS

Chicken:

White Sauce:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise or yogurt
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, to taste, grated on a Microplane or minced

Red Sauce:

Salad:

  • 1 medium English cucumber or 2 small Persian cucumbers
  • 2 perfectly rice Roma tomatoes

PREPARATION

  1. Make the marinade. Combine lemon juice, ⅓ cup olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, Tabbouleh Spice Mix or cinnamon, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl and whisk. Add the chicken thighs and mix with gloved hands or tongs to coat evenly. Cover the bowl or transfer to a large plastic bag or container and marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hours, ideally more, up to 12 hours.
  2. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425°F. Grease a rimmed baking pan with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the quartered onion to the chicken and toss again to coat the onion with the marinade. It’s okay if it falls apart a little bit. 
  3. Place the chicken and onion on the sheet pan, spreading everything out evenly, and roast in the oven until it is well-browned and crispy at the edges, about 30-40 minutes. Check the temperature of the thickest parts with a thermometer -- it should be 165°F - 175°F when done.
  4. Meanwhile, make the sauces. Combine the mayonnaise or yogurt with the garlic cloves in a bowl. Start with 2 cloves and go from there. You want something that tastes very garlicky.
  5. To make the red sauce, combine the ketchup, vinegar, and Red Pepper Flakes in a small pan. Simmer until the sauce becomes thick and syrupy. Allow to cool.
  6. Remove the chicken and onion from the oven and let rest for 2 minutes. Place the chicken pieces on a chopping board and slice into small strips. You can serve the chicken like this, or toss it in a hot pan slicked with some more olive oil to crisp it up even more. This is also a great way to reheat the leftovers, if you have any. 
  7. Arrange the chicken on a platter and scatter with parsley. Serve with White and Red Sauces, and the tomatoes and cucumbers sliced and tossed together. You can make a beautiful pita sandwich with all of these ingredients, or serve the chicken and condiments on rice. Anything vaguely Middle Eastern in flavor will go beautifully with this dish. Try the Tabbouleh with it too!

Serves 6. Adapted from The New York Times.

 


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Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding

by Lydia Whitlock — Jul 5th, 2016

Don’t be scared. This isn’t a case of putting tofu where it doesn’t belong in the name of “health food,” though I will admit that this version of pudding does turn out to be much lower in fat than the traditional kind. No, this is a case of using a pre-made, beautifully silky ingredient to skip a few steps to create an awesome pudding for summer, one that is chocolatey and creamy and spiked with Vanns Ground Cinnamon and Chipotle Chili Powder for a little extra flavor. Your guests will never know the provenance of this dish, and you might just forget about it yourself. 

This recipe also works well in popsicle molds, to create delicious, icy cold pudding pops. See the note at the end of the recipe for freezing instructions.

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 12-16 oz. package silken tofu (Some kinds come in 12-oz. vacuum packages, others in 16-oz. blocks packed in water. Use whatever you can find easily, and it will still be delicious.)
  • 8 oz. high-quality bittersweet chocolate, melted (Use the best quality chocolate you can find here, as it will provide the primary flavor of the pudding. Melt in a microwave at half power, or over a double boiler.)
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Vanilla Extract
  • 1 ½ tsp Vanns Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼-½ tsp. Vanns Chipotle Chili Powder, to taste
  • ¼ tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt
  • chocolate shavings, optional

PREPARATION

  1. In a small pot, stir together sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally to keep sugar from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Allow to cool slightly.
  2. Put all of the ingredients except for the optional chocolate shavings in a blender and blend until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Your blender may want to form a large air bubble around the blades, which you will notice when everything stops moving. When this happens, open the top cover and puncture the bubble it with care, as it may have a tendency to spurt upwards towards you upon bursting. This sometimes happens with thicker liquids and certain blenders.
  3. Pour the pudding into 6 small ramekins and chill for at least 30 minutes. If you like, top with chocolate shavings before serving.
  4. You can also pour the blended pudding into popsicle molds and freeze them for a colder snack! Just don’t try to do this after chilling the pudding in ramekins - the texture becomes far too thick to be pourable.

Serves 6. Adapted from The New York Times.


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Ratatouille Tian

by Lydia Whitlock — Jun 24th, 2016

This is a beautiful dish in both appearance and flavor. It makes the best of three vegetables that are at their best during summer -- tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant -- and combines them with Herbes de Provence to meld the flavors together into the perfect summer vegetable dish.

 Ratatouille Tian

It may look labor intensive, but once you start the process, it comes together quite easily. And it’s one of those rare dishes that tastes great hot, at room temperature, or cold, straight out of the fridge. What more you could want from your summer veggies?

 

INGREDIENTS

  • Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 1 ⅓ lbs. small eggplants, such as Japanese or Chinese eggplants
  • 3 tsp. Vanns Herbes de Provence
  • 1 ⅓ lbs. medium zucchini
  • 1 ¾ lb. Roma or other plum tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 2 small yellow onions, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  2. First, cut the vegetables into ⅛-inch rounds, keeping them separate. A mandoline will make short work of the zucchini. Depending on the firmness of the eggplant, it may require a sharp knife. If you're having difficulty slicing the tomatoes very thin, try using a bread knife. 
  3. Place each kind of sliced vegetable in its own bowl and sprinkle each with ½ tsp. kosher salt and 1 tsp. Herbes de Provence, tossing to combine. 
  4. Lightly oil an 8x10” glass or ceramic baking dish. Scatter the onions and minced garlic evenly over the bottom, and then sprinkle with ¼ tsp. salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
  5. Arrange the vegetables in the dish, starting with a row of overlapping tomato slices. Pack them in tightly so they’re almost standing upright. Next, add a layer of eggplant, and then a row of zucchini. Repeat the pattern until the dish is full of tightly packed, beautiful rows of veggies. This may seem labor intensive, but once you get in the rhythm of it, it goes very quickly. If you have some slices left over at the end, use them to flesh out rows that seem to need it.
  6. Drizzle the vegetables with 3 Tbs. olive oil, cover the dish tightly with tin foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Then, increase the oven temperature to 425°F and bake for another 30 minutes.
  7. Finally, remove the foil and bake at 425°F for another 30 minutes until vegetables are tender and the tips of the slices are nicely browned. Serve hot, at room temperature, or chilled. I find chilled to be the most delicious of the three options -- the flavors really meld together and form an almost savory jam of the vegetables and herbs. Use as a side or in a sandwich; scramble into eggs or place on toast and top with cheese before broiling for a new variation on grilled cheese. The possibilities are endless!

Serves 8 as a side dish. Adapted from Serious Eats.


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Turkey-Zucchini Burgers with Cumin and Green Onion

by Lydia Whitlock — Jun 21st, 2016

This is my ideal summer dish. It’s healthy, packed with flavor, and makes use of the bounty of zucchini that appears in gardens and stores each June. Thanks to that zucchini, these burgers are moist and very difficult to dry out, even when re-heating, which isn’t something that can be said about most turkey burgers.

Turkey Burgers

And the spices! The spices. The cumin here is at the forefront, and turns out to be a beautiful spice to go with turkey -- who knew? There’s some cayenne for a little punch of heat, and a cooling, tangy yogurt sauce flecked with sumac to go alongside it.

 

INGREDIENTS

Burgers:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 large zucchini, coarsely grated (scant 2 cups in total)
  • 3 green onions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbs. chopped mint
  • 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated on a Microplane
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt
  • ½ tsp. Vanns Black Tellicherry Peppercorns, freshly ground
  • ½ tsp. Vanns Cayenne
  • 6 Tbs. vegetable oil, or as needed for searing

Sumac Yogurt Sauce:

PREPARATION

  1. Start by making the sauce, as the longer it sits in the fridge, the better the flavors will blend. Stir ingredients together in a bowl until well combined and refrigerate. Taste for salt before serving.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Combine all the burger ingredients, except for the vegetable oil, in a large bowl. Divide into 8 burgers and place on a large plate. The burgers will feel quite wet -- that’s a good thing! They’ll retain a lot of that moisture even after cooking to make really juicy burgers.
  3. Put enough vegetable oil in the bottom of a large frying pan to form a layer about 1/16-inch thick. Heat over medium heat until hot but not smoking, then sear the burgers on both sides, for about 3 minutes per side, until browned.
  4. Transfer burgers to oven to finish cooking, about 10 minutes, or until internal temperature registers 165°F on a meat thermometer.
  5. Serve burgers warm or at room temperature, with the sauce drizzled over them or on the side. I like to tuck mine in a toasted whole wheat pita pocket with some crispy lettuce and a hearty dollop of sauce for a satisfying sandwich.

Serves 4 as a main course, with 2 small burgers per person. Adapted from Jerusalem.

 


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Cinnamon Cardamom Rolls

by Lydia Whitlock — Jun 13th, 2016

Father's Day is coming up this weekend, and you know what that means -- big, tasty breakfast time! If you're going for a savory situation, with bacon, eggs, toast, and whatever else Dad loves, this is a great recipe to add a touch of sweetness to the end.

Cinnamon Cardamom Rolls

 

These cinnamon cardamom rolls are just the perfect level of sweetness, and a hint of cardamom adds some excitement to the traditional cinnamon-sugar flavors. The dough is simpler and quicker than the yeast dough of a traditional cinnamon bun -- this one is more of a quick bread, using baking powder to make it rise instead of the more time-consuming yeast.

Give these rolls a try on Sunday morning! I think you and Dad will both be pleased.

 

INGREDIENTS

Filling:

Buns:

  • 560 grams (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
  • 2 Tbs. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp. Vanns Ground Cardamom
  • 240 grams (1 cup + 1 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cold, cut into ½-inch cubes, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk, cold

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat the oven to 390°F and generously butter a 12-cup muffin pan.
  2. Prepare the filling. First, melt the butter. My preferred method is to place it in a microwavable bowl or ramekin and microwave on high in 30-second intervals until just melted. Set butter on top of the preheating stove to keep it from re-solidifying.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the light brown sugar and ground cinnamon, using your fingers or a pastry cutter to make sure no sugar lumps remain. Set aside.
  4. Make the dough. Combine flour, baking powder, kosher salt, ground cardamom, and cubes of cold butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix at medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal and there are no large lumps of butter left. With the mixer still running at medium-low speed, slowly stream in the milk, mixing until the dough just comes together in a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to use all of the milk -- poir in just enough to form a soft, cohesive dough with no crumbles of flour left behind. Do not overmix. Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you flour a large cutting board.
  5. Turn dough out onto floured cutting board and fold the ball over on itself a few times to pull it together in a ball. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Dust a large surface with flour, preferably a clean countertop. Turn the dough out onto the surface and roll into a rectangle ⅛-inch thick, about 20 inches long and 12 inches wide. Do your best to keep the dough fairly even in thickness. 
  7. When dough is rolled out, brush the surface with the melted butter, covering the entire rectangle with an even coating. It’s okay if you don’t use up all the butter. Before the butter has a chance to harden, sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, creating a layer around ¼ - ½-inch thick. 
  8. Starting on the long side of the dough rectangle, roll the dough up on itself, keeping the roll as tight as possible. You can pull the roll towards you while pushing it forward on itself to help create a tight roll. When the dough is all rolled up, squeeze it gently to make it as evenly thick as possible. 
  9. Using a sharp knife, slice the roll crosswise into 12 pieces. Start by first slicing the roll in half, and then each of those pieces in half again. You can then slice each of the four pieces into thirds, which is much easier to eyeball and will result in more even-sized rolls.
  10. To place the slices in the muffin tin, first decide which side of each slice you want to be the top, usually the prettier side. Flip the slice to the bottom and use your fingers to gently pull and pinch the dough together to create a solid bottom for the slice. If you put them in the tin without this step, the sugar and butter would melt out the bottom and stick very heartily to the tin.
  11. Place the slice pinched-side down in the muffin tin. Repeat the pinching and placing process with the rest of the slices.
  12. Bake the rolls for around 25 minutes, until golden on top. If you ended up with a dough rectangle a little thicker than ⅛-inch, you may want to extend the bake time by 5 minutes or so.
  13. Remove the muffin tin from the oven and gently place a cooling rack over the top. Flip the rolls over onto the baking rack and lift the muffin tin away -- if you let the rolls stay in the muffin tin too long, they may stick.
  14. Serve right away, with coffee if you like!

Makes 12 rolls. Adapted from The Violet Bakery Cookbook


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Jalapeño and Cumin Coleslaw

by Lydia Whitlock — May 26th, 2016

Maybe you have your grilling recipes all set for this weekend. Maybe you're letting someone else do the grilling. Either way, don't forget about the sides! This coleslaw hits all the right notes. It’s a little sweet, with a tangy, Southern-style dressing, ready to be piled on top of pulled pork sandwiches, served alongside a bucket of fried chicken, or mounded on a plate next to some barbecued burgers. But it has a little more personality than a regular slaw, with a jalapeno chili adding some spice, and ground cumin and cilantro adding some bright, earthy flavors that make this slaw equally suited to topping a Tex-Mex taco. 

The method of salting and sugaring the vegetables before rinsing them and spinning them dry means that this slaw doesn’t become watery over time -- it retains its crunch without diluting the delicious dressing.

INGREDIENTS

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbs. lime juice, from 2-3 limes, plus 1/2 tsp. lime zest, finely grated
  • 3 Tbs. cilantro, leaves and tender stems finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. garlic, finely minced, from about 3 medium cloves
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Black Tellicherry Peppercorns, freshly ground
  • Vanns Kosher Salt, to taste

Coleslaw

  • 1 large head green cabbage, about 3 1/2 lbs., finely shredded
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 large jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced (seeds can be left in for a hotter slaw)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup Vanns Kosher Salt

PREPARATION

  1. Make the dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, buttermilk, vinegar, mayonnaise, sugar, lime juice, lime zest, cilantro, garlic, cumin, and black pepper. Set aside.
  2. To make the slaw, toss the shredded cabbage, grated carrot, and minced jalapeno in a large bowl. Sprinkle with ⅔ cup sugar and ⅓ cup kosher salt and toss to combine evenly. Let the vegetable stand for 5 minutes, and then thoroughly rinse in a large colander under cold running water.
  3. Transfer the rinsed vegetable to a salad spinner -- depending on its size, you may want to do this in 2 batches. Spin the vegetables dry and transfer to a large, clean bowl. If you don’t have a salad spinner, line a large baking sheet with three layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and spread the vegetables out in an even layer on top. Blot dry with more towels.
  4. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to evenly coat. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, sugar, and/or pepper to get it just right.
  5. You can start this recipe the night before, if you want. Salt and sugar the vegetables, rinse and dry them, then store in the fridge in an airtight container. The next day, pour off any liquid that has collected in the bottom, toss with dressing, and serve. The coleslaw can be dressed and refrigerated up to 4 hours ahead of serving without suffering any loss of quality. Toss the dressed slaw once more to redistribute the dressing before serving.

Serves 10. Adapted from Serious Eats.


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Smoky Chicken "Tikka Masala" Kebabs with Raita

by Lydia Whitlock — May 24th, 2016

It's almost Memorial Day, and you know what that means -- time to take the cover off your grill, stock up on the charcoal and propane, and fill your grocery cart with your favorite pieces of meat and grillable vegetables. But though I know we're all excited about the first burgers and brats of the year, I want to share one of my favorite grilling recipes. It's complex and unexpected in its Indian flavors, but also a total crowdpleaser!

If you’ve ever looked at your spices and wondered, “Why on earth do I need two different kinds of paprika?” well, this recipe is the answer to your question. These kebabs use both Hungarian and Smoked Spanish Paprika to create a depth of flavor that is both sweet, smoky, and a little spicy. Add in some cumin, cayenne, and ground black pepper, bound together with yogurt and other flavorful ingredients, and you end up with a kebab version of an Indian takeout favorite -- Chicken Tikka Masala. 

So, it’s only natural to pair these kebabs with some creamy, cooling cucumber raita, which incorporates cayenne, cumin, and brown mustard seeds for a sauce that is both refreshing and zesty! 

INGREDIENTS

Chicken

PREPARATION

  1. Put yogurt, lemon juice, oil, ginger, salt, smoked paprika, paprika, garlic black pepper, cumin, and cayenne in a bowl and stir until totally combined. Taste for salt and for heat, and adjust the salt and cayenne if you need to.
  2. Put the chicken pieces in a large plastic bag or container and pour the marinade over, stirring to make sure each piece is coated. If using a bag, remove as much air as possible. Place in refrigerator and marinate for 4-8 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, make the raita, which should have a few hours in the fridge to make sure all its flavors meld together nicely.
  4. Peel the cucumbers and grated them on the large holes of a box grater. Place them in a bowl and toss with the salt. Let the cucumbers sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, then pour them into a strainer and gently press out as much liquid as you can, before patting them dry with a paper towel.
  5. Combine the yogurt, cayenne, cumin, lemon zest, and mint in a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Stir in the cucumbers.
  6. In a small frying pan, heat the sesame oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the mustard seeds and fry for about a minutes, until seeds sputter and turn a lighter color. You may need a spatter screen to keep them from hopping out of the pan.
  7. Remove from heat and quickly pour over the yogurt-cucumber mixture. It will sizzle and sputter a bit. Quickly stir the oil into the yogurt until evenly combined. Sprinkle with a little paprika to garnish. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to combine.
  8. Now, back to the kebabs. One hour before cooking, soak your wooden skewers in water to prevent burning. If you're using metal skewers, no need to soak. After soaking, thread the chicken tightly onto the skewers, but don’t smash the pieces together too much -- they should be touching each other firmly, but not so smashed together that they won’t cook quickly.
  9. If using a charcoal grill, light one chimney full of charcoal. When coals are evenly covered with a layer of ash, carefully spread them over the entire surface of the coal grate in an even layer. Place cooking grate on top, then cover the grill and allow it to preheat for 5 minutes. After preheating, clean and oil the grill grate -- cleaning it is much easier after it’s been sitting over hot coals for a few minutes!
  10. If using gas, preheat the grill to a medium-high heat.
  11. Grill the skewers until well-browned on all sides and the center of the largest piece of chicken on the skewer registers between 160°F-165°F on a meat thermometer, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer skewers to a platter, and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with raita.

Serves 4-6. Adapted from Serious Eats and Vegetarian Recipes of India.


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Shrimp, Tomato, and Feta Stew

by Lydia Whitlock — May 17th, 2016

This simple recipe makes the absolute best of all the ingredients involved. Salty feta complements the sweet, plump, ocean brine-y shrimp, all bound together in a flavorful tomato sauce, seasoned with Mediterranean Oregano.

Shrimp, Tomato, and Feta Stew

It’s easy enough that you could serve it on a weeknight, but impressive enough that you could also serve it as a dinner party main. It works well in hot and cold weather, the Greek flavors both refreshing and cozy.

I’ve incorporated a technique below that is great for all pasta dishes -- finishing off the cooking of the pasta with some of the sauce and some pasta-cooking water. The starch in the cooking water helps to bind the sauce to the pasta, giving you a much more cohesive dish than you’d have if you simply spread the sauce on top or mixed it in with the fully-cooked pasta.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Mediterranean Oregano
  • ½ tsp. Vanns Black Tellicherry Peppercorns, freshly ground
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled, divided
  • 1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
  • ½ lb. fusilli or other short pasta

PREPARATION

  1. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is warm, add the onion and salt, and saute gently until it is translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and bring the heat up to medium high. Reduce the wine by half.
  2. Add the tomatoes and their juices, oregano, pepper, and water. Bring the sauce to a boil, and then lower heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, run a potato masher through the sauce, breaking the tomatoes up into small pieces. Alternately, you can do this with your fingers before you put the tomatoes into the pan, but a potato masher is a bit tidier.
  3. Stir in half of the crumbled feta and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. 
  4. While the sauce simmers, cook your pasta in well-salted boiling water. Undercook it by 2 minutes, and reserve ½ cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta. Return the drained pasta to its pot, and add 1 cup of the tomato-feta sauce. Simmer the sauce and pasta together for a few minutes, thinning as necessary with splashes of the pasta cooking water. This method helps the sauce bind to the pasta.
  5. Right before you serve the dish, add the shrimp to the remaining tomato-feta sauce and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, until shrimp are just tender. Stir in the remaining feta, and serve the shrimp stew over the pasta, garnished with chopped parsley.

Serves 4-6.

Note: To reheat the sauce the next day without getting rubbery shrimp, take the time to pick all the shrimp out of the sauce first. Then, reheat the sauce on the stovetop until it’s bubbling away, turn off the heat, and stir in the shrimp. They’ll heat up in the hot sauce without becoming overcooked.


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