Ginger-Garlic Chicken Salad

This ginger-garlic chicken salad was the biggest success of the bagel experiments — I would totally serve this either on a bagel (it was great on sesame) or wrapped in lettuce. Or honestly, just straight up on its own, or in a sandwich with a hearty French bread, etc….

Ginger-Garlic Chicken Salad, with Cashews and Cranberries

1. Make my regular ginger-garlic chicken (see Serendib Kitchen website for recipe).

2. When it’s cool, run through food processor with some mayo (maybe 1/2 – 1 c.?), careful to pulse and leave some shreds, rather than turning it into puree. Transfer to big bowl and clean out food processor bowl and blade.

3. Chop cashews in food processor, and then combine with chicken.

4. Add dried cranberries and stir to combine. (Sultanas would be more traditional, but I love both the color and the tang of the cranberries. V. autumnal!)

SO GOOD.

Daly Bagel Collaboration Brunch

Amanda Daly took some great photos at our Collaboration Brunch today.  So good to get some of her bagels; it’s been too long!

(I, um, may have eaten three so far today, and am eyeing a fourth….)

I was too busy talking to folks to take many photos — a great group for today’s Daly Bagel brunch, and a particular shout-out to my high school friend, Carmela Diosana, all the way down from Madison.  Great to see you again and delighted to pass your Feast of Serendib orders to you!

Lovely brunch all around. Much fun foodie conversation!

For today’s brunch, Karina had suggested a kithul treacle & strawberry shmear, which we’d seen at a fancy hotel in Sri Lanka that had a bagel bar in their Western section. That gave me an idea — I had some sugar pumpkins that had come in our imperfect produce order, that I hadn’t figured out what to do with yet. So I split one in half and roasted it, then scooped that out and combined it with whipped cream cheese and kithul (palm) treacle. Makes a great bagel shmear, as it turns out — I had mine on an Amanda Daly chai bagel. Mmm….

My standard Sri Lankan curried salmon + cream cheese = yummy curried salmon shmear with a little bite to it. The shmear bites back. 

Ginger Garlic Chicken with Chickpeas and Peas

We’re not vegetarian, but we’re trying to be more ‘lessertarian’ these days, for a variety of reasons. Anand is tender-hearted, and would rather be vegetarian if he could bring himself to give up meat. It’s clearly better for the planet if we eat more plant-based, and it’s generally healthier too.

But it’s going to be a process in our household getting there, as the kids aren’t used to eating beans and chickpeas and the like, and of course, I really like and cook with meat all the time. So, a compromise — we’re starting with trying to incorporate more vegetables and beans into our meat dishes, which I think of as Mediterranean-style. We’re aiming towards Meatless Mondays within a few months, but it’ll help a lot if they start actually liking beans! (I have some sympathy, as I didn’t start liking beans until I encountered Ethiopian food in my 20s. Then I fell in love with them. Yemisir wat, shiro, yum.)

This dish was a success on the flavors front — I took our standard ginger-garlic chicken that the kids love, added a cup of canned chickpeas (it would’ve been better texture with soaking dry chickpeas overnight, but I was also aiming for easy dinner on a week night with no planning ahead) partway through.

I added some peas at the end, to bump up the vitamins and fiber a bit, which were pretty and tasty, but got mushy on sitting, which is not ideal, esp. as Kavi already doesn’t like cooked peas. Next time I try this, I might try this with kale or spinach, though the kids are even less likely to like those.

I really liked the dish as it came out, and though I had mine with some toasted ancient grain naan (which Whole Foods carries now, which kind of bewilders me, but okay), if you served this with rice, it’d be a great gluten-free dinner option. Or you can skip the starch entirely — it’s on the salty side, though, so something to cut that would be nice. The kids had theirs with lots of raw bell pepper, which is one of their favorite veg.

Anand ate the chickpeas (though he preferred the chicken). Kavi tried one chickpea and refused to eat the rest; I didn’t push her, because she gets very distressed when forced to eat food she doesn’t like, and no one wants a sad Kavi.

 

But I think we’ll make this with the chickpeas from now on, with the hopes that if she tries one or two every time, she’ll eventually get used to them, and even start to like them. That’s generally how it works with her — it’s just a slow, slow process. Patience is key to changing food habits around here!

Will have the recipe in the new Gluten-Free Serendib ebook going out to Kickstarter backers, but here it is, just for you!

*****

Ginger-Garlic Chicken with Chickpeas and Peas
(90 minutes, serves 6-8)

1 heaping tsp ginger powder
1 heaping tsp garlic powder
1 heaping tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
12 chicken thighs, about 2 lbs., deboned and cut bite-size
vegetable oil for frying
1/2 to 2 heaping tsp red chili powder (to taste, optional)
1 c. canned chickpeas, drained (or dry chickpeas, soaked overnight)
1/2 c. frozen peas

1. Mix first four spices in a large bowl; add chicken pieces and rub with your hands until well coated. Marinate 1/2 hour

2. Heat oil on high; add chili powder (if using) and cook 15 seconds, stirring.

3. Add chicken and sear on high, turning to brown all sides.

4. Reduce heat to low, add chickpeas, and cover; cook approximately 15-20 minutes, until meat is cooked through.

5. Uncover and cook until all the liquid is gone. Stir in frozen peas and cook a minute or two more.

6. Tilt pan and push chicken pieces to one side; allow excess oil to drain to one side for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to dish and serve hot.

#serendibkitchen

Chicken Curry variations

A friend was over the other day and when I offered them some chicken curry (options: mild, spicy, and with added liver) to take home with her, she said that I should explain how I did that. As a busy parent, she said it’d be helpful to others with picky eaters at home, and of course, that makes sense, but some of this I do so automatically these days that I don’t even think about it.

But here’s the process. It looks long, because I explain in some detail, but it’s actually super-simple and quick to do:

NOTE: When I say ‘chili powder’ here, I mean Indian chili powder, which is powdered dried red chili pepper; it’s usually notably hotter than the cayenne you find in American grocery stores. But you can use cayenne. I don’t mean a ‘chili’ spice mix!

NOTE 2: I use boneless thighs for this, because the kids and Kevin eat with forks and so it’s not easy eating chicken on the bone. But if you’re going to all be eating with your hands (like me), cooking it on the bone is tastier. If you have time when making the first curry and want boneless pieces, you can buy chicken on the bone, cut the meat off, and then cook the bones in the curry with the meat pieces. Alternately, if you’re in a big hurry, you can use whole chicken thighs and not cut it up at all — you can even dump frozen chicken pieces in; you just have to simmer a bit longer. I only do that when I’m truly exhausted, but sometimes needs must.

1) MILD CURRY (make as usual):

The kids don’t like chicken curry as spicy as Kevin and I like it. They’re finally at a point (ages 12 and almost-10) where they can handle black pepper, and Kavi likes a little chili, but Anand doesn’t want any. So the first step is to make a mild curry. You could do this with no pepper or chili at all, but for Kavi, I put in about a 1/2 t. of chili powder to the pot.

Then, when I serve the kids, I actually rinse off Anand’s chicken pieces. It makes me a little sad, losing that yummy sauce, but this way he eats it. And that’s actually what Amma recommended, for getting kids used to eating spicy food, what they did in Sri Lanka with toddlers — make it per usual, rinse off most of the sauce, give it to them, so they get a little bit of it. I wish I’d listened to my mom and done that with the kids when they were toddlers — maybe we’d be further along in this process now! Oh well.

I set half the curry aside in a Pyrex for dinner that night, and for their leftover meals the next days.

2) SPICY CURRY (add chili oil):

It’s time to get spicy! In a separate frying pan, I heat up a little oil or ghee, then add 1-2 t. chili powder and sauté for just a minute, until it darkens slightly. I stir that chili oil into the half-pot of chicken curry on the stove, and simmer for oh, about ten minutes, until well-blended. If you have enough liquid, it won’t hurt to simmer longer; if you’re getting low on liquid, add water. (You could add milk or coconut milk, but that would make it milder, which isn’t what you’re looking for…)

Now it’s at Kevin and my heat levels. Usually I’d just stop there, but sometimes, I want one more variation. If so, I portion out some of the spicy chicken into a separate Pyrex for Kev’s dinner and leftovers.

3) CHICKEN CURRY WITH LIVER (add sauteéd liver):

I usually make this when I’m feeling a little under the weather, and I want some extra iron and vitamins. Or when I’m feeling indulgent, because I *love* liver curry. In the same frying pan that I cooked the chili powder, I add some chicken liver and fry it for a few minutes (there’s usually enough oil left in the pan, but you could add more, if not). Brown it a little to bring out the flavor, and then just add it to the remaining chicken curry in the pot, and simmer another 10 minutes or so. If you cook it on high, or cook a long time, the liver will break down, making a very thick, rich, liver-y sauce. Usually I only want it to break down a bit, though, as I like eating the liver pieces, and I like the curry sauce closer to the original. Serve hot with rice or bread.

All this usually makes us dinners for three nights (we all eat leftovers, thankfully), so it’s not too bad to do on a weeknight. If you wanted to save more time on a busy workday when you’re getting home around dinnertime, you could do the chicken curry in a slow cooker or Instant Pot (10 minutes of sautéing onions to start, then cook long and slow) in the morning, and then just do the ‘add chili powder’ and/or ‘add liver’ steps later in the day. Having batches of cooked seasoned onions on hand (can be kept in freezer) also speeds up the process dramatically.

That’s it! 

*****

Chicken Curry / Kozhi Kari
(1 hour, serves 6)

This is the classic Sri Lankan chicken dish; if you were just going to make one, this should be the one. A key to a good chicken curry is having a tasty kulambu (or kuzhambu, depending on how you do the transliteration), which is basically the curry sauce or gravy. Some people make it more liquid, some more thick (if you use potatoes in this dish, they will thicken the sauce). In this recipe you build a fairly spicy sauce, and then add whole milk partway through the cooking process, which melds the flavors and mellows the spice level, lending your curry a creamy richness.

You can use other kinds of milk if you’d prefer, and in fact, coconut milk is often used in Sri Lanka, but coconut milk is a little rich for everyday cooking—my family tends to save it for special occasion meals. I’ve used goat milk (works fine) and soy milk (a little thin, but acceptable). Almond milk is quite thin, and has a distinct nutty flavor—it’s not bad, but it does take the curry in a different direction; if you can find cashew milk, that might be a better option.

Note: If you’re using coconut milk, which is fairly sweet, you may want to switch out the ketchup for chopped fresh tomatoes + a little vinegar. My mother started using ketchup (which has sugar in it already) to compensate for the lack of sweetness in cow’s milk, when she first came to America as an immigrant in 1973, and coconuts and coconut milk were not so easy to come by.

3-5 medium onions, diced
3 TBL vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
3 whole cloves
3 whole cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 3 pieces
1-2 TBL cayenne
1 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
12 pieces chicken, about 2 1/2 lbs, skinned and trimmed of fat
Note: Use legs and thighs—debone if you must, but they’ll be tastier cooked on the bone. Don’t use breast meat—it’s not nearly as tasty. (Alternately, use 6 pieces of chicken and 3 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed) If you crack the bones (using the back of a heavy knife), it will allow the marrow to add rich flavor to the dish.
1/3 cup ketchup
1 heaping tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 TBL lime juice

1. In a large pot, sauté onions in oil on medium-high with mustard seed and cumin seed, cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon pieces, until onions are golden/translucent (not brown). Add cayenne and cook one minute. Immediately add curry powder, chicken, ketchup, and salt.

2. Lower heat to medium. Cover and cook, stirring periodically, until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thick, about 20 minutes. Add water if necessary to avoid scorching. Add potatoes if using, and add milk, to thicken and mellow spice level; stir until well blended.

3. Cook 20 more minutes, until potatoes are cooked through. Stir in lime juice; serve hot.

Ginger-Garlic Chicken

(30-90 minutes, serves 6-8)

The timing on this is so variable because you can either do it the long way described below, the way my mother recommends, which is definitely a bit tastier — or you can do a much faster version, where you mix the spices with the chicken, skip the marinating, and then just sauté the chicken in the pan on medium-high until cooked through and serve. I use both methods, mostly depending on how much of a hurry I’m in. Regardless of which method you use, this dish is best served fresh; if it sits, the chicken will tend to dry up and not be as tasty.

NOTE: This is my daughter’s favorite chicken dish, and one she always greets with delight; she started eating it when she was about five, with no added chili powder. Over time, I’ve added a little more chili powder when feeding it to both kids, serving with milk to help them along; you can also use black pepper if you’d prefer.

1 heaping tsp ginger powder
1 heaping tsp garlic powder
1 heaping tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
12 chicken thighs, about 2 lbs., deboned and cut bite-size
vegetable oil for frying
1/2 to 2 heaping tsp red chili powder (to taste, optional)

1. Mix first four spices in a large bowl; add chicken pieces and rub with your hands until well coated. Marinate 1/2 hour

2. Heat oil on high; add chili powder (if using) and cook 15 seconds, stirring.

3. Add chicken and sear on high, turning to brown all sides.

4. Reduce heat to low and cover; cook approximately 15-20 minutes, until meat is cooked through.

5. Uncover and cook until all the liquid is gone.

6. Tilt pan and push chicken pieces to one side; allow excess oil to drain to one side for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to dish and serve hot.

 

NOTE: If reheating a day or two later, I recommend reheating in a pan with a little coconut milk; just simmer 5-10 minutes, enough for the milk to thicken with the spices into a nice sauce. Or serve dry chicken with a nice coconut-milky vegetable curry, like carrot or beetroot curry.

Chicken Salad, Sri Lankan-Style

   (10 minutes, serves 4)

You know how you’re tired and the kids need dinner, so you pick up a rotisserie chicken on the way home from work? And your family eats some of it that night, and maybe a bit more the next day, but they’re bored with it after that. But you can’t stand wasting food, so you spend a little time taking the remaining chicken off the bone?

In my experience, that results in about two cups of cooked chicken, a mix of light and dark meat, heading towards too-dry, so needing some moisture added to be tasty. Sometimes I make a spicy curry with the leftover chicken, but often, chicken salad is the way to go. Mayonnaise leaps to the rescue!

While you can certainly add a little yellow curry powder to chicken salad, I actually like it just fine without, and usually don’t bother. It’s the cashews, sultanas, green chili, and lime juice that make it ‘feel’ Sri Lankan to me.

Bonus — if you wait to add the cashews and cilantro, you can actually do everything else and it’ll freeze well. Then just let thaw in the fridge overnight, or at room temperature for a few hours (I wouldn’t try to use the microwave defrost on this, personally, for risk of the mayo starting to cook), add the cashews and cilantro, check your seasonings, and you’re ready to serve it to guests, or have it for a few days of sandwiches.

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1/4 c. cashews, chopped
1/4 c. sultanas, chopped
3-5 Thai green chilies, chopped
1/2 c. mayo
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
1/2 – 1 t. fine salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1-2 T lime juice

1. Combine ingredients, adjust seasonings to your taste, and enjoy! If you let it sit for maybe 20 minutes or so, the flavors will meld a little better.

*****

(I do like a recipe with only one step!)

Instant Pot Chicken and Potato Curry

It’s going to take me a while to figure out what the Instant Pot is actually good for. For example, this chicken and potato curry isn’t really any faster doing it this way than on the stovetop — you need the same time sautéing, then the time for preheating and pressure cooking, then you need to remove the chicken and potatoes and cook down the sauce, ideally.

I think the only time I’d maybe do this is if I wanted to do the first step in the morning before work, set a timer, and then have it pressure cook the rest when I got home (or just before I got home)? Although I don’t love the idea of uncooked chicken sitting all day at room temperature. Do steps 1 and 2 in the morning, let it keep warm ’til you get home, and then do step 3? That’s a lot of morning cooking time. Just do step 1 in the morning, so you’re ready to quickly cook it when you get home? But you’re still looking at 30-45 minutes then, so….?

I am new to the ways of the Instant Pot, so feel free to opine. This works, anyway, if you really want to use one for chicken curry

******

(serves 4-6)

This is the classic Sri Lankan chicken dish; if you were just going to make one, this should be the one.

2-3 medium onions, diced
3 TBL vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
3 whole cloves
3 whole cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 3 pieces
1-2 TBL red chili powder
1 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
6-8 pieces boneless chicken thighs, about 2lbs, skinned and trimmed of fat
2 russet potatoes
1/3 cup ketchup
1 heaping tsp salt
water to cover
1 TBL lime juice

1. In the Instant Pot, sauté onions in oil on medium-high with mustard seed and cumin seed, cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon pieces, until onions are golden/translucent (not brown). Add chili powder and cook one minute.

 

2. Add curry powder, chicken, potatoes, ketchup, salt, and water. Pressure cook on high 8 minutes (allowing time for preheat cycle beforehand, about 15-20 minutes).

3. Release steam, open and remove chicken and potatoes to a serving dish. You can serve now, but the sauce will be very liquid. I recommend going back to sauté mode, stirring in lime juice, and simmering it down 10-20 minutes until it’s thickened.

Tandoori Chicken & Pasta in a Béchamel Sauce

Kavi: Can I learn to make something today?

Me: Sure? Like what?

Kavi: Maybe cooking?

Me: How about I teach you how to make a white sauce? We have some leftover pasta and tandoori chicken to use up.

Kavi: Okay!

Me: You know, this is going to make your college roommates very happy with you.

[continuing with snooty accent]

They’ll be all, “Oh, all we have is some plain pasta and last night’s dried takeout chicken. Sad!” And you’ll be all, “No problem! I’ll just toss together a béchamel!” And they’ll say, “What’s a béchamel?” And you’ll say, “Oh, it’s just one of the French mother sauces, you know. If you can make those, you can make anything!”

Kavi, barely restraining her pre-teen eye-roll: I’m sure everyone in college talks like that all the time.

Basic béchamel recipes are all over the internet, but essentially, warm milk in pan or in microwave. Then in separate pan, melt butter on medium heat, stirring (careful not to brown). Next, make the roux — add an equal amount of flour (about 6 T butter to 3.5 T flour is standard, with 2 c. milk, though I admit, I mostly eyeball it), stir until it’s a bit clumpy. Whisk in a little of the warm milk to smooth it out, then add the rest of the milk and whisk whisk whisk, stirring, until it thickens. Stir in your cooked pasta, shredded leftover chicken, maybe some frozen peas, and you’re good to go. 10-minute easy delicious & nutritious meal to feed a hungry college student and her roommates.

Curry-Poached (or Grilled) Chicken Sandwich, Two Ways

The nice thing about poaching chicken on the weekend is that you can then make really quick weeknight meals. Throw a little garlic naan in the toaster oven (I just used some frozen pre-made naan), and then you can top it with all kinds of things. In this case, I did one open-face sandwich with store-bought guacamole and mango salsa (yum), and one toasted sandwich with homemade seeni sambol (also yum). Add in a little salad or some roasted veggies, and you have yourself a very nice meal.

Curry-Poached Chicken Soup

(20-30 minutes, serves 4)

I’ve been poaching chicken breast lately, and I was curious how it would work with Sri Lankan flavors. This turned out quite tasty served as a soup (very reminiscent of rasam), with a little cooked millet and some chopped bell pepper to fill out the dish. Would make again!

(I tried serving it on a plate with the millet, but even with a little broth poured over the millet, I thought the end result was a bit dry; wouldn’t recommend. The chicken would be nice in a sandwich with seeni sambol, though!)

1 red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1 T dark-roasted curry powder
2 t. salt
2 T lime juice
1/2 c. tomato juice (from a can)
1/2 c. wine
3 c. water
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)

NOTE: If serving with rice or millet, start that going first; it’ll be ready in 15-25 minutes, along with the chicken, making this as easy and healthy weeknight meal.

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot; slowly bring just to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10-12 minutes (until juices run clear when chicken is pierced in the thickest part of the meat).

3. Remove chicken to a cutting board, let cool a little, slice, and serve with the broth it cooked in. A little sliced bell pepper or scallion is a lovely grace note to the dish; you could also stir in some peas or corn.