Chicken Tikka Masala

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My chicken tikka masala isn’t traditional. You see, growing up with all manner of khoreshs, one of my favorite things to do was to pour the khoresh on top of tahdig, the golden crispy bottom-of-the-pot part of Iranian-style rice.

As an adult, I do the same thing not only with khoresh, but with curries too. So what’s better than tikka masala? Tikka masala on top of tahdig, of course! And with a side of torshi and fresh sabzi, even. Iran and India share so much in common that these dishes pair together perfectly.

Chicken tikka masala

Ingredients:

For the marinade:
1 cup plain yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt and pepper

For the chicken:
2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup almonds
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
One 30-ounce can chopped tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
1 cup heavy cream

1. For the marinade: In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Using a knife, make a few shallow slashes in each piece of chicken. Add the chicken to the marinade, turn to coat and refrigerate overnight.

3. Remove the chicken from the marinade; scrape the marinade. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and transfer to a cutting board and cut the chicken into 2-inch pieces.

4. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-low. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate and let cool. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground.

5. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chile powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Add the cream and ground almonds and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 8 minutes longer. Stir in the chicken; simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with basmati rice, tahdig, torshi, and fresh sabzi khordan.

Roasted Chicken with Date Molasses

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I made this sheet pan-roasted chicken when I was craving something savory and sweet. Influenced by the flavors of Persian Gulf cooking, this dish makes genius use of date molasses, a popular syrup in southern Iran, as well as in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

Serve this with basmati rice and pickled vegetables for a vinegary contrast.

Roast chicken with date molasses

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 chicken, cut into pieces
1 cup walnuts
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled, plus 1 clove garlic, grated
3 teaspoons sumac
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 cup pitted dates, halved
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup olive or avocado oil
3 tablespoons date molasses

1. Make the dry rub: Place 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the turmeric in a small bowl and mix. Rub the chicken pieces with the dry rub and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees.

3. Make the wet rub: In a food processor, combine the walnuts, onion, 4 peeled garlic cloves, remaining teaspoon salt, remaining teaspoon pepper, sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, dates, lime juice, and 1/4 cup oil, and pulse until you have a grainy, chopped mixture. Rub the chicken pieces with the wet rub and push some under the skin. Arrange the chicken pieces on a baking sheet.

4. Cover loosely with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour.

5. In a small saucepan, mix the ingredients remaining 1 clove grated garlic, the remaining 1/4 cup oil, the date molasses, and 1 tablespoon water. Bring to a simmer over low heat, turn off, and set aside to keep warm.

6. Uncover the foil from the chicken and continue to bake for another 20 minutes.

7. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter, baste the chicken with the date molasses mixture, and serve.

Kashk-Braised Goat and Chickepea Soup (Boz Ghormeh)

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Kashk is an Iranian dairy product similar to sour cream, made from the leftovers of cheese making. It’s tart and creamy, providing a welcome contrast to rich, meaty dishes. Its essential in dishes like ash-e reshteh and also boz ghormeh, a regional specialty of Kerman in south-central Iran.

In this #uglydelicious meal-in-a-bowl soup, goat is braised with chickpeas, a hearty serving of seasoned kashk and topped with garlicy, tarragon-inflected croutons made from Iranian naan-e sangak flatbread. In a pinch, you can substitute the goat for leg of lamb and you can substitute the sangak with lavash or pita.

Kashk-braised goat and chickpea soup

Ingredients:

For the goat:

3/4 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in water with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda overnight, drained, and rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, sliced, plus 1 or 2 cloves garlic, grated
1/3 cup tarragon leaves, chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 1/2 cups liquid kashk
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water

For the croutons:

1 sangak bread cut into 1-inch squares
1 clove garlic, grated
1/2 cup tarragon leaves
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. To cook the goat: Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat and saute the onions until beginning to turn golden. Add the goat and continue to saute until onions are golden brown. Add salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, 3 cloves of sliced garlic, tarragon, chickpeas, and saute for 2 minutes.

2. Pour in 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally until the meat and chickpeas are tender.

3. In a small saucepan over low heat, add the kashk, remaining 1 clove grated garlic, and saffron water, and give it a stir. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, taking care not to let the kashk come to a boil.

4. Once the goat and chickpeas have finished cooking, add the kashk mixture to the dutch oven. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

5. To make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Spread sangkak on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and add the garlic and tarragon. Drizzle oil over the bread and toss to coat. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until the bread is toasted.

6. Serve the soup in individual bowls and top with a few croutons. You can also serve this soup with a fresh herb platter of sabzi khordan on the side.

Khoresh-e Gheymeh (Iranian Lamb and Chana Dal Braise)

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Khoresh-e gheymeh, or Iranian channa dal and lamb braise is one of the most popular (and mercifully easiest) khoreshes to make. Khoreshes are Iranian braises that are served with basmati rice, and this one in particular is the perfect example of cross-cultural evolution: high five to the genius who decided that French fries would become a required part of this dish.

Make sure to seek out limoo omani (dried limes) here, as their flavor is essential to the success of khoresh-e gheymeh.

Khoresh-e gheymeh

Ingredients:

For the braise:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 pound leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 dried limoo omani (Persian limes), pierced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tomato, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoons ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
1/4 cup yellow split peas (chana dal)

For the French fries:

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into thick matchsticks, and soaked in cold water
1 cup vegetable oil for shallow frying
Salt to taste

1. To make the braise: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onions until beginning to brown and then add the lamb, continuing to saute until the onions are golden brown and the juice has been absorbed. Add the dried limes, salt, pepper, and turmeric, and saute for 3 minutes.

2. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the tomato, sugar, and saffron water. Cover and cook over low heat for 35 minutes.

4. In a saucepan, cook the yellow split peas in 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt for 30 minutes. Drain, rinse, and add to the pot with the lamb. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

5. To make the French fries: Drain and dry the potatoes. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the potatoes, and shallow fry until golden and cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes and place on paper towels. Season with salt.

6. To serve, place the braise in a serving bowl and top with the French fries. Serve with basmati rice (and Iranian pickles and a fresh herb platter of sabzi khordan, if desired).

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Quiche

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Asparagus season is almost over in the Bay Area but I’m still finding ways to cook with it before the window closes. This asparagus and goat cheese quiche is a quick and easy way to showcase the seasonal bounty of Northern California: the asparagus is local and I picked up the goat cheese from a recent visit to Pennyroyal Farms in Mendocino County.

This quiche is perfect for breakfast or lunch, or better yet, packed up and served at a picnic.

Asparagus and goat cheese quiche

Ingredients:

1 pie crust
3 ounces diced pancetta
6 eggs
1/2 bunch (7 ounces) asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut on a diagonal into 1-to 1 1/2 in. pieces
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese

1. Follow instructions on pie crust to pre-bake crust on a baking sheet in the oven before adding filling ingredients, if needed.

2. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until very crisp, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels.

3. Whisk eggs in a large bowl to blend. Stir in asparagus, chives, the creme fraiche, salt, and pepper until blended. Fold in pancetta. Pour filling into crust and dot with goat cheese.

4. Bake at 400F degrees until filling is set in center when tart is gently shaken, 13 to 20 minutes. Let quiche cool about 10 minutes. With a knife, loosen crust from edge of pan. Carefully push quiche out and set on a platter. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.