Monthly Archives: July 2020

Butter Chicken–Dairy Free!

First of all, my family goes nuts for anything with coconut. Since we really try to find ways that skip dairy and butter, most of the meals we plan are dairy-free. But we LOVE butter chicken! Bummer that most recipes call for butter and heavy cream. So I brought in coconut oil and cream to sub for dairy, and the results have been a hit!

We’ve put this dish in the weekly rotation, serving it with sauteed spinach with garlic and lemon.

It’s a very straightforward dish, with just a few ingredients. I use chicken thighs, which melt into tender bites that don’t require cutting, but if you are a fan of chicken breasts, just dice them up and cook for 10 minutes less.

Butter Chicken–Dairy Free!

Ingredients

For the marinade:

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the butter chicken

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, stem, membranes and seeds removed, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 each teaspoon cumin and turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can whole tomatoes with juices (I used San Marzano)
  • 1 can of coconut cream
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steamed Rice & Sauteed Spinach for Serving

Method for the marinated chicken:

Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and add the chicken. Toss to combine the chicken and marinade, then refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Method for the butter chicken:

Heat the coconut oil in a large Dutch oven (that has a lid for later) over medium high heat. When oil is hot, sear the chicken in the pan until golden brown, working in batches to not overcrowd the pan, adding additional coconut oil if needed. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside on a plate or sheet pan.

When all of the chicken is browned and removed from the pan, add the onions and jalapenos, stirring frequently to prevent burning. After 2 minutes, add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin and turmeric, and continue to stir for another minute, or until the onions soften and the mixture is fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and can of tomatoes, stirring to lift the brown bits from the bottom of the pot, season with a pinch of salt, and continue to cook for another 2 minutes until the tomatoes reduce slightly. Add the coconut cream, stirring thoroughly to combine, and then stir in the chicken stock. Add the chicken thighs back into the pot, stir everything together, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover the Dutch oven with a lid, cracking slightly to vent.

Simmer the butter chicken for 35-40 minutes, until the chicken thighs are fall apart tender. Stir in the lemon juice and half of the cilantro. Serve, topping with additional cilantro, with steamed rice and sautéed spinach.  

Parchment Wrapped Sole with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Basil Pesto

Summer is here and we are eating up all the sweet cherry tomatoes coming from our backyard and the farm. Amazing fresh, I also love turning them into flavor bombs with a good oven roasting. They serve to add deeper flavor to marinara and romesco sauces, bring a concentrated burst of unami to rice pilaf, or a zing to a classic dish like sole “en papillote.” This sole, cooked in parchment paper, ticks off all the family table boxes: quick, seasonal, fresh, gorgeous and utterly delicious.

Parchment Wrapped Sole with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Basil Pesto

Ingredients

            For the tomatoes:

1 pint of cherry tomatoes

Olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper

            For the sole and basil:

1 bunch of basil leaves

1/4 cup of nuts (pine nuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts all do well here!)

1-2 garlic cloves

2-3 tablespoons of good quality olive oil

1 pound of sole filets

1 lemon

Method

Heat your oven to 350 degrees and place the cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the tomatoes with enough olive oil to coat them, and season them with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for about 30 to 40 minutes, turning with a spatula halfway through, until tomatoes have a slight char and burst. (These can be done a day in advance)

In a small food processor or blender, combine the basil, nuts, garlic and olive oil, and blend until combined but still a little chunky. It should look like a paste, if it’s too dense, add a little more olive oil, and process more. Taste for seasoning and add pepper and salt as needed. 

Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper twice the width of the pan. Center the parchment on the baking sheet so both sides evenly drape over the sides. Place the sole filets in the center and season with salt and pepper. Evenly distribute the pesto over each filet. Cut half of the lemon into round slices, and then squeeze the remaining half over the sole. Distribute the tomatoes over the sole, add the lemon rounds on top, and pull the sides of the parchment paper together over the sole. Roll the parchment together, tightly to seal, then fold in the sides, again tightly, to seal.

Bake the sole in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Carefully unwrap the parchment paper, there will be a lot of steam that could cause a burn. Check the sole for doneness, it should be opaque in color and firm to the touch. Serve right away.  

Braised Brisket with Mushrooms

Here in Los Angeles, quarantine 2.0 is in place. Indoor restaurants are closed, along with movie theaters…those places you escape to when it gets too hot to be outside. My favorite markets are still open, although we have masks and lines, social distance dances in the aisles, and bizarre shortages. Looking for something meaty to throw on the grill, I was faced with an empty meat case…the only cut left being brisket. The “new normal” makes everything surprising but strangely accepted, and I dug into cooking for comfort with my brisket and a pile of beautiful mushrooms, while I recalled an article I read where an Italian mother said, “Instead of stocking up on toilet paper, buy food that you’ve always wanted to cook but never had the time to. In lock down, you’ll have the leisure to let things simmer, soak, and rise.” Seared, braised and smothered with caramelized mushrooms, I gave myself into the process while the kitchen bloomed with delicious aromas and I delivered a different type of summer comfort food.

Braised Brisket with Caramelized Mushrooms

Serves 8

Ingredients: 

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 (5-pound) beef brisket
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds cremini mushrooms, stemmed and
    finely sliced
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes with juices
  • 3 to 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or Balsamic vinegar
  • chopped parsley for garnish

Method: 
Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven over high heat until warm, then add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan (about 1 tablespoon.) When the oil has heated, add the brisket to the pan and season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Sear the brisket until it is completely browned, and then flip over to the other side, seasoning that side with salt and pepper. Brown the opposite side and remove from the pan, setting aside on a plate.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and allow them to brown before stirring them. Once they have seared to a lovely, light golden brown, give them a stir and allow them to cook until all of their liquid has been released and are a deep golden brown. Season with salt and pepper and remove them from the pan, setting aside on another plate. 

Add a little more olive oil to the pan,  and then add the onions, celery and garlic, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir frequently until the vegetables have softened. Add the tomato paste and wine, stirring to incorporate everything, and cook for a few minutes until the mixture becomes thick and glossy. Add the tomatoes with their juices and stir to combine, cooking for a few minutes. Add the chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme and rosemary sprigs, and put the brisket back into the pan, nestled into the vegetable and broth mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid opened to a small crack, and cook for an hour over low heat. After an hour, flip the brisket over and check liquid level, adding more chicken stock if necessary, and cook for another hour and a half. 

After two and a half hours of cooking time, check the brisket to see if it is fork tender by gently pulling at the corner of the meat. If the brisket is still tough, return back to the braising liquid and cook it for another 30 minutes. If it is tender, place it on a cutting board covered with aluminum foil to rest for 20 minutes.

While the brisket rests, strain the braising liquid in a fine meshed strainer, discarding the vegetables and herbs. Return the liquid back to the pan and bring to a boil, cooking for about 10 minutes to make the sauce thick and flavorful. Add the lemon juice or vinegar and taste the sauce for seasoning. Adjust the flavor with more salt, pepper and lemon juice or vinegar if needed. Stir the mushrooms into the sauce.

Slice the brisket thinly across the grain and top with mushrooms, sauce and fresh parsley to serve.

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