Flavor of the Gods

 

This is a quick post about one of my favorite easy, healthy and flavorful combinations. We all know chicken and turkey breasts are low fat and high in protein. They’re a bodybuilder’s best friend. However, especially with turkey, it’s hard to flavor to be palatable enough to taste good.

I have found the ultimate duo of coconut oil and a mixed spice made by Flavor God.

flavorgod

 

Flavor God‘s Everything spice mix has everything to make this otherwise tasteless turkey breast taste superb. And if you use it on chicken, even better. Sprinkle liberally. It is low in salt, and is Paleo-diet friendly.

You can buy it on Amazon or on their website.

 

But wait. Try pan-frying the turkey/chicken in coconut oil. We’ve all heard how healthy this is. It has a low smoking point of 350F, which makes it fine for stir-fry, but since I want to sear the breasts more, I usually add a bit of Grapeseed oil.

So try this combination. Coconut oil + Flavor God.

 

They also have other flavors, but I found their Everything one, the best tasting one.

 

 

Ground Turkey kebabs (stove top version)

Ground turkey kebabs (kubideh) topped with chopped green onions and parsley.

Ground turkey kebabs (kubideh) topped with chopped green onions and parsley.

I’ve got a delicious recipe for you and it’s quite simple to make once you’ve gotten past grating the onions. 🙂

The best dishes are the recipes you get from friends. I had a photoshoot with a friend one day and she prepared this for lunch. It took 15 minutes for her to whip this up. Ofcourse, the meat was already seasoned and prepared ahead of time and so was the topping. This could be served with flat bread (lavash or pita) or rice.

Ground Turkey kebabs

1-lb ground turkey meat (I mixed dark and white)

1-tsp salt (or to taste)

pepper to taste

1/2 grated onion (yes grated)

1 egg

Mix the egg, onion, salt and pepper. Add the ground turkey and mix well. (I put on disposable gloves and used my hand to mash the meat into the seasoning)

Add a swirl of oil on a non-stick skillet. Add the mound of seasoned ground turkey.

ground turkey— flatten into a disk

ground turkey— flatten into a disk

Set on medium high. Now, my onions were too juicy and it started to water a lot. You can choose to soak up the sides with some paper towel so it would brown the bottom better.

When the disk of turkey is almost cooked, cut it into sections, let it cook a bit more and then flip.

Cut into sections

Cut into sections

Serve with green onion-parsley mixture (recipe to follow)

Green Onion-Parsley dressing

3 stalks of green onion, finely chopped

1/3 bunch curly parsley (or cilantro)

juice of one lemon

olive oil (drizzle to taste)

salt (to taste)

sumac (optional: to taste)

Green Onion and parsley

Green Onion and parsley

It’s Alive !!!

Persian-style Lamb stew

 

 

Well, I’m back for the nth time. The look is different since I’ve moved my hosting—I lost some of the cool design—but hey, life happens. I’ve been busy on another project which I will share here pretty soon. Anyway, my silence on this food blog does not mean I have not been cooking. I may not be bringing out the big-gun cameras since Iphone photos have been doing so well anyway, but I hope dusting off the Canon DSLR soon. Not sure which direction this blog is heading at the moment. I’ve got a couple of new cookbooks I haven’t even tried out yet. Sometimes though, the best recipes are the ones you get from your friends … like this one.

Persian Lamb Stew

3 lbs. of meat

1 bulb of garlic

1 onion

16-24 oz of diced tomato (you can use fresh)

bunch cilantro (reserve some for topping at end)

juice of two limes

1 chicken bouillon,

salt and pepper to taste

You can choose to brown the meat first, which I did. Saute garlic, onions, add the meat, add tomato and cilantro. Simmer on low heat for 1.5 hours. During the last 10 minutes of cooking add the juice of lime.

 

It’s great to be back!

A simple roast turkey for Thanksgiving

turkey2012
Roast Turkey 2012

My eldest brother came to visit with his family a couple of weeks ago. His wife and daughter were supposed to go up to New York but then Hurricane Sandy hit and so they had to stay in Richmond. Fine with me. Actually, it was perfect so now I can plan an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner.

Whole Foods had a fresh whole Turkey when I went to pick one up so I didn’t have to deal with thawing it out. As for a recipe, I didn’t want to deal with brining either and the November 2012 issue of Bon Appetit had all the recipes I needed to throw a feast!

Important to take the Turkey out an hour before roasting. With the size of the bird, there is no doubt that when it’s too cold, it’s going to drop the temperature of the oven significantly which is why I think the oven temp is first set to 450F.

A Simple Roast Turkey

from Bon Appetit November 2012

1           12-14 lb. turkey, giblets and neck removed, at room temperature for              1 hour

3           tbsp. kosher salt (I used Maldon, so had to use a little bit more)

1.5        tbsp. freshly ground pepper

1           medium onion, quartered

2           celery stalks, coarsely chopped

6           tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

3           tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce

1           tbsp. mirin

3          sprigs of rosemary

Preheat oven to 450F. Set a rack inside a large roasting pan. Pour 4 cups of water into the pan. Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Tuck tips of wings under bird. If turkey is not brined, rub bird inside and out with salt. Season inside and out with pepper and place on rack in pan. Place onion and celery in cavity. Rub 3 Tbsp. butter over turkey. Roast turkey uncovered for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir remaining 3 tbsp. butter, soy sauce, and mirin (or substitute store-bought teriyaki sauce for soy and mirin) in a small sauce pan over medium heat until melted and smooth. Add rosemary. Cover; keep glaze warm over lowest heat.

Reduce oven to 325F. Baste turkey with pan juices; add more water if needed to maintain at least 1/4″ liquid in pan. Roast for 30 minutes; baste with pan juices. Brush lightly with glaze.

Continue roasting turkey, basting with pan juices and brushing glaze every 30 minutes, tenting with foil if turning too dark, until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone registers 165F (juices should run clear when thermometer is removed), about 2.75 hours total.

Transfer turkey to a platter. Tent with foil; let rest for an hour before carving.

Cooking Notes:

I like getting a turkey that has a button that pops out when it is done, still I do like to double-check using a thermometer. Here are the guidelines for cooking.

15 minutes/lb in an oven set to 325F.

165F registers at thigh when done.

For a 12-14 lb. bird, roughly 4 hours

For a 16-25 lb. bird, roughly 5 hours

For a 20-26 lb. bird, roughly 6 hours

I take the bird out everytime I baste and brush with glaze. This is so the oven doesn’t lose heat. Anyway, when returning the bird to the oven, I always like to rotate the pan for more even cooking. I only rested the bird for 30 minutes before carving.

What about the gravy?

I didn’t want to mess with making a roux when cornstarch will work in a pinch. Dissolve 3 tbsp cornstarch in 3 tbsp. cold water. Anyway, while the turkey was resting I poured all the pan juices through a sieve. I had a pan of chicken stock sitting on the stove top (this was made with Knorr homestyle stock) and added a little to the strained pan juices until I had enough liquid for the turkey. Add 1-2 tbsp. of soy sauce, 1 tbsp. of brown sugar (I think I also added a squeeze of lemon). Taste the gravy base before thickening. If it lacks a savory taste, add some chicken bouillon – trust me on this – I love to use knorr. Once satisfied with flavor, bring pan juices to a boil and  thicken with the cornstarch-water mixture (you may not need to use all of it). 

How to celebrate the end of a food detox

shirazipolow02
Shirazi pan-cooked lamb with Baqala polow

After a week of detox diet which consisted mostly of cabbage soup, I was more than ready to indulge in some hearty Persian rice dishes and lamb. It did not help that during that week of restricted eating, the cookbooks I ordered started arriving. It was extremely hard to browse through those picture-perfect cookbooks; the “Hungry” hubby, who was doing the diet with me, finally had to tell me to stop “torturing” myself.

Anyway, I did manage to go to the grocery on the last day of my diet to get the ingredients for a weekend of cooking.

The recipe for the lamb is adapted from Najmieh Batmanglij’s updated version of her cookbook “Food of Life”. These were supposed to be kebabs threaded through fig branches. I thought the fig branches were for flavor but my sister-in-law told me that the sap of fig branches acted as tenderizers.

I also made Baqala polow – a dill and lima bean rice – that goes so well with lamb. My polow-making skills are still a work in progress. I’ve always gone to my sister-in-law’s and my friend’s for Persian rice dishes but recently I thought it might be a good idea to learn how to make them myself seeing as how HH loves them.

shirazibaqalapolow
 

My sister-in-law is preparing a Norooz (Persian New Year) luncheon and I offered to help her so I can learn some tricks with Persian cooking including how she keeps a kitchen so clean every time (her stove and oven are spotless) even when she has to cook food fit to feed an army.

So for now, I leave you with a Shirazi-style pan-cooked lamb {kebab}

2 pounds leg of lamb (de-boned, and cut into 2-inch cubes)
1/2 cup oil or butter
2 large onions, peeled and sliced into thin rings
2 large tomatoes , peeled and sliced into rings
2-3 teaspoons salt (for flakier salt like maldon use 3 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
Zest of 2 limes

Grease a wide, shallow pot with 1/4 cup of oil
Arrange the onion slices in a layer to fit the bottom of the pot.
Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, a few drops of saffron water, and zest of 1 lime.
Arrange the lamb pieces on top of the onion rings and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, the rest of the saffron water, and zest of 1 lime.
Arrange the tomato slices on top, sprinkle with the rest of the salt and pepper, and drizzle with the rest of the oil.
Cover tightly and cook over low heat for 2 to 2.5 hours or until the lamb is tender. Adjust seasoning to taste by adding more salt or pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Cooking Notes:
This dish produced a pool of oil, probably because the lamb itself had a lot of fat which I refused to remove. Might try to reduce the oil that is to be drizzled on top of the tomatoes next time.

This post is dedicated to Pooh Bear, my furry four-legged pooch who passed away this past Tuesday. He loved lamb! Every time we cooked lamb he would hover around the grill sniffing the air – he knew he was going to clean out some lamb chop bones afterwards. Pooh, we are going to miss you!

poohbear
Pooh Bear (1998-2012) taken last December

Mushroom Khoresh

chickenmushroomkhoresh
Mushroom Khoresh with Chicken

Persian cuisine is known for their stews (khoresh) and their rice (polow) dishes; they’re also known for their fabulous kebabs. I myself don’t make these stews or rice much because I have no shortage of supply from my family and friends. The hubby is usually their tech support for Apple products and they usually repay in khoreshes and I become a beneficiary by association. 😉

Some Persian food like the rice dishes require extensive preparation, but this mushroom khoresh is one of the easiest to make, besides who doesn’t like mushroom and chicken? This recipe is taken from “New Food of Life” by Nagmieh Batmanglij. My book is the 2000 edition. Can’t wait to get my hands on the 25th anniversary edition published last year.

Mushroom Khoresh

(khoresh-e-qarch)

2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 pounds chicken legs, cut up, or 1 pound stew meat (lamb, veal, or beef), cut in 1-inch cubes
6 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

  1. In a Dutch oven, brown onions, garlic, and meat or chicken in 3 tablespoons oil. Add salt and pepper. Pour in water — 1 1/2 cups for meat, 1/2 for chicken. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours for meat or 45 minutes for chicken, stirring occasionally.
  2. Clean mushrooms, cut off stems and slice. Sprinkle with flour and parley and saute in 3 tablespoons oil.
  3. Add mushrooms, lime juice, and saffron water to the meat. Cover and simmer 35 minutes over low heat.
  4. Taste the stew and adjust seasoning. Add beaten egg yolks and cumin if desired. Simmer 5 minutes over low heat, gently stirring.
  5. Transfer the stew to an ovenproof casserole. Cover and place in a warm oven until ready to serve. Serve hot from the same dish with chelow, saffron-steamed rice.

Cooking Notes:

I fully intended to use skinless chicken thighs but for some reason I ended up with skinless breasts. Instead of parsley, I used cilantro which is also used for garnish. I did not use any cumin because I did not have any at hand. Most Persian cooks actually use turmeric and my friend and mother-in-law told me they always add a little turmeric to all the khoreshes.

A diet of chicken kebabs

chickenkebab
Chicken breast kebabs

*NOTE: the picture above was taken from my first test where I mixed the saffron with the marinade. In the recipe I’m sharing below, the chicken will not be yellow on the grill because the saffron is not added till the very end.

Diet, that word is a food blogger’s nightmare. It’s just so easy to let your weight get away from you when you go on vacation and then realize  too late that you’ve eaten pork belly for a week.

There is a need to balance such indulgence with {shudder} low-fat skinless chicken breasts. Though I like grilled chicken (yakitori anyone?) fine, there is always a tendency to consume copious amount of carbs with it which essentially defeats the purpose. Please don’t suggest having it with salad…because I’ll be hungry after 30 minutes.

As with jujeh kabab, a popular Persian kebab dish made with chicken, this goes oh so well with white rice. It’s really up to you to portion it out. 😉

I’ve tested a recipe from a book that called for lime and the saffron in the marinade but after testing it against my sister-in-law’s recipe that uses lemon, I’ve determined that lime toughens the chicken while lemon does not. Also saffron flavor will dissipate with extended cooking so it’s better to just toss the grilled pieces with a butter-saffron mixture at the end (also my sister-in-law’s method).

saffron
saffron. I have a mortar and pestle used exclusively for saffron. respect the spice.

Saffron chicken kebab

1.5 lbs skinless chicken breast ( around 3 pieces), cut into 1.5 inch pieces
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Butter-saffron mixture

1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons melted butter

* amounts are guidelines, adjust according to taste.

3 flat swordlike skewers

Marinate the chicken with the lemon juice, olive oil, sliced onion, salt and pepper for 6 hours up to overnight.
Thread the chicken on flat swordlike skewers (available online or in Persian grocery stores)
Grill until done. The advantage of skewers is that the chicken cooks from inside and outside which traps the juice within the meat and it cooks faster.

Immediately de-skewer into a large serving bowl and toss with the butter saffron mixture. Serve with rice and some grilled tomatoes.