Chicken Peanut Stew

Leftover holiday turkey—or a rotisserie chicken—is the main ingredient needed to get going on this savory West African-inspired peanut soup. I saw this recipe in the November 2017 Better Homes & Gardens magazine, and thought it looked weird. But weird intrigues me, when it comes to food. And since my husband and I had tag-teamed on the turkeys this year, we had plenty of leftover meat to use. (He did a 24-pound bird on his Big Green Egg, and I did a 14-pound turkey in the oven. The former for delicious smokiness, and the latter to make killer gravy.) 

How was it? It WAS weird, but in a good way! My son Mitchell and I loved the new flavor twist of the peanut butter, tomato and smokey spices, and thought you could even serve it over rice to make it even more hearty. But my husband kept making fun of the soup. Mind you, the man eats peanut butter and fresh tomato sandwiches throughout the month of August…this should be right up his alley, right? Then he got hungry enough to try it, and he liked it! Mikey likes it! 

I’ve made this twice now, and adjusted spices and amounts as you see below. One additional ingredient to the BH&G recipe, is chopped fresh spinach. I like to add more veggies whenever I can, and spinach adds nutrients without altering flavor of the stew.

Serves 8-10

1 tablespoon coconut or canola oil
6-8 green onions, sliced thin
1 medium green pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground cumin
½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
3 – 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
6-8 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
1 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
6-ounce can tomato paste
3-4 cups shredded cooked turkey or chicken
15-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
4 cups fresh spinach, chopped

Fresh cilantro, chopped
Dry roasted peanuts, chopped

In a large Dutch oven, melt oil over medium heat. Add green onions and green pepper, and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until onions are tender. Add ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, red pepper, salt, and pepper, and cook and stir until spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken broth and sweet potatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender to the fork.

Ladle about 1 cup of soup broth into a medium bowl, and whisk in peanut butter, stirring until smooth. Whisk in tomato paste as well. Add peanut butter mixture, turkey or chicken, and spinach to Dutch oven. Cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve topped with cilantro and peanuts.

Chicken Tikka Masala

FullSizeRenderFans of Indian food will love this smokey chicken dish, layered with rich spices in a creamy tomato sauce. My son Justin had been hinting that I try a curry dish sometime, but then he got bold and Facebooked me this recipe for Turkey Tikka Masala from The New York Times. It’s a dish that uses leftover Thanksgiving turkey, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. When I realized I didn’t have enough leftover turkey to do the dish, I opted to use fresh boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I had my husband Rich grill them on his Big Green Egg to get that Tandoor-tender treatment. This dish was utterly amazing, and that’s an understatement.

We’ve often wondered why all these Indian dishes that taste so similar have vastly different names, so I did a little research. Apparently, the names differ depending on the region, so a “rogan josh” can taste the same as a “marsala” as they use the same ingredients. “Tikka” refers to chicken cooked in the Tandoor (a cylindrical clay oven), and “marsala” is a sauce made with tomatoes and onions OR a mixture of spices, depending on your source of information. 

And what exactly is garam masala, other than a spice required in Indian recipes that you don’t have on hand? It’s a mix of peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, mace, cardamom, bay leaves, and cumin—and is sometimes referred to as a “curry.” An Indian curry stew is usually a blend of coriander, cumin, and turmeric, and sometimes chili peppers. There’s no curry powder actually in curries. Curry is a word invented for the British or by the British to describe the delicious stews they “discovered” during their colonization of India.

But enough with the history lesson! Back to the food! I did a few things differently than the original recipe—like I didn’t puree the sauce, and I used half and half, instead of heavy cream. My other adjustments to process and ingredients are reflected below.

Serves 6

For Meat Marinade

2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
4 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 cloves garlic, finely grated
4 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
1¾ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

For Marsala Sauce

4 tablespoons ghee, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cardamom
1-2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garam masala
1½ teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
1 serrano pepper, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups half and half
¾ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 small lemon (optional)

3 cups cooked basmati or jasmine rice

To make the marinade: Combine the garam masala, coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, salt, garlic, ginger, and yogurt in a bowl and stir. Add chicken thighs and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

To make the masala: Add 3 tablespoons of the ghee to a Dutch oven set on medium-high heat. Add onion, cardamom, bay leaf (or leaves), paprika, pepper flakes, garam masala and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden and tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Make space among onions in center of pot, and add the remaining 1 tablespoon ghee. When ghee has melted, add ginger, garlic, and serrano pepper, and sizzle for about 10 seconds. Stir into the onions. Stir in tomato paste, then add tomatoes and juice from the can, crushing tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until the liquid is almost gone, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add cream and chopped cilantro to the pot. Taste and add salt if needed. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 40 minutes. *

While sauce is cooking, grill chicken until done, and no pink remains in center. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Stir into masala sauce, and serve over cooked rice. (If adding lemon juice, stir in just before serving. I forgot the lemon, and did not think it needed it!)

*NOTE: The original recipe called for pureeing the sauce in a blender at this point, before adding the chicken in. I thought that was an unnecessary step, but might try that next time I make this so the sauce is creamier. And there will be a next time for this tasty dish!

BLT Salad

FullSizeRender-1My mother has been blessing us with buckets of tomatoes from her garden, and the red orbs are threatening to take over the kitchen—so I’m kinda on a BLT roll. My husband was grilling brats one evening, and I wanted a side salad that we hadn’t had a gazillion times already. So I came up with this BLT combo and taste-tested it on our guests Andy and Nancy, and their daughter Emily, and they all thought it was da bomb. Thankfully, there was a little leftover so I could have it for lunch again the next day, ’cause I thought it was delish, too. I think the trick to infusing the greens with the “BLT” flavor, was sautéing the leeks in a little bacon fat. They really held onto the nuance of the bacon (if bacon has a “nuance,” that is…it’s sort of the bully of meats as far as taste.)

I considered a vinaigrette dressing for this salad, but since BLT’s are all about the mayo, thought I better stick with a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing. It was a good decision! It really enhanced the other ingredients, without over-powering. My only concern was that it was a little thicker than I would have liked, so it may need more vinegar to thin it down. I’ve given a range here, but I used just 1 tablespoon. More might make it too tart—try it and let me know!

Serves 6-8

For dressing
¼ cup Hellmann’s real mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh basil pesto
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

For salad
1 leek, sliced thin to all but toughest green part*
1-2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 head Romaine lettuce, julienned
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ of a cucumber, sliced and quartered
2 ripe avocados, cubed
2 large tomatoes, diced, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes quartered
6-8 slices of bacon, fried crisp, drained on paper towels, and crumbled

To make dressing: Whisk together mayonnaise, pesto, and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Add more vinegar if needed to thin. Set aside.

To make salad: Saute leeks in bacon fat over medium heat, until leeks begin to caramelize (turn light brown on edges). On large serving platter, layer lettuce, parsley, cooked leeks, cucumber, and avocados. Drizzle with dressing, then top with tomatoes, and crumbled bacon.

*NOTE: It’s best to chop leeks, then soak in a bowl of cold water, in order to let the sand and dirt settle to bottom of the bowl. Then scoop out the leeks and let them thoroughly drain in a colander before frying in the bacon fat. Leeks tend to hold on to a lot of dirt and sand between their layers as they grow. It’s rare to purchase a leek that has been thoroughly rinsed enough to cook it without soaking first.

Super BLT with Pesto Aioli

FullSizeRender‘Tis tomato time, and if you’ve got them coming out of your ears like we do, this twist on the classic BLT sandwich will help you use up your ‘maters. The pesto aioli gives it extra zip, and adds another layer of flavor to the fresh tomato, smoky bacon, and crisp lettuce. So I used up my stash of tomatoes AND my fresh basil pesto that I just made again—a win-win. I also added sliced turkey, and white cheddar cheese to these sandwiches, because I feel like a sandwich with just bacon for meat isn’t really a sandwich. (My husband would disagree—he fried up half a pound of bacon for his two sandwiches the night we made these. When I questioned his quantity, he called me a Bacon Nazi. Ouch. First time I’ve heard those two words together in a sentence…how about you?)

I thought that this might be too simple of a “recipe” to post, but I actually get the most response from all of you when I post stuff I think is too easy to bother sharing (aka: “Judy easy,” in the scale used previously). I used pumpernickel bread for the sandwiches pictured here, but I also like Trader Joe’s 100% rye bread, which I’ve been told is gluten-free. Either of those options gives you more flavor in your bread than straight up white bread. Another bonus! 

Serves 2-3

For pesto aioli
¼ cup Hellmann’s real mayonnaise (or make your own, recipe below!)
1 tablespoon fresh basil pesto

For sandwiches
Deli turkey, sliced thin
White cheddar cheese, sliced
Romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
Bacon strips, cooked (2 per sandwich, unless you’re Rich)
Sliced fresh tomatoes
Pumpernickel or rye bread, toasted

Slather toasted bread with generous amount of pesto aioli, then layer on turkey, cheese, lettuce, bacon, and tomatoes. Prepare to be amazed.

*NOTE: Aioli has come to be the name given to any flavored mayonnaise. Traditionally, it’s been an emulsified oil combined with fresh garlic. At least that’s the Spanish version. The French version of aioli has an egg added into the emulsifying process, which makes it more similar to mayonnaise than the Spanish recipe. Use the word “aioli” when you want to impress your dinner guests with your mad kitchen prowess.

To make your own mayonnaise (recipe courtesy of Whole30):
1¼ cups olive oil (not extra virgin), divided
1 egg
½ teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon

In food processor or blender, combine ¼ cup olive oil, egg, dried mustard, and salt. Blend until combined. Very, very slowly, drizzle in the remaining 1 cup of olive oil with motor running, and process until oil is emulsified (thickened to mayo consistency). Add juice of lemon and pulse until combined. Refrigerate for up to one week, but no longer.

Pesto Chips

IMG_1718Bunches of fresh basil and some other kitchen staples are all you need to make these incredibly fragrant and savory appetizers. These are pretty easy to whip up, yet your kitchen will smell like you’re a seasoned gourmet who’s been slaving at the stove all day. I’ve been making these for years to serve either as appetizers, or as a side to a meal of grilled meat, veggies, and some fruit. When tomatoes aren’t in season, these are great with just the tortillas, pesto, and grated cheese. I often made these sans tomatoes for an after-school snack for my boys. (Hmmmmm. Maybe that’s why they developed rather sophisticated food palettes. They did occasionally get Rice Krispy bars or other more kid-friendly fare…occasionally.)

Farmer’s markets are teaming with fresh basil, parsley, and tomatoes this time of year. I got the most delicious Roma tomatoes this weekend from a little Saturday morning Farmer’s market in West St. Paul (Icy Cup parking lot, 63 George Street, corner of George and Stryker. For more info, visit My friend Sue’s daughter, Nellie (and her new husband Stephen), have a booth there selling organic produce from their farm, Whistling Thistle. The Roma’s I got from them were perfect for these, as they were meaty and had a lower moisture content than standard grocery store ‘maters. That’s essential to keep the chips crispy once baked.

Makes 8 ounces pesto

For pesto:
1 cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves (washed and rinsed)
½ cup fresh parsley springs (without stems), or ¼ cup dried parsley
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup slivered almonds (or pine nuts)
1 large clove garlic, quartered
¼ teaspoon salt

For chips:
Corn or flour tortillas
Shredded aged mozzarella, or cubed fresh mozzarella
Roma tomatoes, diced

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. In a blender or food processor, combine basil, parsley, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, almonds, garlic, and salt. Cover and blend or process with several on-off turns until paste forms. Stop machine to scrape down sides as needed.

Spread a few tablespoons of pesto over one of the tortillas, and put it on a baking sheet. (Flour tortillas are tastier, but I’ve used corn tortillas to make these gluten free.) Sprinkle cheese of choice on top, then repeat process for desired number of tortillas. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until edges are crispy and slightly browned. Cut into wedges and serve as is, or sprinkle with the diced tomatoes, then cut and serve.

NOTE: If not using the pesto immediately, store in airtight container and refrigerate up to a week, or freeze for 6-12 months.

For another tasty way to use your basil pesto, Check out a previous post with directions for a basil pasta that’s a fabulous meal on it’s own.

Savory Tomato Bisque Soup

FullSizeRenderGrilled cheese and tomato soup lovers will welcome this tomato bisque recipe—it’s leaps and bounds above a can of Campbell’s. I got this flavorful recipe from a restaurant in Stillwater, Minnesota called “Savories,” a delightful little place that has since closed. The soup recipe was requested by a reader of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and it was my job to get it for her. The owners were happy to share the recipe, as it was a wildly popular item, but said in a very world-weary voice, “Please tell your readers to try one of our other 200 soups that rotate on the menu now and then…” I’m glad they were in a sharing mood, because every time I’ve served this soup, it’s been a smash hit with the soup slurpers at our table. I guess it’s become MY most requested recipe, too!

Lately, I’ve been making it with half and half instead of the suggested heavy cream—but you decide how much fat you want in your soup. (Using a stick and a half of butter right off the bat, I think the fat-for-flavor category is covered…) I’ve also added in tomato paste to give it more tomatoey goodness. So what’s the perfect partner for this creamy soup? We like to make grilled cheese panini sandwiches with a stiff sourdough or rye bread, pile on deli ham or turkey, some spinach leaves, and add sharp Cheddar and Colby cheeses to the other fixings. To borrow Campbell’s slogan, Mmmmm, mmmmm, good.

Makes 12-15 servings*

Ease rating: medium (compared to opening a can of Campbell’s cream of tomato)

1½ cup chopped yellow onion
¾ cup butter
2 teaspoons dill seed
2-3 teaspoons dill weed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 cup flour
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you want to go vegetarian)
4 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes in juice
1 can tomato paste**
½ cup honey
2-3 cups half & half (or 2 cups heavy cream)

Sauté onions in butter until they are translucent. Add dill seed, dill weed, oregano, parsley, and salt, and cook over low heat to toast herbs. Sprinkle flour over onion mixture and stir until all flour is absorbed. Then continue to cook the flour mixture for 1-2 more minutes. Add chicken (or vegetable) stock, whisking while adding in liquid to avoid lumps. Add canned tomatoes, juice and all, and tomato paste, stirring to combine. Bring soup to a boil to allow to thicken. Just before serving, stir in honey and cream.

*NOTE:  As this recipe makes a gallon of soup, you could make it, stopping short of adding in the honey and cream, and freeze half of the tomato soup mixture. Then add in ¼ cup honey, and 1 cup cream, and enjoy a smaller batch now, and another batch later!

**If you don’t want to add the tomato paste, skip it, but reduce the honey to 1/3 cup.

Mean Mexican Rice

FullSizeRenderWhat looks like a lonely little bowl of rice, is actually a culinary heavy hitter—filling for tacos, or a way to amp up rice as a side dish with any meal. We love this rice in our tacos (tortilla and guacamole recipes previously posted), and if you make it ahead of time and refrigerate (then microwave to serve again), you’ll have more time for chopping and grating all those fresh vegetables. Fresh tortillas, guac, and this rice recipe make the trifecta of tacos.

Not in the mood for tacos? This is a great little gluten-free side dish, to serve with grilled or roasted meat. It’s a side dish without a season—works well in summer or winter. I got this recipe from my friend Terri, and I do not know who or where she got it from. I’ve scribbled it on a piece of scrap note paper, with no indication of it’s origins. (Some of you have a neat box of recipe cards written in D’Nealian cursive, all wrapped in plastic sleeves. I envy you organized people. My recipe collection looks more like kidnapping ransom notes.)

Serves 6-8 as a side or 10-12 for tacos

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup white rice
1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken stock (or 1 – 14-ounce can chicken broth)

In medium saucepan, heat onion in vegetable oil over high heat. Cook until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Add rice, tomatoes, spices, and chicken stock and stir to combine. Leave heat on high until liquids start to boil, then turn down to low and let simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

NOTE: If you use vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock, this is a vegetarian recipe.