Thursday, April 28, 2011

Roasted chickpeas

I've been on a big chickpea kick lately. They were featured in my last entry and they're the centerpiece of this one. I'm also planning on making hummus in the near future. I'd never thought of making roasted chickpeas until I stumbled upon This recipe makes for a really great snack. Its simple, fast and it can be relatively healthy depending on what spice blend you use. The finished product should have a texture somewhat similar to popcorn. The one negative with this dish is that it didn't keep very well, so you should be sure to eat it fresh out of the oven.

One of the cool things about this recipe is that you can use whatever blend of spices you want to season it. I tried out a sweet blend, a spicy blend and a savory blend. They all turned out really well, especially the sweet blend and the savory blend. I've included them below, but part of the fun with this dish is that you can make up your own.

One 15.5 ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
One and half tablespoons olive oil
Spice blend

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas in a colander, then dry them with a paper towel. Some recipes recommend removing the skin from the chickpeas, but this is optional. I don't mind the skins so I left them on.
3. Drizzle the chickpeas with the olive oil and toss to coat.
4. Place the chickpeas in the over for 30-40 minutes, until they are crunchy and golden brown.
5. Season with salt and spice blend.

Spice blends:
Sweet blend - For this version I just sprinkled the chickpeas with some cinnamon and sugar. It kind of defeats the healthy snack purpose of this recipe, but it makes for a surprisingly good good treat. And its still healthier than most regular dessert dishes.

Spicy blend - For this version I used some salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garam masala (an Indian spice blend) and chili powder. It had a really nice kick to it.

Savory blend - I think this version may have been my favorite. I mixed the chickpeas with some salt, garlic powder and rosemary. The blend had an amazing garlicky aroma fresh out of the oven.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fideos with sausage, shrimp and chickpeas

For dinner on Saturday night I tried a recipe for Spanish-style thin noodles (fideos) with sausage, shrimp and chickpeas. This recipe comes from, which is seriously awesome name for a food blog. The recipe looks great on her site, but it didn't quite come out right when I made it. That flavors were still really good, but it was much thicker than the version I was basing it off of. If I were to try this again, and I would definitely consider trying this again, I would significantly reduce the amount of the noodles, as I believe they absorbed a lot of the stock and thickened the sauce up too much.

The ingredients and directions below are from the original recipe with my notes in italics.

4 oz. hot Spanish chorizo, chopped (Replaced with 4oz spicy chicken sausage)
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained, but not rinsed
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 package Spanish-style thin noodles – fideos, or if you can’t find fideos, use 1 lb. angel hair pasta, noodles broken in half (Again, I would reduce the amount of the noodles, probably to about 8-10 ounces)
pinch of Saffron threads
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 lb. large or jumbo shrimp, peeled, de-veined and tail removed
1/4 cup tarragon leaves, loosely packed
good olive oil for drizzling

1. Heat a large, heavy-bottom pot on medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the chorizo and sautee for about 2 minutes until the fat renders out.
2. Add the chickpeas and continue to sautee, stirring frequently for 3 more minutes.
3. Add the stock, tomatoes and garlic and bring to a simmer.
4. Once the liquid is hot and bubbly, but not boiling, add the fideos. Cook the fideos until they’re almost al dente, stirring the pot occasionally.
5. Right before the fideos are tender, add the saffron threads, cayenne pepper and shrimp, stirring to ensure the saffron and cayenne are equally distributed and the shrimp is submerged in liquid. You are poaching the shrimp in the excess liquid so you want to be careful not to overcook them. The shrimp are done after 2 minutes, or once they turn opaque.
6. Once the shrimp are done, ladle the noodles into a bowl with a healthy dose of sauce. Garnish the dish with a few leaves of tarragon and a drizzle of olive oil.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chicken tikka masala

This recipe for chicken tikka masala comes from the Pioneer Woman, which is without a doubt one of the best food blogs around. I have to resist making my food blog a shot-for-shot remake of her's, because everything on her site looks so excellent. I don't have the culinary or photography skills that she has, but I'm still happy with how this turned out. Chicken tikka masala, like a lot of Indian foods, isn't a particularly photogenic dish. Still, the tastes and aromas from this dish were amazing. Doing this blog and cooking on a regular basis have made me into much more of a stickler about fresh ingredients than I used to be. The fresh ginger, garlic and cilantro really add to the smell and the taste of this dish. Fresh ginger root was an ingredient I'd never tried before, and it's a big upgrade over the grated or minced stuff you get in a jar.

I used a different recipe than the Pioneer Woman suggests for the tumeric rice, because I don't have a rice cooker. The tumeric rice with green peas turned out great and compliments the chicken perfectly.

For the chicken tikka masala:
3 whole (to 4) Chicken Breasts
Kosher Salt
Ground Coriander
Cumin, To Taste
½ cups Plain Yogurt
6 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Large Onion
4 cloves Garlic
1 piece (approximately 2 Inches) Chunk Fresh Ginger
Garam Masala
1 can (28 Ounce) Diced Tomatoes
1-½ cup Heavy Cream
Fresh Cilantro (Optional)
Chili Peppers (Optional)

For the tumeric rice
2 cups Basmati Rice
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Turmeric
About 1 cup Frozen Peas

For the chicken tikka masala:
1. Start by seasoning both sides of the chicken breasts with some kosher salt, coriander and cumin.
2. Then coat the chicken breasts completely with the plain yogurt.
3. Set the chicken on a metal cooling rack over a foil-lined baking sheet and place it about 10-12 inches below a broiler for 5-7 minutes per side. Watch carefully so as not to totally char the chicken. It should have slightly blackened edges. Remove from oven.

4. Next dice one large onion. In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions and sauté until they are slightly browned.
5. As the onions cook, mince your garlic. Next, cut off the outer skin and mince or grate a 1 by 2 inch chunk of fresh ginger. Add the garlic and ginger to the onions. Also throw in about 1 tablespoon of salt.
6. Next you are going to add about 3 tablespoons Garam Masala spice. And if you like it hot, this is also when you will add your hot chili peppers. Serranos work well.

7. Now you are going to add your can of diced tomatoes. Continue cooking and stirring, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Add about 1 tablespoon sugar. Let this mixture simmer on medium for about 5 minutes.
8. After the Tikka Masala sauce has had a chance to simmer for a little bit, add in the 1 ½ cups of heavy cream. (You can add some cayenne pepper at this point to add a little bit more spice if you want.)
9. Now, chop up your chicken breasts into chunks and stir them into the Tikka Masala sauce. A handful of chopped fresh cilantro is a nice addition if you like cilantro. Serve the rice with the Chicken Tikka Masala over top.

For the rice:
1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium high heat.
3. Add the two cups basmati rice to the frying pan. Stir the rice in the pan for about two minutes.
4. Turn the heat on the frying pan down to medium low and add the tumeric. (A dash of curry powder works well also.)
5. Stir the rice with the tumeric for one minute.
 6. Add the spiced rice to the boiling water. Simmer for the amount of time listed on the rice package. (Usually about 20 minutes.)
7. Add the cup or so frozen peas to the finished rice and stir to mix. Don't worry about defrosting the peas. The hot rice will warm them nicely.

The final product:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sizzling chicken fajitas

Sizzling chicken fajitas are simple, but they can be truly spectacular. This recipe gave me an opportunity to use both my new cast iron skillet and my new food processor. The marinade I used is a combination of about a dozen recipes I looked at online. It was a bit of an experiment, and I was very pleased with how it turned out. I used some fresh vegetables from Eastern Market in DC, which is one of my favorite spots to visit on the weekend.

Small or medium sized tortillas
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 medium yellow onion
2 tablespoons olive oil

For marinade:
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 teaspoons lemon juice
4 cloves garlic
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons honey

Optional toppings:
Sour cream
Refried beans
Shredded cheese

1. Cut chicken into 1/2 inch strips. Cut bell peppers into 1/2 inch strips and onions into 1/2 inch slices.

2. Combine marinade ingredients in food processor and pulse to blend.
I forgot to take a picture of the blended marinade. It smelled amazing.

3. Put chicken and vegetables into separate ziplock bags or covered bowls. Pour half of marinade into each. Marinate for two hours or more.
4. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add chicken to skillet. Stir regularly until cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.
Sawyer enjoying some chicken that fell on the floor while being transferred out of the skillet.

5. Add another tablespoon olive oil to pan. Add vegetables to pan. Cook, stirring regularly, until crisp but tender. 
6. Remove vegetables from pan. Serve over warmed tortillas with your choice of toppings.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Oatmeal walnut chocolate chip cookies

These cookies are a staple of my girlfriend's family. She insisted that I give a shout out to Grandma Phyllis for the recipe. My girlfriend also insisted that I call them by their proper name, "cow plop cookies," which refers to their shape and in no way to their taste. I've been assured that this is a Midwestern thing, which as an East Coaster, I wouldn't understand. Regardless of their name, they are very moist and tasty.

2 sticks butter or margarine, softened (Make sure the butter is only softened and not fully melted or the dough will be too runny.)
2 eggs
2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
2 ½ cups rolled oats
1 pkg. chocolate chunks
1 ½ cups coarse chopped nuts
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar

1. Beat margarine.
2. Add sugar, and eggs one at a time and beat.
3. In another bowl, mix flour with soda, powder and salt. Add to butter mixture, beat.

4. Add vanilla and milk.
5. Add oats and mix to blend.
6. Add chocolate and nuts and mix to blend.
7. Grease and flour cookie sheets.  1/3 cup mixture for each cookie.
 8. Bake 12-15 minutes in 350 degree oven. (You'll know they are done when they're brown and crispy around the outside, but still a bit soft in the middle.)