Wrapped Chicken in Lemon Pickle Broth

This weekend morning was greeted with an intriguing and uplifting posting by a dear friend on Indigenous Food entering the restaurant scene in India. The steaming of leaves-wrapped food inspired me to put this together with this week’s CSA greens- broccoli leaves. The result was delicious!! The lemon pickle here is ala Moroccan Preserved Lemons– the soft lemon skin is part of the game (not just a flavor inducer). The broccoli leaves have more personality than spinach and the brightness of the pickled lemon in the light broth will blow you away. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Pressure cooker, steaming basket

Ingredients

  • 1 cup light lemon pickle (see Notes below for a quick homemade recipe)
  • 4 chicken thighs skinless, on the bone, wiped dry with paper towel
  • 8 large broccoli leaves (or collard), made pliable by wrapping in moist paper towel and microwaving for 1 minute
  • about 1 tsp turmeric (for color)
  • I large parchment sheet for en papillote steaming

Method

Marinade the chicken and lemon pickle in a ziplock bag for 4-6 hours. Wrap each thigh with a piece of preserved lemon, a sprinkling of turmeric and salt, in a pair of leaves. Place the four wraps, seam side down, on parchment, sprinkle the leftover marinade and make a single pouch. Place the pouch in steaming basket and pressure cook on high for 15 minutes.

Serve warm with knife and fork (for chicken, preserved lemon, broccoli leaves) and spoon (for the broth).

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Lemon Pickle: (Adapted from Archana Mundhe’s recipe). Pressure cook the following for 5 minutes under high pressure
    • (sour) 4 medium sized lemons, quartered and deseeded (as much as possible)
    • (sweet) 1/2 cup sugar + 1 tsp salt
    • (spices) 1/2 tsp chilli powder + 1 tsp cumin powder + 1 tsp coriander powder
  2. 1 cup is about half the above recipe. You can refrigerate the remainder in a mason jar.
  3. You could make the pickle a day in advance and marinade the chicken overnight. You can add more sugar, if you prefer. In fact, while the pickle is still warm, you can fold in additional sugar if that is to your taste.
  4. When blanched (microwaved) the leaves are a bright green, but with further steaming, it turns dull (not even with the acidity in the medium!!). Alas. But no compromise on taste- it tastes great!
    I did not remove the veins of the Broccoli leaves- it softens with the pressure cooking. But if using collard greens, you may want to remove the thick veins.

Pressure-steaming wrapped chicken:

Shishito Eggplant

Lightly blistered with a sprinkling of sea salt, Shishito has rapidly become a popular finger food. At this time of summer, the weekly CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) supply always has a generous bag of these Japanese peppers. Here I change the shishito playbook by using it with CSA Japanese eggplant, for an equally simple and delightful result. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Wok.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 Japanese long eggplants, chopped into chunks, soaked in plenty of water
  • 8-10 shishito peppers, destemmed (use kitchen scissors)
  • 2-3 garlic pods, chopped very fine
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • salt to taste

Method

Heat the oil with the finely chopped garlic. Drain and sdd the eggplants and salt. Mix well and then cover to let it cook in steam for 5-7 minutes, under medium heat. Mix in the shsishito and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. I use the Japanese chopping technique of chopping the eggplant into irregularly shaped chunks, by chopping at an angle.
  2. The kitchen scissors is very convenient for the peppers, to slit and remove the internal seeds.

An even easier microwave version: Mix all the ingredients well and place in a microwave-proof bowl and covered with moist kitchen paper towel. Nuke for 6 mins+3 mins (check and adjust appropriately).

Desert Cuisine: Rajasthani Ker Sangri

At the July 4th Barbecue, I was tasked with a vegetarian side-dish. Taking a gamble, I turned to Rajasthan, a state in India’s northwest that almost completely encompasses Thar desert (also called the Great Indian Desert). My wager paid off. With timely tips from my Udaipur friend Pankaj, Ker Sangri was a resounding hit !!

A few weeks ago I had ordered panchkutta— a mix of five kinds of dried vegetables– for this iconic Rajasthani dish. The shipping fee was ungodly, but so was my enthusiasm. The package arrived all the way from Jodhpur, to my complete amazement (I thought there would be a local NJ supplier 🙂 )

Regional Indian Cuisines never fail to amaze me. Truely. The five classic tree ingredients of this dish are ker, sangri, koomatiya, goonda, and mango. Koomatiya in particular caught my attention- it is the berry of a variety of mimosa native to Sudan! So with a fascinating backdrop of food anthropology, hyper-traditional-meets-modern-accessibility, ker sangri came together for a finger-licking finale. Enjoy!

Special tools:

None.

Ingredients

  • Tree ingredients: Soak in water for 2-3 hrs (or, till bite-test) 1/2 cup sangri + 1/4 cup each of ker, koomatiya, gunda
  • Sour: 2-3 dried mango pieces soaked in 1/2 cup water (while you soak the above)
  • Sweet: 2 tbsp raisins soaked in 1/4 cup water
  • Spices: 1/8 tsp turmeric + 1/2 tsp red chilli powder + 1/4 tsp coriander powder + a pinch heeng
  • Tempering: 1/4 tsp ajwain + 2 bay leaves + 2 whole dried red chilies
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil

Method

Drain the hydrated tree ingredients. Heat oil. Add all the tempering ingredients. When the seeds pop lightly (about 1 minute) add the spices and quickly mix (without burning) for 10 seconds or so. Add all the hydrated tree ingredients and fold in. Next add the sour and sweet ingredients along with their soaking water. Cover and let meld together for 8-10 minutes. Taste for seasonings and adjust to your taste. Serve hot.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. I ordered the ingredients from Spice Platter.
  2. If you have a scale, then use 100 gm of sangri to 50 of gm each of ker, gunda, kumatiya.
  3. My version was light both in oil and spices, contrary to recommendations. Feel free to adjust to your taste. I found that I did not even have to salt it. Wonder why.
  4. Here are some interesting sources that you may like to read and view.

Photo: Tree ingredients pre-soaked; Hydrated, drained ingredients; Sautéed vegetables.

Father’s Day: Sprouting Cauliflower Pulihora

A Sprouting Cauliflower showed up in the CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) bag this week for Father’s Day. With a quick internet scan I learn that it is also called Chinese Cauliflower in Asian markets, though its genesis is attributed to a Japanese breeder.

Don’t be distracted by its disheveled, shaggy looks. In fact it is a sweeter version of the regular old cauliflower. I take inspiration from my friend’s Mom who makes the best Andhra-style pulihora (tamarind rice) in town. I do a half-and-half. Curry leaf infused, mild rice –to elicit all the sweetness of the sprouting cauliflower– paired with hot, naughty pulihora. This will knock your socks off. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Processor; microwave.

Ingredients

  • In Processor: 1 Sprouting Cauliflower + 3-4 stalks of curry leaves
  • 1 tsp puliogare powder (or any other spice mix of your choice)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Method

Pulse in the processor till coarsely riced. Cover with damp paper towel and microwave for 4-5 minutes, till al dente but not mushy. Mix in salt to taste. Divide into two equal portions. Heat oil in a pan and very lightly toast the spice powder and mix in one half of the riced cauliflower.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Ricing the cauliflower is also a good use of the stem portion of the head. If you can handle heat, then also pulse in half a green chilli.
  2. I use a store bought puliogare powder, perhaps to the horror of my friend’s Mom. It works out fine, although nothing beats a homemade mix.
  3. If too hot, serve with yogurt.

Fermented Black Garlic Beet Greens

The star of the show is fermented black garlic that can pass off as a sweet, fruity grape. The caramel-colored sauce is tremendous in this cobbler of a side dish- but could steal the stage from the best centerpiece. Enjoy!


SPECIAL TOOLS:.

Pressure cooker.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 Beet Green Stems: leaves separated from stems, chopped, and stems diced
  • 5-6 fermented black garlic, halved
  • Flavoring agents: 1 tbsp EVOO + 1 whole red chilli crushed + salt to taste
  • Sweet-sour agent: 2 tbsp pomegranate juice
  • Finishing sauce: 1/2 can coconut milk + 1 tbsp sesame paste, whisked together

Method

Heat oil and saute the diced stems for 3-4 minutes. Add the red chillies and continue to saute for 15 secs and 1 cup water with the pomegranate juice. Add the black garlic and salt. Cook under medium pressure for 10 minutes.

Whisk in the finishing sauce and warm to serve.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
  1. Any greens can be used. In fact, a mixture of kohlrabi and beets works as well. So does, collard greens or kale.
  2. The fermentation is a complicated process, and it turns the garlic black. It plumps up in the cooking absorbing liquid and turns surprisingly fruity.

Chilled Mango Zoodles

Memorial Day and it’s the season of mangoes! Ripe yellow mangoes have many sweet renditions (kulfi, pie, lassi, …), but here is a savory one.

This is inspired from Kerala’s Mambhayzha-Moru-Kootan (mango-buttermilk-cooked) that a gourmand shared with me very recently. Back in the days, I remember his home always redolent with what I called South Indian deliciousness. His Mom was a terrific cook.

With summer upon us, I adopt a page from gazpacho– uncooked and chilled. The smoothness of sweet mango and sour yogurt contrasted with the texture of crunchy zucchini noodles will keep your palate engaged. Not to mention the aroma of curry leaves and delicate heat of tempered spices. Enjoy!


SPECIAL TOOLS:.

Blender, Spiralizer.

Ingredients

  • Cold soup: 1 cup yogurt + 1 large mango peeled, stoned + 1/2 can coconut milk (200 ml or 7 oz)
    + 2 large sprigs of curry leaves + 1 tsp cumin powder + 1 tbsp grated ginger + chilli powder and salt to taste
  • Zoodles: 1 zucchini, spiralized
  • Tempering: 2 tbsp EVOO + 1 sprig of curry leaves + 1 tsp whole mustard + 1/4 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds + 2 whole red chillies + 1/8 tsp heeng (asafoetida)

Method

Blend the soup ingredients till smooth. Fold the zoodles in.

Heat the tempering oil in a little saucepan, add the rest of the tempering whole spices and let sputter for 10-15 seconds. Turn off heat and add the heeng and let sizzle in residual heat for 3-4 seconds. Pour the hot spiced oil over the soup. Serve chilled.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
  1. Gazpacho or Laksa ? You decide. But this mango-coconut-yogurt soup will become your summer go-to.
  2. Unleash your kitchen toys on this one. I use a very powerful blender– so even though the mango was a little fibrous, it was no challenge. I also directly add in the curry leaves, but the result is still smooth.
    The spiralizer produces the zucchini noodles in minutes. Even zucchini haters (I used to be one) will love this.
  3. Tempering is optional. But If you like that inimitable Indian flavor, do temper.
  4. You may add toppings like avocado and microgreens to round it out even further.