Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A.U.R.A. - Cauliflower & Chickpea Curry...and Arroz con Pollo!

Are you sick of curry yet?

Wait, that's a ridiculous question, because who could EVER get sick of curry?!?! Certainly not this girl. Seriously though, I hope you'll forgive all the curry postings as of late; I blame A.) the magical folks at the Spice House for their excellent service and encyclopedic knowledge of the seasonings of the Far East, and B.) the piece of fresh ginger I bought a couple days ago.

Ginger has always been one of those ingredients that, for whatever reason, I was afraid to use. I guess that fear stemmed mostly from the fact that it looks something my cat would find in our alley...or like a stick had a love child with a shriveled potato. Either way, like most ingredients/recipes/techniques that scare me, once I break down and give it a go - wonder of wonders - the world doesn't stop turning. And usually, I discover something new and tasty (and it's almost never as hard as I think it's going to be).

Once I realized that all the poor little stick-potato-alley-rat thing needed was a good shaving with a vegetable peeler and a trip to Mount Microplane (my zester/grater/love of my life), it became such a glorious ingredient! Versatile! Bold! Deliciously exotic! It's used most often (I think) in Asian dishes, which suits me just fine since I am an Asian food junkie. It's relatively inexpensive, lasts awhile, and really adds a bright and spicy note to everything it goes in.

Since this is my second posting in my new "Actual Use of a Recipe's Awesomeness" category, you'll find the exact recipe below (from Closet Cooking, one of my favorite food blogs).

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry
(makes 4+ servings)

1 tablespoon oil
1 onion (chopped)
2 tablespoons curry powder ***Note: I used Sweet Curry Powder, a very common variety
1 tablespoon garlic (chopped)
1 tablespoon ginger (chopped)
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chili sauce (optional)
1 head cauliflower (cut into florets)
1 (19 once) can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 cup water
1/2 pound green beans (trimmed and sliced into 1 inch long pieces)
salt to taste
1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)

1. Heat the oil in a large pan.
2. Add the onion and curry powder and cook until the onion is tender, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
4. Add the tomatoes, chili sauce, cauliflower, chickpeas and water and and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is tender, about 10-15 minutes.
6. Add the green beans and cook until they are just tender and still crisp, about 3-5 minutes.
7. Serve on brown rice and garnish with cilantro.

And for my notes and tweaks:

1. I roughly halved this recipe.

2. I used chicken broth instead of water.

3. I used a can of stewed tomatoes instead of crushed ones (that's all I had).

4. Instead of chili sauce, I used half of a fresh, seeded and minced, serrano pepper.

5. I used a big handful of chopped cilantro IN the dish while it was cooking, and then put some more fresh on top.

6. I figured that since I was being sooo good and eating brown rice, it was OK to stir in just a little half and half (about a quarter cup) at the end for that creaminess that I love in curries.

Other than that, I followed the recipe almost to the letter! (How very unlike me.)

This came out even better than I expected. It was a really savory curry (which is a nice change of pace since I usually find myself eating peanut curries that are closer to dessert over white rice than they are dinner food), and I thought the tomato was a great element. This would be a perfect "Curry 101" recipe, both in ease of preparation and in overall mildness. The half pepper was just the right amount of heat (unlike Monday's lentil scorcher), and even though I enjoyed the touch of creaminess, the half and half wasn't what made the meal delicious.

Now, as the title promised, I will share with you another great recipe I made recently with my friends The LeCroys. It's Arroz con Pollo, from Smitten Kitchen.

It was super easy to make, and really really yummy. It was also in the "budget" category, which is nice. We used boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of drumsticks, and we couldn't find real Spanish chorizo, so we used andouille sausage, and it all worked. The blend of spices was not a combination I ever would've thought of, but it really got me interested in using paprika for more than just topping deviled eggs. We got one good photo (this was taken before the addition of the rice).

Here's the recipe in its entirety:

Arroz Con Pollo (Cuban Chicken with Rice)

Serves 8

3 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
4 chicken breast halves with bone, halved crosswise
4 chicken drumsticks
4 chicken thighs

3 oz. Spanish chorizo (cured sausage), skin discarded and sausage cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, preferably the hot stuff, plus more to taste
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
1 lb. tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 12-oz. bottle beer (not dark)
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups long-grain white rice (14 oz.)
1/4 cup drained rinsed bottled pimiento or roasted red pepper strips

Marinate chicken: Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 2 teaspoons salt, then transfer to a large bowl. Stir in vinegar and oregano.

Remove skin and excess fat from chicken, then toss chicken with marinade until coated and marinate, covered and chilled, at least 1 hour.

Cook chicken and rice: - Cook chorizo in olive oil in a 6- to 7-quart heavy pot (12 inches wide) over medium-high heat, stirring, until some fat is rendered, 2 to 3 minutes. Add onions, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add cumin, oregano, paprika, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add chicken with marinade to chorizo mixture and cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, 10 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, beer, broth, and rice and bring to a boil, making sure rice is submerged. [Deb note: I actually had a really hard time keeping the rice underneath the chicken so that it would cook evenly. I'd suggest that you use tongs to temporarily remove the chicken from the pot, mix the rice in with the other ingredients in the pot, and then replace the chicken, pressing it into the broth a bit before going onto the next step. I will definitely do this next time.]

Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover mixture directly with a round of parchment or wax paper and cover pot with a tight fitting lid. Cook, stirring once or twice, until rice is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Discard parchment paper and bay leaves, then scatter pimiento strips over rice.

Note: Chicken can be marinated up to 2 hours.

I must say, I'm really enjoying the AURA posts (and hopefully, you are too). And believe me, there will be many more to come! I just received my newest cookbook in the mail, Super Natural Cooking, Heidi Swanson's San-Francisco-hippie-chick ode to all things whole. (More on this later, but check out the book - it's informative, inspiring, and actually makes healthy vegetarian and vegan fare look completely mouthwatering. If you're curious in the meantime, check out her blog-cum-cookbook,

Thanks for reading! More soon...

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