Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Looking at my latest Bon Appétit magazine, I was overcome by the desire to make EVERYTHING in it immediately! With great haste and much enthusiasm, I cooked up a delicious menu for the week jam packed with lots of fresh veggies, grilled meats and vibrant flavors of lemon and spices. Since Judd and I are avid vegetable consumers, this light and fresh sugar snap pea salad seemed the perfect side dish to a summertime dinner. I say summertime, because technically it IS summer…. although, for those of you that live in the Bay Area… I really mean, cold, dreary and winter-like.

Tucked away within our apartment, we leisurely prepared a delicious meal that just begged to be eaten outside… at a BBQ. If it wasn’t for my bundled clothing and cozy slippers, I would have thought it was a gorgeous June evening the moment I dug into this light and refreshing dish. The sugar snap peas explode with color and crunch, while the radishes, feta cheese and mint transport your taste buds to the warm Mediterranean. A simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice make each bite burst with citrusy flavor. Yum!

Done is under 10 minutes, this dish is perfect for a Forth of July barbeque. Picture this… cold drink in one hand, seared meat cooking on the grill and a zesty vegetable salad that makes you blissfully happy it’s summertime….

Makes 6-8 servings

1 1/2 pounds sugar snap peas, trimmed, stringed, cut in half on diagonal
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sumac plus more for garnish
1 bunch radishes (about 6 ounces), trimmed, thinly sliced
4 ounces ricotta salata or feta, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint

Fill a large bowl with ice water; set aside. Cook peas in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.  Drain; transfer to bowl with ice water to cool. Drain peas; transfer to a kitchen towel-lined baking sheet to dry. Whisk oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon sumac in a small bowl. Toss peas, radishes, and cheese in a large bowl.

DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover dressing and salad separately and chill.
Add dressing to salad and toss to coat. Season salad with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. Garnish with mint and sprinkle with sumac.

Rosemary Steak Florentine

Tomorrow marks the first day of summer as well as the longest day of the year! It will actually be hot in San Francisco this Summer Solstice, which got me thinking about barbecues and meat. We all know those two words are synonymous with one another and the perfect combo for a damn tasty meal… so, in honor of summer and the many BBQ’s to come, I thought I would whip out the big guns and share my new favorite steak preparation.

I understand that this simple marinade and steak dressing might not be new to everyone, but I can assure you that my taste buds were a flutter when I was first introduced to olive oil poured on steak. My lovely cousins to be, Ian and Masha, grilled up some T-bones and unabashedly drenched their steaks in a nice heap of rich oil. Judd and I were immediately converted! Deciding to give this new found recipe a go, we lathered some raw steaks in extra virgin olive oil, fresh rosemary and salt and pepper. Voila… we had ourselves an AMAZING piece of grilled tasty! Because we are BBQ-less (sadly) we cooked these steaks in a pan, but I want all you summertime grillers to go for the gusto and pop ’em on an open flame.

There is only one rule you must adhere to when making this dish… there is no such thing as too much olive oil, so ahead…. pour a little more on, crack open a beer and enjoy the beauty of summer.

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped rosemary
Two 1-pound steaks, about 2 inches thick
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper

In a sturdy resealable plastic bag or baking dish, combine the olive oil and the rosemary. Season the steaks with salt and pepper and add to the marinade. Let the steaks marinate for 1 hour or refrigerate over night.

Heat a grill pan. Grill over moderately high heat until nicely charred on the top and bottom, about 5-8 minutes per side. Alternatively, build a fire on one side of a charcoal grill or light a gas grill. Grill the steak over moderate heat for 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the steak to the cool side of the grill, close the lid and cook for 5-10 minutes longer. Transfer the steak to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the steak across the grain and serve immediately.

Salmon in Lemon Brodetto with Pea Purée

Last night Judd and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary with a delicious home cooked meal! We just got back from a visit to New York in which we ate the obligatory slice of pizza, bagels, pastrami on rye, as well as a Peter Luger’s burger (I could taste the butter oozing out of the meat), rich Italian food and an AMAZING meal at Momofuku Ssäm Bar (my personal favorite). So, suffice it to say… we stuffed ourselves REAL good and thought it might be time for a slightly lighter meal.

After many years of watching Giada de Laurentiis cook simple food with a giant goofy smile on her face, I thought… hey, it might be time to actually try one of her recipes. Turns out that woman can cook! This dish is full of unexpected and delicious flavors that absolutely surprised me. Peas puréed with mint, garlic, olive oil and parmesan create a lucious and fresh side dish that embodies the flavors of springtime. Top off the purée with a silken broth of sautéed shallots, chicken stock, mint and the zest and juice of a lemon. The mint and lemon flavors are the perfect compliment to a fillet of expertly cooked salmon (let’s all give Judd a round of applause) seasoned with only salt and pepper.

What’s better than cooking a lovely meal with my lovely fiancé on our anniversary? Nothing. This dish was pure bliss and left us both with big smiles on our faces… just like Giada’s!

Makes 4 servings

Lemon Brodetto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lemon, zested
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

Pea Puree
2 cups frozen peas, thawed (about 10 ounces)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Salmon
1/4 cup olive oil
4 (4 to 6-ounce) pieces salmon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To make the Lemon Brodetto, warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest, and broth. Bring to a simmer, and keep warm, covered, over low heat.

To make the Pea Puree, combine the peas, mint, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor and puree. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady drizzle. Transfer the pea puree to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan. Set aside.

To make the Salmon, warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Season the salmon pieces with salt and pepper. Sear the salmon until a golden crust forms, about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side. Flip the fish and continue cooking until medium-rare, about 2 minutes more depending on the thickness of the fish.

To assemble the dish, add the tablespoon chopped mint to the Lemon Brodetto and divide between 4 shallow dishes. Place a large spoonful of Pea Puree into the center of each bowl. Place a salmon piece atop each mound of Pea Puree. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Indian Eggplant

Sometimes random food items appear in our house in the whirlwind that is grocery shopping. Last week we ended up with these adorable little eggplants. With no plan, other then to expand our culinary vocabulary, Judd reminded me that we had these mini purple veggies patiently waiting for us to eat them in the fridge.

Quickly scanning the internet, I came across this Mark Bittman concoction that looked ever so promising and easy to whip up on a Wednesday night. It’s official, these are now my new party trick. Easy to make and ridiciously delicious, these Stuffed Indian Eggplants are brimming with warm eastern spices and rich flavors. Toasted sesame seeds and pine nuts (the original recipe calls for peanuts) blended together in the food processor alongside brown sugar, cayenne, turmeric, garlic and fresh cilantro, create a wonderfully aromatic paste. Now for the hard part… right?, wrong. Stuffing the eggplants requires the basic skills of a caveman. By cutting an x on the nose of the vegetable, you will be able to stuff the delicious mixture into the eggplant without a hitch. Give them a light saute and a brief steam and you got yourself tender bundles of AWESOME!

Serves 4

1/4 cup toasted white (hulled) sesame seeds
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts (we used pine nuts)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons water
10 Indian eggplants, or 6 small Italian or Japanese eggplants (1 1/2 pounds total)
3 to 4 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup water

For the filling, use a mini food processor to grind the sesame seeds, peanuts, sugar, salt, turmeric and cayenne to a crumbly texture. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cilantro and water to create a compact, spreadable mixture. Set aside.

Use scissors to trim the eggplant stems so that they are about 1/2 inch long. Use your fingers to remove the green pointy flaps of the eggplant caps. Make a deep cross incision in each eggplant, stopping 1/2-inch short of the stem. To do that, position each one on its side on your cutting board. Hold it down with one hand while you wield the knife with the other hand to make the first horizontal cut. Roll the eggplant 90 degrees and make the second horizontal cut.

Use a teaspoon to stuff each eggplant with about 1/8 of the filling. Gently pry open the eggplant, stuff in the filling. Make sure there is filling between each of the cuts. Gently squeeze the eggplant to make the filling sticks and fills the crevices.

Pour the oil into a large nonstick skillet over medium heat to film the bottom. When hot, add the eggplants in a single layer. Fry the eggplants for 3 to 4 minutes, turning frequently, to brown them on two sides. Don’t fret when some of the filling spills out. Add the remaining 1/4 cup water, cover with a lid or foil, and turn the heat to low. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning halfway through, until tender. Pierce with the tip of a knife to test. There will be filling in the skillet bottom. If you want to crisp those bits and serve them with the eggplant, increase the heat to medium high and fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until crisp. Remove from the heat, let the sizzling subside, then transfer to a plate and serve hot or warm.

Tandoori Chicken with Saag

Tandoori Chicken is super difficult and requires special equipment right? Not this recipe.

Having a penchant for Indian food, and a large bunch of spinach in the fridge, the wheels began turning and next thing I knew… we had an Indian feast in store for us. I have made many a marinade during my cooking adventures and often times, they lack that extra oopf of flavor. So, when I whipped up this lovely marinade chalk full of warm spices, I only expected the flavor to live on the surface of the meat not deep in its fibers. Wow, was I ever wrong! By poking holes in the meat and rubbing the marinade into the chicken, the aromatic spices penetrated deep into the poultry. Combining onion, ginger, garlic and a serrano pepper in a food processor, a thick paste formed providing a nice base for the spice mixture (paprika, cumin, turmeric, coriander, garam masala and cayenne). Thickened by greek yogurt and a splash of citrus juice, this marinade packs a full punch!  Tender, juicy and incredibly tasty, this tandoori will impress all your friends at upcoming summer BBQs.

In my opinion, chicken needs a friend on the plate… something that can be scooped up on the same fork for layers of flavor. Saag seemed like the obvious sidekick. This was not our first rodeo show when it came to saag, but it was by far the winning dish. Simple, spicy and texturally pleasing, this Indian classic added vibrancy to the plate in both flavor and color. If you like spinach (and you should because it’s awesome), then you will love the creaminess of this dish. Serve with rice and naan or just toss it on a plate and chow down!

Grilled Tandoori Chicken

8 boneless-skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped white onion
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped serrano or jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed
1 tablespoon paprika
11/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

With a fork, prick holes in the chicken pieces. Using a knife, cut diagonal slices 1-inch apart, and 1/2-inch deep into the larger pieces. Place the chicken in a baking dish.

In a blender, combine the oil, onion, garlic, ginger, pepper, and process on high speed to a paste. Add the paprika, salt, cumin, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and cayenne, and process until well blended. Add the yogurt and lemon juice, and process to a smooth sauce, scraping down the sides to combine all the ingredients. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Turn to coat evenly, rubbing the marinade into the holes and slits. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat a grill.

Remove the chicken from the marinade. Place on the grill and cook for 8 to 10 minutes on the first side. Turn, baste as needed, and cook on the second side for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn and continue cooking, as necessary until the chicken is cooked through, but still tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. (Alternately, bake in a preheated 425 degrees F oven on a baking sheet for 35 minutes.)

Saag

8 oz fresh spinach, washed but not dried (frozen will work)
1 inch piece ginger root, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green chili, chopped (jalepeno works well)
about 1 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon chili powder
3 tablespoons plain greek yogurt

Cook spinach in covered saucepan on medium heat for about 5 minutes using water clinging to leaves. Place the cooked spinach, ginger, garlic and chili with about 1/4 cup water into food processor or blender. Blend spinach mixture to a thick puree and set aside.

Heat oil in large heavy-based saucepan. Add bay leaves and black peppercorns, fry for 2 minutes over medium high heat. Add onion and saute for about 6-8 minutes or until browned. Add tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder, salt, and chili powder and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the spinach puree and about 2/3 cup water, simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to a very low simmer and add the yogurt, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring after each addition.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Ok, I realize the first 2 nights of Passover have come and gone… but that doesn’t mean we cannot talk about this better-than-I-could-have-ever-imagined Passover dessert! For anyone out there that has attempted to bake something delicious without flour… well, you feel my pain. Every year I attempt a new cake and although I have seen noticeably better results in recent years, I had yet to be wowed. This year I took the plunge into the world of flourless chocolate cakes and wow (finally), this dessert forever changed my opinion of what a Passover dessert SHOULD taste like.

Light, rich and moist, this cake is best described as tasting like decadent brownie batter… only better. First things first, a ton of silky chocolate gets melted and combined with a whole lot of butter. Add this wonderful velvety chocolate sauce to some whipped up egg yolks and sugar and the cake starts to take shape. Whip up even more egg whites into a fluffy meringue and gently fold into the chocolate egg yolk mixture. Coat the entire thing in a rich chocolate ganache and press chopped pecans around the sides and voilà… you got yourself a cake.

Everyone at the seder table gave it a thumbs up and my little (adorable) niece, Tali, ate every morsel of chocolate placed in front of her… with the exception of what was smeared on her face of course!

Happy Pesach!

Cake:
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced

10 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 large egg whites

Ganache:
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped

Whipped cream (optional)

For cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper round. Place chocolate and 1 1/4 cups butter in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water; stir until mixture is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water; cool to lukewarm, about 10 minutes.

Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl until very thick and pale yellow in color, about 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla and salt. Gently fold chocolate mixture into yolk mixture. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar in another large bowl until peaks form. Fold 1/3 of beaten whites into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 45 minutes (cake will be puffed and soufflé-like while baking). Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes (cake will fall in center). Run knife around cake sides to loosen; press edge of cake down to make level with center. Remove pan sides and cool cake completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.

For ganache:
Combine chocolate and cream in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove bowl from over water; let stand until ganache cools slightly but is still pourable, about 5 minutes.

Place cooled cake on rack set over rimmed baking sheet. Pour 1/2 cup ganache over top of cake. Using offset spatula, quickly spread ganache over top and sides of cake. Freeze cake 3 minutes. Pour remaining ganache over top of cake. Working quickly but gently and grasping pan bottom and rack together, slightly tilt rack with cake from side to side, allowing ganache to flow evenly over top and down sides of cake; smooth sides with offset spatula. Press pecans onto sides of cake to adhere. Chill cake until ganache is set, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and keep refrigerated. Let stand at room temperature 45 minutes before serving.

Cut cake into wedges. Garnish with whipped cream.

Pork Lettuce Wraps with Ginger Dipping Sauce

In an attempt to get healthy (and perhaps wedding dress ready), Judd and I decided to temporarily cut flour and grains out of our diet. Now relax… I said it was temporary. Quietly missing our sandwiches and rice side dishes, we surged foreward and have been pleasantly surprised by the deliciousness of our carb-less dinners.

Everyone has eaten a lettuce wrap of some sort before… I’m guessing. These flavor packed pork fillings are amazing wrapped up or simply just gobbled down on their own. Marinated in duck sauce for sweetness, hoisin sauce (or as my chinese friend calls it, “the white person’s BBQ sauce”), and sriracha for a zap of heat, the cooked meat crisps ever so slightly under this saucey glaze. Paired with the freshness of chopped carrot, red pepper, cilantro and scallions, these wraps are almost perfect…

Enter the dipping sauce. Easy to whip up and seriously tasty, this soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, scallion and ginger root sauce is salty, nutty and spicy. Pour a spoonful over the pork and veggies and you’ve got yourself one hell of a dinner!

Starch, you are delicious, but…. it turns out veggies and protein can live without you.

Makes 4-8 appetizer portions; 2-4 dinner portions

1 tablespoon duck sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 pounds thin-cut pork chops, pounded to 1/8-inch thickness
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 heads butter lettuce, leaves separated
1/2 bunch cilantro, washed and leaves separated
3 carrots, shredded or julienne (3 cups)
1 cucumbers, cut into 3-inch matchsticks
1/2 red pepper, cut into 3-inch matchsticks

Make the ginger sauce by whisking together the soy sauce, vinegar, water, sesame oil, scallion, and ginger. Set aside.

Heat broiler to high. Brush both sides of the pork chops with the olive oil, duck sauce, hoisin and sriracha, sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes. Broil 2 minutes on each side. Cool and slice thinly.

Arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter and fill each with some cilantro, carrots, scallions, cucumbers, red peppers and sliced pork. To eat, drizzle with the ginger sauce and roll the lettuce leaves to close. Serve with plenty of napkins.

Chicken Cacciatore

Sometimes I get these ideas that we need to cook new recipes that we have never made and in this case… never eaten. Chicken Cacciatore rolls off the tongue with such panache that for a brief moment you feel compelled to lift your fingers in the air with mock Italian flare (think Joe Pesci in any gangster movie ever made). While researching different recipes, I found out that Chicken Cacciatore translates to “chicken casserole prepared with tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs in the Italian style”. Sounds good to me!

Like any stew, the flavors only get better the longer you let it do its thing on the stove. The meat starts to fall apart as the sauce thickens into a rich broth. The onions and mushrooms provided a nice hearty base for the wine and tomatoes to glom onto. I tossed in 4 or 5 sliced pickled hot peppers and was happily surprised to find that these little buggers added a nice spicy undertone. Piled high atop polenta and garnished with fresh basil, this meal left us impressed and incredibly satiated!

Makes 4-8 servings

1 (2-3 lb) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces (we used 6 chicken thighs, skin on)
1 3/4 teaspoons table salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
5 hot pickled peppers, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 (28-oz) can whole plum tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 fresh basil, chopped

Accompaniment: polenta, cooked brown rice or buttered noodles

Pat chicken dry and sprinkle on all sides with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and pepper. Heat oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken in 2 batches, turning over once, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Reduce heat to moderate and add onion, mushrooms, hot peppers and garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any brown bits, until onion and garlic are golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine and simmer, scraping up brown bits, until liquid is reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice and simmer, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon, 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and nestle chicken pieces in sauce.

Simmer, loosely covered with foil or with lid slightly ajar, until chicken is fork tender, 3o to 4o minutes. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. For a thicker sauce, transfer cooked chicken to a platter and keep warm, covered, then boil sauce until it reaches desired consistency.

Roasted Pork Chops & Peaches

It’s Springtime! How do I know? Well, Cadbury Creme Eggs are abundant (even though I have yet to eat one this season), we have an hour more sunshine each night and most importantly… fruits and vegetables are bright, fragrant and oh so delicious!

Last year I stumbled upon this super easy pork chop and peaches recipe and was instantly hooked. I’ll be the first to admit, I was shocked to find how flavorful and juicy 2 little peaches could become when cooked alongside seared salty meat. Shopping at the market last week, Judd and I spied ripe peaches across the produce section that upon closer inspection, smelled of summertime. Naturally, we sniffed the pile for the ripest of the ripe and headed to the butcher for some thick cuts of pork.

Making this tasty meal simply couldn’t be easier. Savory piggy cooked in a skillet until both sides are brown and crispy. Peach and red onion wedges sautéed in meat drippings and white wine vinegar until they soften and create… you got it, more juice. The combination of pork, fruit and onion balanced atop your fork is enough to make even Punxsutawney Phil beg for an early spring every year! (Wow, I’m a huge nerd).

We gobbled up our pork and peaches with a side of Judd’s ever so tasty Sautéed Brussels Sprouts (recipe link coming soon) and a side of couscous. Open some chilled white wine and dig in!

Makes 4 servings

1 10-ounce package couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 pork chops (3/4 inch thick; about 2 pounds total)
kosher salt and black pepper
2 peaches, cut into wedges
1 small red onion, cut into thin wedges
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (optional)

Heat oven to 400° F. Cook the couscous according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add the peaches, onion, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper to the skillet and cook, tossing, for 1 minute. Return the pork (and any accumulated juices) to the skillet. Transfer to oven and roast until the pork is cooked through and the peaches are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Sprinkle pork chops and peaches with basil (if you’ve got it). Serve with the couscous.

Malaysian Tomato Chicken Curry & Coconut Rice

Sunday’s are often extravagant cooking days in our house. Judd and I like to take a leisurely stroll through the market picking up items to make a new and adventurous meal for dinner. On this particular Sunday, we headed to an asian market on Clement Street to pick up the necessary supplies for this Malaysian Curry. Thinking we would be hungry slaving over the stove, we popped into a dim sum joint and noshed on a few sesame balls and BBQ pork buns! Nomtastic! With our energy restored, we set to the task at hand… Tomato Chicken Curry with Coconut Rice.

This curry began with a twist. We first needed to make the chili paste that would later be added to our rich sauce. While Judd cubed the chicken (that’s typically a Judd job), I set to work seeding hot chillis while trying to remind myself not to rub my eyes (I accidentally touched my face and felt the burn for the better part of an hour). The chili paste was easy to make; toss red onion, dried red chillis, fresh red chillis, garlic, lemongrass and oil into a food processor and pulverize into a delightfully spicy paste. We made loads extra and now have it on hand whenever we need to add a little kick to a dish. While the chicken was marinating away in a medley of warm and salty flavors, we began the rice.

Oh the rice. So simple and amazingly delicious. The coconut milk infused each rice grain with a punch of flavor and a ton of creaminess. Occasionally nibbling on a pocket of shredded coconut, I decided I was in the love with this dish. Alongside the tomato-y citrus sauce, this rice offers the perfect balance of sweet against a salty and spicy main course. Topped with fried shallots, the rice became crazy good. That’s right… it was crazy how good it tasted!

Back to the curry… with the chicken lightly cooked, we started the tomato based curry that would soon engulf these little nuggets of meat. Tomato sauce, tomato paste and sweet soy sauce gave the curry a richness and wonderful deep red color. Once we glopped in the chili paste, the flavors began to intensify. Finally, the juice of a lime cut through the tomato flavor and added hints of tropical citrus notes.

Good Sunday dinner. Happy Judd & Estee.

Makes 4-6 servings (with rice)

Tomato Chicken Curry

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, diced into pieces

Marinade

1 tablespoon tumeric powder
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon salt
A few shakes of ground white pepper

Chilli Paste

10 dried red chillis, deseeded
10 fresh red chillis, deseeded
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
6 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, white parts only, chopped
1 tablespoon of oil

*Note: you might not need all of it if you’re like me and can’t handle too much spice. The rest can stored in a jar in a fridge for your future cooking.

Curry

1 onions, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup tomato sauce
4 ounces tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon kecap manis
2 tablespoon sugar
8 ounces chicken stock
4 kaffir lime leaves (I used the juice of 1 lime)

Method

Combine the chicken with the marinade ingredients, stir and set aside for an hour.

Meanwhile combine chilli paste ingredients in a food processor and set aside. This can be made in advance and stored in a glass jar in the fridge.

Heat up some peanut oil in a wok or pan over high heat. Brown the marinated chicken in 2 or 3 batches until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate and set aside. Add more oil if you need to, then the finely diced onions, garlic, ginger and about 2 heaped tablespoons of chilli paste (or to taste). Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, kecap manis, sugar, stock and kaffir lime leaves, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes to develop the flavors. Add the sliced onions and simmer for a few minutes more. Add the browned chicken and simmer for a further 30 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is coated and has absorbed all the flavours. Add more stock or water if the sauce starts to dry out during cooking.

Serve with coconut rice (recipe below)

Coconut Rice

1 1/2 cups brown jasmine or basmati rice
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons dry shredded coconut (baking type)
1 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
Fried shallots

Rub the oil over the bottom of a regular-sized pot. Add the rice, coconut milk, water, salt, and shredded coconut. Stir and set over high heat. Bring to a bubbling, but not rolling, boil. Immediately reduce heat to low and cover tightly with a lid. Allow to cook for 1 hour, or until the coconut-water has been absorbed by the rice. When all (or nearly all) of the coconut-water is gone, turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the burner (covered). Allow the rice to sit for another 5-10 minutes.

Fluff the rice with a fork and top with fried shallots. Enjoy.