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April, 2010:

CIA One Dish Meals: Not Technically One Dish, But Still Good

sauteed chicken with Moroccan hot and sweet tomato sauce

DinnerPlateApril has kind of gotten away from me, and this project with it. I’m still figuring out what I need to do to complete the remaining cookbooks by the end of June; I think I have a lot of work ahead of me. I’m on vacation this week (except for Wednesday when I have to work all day — I know, shut up) and was thinking I’d dive in and do a huge amount of cooking. But there are other PeelingTomatothings begging to be done too. Tomorrow I will be going through my notes to see just what it will take to come close to meeting my goal. You’ll see more recipes from me this week, but probably not every day.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not giving up. I may not meet the end-of-June deadline, but I’m going to cook from each book one TomatoSauceButterway or another.

Still, today I can check off one more book: The Culinary Institute of America One Dish Meals. This book is full of wonderful-looking soups, stews, stir-fries, salads and more. There were a lot of promising possibilities for a chilly, wet evening. I settled on sauteed chicken with Moroccan hot and sweet tomato sauce because it BrowningOnionlooked fairly simple and didn’t require a lot of ingredients I didn’t already have. That’s no small consideration; the CIA recipes call for lots of things that aren’t usually in my pantry, including galangal, slab bacon and sake. (Not all in the same dish, thank heavens.) But for this one I just had to get the fresh ingredients and one can of tomato puree.

IngredientsI did my chopping first (including some Brussels sprouts to serve on the side), then started by making a separate tomato sauce that gets added to the larger recipe. I blanched and peeled some plum tomatoes, then seeded and pureed them. I brought the puree to a simmer in a saucepan, added some canned tomato sauce, and let it simmer about 10 minutes. I swirled in some butter and added OnionWithSpicessalt and pepper, then set the mixture aside.

While the tomato sauce simmered I browned some chicken breasts in olive oil and set them aside. I also pureed some chopped onion and garlic. In the pot in which I’d browned the chicken, I heated some butter, then added the onion and garlic mixture and let it cook about 10 minutes, until it TomatoMolassesOnionSpiceswas quite dark and had a rich, kind of sweet aroma. A really great aroma, in fact, deeper and more intriguing than the usual delightful smell of frying onions.

I added some cinnamon, ground ginger and cayenne and cooked it all together for a few minutes. Then I added a cup of the tomato sauce and a tablespoon of molasses (the recipe calls for dark ChickenForFinalCookhoney but says to substitute molasses if you can’t find it), and let that mixture cook for another 5 minutes or so. Then I added the chicken breasts, spooned sauce over them, covered the pan and let it all cook for 20 minutes more. I served the chicken and sauce with rice and Brussels sprouts, and sprinkled some chopped cilantro and sesame seeds over the chicken before ChickenCookeddigging in. (If you think the rice is a bit odd-looking, you’re right; I found at the last minute I had insufficient amounts of either white basmati or brown basmati for dinner, so I mixed them — successfully, I’m relieved to say.)

This dish tasted tremendous. The sauce has a rich and unusual flavor: only a little hot, but with DinnerPlates4an earthy undertone. The tomato and molasses come together nicely.

Verdict: Success. I will make this again, and I will have to make some of the book’s other dishes soon as well.

Pure Poultry: Hot Soup for a Chilly Evening

chicken chili soup with fresh lime

PeppersI can’t believe how long it’s been since I had a chance to cook for and post to this blog. Things have been a little hectic. And it’s going to be all the more challenging to meet my goal of cooking from every book by the end of June, but I’m going to try. This week will still be busy for me, but next week I’ll be on vacation and I ought to be able to do extra cooking and writing to make up CookingPepperssome ground.

In the meantime, I needed to find something I could make for tonight’s dinner that wouldn’t be too complex. I leafed through Pure Poultry; it’s another cookbook from the cookbook club I used to belong to, and features the same attractive photography and layout as the others they publish. I flipped past familiar PeppersDrainedkinds of recipes — roast chicken, chicken cacciatore, oven-fried chicken — but then turned a page and found a beautiful photo of a rich-looking red soup flecked with bits of pepper and onion. Chicken chili soup with fresh lime looked perfect for a chilly spring evening.

I started by doing my prep, but I should have read the recipe through once more and divided PureeingVegs3up my work. The first instruction is to heat some oil in a skillet, briefly fry a number of diced jalapeno peppers, and then cover the diced peppers with water and set them aside for half an hour. I could have chopped the peppers first and cooked them, then moved along with the rest of the chopping while they soaked. So dinner was a little later than I’d intended.
Once the peppers have soaked for half an hour, the recipe says to drain them and reserve the water. It doesn’t actually say what to do with the reserved water; after some consideration I decided to add it to the soup when the time came. In the meantime, I pureed the peppers with some diced onion, garlic and tomato. Then I heated some oil in a large pot and SimmeringSoupcooked the pepper mixture for about 10 minutes, then added chicken broth (and the pepper water) and let the mixture simmer for half an hour.

I also sliced some boneless, skinless chicken breast and sauteed it until the pieces were fully cooked and nicely browned. I set this aside. And I mixed a few tablespoons of cornmeal with half LastIngredients2a cup of water. When the timer for the broth went off, I stirred in the cornmeal slurry, some minced cilantro, some lime zest and some lime juice.

I also stirred in the chicken, but I must note: The recipe never specifically says to add the chicken to the soup. I know it’s supposed to go in, partly because it’s in the name of the recipe, FinalSoup2partly because the photo that accompanies it shows chicken in the soup. I expect that sort of sloppiness from a pamphlet, but not from an elaborately designed and produced cookbook. Of course, for an inexperienced cook, adding the chicken is a no-risk option. But the omission of the details about what to do with the pepper-soaking water is more serious; if I’d been wrong, SoupBowlthe soup could have been too hot to bear.

Fortunately, it wasn’t. The soup was peppy and flavorful, but not aggressively spicy; the heat of the jalapenos balanced nicely with the bright tartness of the lime juice and the pungency of the cilantro. The soup was a welcome warming dish after a chilly spring afternoon. I made spinach and black bean quesadillas to go with it — sort of a Mexican-themed soup and sandwich supper.

Verdict: Success. This one definitely goes into the rotation.