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Friday, January 28, 2011

Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup (Tom Kha Gai)

I love Thai food. But in Damascus, good Thai, let alone Asian food, is hard to come by. However, with the arrival of a few new modern supermarkets, we are now able to find ethnic food ingredients that are not available in the local market. Oyster sauce, hoisin, sweet chili, and coconut milk are now readily available to satisfy any craving that a restaurant in Damascus simply cannot.

In this case, I craved the creamy, spicy broth of Thai Tom Kha Gai. However, I didn’t add the oyster mushrooms since mushrooms are one of the few things my husband doesn’t eat. Something about getting sick as a kid on mushrooms or something like that. I personally think if he didn’t know they were there, he would eat them and all would be fine.

Anyway, I left the mushrooms in the recipe so you can make it as is..... unless of course, your company doesn't like mushrooms as well!

Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup
(Tom Kha Gai)
Serves 2 generously as a meal

1 can (14 oz) Coconut Milk
2 cups Chicken Broth
6 slices Fresh Ginger (about 1/2 cm thick each)
1 stick Fresh Lemongrass (cut into 1 inch pieces) or 2 tbsp Chopped Lemongrass
400 grams Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast or Thigh, cut into bite sized slices
1 cup Oyster Mushrooms, cut into pieces
1 tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
1 tbsp Fish Sauce
1 tsp Sugar
11/2 tsp Dried Red Chili Flakes (for medium spicy soup)
Fresh Cilantro Leaves for garnish

In a saucepan over high heat, combine coconut milk, chicken broth, ginger and lemongrass and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer.

Add the chicken, oyster mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and chili flakes. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until chicken is just cooked. Ladle into serving dishes and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rosemary & Garlic Veal Shanks

It's still winter.... even in Damascus. Clearly the Damascene winter is milder than the Canadian ones I am used to, however, I think all the moving and travelling in the Middle East has warmed my blood. After all, what Canadian can be freezing to the bone at 10 degrees Celsius?

So, I think a nice, wintery, rib sticking dish is in order. Slow cooked, rich, sauce laden veal shanks with garlic and woody, aromatic rosemary sounds good to me? Any objections?

Rosemary & Garlic Veal Shanks
Serves 4

1 kg Veal Shank (4 pieces)
1/2 cup Flour seasoned with Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup Olive Oil
3-4 sprigs Rosemary
6 cloves Garlic, whole and peeled
2 Large Onions, cut into quarters
1/2 cup White Wine
3 cups Vegetable Stock

Preheat oven to 160 degrees.

Place the seasoned flour in a large dish. Coat each veal shank with the seasoned flour. Heat the olive oil in a large, oven proof pan on medium-high heat. Add the veal shanks and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until seared and browned.

Add the rosemary, onions, and garlic to the pan and let cook for about 2 minutes. Add the white wine and bring up to a boil. Then add the vegetable stock. Remove from heat, cover with foil.

Place in the preheated oven for about 2 hours, until the veal shanks are fork tender. Remove the veal shanks from the pan. Place the pan on the stove top over medium high heat. Reduce the sauce to about half.

Serve the veal shanks and sauce with rice, potatoes or polenta.

Vietnamese Chicken Lemongrass

Remember when I posted about Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)? And how I mentioned that when I was feeling under the weather, my boyfriend took me to a little Vietnamese place for a steaming hot bowl of pho?  Well, the one point I forgot to mention here is that while I was slurping away, he was often eating his other favorite Vietnamese dish.... Chicken with Lemongrass.

The succulent chicken tossed with fragrant lemongrass, red chili, fish sauce, and crunchy peanuts is a winning combination. And believe it or not, it is super easy and quick to make.

As you can see from my photos, I used a mix of chicken legs and thighs with bones. However, you could use chicken breasts or boneless thighs. To be honest, I prefer dark meat in this recipe because the end result is juicier. 

So, treat yourself to a yummy Vietnamese dinner any night of the week with this easy and tasty recipe!

Vietnamese Chicken Lemongrass
Serves 4

2 stalks Fresh Lemongrass, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces (or 4 tbsp chopped lemongrass)
3 tbsp Fish Sauce
4 Cloves Garlic, crushed
1 tbsp Curry Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
2 1/2 tbsp Sugar
1/4 cup Scallions, chopped
3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 kg Chicken Pieces (I used legs and thighs but you could use any parts you prefer)
1 Large Onion, diced
3 Small Red Chilies, chopped
3/4 cup Unsalted Roasted Peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup Water

In a large bowl, combine the lemongrass, fish sauce, garlic, curry, salt, pepper, sugar and scallions. Add the chicken pieces and massage with the marinade until all the pieces are coated. Let marinate for 15-20 minutes.

Then, heat the oil in a large pan. Add the chicken pieces and all of the marinade and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add the diced onion, chilies and peanuts and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Then stir in the water, cover, and cook for about 5-8 minutes until chicken pieces are cooked through. (This time will be less if you are using just chicken breast pieces).

Serve over steamed rice and garnish with some chopped scallion.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Fluffiest Pancakes Ever!

I love pancakes. And there are so many great recipes out there that it can be difficult to choose.
But after trying these pancakes once, they have become THE recipe in this household. Why? Because they are simple and work every single time!

I also really like this recipe because it works with whole wheat flour. I have tried it with 100% whole wheat, and 100% white, but I think this 50/50 recipe gives the best balance.

This is the pancake at its simplest. Feel free to add whatever toppings and variations you want (see some possibilities below) and make this recipe your own!  Enjoy!

The Fluffiest Pancakes Ever
Recipe adapted from Saveur Magazine
Makes about 1 dozen pancakes

1 cup White Flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 tsp Sugar
1⁄2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 cup Low Fat Yogurt
1⁄2 cup Sparkling Water
2 Eggs

Butter for pan

Possible “Stuffings”: chocolate chips, berries, nuts, bananas, dried fruit, apple
Possible Toppings: Jam, Nutella, Butter, Maple syrup

Stir together the flours, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the yogurt, eggs, and sparkling water and mix together until combined. Let the batter rest for about 15-20 minutes.

Over medium heat, melt a little butter in a large, non stick pan. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into the pan to make 1 pancake. Depending on the size of your pan, you could make between about 2-4 pancakes each batch.

 Let the pancakes cook without touching them for a few minutes, until bubbles start to surface at the top of the pancake. At this point, sprinkle any of your desired stuffings onto the pancake (eg. Chocolate chips) and press down lightly. Then flip each pancake and cook until lightly golden on the other side. Transfer pancakes onto a baking sheet and place in a warm oven. Repeat the process with the rest of the batter.

Serve with your desired toppings.

No Fuss Pork Loin Roast

We all crave comfort food. But on these days, no one wants to be sweating over the stove cooking. That's why this meal is so great. It literally takes 3 minutes of preparation and then 1 hour (or more if you have a bigger roast) in the oven. Then 3 more minutes to make the pan sauce. THAT'S IT!!!

It is moist, tasty and perfectly heart and belly warming!

And the best part? You could feed between 2 and 20 people with the same amount of work! Just increase the size of the roast, make some rice, potatoes, veggies and enjoy!

No Fuss Pork Loin Roast
Serves 4-6 people

1 kg Pork Loin Roast
1 tbsp Dried Thyme
Salt and Pepper

1 cup Vegetable Stock
1 tbsp Flour
1 tbsp Butter
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Season the pork roast generously on all sides with salt, pepper, and dried thyme. Place in a roasting pan or a casserole and bake in 200 degree Celsius oven for about 15 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 140 degrees Celsius and bake for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the internal temperature of the pork roast is between 65-70 degrees Celsius (150-160 degrees Farenheit). Remove the roast from the oven, put on a plate, cover with foil and let rest for about 20 minutes before cutting.

In the meantime, place the used roasting pan on the stove top on medium- high heat. Add the vegetable stock and using a whisk, stir to deglaze the pan. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Stir in the butter. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve slices of pork roast with mashed potatoes or rice and drizzle with sauce.

Please note, this recipe will work for varying sizes of pork roast. As per the recipe, cook at 200 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat and cook until the internal temperature of the roast is 145 degrees).