Tag Archives: basil

Lemongrass Chicken with Fresh Veggies, Mint, and Basil

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You know what feels so great? Being able to fully recreate something you’ve had at a restaurant. You know what also feels so great? Knowing that you have late night in the fridge waiting for you when you’re out at a bar. While the latter is irrelevant to this post, I can’t help but think back to this one time when my second year of college, my roommate Kate and I made nachos for dinner and saved ourselves a perfect late night portion for after we went out. It may have made that month of my life that much better.

Or, for those of you recently out of college, how awesome was it to come home on break and have your favorite snacks awaiting your arrival at home? I’d often come home to the Costco melon-sized muffins and boxes of Ghiradelli brownie mix just ready for my friend Cessie and I to dig into. I can imagine, well, actually I know this because my parents have been very upfront with me about it, that when you’re a parent you’re trying to keep your kids around as long as possible when they come home from college. My mom would always have the snacks at our house, hoping that it would secure our house as the preferred location for friends reunions. In fact, it was and is still fairly successful, and I think I may have taken on this activity as I try to make my house welcoming.

I’ve got a two word recommendation for you: candy. bowl.

There’s an art to the candy bowl and it goes along with the motive behind this dish. There’s a move to get people to come over (the main dish) and then there’s the move to get them to stay (the candy). In this case, I’d say I was cooking with close enough friends where I didn’t really need the candy bowl but it’s seriously so funny to me to see people who visit for the first time light up at the candy bowl. Especially when I have candy in there that I wouldn’t have expected some people to like.

Have nothing to talk about to a friend of a friend who is visiting your party? “um so, can I offer you a reeses egg?”

Trying to console a friend and can’t find the next thing to say? “Ugh, I know, boys right? Let’s discuss over dark chocolate caramel-filled Ghiradelli squares”

It’s all about engaging whomever is around. With this lemongrass chicken dish, I wanted to get my friends involved in what is one of my FAVORITE dishes as of late. At most Vietnamese places, people are always about the pho. I’m really not a huge soup person, so I always go for the lemongrass pork or chicken if they have it. I love the fact that you get this really moist, flavorful cut of meat with a scoop of rice and a mound of raw veggies and fresh herbs. The combination of the fresh herbs with the hot chicken is to die for.

A few months ago, my friend Julia and I frequented a pho place post-karaoke with two of our other friends and I had a very delicious version of this dish. Since then, I’ve been thinking about recreating it and finally got to it about a month ago.

I say I wanted to get everyone engaged because it’s a dish that involves a lot of chopping but little precision. For a group dinner, you want everyone to feel included and like they have “a job.” I’ve found this to be very important with a group of close girls as it makes it so much easier to continue the endless gabbing when there aren’t stressful time constraints or intense skills required to make the dish!!!

One person can cook the meat (or two who can switch off) while the others can chop and make rice. At the end, we ended up just making a big platter of some cooked veggies, some raw veggies, herbs, and the delicioso chicken. I took this recipe from one meant for pork and adjusted it for chicken thighs.

I am VERY confident you can make this and serve to your favorite gals and guys. It’s a great way to experiment with other cuisines and learn about new veggies/herbs. I’ve never cooked with lemongrass before and found it easy to figure out! (considering I looked up a video on youtube for how to cut it :))

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Lemongrass chicken with fresh veggies, herbs, and rice

adapted slightly from this Userealbutter recipe, serves 4 or 5 comfortably (you will NOT have leftovers :))

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 tbsps light brown sugar
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 tbsp shallots, chopped
3 tbsps lemongrass, chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce (or thick soy sauce) – I just used regular light soy sauce from TJs…
1 1/2 tbsps fish sauce
1 tbsp flavorless vegetable oil

1 cup rice

An assortment of cucumbers, carrots, fresh basil, fresh mint, zucchinis, and bell peppers of all colors

1. At least 2 hours before you want to start cooking, marinate the chicken. You could also do this up to 24 hours in advance. I think this is a really important step as you want the chicken to be as flavorful as possible! In the bowl of a large food processor or blender if you don’t have one, puree the lemongrass, shallots, garlic, and brown sugar. As recommended in the original recipe, if you dont have any of these tools, you could totally just chop it up really finely.

2. Add black pepper, fish sauce, soy sauce, and vegetable oil and puree until smooth. Place the chicken thighs in a large freezer bag and pour marinade over top. Swish around the marinade, ensuring all pieces of chicken are evenly coated. Refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 24 hours – taking the chicken out about 30 minutes before you want to cook it.

3. When ready to cook, take your chicken out of the refrigerator to bring to room temp. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to boil with a pinch of salt. Once boiling, add rice and bring temp down so the rice is simmering. Cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes or until done.

4. After you’ve poured everyone a glass of wine (yes, Arianna, Kate and Julia, I will admit mine is the smallest), get to work chopping. Rice is a-cooking and chicken is ready for the stove. Ask your friend who is least afraid of raw meat to help you cut up the chicken into strips for sauteeing. You could also grill the thighs whole and chop them up afterwards. Sautee the chicken in batches for about 5-8 minutes on each side, until the pieces are no longer pink.

5. While one or two people are cooking the chicken, sautee some zucchini and peppers. For the raw vegetables, I like carrots and cucumbers julienned like they have at the restaurant. And lastly, for the herbs, chop the basil and mint into small dice or thin strips as it’ll be the garnish for the finished product.

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6. Once the chicken is done, put the veggies, herbs, and chicken on a large platter and let your friends serve from there! I like to start with a bed of rice, topped with chicken and veggies on the side. Make sure to add a generous topping of sriracha in whatever proportion you like. Enjoy! Oh, and don’t forget to offer a piece of candy for your guests on the way out ­čśë

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Challah, Challah Bill Y’all – A Judeo-Christian culinary experience

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About a month ago, my expert challah-making friend Kate (who has a laundry list of talents I might add), taught our group of friends how to make challah! In school, Kate made challah every week with an extracurricular group to raise money for hunger relief and let me tell you, it was the highlight of my week. My roommates in our sorority house NOMMED every week on one savory and one sweet loaf – usually some herby garlic, cinnamon raisin, or the cherished pumpkin chocolate chip (life will never be the same without you).

Bringing back the college memories and teaching us a little about Jewish traditions, Kate brought the dough and we contributed the toppings. I learned that in the Jewish tradition, you always bless the bread, hence, the importance of the challah. Shoutout to our snazziest consultant travelling visitor, Chandler who contributed most of these pics. While I didn’t actually make this dough, I can show you a bit about the process and how to get to the pretty part of the challah baking process ­čÖé

First, we rolled the dough (that had been rising for a few hours), into tiny balls that would later be rolled out

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Then, you take two dough balls for your little challah roll and roll them into long thin flat rectangles. This is where you’re going to create a bed for all the fillings. In the pockets, you want to OVERLOAD on ingredients. This is one thing I hadn’t thought of – but apparently when you’re adding filling to these, since the dough expands so much, you always want to put more filling than looks necessary.

In this instance, we made chocolate chip-PB, chocolate cinnamon, sundried tomato garlic basil, peanut butter nutella, and I think cinnamon sugar. Delicious!

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After you put the fillings in, you want to start tucking them in. There’s a sort of braiding going on where you tuck the right bottom corner to the left side of the dough and up. Then you go the opposite way and press into the dough to seal it. Do this until the filling is completely enclosed. The one below is sundried tomato, garlic, olive oil, and basil.

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imagejpeg_1IMG_0003Once everybody’s sealed up, you want to make an X with the two pieces of dough. Then, carefully wrap the two strands around each other, seal the ends together, and spiral to make a round loaf.

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Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 for around 25-35 minutes – seems to be an art to this timing! Serve the savory ones with some yummy soup and have the sweet ones for dessert! Here’s to faith-sharing and food. Cheers ­čÖé

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Eggplant Porcini Mushroom meatballs with crusty bread and basil

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I am embarassingly late reporting back to you with the findings on my meatless meatballs adventure, friends and family. I made this dish about two months ago and have been holding it from you. I’m sure some of you have seen it on Amelia Morris’ bonappetempt blog┬áwhere I found it and were perplexed by the meatless meatball.

Even if you’re not into the meatless meatball (how many times can you read that phrase without laughing??), the sauce alone is to die for. Here’s how I know: My roommate is a marinara sauce aficionado and she loved it PLUS a friend was over and along with eating my avocado cupcakes essentially licked the tupper ware clean. The magic that is slow-cooked tomato+garlic+olive oil+porcini mushroom flavored liquid was that much more special just because it was served at a Sunday night dinner.

I had an old friend and new friend over for dinner at my parents’ house when my grandmother was in town and wanted to get back to this kind of evening I used to have often. The first year out of college I thought that cooking was a way of guaranteeing the success of the evening – and I think many people see food this way. If I can crack the recipe, I can be sure something’s going right today.

My recent meatless mushroom meatball dinner gave me another view of what was really going on during most of my dinners. My old friend who attended┬áhas been a comrade in my adventures exploring adult life in Atlanta and my new friend reminded me of those sentiments of starting out in a new place. As we figured out which bars people go to in summer versus winter and how to not get lost parking at the Braves game (yes I am a native Atlantan and barely can figure that out), we always had Sundays every month or so at my parents’ house to remind us that the road is long and the bumps smooth out.

I realized that although the constant questioning of my life might not be there as much any more, Sunday night dinner will always be a peacemaker for somebody’s soul that night. My parents have always been a comforter and steadfast for me – I started thinking, maybe being an adult means that I am going to start being THEIR comforter on Sunday nights.

All of this is to say that I’m thankful for old friends who want to continue discussing politics (I always need a refresher), will taste my food, will sit and take a deep breath before starting the week, and never, ever, skimp on Sunday night dessert.

I hope you enjoy this!

(I doubled the recipe so don’t worry if yours doesn’t look like this much!)

1 large eggplant (1 1/4 pounds)

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
Boiling water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
Two 28-ounce cans imported whole Italian tomatoes, seeded and pureed with their juices ( I didn’t actually seed them before I pureed them – get the Cento kind they are really good!!
2 tablespoons chopped basil, plus leaves for garnish
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 cups fresh bread crumbs (from 6 ounces crustless country bread)
2 large eggs, beaten
2 ounces PArmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
All-purpose flour, for coating

Crusty bread

1, Roast the eggplant after pricking it all over with a fork, at 350 for about 45 mins to an hour until it gets really soft.I’d wait a few minutes to scrape out the insides – but yes, you’ll want to get rid of as much of the skin as possible

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2. While the eggplant is roasting, boil 1.5 cups water and pour over the mushrooms in a heatproof bowl. After 30 minutes strain but reserve the liquid. Rub the mushrooms of any grit and chop coarsely.

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3. While you’ve got the eggplant in the oven and mushrooms soaking, heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet. Add onion and half the garlic until fragrant, careful not to burn the garlic. Puree your tomatoes at this point if you havent already. Add the tomatoes and mushroom soaking liquid and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for about an hour, honestly the longer the better. I think mine went for about 1.5 hours. Then add half the basil towards the end and taste test with salt and pepper.

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4. Here’s where things get weird. Fold together the mushrooms, breadcrumbs, insides of the eggplant,┬árest of the garlic, rest of the basil, parsley, and cheese. It says 2 ounces of cheese – I did one batch with cheese and one without and both were delicious. Add 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Fold your mixture into small golf ball sized balls, dust with flour and refrigerate on a baking sheet for 20 mins.

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5. When ready, heat a skillet to moderately high heat with a sheet of vegetable oil. Sear the meatballs until browned all over. After browning, drain them off on paper towels and add to your magical tomato sauce. It says simmer for 5 mins, I’d give it ten. Serve with crusty bread, torn basil and chocolate cake for dessert!!2014-09-28 18.34.37

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Bon appetit

So whose coming for dinner next Sunday?