Cashew Chicken with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas

Gathering the Garbanzos

Last week, I noticed a food-blogging phenomenon that I don’t have a name for. It’s probably been described in Malcolm Gladwell’s book about social trends, The Tipping Point, but I can’t recall what term he has for it. It’s that thing where one day, it seems you see the same recipe, idea, color or low-rise jean style right in front of you, everywhere you look.

Since I can’t enlighten you further, I’ll name this particular incidence the Convergence of Chickpeas:

1. Alanna at A Veggie Venture writes about an easy garbanzo supper.
2. Lydia at The Perfect Pantry displays an essential pantry staple.
3. Lisa at Champaign Taste made a beautiful Italian-style soup.
4. Molly at Orangette describes a loving lunch gift.

Because chickpeas are one of my personal “soul” foods, I have a special place for them in my foodie heart.

I love that you can buy them in a can, drain and eat as they are or embellish them in any number of tasty exotic ways. Also, that they can inspire a whole meal, and the simpler the better. I love boldly spiced dishes like this quick cashew chicken.

It’s another convergence of sorts – Bangkok meets Bangalore.

Cashew Chicken with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas
for 4 servings

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews, chopped
3 cups cooked rice

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the chickpeas on a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the oil, salt, curry powder, cumin and cayenne. Roast for 25 minutes.

Heat a non-stick wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until smoking. Toss in the chicken and cook, stirring, until surfaces are seared, but interior is still pink. Stir in the shallots and cook until softened, 1-2 minutes.

Add the sugar, soy sauce, and fish sauce to the chicken and stir. Cook a few more minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Stir in the chickpeas, spinach and cashews. Serve in bowls with hot cooked rice.

Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food

Spaghetti with Arugula and Pecorino: Friday Night Home Date

Red Chili Pepper Spaghetti with Arugula and Pecorino Romano

Tonight we’re dining on pure comfort food.

I think I would eat pasta of some kind every single day if I didn’t have any regard for culinary diversity. In fact, I’m pretty sure that when I was young, single, and living in my first apartment, pasta was my daily sustenance. All I needed was a cheap aluminum stockpot from the hardware store, some olive oil, and fresh gratings from the hunk of hard cheese – Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, or Asiago – that I always had in the fridge.

I’m sure it comes from growing up in an Italian-American family, and being spoon-fed pastina with milk and butter when I was a baby.

Now that I’m grown up and far away from the place I came from, pasta is the only food I crave when I’m sick, or traveling, or just plain tired.

In other words, perfect for a late night Friday dinner. The kids will be in bed, so we’ll sit by the fire with a bottle of wine and big bowls of this spaghetti.

Chili Pepper Spaghetti with Arugula and Pecorino Romano

Serves two tired, hungry people, with a little leftover for snacking

12 ounces imported Italian spaghetti
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 fresh red chili pepper, seeds intact if you like it hot, sliced into thin rings
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 plump garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 cups prewashed baby arugula
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, to taste

Bring a big pot of generously salted water to a boil. Put the spaghetti in the water and cook until just tender, but firm in the center – al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over moderately low heat. Add the chili and onion and cook until slightly golden brown. Stir in the garlic and cook a few minutes, until fragrant, but be sure not to brown it. Add the arugula and toss gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss the drained spaghetti with the olive oil mixture; the arugula will wilt. Serve in large shallow bowls topped with some cheese.

Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle

Chocolate Truffle Tart

An embarrassment of chocolate

David Lebovitz, dessert chef extraordinaire, is the host for a special chocolate-by-brand themed Sugar High Friday this week, and thinking about what I wanted to make prompted me to confess a private, seldom disclosed compulsion of mine.

Okay, here goes: I’m a chocolate hoarder. There it is, plain and simple, all out on the table (see evidence in photo below). If you’re looking for a particular brand, I probably have it, so come on over.

Why do I have multiple pounds of chocolate in my house? Am I a commercial baker? Professional chocolate taster? A chocoholic? Slightly neurotic?

My Stash


The answer is No to all of the above questions, except possibly the last one.

I mean, I do love to savor a hunk of really good chocolate occasionally, but I don’t by any means have a sweet tooth. In fact, eating anything too sweet makes my teeth hurt.

I suppose I feel the need to be prepared. I don’t want to be overtaken by a sudden need to bake Death-by-Triple-Chocolate-Chip Brownie Bars and find that I don’t have the required amount or type of chocolate in the house; milk, white, dark, bittersweet, semisweet, un-sweet, chips, chunks or 1-pound bars.

That would mean packing myself and numerous children into the car for a trip to the store, which would wear me out and make me cranky. I don’t make Triple Chocolate anything when I’m cranky.

There’s more really good chocolate out there than ever before. Artisanal chocolate is readily available everywhere, and by artisanal I mean chocolate that can have a pure cocoa fat content of 60 percent or more. It’s made with freshly roasted beans that have been personally sourced by the chocolate maker in some hot, tropical country somewhere near the equator. Ideally the chocolate is made in small batches, sometimes using beautifully restored, centuries old German machines, as they do at Scharffen Berger.

All this boutique-quality craftiness has piqued the interest of mega corporations such as Hershey, which actually went out and purchased Scharffen Berger recently - that’s another story - and Nestle. I saw the new “premium” chocolate from Nestle, and felt obligated to buy some and add it to my hoard.

I snacked on a piece; it had an unappealing, waxy texture, and not a lot of depth. However, it melted beautifully and tastes very fine in the Chocolate Truffle Tart I made. The filling is unbelievably creamy and dense, unlike any other tart I’ve made.

The recipe is from the new (February) issue of Gourmet magazine. I adapted it by adding a little espresso powder to the filling; I think it intensifies the sexy, silky chocolatey-ness. For dusting, I used a Dutch-process Schokinag cocoa, from my “collection”, which gives this dessert the matte, red-dirt color of a luscious truffle.

Chocolate Truffle Tart
Adapted from Gourmet magazine

Makes 10 servings
Crust:
28 chocolate wafers (such as Nabisco Famous), finely ground in a food processor
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, cooled completely
Filling:
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon powdered instant espresso
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1. Adjust oven racks to middle position and heat to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an 8-inch springform pan and wrap the bottom with a sheet of foil to help prevent leakage.

2. To make the crust, combine the wafer crumbs and butter in a bowl; pat evenly onto bottom of pan and 1 1/2 inches up the sides. Bake until crust is slightly puffed, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

3. Meanwhile, make the filling. Melt the chocolate and butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.

4. Whisk together eggs, cream, sugar, espresso, salt, and vanilla. Whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until combined well. Pour the filling into cooled crust. Bake 20 – 25 minutes, or until slightly puffed, and filling is set to 1-inch from edge, with a slight jiggle in the center.

5. Cool tart completely on a wire rack, then chill in the fridge until firm, about 4
hours. Release pan sides, and dust top with cocoa.

Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle