Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Grilled chicken banh mi

banh-mi (2)
A couple of weeks ago, I had a business trip to London. Got home to what at first looked like a normal weekend. But Saturday after dinner, my little Nutmeg had some symptoms that triggered a call to the doctor. The nurse on duty sent us to the ER - more because their office was closed than a true emergency, but ER all the same.

Turned out to be strep with a couple odd symptoms, but my tiny girl was not released til the wee hours, and only after a couple of not-so-pleasant tests. She slept in Sunday but was still tired so I kept her home on Monday. And that's how she became my sous chef. Meet Chef Nutmeg. Pretty cute, huh?

I love cooking with my girls. Yes, it will be messier. Yes, it will take longer. But they love to help and are usually willing to taste whatever they've made. And I get to have my two favorite little people join me in doing the thing I love best.

Our menu: Grilled chicken banh mi with cilantro maggi aioli. The chicken is super easy. The aioli takes a bit of time, so if you're in a rush, use plain mayo or make some sriracha mayo. Both are great on banh mi. Make the pickles a day or two ahead and this is an easy weeknight meal.

You can have the recipe, but I'm keeping my sous chef.

Grilled chicken banh mi
Adapted from The Banh Mi Handbook by Andrea Nguyen

banh-mi (1)

    For the pickled carrot & daikon
  • 1 medium daikon
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water

  • For the aioli
  • A handful of cilantro sprigs
  • 1/2 small shallot
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. Maggi seasoning sauce
  • 1 cup canola oil

  • For the sandwiches
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 6 baguette buns, each 6-8 inches long
  • Thinly sliced cucumbers
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • Sriracha

Cooking Directions
  1. To make the pickle, peel and cut the daikon and carrot into sticks about 3 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. Put in a bowl and toss with the salt and 2 tsp. sugar. Massage the salt and sugar into the vegetables for about 3 minutes or until you can bend a piece of daikon and the tips touch without breaking. Flush with running water and drain. Transfer to a quart jar.
  2. For the brine, stir together the 1/2 cup sugar with the vinegar and water until dissolved. Pour into the jar to cover. Discard any extra brine that won't fit in the jar. Refrigerate for one hour and store up to one month.
  3. To make the aioli, pulse the cilantro and shallot in a food processor until minced. Add the egg yolk, Maggi, and lemon juice. Run the food processor for about a minute until you have a creamy mixture.
  4. With the machine running, pour in the oil in a thin steady stream (the stream should be about as thick as a strand of angel hair pasta. The mixture will emulsify and have the consistency of mayonnaise. Store refrigerated in a airtight container for up to a week. Tastes best if it sits for at least an hour.
  5. Trim any visible fat off the chicken thighs. In a bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, pepper, fish sauce, and lime juice. Add the oil and chicken and cover and let marinate for 30 minutes or more.
  6. Preheat a grill over high heat, then grill the chicken thighs until cooked through and the juices run clear, about 10 minutes.
  7. To make the banh mi, spread some of the aioli on the bread. When slightly cooled, slice the chicken across the grain. Pile some chicken into each bun, along with a few cucmber slices. Top with some of the pickle, a few cilantro sprigs and a few drops of sriracha.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Avocado salad

avocado salad (1)
"The salad is delicious." Words rarely (ok never) uttered by my husband. We're talking a bunch of raw veggies with some acid and a little oil. Not what he typically gets excited about. I get more compliments on dead creatures, things with bacon, etc. Not salad.

But this salad made history by earning his praise!

It came about because I needed a side to go with Indian grilled chicken legs and some Basmati rice. So I turned to my good friend (shameless plug for the site coming). In seconds, I can search my entire collection of cookbooks for a specific course and ethnicity. I entered Indian and salad and voila! I was presented with a list of about a dozen recipes from my cookbooks. I scanned them and this one won out because I had all the ingredients on hand and it sounded fabulous.

Although the book labels it Indian, the flavors could also go with Mexican or any Latin dish - it uses lime, cumin, and cilantro, all common flavors in those cuisines. Can't wait to make it again when tomatoes are in season and fresh from the farm.

avocado salad (2)

Avocado salad
Adapted from One Spice, Two Spice by Floyd Cardoz

Fresh, bright flavors come together in this amazing salad. Make it a couple hours ahead then toss in the avocado at the end.


  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 pint grape and/or cherry tomatoes (preferably a mix of different colors), halved
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, torn
  • juice of 1/2 a lime, or more to taste
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 whole Hass avocados, ripe, but not too soft

Cooking Directions
  1. Toast the cumin seeds in a small pan until fragrant. Cool slightly then grind with a mortar and pestle.
  2. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion and cilantro. Sprinkle the lime juice over and then fold in the cumin and cayenne. Season to taste with salt. NOTE: Recipe can be made up to this point a couple hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. Just before serving, halve the avocados, then carefully scoop out each half and cut into chunks. Gently fold it into the tomato mixture. Add more lime juice or salt if needed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Spiced apple sangria

Well hello sangria weather. It's nice to see you.

red wine sangria (2)

Many years ago, a friend of mine made a batch of sangria. I guess you could say my tastes were not as evolved as they are now because my reaction was, "What is this? Red wine and sprite?" I've come a long way since then (and my friend and I still joke about it.) When the temperature rises, this is one of the first things I make. I love a glass on the deck while the kids play outside and hubby grills something delish. Close my eyes and I'm back in Spain. Doesn't get much better.

This makes enough simple syrup for a few batches. Think party. Or another batch next weekend. I keep the extra syrup in a jar in the fridge. I use good (not great) wine. This particular one is my fave these days. It's drinkable on its own, but not so expensive that you don't want to make it better with some fruit, brandy and spiced apple simple syrup. And I also like to use Laird's apple brandy, but another apple brandy would do.

Forecast says 70's this weekend. Anybody want to come over for a glass???

red wine sangria (1)

Spiced apple sangria
Adapted from The Latin Road Home by Jose Garces

red wine sangria (3)

  • 1 apple
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 pear, cored and diced
  • 1 orange, diced, skin and all (discard seeds)
  • 1 bottle red wine, preferably Spanish or Portuguese
  • 1/4 cup apple brandy
  • Juice of half a lemon

Cooking Directions
  1. Peel and core the apple, reserving the peels and core.
  2. Place peels and core into a small pan with the sugar, water, cinnamon sticks and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then strain, discarding solids.
  3. Meanwhile, dice the rest of the apple and combine in a pitcher with the pear, orange, red wine, and lemon juice.
  4. Add 1/3 cup of the apple syrup to the red wine mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover and chill. Serve over ice.
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