Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tamarind Chicken: Last Post before Thailand!

As the title suggests, this is my last post before I move to Iowa and then Chiang Mai, Thailand for 3 weeks of Thai massage training and cooking lessons. I am planning to post about my culinary adventures in the "land of smiles" so stay tuned for that....and in the mean time I managed to squeeze in one more "blog meal" (they take much longer than "regular meals" ;) before I pack up my kitchen and hit the road:

I finally got the pastured chicken I ordered from a local farm 2 weeks ago, and it was big one - over 4 lbs! Luckily, it still fit in the slow cooker, since that's the only way to cook a chicken inside on a 102 degree day :) I decided to use up some of the seasonings from the sambar I recently made, since we're moving next week and I don't want it to go to waste. And for once, my frugal nature paid off - it was easy and delicious! I served the chicken along with some farm-fresh roasted potatoes and sautéed squash, tomatoes, and onions.

Slow-cooker Tamarind Chicken 


1 whole 3.5-4 lb chicken
3 Tbsp sambar powder, divided (store bought or homemade)
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp tamarind paste
1 Tbsp olive oil

1. Place chicken in slow-cooker
2. Mix tamarind paste, 2 Tbsp sambar powder, and olive oil in small bowl

3. Spread mixture over chicken and then coat with remaining Tbsp sambar powder

4. Cover and cook on high 8 hours

Optional: While chicken cooks - hang out at a fun Indian grocery store with a friend. I'm going to miss you Erika :)

About an hour before supper-time:

Turmeric Roasted Potatoes

1-2 lbs small red or white potatoes
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 Tbsp olive oil

1. Wash potatoes and cut into 1 inch pieces
2. Place in 8x8 baking dish, drizzle olive oil over potatoes and toss to coat
3. Sprinkle with turmeric, cumin, cayenne, and ginger - toss to coat

4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350F for 45 mns to 1 hour

When the potatoes are almost done....

Sautéed Squash, Onions, and Tomatoes

1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium yellow squash, chopped
1 small yellow onion, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 fresh thai (or other) chilies, stems removed and cut in half (this will be spicy! remove seeds if needed)
1 Tbsp coconut oil

1. Heat oil and add onion and chilies, cooking until onion is translucent and just starting to brown

2. Add zucchini and yellow squash, continuing to cook until squash is soft

3. Add tomatoes and cook for 1-2 minutes

This meal was my non-traditional way to use several traditional Indian spices that pair well together. It turned out delicious - I hope you give it a try!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sambar: It's what's for dinner!

As some of you may already know, Gerry and I will be moving to Iowa in a few weeks (with a brief intermission of 3 weeks in Thailand -more on that later). The past month or so has been a whirlwind of activity and excitement, trying to squeeze in extra classes and trips before we move. The best things to come out of this crazy couple of months (imho) are some wonderful new friendships :) I met a fellow health-foodie (that's you Erika!), and I have been having a blast exchanging recipes and hanging out with her - as well as having a date night with our guys. Gerry and I have also made some new friends from southern India, and we have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them and exchanging delicious homemade meals. This has inspired me to try some new recipes....which led to tonight's meal : Sambar, a delicious dish filled with powerful spices and super-healthy legumes.

I am hoping to improve this dish with some tips and tricks from our new friends, but in the meantime this version is pretty good :)

Many ingredients in this meal will likely require a trip to your local Indian grocery store, but you'll also likely save mucho $$$ over other stores, so grab a friend and have fun exploring!

Masoor Paruppu Sambar


1 tsp tamarind paste
1 cup split red lentils (aka masoor dal, masoor paruppu)
*(these are my favorite lentils because they cook quickly and are easily digestible)
3 cups water
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1 Tbsp virgin coconut or olive oil
5 whole dried Thai chilies
10 fresh curry leaves (these smell A-mazing and are essential to the dish)
2 large shallots or 1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (aka methi seeds)
2 Tbsp sambar powder (homemade is best, but store-bought will work too :)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves (aka coriander leaves, as our Indian friends know them)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 large tomato, chopped
salt to taste

Ingredients for homemade sambar masala powder:

1/2 cup firmly packed fresh curry leaves
1/2 cup whole dried Thai chilies
1/4 cup chana dal (can substitute toor dal or yellow split peas)
1/4 cup coriander seeds
2 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp fenugreek seeds (aka methi seeds)
1 Tbsp black mustard seeds
2 (4 inch) cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil

I found the recipe for homemade Sambar Masala in a wonderful book called The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes by Anupy Singla. I made a few changes to the original, substituting olive oil for sesame oil and leaving out 1 Tbsp white poppy seeds (I couldn't find any).

fresh curry leaves:

coriander seeds:

fenugreek/methi seeds:

To make the Sambar Masala:

1. Combine all the spices in a bowl. Drizzle the oil over them and mix well

2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the chana dal and spice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until curry leaves brown and curl up and the other spices brown (~3 to 4 minutes)

3. Immediately transfer the mixture to a plate and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Once the mixture is cool, grind it in a coffee grinder reserved for spices. Store in an air-tight container for up to 2 months.

Now that we have our sambar powder, lets make dinner....

1. Rinse the lentils and allow to drain, then add to pot along with turmeric and cayenne powder.

2. Add water and bring to a boil. Stir once, lower heat and cover, simmering for 15-20 minutes or until lentils break down (different types of lentils will take different amounts of time)

3. Meanwhile, heat coconut oil over medium heat and then add carrots, mustard seeds, chilies, fenugreek seeds, and curry leaves - sautéing for 2 minutes. Add shallots and brown lightly, then add tamarind paste and garlic, cooking for 1 minute longer. Add mixture, along with sambar powder and tomato to lentils and cook 5-10 minutes or until desired consistency. (I like my red lentils "mushy", but some may like a firmer texture)

4. Add salt and possibly more cayenne to taste and serve, topped with cilantro, over warm basmati, brown basmati or other long grain rice.

*for this meal I also served japanese sweet potato (steamed for ~20 mns and seasoned with salt and pepper)

This meal turned out pretty yummy, but I might pre-steam the carrots next time just to make sure they are soft, and I need work on balancing the heat:salt:tangy ratio in my sambar, but we'll definitely be having this again!

बोन अप्पेतित    
(Bōna appētita!)