Cranberry Fig Chutney

Cranberry Sauce 2.0
Add a little zing to your sauce

Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without cranberry sauce. And while I have nothing against the traditional sugary cranberry combination, I find I crave an extra depth of flavor in the standard sauce – and so I devised this chutney. What I like about chutney is it’s a combination of fruit and savory ingredients, and not timid about incorporating herbs, spices, and even a kick of heat. In other words, it nails many of the flavor senses (sweet, sour, salt, bitter, heat) that, to me, yield a more satisfying mouthful.

In this chutney, dried figs add a mellow, nutty sweetness, and fresh ginger and orange add perfume and zing, all of which balance out the cranberries’ natural astringency, while allowing them to remain the star of the show – after all we’re talking Thanksgiving here.

The good news is that this chutney is not exclusively for the Thanksgiving table. It also makes a great condiment for other fruit-loving proteins such as pork, duck, and lamb. I like to serve it as an accompaniment on a cheese platter as well, or dabbed on goat cheese-smeared crostini.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Makes about 2 cups

18 dried black mission figs, quartered
1/2 cup Port wine
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
Juice and zest from 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

1. Place the figs in a small bowl and pour the Port wine over the figs. Set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Combine the cranberries and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Add the figs and Port wine, the ginger, orange juice and zest, pepper, salt, and rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and the chutney has thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Discard the rosemary sprig. (The chutney may be made up to 3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature).

Grilled Beef Skewers with Green Chile Sauce

Lean into the heat with these spicy grilled steak skewers:

When the weather is hot and shouty, then why not shout back with skewers of fiery meat? These steak skewers are not only cooked over a flame, they are bathed in a heady lime and garlic marinade that tenderizes and infuses the meat with bold flavor and kicking spice. And don’t stop there: Raise the flavor and heat bar further by serving the skewers with a feisty sauce inspired by Zhoug, a green herb condiment hailing from the Middle East. It’s a heat-spiked herbaceous blend that’s a cross between chimichurri and harissa – arguably a match made in heaven. You can keep the steaks in large pieces, or, better yet, cut into strips and thread on skewers for fun party food. Serve the sauce on the side, so the meat can be dabbed or generously swiped – leave it up to your heat threshold to dictate the amount. 

Skirt steak, flank steak, or hanger steak are great cuts that love a marinade, which helps to tenderize their natural toughness. When cutting the meat into strips, be sure to slice across the grain (the way that the muscle fibers are aligned). By doing this, you will cut up the muscle fibers which would otherwise increase chewiness. Grill the meat quickly over direct high heat for best results.

Grilled Skirt Steak Skewers with Green Chile Sauce

Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes plus 4 to 6 hours marinating time
Serves 4 to 6 as a main course

Marinade:
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds skirt steak, cut against the grain in 1 inch strips

Sauce:
1 large poblano pepper, stemmed, coarsely chopped
1 large jalapeño pepper, stemmed, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 cup (packed) cilantro sprigs
1 cup (packed) Italian parsley sprigs
1/2 cup (packed) mint leaves
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare:
1. Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl. Place the steak strips in a resealable plastic bag or glass container with a lid. Pour the marinade over and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.

2. Make the sauce: Place the peppers and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the cilantro, parsley, mint, lime juice, cumin, and salt and process to blend. With the machine running, add the oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is thick but pourable. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt if desired.

3. Remove steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Thread the strips on pre-soaked bamboo skewers and discard the marinade.

4. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Grill the skewers over direct heat until charred and cooked to your desired doneness, 5 to 8 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat. Serve with
 the spicy green chile sauce.

Grilled Cheese and Chutney Sandwich

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I like to call this grilled cheese sandwich a grilled ploughman. I lived in England for a few years, and one of my favorite food memories is the ploughman’s lunch which is standard pub fare. Essentially a cheese platter or cheese board, it’s a rustic and hearty arrangement of slabs of sharp, aged cheese (often cheddar), a dollop of sweet and spicy chutney or pickle, smears of piquant mustard, and wedges of fresh fruit, such as apple, heaped on a platter with thick slices of country-style bread. The best part is that it’s DIY, ready to assemble and devour to your taste.

I used the ploughman’s lunch as inspiration for this grilled cheese sandwich, essentially layering all of the traditional ingredients into a double-fisted melty sandwich, oozing cheese and balanced with fresh greens, crisp fruit, and a homemade apple-chile chutney, similar to piccalli, which is the English version of Indian spiced pickles. Happy New Year!

apple chutney tastefood

Ploughman’s Grilled Cheese with Apple Chile Chutney

Makes one hefty sandwich

2 slices sourdough or ciabatta bread, cut 1/2-inch thick
Salted butter, softened
2 ounces coarsely grated aged hard cheese, such as sharp Cheddar or Gruyere
Red onion slices
Thinly sliced apple, such as Granny Smith or Fuji
Baby kale leaves or arugula
2 tablespoons Apple Chile Chutney (recipe below)

Butter one side of each bread slice. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add one bread slice to the skillet, butter-side down. Mound the cheese evenly over the bread. Cover the pan and cook until the cheese is mostly melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Place a layer of onion over the cheese, then top with apple slices and kale leaves. Spread 1 to 2 spoonfuls of chutney over the kale, but not entirely to the edges. Place the second bread slice over the chutney, butter side up. Using a spatula, carefully flip the sandwich and gently press down. Cover the skillet and cook until the cheese is thoroughly melted and the bread is golden brown, 2 to 3 more minutes. Transfer to a plate and cut in half. Eat immediately.

Apple Chile Chutney

Add a mix of mild and hot chile peppers for flavor and heat. I used a red jalapeño and sweet Hungarian and Gypsy peppers in this batch. Makes about 2 cups.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion chopped
2 to 3 red chile peppers, depending on size and heat, stemmed and seeded, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated peeled ginger, with juices
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the chutney thickens, about 20 minutes. Cool completely, then transfer to a jar and refrigerate. The chutney will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Chicken Banh Mi Sandwich Recipe and Video #NationalSandwichDay

November 3rd is National Sandwich Day, and why not? The humble and satisfying sandwich, originally constructed as a vehicle for leftovers and efficient hands-on eating, has roots in nearly every culture. From classic American PB&J (peanut butter and jelly, for those of you who may ask), to hoagies and burgers, wraps and clubs, pockets and panini, and tartines and smørrebrød (which are fancier ways to say “open-face”), there is a version of a sandwich for every cuisine and appetite.

So, in honor of #NationalSandwichDay (and as a welcome diversion from the increasingly discordant politics and punditry in the last week of the Presidential campaign) I submit to you a delectable recipe and video for Chicken Banh Mi, guaranteed to whisk you away from the news cycle, at least for lunch. Banh Mi is the Vietnamese rendition of a sandwich with French sensibilities: French baguette, paté, and mayonnaise meet Asian spiced meats, chiles, pickles, and cilantro – a creation influenced by the lengthy colonization of Vietnam by France. (Even the origin of this sandwich can’t escape politics.) The key to a good banh mi is the perfect flavor balance of spicy, salty, sweet, and piquant, matched by a satisfying blend of textures – crusty tender baguette, bright herbs, crunchy pickles, and a creamy sweet-spicy mayo sauce.

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Chicken Banh Mi Sandwich

The meat fillings in banh mi can vary from pork to chicken, duck, tofu, paté, or sausage. For a quick and light preparation, I often use chicken. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Marinade:
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each about 6 ounces, pounded to an even thickness, about 1/2-inch thick.

Pickled Vegetables:
1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 (4-inch) daikon, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 (4-inch) English cucumber, seeded, cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

Spicy Mayo:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 small hero rolls or 1 large soft baguette, cut into four (4-inch) sections, split
4 Boston lettuce leaves
1 to 2 jalapeños, sliced
1 bunch fresh mint
1 bunch fresh cilantro

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place the chicken in a small baking dish, pour the marinade over and turn to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours).
2. Combine the pickled vegetable ingredients in a bowl. Using your fingers, rub the vegetables until the sugar and salt dissolve, and the vegetables release their juices and begin to soften. Pour in the vinegar and let stand for at least 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours). Drain before using.
3. Whisk the spicy mayo ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until use.
4. Preheat a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil to the skillet. Remove the chicken from the marinade, place in the skillet and cook until browned on both sides and thoroughly cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest while you toast the bread, then thinly slice.
4. In the same skillet (do not wipe it out), toast the rolls, cut-side down until lightly marked and crusty, about 2 minutes, without turning, adding a little oil if necessary.
5. To assemble, spread about 1 tablespoon mayo on each cut side of each roll. Lay a lettuce leaf on the bottom half, then top with chicken, the pickled vegetables, jalapeños, mint leaves, and cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

Video produced by Food Guru Channel and TasteFood

Beet Hummus

beet-hummus

You may have seen beet hummus before – that dip that transcends all dips, the upstager on the party table, flamboyantly fuscia in color, with FIESTA written all over it. Yep, that would be the beet hummus. Sure, the name is rather frumpy, but it makes up for any nomenclatural dowdiness with its captivating vibrance and subtle sweetness tinged with citrus and spice. In this recipe, I match the powerful visuals with bold flavors, and spike the hummus with Sriracha and lime, which stand up well to the earthy backdrop of the beets and round out the flavors.

beet-hummus-tastefood

Beet Hummus

This dip is a looker, it tastes great, and it’s healthy, too. Serve it with a kaleidoscope of cruditees for dipping, such as carrots, watermelon radishes, and cucumber wedges. Eating your daily dose of veggies never tasted this good.

Makes about 2 cups

2 to 3 medium red beets, about 12 ounces, roasted until tender, skin removed
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (or half lemon/half lime)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
2 teaspoons Sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to blend. Add more oil to your desired consistency (it should not be soupy) and taste for seasoning.
2. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with finely grated lemon zest, chopped mint, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with pita and cruditees.

Back to School Basics: Easy Granola

Basic Granola TasteFood

Everyone needs a good granola recipe up their sleeve. Homemade granola is a healthy pantry staple, great for quick breakfasts and wholesome snacks. It’s also very easy to make, requiring only 30 minutes. I follow a basic ratio of 2 cups oats to 1 cup coconut to 1 cup nuts to 1 cup dried fruit. To that I embellish, adding different grains and seeds such as flax, sunflower, or even wheat germ, depending on what I have on hand.  Use this recipe as a template and mix and match your favorite nuts, fruit, and seeds to your taste – and consider doubling the batch, because it’s guaranteed to be gobbled up.

Easy Granola:

Be sure to add any of the fruit after the granola has cooked to prevent the fruit from burning. Makes about 5 cups.

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins, or more to your taste

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine the oats, coconut, almonds, pepitas, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the syrup, sugar, oil, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour over the oats and stir to thoroughly coat.

Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Bake until light golden, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and add the raisins, stirring to blend. Cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.

This recipe also appears in my Food and Drink column at Marin Magazine.

Jerk Chicken

Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk is a thick and heady Afro-Carribean marinade chock-a-block full of ingredients. Don’t let the lengthy list of spices and aromatics deter you. All you need is the fire of a grill to unify the flavors and create a spicy-sweet finger licking dinner – perfect for a summer barbecue. The heat in the marinade traditionally comes from Scotch Bonnet peppers (super hot). I’ve modified that with jalapeños – but feel free to go all out with a scotch bonnet (carefully seeded with gloved hands!) if you dare. And remember – as with most meat marinades, the longer the chicken can soak in the marinade, the better the flavor.

Jerk Chicken
Serves 6

Marinade:
6 garlic cloves
4 scallions, chopped
2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded (optional)
1 (2-inch) knob ginger, peeled, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 chicken legs and/or breasts with skin and ribs

Method:
1. Place the marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to form a paste. Arrange the chicken in a large baking dish. Rub the marinade all over the chicken and under the skin where possible. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
2. Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium heat. Grill the chicken over indirect heat until charred and golden brown and thoroughly cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size and thickness. During the last few moments of grilling, move the chicken to direct heat to char the skin as needed.
3. Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley.