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Dear friends,

I made a lovely Indian coconut curry Saturday that my husband spurned.

“It needs soy sauce,” he said before doctoring it up beyond recognition.

In the decade before moving to Akron, Tony worked in elegant sushi bars in Tokyo, Honolulu, New York City, Chicago, Aspen, Los Angeles and Scottsdale, Ariz. I picture him poring over the Yellow Pages in these glittering gastronomic capitals, searching for a Bob Evans or an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. How can a sophisticated sushi chef have such otherwise callow tastes?

Anyway, don’t take Tony’s word for it. Trust me, the curry was excellent.  It also is easy to make and minus a few hundred calories thanks to baking rather than sautéing the main ingredients.

I stumbled across the recipe in a magazine, “Clean Eating,” in my doctor’s office. I was writing down ingredients when she sailed into the exam room and told me to just take the magazine.

I changed the recipe considerably, but the basic technique of baking the chicken and vegetables in the yogurt marinade is the same. Not only is this more healthful than sautéing, but it’s a lot easier.

I worried that the flavor of the sauce would suffer from such short contact with the meat, but the sauce is terrific all by itself. It has a depth and balance of flavors I’d expect from a much more complicated recipe.

Too bad Tony missed it.

INDIAN COCONUT CHICKEN CURRYPRING PEA SOUP WITH MINT

Jane-snow

•    5 cloves garlic, chopped
•    Zest of 1 lemon
•    Juice of 1/2 lemon
•    1 cup plain Greek yogurt
•    1 tbsp. peeled and grated ginger
•    1 tsp. ground cumin
•    1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
•    1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
•    1 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch chunks
•    1 large sweet onion, peeled, halved and cut into wedges
•    1 bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
•    Salt, pepper
•    2 tbsp. vegetable oil
•    2 tsp. garam masala
•    1 tsp. ground turmeric
•    1 tsp. ground coriander
•    2 cups crushed tomatoes
•    1 cup coconut milk (chill can and use only the thick white part)

At least three hours before serving, combine half of the minced garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, yogurt, ginger, cumin, paprika and 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne in a medium bowl. Mix well.  Stir in chicken, coating thoroughly. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

Spread chicken and yogurt mixture on a large foil-lined baking sheet. Scatter onion and bell pepper around chicken. The meat and vegetables should fit in a single layer. If not, use two baking sheets. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are softened.

Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add remaining garlic, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cayenne and the garam masala, turmeric and coriander. Cook and stir until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add tomatoes and coconut milk and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until reduced and slightly thickened.
Taste and add salt if needed.

When the chicken and vegetables are done, add to sauce and simmer 5 minutes longer. Serve with steamed rice. Makes 4 servings.

TIDBITS

As pesto did in the 1980s, aioli has reached its peak of popularity and tumbled into the realm of the nonsensical. The word is slapped on menus now with no regard to its actual meaning. The Provencal sauce, or condiment, is supposed to be an emulsion of garlic, olive oil and eggs – essentially, a very garlicky mayonnaise.

Here in Ohio at least, the term devolved into a catch-all that means, loosely, “flavored mayonnaise.” Citrus aioli, on inspection, turns out to be lemon mayonnaise. And, god help us, aioli can even be a thin herb salad dressing slathered on a BLT like I had in a restaurant last weekend.

While the menu didn’t mention condiments, I asked the waitress to hold the mayo. When the sandwich was delivered, I pointed out the white glop to the waitress who assured me, “That’s not mayonnaise, that’s aioli.”

Next time I’ll ask her to hold the ketchup, mustard and relish, too, on the off chance.

THE MAILBAG

From Karen B.:
Jane, you tempt us with the pea soup recipe, rack of lamb (been there, done that) but no recipe for the Apricot Pilaf?  I know I could find something online but would love your rendition.

Dear Karen: Sorry to leave you hanging. The pilaf recipe isn’t new, but I forget it’s new to some of you. Here it is.

APRICOT PILAF
•    2 tbsp. butter
•    1 medium onion, chopped
•    1 1/2 cups white or basmati rice
•    1/2 tsp. cinnamon
•    1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
•    1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
•    1/4 tsp. ground mace
•    Salt, pepper
•    2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) chicken broth
•    1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
•    1/2 cup pecan halves

Melt butter over medium heat in a 6-quart saucepan. Slowly sauté onion in butter until limp. Add rice and stir well to coat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, mace, salt and pepper. Add broth. Stir in apricots. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender and broth has been absorbed.

While rice simmers, spread pecan halves on a cookie sheet and toast at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Cool, then chop. Stir pecans into rice before serving. Makes 6 servings.

From Frances Labriola, Akron-Summit County Public Library:
Most of the books on the James Beard Awards List and all of the titles you mentioned are available here at the library. You can place a hold by going to our catalog here: http://www.akronlibrary.org/ . If you don’t have a current card you can register for a temporary one here: https://catalog.akronlibrary.org/selfreg .

Dear Francie: I didn’t know the library had so many new cookbook releases. That means we can try a couple of recipes before shelling out a chunk of money for a cookbook. In the future, that’s just what I’ll do. Thanks.
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