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Thai Chicken Pizza

Boy, has it been a while. Has anyone else been stuck in a time warp this summer? Somehow it’s already mid-August, and I’m still trying to figure out why I’ve been to the beach ONCE this summer.

Oh, now I remember! The past month has been utterly devoured by a huge life change – moving to a new apartment for the first time in three years. It’s pretty amazing how much stuff a person can accumulate in just a few years, and how that stuff can disappear into a rather small two-bedroom NYC apartment. Trying to fit it all into an even smaller one-bedroom apartment is quite the challenge, and hence my summer has rushed by in a swirl of packing, cleaning, un-packing, cleaning some more, painting, learned how to rewire light fixtures, and oh yes, painting.

In the midst of all this, we’ve found a decent amount of time to cook in our new, even tinier kitchen (though apparently little time to share such cooking adventures). With Whole Foods dangerously situated just around the corner, meal planning has become our new best friend in an effort to eat better and spend less. So far, it’s working out pretty well; we’re spending a bit below our weekly grocery budget, while still enjoying dishes like eggplant parm, oven roasted pork chops with smashed potatoes and “Nini’s Barbeque Sauce,” and one of my favorites, Chicken Paprika. These meals have been shamelessly inhaled during DIY breaks, and taking pictures was a low priority. Last night’s dinner, though, was too good to not share.

Thai Chicken Pizza. This inspiration came from the Tasty Kitchen Blog, by way of HowSweetEats. It was penciled into Tuesday’s dinner slot, and we picked up all the essentials on our grocery run Sunday. But because, however, a Culinary Education still can’t teach me the visual differences between a zucchini and a cucumber (I like to think I was too distracted by the nearby pluot samples), some slight modifications occurred. I think the end result may actually be better with raw cucumber than cooked zucchini; it made it more reminiscent of many Thai dishes, like Bahn Mi, that often have a raw cucumber slaw in the mix.

I knew this was going to be a hit the second I smelled it coming out of the oven. When I took my first bite, I called to Adam, “Oh, you’re going to love this! It’s like Bahn Mi on a pizza!” And sure enough, he did. In fact, only two small slices remain from our whole pie – it was that good!

Best enjoyed after lots of hard DIY work, with an ice-cold glass of Trader Joe’s Coastal Sauv Blanc!

Thai Chicken Pizza – Serves 2 – 4

Barely Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 batch of pizza dough (we used Whole Foods pre-made pizza dough)
  • 1/2 cups Sweet Asian Chili Sauce, plus extra for dipping if desired
  • 1 whole shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 cup cooked chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 6 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cups chopped peanuts
  • 1/4 cups cucumber, sliced into match sticks
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pizza dough to about a 1/4 inch thick, or however your like the thickness of your crust. Lay dough down on a pizza stone or baking sheet that has been lightly greased with olive oil.
  3. Spread Asian chili sauce on the surface of the dough to create an even coating. Add the sliced shallots and  red chili flakes. Then add the sliced chicken breast and top with the cheese.
  4. Place the pizza in the oven and cook for about 8 to 10, keeping an eye on your crust and toppings so they do not burn. Once the crust is golden around the edges and the cheese is nice and bubbly, remove pizza from the oven.
  5. Top pizza with the sliced cucumber, chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro and basil. Slice and serve with additional chili sauce if desired.

This pizza was perfect! Crunchy crust, slightly spicy but also sweet, which left you coming back, bite after bite, for more. I had a reasonable two slices for dinner, but wound up snacking  on another two over the course of the rest of the night while I read Game of Thrones (book 3, oh my god!).
Also worth mentioning – any left over toppings will make a pretty spectacular thai chicken salad for lunch the next day, if tossed over lettuce. Just mix a bit of the sweet chili sauce with some vinegar for a sweet and spicy dressing!
Enjoy 🙂
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Has it really been a week? Things have been busy around here… For the past week or so, I took a break from coming up with new and delicious recipes to prepare for something that, well, seemed like a good idea at the time! Let’s recap…

I’ve gotten pretty into running since finishing up culinary school earlier this year as a way to fill my newly freed-up weekday evenings (and balance out all the Pistachio-crusted beignets and Cheesy Stuffed Peppers I eat all weekend long). As such, thought it would be a good idea to motivate myself by signing up for an organized race event. After running a 4M in April, a 10K seemed the next logical step, and so I wound up spending most of last week try to run far, and fast, and freaking out that I would trip over my own feet or cramp up and fall over on race day.

Race day was Sunday. Thankfully none of those things happened. The race went relatively well, though I think that’s due in large part to the amazing group of runners that were running 10Ks, half-marathons, and marathons alongside me for the RxR Long Island Marathon. This completely inspirational group of people kept me motivated, excited, and having a blast throughout the entire six-point-two miles – especially the seventy-one year old man who beat me by over a minute! He ran ahead of me for most of the race and every time I looked up to see the back of his tee-shirt, which read, “I’m old and slow – get over it!” I couldn’t help but laugh. It was truly a great experience!

In addition to thousands of other runners and hilarious old men, these cheesy chicken enchiladas are also to thank for fueling Sunday’s success. My parents and I whipped these up, along with a refreshing, limey bowl of guacamole, homemade white flour tortilla chips (these beat out every other chip I’ve ever had!) and a light corn salad. It was a Cinco de Mayo meal to go down in history – so delicious, especially with a cerveza served along side – but then, I learned last summer how amazing these enchiladas are. You’ve gotta try them out!

So, as usual, it takes me a while to get to my point. My point is this – even though I’ve been running instead of recipe developing, I’ve still been doing a heck of a lot of cooking (and not just enchiladas)! Except this time, I’ve been relying on my Google Reader – my link to the food blogosphere – to find the best tasting recipes around. And two of them in particular were just two good NOT to share – so here they are!

First up is this incredibly luscious, slightly spicy, extremely exotic Thai Chicken Curry recipe from Saveur magazine. The recipe comes from the Las Vegas restaurant Lotus of Siam, which many consider to make the very best Thai food in the entire U.S. At home, I make Thai red curry dishes at least once a week (blame it on my coconut milk addiction) because they can be light in fat and calories while still packing huge flavor, and are easy to make with whatever veggies and protein you have on hand.

I was completely surprised, though, that this restaurant-caliber curry recipe was so easy to make! In fact, the simmering-broth method actually proved to be easier than how I have been making curries for weeks now. By simmering the coconut milk and curry paste together, the broth thickens and the flavors meld, giving you a rich, spoon-coating sauce for the chicken and vegetables. Full disclosure: I used Thai Kitchen’s red curry paste instead of Panang curry, as the recipe suggests (I couldn’t find it), and added in some red bell peppers, but the dish still came out beautifully. We served it along with a Spicy Thai Brown Rice Pilaf (recipe to come). Even if the idea of making Thai Curry seems overwhelming to you, I encourage you to give this recipe a shot. It’s straightforward and relatively foolproof – a great way to segue into Thai cooking!

The second fantastic recipe I wanted to share is this Lightened Up Vegan Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto from Angela over at Oh She Glows. Holy freaking yum! This popped up in my GReader yesterday morning, and even though I hadn’t even made it to lunch yet, I immediately started drooling and scribbled down the ingredients on a post-it to pick up after work. Adam and I were planning to have a date-night dinner and this seemed like the perfect dish (the boy loves his pesto)!

Well, this recipe did not disappoint. Not only did the pesto come together in a flash – five minutes! – but the flavors and consistency were dead on. This has all the basil, garlicky goodness of a traditional pesto, but with an excellent added tang and sweetness from the sundried tomatoes. The walnuts are a creative and well-matched spin on pesto’s traditional pine nuts, and with a few sprinkles of nutritional yeast, you definitely won’t miss the parmesan cheese. It also goes quite well with a glass (or two) of Pinot Grigio, I might add.

Pesto is actually one sauce I usually steer clear of since it can often be loaded with extra fat and calories from cheese, nuts and oil – but this pesto was light and super packed with flavor, meaning a little goes a long way! Angela’s recipe made about 3/4 of a cup (as stated on her blog), and I found this to be about six servings – two tablespoons was more than enough per serving of pasta. We tossed the pesto-pasta with some roasted asparagus, sauteed mushrooms and spinach, and pan-roasted chicken breast – what a delicious dinner. Thanks Angela for the awesome recipe!

One more thing I wanted to mention. For those in the NYC area, there’s a great food festival coming up weekend after next (May 19th – 20th) called The Great Googamooga (crazy name, I know)! This food / music / art festival is going to be held in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and will feature over 70 food vendors, beer, wine, and music, as well as prominent chefs, artists, and food personalities who will be doing demos, giving talks, and meeting fans. I believe Googamooga is still giving out the occasional free tickets and tickets are also available to buy. I’ll be attending and blogging about Googamooga – hope to see you all there!

Well, that’s all for now! Stay tuned for some more great recipes coming up this weekend…

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I’ve been on a real Thai kick lately. Probably has something to do with the temporary mental lapses I seem to encounter whenever I enter the “specialty” foods section of a supermarket and see all the appropriately-Americanized foreign ingredients staring down at me. I get overwhelmed. I get intrigued. But most importantly, I get hungry. And this is probably why in the past week, I’ve wound up coming home on three separate occasions with light coconut milk, dried pad Thai noodles, and a small jar of red curry paste.

But I’d say the biggest, most substantial reason that I’ve been eating so much Thai food lately is that it just makes sense. Thai food, and curry in particular, is jam-packed with a lot of spice and flavor, that doesn’t necessarily translate into extra fat and calories. Finally, an exception to the “Fat = Flavor” rule (sorry, culinary school).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all Thai dishes are flavorful and healthy. There are plenty of exceptions, like Pad Thai, or my one true Thai food love, Pad See Ew. BUT. And that’s a big but. With a little curry paste, and a little creativity, you can make a dish that has all the essence of cravable, rich Thai take out, but is low in calories and high in nutrients.

Okay I’ll prove it. So first, get yourself a jar of this.

Thai Kitchen makes a variety of pre-packaged sauces and pastes in all flavors and types. There’s pad thai sauce, peanut sauce, you name it. But I love the Thai red curry paste because there’s just 25 calories in one tablespoon, and you really don’t need more than that to give your whole dish a beautiful, deep, rich foreign flavor.

Now, I took a Thai cooking class a while back with my family at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC, and here I learned all about the amazing things a cook can do with coconut milk. I was intrigued by the way the fatty solids of the coconut milk (the coconut cream) rises to the top, while the thinner, coconut-water-like liquid sinks to the bottom. Combined, they form the rich, tropical basis for many a sauce, soup, or curry.

Unfortunately, regular coconut milk is rather fattening and caloric. However, most grocery stores carry light coconut milk, which is essentially the “skim milk” version – less of that coconut cream component. This is your second secret weapon.

In the end, all it takes is a little of your curry paste, light coconut milk, and some pantry staples like garlic, onion and chicken broth to create a delicious, light curry sauce that makes dinner feel like a real treat. Customize it to your liking with whatever veggies and protein you have on hand – it works great with delicate white fish as well as chicken.

Did I mention this is done in thirty minutes? Yeah. Pretty unreal.

Thai Red Curry Chicken – Serves 1 

Ingredients
  • 1 3-4 oz chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste
  • 1/4 cup of light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup of reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup assorted chopped or shredded vegetables (I used 1/3 shredded carrots, 1/3 sliced baby bella mushrooms, and 1/3 green peas)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Heat a medium saute pan over high heat. Coat with cooking spray and season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook chicken for about 1 – 2 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Don’t cook chicken through. Remove chicken and set aside.

Add the canola oil to the pan, reduce heat to medium and add chopped onion. Saute for about 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add red curry paste and using a spoon, mash the curry paste into the oil and onions. Once the onions are coated with curry paste, add the coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce and brown sugar. Simmer gently for a minute or two.

Add the vegetables and continue to simmer until sauce has reduced to desired consistency (note: sauce should coat the back of a spoon) – about three minutes more. Add the chicken and finish cooking in the sauce, about another minute, adding water if the sauce gets too thick.

Serve on a bed of brown rice or barley.

Nutritional Info: 270 calories, 6 grams of fat, 4.3 grams of fiber, 29.5 grams of protein, 20.5 grams of carbs.

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