Coconut Pistachio Chicken and Rice

coconut pistachio chicken
I think this is another of those dishes that doesn’t look very beautiful, but tastes delicious… Originally from here, this dish takes only about 35 minutes to put together, and has great flavor. For those living in Japan, there are a few ingredients you may have to hunt down (coconut milk, green peas, and pistachios — check import stores and local supermarkets), but I think it’s worth it!

Ingredients (serves 4)
2 chicken breasts, cut into 5cm / 2-inch pieces
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
1-1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups uncooked rice*
3 cloves garlic, minced
660mL (2-3/4 cups) chicken/vegetable broth
1 can (400mL / 14oz) coconut milk
1 cup green peas
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped

*Rice: I used short-grain Japanese rice and it turned out fine

Instructions
Sprinkle the chicken pieces lightly with salt and pepper, and coat them in the flour. Using a large frying pan, saute in the oil for a few minutes on each side until light brown. (They don’t need to be cooked through at this point.) Remove chicken to a plate.

In the same pan, add the minced onion, garam masala, and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions soften. Stir frequently to make sure the spices don’t burn.

Add the rice, minced garlic, chicken or veggie broth, and coconut milk, and stir. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally, or the rice will stick to the bottom.

Add the chicken back into the rice, cover again, and cook for 10 more minutes. Continue to stir once in a while.

Finally, add the peas (you can add them frozen directly into the pan) and pistachios. Stir to combine (and warm the peas, if they’re frozen), and serve!

Hamburger or Hot Dog Rolls

IMG_7838
This recipe, originally from here, was very simple and made nice soft rolls. I tried both hamburger and hot dog roll shapes and they also worked great for some chicken sandwiches. I’ve made them with only white AP flour, and also with part whole wheat, and both were delicious. They also freeze well, so definitely give them a try!

Ingredients (makes 10 hamburger rolls or 16 hot dog rolls)
360mL (1-1/2 cups) warm water
3/4 tbsp yeast
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
4 cups (520g) all-purpose flour (can substitute part whole wheat)

Instructions
Combine water, yeast, sugar, oil, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Mix well.

Add the remaining 2 cups of flour a little at a time until the dough is firm enough to knead. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth.

Place in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, until double in size. Then punch down the dough and shape into rolls.

For hamburger rolls, use about 85g (3oz) of dough and roll into a sphere. Then press down on the baking sheet to flatten them slightly. Allow about 5cm / 2 inches of space in between so they don’t touch when they rise and bake.

For hot dog rolls, use 55g (2 oz) of dough and roll into a log shape. Place on the baking sheet, closer together than the hamburger rolls (about an inch apart). (They may seem small, but don’t forget they’ll rise quite a bit.)

Let the rolls rise again for about an hour.

Bake at 200C / 400F for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Asian Pulled Pork Wraps

asian pulled beef taco
This isn’t so much a new recipe as a compilation of a few recipes I’ve posted on here individually. I love the combination of flavors here, sweet and savory.

Ingredients
Flour Tortillas (make your own, or buy them — corn tortillas are fine too)
Asian Pulled Pork (you can make the same recipe with beef, like I did in the picture above!)
Sesame Coleslaw
Other toppings as desired: avocado, sour cream, green onion, and toasted sliced almonds are my favorites (sometimes sprouts too).

Instructions
There are no special rules about wraps! But here are a few guidelines. As far as the pulled pork goes, make sure you cook it until the liquid is pretty much gone, or it’ll make the wraps drippy.

You can also make the pork ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for a few days.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_7834I know there are lots of chocolate chip cookies out there, but this is my go-to recipe. I prefer cookies that are chewy in the middle, and maybe a bit crispy on the edges. This recipe is quick, easy, and consistently good. For those living in Japan, you can replace chocolate chips with chopped up chocolate bars.

Ingredients
150g (11 tbsp) butter
½ cup white sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg
2/3 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips (or chocolate chunks)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 180C (350F).

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking soda. Beat for three to four minutes (batter may be dry). Add chocolate chips.

Scoop dough out in 1-tablespoon balls. Place 2 inches (5cm) apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for 8-11 minutes. Don’t overbake!

Note: You can freeze the 1-tablespoon balls unbaked and then bake them straight from the freezer later. Just add a minute or two on the baking time.

Tzatziki

tzatzikiLast time, I posted about making Greek (strained) yogurt at home, and here’s one of my favorite ways to use it. Tzatziki is a Mediterranean sauce or dip which is good with veggies, bread, or meat. It’s best after it sits for a night to let the flavors develop, so plan ahead if possible.

Ingredients
3/4 cup (180mL) Greek or strained yogurt
1/2 cucumber
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 small clove garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Instructions

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon. If the cucumber has a thick peel, you may want to remove it, but it’s not necessary. Chop the remaining cucumber into small pieces.

Mix all ingredients together well. Let the tzatziki sit in the fridge for several hours or overnight. The flavors will get stronger as it sits, so don’t add more garlic until you taste it the next day. If some water collects on top of the tzatziki overnight, you can pour it off, or mix it back in.
IMG_7826
Some of my favorite ways to eat this are with pita bread or chips, with falafel, with chicken, or with rice dishes that have warm spices in them. In the picture above I have a homemade pita filled with sauteed chicken, tzatziki, red onion, broccoli sprouts, and extra cucumber.

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Making your own yogurt is quite simple! It does take a little time, but most of it is inactive. It’s a really fun, easy project to try at home at least once!

greek yogurtYou’ll need: 1 liter (4 cups) milk + 2 tbsp active culture yogurt + time

1. Heat the milk to about 77C (170F). If you don’t have a thermometer, then heat the milk until it just starts to simmer around the edges.

2. Cover the pot with a lid and let it cool down to 43C (110F). Then stir in the yogurt. Now you just have to keep the yogurt warm, and wait about 5-10 hours.

3. You can warm up your oven very slightly (to about 43C / 110F), turn off the oven and leave it in there. Or, if your oven has a setting for letting bread rise, you can use that. My oven in Japan has that kind of setting, called 発酵, hakkou, or ‘fermentation’, which will keep your oven temperature at 40C. I used that setting for a little while, then turned off the oven and left the pot in there with the door closed until it was done. Or, if you don’t have an oven or don’t want to use it, you can wrap the whole pot (with the lid on) in a heavy towel, and leave it in a warm spot. I’ve done it that way before with no problem.

4. Check the yogurt once in a while to see if the milk has congealed. There might be a little whey on top (a clear yellow-green liquid), which you can pour off. At this point, you’re done! If you want to make Greek/strained yogurt, you can strain it by putting cheesecloth or coffee filters in a strainer, setting it over a bowl, and letting it sit in the fridge overnight.

If you don’t strain your yogurt, you’ll get about the same amount of yogurt as the milk you started with. If you strain it, a lot of whey will come out. I started with a liter (4 cups) of milk, and ended up measuring 560mL (2-1/3 cups) of whey, leaving about 410g (1-2/3 cups) Greek yogurt. (It does depend how thick you like it, so your results may vary.)

So, is it worth it?

If you’re currently buying Greek yogurt, then it’s worth it. Or, if you don’t strain your yogurt, it’s worth it. In those two cases, making your own costs about 1/3 as much as buying in the store!

If you want to strain your yogurt, here are the numbers I got. This will, of course, vary slightly depending on the price of milk and yogurt in your area.

Buying Greek yogurt in the store: 1.35 yen/gram
Buying yogurt in the store and straining it: 0.5 yen/gram
Buying milk in the store, making yogurt, and straining it: 0.4 yen/gram

So it’s much cheaper than buying Greek yogurt, but only slightly cheaper than buying yogurt and straining it. If you add in the extra effort of making your own yogurt, each person will have to decide whether they think it’s worth it. For me personally, I probably won’t make yogurt every week, but once in a while I will.

How about taste? Well, I love the taste of the homemade yogurt. I don’t really like a very strong sour, yogurty taste, but the homemade yogurt is very mild. It tastes very fresh and pure. I like to eat it with a little honey and some toasted walnuts (like in the picture above), or mixed with fresh/dried fruit, jam, or nuts.

Especially in Japan, I use strained yogurt a lot – not only for eating, but also as a substitute for sour cream or cream cheese in certain applications. You can make dip with yogurt (mix with a little mayo and some seasoning) and no one can tell the difference. You can make tzatziki (a Greek yogurt cucumber sauce). You can also strain it a little further and make a spread for crackers that’s like cream cheese. You can even make cheesecake with it. You can put a spoonful of it in soup to make a creamy contrast; you can use it to make pasta sauce; you can use it in tacos or burritos; you can make a creamy salad dressing with it; you can…

Chicken Piccata

picattaChicken Piccata is a famous Italian version of a lemon chicken dish. In the recipe below, you can skip the lemon slices if you like – they make a pretty presentation, but you can’t really eat them. The only difficult ingredient for those living in Japan is the capers. I’ve found them at various supermarkets, so you may need to look around or try a larger store.

Ingredients (serves 2)
2 chicken cutlets
salt and pepper
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
60mL (1/4 cup) white wine
120mL (1/2 cup) low-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp capers
1 tbsp butter
parsley
lemon slices, optional

Instructions

Season chicken cutlets with salt and pepper on both sides, and dust with the flour. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and brown the chicken on both sides. Remove to a plate.

Add the minced garlic and wine, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, and capers. Bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan and cook for a minute or two on each side. Add the lemon slices and butter to the pan, and let the butter melt.

Pour the sauce over the cutlets to serve, and garnish with parsley.