• erin

    Dumplings with my family
    A recent graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, I found myself with no money, no kitchen equipment, and an exceptionally huge appetite. Ideas, improvisations, and yummy meal solutions were discovered in the kitchen of my very first apartment.
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    I've been getting a lot of requests and suggestions for the apartment kitchen. I LOVE these suggestions, keep them coming!

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    em570039@mycia.net

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Ragada (Potato Cakes with Spicy Chickpea Sauce)

I used to be a slave to my favorite restaurants. Sure, I love to try new things, but I am the queen of cravings. This meant that if I went to one of my favorite eateries, I would stumble to the counter or to the table and beg for that must-have dish. I couldn’t NOT order it. Since I’ve started cooking at home, I’ve attempted to create several of my favorites (which sometimes end up even better because I can cook them how I want them).

Ragada is a dish Matt and I disocvered by accident. I was doing a restaurant review for a local newspaper, and was sent to a nearby Indian restaurant. Matt and I are Indian food junkies, but I made him promise to order new things so that I could do an accurate review. We chose Ragada (a dish with a cryptic description as “A Calcutta Favorite”). The dish was simple: pan fried spiced potato cakes with a super spicy chickpea sauce. We went back again and again for the ragada – it was so delicious.

Finally, I decided to make it at home. I feared this one wouldn’t live up to the Ragada we’d become addicted to. But, I was able to tweak it so that I even fixed my one criticism of the dish (I think it suffers from a lack of texture without panfrying the cakes until they are quite crisp and using raw garnish). I could see it on Matt’s face: I’d hit the nail on the head. Now we can be Ragada addicts from the comfort of our own home.

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Corn Dosas with Curried Black Beans and Corn and Cilantro Sauce

Being a bit of a blogging rookie, I was bit nervous to join the Daring Cooks. But at the end of the day…I look forward to cooking dinner all day long and I’m always up for a challenge – just the stuff a Daring Cook is made of!

I love Indian food. So I was delighted when the September Daring Cook’s Challenge (my first challenge!) was announced as dosas, which I love. I also loved that Debyi, the host for this month’s challenge chose a recipe that’s vegan and gluten free! I have a friend who is a vegan and the key to making delicious treats she loves is making things that are naturally vegan – like these dosas!

However, since I make Indian food a lot…I thought maybe I could try something different. Using some of my favorite spices common to Indian food, I changed the remaining ingredients slightly to make a Central American – Indian fusion dosa. Sound ridiculous? I swear it’s so good. The corn flour made a deliciously tender and flavorful dosa. The filling has the same texture and some of the great, spicy flavors of the original chickpea filling. And the creamy and fresh cilantro sauce cools it all down.

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Indian Spiced Pork

Ok. So I admit it. I’m an Indian food junkie. It is what it is. And while there is a huge array of Indian recipes out there: my favorites tend to be those covered in thick, creamy sauces. Incredibly delicious, of course, but not incredible for the waistline. So I got the idea the other day to make a dish with all the flavors of one of my favorite Indian dishes – Rogan Josh – with a healthier edge. Rogan Josh is usually made with lamb, but I switched my recipe to pork (primarily due to a current lack of lamb in my store) and lightened up the sauce with tomato and Greek yogurt – so you still get a little bit of that creaminess going on.

The result was amazing – all Indian food is packed with flavor due to all the incredible spices, but in this dish they came through even more because they were’nt smothered behind an overly thick, fatty sauce. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never abandon my now-perfected Chicken Tikka Masala recipe, but this does provide an answer for all you Indian food junkies out there who are occasionally looking for a healthier option (you know who you are).

 

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Butter Chicken with Cilantro-Garlic Naan

When I was a kid, my mom would occasionally take my brother and I to a restaurant called Valentino’s. It was a typical “Italian”-American buffet featuring plain pizzas, buttered pasta, a salad bar, and of course, the much necessary soft-serve, pudding, etc. at the end of the meal. It was a perfect kid-friendly restaurant, and one that my mom could also stand going to, so it was good when we were arguing where to go. My brother, Willie, five years my senior grew into teenage years and one day when my mother suggested Valentino’s, he announced that he no longer liked it.

I believe I audibly gasped. NOT LIKE VALENTINO’S? What was wrong with this boy? It seemed to me we had just been there recently, and how could he have possibly changed his mind so quickly? He told me, quite matter-of-factly that he had disliked it for awhile, but continued to go because the family liked it. He said his tastes were changing as he got older. Well, since it was not my mother’s favorite restaurant either, we quickly moved on to bigger, better, and theoretically tastier things.

A few years later, we were spending a lot of time in a neighboring city, which, among other things, was home to an excellent Indian restaurant. I tasted the food once and was not a fan. I would pout and roll my eyes when my mother and brother suggested we go to India Palace. But, being outnumbered, I often lost. I longed for the days of Valentino’s and my generic, bland buffet choices back.

Then, one day around the time I turned 13 or 14, some friends called to invite me to dinner. They were going to India Palace. Ugh. I went anyway, since I couldn’t pout or roll my eyes over the phone. At the dinner, my friends ordered and array of dishes, and I tried each one. The first thing I tasted was Butter Chicken, an Americanized creamy, mildly spicy chicken dish which was even more delicious when eaten with Naan, a fluffy flatbread. It became my food of choice when my mother and brother would suggest India Palace – an excellent beginner Indian food.

“How could you change your mind so quickly?” my brother teased.
“I guess my tastes are changing as I get older,” I said, and dipped my naan into my bowl, sopping up the delicious sauce.

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Chicken Tikka Masala with Spiced Rice and Naan

There are some foods you just crave.  The thought of it comes into your mind and you can physically not stop thinking about it until it’s resting comfortably in your belly.  Chicken Tikka Masala is one of those foods for me.  Though it’s widely regarded as an Americanized Indian dish, Chicken Tikka Masala is full of classic Indian flavors.  

As with most Indian food, the ingredient list can look daunting, but it’s primarily due to the array of spices used.  And nothing tops off the flavors like fluffy rice and some delicious naan, so all in all, this meal takes a bit more effort.  You could always leave out any of the components, but if you’ve got the time, it’s definitely worth it.

Like a thick, creamy, delicious stew this is comfort food at it’s finest.


Chicken Tikka Masala

Served 3, plus leftovers
Leftover Potential: Naan never lasts long enough to become leftovers, but the rice and the chicken reheat easily, and can be mixed together for easy storage in the fridge. Made 2 more meals after the initial dinner.

For the marinade:
1 cup yogurt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp ginger, finely minced
1 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into cubes

bamboo skewers, for grilling*

For the sauce:
1 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, finely minced
2 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp Garam Masala**
2 tsp salt, or more to taste
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream

cilantro, for garnish

1. Prepare the marinade by mixing all ingredients but the chicken together in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and allow to marinate for at least one hour in the refrigerator.
2. Soak the bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.
3. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat until translucent. Then add the garlic and the jalapeno, and cook until aromatic.
4. Add the cilantro, cumin, paprika, garam masala, and salt. Stir to combine.
5. Add the tomatoes, and simmer over medium low heat until heated through and good flavor has developed.
6. Add the heavy cream and continue to simmer until the sauce thickens slightly.
7. Remove chicken from the refrigerator and thread cubes onto the skewers. Grill, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 8-9 minutes.
8. Remove chicken from skewers and add to sauce. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice and naan.

* Chicken can also be cooked in a large saute pan without the skewers, or broiled in the oven.
** You can make your own Garam Masala or use a purchased spice blend.

For the Spiced Rice:
1 tsp oil
1 clove garlic, minced finely
1/2 cup short grain white rice
1 cup chicken stock, or more as needed
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin

1. In a small pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic.
2. Add the rice, and then the chicken stock. Season with turmeric and cumin. Allow to simmer until the rice has absorbed the liquid completely. As more as needed. Serve with Chicken Tikka Masala.

For the Naan:

1/2 pound all purpose flour
1/2 oz yeast
1 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup water, or more as needed
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt
1/2 oz butter, melted

butter or oil, as needed for cooking
kosher salt, as needed

1.  Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a medium bowl.
2.  Combine water, yogurt, and butter in a small bowl.
3.  Combine dry and wet ingredients.  If using a mixer, mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, mix for 10 minutes.
4.  Place in an oiled bowl and let rest in a warm place for 30 minutes – 1 hour or until doubled in size.
5.  Cut the dough into smaller pieces, roll into a ball with your hands, then roll out flat with a rolling pin.
6.  Brush both sides with butter, sprinkle lightly with salt, and cook in a small saute pan over medium high heat.  Cook each side until brown and risen slightly.  Serve warm.