Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to Store Left over Tomato Paste

Most recipes usually call for a tablespoon or two of tomato paste so what happens to the rest of it?  We all know that it's unsafe to store the left overs in the tin can.  If you plan on using left overs within a day or two then transfer to a glass or plastic bowl and tightly cover with plastic wrap.  If you don't plan on using it quickly then use this easy method. 

Spread a piece of plastic wrap on the counter.  Then spoon the remaining paste into the center of the plastic wrap.  Now roll one end of the plastic wrap and shape into a cylinder.  Roll the plastic ends and tuck under the cylinder.  Place tomato paste roll into a ziplock bag and store in the freezer.  Next time you need tomato paste, simply cut a round or two for your recipe.

Left over tomato paste can be frozen for up to three months.  For most recipes there is no need to thaw out the paste before adding to your recipe.
Of course, with that said I prefer to use the tomato paste in a tube, but on occasion the grocery store is out of stock.  What are your favorite food saving tricks?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chicken Khabsa - Chicken and Rice

This is a dish that was introduced to me a few years ago by my friend H.   It's a Chicken, beef, or lamb dish served on a bed of fluffy rice infused with exotic spices - and is a national dish of Saudia Arabia and some of the Persian gulf states.  Some regions also call it machboos.  The chicken or meat in this dish is poached with a cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and onions.  The resulting broth is then used to cook the rice.

While I absolutely love this dish - it is a bit labor intensive for a week night meal, but its worthy of a special occasion.

The spice blend can be purchased from any Middle Eastern Store or can be made using spices you may already have in your pantry.  

Khabsa or Kabseh Spice Blend

1 tbsp coarse black pepper

1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp fennel
1 tbsp allspice
1 tbsp ground cardamom
Mix ingredients together to create a well combined spice mixture. Store in a cool, dry area.

Khabsa - Chicken and Rice

2 cups basmati rice - washed and soaked for an hour

2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup raisins  soaked in 1/4 cup of water or apple juice (then drained)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pine nuts or pistachios
3  teaspoons salt - you will use 1 1/2 for the broth and 1 1/2 for the rice
3 tablespoons kabsa spice (see above)
4-6 tablespoons butter or ghee
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 chicken breasts or 2 thighs and 2 drumsticks
2-3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
5 cups water

In a medium sauce pan, combine water, chicken, 1/2 cup of onions, cinnamon stick, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer.   Cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  (This can be done a day a head of time)

While the chicken is simmering - rinse and soak your basmati rice.

In a large pot add olive oil and one tablespoon of butter/ghee.  Add the remaining chopped onions, tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes.  Then add the drained rice and the khabsa spice, 4 cups of the chicken broth, and one tablespoon of butter/ghee.  Bring to a boil then stir and cook on low heat.  Cover and allow to cook for 45 minutes. Fluff with fork prior to serving.

In a small pan, add the remaining butter and toast the pine nuts, almonds and raisins, allow to cook until they are brown and toasted.  

Shred the chicken and set aside until rice is cooked.

When you are ready to serve your meal.  Spread rice on a platter and then garnish with chicken, nuts and raisins.  Serve with salad or yogurt.

Don't let this recipe intimidate you - I promised it's super Delicious.

Hearty Spinach and Chickpea Stew

I started out the year with a 14 day detox that eliminates sugar, refined goods, meat, coffee and limited dairy.  Week one was a little difficult because I didn't properly plan out my meals (duh you think I would know better as a chef)!  Over the weekend I made several vegan/vegetarian meals and stored in the freezer.  My favorite and most filling stew was this chickpea stew.

After reading several books and articles about nutrition I learned an interesting fact:  it's recommended that we consume about pound and half of vegetables per day.  I thought that was pretty nuts considering a pound an half of vegetables is 6 side servings.  Boy, do I need to start adding more veggies into my diet.

Spinach and Chickpea Stew
serves 4-6


12-16 oz. frozen, chopped spinach (thawed and drained)
1 large can of organic canned tomato sauce
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
1 can or 1 1/2 cups of chickpeas
1/2 cups chicken or veggie broth, or water
1 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon madras curry
salt and pepper to taste


In a large dutch oven or saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds.  Add onions and mushroom, cook until its softened.  Add curry and stir to combine flavors.  Add chickpeas, spinach and tomato sauce and broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This dish is better the next day as the stew sits in the refrigerator and allows the flavors to meld.  It may be served as a side or enjoy with rice or toasted pita bread.  DELICIOUS!!