Browned Butter Banana Bread

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Hey y’all. Sorry about the hiatus. You know how things go; sometimes you can get it together enough to crank out a post, other times it just doesn’t happen.

But I made it happen today, in more ways than one.

A little over a month ago, I used browned butter for the first time in a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. It was a huge success. I knew right away that I would definitely be finding a way to incorporate browned butter into my baking repertoire for other classic recipes.

And now, I’m glad to say that I’ve found another great way to do just that.

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I don’t know anybody that doesn’t like banana bread.

I don’t know if I want to know anybody that doesn’t like banana bread. It’s just one of those things that we can all probably agree upon and bond over.

Besides that, I think we all can relate to our trying to be health-conscious and whatnot, buying a huge bunch of bananas, then letting them sit on the counter for days on end, just chilling until one day we look up and bam: they’re too spotty and soft to be able to eat anymore and we feel the guilt for not eating them raw when we had the chance.

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Don’t feel bad. We’re all guilty of it.

But as we all know, overly ripe bananas can become a blessing in disguise because of what they can be transformed into. The easiest and probably most popular of these, is the almighty banana bread.

I’m not gonna lie guys. There really aren’t many tricks or frills to this recipe. It’s quick and stupid-easy to put together, and although I briefly considered doing something different to jazz it up, like adding a pecan streusel or drizzling an icing on top or something, ultimately I decided against it and decided to just let things be and keep it simple.

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I actually ended up very pleased I didn’t add anything else to it, because what really makes this recipe shine is the inclusion of the browned butter. It’s what takes this from being an ordinary loaf of banana bread and elevates it to something really special. Like I described in my chocolate chip cookies post where I first used it, browned butter has a very rich, nutty and toasted smell/flavor. My best way of trying to describe it is that it takes standard flavors in a sweet dish, and deepens them. There’s a noticeable toasted, caramelized taste to them that once you’ve tried, you just can’t get enough of.

I thought that I loved chocolate chip cookies before, but trust me: I love them even more when they’re made with browned butter. Same thing here.

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The ingredients for banana bread are usually ones that most people already have in their fridges/pantries already, so that means most of you have no excuse not to go ahead and do yourselves a favor by making this loaf, stat.

The smells it’s going to create when you make the browned butter AND bake the loaf alone were made for autumn. When it’s finished, don’t skip the step of taking the extra browned butter and brushing it over the hot loaf. It’s going to seep into the crevices of the  crumbs and when it dries, well…all will be revealed and suddenly made clear to you.

Slice the bread up thick. Put it in the toaster for a few minutes. Pop it out. Slather one side in butter. Cinnamon honey butter if you’re really feeling adventurous.

You’re welcome.

Bringing this loaf to this week’s Fiesta Friday #140, co-hosted this week by  Julie @ Hostess at Heart and Linda @ Fabulous Fare Sisters.

Browned Butter Banana Bread

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Kitchens

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and either butter or spray a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

Melt and heat the butter over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. You want the milk solids to turn a deep golden brown color. It will have a nutty and toasted smell and there should be small golden brown bits in the surface. It’ll take about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl.

Stir the brown butter so that any of the golden brown bits that may have fallen to the bottom are distributed equally throughout the butter. Reserve 4 tablespoons of the brown butter for later on.

Whisk together the remaining brown butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl, then fold in the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula or a fork.
Fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture until just combined (the batter doesn’t have to be completely smooth, a few lumps are fine).

Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan, and bake until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Take the reserved browned butter (reheat in the microwave to re-melt if you have to) and using a pastry brush, brush the butter over the hot bread, letting it seep into it.

Run a knife around the edges, and let cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Asian Marinated Baked Chicken

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Hi , guys. I know, it’s  been a little over two weeks since my last post.

I’m still alive.

I’m still cooking.

I’m still a food blogger.

I wish I had this really exciting, interesting and engrossing story to share with all of you as to why I’ve been a little quiet lately.

But the truth is, I really don’t.

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I’ll be perfectly honest with you guys, I’ve felt sad lately. Nothing major; I have a pretty thick skin, most of the time I just brush it off and carry on with my life. This is just a noticeable sadness that’s still somewhat lingering.

A lot of the inspiration and enthusiasm I normally find in cooking and keeping up this blog has been depleted by the majority of news headlines that we’ve seen in the United States over the past few weeks and months. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to sit down and talk to you guys about food or try to tell a witty story, be my normally sarcastic/humorous self, and then talk to you guys about food when the news is playing in the background and I’m seeing and hearing about things that are happening in my country right now that I’m not okay with.

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Don’t flip out. This blog isn’t going to be my political soapbox. I know that’s not what you’re all here for.

However, issues of politics, equality and social justice are a huge part of how my identity has been shaped and it continues to affect me to this day. I see no reason to hide that. I’m an African American female; it’s a fact and I’m proud of it. My Black heritage was crucial in shaping my cooking identity. It guides the character of my food. And that’s a marvelous thing.  Unfortunately, there is a darker, unfortunate side to having a Black heritage in this country; a blessing and a burden, as the saying goes.

I’ll keep it short and brief: inequality still exists in America. Racism still exists in America. In fact, if you turn on the TV and watch a major news network, you should be able to see that it’s alive and well. And it’s pretty damn serious. People are dying; whether at the hands of corrupt police officers, self-appointed ‘neighborhood watches’, or white supremacist teenagers that shoot up a church prayer meeting, people are dying.

Sadly, this is nothing new, not so far as I’m concerned. It’s apart of the reality that I’ve long had to adapt myself to as a Black person in this country. Most of the time, in spite of the madness that I see or hear happening on the news, I can still cook, take photos and write up a blog post for all of you that’s completely ‘normal’ and funny and carry on. It’s what most of us do.

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But sometimes…I can’t. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Depressing. Gut-wrenching.

So much so that there have been far too many times over the past few weeks when I literally couldn’t cook, have a photo shoot or write a post. My mind, heart and will just were not in it. As a result, we ate take-out around here for several days. Probably more than we should have.

Sometimes I just can’t pretend that things with my country are okay, because this is a “food blog” and I need to separate that from my daily reality. Things aren’t okay. They’re not.

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I’m not interested in getting into debates or even discussions about the whys and hows all of this chaos is happening. I’m just having an honest moment of raw honesty with you guys. If you were curious as to why I haven’t been around lately, there it is.

Okay, that’s it. I’m done. Hopefully my little spiel was cool with you. (And if it’s not, or you tend to disagree with any of what I just said, I reaaaaaally can’t say I’m too offended or bothered. It’s my blog. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. My feelings won’t be hurt. Promise.)

Fortunately, I’ve been working my way back into the kitchen and giving my blogging mojo more and more pushups every  day to get myself back into Blogging shape so to speak. I think this recipe is a good start.

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So about this chicken: it looks great, right? Guess what?

It’s probably one of the easiest dishes you could ever make. You literally just take some chicken breasts, throw them in an overnight marinade, then bake/broil them the next day. Steam some broccoli, make some brown Minute Rice.

BAM.

You have a delicious dinner.

Like most Asian-inspired dishes, my favorite part of this dish is the sauce on the chicken; the thick, syrupy, sticky sauce that I always drizzle extra spoonfuls of on top of my rice.

Badda bing, badda boom.

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Asian Marinated Baked Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Chow.com

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons peeled and finely minced ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast

Directions

Place everything except the chicken in a 13-by-9-inch broiler-proof baking dish and whisk to combine.

Lay the chicken in a single layer in the marinade and turn to coat. Cover, refrigerate, and marinate at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours, turning the chicken at least once during the marinating time.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 475°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Bake until the chicken is starting to turn a dark brown color, about 40 minutes.

Set the oven to broil and broil until the chicken skin is crisped, about 3 to 5 minutes more. Serve with the sauce on the side.

Curried Ginger Scones

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The coffee shop near my job is really kinda depressing to me for several reasons.

First, their coffee usually just isn’t that good. Believe me, I’ve tried giving them the benefit of the doubt several times. I’ve bought multiple items on their menu just in case it was a fluke recipe; lattes, cappuccino, hot chocolate. NONE are really worth writing home about- or the $3.00 + change they charge for them. They’re not disgusting just…blah. Bland. However, since they’re the closest thing available to me, and more importantly because I have to feed my coffee addiction (or else bad things happen) I do still get a drink from them on the regular.

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I had to mix things up, though. The barista there and I have a special understanding; she swaps out the regular vanilla syrups used in one of the lattes on their menu (it’s not good) with butterscotch syrup just for me, which really makes the drink taste a world of a lot better.

I kinda wish they would give me the credit for the new drink. Name it in my honor and put it on their menu or something. I feel like I did them a major favor. It actually tastes like it should cost $3.18 now.

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Second thing about the coffee shop that depresses me? There’s no hot barista guy working there that I can flirt with in the morning to shake me out of my boredom. Y’know, the guy who gives me the extra shot of espresso free of charge with a commercial-worthy wink “just because” and calls me by my first name and always asks me how my weekend was or what my weekend will be like.

This should be basic elementary coffee shop stuff 101, amIright?

But even more depressing than the just-below-average coffee and absence of a hot barista guy named Wes in the coffee shop are their “baked goods”. The quotation marks were intentional. I’m really not even sure if I should call them that- seems like an insult to be honest. There’s nothing “good” about them. It’s that bad, you guys. I almost don’t even know where to start. They over bake EVERYTHING. I mean, good Lord. Whoever they’re paying to be their baker/pastry chef needs to be fired. or at least they should let me sit down and talk to them about some basic fundamentals of baking.

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Cookies shouldn’t be completely flat and sunken in the middle when they set up. And they should not, should not, SHOULD NOT be dark brown across the top. That’s a burned cookie. It will crumble- and not crumble like Chips Ahoy, either. It’ll crumble like sawdust. Gross.

The scones are really what make me want to burst into tears though. Those poor, poor scones that never did anything to hurt anyone. Those poor scones that just wanted to be great. Those poor scones that have go through such cruel and unusual punishment. They’re over baked to the point where the inside of the scones looks like biscotti. They’re way too brown, I feel like if I squeezed it, it’d crumble into sawdusty crumbs. You’d never be able to tell that there was any butter layered in that overworked, over cooked dough. It’s a travesty.

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Scones are one of life’s greatest joys. They deserve better. They deserve to BE better.

They deserve to be these Curried Ginger scones. I so wish I could sit down with the baker at the coffee shop near my job and teach him or her how to make these. I feel like I could change their life.

Curry and ginger is a marvelous combination; there’s just enough bite, spiciness, and sweetness in both to balance off of one another. Pair this up with a cup of coffee, and you’re more than good to go. You’re ready to face the world.

I’m taking these scones to Fiesta Friday #70, co-hosted this week by newbies Dini @ Giramuk’s Kitchen and Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau. See you guys there 🙂

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Curried Ginger Scones


Recipe Courtesy of The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 stick butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream

Directions

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the ginger, mixing to distribute, then the curry and sugar. Cut in the butter till the mixture is crumbly.

Add the buttermilk (or yogurt or sour cream), stirring till the dough just holds together. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and pat it into a 10-inch square, about 1/2-inch thick.

Cut the dough into triangles, and transfer them to a lightly greased baking sheet. Place the scones in the freezer for 30 minutes to allow the dough to firm up (this will also make the scones rise higher)

Bake the scones in a preheated 425°F oven for 20 minutes, or until they’re golden. Remove them from the oven and paint them with ginger syrup, if desired.

Big and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

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When you think of a typical refreshments table at a social function, what ‘s the first thing that comes to your mind?

A spread of deli sandwiches.

The veggie platter of broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and carrots.

A cheese and crackers plate.

The water and coffee carafes.

Or, maybe you guys are like me and immediately think of the plate of assorted cookies.

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Most assorted cookie platters will have the usual suspects: chocolate chip, macadamia nut, and oatmeal raisin. Some have M and M’s and sugar cookies, but most just stick with the first three.

It could just be my personal observation, but to me the ranking of the cookie platter is pretty clear and cut dry and there’s usually a pretty standard pattern that’ll I’ll see happen no matter where I’m at or the crowd I’m in.

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Chocolate chip cookies always trump everything. They disappear off the cookie platter the quickest so if you’re not one of the first or middle people in line, chances are, you just won’t get one.

Macadamia nut cookies usually rank second. Most  people are  pretty fine with them, and there are even some people who like them best. Why do people like macadamia nut cookies? I’m sure I don’t know. Personally, I think they’re overrated. Also,I don’t like macadamia nuts. Moving on.

Then there’s the oatmeal raisin cookies. They’re usually the ones that get eaten last, or just get completely passed over and left behind. Most people I know HATE oatmeal raisin cookies. They’re like, the ugly step sisters of the cookie platter.

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This is a complete mystery to me. Personally, I love oatmeal raisin cookies. In fact, I’ll go a step further and admit that I learned to love oatmeal raisin cookies BEFORE I ‘learned’ to love chocolate chip cookies. Given the choice over the two, would always pick the oatmeal raisin first. It’s true.

I’m just weird like that.

I think that most people who don’t like oatmeal raisin cookies just haven’t had an oatmeal raisin cookie made for them correctly. The contrasting textures alone are enough to sell me; I love the coarseness of the oats set against the smoothness of the dough. The raisins almost seem to perfume the entire cookie so that even when you don’t bite into one specifically, you can still taste that sweetness that they leave behind. When eaten warm and soft, a perfect oatmeal raisin cookie alllllllmost even tastes like it’s healthy.

Y’know before remembering all the butter and sugar in it that are making it so perfectly soft and chewy in the first place.

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Out of the blue, Jas announced one day that she had a craving for a certain iced oatmeal cookie that used to be sold in the stores when we were little girls that we absolutely LOVED. Those cookies sadly aren’t available anymore, but I thought I’d try to make some that were close to the originals. I used a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, then adopted my die-hard habit of chilling my dough overnight. Once the cookies were done, I whipped together a quick powdered sugar icing that I drizzled over the top.

Not to brag or anything, but these oatmeal raisin cookies would definitely be the stars of any cookie platter at a social event- yes, even with chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookies already there.

Booyah.

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Big and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Recipe Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups rolled old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (optional)
  • A few tsp of plain milk (optional)

Directions

Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg together in a medium bowl; set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butters and sugars together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and mix until combined.

Decrease the speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the oats and raisins until just incorporated. Refrigerate dough overnight or at least one hour.

Adjust the oven racks to the upper middle and lower middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two sheets with parchment paper.

Divide dough into 18 portions, each a generous 2 tbsp. and roll them between your hands into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Place dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Bake, switching and rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time, until the cookies turn golden brown around the edges, 22-25  minutes. Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool to room temp.

Combine powdered sugar and milk until it makes a firm icing. Using a small spoon or spatula, spread icing on top of cookies and allow to set and harden.

My Grandma’s Lemon Soda Pound Cake

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Nothing is certain but death and taxes, right?

False. At least, that’s my opinion.

There are some things in life that you just know, no matter what happens, that you will always, always ALWAYS be able to depend on.

Things besides death and taxes.

They may be good. They may be bad. But they’re a sure thing regardless.

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I’ll start out with a positive: my sisters. My sisters are as dependable and certain as death and taxes.

Except in a good way.

I know that no matter what happens, no matter where I am or what I’m doing or going through, I can always depend on those two. They’re my best friends in the entire world. There’s nothing I can’t talk about, share with, or ask them for. They’re always there for me. They’re not going anywhere

Theoretically could I cheat and avoid death and taxes? Sure.

But cheating/avoiding my sisters? That’s never gonna happen.

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I heard someone say on a tv show once that the only thing just as certain as death and taxes were mistakes.

Here, I have to agree.

No matter how hard you try to strive for perfection, sooner or later you will mess up somehow. It’s gonna happen. You will make a mistake. And that’s okay; accept it, move on and learn from it. It’ll make you a better person.

In fact, NOT thinking you’re going to ever make a mistake IS actually making a mistake so if you’re thinking that way, then you should really stop because you’re actually mistaken.

Heh. See what I did there?

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I bring up the whole death, taxes and certainty bit because it’s really the first thought that came to my mind when I sat down to write out this post.

If I had to pick out a handful of things that have just been permanent fixtures throughout my life, then this recipe would certainly be one of them. And with good reason. It’s probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. Hands down. No contest.

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My grandma’s desserts are the thing of legend in my family, and although she knows how to do bake just about anything, this pound cake is still the most treasured darling of them all (with the possible exception of her caramel cake, but you guys aren’t ready for that level of awesomeness yet).

When I was growing up, I just got used to almost always seeing this pound cake sitting on my grandparent’s dining room table underneath her fancy clear glass- domed serving plate as the ‘standard’ dessert for everyone to have after dinner throughout the week. Everyone loves it. Everyone.

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I’ve made quite a few pound cake recipes before and I still have to say, my grandma’s is THE moistest I’ve ever had- which is no easy task for pound cake sometimes. It practically melts in your mouth. I used the phrasing “lemon soda” in the recipe title on purpose: we typically either use Squirt or 7-up in our cake, but honestly ANY name-brand lemon lime soda will do. (Sprite, Squirt, Sierra Mist, 7-Up, Faygo, etc). Just make sure that the soda isn’t flat. For some reason having the carbonation really makes the difference in helping the flavor come through.

Normally, I’m not even a big fan of lemon desserts, but I just can’t get enough of the slight tartness from the citrus that offsets the sugar in the cake. I know it SEEMS like a lot of lemon flavoring with the extract, lemon juice AND lemon soda, but trust me: it all works beautifully together.

When Angie asked me to help co-host this week’s Fiesta Friday #67 with Caroline@CarolinesCooking, I didn’t hesitate. Not just because I love co-hosting, but also because it would give me the chance to share this recipe with all of you that is so close to my heart. I hope you all enjoy it.

For those that are new to the Fiesta, welcome! We’re happy to have you and invite you to join our link up and the festivities by clicking the link to the website.

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My Grandma's Lemon Soda Pound Cake


Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons lemon extract
  • 3/4 cup lemon soda (like Squirt or 7-Up)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

For Glaze (Optional)

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • A few tablespoons of milk

 Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a fluted bundt pan (or 2 greased and floured loaf pans) and set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour.

Beat in lemon extract, lemon soda and lemon juice

Pour batter into Bundt or loaf pan(s). Tap the bottom of the pans onto a countertop a few times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, or a direct read thermometer inserted into cake reads 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit. (Note: if you’re using 2 loaf pans,the cook time will obviously be shorter, so check it sooner rather than later.)

Allow cake to cool for at least 35-45 minutes on a wire rack before unmolding from pan, then allowing to completely cool on a wire rack.

For Glaze: combine the sugar with a few tablespoons of milk until it forms a smooth, but still somewhat stiff glaze. Use a fork to drizzle on the top, and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes until it is set.

Saucy Country Style Oven Ribs

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One thing that anyone who’s on pretty good terms with me will tell you, is that I’m usually a self-depreciating person.

I second guess myself a lot. Even if I try something new and it turns out, I’ll usually focus first on the things I did wrong before acknowledging the things I did right.

Especially when it comes to my cooking. I’m super anal about my cooking.

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If I’m making a meal for a crowd or my family, I’ll taste test the dish over and over again, making sure I’ve got my seasonings right.

I’m obsessed with the done-ness of my meats.I’m either afraid that I’m going to undercook them and feed somebody raw food, or overcook them and give someone a piece of leather. There is no in-between.

I use a thermometer to make sure my cakes bake at just the right temperature to be moist, but not too dry. 190 degrees fahrenheit. Yeah. I totally know it by heart.

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I hover over everyone asking questions about the food:

“How is everything?”

“Taste ok?”

“Is it tender/moist enough?”

“Too sweet? Too salty? Too spicy? Not sweet/salty/spicy enough?”

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Even if the dish turns out well, and everyone likes it, I usually still just let it roll off my back. I’m not huge on gloating or giving myself great huge thumbs up.

Most of the time.

But guess what? This time is different. Very, very different.

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This time, I’m gloating. Majorly gloating.

And I dare anyone to try and stop me.

Life in the kitchen is full of trial and error. Sometimes you’ll fail and mess something up. Sometimes you’ll do ok and put out something that’s passable.

And then sometimes, you’ll make something that totally and completely blows your mind.

That’s what happened to me with this dish, guys.

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Country-Style Ribs were something that before this dish, I’d never handled or attempted to cook with before. Red meat itself is just usually something I don’t get my hands on very much anymore because it’s gotten to be too friggin expensive. But my grocery store put them on sale for SUCH a good deal. And the meat looked so beautifully marbled and vibrant in the package that I just couldn’t help myself. I went ahead and bought two packages.

Because it was my first time making them, I decided to stick with something relatively simple and traditional. No frills, no fancy stuff. Barbecue ribs are the best type of ribs.

But me and the grill don’t get along, so I knew I would have to find another way of making them ‘barbecue style’. Cue this recipe I found on Epicurious.com

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What you’re looking at is hands down, one of the most delicious, outstanding, perfect things that I have ever made in my life.

I am NOT  kidding.

This is legit one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten. I almost couldn’t believe that I actually cooked it. It made me step back, take a look at myself and say, “Hey: maybe I’m actually pretty GOOD  at this whole cooking thing….”

I followed this recipe almost to the letter, the only thing I changed was to decrease the original amount of vinegar called for  in the barbecue sauce recipe. (I’m from the South, so I tend to prefer my sauce on the sweeter side.)

Guys, I can’t say enough about the tenderness of these ribs. I mean…Goll-LEEEEEE. Put that knife away: you will NOT be needing it. I’m not even 100% convinced that you’ll need a fork. That’s how tender and juicy and moist the meat comes out. You can literally pull it apart with your fingers.

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See that? That was me after I took one bite of these ribs.

I was Hot Stuff that day. And the day after that when I ate the leftovers.

Lord, just looking at these pictures is making me re-live the glorious feeling of sheer and complete culinary victory all over again. Somebody get me a trophy and a podium to make an acceptance speech, stat.

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I’m super duper late, but I’m still bringing these ribs to the Fiesta Friday#66 party. Because the world deserves to know about these ribs. It’s that serious.  Thanks to Angie and Anna @Anna International for hosting (all by herself too, that is NO easy task!)

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Saucy Country Style Oven Ribs


Recipe Adapted from Epicurious.com

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Ingredients

  • 4 lb boneless country-style pork ribs
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup (12 oz)
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons drained bottled horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

 Directions

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Put ribs in a 6- to 8-quart pot and cover with water by two inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, skimming froth, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook onion and garlic in oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.

Drain pork in a colander and pat dry, then arrange in 1 layer using tongs in a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Pour sauce over pork to coat evenly, then cover dish tightly with foil. Bake 1 hour, then remove foil and carefully turn pork over with tongs and cook, uncovered, until very tender, about 30 minutes. Skim fat from sauce if desired.

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus2

About 8 or 9 months ago, I bought a Ninja blender.

I don’t know about some of you, but for me, it was what I would consider a pretty big financial splurge. I can’t just go around buying up a $170+ ANYTHING, no matter how much I love my kitchen gadgets. However, there was a major discount in the department store on their kitchen appliances so I was tempted. And once I get tempted, things just typically seem to take off from there.

I reasoned to myself that it wasn’t going to be likely that this blender would ever come at this price again, or at least in the near or distant future. I reasoned that if I did actually ‘treat myself’ and buy it then I’d really and finally get into the whole ‘smoothie/shake’ thing and start taking them with me to work to give myself a nice little health boost. I reasoned that the advertisement said that the blender could actually double as a pretty good food processor as well.

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Long story short, I bought it.

And to make the story even shorter I’ll just come right out and admit: the smoothie health kick thing really didn’t work out. I just…I don’t like them. I’m not a fan of drinking much of anything besides water and coffee to be honest and the idea of drinking ‘meals’ just turns off my appetite almost completely. I probably made like, four smoothies before  I called  it quits and used all the fruit I had bought up for that purpose to just bake a pie.

But I still had the blender.

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Well, I wasn’t about to let my Ninja go to waste. I’ve been using it. Just not as a blender. Mainly it just helps me put together my pie crusts more easily and less messily than I did before by hand.

Oh yeah, and they’re not lying about the quality of that blade, guys. It’s very sharp. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious sharp. As my knicked, cut and sliced open fingers can fully attest to.

Recently, I’ve found a new efficient use for my Ninja blender that gives me new hope that just maybe I wasn’t a sucker that day in the department store when I splurged and bought it.

That new hope is Hummus.

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One thing you should all should know about me and hummus: I’m kinda obsessed with it. It’s the universal condiment; I can eat it on anything. And I do mean ANYTHING.

I’m pretty good at practicing portion control with food in general, but let me tell you something: I have little to no portion control when it comes to hummus. Nothing but the realization that if I don’t stop eating it, I will run out and have to buy more will actually make me stop and put it away.

Good thing it’s pretty healthy all things considered, huh?

Grocery store hummus is ridiculously overpriced, so every time I go to a Middle Easter or Lebanese restaurant, I will try their hummus, just to see what their ‘packing’ so to speak. If the joint has more than one flavor of hummus, that’s a pretty good sign so far as I’m concerned. It means that the owners really have their priorities in order. They know what life’s all about. The best hummus I’ve ever had comes from a Middle Eastern deli in my town called Woody’s Oasis, coming in Regular, Spicy and Garlic flavors. I could eat it every single day for  the rest of my life and never, ever get tired of it. My wallet may be lighter though.

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This is where my Ninja came in. I decided to put that baby to good use and try making hummus of my own at home with one of my favorite ingredients: roasted red pepper.

Now for those that don’t have a Ninja, don’t worry about it: I really don’t think that your hummus will suffer because of the secret weapon in my back pocket that is the KEY to super smooth, creamy hummus every time. Want to know what it is?

Water + Baking Soda. Boiling your chickpeas/garbanzo beans in a combination of the two will peel them for you, eliminating those pesky outer skins that oftentimes result in thick, pasty hummus that no one wants. So whatever you do, do not-DO NOT- skip the step of simmering the chickpeas in the water/baking soda. You’ll live to regret it, I promise you.

Now look: my hummus may not be the hummus from Woody’s Oasis, but I gotta tell you all that I was pretty impressed with myself when I took that first bite.

Because it’s still pretty friggin delicious. So much so that I turned right around and made a second batch almost immediately. Remember? I have no sense of control when it comes to this stuff. But it’s chickpeas, so that makes it okay.

Right?

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Recipe Courtesy of Vitamix.com

Print

Ingredients

To Peel Chickpeas

  • Water
  • A few tsp. of baking soda

For Hummus

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 ounces roasted red pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for serving
  • ½ cup tahini paste
  • 2 ½ Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 3 cups canned chickpeas, drained and peeled
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • Smoked paprika, optional

 Directions

1. Pour chickpeas into a pot and submerge with water.

2. Add baking soda and bring to a rolling simmer, over medium high heat. The skins should begin to rise to the top.

3. Using a slotted spoon or spider skimmer, remove the skins from the pot and discard. When the chickpeas are just tender (but not mushy) drain them in a colander, then immediately submerge them in cold water. Use your hands and lightly rub them together; the remaining skins should slide off and either float to the bottom or rise to the top. Discard skins.

4. Place the peeled chickpeas, as well as all the other remaining ingredients into a food processor or blender and process on high until smooth and creamy. Drizzle with olive oil and smoked paprika and serve. 

Pulled Chicken with Cherry Chile Barbecue Sauce

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*taps mic*

Is this thing on?

Yeah? So we’re live now? Ok, great, thanks.

Umm…. So.

Hiiiii.

Joker

Assuming that there’s even anybody still left out here, just…hear me out. Cause I can explain my little unexpected blogging hiatus that absolutely came out of nowhere and I gave you guys absolutely no warning for.

I think.

See, what had happened was…

Hey! Have I ever told you all about that time I fell off a merry go round on the playground? No? Story time then.

(Don’t worry, I do actually have a point.)

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It was lunch time ‘recess’ and one of the games that a group of me and my buddies did was to cram as many of us on the merry go round as we could get. The boys would take turns cranking and spinning the wheel (because it was pretty packed and heavy) as fast as the laws of physics would allow. The ‘object’ of the game really was to stay on the merry go round at all costs- because if you didn’t hang on tight, your behind was gonna get pushed off- the ‘other’ part of the game.

Looking back on it, the game sounds pretty dangerous to me now. I mean, any number of unfortunate things could’ve happened; broken limbs, bloody noses, concussions- just to name a few.

But it was very amusing to us at the time. There’s something about being a kid where you literally just don’t conceive of anything like that being able to happen to you.

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I’m somewhat curvalicious now that I’ve reached my adult years, but lemme tell you guys, when I was young, I…wasn’t curvy. At all. My stomach was a garbage disposal and since I had the metabolism of an Olympic athlete, I was just really skinny. I say this to emphasize that during our dare devil game on the merry go round, I was able to really maneuver my way on to the center of the wheel and literally wrap myself through the crannies and bars on the surface, in true contortionist-style. In short, I just usually didn’t get thrown off.

But y’know…all good things eventually come to an end. The fateful day came where I wasn’t able to scramble my way to the center of the merry go round and entangle my limbs around the bars, having to content myself with grabbing a spot on the edge of the wheel. It was stupid of me. I shouldn’t have even bothered joining in the game that day.

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But I did. And I paid the price for it.

In case you guys didn’t know: falling off a rapidly spinning merry go round onto a bed of wood chips really, really, really hurts. And it’s also rather embarrassing when you get laughed at by a playground full of other kids for it.  Just putting that out there.

Where was I? Oh yeah. My point. See the thing is, I’ve been pretty good at maintaining a regular blogging schedule for a while, or so I thought. So long as I was putting out around 2 posts a week, I felt like I was on the right track. Kinda like how for a while, I was pretty good at staying on the merry go round on our recess game back at my old school.

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But the day came where I just wasn’t as good at the game as I had been before, and I fell off the wheel. Just like I’ve fallen off the blogging horse for the past three weeks or so. I fell off, and I fell hard. It sucked. It was embarrassing. The truth is, I don’t even have a straightforward answer or explanation for you guys as to why it happened. I’ve still been cooking. I’ve still been taking pictures. I’ve put together some new recipes I’m actually rather excited to share. But I just…I just couldn’t get out a friggin post. It just would not happen for me. I’d sit here and stare at my computer screen like an idiot until I finally closed out my WordPress dashboard in self-disgust and clicked over to my Facebook or Twitter tab. I’ve still been keeping up with my Blog Reader feed though: I’ve still been seeing all you beautiful people and all your beautiful posts. And that helped.

So here I am. Back with more food. This recipe’s pretty straight forward; chicken breasts you throw in the crockpot with a homemade barbecue sauce of fresh cherries and adobe chiles. It’s your perfect blend of sweet and spicy, and dish you can make when you just don’t feel like being bothered with life. Or you’re a derelict food blogger that needs to get back on the blogging horse…or shall we say, the merry-go round?

(Someone should put that on a t-shirt)

Happy Fiesta Friday #60 to my friends at The Novice Gardener, especially this week’s co-hosts Tracy @Scratch It Cook and Nancy @Feasting With Friends. Big thanks to Angie for getting us our own place too- it looks GREAT 🙂

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Pulled Chicken with Cherry Chile Barbecue Sauce

Recipe Courtesy of Epicurious.com

Print

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots (about 1 large)
  • 1 tbsp. peeled chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh jalapeno (seeds and membranes removed)
  • Scant 4 cups dark sweet fresh cherries, pitted and de-stemmed (3 cups afterward)
  • Two 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes (no salt added; You’ll only need 1 1/2 cans, save the rest for later use )
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. chipotle chile from a can of adobo chipotle chiles
  • 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard, divided
  • 1 1/4 tsp. chile powder, divided
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt, divided
  • 15 grinds of black pepper, divided
  • 2 tsp. light brown sugar
  • 3lbs. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed (about 8)

 Directions

1. Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shallots, ginger, and jalapeño and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cherries, tomatoes, molasses, vinegar, chipotle, 1 tablespoon mustard, 3/4 teaspoon chile powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 5 grinds pepper, and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Reduce to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until aromatic and thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully transfer half to a blender; purée until smooth, about 20 seconds. Purée the second half until smooth (you should have about 5 1/4 cups). Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, mix 2 tablespoons mustard, 1/2 teaspoon chile powder, 1/2 teaspoons salt, 10 grinds pepper, and the brown sugar in a large bowl; add the chicken and mix well with your hands. Put the chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker and pour 1 1/2 cups of the barbecue sauce on top (reserve the remainder for serving and extras). Cover and cook on low until the meat is cooked through and tender, 4 to 4 1/2 hours.3. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a cutting board and carefully use a fork to separate the meat from the bones, discarding the bones (you should have about 4 cups meat).4. To serve, stir together 1 cup of the remaining sauce and the shredded meat, and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Red Velvet Brownie Cookies

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Alright.

Let me just get this out of the way real quick.

I’m single. And so naturally, I kicked off this Valentines Day the same way any single person would: filing my taxes.

Because there’s nothing like W-2s, Student Loan Interest statements and the IRS to get you in the mood.

But that refund I’ll be getting in give or take a few weeks? That’s enough to make me smile.

Red Velvet Brownie Cookies1

I think there’s this assumption that single people get bitter, lonely or depressed at Valentines Day, but I’ve never found that to be the case for me. I think it’s great that people want to go out of their way to express love or appreciation for each other today- just as long as it’s a habit that they practice for the other 364 days of the year as well. I think that it’s important for single folks to practice expressing love and appreciation for themselves, and other people in their lives that aren’t spouses or partners.

I also think it would be great if Charlie Hunnam wanted to surprise me with a bouquet of red roses, then take me out for a romantic dinner, decadent dessert, and a walk on the beach. But I have an uncanny premonition that this isn’t going to happen, so I’m deciding to content myself with other slightly more realistic things instead.

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Right now my house smells like a bundle of exotic spices and herbs, and it’s all coming from a Dutch oven of Moroccan chicken tagine that I’m preparing for me and my family’s dinner tonight. There won’t be any romance over the meal, but my stomach’s already starting to growl in anticipation. And just in case you haven’t noticed, I have the decadent dessert on lock too.

I’m talking about rich, fudgy Red Velvet Brownie Cookies guys.

Also one of the best cookies I’ve ever made- and I’ve made more than a few cookies in my life, let me tell you.

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I knew I wanted to do a Valentine’s Day themed recipe for the blog, but was having trouble finding some inspiration. Then I went to Walmart and while I was down the candy aisle, I saw these bags of Red Velvet M and M’s.

Which you know, I just had to have.

But aside from the candy, I started thinking about ways I could incorporate them into a dessert. Cake didn’t seem like a good choice, and brownies ALMOST made it. But I thought that for candies, cookies made more sense. When I had trouble deciding between the two, I figured that there had to be a way to compromise. And wouldn’t you know it, I was right.

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I first got the inspiration for this recipe from a Taste of Home magazine clipping I’d saved for a while. However, the author of that recipe needs to give it some major tweaking; the batter is far too wet and loose for cookies- even fudgy brownie ones. I added an extra cup of flour and chilled the dough overnight to firm it up. Also, I added red food coloring to give it a subtle, but rich red hue. Finally, the Red Velvet M and Ms were  pressed into the cookies the second after I took them out of the oven.

Happy Valentine’s Day AND a very Happy Fiesta Friday #55 to all of us gathering at Angie’s The Novice Gardener. Shout out to  Suzanne @apuginthekitchen and Sue @birgerbird for co-hosting this week; you guys are the real MVPs lol.

Who needs a Valentine when you have these cookies?

…Meh, actually I’d still really love Charlie Hunnam to  be my Valentine and take me out tonight. But I’ll settle for these instead, I guess.

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Red Velvet Brownie Cookies

Print

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 2-2/3 cups (16 ounces) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking chips
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1- 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 package (11.5 oz. ) semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • About 1 cup Red Velvet M and M chocolate candies
  • Red food coloring

Directions

1. In a large saucepan, melt chocolate chips and butter over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat; cool until mixture is warm.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla and, if desired, espresso powder until blended. Whisk into chocolate mixture.

3. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt; add to chocolate mixture, mixing well.
Squeeze in desired amount of red food coloring. Fold in chocolate chunks; let stand 10 minutes, then refrigerate overnight or at least for one hour.

4. Preheat oven to 350°. Drop by 1/4 cupfuls 3 in. apart onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes or until set.

5. Press M and M chocolate candies into tops of cookies, about 4-5 candies per cookie. Cool on pans 1-2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

 

Marcus Samuelsson’s Chipotle Chicken

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a habit of doing some kind of reading just before I go to bed. No matter where I am, whether it’s been at home, in a hotel while traveling, at my dorm room and apartment when I was in college, or even visiting at another person’s house, I always have a book that I carry with me and place on a night stand just beside the bed within arms reach that I read before I go to sleep. Besides the fact that I think it somewhat helps my body ‘wind down’ to sleep, I’ve always just really loved reading.

Now what exactly I read has shifted somewhat over the years. At first and for a while, I mainly stuck to fiction but as my interests have evolved, so has my reading preferences. For a while I was in a real historical non-fiction/biography kick, so I was reading those a lot.  But nowadays, my bedside reading mainly comprises of two things: cookbooks and food magazines.

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I’m serious you guys. That’s what I ‘read’ before I go to bed just about every night. I’m looking across from my bed right now and I can tell you exactly what’s there if you don’t believe me:

The Food Network Magazines from November 2014, December 2014, and January 2015 (they’re still there beacause I haven’t gotten around to cutting out the clippings of the recipes I want to try yet- but I will. Scout’s honor)

My recipe notebook for when I’m in the kitchen and recording a new recipe- it’s not very organized and it’s actually pretty beat up and stained with food from my haphazard kitchen adventures, but it does have a special place on my nightstand.

“Marcus Off Duty” by Marcus Samuelsson

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The third one has been a really particular favorite ever since I received it for a Christmas present from my older sister Ashley. I was just thrilled to get this book, guys. Number one, IT’S SIGNED by HIM (which literally made me scream when I opened it on Christmas Day, so not kidding) Number two, I’m a huge Marcus Samuelsson fan; aside from his MAD skills in the kitchen I really love his approach to reinventing comfort food as both sophisticated yet still approachable for ‘ordinary folk’ like me. Also, he’s one of the snappiest dressers I’ve ever seen, and rather easy on the eyes if you know what I mean *wink wink*

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The story of his rather extraordinary life is written in the wide diversity of his food, something that’s made very apparent in this latest cookbook of his. Ever since Christmas it’s stayed on my nightstand and not a day goes by when I don’t find myself coming back to skim through this book and pick something out that I really want to try out and make.

This recipe was the first one that I’ve gotten around to making because (of course) I’m always looking for new things to do with chicken. This may sound extreme for me to say, but it’s the truth so I’m gonna say it anyway: this is just about some of the best chicken I’ve ever had. Seriously. The marinade has so much complexity of flavors and they really do hit all the right notes; first you get the acidity from the lime juice, then the sweet citrus of the orange and chili sauce, and finally the heat from the adobo creeps up on you from the back of your tongue just as after you swallow. I have no idea how he manages to do that in just one recipe but I nonetheless bow down to Marcus’ greatness.

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One bite of this dish really makes you realize that this is somebody who not only knows how to cook, but also really understands the way the tongue processes and ‘reads’ flavors so to speak. What’s even more crazy is that he can do that with boneless, skinless chicken breasts- which I’ve noticed most chefs turn their noses up at as boring and tasteless.

This recipe originally called for the meat to be placed on skewers and either broiled or grilled. I did that, but I forgot to let my skewers soak overnight and could only let them sit in water for about an hour- which apparently wasn’t long enough to keep them from being scorched. No way was I letting burned, blackened, ugly skewers ruin my photoshoot, so I just slid the chicken off for the camera and dressed it up with how I ate it after it was done; wrapped in a tortilla with rice on the rice. So friggin GOOD.

I’m late to the Fiesta Friday #54 party this week, but that’s okay. Thanks to Angie@TheNoviceGardener for hosting, and  Sonal @simplyvegetarian777 and Josette @thebrookcook for co-hosting.

And HUGE thanks to Marcus for his cookbook, as well as this bomb.com chicken.


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Marcus Samuelsson's Chipotle Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson

Print

Ingredients

For the Marinade:

  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo (or more to taste)’
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. chile powder

For the Chicken

  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 medium red onions, cut through the root into sixths
  • 18 (6 inch) bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh

Directions

1. Make the marinade: Combine all the ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and process until smooth. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if you need to.

2. Make the chicken: Put the chicken into 1-gallon zip-top bag, add 1/2 cup of the marinade and massage to coat all the chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours (or overnight). Reserve the rest of the marinade.

3. Preheat the broiler; if using a gas grill, preheat to medium.

4. While the grill or broiler is heating up, slide 1 piece of onion onto each skewer, followed by 3 pieces of chicken. Continue until you’ve filled all the skewers. Arrange the skewers in a single layer with salt and pepper and brush 1/4 cup of the reserved marinade.

5. Broil the chicken skewers, without turning them, until the chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. If grilling, they’ll take 5 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and garnish with the sesame seeds, cilantro and basil.

6. Bring remaining marinade to a boil in a small saucepan and serve with the skewers.