Kabuli Pulao

(Afghani Rice Pilaf)

September: National Rice Month

Our wedding godmother Dr. Natalie R. was just a little girl living with her family in Afghanistan when her diplomat father served in Kabul during the rule of the Shahs. After her father’s term ended, the family went back to France long before the wars made Afghanistan an unsafe place to live. Natalie told us how beautiful Kabul once was with its grand architecture and marvelous mosques and minarets set against majestic mountain views. She wants to remember Kabul that way instead of its crowds and congestion. Now in her 70s, the retired chemist told us about a tasty dish that she still cooks on occasion. Kabuli Pulao is a colorful rice pilaf from the capital of Afghanistan. Make this country’s national dish during National Rice Month.

Recipe

(From Natalie’s Maman)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups basmati rice
  • 4 ¾ cups water, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons butter (may substitute for ghee or oil), divided use
  • 2 carrots, julienned (or about 1 cup)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 ounces pistachio nuts (approximately 1/3 cup), coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon chai (tea) masala (may substitute for garam masala)

Directions

Bring 4 cups water to a boil over the stovetop. Add the rice and cook for about 5 minutes until expanded. Drain the rice in a colander. Set aside.

In a large pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Stir fry the carrots until softened (about 5 minutes). Stir in the raisins and cook until plump (about 3 minutes). Stir in the pistachios and cook for another 2 minutes.

In an oven safe dish, layer some of the rice on the bottom. Then layer the carrot-raisin-pistachio mixture, along with the drippings, on top. Add the rest of the rice and stir. Set aside. In the same pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter with ¾ cup water. Bring to a boil.

Add salt and saffron. Stir in the curry powder and masala.

Pour the curry-masala sauce over the rice. Mix until the colors blend. Cover and bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for half an hour, making sure the rice is cooked through and softened. Remove from the oven and stir again. Serve hot.

Notes

 

Taiwanese 3-Cup Chicken

(San Bei Ji 三杯)

September: National Chicken Month

The tables have turned—literally—when Islander, a volunteer tutor at the local literacy center, became the student. YaJu Y. from Taiwan had completed all her lessons in English as a Second Language from Islander and wanted to give back some knowledge to her before she returned to her country. Knowing that Islander likes to cook cultural foods, YaJu wanted to share some easy recipes from her country.

San bei ji, or three-cup chicken, is a simply satisfying recipe from Taiwan. The sauce is traditionally made with a cup each of sesame oil, rice wine and soy sauce (but YaJu and many other cooks have adjusted the proportions to their tastes, mainly reducing the oil). This chicken dish is flavored with Asian mainstays of garlic and ginger and is similar to Japanese shoyu chicken and Filipino chicken adobo recipes. But the addition of Thai basil at the end of the cooking cycle gives this three-cup chicken an A+ taste.

Learn how to make this chicken dish, san bei ji, for a terrific and tasty Taiwanese meal during National Chicken Month.

Recipe

(From YaJu Y.)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken wings
  • ¼ cup sesame oil, divided use
  • 15+ cloves garlic
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into “coins”
  • 3-4 stalks green onion, sliced into 1 inch pieces (green part only)
  • 2-3 dried red chili peppers
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup rice wine
  • 1 bunch Thai basil leaves

Directions

In a large pot, place the chicken wings. Fill with enough water to cover. Parboil for about 15 minutes to remove the scum from the meat. Drain the water and pat dry the chicken with paper towels. In a large wok, heat 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil and fry the chicken until browned. Remove to a plate and blot out excess oil with paper towels.

In the same wok, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and sauté the garlic and ginger “coins” with the green onion and chili peppers for about a minute or two until fragrant. Remove to a plate and keep warm. Return the chicken wings to the wok. Stir in brown sugar and rice wine.

Mix in the soy sauce. Add the garlic, ginger, onion and chili peppers back in the wok. Lower the heat and cover the wok. Add Simmer the chicken for about 10 more minutes or until cooked through. Add the Thai basil leaves and toss with the sauce and chicken. Turn off the heat. Serve hot over steamed white rice.

Notes

  • Lower sodium soy sauce may be used to substitute for regular soy sauce in this recipe.
  • Instead of chicken wings, other chicken pieces may be used. Chop them into smaller sizes to cook more quickly.
  • YaJu taught Islander other simple Taiwanese and Chinese recipes. They will be posted on this blog in due time.
  • Search our blog for more chicken recipes.

Banana Peanut Butter Brownies

August 27: National Banana Lovers Day

During quarantine, online searches for “banana bread recipes” have spiked (which is way better than the number of coronavirus cases spiking). It seems that homebound people did not want to be wasteful of their limited groceries, had more time to spend in their kitchens and wanted to eat comfort food during the uncertainties in life. Having “been there, baked that” banana bread several times, we wanted to make something else with our blackening bananas.

Since we had peanut butter and cocoa powder in our pantry already, banana peanut butter brownies recipe was an easy choice to bake up besides banana bread. So if there are overripe bananas, bake banana peanut butter brownies while homebound and on National Banana Lovers Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Tasty)

Ingredients

  • 2 overripe bananas
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar (we used a little less)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup peanut butter

Directions

In a mixing bowl, mash the bananas. Add the butter, sugar and vanilla. Cream everything together.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix until the batter is smooth. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with foil/waxed paper/parchment paper, leaving a little overhang on the sides to be able to pull up the brownies after baking. Mist with cooking spray or grease with butter. Pour batter and spread evenly over the prepared pan.

Scoop out the peanut butter in random places on top. Use a butter knife to swirl the peanut butter. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and wait about 5-10 minutes before lifting the foil/waxed paper/parchment paper side handles and transferring to a wire rack. Cut into squares when completely cool. Yield: 16 brownies (or 9 large brownies).

Notes

  • This is a versatile recipe. Add half a cup of walnuts, chocolate chips or peanut butter chips to the batter before baking.
  • This is an eggless recipe so the brownies bake up more cake-like than packed and dense. Eggs were a precious find at the grocery stores during quarantine—just like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, yeast and flour (in our area).
  • Search our blog for other banana recipes.