Quick Cooking Tips: Chicken and Grains

As I was making dinner last night, and it was not going the way I wanted it to, I drew a few conclusions for myself that I decided to share with you:
1) Always trust your gut (and the recipe timing) when cooking chicken. If the recipe says 45-60 minutes, I would lean toward the 60 minute mark to make sure the chicken cooks all the way. There is nothing more unappetizing than a bloody chicken..yuck. Besides, almost alway by looking at the chicken you can tell if it is ready or not. However there have been a few times where I was being inpatient and have taken the chicken out of the oven earlier than needed, simply because it “looked” cooked. A chicken needs at least one hour to cook (depending on the size, of course). But this is true for whether you are cooking a whole chicken, or parts. Also remember that the breast cooks faster than the rest of the chicken, so when testing the done-ness (not a word, I am sure) of the chicken with a thermometer, test the thighs preferably.
2) When cooking grains (rice, couscous, barley etc), always start with less water than more. For example, I boiled way too much water for the couscous so it ended up being a couscous soup, so to speak. Start with less water, and then you can add more if need be. Usually, for rice it’s a 2:1 ratio (2 cups of water 1 cup of rice). Still learning to navigate this though, so stay tuned!

Turkish Baklava

I made something deliciously evil last night. Evil – because of its high sugar content. Delicious – because of its high sugar content. Please disregard my uneven cutting technique. This, my friends, is Baklava. The Turkish/Greek kind I suppose. Azeri Baklava (Paxlava) is way harder to make, and requires hours of dough rolling. This Turkish treasure is easier to make, hence takes a fraction of the time and tastes just as good. The recipe can be found here: http://ozlemsturkishtable.com/2010/06/baklava-with-pistachios-and-walnuts-fistikli-ve-cevizli-baklava/#comment-52321

Baklava

Baklava

Chilled Yogurt Soup: Dogramach or Ovdukh

I have a love/hate relationship with herbs. I dislike them in soups and stews. I love them fresh. I know they add tons of flavor to food and are a staple in Azeri kitchen, but I shy away from them. The dislike for cooked herbs started when I was a child, and continued into adulthood for me. I have however started warming up to it slowly…I actually like sebzi gourma (it’s a type of plov where meat is cooked with tons of herbs) and dovga (a cooked yogurt and herb soup).

This brings me to yesterday: the weather in my part of the state has been horrendous. It’s been extremely humid, rainy and wet. My hair does not appreciate this weather. Nor does my body. Needless to say, I did not feel like standing in front of the stove and cooking yesterday, so I opted out for something quick and cold. I remembered I had a tub of yogurt I bought from the Russian store  that was soon to be expired. I thought of making dovga, but that again would require me to actually stand and mix for good 20 minutes on the hot stove. Then I remembered: DOGRAMACH! It’s pretty much the same thing as Dovga, with a few exceptions, one major one being that it requires NO COOKING, just some chopping.

This dish is very refreshing, it has aromatic herbs, chilled yogurt and cucumbers. You can’t get any more summery than this dish. It’s a Gazpacho of Azerbaijan cuisine 😀 The only negative about this dish is that herbs are harder to chop, especially when wet. Well, for me anyhow. I struggled with it yesterday, herbs sticking and spreading everywhere, but eventually managed to get them where they needed to go! Oh and an extra added bonus, my kitchen smelled divine!

NOTE: Buy your yogurt at a Russian/Turkish or Persian stores. We buy ours from both, and I am not sure where it is made, but it comes from a Turkish company in NJ. Your best bet for better tasting yogurt is to buy them from an ethnic store. 

Mint

Mint

 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Basil

Basil

Dill goes in

Dill goes in

Chilled Yogurt Soup: Dogramach or Ovdukh

4 cups plain yogurt

2 cups water

2 cucumbers, medium sized

1 bunch dill

1 bunch scallions

a handful of basil (to taste)

a handful of mint (to taste)

salt

pepper

dried cumin

2 garlic cloves

 

Pour yogurt and water into a pan, mix well until combined. If you want your soup thicker= add less water, thinned out = add more. Wash all the herbs and set aside. Start chopping. It really does not matter in what order you go, it all goes into the same pan anyways, but it’s easier to get the cucumber out of the way.Peel and chop up cucumbers, add to the yogurt mixture. Chop up the scallions. Next chop up mint and basil. Last but not least chop up the dill. Crush two garlic cloves and add them to the soup. Add salt, pepper, cumin (to taste), mix well. Set in the refrigerator if not eating right away. The soup will be chilled because the yogurt will be cold. Serve with bread, rye bread is your best bet!

Dogramach

Dogramach

NOTE: You can also add radish, or any other herbs you like. Traditionally boiled eggs go into this as well, if you prefer, you can hard boil, chill, chop and add them to the soup. This can also be made with ground or cubed beef. I would suggest cooking the meat first (sauteing or frying) and then adding it to the soup.