Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Peggi's Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is a beautiful, creamy, spicy, comforting dish, don't you think? It's honestly not that complicated to make! This is my own recipe, tweaked and perfected over the years. It's actually more of a combo of butter chicken and chicken tikka masala, so don't be surprised if it tastes different than what you've tried before. I hope you enjoy it!

First, you need to marinate your chicken. It needs at least 2 hours to absorb the flavors, but I shoot for 5-6. Overnight is great too!

MARINADE:

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced lengthwise into 3 long strips
1 cup Plain Greek yogurt
2 heaping tbsp Garam Masala
1 tbsp Turmeric
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 inch of fresh ginger root, grated

(Here's the thing - I don't really measure, so I'm giving you estimates. I also use Gourmet Garden garlic and ginger as it's no muss-no fuss)

In a large plastic or glass dish, stir together yogurt, garam masala, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. The mixture should be well-flecked with the spices, so add more if you think you need to. add the chicken, pressing it well into the mixture so each piece is covered. Let set in fridge for desired time. 

Once you've marinated the chicken, there are a couple of ways to cook it. Ideally, grilling is best. I just take the chicken out, wipe the excess marinade off with my fingers (yes, it's messy, but it's thick so hands work best), and lay the meat on the grill. You can also heat 1/4 cup of butter in a large pan and brown the chicken (my usual method since we don't have a grill). I warm the butter over medium heat and allow it to clarify, thus making ghee (usually called for in Indian cooking). Use the same wiping method and brown each side. A little char is ideal! The turmeric will turn the meat yellow, so don't let that turn you off. Once cooked through, put the meat on a plate to cool. 

Time for the lovely sauce!

SAUCE:

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
Large sweet onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 inch of fresh ginger root, grated
1-2 jalapeño peppers, minced*
2-3 heaping tbsp Garam Masala
1 can crushed tomatoes
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a deep pan (I use a dutch oven), melt butter over medium heat and allow to clarify. Add onion and jalapeño, stirring constantly. After a couple of minutes, add garlic and ginger, continue to stir until onion is translucent. We're not browning the onion, we're just sweating it! Add Garam Masala, stir for a minute or two until fragrant (this step is golden - it really brings up the flavor in the spice!). Pour in tomatoes, stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium low and cover so the tomatoes don't splatter everywhere. Chop up cooled chicken, add to pot. Stir to combine and simmer 5 minutes. Now is a good time to taste and add more spice, salt and pepper. Don't overdo the Garam Masala! It can be overwhelming. Finally, add the heavy cream. The color should be a lovely, creamy orange, so adjust the cream accordingly. Also, taste, taste, taste! You'll likely need to adjust the spices to your liking. 

That's it! I serve mine over steamed jasmine rice, but traditionally it's served over steamed basmati rice with peas. It's good with quinoa, brown rice, or even over fresh spinach! It tastes best the second day, in my opinion. 



*a note about heat - I'm kind of a wimp, so I use 1 jalapeño with 1/2 the seeds and membrane removed. Adjust for your own taste, but keep in mind that the heavy cream will temper the spice quite a bit. I also use red pepper flakes in a pinch!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Something a bit piquant for your reading pleasure

I knew the first time I saw him that I wanted him. It was a regular night in Seattle - chilly, slightly windy with the smell of rain in the air. I was indulging my frequent habit - a cocktail at the best Bourbon bar in the city. The bartender makes a mean Manhattan, and he's nice to look at besides. Not really my type, but what girl can't resist fantasizing about the hot bartender? 
I walk in, bringing a gust of wind and the attention of every male in the place. I could hardly blame them - I had just come from dinner with my agent, and I'm dressed to the nines. As I took off my ruby red wool coat, I revealed a beautiful fitted vintage black velvet dress, cut just low enough in the front to be sexy yet discreet and stopping just a few inches above my knees. The back of the dress cuts down to my lower back, framing the beautiful winged heart tattoo in the middle. A slit rises from my knees just high enough to show a peek of the lacy red top of the black Cuban-heel stockings encasing my long legs. When I walk, the fabric shows a hint of ruby silk lining inside the dress. I feel their eyes at my back, sliding down the black seam if my stockings to the 4-inch black stilettos encasing my feet. The brand's signature red sole completes the red and black mix, as does the perfectly matched red lipstick on my generous lips. My brown eyes are framed by a subtle cat-eye liner, long inky black lashes, and lids naked to my delicately arched eyebrows. My sleek chocolate cherry colored hair is swept back in a subtle French twist, baring my long and flawless neck. The only decoration I wear are subtle diamond earrings and a chain with a single diamond.
I walk through the slightly crowded room, my head high and shoulders back, knowing it will add a swell to my already generous breasts and a twitch in my hips. I can feel the murderous looks of the few women in the bar, but I shrug it off. They are nothing to me. I slide into the chair facing the bar at my usual table in the center of the room, crossing my feet at the ankle, a prim gesture that none the less emphasizes their length. More glares. "Go ahead, be jealous" I think to myself, a wry smile twisting my lips. I have to look down so they won't see the humor in my eyes. No need for a jealous mob when I just want a quiet drink.
The bartender brings over my perfectly made Manhattan that he automatically makes when I come in the door. He knows me well enough to know that I love my bourbon peppery yet honeyed, my vermouth sweet, and two cherries. Even the glass is my favorite - extra long-stemmed and elegant. I accept the drink and his flowery kiss on my hand with a smile and we wink at each other. Giving the patrons a good show is fun for us. It's a shame he's not my type....he looks like he would be tons of fun to play with.
I take a few moments to sip my drink and survey the people casually. Many men are sending inviting looks my way, and I dismiss them all as I survey their features. I can spot a player easily, and there are many present. A few married men too, with their now-bare ring fingers showing the tell-tale signs of bondage. Any girl worth her salt knows the signs - indentations, missing tan lines, etc. Married men are a yawn - so eager, in a hurry for the release their wives can't (or won't) give them, and usually not worth the fuss. I'm nearly ready to pass off the room and engross myself in my drink when my eyes catch his. He's almost hidden in a group of white collar men - I only see him because he sits about a foot taller than the others. His look is curious, interested but not quite inviting. I sip my drink, my eyes smoldering at him over the rim. Neither of us have looked away, and some of the others in the bar are beginning to notice. Feeling uncharacteristically shy, I drop my gaze.
Once the others go back to their drinks, I peer at him from beneath my lashes, studying his features. I guess his age to be about early-to-mid 30's, though it's hard to tell from so far away. He is the very model of a Nordic man - chiseled jaw, glacial pale eyes, and golden blonde hair. He's definitely not my usual type, but I'm so drawn to him that I can already feel heat between my thighs. I want him more than I've ever wanted any man.
I brood over my drink, barely noticing the bartender approaching with a fresh drink in hand. He's well-trained in his trade - he knows I have exactly two drinks and I tip heavily for his courtesy. As he sets my drink down, he says gently "You have an admirer, gorgeous. He sent this drink with his compliments to your remarkable beauty."
I smile at him, my flirtatious side taking over. "Those are your words, you cad." I say, laughing at his amused expression.
"Perhaps, but his words were similar." He holds his hands out in a "what do you expect" gesture, grinning at me.
I sober my face, sure that my blonde suitor is watching and tell the bartender "Convey my thanks to the gentleman, but let him know I am here for a quiet drink....alone."
He bows, and conveys my message to Mr. Blonde. I see his brows pull together in a frown, and he shoots me a curious look. I raise the fresh drink slightly in thanks, then return my attention to the table. I finish my drink in a hurry, afraid I will break ranks and find myself in Mr. Blonde's lap before I know what I'm doing. I want to savor him, and I know he's already found out from the bartender that I'm a regular here. Knowing my empty glass means I am leaving, the bartender hurries over and we settle the bill, an absurdly big tip in his pocket. "I'll be here tomorrow," I tell him. "Make sure he knows, and get as much info as you can. Discreetly."
I stand, finding my jacket already open and sliding up my arms. "Thanks," I purr to the bartender, and he once again kisses my hand. Taking my oversized shades from my bag, I begin the slow walk to the door. Just as I'm opening it, I slide the glasses on my face, turning to give Mr. Blonde a last look. Satisfied that he is still looking, I walk to the curb and into my waiting car. I'm glad I'm driving my Tesla rather than my other toys; I don't want to scare him off. I see his face through the window of the bar as I pull away. "Good." I think, smiling in the mirror.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Racing the Moon




It was a blistering hot day that day, the kind that only air conditioning can keep you from sweltering. As night fell, the heat released from the ground and a gentle breeze cooled the valley. A huge, full moon hung low in the sky, daring me to follow it. The siren call of a night drive along my river was too tempting to ignore.


I drive through town, my hair blowing in the open windows and my favorite music blasting on the stereo. The breeze feels delicious on my bare arms - still warm from the day's brutal scorching, but as it streams through the car it feels like a cool caress. 


Soon, I'm on the back road that will lead to my river. The moon is somehow even larger, and I race against it to see if I can catch it. "Alone" by QED shuffles onto my stereo, a fitting song for this race. Even though deer frequently cross the road, I find myself pushing the speed to 65 the 70 as the wind whips my hair into a frenzy. I sing along and laugh at the freedom and adrenaline coursing through my body. The canyon that marks the appearance of my river to the left looms ahead, and my heart starts racing. Then she appears, a glossy ribbon sliding in the moonlight far below. Having beaten me there, the moon hides behind a mountain as I drop out of canyon; the mossy, green smell that is my lady river's perfume fills the car. The bridge that puts the river on my right looms ahead; my favorite sight. A short ways away from the big campsite that hugs the banks of my river, I smell the incense of campfires. Here, the smell isn't annoying; it smells like pure cedar and spice. I pass happy families around their fires, my music raising a few heads. It's time to turn it down as the song of my lady river is nearing.


I enter a densely forested part of the road the smells even deeper of moss and loamy earth. I inhale deeply; the smell is as intoxicating as any perfume I've smelled. I can hear the river roaring gently over the rocks in her path, creating the rapids that draw hoards of adventurers during the summer.


Too soon, the road rises into another canyon and I drive with urgency to get my river back. Navigating the dangerous curves and high banks that hug my path is as familiar as sliding into my favorite pair of jeans. Flattening out, I can smell the river again, but it's hidden from sight deep in the river scrub trees. Relaxing, I know the excitingly dangerous part of my drive is over and I slow my pace. Brushing my wind-swept hair from my face, I lay my left arm on the open windowsill, the now-cooler air raising goosebumps on my flesh. There are high mountains on both sides, with only the road and the river between them.


My lady river slides closer to the road and back into view as I round a sharp corner; the moonlight rippling on her surface looks like glossy black ribbons of silk. With every turn of the wheel, my spirit feels lighter until it seems I have no cares in the world.


A few minutes later, I pass through Galice and climb back up into canyon walls again. This time I'm climbing impossibly high, on a single-lane chip seal road that had been carved out of the cliff walls years ago. I hear each hidden waterfall I've visited splashing as I pass them, smiling to know the summer heat hadn't dried them out just yet.


A few more narrow twists and turns and the moon peeks out, lighting up the high bridge that marks my turn-around point; at least for tonight. Barely slowing after I cross the bridge, I guide my way down a ridiculously steep path barely the width of the car that leads to the banks of my river. It's fitting that it is also the boat ramp that marks beginnings and endings - ending a long day of rafting the upper river for pleasure seekers; beginning the journey for hard-core rafters on their multi-day trips through the wilder water ahead of them. I get out and find my favorite rock, which has finally risen from the water as the winter run-off has diminished. This rock is my old friend; I sat here as a wild river rat when I was a child, but most recently as a place to give my stress and anxiety to the river and let it float away.


Sliding my sandals from my feet, I dip my toes in the water, feeling the minnows nibbling them gently. I smile at the tickle, remembering hours of childhood bliss chasing the tiny fish through the shallows. I stay long enough to see several large fish jump for their dinner, to fill my senses with the heady smell of my river, and to bathe in the moonlight. Once my mind is finally empty of all the noise of the day and I'm tired of waving the gnats away, I'm ready to go.


Begrudgingly, I walk slowly back to the car, pausing to give my river one last glance. She's so ancient, so serene. I envy the fact that nothing has forced her from her path - flood, drought, fires, mining....she's survived them all and still finds her way to the ocean triumphantly.


The drive back home is just never the same. Usually, I would continue on and spend an hour gazing at the stars in my secret spot, but a full moon makes for poor stargazing.


My favorite part of going home is passing the incense-like campfires at the campsite. It reminds me of days gone by of being free, being young. I still glimpse that wild, dirt-covered child when I'm here....it's as if the happy parts of my childhood are being lovingly held by my lady river, just waiting for me to come back and play.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ink - an addiction

Everyone who knows me personally knows how "normal" I look - I dress nicely, have a love of beautiful purses, wear expensive makeup, and take pride in keeping my hair stylish.

Beneath the nice dress and stylish hair lurks a secret.  I have a love of ink.  My first tattoo, done in 2002, is a tribal heart I designed for my mom.  I decided on a tribal because of our native heritage; had I done better research I might have come up with a better design.  It was poorly done because I didn't know how to choose an artist; in fact, a few months after he did my tattoo his meth lab was raided and he was shut down.  I've always wanted it fixed, but the price to do so (about $400 was my latest quote) has kept me from doing so.

My second came not long after moving to Alaska.  Well, if you count them individually, my 2nd-11th.  


As I see this as a form of art, I plan my tattoos around a theme.  Obviously, my theme is hearts and the message each one holds.  In this case, my heart is soaring free.  I've found the love of my life, moved away from an abusive situation, and found peace.  I would like to add tiny hearts until the number reaches 20, my lucky number.  The foot hurts like hell to tattoo though, so it might be a while :).

My most recent addition is a unique heart on the back of my neck.  It is made from arrows - one forming the bow pointing up, one forming the bow pointing down.  

This was taken right after it was done, so there is still swelling and ink smeared around it

This I chose especially for someone very close to my heart.  We met in early 2000, and clicked in a way only soul sisters can.  We share a love of many things, and have experienced similar heartbreaking losses.  The arrows represent the distance between us - The teal is me in Alaska, the fuschia is my Kristen in Florida.  Although we are a nation apart, our souls will always be combined :).  Love you, my rebel rebel!

I have plans for a few more - I'd like to cover the ugly scars from my shoulder surgery with two heart-shaped "bandaids;" I have plans for a steampunk heart just for Faith....the list goes on.  The importance for me is that they stay fairly hidden.....so people are really surprised when they see them :)