Chicken Peanut Soup (Ghanian Nkate Nkwan, Nkatenkwan, Nkate Nkwanin)

>> Sunday, August 13, 2017


Chicken Peanut Soup (Ghanian Nkate Nkwan, Nkatenkwan, Nkate Nkwanin)


This chicken stew in peanut sauce sounds like something you might find in a Thai restaurant, where they tend to use peanuts in main dishes. In fact, this stew was taught to my family by our adopted sisters from Ghana. It's a traditional dish there and is super-easy to make, and contains no unusual ingredients.

My parents are amazing humanitarians who have worked for social justice and world peace for decades. Early on, they realized they didn't know much about the often troubled African continent, so they set themselves on a self-study program to learn all they could about the countries of Africa. They believe that helping others starts with education and respect. Today, they know more about the social and political facts in Africa than some citizens of those countries.


About five years ago, Mom and Dad decided they wanted to be a support system for African students studying at the university at Bowling Green, Ohio. They realized how difficult it is for young adults to live nearly halfway across the world from their families and they wanted to be a second family.

That is how Elizabeth and Josephine Effah came into our lives. They are students from Ghana who were studying public health and policy. They are smart, kind, gorgeous, funny, and hard-working young ladies who have become part of our family. They've celebrated holidays and family reunions with us, and Mom and Dad have attended their graduations and other special events. We are truly blessed to have widened our family with new sisters. You can't have too many sisters, am I right?


Elizabeth, Josephine, and her son Myron

Elizabeth sent me this recipe recently. It is a traditional Ghanaian recipe that can vary widely, though the core ingredients of peanuts, chicken, tomatoes, peppers, and onions remains the same. It is spicy-hot and creamy all at the same time.

While researching the recipe, Joe and I learned that the name varies (Nkate Nkwan, Nkatenkwan, Nkate Nkwanin, and other variations). Peanuts are sometimes called "groundnuts" in Ghana. A different tuber called bambara was used centuries ago, but peanuts imported from South America by the Portuguese began to replace those groundnuts.

If you were in Africa, this stew might be served to you with the chicken bones, which you might like to gnaw for those tasty little bits that cling to the bones. You might also get some dumplings or a mound of a mashed potato-like substance; these are called fufu, made of pounded yams, cassava roots, or green plantains. Fufu is common in many central and west African countries. Through colonial slave trade and emigration, it has migrated over to the Caribbean and Central American countries as mofongo and other specialties. In west Africa, this peanut stew might also be served over rice, or with floating balls of sticky rice.


Effah Chicken Peanut Soup

Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped finely
1 green pepper (or orange or red) chopped finely
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
6 cups of water
16 oz. of natural chunky peanut butter (no sugar)
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce

Directions

Mix peanut butter with 4 cups of water and blend with whisk. Begin cooking on low heat, stirring often.  Meanwhile, in a fry pan, mix chicken, onions, and peppers. Cook until chicken is cooked through.  Add to peanut mixture with seasonings and some salt. Add tomato sauce and two more cups of water. Cook with frequent stirring for an hour on low heat. Do not cover. Some like it over rice. It is good without chicken, too.

Serves 4-6.

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Sake-Marinated Salmon

>> Friday, August 4, 2017


Sake-Marinated Salmon


Our local grocery store just had a $1.99 a pound sale on salmon fillets, which is about as cheap as I'd ever seen. These fillets were a little thin, but still tender, and they were begging for a delicate marinade instead of the big bold flavors that usually go well with salmon.

I remembered the bottle of sake stored in our bar since - oh, I don't know when - and made a nutty marinade with it. Wasabi or white horseradish gives the fish a little kick, too. The final ingredient is lovage, from a friend's garden. This herb is popular in French and German cooking and boasts a flowery celery flavor. If a friend doesn't have any, snip off the leaves from a stalk of celery and use those instead.

This marinade will work with any fish, but thin fillets are probably best.

Ingredients

4 4-6 oz salmon fillets
1 cup dry sake
1 tsp wasabi paste or horseradish
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp lovage, or celery leaves
1/4 cup chives, snipped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Wash the salmon fillets and pat them dry. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Place the fish in a platter and pour the marinade over them. Turn them over until the marinade is on all sides. Allow to absorb the flavors for at least 1 hour before grilling or roasting.

Top with toasted sesame seeds before serving, if desired.

Serves 4-6.

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Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise

>> Friday, July 21, 2017


Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise


This main-dish potato salad is a delightfully different take on the ordinary summer staple. It combines the classic French nicoise salad with a creamy pesto-based dressing. Perfect for our memories of Nice, which also remind Joe of Italy.





The first time Joe was in Nice, he was there on business for a French pharmaceutical company. He didn't get to enjoy much of the seaside life until his day off. Then he went on a countryside run that skirted the Mediterranean nearly to San Remo over the Italian border, before heading back for lunch. He ordered a classic salade Niçoise, which is usually a cold composed salad of potatoes, olives, tomatoes, sardines, tuna, and green beans.

Our version is a a cool summer salad that looks pretty fancy on a platter and gives you something new to do with potato salad. I've already made it a couple of times this summer - and ate the leftovers yesterday at lunch.

Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise


Ingredients

For the pesto

3 tbsp basil leaves
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil

For the salad

2 eggs
6 medium potatoes, scrubbed
2 cups green beans, rinsed and cut in half
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 cup white onion, finely sliced
1 6-oz can tuna packed in water, drained
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
1 tbsp anchovy paste
2 tsp salt
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 head of romaine lettuce, separated into leaves

Directions

Blend together all pesto ingredients until smooth. Stir together with the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and anchovy paste, and chill the sauce.

Boil the eggs and potatoes until the potatoes are just tender; drain and rinse with cold water. Chill, then cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks and the eggs into wedges. Place the green beans in boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes, then immerse them in cold water to stop the cooking. 

In a large bowl, stir together the potatoes, green beans, celery, onion, tuna, olives, and sauce. Place the lettuce leaves on individual plates or a large platter. Mound the salad on the lettuce, then arrange the egg and tomato wedges around the salad. 

Serves 4-6.

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The Dining Room at Kendall College

>> Friday, June 30, 2017


Chicken Piccata at Kendall College

We dined here for the first time for Restaurant Week and were so glad we did! Interestingly, we had dined at Naha the night before and Kendal blew them away in terms of flavor pairings and portion size.

We started with Mushroom Risotto / Parmesan Tuile / Huile d'Persil and the Wok Seared Scallop / Pumpkin Ravioli / Dashi Broth / Bonito / Togarashi Sichimi. They were both wonderful, but my scallop in dashi broth was the real standout - perfectly cooked, lovely broth, and the pumpkin ravioli was the best counterpoint. It was served with a tangy olive bread and sage-infused butter. An amuse-bouche of two veggie sushi bite kept us eager for more.

My Roast Chicken Piccata / Chives / Chives / Whipped Ricotta Sesame Grits / Capers / Yellow Squash Provençal / Chicken Jus entree was amazing. Chicken Piccata sounds a little boring but this portion of breast and wing was tender, juicy, and alive with flavor. The grits were nice and creamy, but the yellow squash was a real surprise. It was in a sort of tomatoey agro-dolce sauce that I can't wait to recreate.

My husband has the Grilled Strip Loin / Chimmichurri / Curried Jasmine Rice / Pickled Ginger Salad / Romesco Sauce which was like a rave party of flavor! So much going on in the dish, but the tastes cooperated in making the dish exceptional.

Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Mousse at Kendall College




For dessert, I was going to have Bingsu but the Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Mousse / Dark Chocolate Mousse / Hazelnut Crunch / Orange Anglaise / Hazelnut Whipped Cream / Chocolate Cake won out. It was lovely as well as delicious. Joe had a peanut butter/bacon cheesecake with bananas and it was amazing.

I can't believe we waited so long to visit this place. The dining room is comfortable and tranquil, with enormous windows showcasing the skyline to the south, and the windows into the kitchen let us enjoy watching the students hard at work. Service was impeccable and prompt. Around the dining room and some adjoining halls are displays of antique kitchen equipment which you really shouldn't miss seeing. On top of all that - free plentiful parking! We're big fans.

Kendall College is at 900 N North Branch St., Chicago, IL 60642.

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Edamame and Grilled Corn Salad

>> Sunday, June 18, 2017


Edamame and Grilled Corn Salad


This quick salad is fresh and full of healthy ingredients. It's perfect with Veracruz-style Tilapia grilled in foil packets - one of our favorite ways to cook fish.

We like to use the edamame without pods in the frozen vegetable section of the grocery store. I made the vinaigrette with a Mexican lime-infused olive oil that my sister gave me for Christmas. Beth and my mom visited the Queen Creek Olive Mill in Phoenix, AZ in December, and also brought me feta-stuffed green olives. I think I'm going to raid the olive jar when I'm done with this post!

If you don't have any Mexican lime-infused olive oil handy, try 1 tbsp of lime juice and plain olive oil - or mix in whatever flavor you do have. This salad recipe is very flexible.


Ingredients

3 ears corn
12 oz. frozen edamame
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup red bell pepper

For the Vinaigrette

1/4 cup lime olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp salt


Directions

Heat the grill to medium. Shuck the corn and brush with a little oil. Grill on all sides, turning frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the corn is barely cooked and lightly browned. Allow to cool, then cut the kernels from the cob.

Steam the edamame in the microwave or on the stove until tender, about 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water to chill, then let it drain thoroughly. Stir in the corn, pepper, and onion. Shake together the vinagrette ingredients and pour over the salad. Let it chill for at least an hour before serving so that the flavors blend together well.

Serves 4-6.

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