January 13, 2016 Smoky Indonesian Style Chicken Curry

DSC_5680aSmoky Indonesian style chicken curry gets it’s intense heat from pasilla chilies, smoked paprika and sambal oelek balanced with the fragrant warm spices of ginger, coriander and cumin. This is another recipe from Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough’s article, Slow Cooker Secrets in Fine Cooking magazine

The dark meat of chicken thighs is a natural for the long simmer in the slow cooker. In this recipe, no browning is required,  the skin is removed before cooking and the thighs are coated with a rich complex chile paste.

Pasillas are the chile of choice for this recipe. A variety we have grown for many years, pasilla roughly translates “little raisin” from the Spanish, referring to the way the dark green fruit turns a reddish brown and slightly wrinkled when mature.  I especially like it for it’s mild heat and versatility for use in Mexican and Asian cuisine.Pasilla chiles can be used in chili sauces and pastes as well as moles. They are wonderful fresh on the grill in summer along with a steak.  Pasillas are rich, earthy and mildly spicy with just a hint of sweetness.

We had a bumper crop of peppers this year and to preserve the harvest, I dry some of them. Start with whole, unblemished peppers that have been washed and dried. Place the peppers on a wire mesh rack over a large baking sheet with room between each pepper for air to circulate. I used the lowest convection setting (140°F) in my oven. Drying time varies and I check them every now and then to see how they are progressing. Smaller peppers will dry quicker, the larger ones could take a day or more.  It is important that the peppers are completely dry before storing. Partially dry peppers will turn moldy and ruin the whole container, I know from prior experience.

To use dried chilies, reconstitute by placing them in a bowl and covering them with boiling water. Check at about twenty minutes to see if they are soft. To make the chili paste, the reconstituted pasillas are combined with shallot, lemongrass, tomato paste, spices, brown sugar and sambal oelek. I am fortunate to have a large supply of lemongrass at my disposal. Our lemongrass plant grows large and bushy in the garden every summer. Joe harvests a large portion of the stalks that I freeze for recipes like this. The significantly cut back plant is brought indoors for the winter where it’s only predator is Cody, our Golden Retriever who enjoys nibbling on the leaves. Lemongrass has a mild citrus flavor with a floral aroma. Sambal oelek is a ground paste made only of chili peppers and salt.  It is less acidic than sriracha and is chunkier and thicker in texture.  It is readily available in the Asian section of most supermarkets.

The chili ingredients are combined in the blender and chicken broth is added to make a thick sauce. I needed more broth than the original recipe called for, use as much broth as you need to make the sauce smooth, not chunky. Layer the potato pieces at the bottom of the slow cooker. Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper. I found it easier to spread the chili paste on the chicken after it was in the slow cooker. Put the lid on and cook until the chicken and potatoes are tender, 2 to 3 hours on high, 6 hours on low. Turn the slow cooker on high (if you were cooking on low) and sprinkle the green beans evenly over the chicken and cook until crisp tender, 30 minutes. Add peas and cook until heated through, 10 minutes. They suggest serving it with rice, but one starch (potatoes) is sufficient for me.

Dried pasilla bajio chilies from the garden.
Dried pasilla bajio chilies from the garden.


Smoky Indonesian Style Chicken Curry

Serves four


  • 5 dried pasilla or New Mexico chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 small shallot, quartered
  • 2 Tbs. thinly sliced lemongrass
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs. sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbs. minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. sambal oelek
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp. dried coriander
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 Tbs. lower-salt chicken broth
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs (about 3-1/4 lb.), skin removed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/4 lb. waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3-1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup thawed frozen peas
Ingredients for the chili paste.
Ingredients for the chili paste.
The ingredients are blended together.
Chicken thighs are coated with the chili paste before cooking.
Chicken thighs are coated with the chili paste before cooking.


  1. Put the chiles in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water; set aside to soften for 20 minutes. Drain, then transfer the chiles to a blender.
  2. Add the shallot, lemongrass, tomato paste, smoked paprika, ginger, brown sugar, sambal oelek, cumin, coriander, and 2 tsp. salt. Blend the mixture until smooth, drizzling the broth through the hole in the lid and stopping occasionally to scrape down the inside of the jar.
  3. Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper and spread evenly with the chile mixture. Layer the potatoes in the bottom of a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker and arrange the chicken in an even layer on top. Cover and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender and the chicken is tender but not falling off the bone, 2 to 3 hours on high and 6 hours on low. (The curry can stay on the keep-warm setting for up to 3 hours.)
  4. About 45 minutes before serving, turn the slow cooker to high (if it was on low or keep-warm), sprinkle the green beans evenly over the top, cover, and cook until crisp-tender, about 30 minutes. Add the peas and cook until heated through, about 10 minutes. Stir to combine, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.





September 14, 2015 Mixed Beans with Peanuts, Ginger and Lime

DSC_4200aThis is another bean salad from Jerusalem born, London based chef and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi, this time with a decidedly Asian twist. An assortment of fresh green and yellow beans are tossed in a dressing that includes two ingredients that would have seemed exotic and difficult to access ten years ago,  lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Our love for Thai cooking was the reason we started growing them many years ago but with increased demand they have gone mainstream and now are readily available to the home cook.

Lemongrass is a tall tropical grass native to South and Southeastern Asia.  Our lemongrass plant grows happily outdoors from June to late September forming a tall bushy plant, about 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide.  Since it is only hardy in zones 9-10, which translates to south Florida, Joe digs the plant out, cuts it back severely and it winters indoors. There it’s only predator is our Golden Retriever Cody, who likes to nibble on the leaves when he thinks no one is looking.  Lemongrasss has long sharp pale green leaves at the top and a brownish pink bulbous portion at the stem end. It has a mild citrus flavor with a floral aroma. If you don’t grow your own, the best lemongrass (and the cheapest too) is found in Asian markets. To use, cut off the woody tops with a chef’s knife and peel off the first tough layer of the bulb end. Now it is ready to slice into rounds or as in this recipe, grated with a microplane.

Our Kaffir lime trees are also summer visitors to the garden. The leaf of the kaffir lime tree has a sweet citrusy fragrance and is a key ingredient in Thai cooking. Kaffir lime leaves are not to be confused with the leaves from a standard lime tree. The leaf of the kaffir lime looks like a double spade.  It is thick and glossy on top with a matte underside and a tough spine in the middle. When using in recipes they can either be used whole, seasoning a soup or stew or chopped very finely, as in this salad. If you are chopping it up, remove the spine first. Fresh and dried leaves are available, only use fresh leaves in this salad.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Cook each type of bean you are using separately, the thin filet beans will only take about 2 minutes, larger beans take longer. I use a large chopstick to make sure all the beans are submerged in the water and I removed the beans as the batches were done with a Chinese strainer or spider as it is also known. This allows you to remove more beans with one scoop.  Transfer the cooked beans to a bowl filled with ice water. Cool, drain and pat dry so the beans will absorb more of the dressing.

Next, the shallot is cooked until tender and the aromatics, ginger, lemongrass, garlic and coriander, are added. Transfer the shallot mixture to a large bowl that will be large enough to toss the beans. I wasn’t quite sure why you would need to sauté the already roasted peanuts, but they pick up the residual flavor from the shallot mixture and take on a toasty fragrance. Kaffir lime leaves, lime zest and juice, sugar, salt and oil are whisked into the shallot mixture. The kaffir lime leaves must be fresh and must be sliced as thinly as possible in this salad. If you don’t have access to them, don’t let that stop you from making this recipe, just add a little more regular lime peel and juice. The final step is to add the beans, toasted peanuts and cilantro to the large bowl, toss the beans in the dressing and season everything again with salt and pepper. The final dish is garnished with chopped peanuts and more cilantro.


Lemongrass plant does very well in the garden in summer but will be brought in before the first frost.
Lemongrass plant does very well in the garden in summer but will be brought in before the first frost.
Cross section of a lemongrass stalk.
Cross section of a lemongrass stalk.
Kaffir lime tree with double spaded leaves.
Kaffir lime tree with double spaded leaves.


Mixed Beans with Peanuts, Ginger and Lime

from Bon Appetit

Serves six


  • 2lb. assorted snap beans, green, wax, filet, Romano etc.
  • ½t kosher salt plus additional
  • 5T olive oil, divided
  • 1/3c finely chopped shallot
  • 1 1″ piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer layers removed, finely grated on a Microplane
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • ½t ground coriander
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3c roasted salted peanuts
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, very finely chopped
  • 1t finely grated lime zest
  • 3T fresh lime juice
  • ¼t sugar
  • 1/3c packed cilantro leaves with tender stems, plus more for serving


  1. Working in batches by type, cook beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender, 4-5 minutes per batch. Transfer with a strainer to a large bowl of ice water. Cool, drain and pat dry.
  2. Heat 1T oil in a small skillet over medium heat and cook shallot, stirring occasionally under tender, about 3 minutes. Add ginger, lemongrass, garlic and coriander and cook until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer  to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 1T oil in same skillet over medium high. Cook peanuts, tossing often until golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels; let cool, then coarsely chop. Set aside 1T peanut for final presentation.
  4. Whisk kaffir lime leaves, lime zest, lime juice, sugar, ½t salt and remaining 3T oil into shallot mixture. Add beans, remaining peanuts, and 1/3c cilantro and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with more cilantro and reserved peanuts.



July 8, 2014 Borlotti and Green Bean Salad

DSC_8039a-copyOur beans, both pole and bush varieties, are still a few weeks away from being ready to harvest so I couldn’t resist the green beans I spotted at the farmers market. The shelling beans we are growing are months away from being ready to harvest but I still had some left from last season.  I combined the green beans from the farmers market along with our dried borlotti beans for a simple bean salad.

Borlotti beans, labeled by the source we use, Seeds of Italy as Borlotto, are also known as cranberry beans and the very serious moniker, French Horticultural beans. They are an attractive addition to the garden. Their bright magenta colored pods with white streaks give a hint to the creamy white beans with cranberry red spots that wait inside.

Borlotti are a shelling bean which means the outer pod is inedible and must be removed. They can be used fresh, or dried for later storage. They have a wonderful nutty flavor and a creamy texture. Shelling beans need a long time to dry out. I learned that the hard way. The first year we had them, I thought they were sufficiently dry and stored them in canning jars. Much to my dismay, weeks later when I went to use them I discovered they were moldy. I learned my lesson from this and now allow sufficient time and space to achieve a totally dried bean. A dehydrator could speed up this process.

Some recipes call for only a few hour soak before proceeding with a recipe. I always try to soak dried beans overnight for the best results. In this case, one cup of dried beans became two and a half cups of soaked beans. After the soak drain and rinse the beans before proceeding with the recipe. The pretty spots on the beans are gone as soon as you cook them and they turn a pinkish brown color. Nothing can compare to the flavor of fresh cooked beans, they are sweet, creamy and delicious. If you have time restraints and choose to use canned beans, I prefer Goya beans as a substitute in this recipe.  Add chopped basil just before serving for the freshest taste.


Borlotti and Green Bean Salad

Serves six


  • 1 cup dried large  beans, I used Borlotti, well rinsed and soaked overnight
  • Several sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut in half
  • 1 small carrot, cut into several pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 salt-packed anchovies, filleted (or 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets), rinsed, patted dry, and finely chopped
  • 3 T. red-wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. small tomatoes cut into quarters
  • 1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into pieces if large
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil


  1. In a deep, heavy-based pot, cover the beans with 6 to 8 cups cold water. Add the thyme, garlic, onion, carrot, and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, about 90 minutes; let cool in the broth.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the shallot, anchovies, vinegar, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until well combined. Drain the white beans and add them and the tomatoes to the bowl. Toss to coat the vegetables well with the dressing. Let stand at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours.
  3. Cook the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and spread on a paper towels to cool. When ready to serve, add the cooled green beans to the white beans and then the basil, tossing well after each addition. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
A bowl of freshly shelled Borlotti beans.
The beans are almost three times their size after an overnight soaking.
Combine the drained beans with onion, garlic, carrot and a few sprigs of thyme.


December 15, 2013 Green Beans with Parsley Pesto










Thanksgiving evening, the turkeys and the side dishes were out and we were ready to serve dinner buffet style from the kitchen. Then I noticed it, the double steamer basket and a small container next to it. I forgot, also read, “got too busy” to make the green bean dish I had prepped ahead. Not that we would miss it. After slurping down Chesapeake Bay oysters, butternut squash soup with cider cream, homemade breads, a salad of baby greens and spinach from Joe’s greenhouse, we were ready for the main event. Turkeys, roasted, grilled and smoked, roasted vegetables, yam casserole, stuffing, zucchini, no one would starve for certain. The green beans could wait for another day.

We grow both pole and bush style beans. Green beans, yellow or wax beans and purple beans are in abundance courtesy of the garden from July to early September. Green beans are not in season now so I bought the skinny “haricot verts” that would cook quickly in the steamer basket. Always looking for a new twist on the beans, a recipe from Food and Wine magazine would fit the bill. Green beans with parsley lemon pesto sounded like a great way to feature the beautiful flat leafed parsley still thriving in the greenhouse. Like most people, when you say pesto I immediately think basil. This is a recipe for winter months without basil and combines toasted pine nuts with parsley, garlic, lemon and olive oil. The dish comes together fairly easy, the pesto can be made a day ahead and then tossed with the steamed beans.

Pine nuts are the edible seed of a pine cone. Every pine tree produces seeds but less than a third of the varieties produce seeds that are large and flavorful enough to eat. To say pine nuts are expensive would be an understatement. I read that Italian pine nuts have been going for as much as 60 to 120 dollars a pound due to bug infestations and weather conditions. The small container of Italian pine nuts I purchased was weighed by the quarter pound, by the pound I estimated them to cost about thirty eight dollars. Even Chinese pine nuts have gone up in price. If you decide to purchase Italian pine nuts for any dish  just be sure they are out of harm’s way so they don’t become someone’s late night snack. Walnuts or almonds would be a more reasonably priced alternative and just as flavorful. The amount of pesto is enough for four pounds of green beans, I only cooked a pound of beans because we had quite a few side dishes. Leftover pesto could be tossed with pasta or used as a spread on a turkey sandwich.













Green Beans with Parsley Pesto

Serves 6-8 as part of a buffet


  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lb. green beans (I prefer using the thinner haricot verts)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  1. In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, tossing, until golden, about 5 minutes; transfer to a food processor and let cool completely.
  2. Add the parsley, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice to the food processor and pulse until the parsley is very finely chopped. With the machine on, gradually add the olive oil and process until the pesto is nearly smooth. Season with salt and pepper and scrape into a large bowl.
  3. Put a steamer basket in the bottom of a pot. Fill the pot with 1 inch of water, add salt and bring to a boil. Add the green beans, cover and steam until bright green and crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the beans and transfer to the large bowl. Toss with enough pesto to coat and season with salt and pepper; serve with lemon wedges.
Make Ahead The pesto can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before tossing with the beans.