Category Archives: Main Dish

Garlic Chicken Tikka-style Kebabs (prepare 12-24 hours prior to when you want to eat them)


This post is dedicated to my friend Tyler.  He’s my super smart electrical engineer, surfer/swimmer, cyclist, and environmentalist.  Almost every weekend he is firing up his grill in his San Diego backyard (who wouldn’t in that year-round awesome weather?).  He often posts a picture of the grilling in-progress on social media and that usually starts some friendly banter between his friends.  Each week it seems like he is elevating his grilling and I’m always encouraging him to up the flair on the seasoning.  Tyler, put the BBQ sauce down this week and give this a try!

So….I am in LOVE with Indian food.  However, some of my friends aren’t.  I am convinced it is because they have only eaten Indian dishes in crappy restaurants (or frozen meals) where the dishes are overly pureed, overcooked, and/or with substandard ingredients.  It’s criminal!  If you ever have the opportunity to have a home-cooked meal prepared by someone of Indian descent, DO IT! It’s a true privilege! I’ve been lucky to have some wonderful home-cooked Indian meals from my Indian friends (especially a particularly memorable feast made by my friend Conal’s mom, Mrs. Charles).  In the mean time, try this recipe for Garlic Chicken Tikka-style Kabobs.  It’s a good introduction to some common flavors of India.  This recipe also is used as a base for some other curry dishes that I will post later.  The recipe is adapted from Neelam Batra’s 1000 Indian Recipes cookbook.  I know, I know, you are probably thinking, 1000 recipes? Sounds like a gimmick for a substandard cookbook.  I assure you, it is not.  It is by far, my favorite cookbook that I own.  Really.



2 Tablespoons – fresh chopped garlic

1/2 Tablespoon – fresh chopped ginger

4 Tablespoons – fresh lemon juice

1 Tablespoon – light olive oil or canola oil

1 Tablespoon – ground coriander

1 teaspoon – ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoon – garam masala

1/2 teaspoon – ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon – salt

1/2 teaspoon – ground green cardamom

2 lbs – skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1.5 inch pieces (or you can use chicken tenderloin pieces left whole)

bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 30 minutes) so they don’t burn

** If you only have garlic or ginger in a jar or lemon juice in the plastic fake lemon, I suppose you could use that (although I gag at the thought).

*** You should be able to find all the spices in a regular grocery store.  If not, you can definitely find them at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.  Don’t baulk at the price of the spices (not too bad I think).  Once you make these, you’ll fall in love with them and you will be making them over and over again .


Finishing sauce (after they come off the grill) – totally optional.

1/4 cup-  melted butter – optional

1/2 teaspoon –  garam masala – optional

3 – green onions, sliced – optional


Combine all the ingredients (except for the chicken) in a small food processor, or blender (if you don’t have the “equipment” then make sure that the garlic and ginger are very finely chopped almost until a paste).  Put the chicken pieces in a gallon plastic seal-type bag. Pour the blended wet rub over the chicken.  Close the bag and make sure most of the air is removed.  With your hands outside of the plastic bag, “massage” the chicken pieces to make sure they are well coated.  Let the chicken sit in the wet rub for at least 12 hours, preferable 24 in the fridge.

After the chicken pieces have absorbed all the goodness, skewer some pieces of chicken and then brush a bit of olive oil or use some cooking spray to lightly coat (sometimes I chop an onion and green bell pepper into 2 square in pieces and weave the pieces between the chicken pieces).  Throw them on a preheated (medium-high) grill for 10-15 minutes (5-7 minutes on each side).  * The timing really depends on your grill.  Test one to make sure the chicken is cooked.  You can also bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes if access to a grill is not possible.


**Optional – After the skewers are cooked, combine the melted butter and garam masala and brush onto the chicken.  Sprinkle with chopped green onions.  I usually like to serve the kabobs over a bed of basmati rice or an Indian-style pilaf (recipe for next time).

Note: If you are only cooking for one or two persons, you can freeze 1/2 the chicken (after it’s marinated, but before it’s cooked) and use it later.  It defrosts wonderfully in the fridge and makes the flavors even better!


Shepherd’s Pie

I have been battling a hoIMG_1197rrible cold for the past week and was in desperate need of some comfort food.  Being that I was in danger of the family making me some boxed meal, I dragged myself off the couch and decided to make something myself.  When I think of comfort food, one of the dishes I think of is Shepherd’s Pie.  The reason is two-fold.  First, who doesn’t like meat swimming in gravy topped with cheesy mashed potatoes? Shepherd’s Pie checks all those boxes.  Second, it brings back warm memories of when I lived in England.  I went to a boarding school, London Central High School (LCHS), where I developed wonderful lasting relationships with some amazing people.  I didn’t intend to update my blog (I’m also trying to finish my dissertation), however, after posting a picture of the completed Shepherd’s Pie on a social network site last night, I was publicly shamed by my friend Charles (LCHS alum). He, not so gently, reminded me that I haven’t posted any recipes to my blog in the past 6 months! The recipe is loosely adapted from an antique cook book (Radiation Cookery Book) that my friend Chris (LCHS alum) brought me back from England on a recent visit.  Cheers Charles and Chris!

**I’ll try to add a recipe later for homemade gravy, but now the dissertation is calling me.

1lb. – ground beef (or any type of ground meat.  I’ve even made it with a meat substitute before)

1 – large onion, diced

1 cup – cooked carrots, diced

1 cup – cooked green beans, diced (I would use peas, but my family doesn’t like them)

1 cup – brown gravy (I make my own, but you can use store bought if you want)

2 – cloves garlic, diced

1 tablespoon – tomato paste

1 teaspoon – Worcester sauce (optional)

3 pounds – Yukon gold potatoes, cooked (peeled and diced)

2 – eggs, beaten

¾ cup – milk, warmed

¼ cup – butter, melted

1 cup – shredded cheddar (this isn’t traditional of course, but you know, I am American.  We like a bit of excess)

¼ cup – grated (not shredded) Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste


Put potatoes in large pot with 1 teaspoon of salt and enough water to just cover the potatoes.  After potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes), drain them and then mash with the butter, milk, and salt and pepper to taste.  I love using a food mill for potatoes, but you can mash them by hand or use a stand mixer.  You want them smooth.  Set aside to cool.

On medium-high heat, brown ground beef with onion and garlic until no longer pink and then drain any excess fat.  Add tomato paste, Worcester sauce (optional), and prepared gravy.  Gently mix in cooked carrots and green beans.  Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the meat mixture and place at the bottom of a quart sized glass casserole dish and smooth out, set aside.

Take the cooled potato mixture and add the beaten eggs.  Gently fold in the cheddar cheese.  Then place the potato mixture on top of the meat mixture.  To make it more decorative, I put the potato mixture in a pastry bag with a large star tip and pipe it on top of the meat mixture.  If you do this, you need to make sure that the potato mixture is free of lumps.  You can also make a nice design by just putting equal sized dollops of potato mixture using a spoon.

Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan.

Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly (photo is of Shepherd’s Pie prior to being baked).


Korean Style Spicy Pulled Pork Sliders


What do you bring to a Super Bowl party? Korean Style Spicy Pork Sliders of course! Six years ago when I was making my decision on where to go to graduate school, I had a few criterion.  One of them was the availability of Korean groceries.  I was pleasantly surprised that there was a well established Korean community in Atlanta with no less than 4 huge Korean grocery stores (H-Mart — the Korean version of Whole Foods)! I developed this recipe as a way to combine my love of southern food with my Korean heritage. The combination of sweet and spicy allows one to get a taste of Korean cuisine without causing a 5-alarm fire in your mouth! If you have leftovers, lose the bun and replace with corn tortillas and you have some tasty Korean tacos!

Korean Style Spicy Pulled Pork Sliders (makes 36 sliders)

Oven Roasted Pork Butt

6-7lb. pork butt

3 tbsp – smoky paprika
1 tbsp – granulated garlic
1 tbsp – brown sugar
1 tbsp – dry mustard
2 tbsp – coarse salt

36 slider buns

Combine the spices and rub all over the pork butt (do not trim fat from pork).  Wrap coated pork butt in plastic wrap and place in fridge for 12-24 hours.  Afterward, remove pork from the fridge and let come to room temperature (approximately one hour).  Next, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Remove plastic wrap from the pork and place in a roasting pan.  Roast fat side up for 7 hours.  Remove roasting pan from oven and let the pork rest for 30 minutes (cover with foil).  One and a half hours prior to the pork being finished roasting, prepare the Asian Slaw and Spicy Korean Sauce.

Asian Slaw

1 medium – fresh daikon radish, peeled and thinly shredded

1 – English cucumber, thinly slicedIMG_0678

4 medium – carrots, peeled and thinly shredded

1 – red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

½ cup – cilantro leaves (no stems)

6 tbsp – unseasoned rice vinegar

3 tsp – granulated sugar

½ tsp – salt

Shred the daikon radish and carrots using a food processor (longwise so you can have longer strips).  Finely slice the cucumber and red bell pepper using a food processor or mandolin.  Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a large glass or plastic bowl.  Add the vegetables and cilantro, and then toss gently.  Put in the fridge.

Spicy Sauce

3 large – onions (cut in half and thinly sliced)

2 – jalapenos (seeded and minced)

12 large – garlic cloves (minced)

2 inches – peeled ginger (finely minced)

1 1/2 cups – Gochujang paste (there is no substitution for this Korean red pepper paste.  It can be found in

Asian grocery stores (e.g., H-Mart or online)


½ cup – honey

3 cups – water

6 ounces – tomato paste

1 tbsp – vegetable oil

Heat a large saucepan on medium heat, sauté the first 4 ingredients in the vegetable oil until softened (approximately 5-7 minutes).  Combine the remaining ingredients and add to the saucepan.  Bring up to a boil, stirring constantly, and then reduce heat.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes and stir every few minutes to insure the sauce does not burn.  Take off heat.

After the pork has rested, use 2 forks to “pull” the pork (do not remove the charred pork bark). It’s the best part! Add the spicy sauce and gently combine.  If you would like more spice you can add extra gochujang paste.  You can keep the pork mixture warm in a crockpot on low.

Split apart the slider buns, top with spicy pork mixture and then top with slaw.

Sugo Sauce on Creamy Polenta

I have been traveling quite a bit these last few weeks and am pretty exhausted.  Seattle last week, Chicago this past weekend, and am heading out to Boston early tomorrow morning.  With a mountain of laundry to tackle, I did not want to have to leave my house today.  The fridge was fairly empty (for me anyway) but I really wanted to cook something hearty but did not want to have to go to the grocery store (mainly because I wanted to stay in my pajamas all day).  This is when it is quite handy to have a well stocked pantry and freezer.  I opened up the pantry and saw some lovely polenta and imported Italian canned tomatoes calling my name.  I didn’t have any fresh milk so I was excited to see a couple of cans of evaporated milk (great substitute for fresh milk in cooked dishes).  I peeked in the freezer and found a pound of spicy ground Italian chicken sausage from my local farmers market.  In addition, I always have lots of red wine, half and half, Parmesan cheese, garlic, onions, and carrots.  So when I saw what I had in my freezer and pantry I thought a nice sugo sauce with creamy polenta was in order.  It was phenomenal. You must try this if you get a chance.  Fantastic northern Italian comfort food – Mangia! Mangia!

Sugo Sauce (serves 8)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 lb ground spicy Italian sausage (Note: I use chicken or turkey)

1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped.

2 carrots, medium diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)

1 – 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes (I like using imported canned Italian tomatoes – more flavor)

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine (Note: If you don’t have red wine, use white wine.  If you don’t have wine at all, use chicken or vegetable stock.  If you don’t have stock, damn you are hurting.  You can use water but the flavor will not be nearly as tasty).

1/4 cup cream sherry (Note: Cream sherry is a sweet dessert wine.  It is not expensive and will keep for a long time.  You can find it at most grocery stores.  If you can’t find it or don’t want to buy any you can add and extra ¼ cup wine)


Heat a large saucepan on medium heat and then add the olive oil, sausage, and onion.   Cook until the sausage is cooked through.  Add the garlic, and spices.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, and sherry.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 40 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Creamy Polenta (serves 4)

2 – cans of evaporated milk (Note: Don’t use fat free milk, 2% is fine.  If you don’t have evaporated milk you can use 3 cups of fresh milk)

1 cup polenta (you can sub yellow cornmeal if you can’t find polenta)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

¼ cup half-and-half (Note: use water if you don’t have half-and-half)

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese


In a large saucepan, bring the milk, butter, and salt to a boil.  Gradually whisk in the polenta – keep whisking for a few minutes to prevent lumps from forming.  Whisk constantly for 3 to 4 minutes to prevent lumps and then cover and simmer for 25 minutes (stir occasionally).  After the polenta is thick and creamy, take off the heat and then stir in the half-and-half and the Parmesan cheese.  If the polenta is too thick you can thin with water.  Check to make sure the seasoning is right, and add more a touch salt if necessary.

To Serve:

Place a heaping large serving spoonful of polenta on a plate or bowl.  Top with 1 cup (more or less) of the sugo sauce.  Serve with a leafy green salad to round out the meal.

Tip: If you do not use the polenta right away, spread remaining polenta in a small square container and place in the fridge.  The polenta will get firm.  After the polenta gets firm, you can cut it into squares or circles and fry them in a little olive oil and top with any leftover sauce.


Pork Palooza (sausage, pepperoni, and hot coppa) Pizza

There are two things that I generally make at least once a week, tacos and pizza.  Tonight it was pizza. I learned how to make basic pizza dough from my dad (RIP pops), it was the only dish in his culinary repertoire.  My dad never really measured any ingredients, instead he taught me how the dough should feel (e.g., soft, smooth, and elastic).  It’s the way I make pizza dough now.  Tonight however, I actually measured everything out for you.  After making it a few times I am pretty confident you will understand how the dough should feel and will ditch the recipe and make the dough by feel too.  Dad never made his own pizza sauce, but I like to when I have the time.  I think you will agree that it is far superior than the stuff in a can or jar.  It’s made from common ingredients found in most pantries and does not need to be cooked for a long period of time.  It can be simmering while you are preparing the dough, so there is no excuse!  The pizza is called Pork Palooza Pizza because it is topped with three different types of pork products — you’ll be in hog heaven with this trio of meats!

Since this is my first posted recipe, there is definitely going to be a learning curve.  Please feel free to shoot me a message if something is not clear.  Enjoy!

Pizza Sauce (for 2 large pizzas)

2 – 15 ounce cans tomato sauce

1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste

¼ cup water (or red or white wine)

2 tsp dried basil

2 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

½ tsp anchovy paste (Note: I love anchovies on my pizza, but the sight of them tends to freak some friends out.  To pacify them, and still get a bit of the anchovy flavor, I started putting a small amount of anchovy paste in the sauce.  You can find anchovy paste in the specialty food section in most grocery stores.  It’s usually sold in a small toothpaste-like tubes.  If you can’t find any or are boring, just substitute it with a ¼ teaspoon of kosher or sea salt.

½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes.  Cover and stir occasionally.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Makes approximately 2 cups.

Toppings (for 2 large pizzas)

2 – 8 ounce balls of fresh mozzarella cheese (sliced into ¼ inch thin medallions) – (Note: If you can’t find fresh mozzarella you can, begrudgingly, substitute 2 – 8 ounce bags of shredded mozzarella)

½ lb mild or spicy Italian bulk sausage

¼ pound of large (diameter) pepperoni (Note: I prefer to use Applegate pepperoni that is sold and sliced fresh in the deli of some specialty grocers because the quality is better and I can get it thinly sliced.  However, use what you can get.)

¼ pound of thinly sliced hot coppa (Note: Coppa is an Italian style dry cured pork shoulder and is freaking magnificent.  You can buy regular coppa or hot coppa.  The hot coppa is not overly hot at all and is what I prefer.  You can buy coppa in the deli section at most specialty food stores, like Whole Foods.  Have them slice it paper thin).

½ of a small bunch of fresh basil, chiffonade

Pizza Dough (for 2 large pizzas)

Olive oil non-stick cooking spray

2 cups warm water (~110° F)

2 ¼ tsp dry active yeast (Note: I buy my yeast in bulk, but you can buy yeast in a strip with 3 packets.  One packet equals 2 ¼ tsp)

½ tsp kosher or sea salt

1 tbs olive oil

4 – 4.5** cups high gluten flour (Note: High gluten flour can often be found in the bulk section of many grocery stores or even in the aisles that shelve all-purpose flour.  You can substitute all-purpose if you can’t find high gluten flour, but the crust won’t have a light chewy delicious texture – so don’t be lazy, go find some.  Do not use any leftover high gluten flour for muffins or quick breads because they won’t be as tender).

**Start with 4 cups of flour first.  You want the dough to be soft but you need to be able to handle it.  Add more flour if necessary. You may even need up to 5 cups of flour.  The amount of flour you need depends on many things such as the weather and even how you measure your flour.


In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, salt, and olive oil.  Gradually add the flour and stir until the dough comes together in a ball (can you a stand mixer with a dough hook).  Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for a 5 minutes on a well- floured surface.  Put the dough back into the bowl and spray the top of the dough with olive oil spray.  Cover with bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 1.5 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Prepared the large pizza pans by spraying with a little olive oil.  After the dough has risen, punch down the dough and form into two balls.  Roll each ball out on a well-floured surface and place into the prepared pizza pan.  Repeat with the other dough ball and pizza pan.

Spoon one cup of the pizza sauce onto the prepared pizza dough.  Spread evenly.  Place 8 ounces of the sliced mozzarella on top of the sauce (space somewhat evenly).   Top with ½ of the sausage, pepperoni, and hot coppa.  You may have to crinkle up the hot coppa and wedge it into some open space.  Sprinkle with half of the fresh basil.  Repeat the process with the remaining dough, sauce, and toppings in another pizza pan.  Place one of the pizzas on the middle rack on the oven.  Cook for 15-20 minutes (check after 10 minutes — at this stage I often slide the pizza off the pan right onto the oven rack to get a crispier bottom).  Remove from oven, cool for a moment, and then slice into 8 pieces.  Repeated the process with the other pizza.  Enjoy!

**TIP: I use fairly large pizza pans.  If you use medium pans you will have leftover dough.  I always roll any extra dough out and make a mini pizza for any special needs vegetarian friends (using a small cake pan) or I make bread sticks (roll the dough out, cut it into strips, brush with a tiny bit of olive oil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and pop them in the oven for 10 minutes).