Monday, June 13, 2011

Curry Chicken Pasta Salad

While it’s still unofficially summer, it is officially Wolf Trap season.  For those of you not familiar, Wolf Trap Farm Park in Virginia is, in my opinion, one of the absolute best outdoor venues for live music.  This is due in part to the fact that you are allowed to bring in your own food and alcohol.  I try to make sure I get to at least one show per summer – going there is what makes it truly feel like summer to me.  Sitting out under the stars, chowing down on too much food, and possibly even making nice with your picnicking neighbors and getting to try their homemade frozen whiskey sours – yum!

I recently went to Wolf Trap to see the Indigo Girls perform.  I know, I know, lesbian rock isn’t everyone’s thing, but let me tell ya, the people watching at their shows is amazing!  And you can usually overhear some pretty funny conversations – not to mention see more women with short spiky haircuts in one place than you could ever imagine.  Ahhh, good times.  But really, if you think you don’t like their music, give them another try and start with these songs….the super political “Shame on You” (because come on, this is the DC area), the make-you-want-to-roll-the-windows-down-and-go-on-a-road-trip “Get Out The Map” and the heart-wrenching “Power of Two” – wow.

Now on to the food.  A picnic generally calls for some sort of pasta salad, but I personally can’t stand the “macaroni salad” you find in pretty much every grocery store – ugh, way too sweet and often too soupy with mayo.  Several years ago my mom came across this recipe and I’ve been making it ever since.  I have no clue where she found it so unfortunately I can’t give credit where credit is due…sorry!

This pasta changes things up a bit.  It combines sweet and savory, adding fruit where you may not expect it and it works amazingly well.  Even if you’re not a fan of curry, try it – you can add as little or as much as you want.  The flavor combination is really delicious.


1 lb tri-color spiral rotini (I used whole wheat shells this time and I think I’m sticking with that)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in bite-sized pieces
1 cup red seedless grapes cut in half
1.5 cups cantaloupe cut in bite-size chunks (this was in the original recipe but I usually omit)
¾ - 1 cup celery thinly sliced   
1 cup mayo (More or less, depending on your preference.  I use Hellman’s Light)
Curry powder - to taste
S&P - to taste


1) Boil pasta according to package directions.  Drain, rinse and set aside.
2) Sauté chicken with a little olive oil, S&P, a couple shakes of curry powder and I use McCormick Montreal Chicken seasoning, of course.
3) While chicken is cooking, slice grapes, celery and cantaloupe and set aside.
4) Also while chicken is cooking, put mayo in a small mixing bowl, add curry powder, stir and taste until you reach your desired flavor.
5) Combine all ingredients in large bowl and stir to coat everything in the mayo.  Chill and serve.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Homemade Falafel and Yogurt Sauce

Today was a blah day at work.  All day I kept thinking, how is it only Tuesday??  I think two weeks in a row of 4-day work weeks completely spoiled me.  But I was determined not to let the entire day be a bust.  So what does someone like me do for a pick-me-up?  Well, other than pouring a nice cold glass of wine immediately upon getting home, I cook.  Days like today are when I like to get creative in the kitchen.  I may refer to a recipe or two for inspiration, but when it comes down to it, I just wing it.  Sometimes I get lucky, sometimes it ends up in the trash and I have a bowl of popcorn for dinner!  Thankfully today I got lucky….

I’ve always wanted to make falafel, but the thought of deep frying something has never really appealed to me.  I try to be as health conscious as possible - and by the way, it’s bathing suit season people!!  When I get a craving though, I have to satisfy it.  So I decided I’d make falafel patties and fry them in a pan like burgers rather than immersing them.  I used a mixture of canola and olive oils, just a few tablespoons of each, just barely coating the bottom of the pan.  I would have preferred to use all olive oil, but the smoke point is higher for canola oil and these patties needed a good sear.

Now – if you know me, you know I am slightly moderately totally obsessed with yogurt!  And every good falafel has a delicious yogurt sauce accompanying it, right?  Done.  I mixed up a quick sauce of Greek yogurt, chopped parsley, grated cucumber, garlic, salt and pepper.  Just taste it as you go and season accordingly.  If you don’t want to take the time to make this, you could always use some hummus or tahini instead.

I opted to skip the pita or wrap today (again, images of myself on the beach flashing before my eyes…) and just have the falafel with some mixed greens and a deliciously ripe Roma tomato.

Anxiously awaiting the star of the show....

It wasn’t the “best falafel in the world” that I had in Paris last year (seriously, this place had a bouncer for the line and everything!), but a couple bites of this meal, a few sips of the wine, the fact that I got to be creative and use one of my favorite appliances – my food processor – and today was looking up!

 To make the falafel, combine the following:

1 15-16oz can chick peas
¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic
½ medium red onion, large dice
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
– ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
2 Tbsp flour

Amounts are estimates; I really did just throw everything in the processor and puree it.  You are looking for the consistency of a thick paste.  If it’s too thick, add a drizzle of olive oil.  If it looks too loose, add a little more flour.

Form the paste into patties about the size of your palm and about ¼ - ½ inch thick.  If you make them any bigger they may fall apart as you cook them.  On medium heat, fry them in oil until dark golden brown, then flip and repeat.  Drain on paper towel when done and enjoy while hot.

Dinner is served!