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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Georgian spiced grilled lamb and chicken

Don't let all those "back to school" specials get you down - it's still grilling season! Light up your grill (or if you must, heat up your oven), invite a few friends over, and travel (so to speak) to the far away land of Georgia with our shish kabob and dry adjika blends.

The shish kabob spice, a blend of utskho suneli, fennel, Georgian bay leaf, dill, dry garlic, coriander, red pepper, and salt, goes quite splendidly on, well, kabobs. But if the thought of cubing up hunks of meat is too much to bear, than you'll be happy to know that you can just rub this blend onto lamb chops. 

Likewise, the dry adjika (a blend of utskho suneli (blue fenugreek), fennel, Georgian bay leaf, dry garlic, coriander, red pepper, and salt) adds just the right kick to grilled chicken legs. 

Georgian Grilled Lamb and Chicken Legs

For the lamb:
4 teaspoons shish kabob blend
2 teaspoons salt
4 lamb chops (preferably loin chops), cut about 1 1/2 inches thick

For the chicken:
2 teaspoons dry adjika 
4 skin-on chicken legs

For the lamb: 40 minutes before you're going to start grilling, rub a half teaspoon of the shish kabob blend and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt on each side of the lamb chops. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare the chicken. 

For the chicken: Distribute the adjika evenly over the chicken legs, rubbing the spice in with your fingers. The blend is already salty enough for my taste, so I'd only add salt after cooking. Let the chicken sit at room temperature while you prepare your grill (or your other side dishes, like grilled veggies sprinkled with utskho suneli) or a yogurt-feta sauce to go with some pita that you just happen to have on hand.

For the grilling: I'm going to now admit that I generally just light up the charcoal grill, let it get hot, and cook my food until it's done how I like it. But, if you want more of a detailed method and a very good guide to grilling lamb chops, I turn you over to this post from Serious Eats

To grill the chicken legs, I like to use a hot part of the grill and a less-hot part of the grill (or, in more technical terms, a two-zone direct fire). Sear the legs over the hot part, turning every 30 seconds or so until evenly seared, then move the legs over the less-hot part, cooking covered (with the vents open) and turning occasionally, until the chicken is done. (A meat thermometer should read 165 degrees, or you can poke the chicken with a knife and check that the meat is white and not rubbery-looking.) This can take between 10 and 15 minutes, depending on the size of the legs.

Once your done grilling both meats, let them rest for 10 minutes before digging in. I know you just want to gobble it all down, but the juices need to redistribute throughout the meat. Trust me on this.

Yield: 4 servings

This post is part of our series on Georgia cuisine. For others in the series check out:

Thursday, January 17, 2019

How Much Is Too Much?

I've been asking myself a lot lately, "How much is too much?" 

I just discovered the most amazing chili pepper - Hatch Extra Hot. It's a New Mexican pepper with smokey undertones and a lot of delicious heat. I put it on everything. As I put it on virtually everything I eat, I'm figuring out what I like it most on. 

Typically, I like a lot of heat. So, I ask myself "How much is too much," as I add a tablespoon of Hatch extra hot to my mom's lentils. 

I wonder if I'm overusing the spice because of the quantity I use. I wonder if I should mix it with another pepper that pack a lot of heat and complements the flavor, if the heat is what I really crave in a good pepper. I also don't want to go through an ounce of the Hatch Extra Hot in one week. That wouldn't be good for many reasons. So I wonder, am I using it the way in which it was intended, or do I need to step it up to another level of heat and smoke? 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Feeling Chai and Mighty

Cold weather is upon us and one of the best ways to warm yourself up is a seasonally appropriate beverage. I usually burrow myself under the blanket with a cup of hot chocolate, mulled cider, or, my personal favorite, a masala chai tea. It has the right amount of sweetness and spice that lingers throughout a frigid night or a lazy morning.

There are a few basic ingredients in a masala chai that can vary by tradition or preference. It typically involves black tea, milk, cardamom, and cinnamon sticks. Some keep their chai distinct by adding peppercorns and cloves. There are many recipes, but I try to keep mine personal. As much as I love the classic chai recipe, I've added a few more distinct ingredients that you can easily purchase from the spice shop. Let's start with the classic.

Chai Tea 1-2-3

1 tablespoon loose leaf black tea
1 cup of milk
1 cup of water
2 Ceylon cinnamon sticks
2 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
3 whole cloves (optional)
3 peppercorns (optional)
3 teaspoons of sugar (optional)

1. Put all the ingredients in a small pot and simmer on low to medium heat for at least 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Try not to boil the mixture to prevent milk from curdling.
2. Strain all the solids and pour the liquid in a nice wintery mug. Garnish with one cinnamon stick if you so prefer.

Next up, my own version of chai tea. With my bartending background and a focus on DIY-mixology, experimentation and understanding flavor combinations is second nature. And with so many options at Bazaar Spices, I couldn't help myself. I chose the funky, peaty, caffeine-free rooibos red tea because my daily caffeine intake has already reached its limit. Vanilla soy milk adds the right amount of sweetness and vanilla note. Cubeb berries have notes of allspice and Sichuan pepper offer heat and citrus. It's unique and fun to drink!

Olive's Chai

1 tablespoon loose leaf rooibos tea
1.5 cups of vanilla soy milk
1/2 cup hot water
2 Ceylon cinnamon sticks
2 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
2 whole cloves
2 cubeb berries
2 Sichuan peppercorns

1. Put all the ingredients in a French press except for the vanilla soy milk.
2. Steep for about 5-10 minutes until fragrant. Using the plunger, slowly press down all the spices until the liquids and solids are separated. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!
3. Microwave the soy milk until warm, about 30 seconds or so.
4. Carefully add the steeped tea into the mug and stir.