Lunch with friends is one of my special pleasures these days. All the years that I worked, my lunch was always a rushed process. Food was microwaved leftovers or a sandwich and chips and whatever drink could be had. Conversation was perfunctory, managed around bites and slurps ... and then, it was a rushed clean-up and back to work.
Being retired allows me time to plan a nice light lunch menu, phone around and make plans with other folks who are 'in the same drifting boat' and spend a quiet morning putting together a nice table and cutting a bouquet to add to the atmosphere. Then, friends arrive, there's relaxed talk, a glass of wine or iced tea, and a leisurely lunch. When everyone has moved on after a couple hours, there's still time for me to move on to another activity before the day is gone. It's such a wonderful way to spend a day, now and then. I know ... you want to wretch. But ... if you're retired and reading this and you don't stop to create 'roses' for your friends to smell OR if you're still running the rat race and you begrudge me this simple pleasure ... tough cookies for you. I enjoy puttering and this is how I choose to spend my time ... you can call me a Martha Stewart wannabe. I don't care! So there!
That being ranted on ... and Shakespeare would say the lady protests too much (tough, again!) ... here's the easy lunch I made for Leah and Cathy today. Remember those curried chicken kabobs that I was craving? Done! They sat in a yogurt and spice slurry all morning and just about an hour before L&C arrived, I washed some basmati rice and steamed it with a generous pinch of caraway seed, chilled some mango chutney to have with the chicken skewers, and made a lovely creamed spinach that was mellower than the traditional Indian Saag Paneer spinach that I'm used to making. A nice dry Reisling and a pot of tea rounded things out ... yummy Indian!
Because this was lunch and I wanted to keep portions smaller, I used less chicken than the recipe called for, I downed the amount of rice that I cooked to half portions, and made half the spinach recipe. Because I wanted to keep it simple, I used a box of frozen spinach, instead of steaming fresh and doing the chop-chop thing. So much easier ... and it allowed me time to play around in the greenhouse a bit, cut some beautiful white lilacs ( I wish that photo above could be a 'scratch and sniff'!) for the table, and boil up the first batch of nectar for the hummingbird feeders, before Leah and Cathy made their entrance.
So check out easy Chicken Tikka Skewers and Creamed Spinach ... recipes from the essential fingerfood cookbook and Joy of Cooking. Both are very easy.
Chicken Tikka Skewers - printer friendly
Creamed Spinach - printer friendly
Chicken Tikka Skewers
courtesy of the essential fingerfood cookbook
1 ½ lb. boneless chicken thighs
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
2 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tsp. ground coriander
3 tsp. ground cumin
3 tsp. garam masala
2/3 c. plain natural yogurt
Making the Dish:
1. Wash and dry the thighs on paper towels. Cut them into 1 inch cubes and place them on metal skewers. If using wooden skewers, soak the skewers in water well ahead of making the Tikka.
2. Place the chicken skewers in a glass pan and set aside.
3. In the container of a hand blender or food processor, layer the onions, garlic, yogurt, spices, lemon juice, and more yogurt.
4. Purée using the hand blender until the sauce is smooth and aromatic.
5. Pour the marinade over the chicken skewers and turn the skewers to coat.
6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours (or as long as overnight).
7. Twenty minutes before you want to eat, pre-heat a broiler using the ‘high’ setting or fire up your grill and get it very hot.
8. Cook the skewers for 4 or 5 minutes per side, watching to brown them, but not burn the yogurt coating. Cook time is overall about 12 minutes.
9. Serve hot with a chutney dipping sauce, rice, and a veggie of your choice.
adapted from Joy of Cooking
2 boxes frozen chopped spinach, partially thawed
1 large shallot, minced,
1 medium garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
½ c. chicken stock
½ c. half & half
pinch kosher salt
pinch black pepper
bacon bits, chopped hard boiled egg, or pinch of nutmeg
more half & half to correct sauce thickness
Making the Dish:
1. Melt the butter in a large non-stick pan (that has a cover) and add the shallot and garlic.
2. Sauté until the shallot is softened.
3. Add the flour and make a roux, stirring until the flour is frothy.
4. Add the chicken stock and the half & half and stir until it begins to thicken.
5. Lower the heat and add the spinach and spices. Break up the spinach a bit.
6. Lower the heat to a low simmer and cover to cook the spinach.
7. Check every few minutes to continue breaking up the spinach and mix the cream sauce.
8. When the spinach is cooked, check for seasonings, add a bit more half & half, if the sauce is too thick.
9. Serve hot, sprinkled with bacon bits (if you feel like making them) or a pinch of nutmeg.