One of the best things about the internet are the range of recipes and cooking instructions available at a click. What a difference from buying or borrowing cookbooks before I was 25.
I eat a range of cuisines, but prefer what we call ethnic over most American fare. The only ethnic cuisines around when I was growing up were Italian and Mexican. Problem is, both were so heavily Americanized you had to search hard to find anything close to authentic. Italian usually meant spaghetti or pizza, sometimes lasagna. Garlic bread was awesome when you could find it. Mexican started with Chi Chi’s, food you can barely label as Mexican aside from similar ingredients. I entered adulthood relatively close-minded about other types of food.
This started to change with my first sushi at Tokyo Rose in Charlottesville, where I learned wasabi will clear out your sinuses PDQ. This exposure was due to martial arts and led to lots of other Asian cuisines because American marital artists eat lots of Asian food as though it improves their ability or something.
I’m pretty much a fan of every Asian style except for Americanized Chinese (same with Canadian Chinese food, I’m afraid), which is all grease-bomb to me. I’ve long found our version of Chinese so bad, I was certain it must all suck until a Chinese friend made us a home-cooked meal and it was incredible.
My faves now include Mexican/Mayan, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, French, Italian, Cuban, and many more. My wife is Romanian, so I know and enjoy those dishes quite often and can cook a few dishes better than her. My sister-in-law is Peruvian, which introduced me to a still hard-to-find favorite. Honestly, anything with aji amarillo is amazing. You can put it on my toast.
One mystery I cannot solve is where my love for Indian food started. I can remember most first exposures, but have no memory of my first Indian. You’d think it would stand out given the spicing and flavors are different from anything else I would have experienced in my youth and early adult years. Best I can guess is someone took me out in Charlottesville. Or it may have taken a few tries to get there.
That’s more than you need to know about me. Hope you find a recipe you enjoy among my favorites or on one of the lists I hope to delve in the future.
Let’s start with easy recipes; tasty stuff you can throw together easy and fast. Build toward more complex recipes.
Crockpot Chicken Taco Meat – This can be as simple as a pound of chicken + a 16 oz package of fresh salsa tossed in the slow cooker for 6-8 hours until the chicken meat shreds using a potato masher. As with the recipe above, you can add more to enhance the flavor.
Vietnamese marinated grilled chicken – I prefer this recipe with chicken breasts, while my wife prefers thighs. Works either way. Just toss and let marinate, then cook on the grill or griddle. Pairs well with jasmine rice, steamed vegetables (carrots and celery are my preferences), and sliced cucumbers. Extra awesome when served with a citrus dipping sauce poured over the rice and veggies.
Black beans and rice are classic, here are three ways to prepare:
Cuban Black Beans (slow cooker) – Super easy to make this way, though not as good as the next recipe of the same dish.
Cuban Black Beans (frying pan) – This recipe requires more effort, but offers a richer flavor as it simmers down better. I’ve added bits of chicken breast to break apart and add some protein.
Vegetable Paella – Sticking with recipes you might find in a Cuban restaurant, this paella is one of my favorites. A bit more work, but makes a massive quantity of food. Took me a long time to find this recipe after enjoying the same dish at Kuba Kuba, a classic restaurant here in Richmond, Virginia.
Pair with toasted Cuban bread (slice into 2” thick slices, butter and toast on the griddle) and plantains, either microwaved from frozen or fried. Sriracha sauce is a must.
Skyline Chili (also called 5 way chili, and a couple other names). What makes this so good is the mix of spices and chocolate create a rich disk. Served over noodles, then choose cheese, onions, sour cream, etc to top.
I’ve made both and the turkey version is just as tasty as the beef. To cut the heat for some guests (mostly the kids), I reduce spices to 1 tbsp chili powder, 1/2 tbsp paprika, 1/4 tsp cayenne, and halve the chocolate to balance the flavors.
Peruvian Ceviche – If you love sushi, try this. Just incredible. Lime-flavored tortilla chips pair well.
Sheet Pan Cashew Chicken – My wife makes this and it’s delicious. Not at all hard to prepare, but don’t skimp on the sauce.
Mititei Romanian Skinless Sausages – I break the meats into 1/4 pound blocks and mix four portions of the three meats as well as possible. Mix the spices and separate into 4 equal measures, then work each measure into a portion of meat before mixing the four portions together. Add the sparkling water and backing soda solution at the end, mix well, let sit overnight. Grill until blackened on the outside and save with your favorite mustard.
Romanian Ricotta Cheesecake – I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t love this cake, though my daughter won’t eat it with raisins. My wife is gluten free so I replace the flour with Pamela’s Gluten-free Baking and Pancake Mix. The almond flour improves on the flavor.
No-knead Artisan Bread – I was surprised how fluffy this bread turned out without a starter to build gasses.
Resources, lists and recipes by my favorite chefs:
Cooking in Quarantine – ideas from the best chefs to help come up with new ideas while we are stuck at home.
Nancy Silverton Dishes