Back in the day, before the advent of the Internet, wire services were depended upon for getting the news first and fast in the world of traditional journalism. No agency epitomized that more than the Associated Press.
It's only appropriate then that the new cookbook by the food editor of the AP be all about speedy, reliable dishes to make on hectic deadline-packed weeknights. "High Flavor, Low Labor'' (Ballentine Books) by J.M. Hirsch contains nearly 150 recipes filled with global flavors and time-saving tips. As a dad, he knows first hand how to create a dish that will satisfy the entire family, especially when every member is ravenous to sit down to eat.
There are inventive takes on such standbys as hummus, with Hirsch's "Spiced Cashew Hummus with Smoked Paprika'' made with cashew butter and hot sauce. There's a kid-loving "Deep-Dish Pesto and Prosciutto Tortilla Pizza,'' which involves stacking tortillas with tomato sauce, slices of prosciutto, onion, and cheese, then baking, before slicing into wedges like a pie. And there are crowd favorites such as "Pepper Steak Grinders with Mango Chutney'' that take a mere 20 minutes to make.
On a recent weeknight, I decided to try my hand at the recipe for "Lemon Grass and White Bean Turkey Chili.'' It's sort of a cross between the classic Thai soup, tom kha gai, and American white chili.
Aromatics, including a lemon grass stalk, onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, smoked paprika and jalapenos get sautéed in a Dutch oven.
The recipe calls for jarred jalapeno pepper slices. Not wanting to buy a jar just for that one purpose, I substituted fresh, diced jalapeno, along with some fresh lime juice instead, which worked out quite well.
Although the recipe instructs you to next add the coconut milk, chicken broth, ground turkey and drained cannellini beans all at once to the pot, I opted to add the ground turkey first and let that cook until it crumbled. Otherwise, I feared the big mound of raw turkey meat would be too difficult to break into smaller pieces once all the other ingredients were added.
After adding everything else, let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes. Just before serving, add a hefty amount of baby spinach leaves and cook just until wilted.
This Asian-take on white chili is at once hearty, creamy, a little spicy and a little tangy. For a dish that came together in about half an hour, it tasted far more complex than anticipated. Just like an article done in the heat of deadline, this is one dish that definitely hits the spot fast.
Read more about Carolyn's experience with High Flavor, Low Labor on her blog FoodGal
Lemon Grass and White Bean Turkey Chili
From High Flavor, Low Labor by J.M. Hirsch, Ballentine Books 2010
Lemon grass, which has a pleasant sour-lemon flavor and aroma, is sold in the produce section. It resembles a long, yellow scallion and has a woody texture. Treat it like a bay leaf.add it to a soup, chili, or casserole, let it simmer to infuse the dish, then fish it out and discard it. Before adding lemon grass to a dish, cut it into 2- to 3-inch-long chunks and gently bruise them with a rolling pin to break up the fibers.
- 15-inch stalk lemon grass, cut into 4 segments and gently crushed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon diced jarred jalapeno pepper slices
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 14-ounce can coconut milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey (chicken or lean beef could be substituted)
- 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
- 4 cups lightly packed baby spinach
- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
In a large saucepan or medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat, combine the lemon grass, olive oil, jalapenos, onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and smoked paprika. Saute for 3 minutes.
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.
Add the coconut milk, broth, turkey, and beans. Bring to a simmer, then cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes. Discard the lemon grass. Add the spinach and stir for 1 minute, or until it wilts. Season with salt and pepper.