Spring is here! Let us all raise a glass to the positive impact of El Niño: mild winter. Now the flowers are popping up, the birds are singing, and the rain is falling. Longer days and warmer temperatures are putting just about everyone in a better mood. And in the mood for food.

March was its usual gray self, so we spent a bit more time in the kitchen, cooking different foods, taking us to happy, warm, and sunny locations. Food that took us on a mini-vacation, if only for a meal. We enjoyed these “foodcations” and thought you would, too. This month we are hopping around the globe, from India to Thailand, France to Latin America. It’s a tasty journey that will please the belly and the soul.

Spiced Potato & Pea Samosas with Mint Dipping Sauce
Back in August, Carolyn’s sister took a trip to India. She made a special stop at the Old Delhi Spice Market and loaded us up with incredible Indian spices. I was craving something warm, earthy, and fried. I opened the cabinets and saw the Indian spices and knew samosas would fit the bill perfectly. Samosas are deep fried pastries stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas. They are an iconic Indian snack food. Paired with a fresh mint dipping sauce, you are transported to a bustling cafe in New Delhi. Classic recipes have you make the dough from scratch, which is always an option. There are plenty of recipes on the internet for that, but we are all about ease in the kitchen. For this recipe, we use pre-made pie dough rolled out and ready to go.

Dough:
For ease and simplicity, buy your favorite pre-made pie crust. We find the pie crust sold at Aldi is the best. It has a clean flavor, not too sweet, and it is pliable and rolls out well. Two packages will give you four pie crusts and should be plenty for the amount of filling you have.

Filling:
1 1/2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2
jalapeño or habanero chili, seeded and minced (always wear plastic gloves when handling chili peppers)
1/2 tsp. garam masala spice blend (usually available at Hy-Vee in the bulk spices)
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. red chili powder
1 1/2 tsp.
kosher salt
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 1/2 tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

Place diced potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about ten minutes. Drain and set aside.

If using fresh peas, place in a small pan, and add just enough water to cover peas half way. Bring to simmer and cook until barely done, approximately four to five minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion until golden. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili and cook for two minutes. Add the garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, and salt and cook two minutes more.

In a bowl, add potatoes and mash slightly, leaving small chunks for texture. Add the onion and spice mixture, peas, lemon juice, and chopped coriander. Mix gently until well combined. Taste and adjust salt as needed.

To assemble the samosa, put pie crust out onto a floured surface. Roll crust out until you have a circle approximately 20 inches around. Cut dough in quarters. Take a half-circle and brush the straightedge side with a little water, fold it in half, and align the two straight sides so they overlap to form a cone shape. Squeeze the edges together to make a tight seal. Place approximately one generous tablespoon of filling inside each cone, leaving the top edge clean. Moisten the inside top rim of the cone and press the edges together to make another tight seal. Place the samosas on a tray until ready to fry. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Heat approximately three inches of vegetable oil in a deep saucepan. Fry several samosas at a time, being careful not to crowd them. When one side turns golden brown, flip it over to brown on the other side. Drain on paper towels.

Mint Dipping Sauce:
4 cloves garlic
1 1-inch piece ginger
1 bunch fresh mint, leaves removed from stems
1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves removed from stems
1
jalapeño pepper, seeds and stem removed
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp.
kosher salt (adjust to taste)
Juice of 2 limes
1 tbs water
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
4 tbs. plain yogurt (optional)

Place garlic and ginger into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the mint, cilantro, jalapeño, sugar, salt, and lime juice and puree until well ground. Add water and olive oil and pulse to combine. If you want a creamy dipping sauce add the yogurt and pulse until smooth.

To serve, place dipping sauce in a dish and serve next to a platter of earthy and delicious Samosas. Enjoy!

Tom Gha Kai – Chicken Coconut Soup
Now we head east to Thailand, for a soul nurturing dish called Tom Kha Gai. This translates to chicken coconut soup and is loaded with intense flavors of lime, lemon grass, ginger, and coconut milk and filled with the indescribable umami flavor of fish sauce. If you like Thai food, you most likely have already had fish sauce in a dish, so do not let it scare you. You can get it at most grocery stores. Hy-Vee carries the Thai Kitchen brand, which isn’t the best, but will do the trick. All of the ingredients (except my fish sauce) were purchased locally.

1 1-inch ginger piece, peeled
1 tbs. lime zest and 1/4 cup lime juice
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into
1-inch pieces
8 oz. mushrooms, preferably shiitake or oyster, but baby Portobello and button will work in a pinch, stemmed, caps cut into bitesize pieces
1 13.5-oz. can coconut milk (do not confuse Thai coconut milk in the can with the drinking coconut
milk; the one in the can is thicker and a key component to the dish)
2 tbs. fish sauce (such as Thai Kitchen, we prefer Nam Pla or Nuoc Nam)
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, tough outer layers removed
Chili oil, cilantro leaves with tender stems, and lime wedges (for serving)

Using the back of a knife, lightly smash lemongrass and ginger; cut lemongrass into four-inch pieces. Bring lemongrass, ginger, lime juice, zest, and broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors are melded, eight to ten minutes. Strain broth into clean saucepan; discard solids.

Add chicken and return to a boil. Reduce heat, add mushrooms, and simmer, skimming occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are soft, 20-25 minutes. Mix in coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar.

Divide soup among bowls. Serve with Sambal Oleek (chili paste) or chili oil, cilantro, and lime wedges. Makes six servings.

Michael Symon’s Crispy Lime & Cilantro Chicken Wings with Sriracha
Now we all know what huge chicken wing fans we are at LAF. We are always trying out new ways to make them, whether they are fired, baked, or smoked, we will try them. In a hunt for something a little different from the standard wings I make, I came across this recipe from Michael Symon, a fellow wingnut. This recipe plays on sweet and spicy and reaches a great crispiness baked in the oven. The original recipe calls for duck fat for frying. We baked these in the oven, but I assure you, had I four cups of duck fat hanging around, I would not have hesitated to fry the wings in that liquid gold. If you are lucky enough to have or come across duck fat, I implore you to buy it and fry the wings in it, and please report back and tell us how delicious they are!

3 lbs. chicken wings
(4 cups
duck fat if you are lucky enough to find it)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2
jalapeños (thinly sliced)

For the Marinade:
1 tbs. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbs. smoked paprika
2 limes (juiced)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Wing Sauce:
1/2 cup Sriracha
1 tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 tbs. honey (or more if desired)
3 tbs. unsalted butter
1 lime zest
1/2 tsp. salt

For the Marinade, combine the kosher salt, sugar, paprika, lime juice, and extra virgin olive oil. Add the chicken wings and toss to coat. Place the wings in a gallon sized bag and marinate for at least one to two hours, up to six.

Preheat oven to 375 F. While oven is warming, remove chicken from refrigerator and allow to come closer to room temperature. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread wings, and any leftover marinade onto parchment lined sheet pan. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate pan and shake slightly to move wings around and bake for another 30 minutes or until chicken wings are nice and crispy.

Meanwhile, make your sauce by placing a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add all of the ingredients and whisk occasionally until the butter has melted, then taste and season with salt and more honey if desired. Set aside until ready to use.

When wings are ready, remove from the oven. Using tongs, place wings in a large bowl. Pour the sauce over the wings and toss to coat evenly. Add cilantro and toss again. Pour wings onto a platter, scooping any extra sauce on top, and top with jalapeño slices. Serve with lime wedges for an extra tang.

Potatoes Anna
We all know we live in the land of meat and potatoes, but mashed potatoes and baked potatoes can get pretty boring night after night. We did a dinner party and wanted to elevate the potatoes to a whole new level, and boy, did we. This recipe for Potatoes Anna, or as the French say, Pommes Anna, will knock your socks off. The key is clarified butter, a process by which the milk solids and water are removed, leaving you with just the butterfat, which means it is much less likely to burn and spoil. Once you try it, you will find so many uses for it.

Clarified Butter:
1 1/2 lbs. unsalted butter cut into 1-inch pieces

Place the butter in a two-quart saucepan and set over medium heat. Once the butter has liquefied, decrease the heat to lowest setting then adjust to maintain a low boil. Cook for approximately 45 minutes or until the butter reaches 260 degrees F, is clear, and the foam on top is slightly browned. Strain the clarified butter through four layers of cheesecloth set into a hand strainer into a heatproof vessel. Cool completely before refrigerating in an airtight container for up to six months. Can be frozen for up to a year.

Potatoes:
1/4 cup clarified butter
2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

A cast iron pan or enamel pan works great for this dish.

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and trim the potatoes into a somewhat uniform cylindrical shape, but don’t waste too much potato. Uniformity makes layering easier. Cut the cylinders into thin, 1/16-inch slices, preferably with a mandolin so that the slices are of uniform thickness.

Liberally brush an eight-inch sauté pan with clarified butter and arrange the potato slices in concentric rings, starting in the center and working your way out. Lightly brush each layer with clarified butter and season lightly with salt and pepper. Do the next layer the same, but circling in the other direction, brush with butter and season. Continue to layer, brushing and seasoning each layer.

Place the potatoes on the stovetop and cook undisturbed over medium heat until golden brown on the bottom, about three to four minutes. Transfer the potatoes to the oven and cook until caramelized and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Press the potatoes occasionally to compress and shake the pan to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom.

Drain the excess butter from the pan and turn the potato cake out onto a cutting board.

We served this dish with a French cut pork loin chop from Cremer’s Meats with lemon garlic green beans and an Italian salsa verde on the pork. Everyone was in the ‘clean plate’ club. Not a morsel left over.

Italian Salsa Verde for Pork
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 tsp. (or more) fine sea salt
1/2 tsp. (or more) black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. (packed) grated lemon peel
3 1/2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup High quality extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup (packed) chopped Italian parsley
1 tbs. drained capers
2 anchovy fillets, minced (anchovy paste can be substituted)

Mix first five ingredients in small bowl. Using the back of wooden spoon, mash to paste. Whisk in lemon juice, then olive oil in thin stream until blended. Stir in parsley, capers, and anchovies. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Can be made six hours ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature and re-whisk before using.

Makes one cup. Serve as a condiment for pork, chicken, fish, beef, or vegetables.

We hope you enjoyed your food tour around the globe and hope you go off and create some of your own “foodcations.” If you do, we would love to hear about them. Please share your stories with us. See you around the May pole.

For Kids, By Kids
by Hannah Stoner

We hear reduce, reuse, and recycle all the time. We see recycling bins along the curbs and in public areas. Those recycling bins help our environment and save trees. They can reduce the size of landfills, decrease pollution, and reduce energy consumption. The list goes on and on! If we don’t start to do something about pollution, our beautiful earth will eventually get very unhealthy and really dirty. Even the littlest step towards recycling will go a long way.

Down to Earth Popcorn
The month of April brings Earth Day and Arbor Day. So this month, I am going to share a recipe for the Earth. Popcorn is a favorite snack of many, so why not turn it green and blue like the earth and make it a fun snack, too! Popcorn grows in the earth and produces ears just like the field and sweet corn grown on most farms. This popcorn is not only colorful, it is also flavorful. This Earth Day and Arbor Day, go out and plant a tree, then enjoy some delicious popcorn.

12 cups of popped popcorn
1/3 cup of butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
One package of blue Kool-Aid
One package of green Kool-Aid
Half teaspoon of baking soda

Preheat oven to 225°. Divide the butter, sugar, and corn syrup in half. In a pot over medium-low heat, mix the sugar, corn syrup, and butter until the butter is melted. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce heat. Continue to let the mixture simmer while stirring it constantly for three minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the blue Kool-Aid. If needed you can add a few drops of blue food coloring for an even brighter blue color. Next, do the same thing for the green mixture. Divide the popped popcorn and pour the blue mixture over half and the green mixture over the other half. Stir popcorn until the mixture is evenly coated it. Combine the blue and green popcorn and spread out on a large baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes. Cool completely, then break into pieces. Enjoy!

Angela and Carolyn Linton-Canfield
After 18 years working in the food and beverage industries of Chicago and San Francisco, Angela and Carolyn started a private chef and catering company, Life’s a Feast, in the tri-state area. They embrace their passion of cooking, entertaining, and creating one-of-a-kind experiences for their clients. Carolyn and Angela now share their passion with viewers on their cable show Life’s a Feast, available on Mediacom and their YouTube channel, Life’s a Feast LLC. Both share their expertise on food and wine on our website, their website, as well as their Facebook page. Recipes and photos are the copyrighted and intellectual property of Life’s a Feast, LLC.

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