Monday, September 22, 2008

Spontaneous Celebration

Before I go any further in this post, I need to tell you that the name is borrowed from a wonderful creative space in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Spontaneous Celebrations is a multicultural home for art and creativity. Check it out.

My own spontaneous celebration happened this weekend. I believe it's important to live big, but know it's hard to do so; this weekend was a good example of the weekend conspiring to help me. I've blogged about the weekend as a whole in True Stories, Honest Lies.

On Saturday my friend Serene called and asked if we would like to have dinner with her husband and herself. For once we could easily say yes and invited them for dinner. My initial thought was to order something in, but it's hard to eat healthy food when it's delivered. It is, at best, quick food. So I decided to cook.

I wanted to use what I had in the house as much as possible, and I admit, I got a little excited.

The first course:
- dried apricots with a dab of chevre and almonds
- shrimp cocktail
- veggies with hummus
- tzatski dip (recipe below)

The second course:
- yogurt marinated chicken (recipe below)
- steamed chard
- red rice

It was lovely.

Tzatski is a greek yogurt dip. I first had it in Crete, sitting in a small ocean-side restaurant. To me it tastes of relaxation and the timelessness of the Mediterranean.

Peel, half and seed a nice sized cucumber. Mince the remaining flesh, then put it into a colander to drain. It should produce a fair bit of liquid. Mash it around from time to time to push more of the liquid out - you don't need it to be dry, but it shouldn't be dripping. This will take at least five minutes.

Take two cups of good yogurt - none of this fat-free stuff. Use a nice, thick yogurt. Put it in a lovely bowl - I used one of iridescent black stoneware. Add several mashed cloves of garlic (I used six, but I like garlic). Add the minced, drained cucumber. Add a little salt and some fresh pepper. Stir.

Let this all sit for a little while then eat with veggies and sliced pita bread. Mmmm....

Yogurt marinated chicken is tender and succulent. Any spices you add to the marinade are pulled into the meat and utterly permeate the finished product. This is an Indian method of cooking but one that can be applied to other seasonings.

I used four cups of fat free yogurt (you don't need to use great yogurt here, but it should have a nice tang) and added maybe 6 cloves of mashed garlic, a tablespoon of salt, several tablespoons of purchased garam masala, a little extra cinnamon and pepper. Once this was all mixed together I added in the chicken and made sure it was all well coated. I let it marinade for a couple of hours then grilled it, garnished with some cilantro. That was it! Delicious and reasonably healthy to boot.

(c) 2008 Laura S. Packer

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