It's amazing how one ingredient can inspire a variety of ideas. I came up with the following recipe simply because of a free sample I got at the Sac Foods Co-op a few weeks ago. Along with their veggie chips and some other snacks, they were offering free samples of these Thai-spiced cashews that were simply to die for. They were well-seasoned with plenty of salt, garlic, curry, and other spices, and though they didn't seem all that Thai to me, they were delicious. I couldn't help but think how tasty these would be with some chicken & veggies for a quick dinner, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.
Don't worry about not being able to find these Thai-spiced cashews where you live - this is something that can be easily recreated at home, and you can make a lot more of them for the same price that the little box cost me at the the Co-op that one day (it was a completely impulsive splurge; the do-it-yourself method was far more cost effective and rather fun to make). In fact, you can make a ton of different spiced nuts as long as you have a well-stocked spice pantry. Experimenting with these and coming up with some favorite variations is a great way to add some healthy texture and flavor to anything from salads to rice dishes to desserts. You can also use plain cashews in this if you're not feeling too adventurous or are pressed for time.
Some things to note: This is one of those recipes that is heavy on the flavor and aroma. There’s quite a bit of curry and other aromatic spices, so if you like things on the bland side, this probably isn't the recipe for you, but if you're like me and like a lot of flavor on your tongue this will do the trick without being overwhelming. If you can't find or afford whole cumin seed (my latest recommendation for affodable spices - your local dollar store. More on that in a future post), don't worry. You can use ground cumin; just season your chicken well with it. There is something about whole toasted seeds that just brings a different flair to the dish, but this is still very tasty with the ground version. For the yogurt-based sauce, use regular plain yogurt and avoid the thicker Greek styles. Though the latter is my favorite, this is supposed to be a light sauce, so you want a lighter base that you can't get with the thicker, pre-strained Greek yogurts. Finally, don't feel obligated to serve this on top of a grain like rice or cous cous. If you're watching your carb intake, this will also go beautifully atop a bed of fresh, crisp spinach. Now, on with the show!
Toasted Cumin Chicken with Broccoli & Curried Cashews (serves 4 as an entree w/rice; total cost per person: ~$3.10)
4 large chicken thighs (or breasts, if you prefer)
1 c broccoli florets
1 T whole cumin seed
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 t salt
1/2 t curry powder
1-2 T cooking oil
1/3 c non-fat plain yogurt
1 T honey
1 T curry powder
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cayenne
1/4 t salt
2 c white jasmine or basmati rice
1 c cashews
1 T cooking oil
1/4 t curry powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t garlic powder
Make Curried Cashews by combining all spices in a small bowl and mixing together thoroughly. Next, place cashews in a medium bowl and add the oil, mixing until cashews are completely coated. Add the spice mixture and toss well, again until all the cashews are uniformly coated. Place on a foil covered cookie sheet in a single layer and toast for about 10-15 minutes (or until golden brown) at about 325°. Set aside when done.
Combine the yogurt, honey, and other spices in a bowl and whisk together until smooth. Cut the chicken into 2” cubes and season with salt & curry powder. Heat the cooking oil in a large skillet and add the cumin seed and garlic. Toast over medium heat until fragrant and garlic begins to brown. Add the chicken and cook covered over medium low heat for about 7 minutes (or until chicken is no longer pink on the inside). While the chicken is cooking, heat another glug of oil in a smaller skillet. Over medium heat, quickly stir fry the broccoli and ¼ c cashews until the broccoli turns a crisp, bright green. Add to the chicken & its juices, stir well, then slowly pour in the yogurt sauce. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure that the sauce remains smooth.
Serve over white rice or cous cous, sprinkle with extra cashews if desired, and enjoy!