Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Recipe: Toasted Cumin Chicken with Broccoli & Curried Cashews

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

Curried Cashews
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!


  1. Mmm, that looks yummy!

    Just a note about dollar store spices - watch out! In my work, I was recently required to a great deal of research on herbs and spices around the world, and what I found out is that cheap ones often aren't (especially when it comes to spices). Many are adulterated or aren't even from the plant they claim to be. This is especially true for ground spices.

    Cinnamon, for instances, is rarely true cinnamon anywhere in the U.S. and is actually a species of Cassia. This is fine, except Cassia species contain far higher quantities of coumarin, a toxin, than true cinnamon does. The cheaper the "cinnamon" you buy, the less desirable a species it likely came from and the more coumarin it is likly to contain. This can be dangerous if you like copious amounts of cinnamon on your oatmeal everyday as I do!

    Another example is ginger, which maybe taken from an inferior related species, although with higher toxicity, or more commonly adulterated with things such as talc or just rice flour and capsaisin to keep that bite in it. Almost any ground spice can be and is adulterated, sometime with very dangerous and undesirable things. The cheaper you buy, the more likely this. Even whole seed spices are sometimes adulterated with similar seeds from other plants that cheaper, although this is relatively rare in this country.

    Herbs are a bit safer, particularly familiar and cheap to grow ones such as basil and oregano. But even these are often adulterated, as when dried one green bit often looks just like another. The biggest price you pay with herbs, though, is that the flavor fades as the dollar store ones tend to be older. This causes you to use more to get the same kick and you might end up spending the same amount in the long run.

    Sorry that was so long, but I wanted to be thorough. If you do buy spices from the dollar store try to get them whole, or at least look for a name brand which is discounted due to age rather than an unknown brand!

    Good luck!

  2. Just read your article on the SNR webpage. I look forward to reading more of your blog and brushing up on my own cooking skills! I'm in Sac also, making custom cakes. Let me know if you need to feed your sweet tooth!

  3. I've made this dish twice now and it's now solidly on our list of favourites. It's got amazing flavour and is so easy to make, and it works with a whack of food allergies that I have to deal with. Thanks!!

  4. I liked this recipe a lot and I'm not really into spicy food. I was worried it was going to have a strong taste but it doesn't... I think it has the perfect blend of spices.

  5. Paula & Anon, it's great to hear that you're liking this dish! I am very much into a lot of spices, but I do think there's a fine line that shouldn't be crossed when combining a lot of them. This seemed just smoky enough for me and it seems it's working for you, too!

    Tracey, I've been meaning to respond to your comment but keep getting sidetracked. I just wanted to thank you for all the good info! I'll def. keep it in mind when I go spice shopping next time.

    Cake, welcome to the fun! I'm definitely going to hit you up for some sweet tooth indlugences... your stuff looks great!



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