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Archive for June, 2009

During these hot days, I just want to eat salad (and ice cream, always). While one can usually find wilted iceberg lettuce from the convenient street bhaji-sellers, obtaining leaves that taste like something, such as rocket (arugula), involves planning a trip to Crawford Market, a giant food warehouse of sorts, or going to one of the new grocery stores like Reliance Fresh or Nature’s Basket. However, in Bombay, I usually only go to grocery stores for specialty items like mustard or dried mushrooms because produce is much fresher from the street stalls and Crawford market. Anyway, with the impending monsoon, eating uncooked greens is not so advisable, so to assuage my appetite I turned to…lentils.

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I love the lentil salads my parents used to make, with the olive-colored puy lentils that look like little gemstones, but I have no idea where to find them here. So I turned to something we always have in our Mumbai home- Massoor Dal, or red dal, which, by the way, turns yellow after it cooks. Instead of boiling the dal into a hot soup, I cooked the lentils in the pressure cooker until they were just done. While they cooled, I prepared the minty cumin and lime dressing. I added the cubed beets I had boiled earlier to bulk up the lentils, coated them both in the dressing and there I had it- my lively Bombay version of lentil salad, refreshing, red and earthy.

Lentil Salad with Beets and Minty Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette
adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1 cup red lentils, boiled/pressure-cooked until just done
2 beets, boiled, chopped

for the dressing:
1 garlic clove, smashed
zest of 2 lemons
2-3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. chopped scallion
1 Tbsp. mint
1 green chile, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt

Put the cooked lentils and boiled, chopped beets in a medium bowl. Combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and let stand for 15 minutes. Pour it on top of the lentils and beets and mix well. Enjoy!

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At my cooking class yesterday, I learned to make another version of tzatziki, the Greek yogurt salad. I decided to make it for dinner last night because it is easy and now, halfway through June with no sign of rain, I start sweating everytime I step into my kitchen. This salad is almost the same as that beet tzatziki I posted about a while back, but unlike beet, whose flavor tends to overwhelm, roasted eggplant is subtle and buttery. The eggplant is cubed, tossed in olive oil, and broiled for 7-10 minutes, until it’s soft and brown. Mix the yogurt with smashed garlic, lemon, dill, and the tiniest bit of olive oil; then add the eggplant and some salt. The thick white yogurt with bits of black eggplant looks classically pretty and the lemon and dill lend freshness to the lavish spoonfuls. It’s a quick and cooling antidote to these muggy evenings.

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Dillightfully Creamy Yogurt with Roasted Eggplant, or, Eggplant Tzatziki
adapted from Asha Khatau

1 eggplant, cubed
2 cups strained yogurt (hang yogurt in a cheesecloth an hour or two before you plan on making this. Don’t throw out the water- it’s full of protein. Drink it or add it into a soup.)
2 cloves crushed garlic
1-1.5 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. chopped dill
1/2 teaspoon olive oil, plus more for coating the eggplant
salt

1. Coat the cubed eggplant in olive oil and broil in your oven for 7-10 minutes, until soft and brown
2. Add the garlic, lemon juice, dill and olive oil to the strained yogurt and mix
3. Add eggplant to yogurt mixture and sprinkle salt to taste. Chill until you’re ready to eat!

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Hrishikesh has a penchant for dairy, especially when it’s decadent; it seems he’s always longing for cream, pungent cheeses, and thick, strained yogurts. He once told me a story of how he and Petru, his old roommate, used to challenge each other to find the best of what they believed to be the most delicious: yogurt with the highest fat content. I adore ice cream, yes, but my husband’s  opulent palate is unmatchable. So, it should be no surprise that at least once a week, he wants to combine cream with Indian spices in Punjabi food, and specifically, paneer makhani, black dal and biryani. Yet, for a girl whose Punjabi picks are baingan bhartha and channa masala, his constant desire for rich food can be hard to digest. Mostly, I end up ignoring his suggestions and tempting him with something else, but once in a while, I have to give in. After all, that’s the compromise of coupledom, right?

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So we made paneer makhani the other night. It was delicious and I learned that, as long as you have a blender, compromise can be a cinch. Basically, you make an onion paste and a tomato paste, both blended with spices and other ingredients. Then you fry the pastes, add water, cream, paneer (or even a vegetable, like mushrooms!) and let the flavors simmer and meld together. The result of your understanding and good nature will be a velvety dish in which the sweetness of ground raw cashews perfectly balances the tart tomatoes and the heat of ginger. In the end, of course, everything comes together with that old favorite, thick cream.

Via a google search, I found this recipe at Passionate About Life ‘n Spice, a wonderful blog full of Indian vegetarian recipes. We changed it around a bit, but this recipe, in all its easy glory, is very much Sia’s. Thank you!

Paneer Makhani / Paneer Butter Masala
adapted from http://www.monsoonspice.com

For the Onion Paste:

2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. cinnamon powder
3 cloves garlic
seeds of 3 green cardomom pods
1 bay leaf
1/2 inch ginger, pounded
For the Tomato Paste:

3 large tomatoes, chopped
18 cashews
1 green chile
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. tandoori masala
1/2 tsp. amchur / dried mango powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2-1 tsp. Kashmiri chile powder

2-3 cups paneer (in 1/2 inch pieces)
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tbsp. fresh cream
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried methi (dried fenugreek leaves…adds a tiny hint of bitterness)
1 tbsp. ghee/oil
2-3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
salt

1. Grind ingredients for onion paste; remove in a bowl. Grind ingredients for tomato paste.

2. Heat oil in saucepan. Add cumin seeds and let brown. Mix in onion paste and cook until the paste turns a light brown in color, about 6-8 minutes.

3. Add methi and sugar, stir, and cook for another minute.

4. Add tomato paste and stir well, cooking for another 5 minutes. If paste starts sticking to pan, add a little bit of water and keep cooking.

5. Increase the heat and add 1 cup water and salt to taste. Mix well and cover, cooking for another 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, if you find the gravy too thick, add some more water.

6. Add paneer cubes, cream and cilantro. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve with naan, parathas or rice, with a plate of sliced onion, tomato, and lemon on the side

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