Category Archives: salad

Cooking through a "Frankenstorm’

I can never thank providence enough for givin me the common sense to prepare myself for the much touted Frankenstorm Sandy. Plenty of flashlights, spare batteries in bulk, Water, a back up sump pump for the basement, Firewood, the list could go on.. Nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for the terrifying experience of living through those six hours.  It sounded like a  full payload Boeing 747 was taking off for a transatlantic flight right in the backyard. Sure enough, the lights went out, and we were left  hunkering down in total darkness with a diabolical, howling wind screeching through the house. And yet, it stopped almost as suddenly as it started around midnight, almost as if the trees had no more strength to even flutter a leaf. All that could be heard was a proverbial sound of silence, equally eerie.

The next morning, the most visible evidence of the storm were the felled and leaning trees and the side of the house spattered with shreds of torn leaves hurled there by the wind. And in the middle of this havoc wreaked by nature, the rose bush in my backyard had this perfect bloom that had faced the brunt of the elements and survived practically unscathed.. What a positive motivation. It definitely kept me going through the next five cold days without power.

(the shredded leaves can be seen spattered in the background against the siding)

We were definitely one of the lucky households that still had access to hot water and a cooking stove, and it was a fabulous experience cobbling up new dishes in semi darkness. The brain definitely tends to compensate for the visual disadvantage by honing the senses of smell and sound. In terms of gadgets, the one that really came into full use was this Rosle manual multi chopper that substituted admirably for an electrically operated version. I had picked mine up from William Sonoma at Bridgewater, NJ (at a great sale price of $29.99) a couple of months ago. They have a similar one from another brand as well. Its also available from Amazon, just follow the link at the bottom of the page.

A couple of dishes that  I’ll always associate with superstorm Sandy are a hot mug  of  Apple cider mulled with green tea and saffron, somewhat similar in flavor to a Kashmiri ‘Kahwa’. Sipping it in front of a hot crackling fire was a wonderful balm for all the discomforts the lack of electricity brought.

Where there is a working fireplace, there’s a great opportunity for roasting vegetables, so in went a couple of Sweet potatoes into the embers and voila!  Lunch on powerless Day 2  was a great salad of fire roasted smoky Sweet potatoes and crunchy Granny Smith apples with a pomegranate molasses and citrus dressing. So reminiscent of the street treat shakarkhand (sweet potato) chaat that New Delhi is famous for.   The spices.. a blend of toasted and powdered cumin,black pepper and a pinch of  sea salt. By the time we got power after five days, I was hallucinating about the potential of baking Naan on the sides of the fireplace.. but that’s a blog post for another day!

Fire roasted Sweet potato and apple salad.

You need: ( makes 3  servings)

3 medium pink skinned sweet potatoes
1 large granny smith apple quartered and sliced thin
1 handful of pomegranate arils

For the dressing.
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon toasted and crushed cumin
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch pimenton chile powder
Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk together. Set aside
Roast the sweet potatoes with the skin over a grill until the surface chars. Allow to cool and carefully flake off the charred skin. Slice into 1/4 thick slices.

Combine the sweet potato with the sliced apples and the pomegranates. Drizzle over with the pomegranate molasses dressing and gently shake to combine. (the sweet potatoes can be very soft and may mush up). Divide up into 3 bowls, stick a toothpick (or a fancy cocktail fork) into the center and serve!

Bon appetit and have a great voting Tuesday!

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One ingredient, a plethora of possibilities!

Ever heard of this joke?
Wife: I bought a spoon today & they gave me a 4 place dinner set for free!!
Husband: Really?? that’s great.. & how much did the spoon cost?
Wife: $ 249.99…

Lets face it, all of us have sneaky stories like these that we will never share, (or .. we may brag about it on FB assuming that the ones closest to us will not notice). Well on a foodie note, yesterdays healthy light salad lunch was kind of built up on those lines.

I remember an episode of last seasons ‘The next food network star’ which catapulted Aarti Sequeira to Food network stardom and brought in a much needed Indian influence to the channel, one of the episodes featured a dish which called for pomegranate molasses. Now Indian cuisine puts the hallowed pomegranate to full use in the form of anardaana,  the dried version, and its powdered form, but one seldom sees it being used as a thick syrup in Indian cuisine.
OK.. the word molasses conjures up the image of something produced only on an industrial scale, of course it is a byproduct of sugar refining and how often do we refine sugar cane juice at home??,
 As one moves westward away from the Indian subcontinent, this delicious syrup establishes itself as a staple in Persian cooking. Turns out pomegranate molasses is not really a molasses at all, rather simply pomegranate juice boiled down to a concentrate. It perfectly fits the definition of sweet n’ sour to a T and best of all, its a cinch to make! (albeit a tad messy!)

To make Pomegranate molasses, you need:
1 L all natural pomegranate juice.

(thats it!)

Pour the pomegrante juice into a wide skillet (I used an enamel coated one)

Boil down  till thick enough a wooden spoon drawn through the bottom will leave the bottom of the pan exposed for a couple of seconds before the molasses covers it up.

what you’ll be left with is this lovely burgundy syrup that seems to be tailor made for many Indian dishes!1 L of juice yields about 1/2 a cup of molasses. (it also varies depending upon how thick you want it to be)

The first thought that came to mind when I first licked off the spoon was that a dash of salt & chilli powder & it would make a fabulous substitute for tamarind date chutney, and this eventually led me to making a lovely dressing for a summer grilled salad. Here’s the recipe!

Citrus & pomegranate molasses dressing:

1 1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon fresh orange zest
Chaat masala to taste

Combine the molasses, fresh orange juice, the olive oil, orange zest & chaat masala & whisk together till blended well. Taste and adjust for the chaat masala. set aside in refrigerator till required.

For the Salad you need: 

2 1/4 inch slices fresh pineapple
2 medium red potatoes diced
2 medium peruvian purple potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt to taste
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 cob fresh corn
1 persian cucumber, diced OR 1/2 english hothouse cucumber (diced)
arils from 1/2 a fresh pomegranate
3 mini bell peppers finely diced (1 each of yellow, red & orange)
1 sprig mint (leaves only)
3-4 iceberg lettuce leaves

Peel & dice the potatoes. into 1/2 inch cubes. drizzle olive oil & add the sea salt & black pepper. Marinade for ~ 15 minutes. Roast till golden brown in a 400 F oven (~ 1/2 hr) or in a grill basket over a grill.
In a grill pan over high heat, grill the pineapple slices till the char marks are well defined (~ 2 minutes on each side). remove, cut each slice into 8 wedges & set aside to cool
remove the husks from the corn & grill over the stove top till the surface just begins to char. Using a kitchen knife, shave the kernels from the cob and add to a large bowl.
Stack the mint leaves over each other and finely shred into a chiffonade.
Add the cucumbers, peppers and the pomegranate arils to the corn & toss to combine. Add the pineapple & the potatoes to the mix. Drizzle with the dressing as per taste & Garnish with the fresh mint leaves. Serve on the lettuce leaves.

Bon appetit!

Root Salad

In India, along with the pongal season arrives a slew of rhizomes in the market that are associated with this festival. Fresh Ginger & turmeric are found everywhere, whole plants with the rhizomes still caked in fresh muddy earth. The aroma is incomparable.
At home, invariably after the festivities were over there would be plenty of the fresh turmeric & ginger left over after some had been replanted in pots (Its quite another story that we needed to eventually buy more next year!)  for the next season, my dad would dice these finely, add finely minced green chilli, salt & a dash of lime to make this yummy relish/salad.. (it was a bit too spicy to load up by the ladleful, but mild & piquant enough to scarf down generously for an ‘achar’ (pickle/relish), so in later years I took to calling this a salsa). My mother in her characteristic southie tradition would add a tadka of mustard & a pinch of asafetida. This was one of my late fathers signature dishes & I can’t take the credit for it.

 you need:
 1/4 cup  Fresh Turmeric root grated or diced fine
1/4 cup Mango ginger ( available in Indian grocery stores) grated or diced finely
1/2 cup tender ginger root grated or diced finely.
Juice of 1 lime
1/4  – 1/2 a jalapeno, seeds removed minced fine
Salt to taste.

For the tadka:
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
Pinch of asafetida (optional)

Combine the grated turmeric,  mango ginger & ginger in a bowl with the minced jalapeno. add the salt & lime juice & toss lightly. In a skillet, heat the oil, add the mustard seeds once the seeds sputter, remove from fire add the asafetida, stir well & drizzle over the salsa. Serve with any rice dish of your choice.

Appa: thanks for a wonderful recipe.. this one’s for you!