Pea Shoots Salad with Sacha Inchi

I love nuts, all kinds.  Then I discovered these Inca nuts.  They are incredibly addictive, and stand out from all the other commonplace nuts. And, they are also being  touted as a superfood. So what more can I ask for.  You can simply order them over the internet.

The sacha inchi nuts  go very well with the peppery and delicate pea shoots. A citrus dressing is a natural fit to this but here I use a fig balsamic.

This simple salad is divine and may become your go-to green staple. You may find this strange, but I will recommend you use your chopsticks on this salad. Why? Not just that it is elegant; but it helps pick up the delicate pea shoots and even the nuts more effectively than a fork.

peaShoots-sacha-inchi
Pea Shoots with Sacha Inchi
Special tools:

salad spinner

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of tender pea shoots, washed and spun dry in a salad spinner
  • Dressing: 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + 1 tbsp fig balsamic vinegar + pinch of salt + dash of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 cup sacha inchi nuts
  • 1/8 cup dried dark sweet cherries

Method

Mix the dressing ingredients with a wire whisk.  Toss the greens gently till lightly dressed.  Mix in the nuts and dried berries.

 

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Pre-washed greens (in bulk)  save water for the community. But if your greens are not already washed; you must thoroughly wash  and a salad spinner is invaluable in drying them.
  2. Hazelnuts is a good substitute for  sacha inchi.
  3. Baby spinach or spring mix can be substituted for the greens.
  4. In my kitchen I have a pair of “hands” carved out of wood which I use to toss the salads with. But I have found my bare (and immaculately clean) hands are such a great substitute.
  5. This recipe is very minimalist, but complete. But you can also add fruits and/or proteins of your choice.

Avocado Kulfi

Perhaps the perfect time to bring this recipe out of the closet, while everybody is talking about Tom Brady’s avocado ice cream. This is may absolute favorite recipe: very easy to make and the final product is irresistible: is it dessert or breakfast (summer) or an evening snack ? It can masquerade as any, without an iota of guilt.

I call this a kulfi since I am using reduced milk in the recipe.  Though, I do put it through the ice cream machine for some minimal airing, which is not a kulfi technique. Without the little airing,  the texture is more amenable to a granita, again perfectly acceptable.

avocadoKulfi

Special tools:

Ice cream maker; food processor

Ingredients

  • pulp of 2 Hass avocados
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 10 oz fat-free  condensed milk
  • a pinch salt
  • garnish:  1 tbsp charoli nuts (or pistachios, shelled and coarsley crushed)

Method

Put all the ingredients except the garnish in a food processor.  Pulse for 30 secs or so till the mix is smooth.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions of your ice cream maker.  It takes 12-15 minutes to be set. In the last 2 minutes add the garnish nuts.  Pour into freezing container and leave in the freezer overnight.

Leave it at room temperature for at least 10 mins before digging in.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. You can replace condensed milk with  evaporated milk and add sugar to your taste. Dissolve the sugar in warm milk and cool before adding to the mix. The use of canned condensed or evaporated milk makes this effortless.
  2. The lime juice in the recipe keeps the avocado from turning black and also gives a much-needed lift to the kulfi mix.
  3. The nuts give a nice texture contrast.
  4. Plan ahead for this one; since most ice cream makers require the bowl to be left in the freezer for 6-8 hrs.

Bitter Gourds Chana Dal

Exiting a Tokyo subway through a department store,  I got besotted with an “MPC” (microwave pressure cooker) prominently displayed.  The microwave is my usual trusty sous-chef and pressure cooking is my way of life: but the twain had never met!  So, I promptly bought the MPC and lugged it all the way back to New York.  Later I noticed that the MPC is made in India- talk of the world being a global village.

Here I give a simple recipe using the MPC. A bitter gourd has its namesake taste and can be bought at most  Indian green grocers’. The Chinese bittermelons are a little milder.  Either can be used here. I am told the bitterness is good for you and so it is no surprise that I now see cartons of bitter gourd juice in Indian supermarkets.

There are many ways to reduce the bitterness of the gourd/melon: salting and draining of its bitter juices,  or masking the bitterness with tamarind and sugar, or crisping through deep-frying, to list a few. But here is a recipe that is utterly simple and yet magically tames the bitterness. And, the taste is wonderful with the lentils mildly flavored by whole spices.

kalara-chana

Special tools:

pressure cooker or microwave pressure cooker

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb bitter gourds or bitter melons, cut into small peices
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes cut into small peices
  • 3/4 cup chana dal or yellow lentils, soaked in plenty of water for 1 hr and drained
  • Seasoning whole spices (SWS): 1/4 tsp each of whole black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, anise seeds +  1 dried chile de arbol
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • salt to taste

Method

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add all the SWS ingredients till the spices sputter and fragrant (less than a  minute or so). Add the gourd pieces and saute for 2 minutes until well coated.

In a pressure cooker add all the ingredients together and 1 cup water. Pressure cook, following your instructions manual, until the gourds are soft.

Serve with hot steaming rice.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1.  The SWS can be replaced by 1 tsp of the whole spice mix  pancha phutana.
  2. The same recipe can be used for green papaya or kohlrabi, instead of the bitter gourds.
  3. A stove-top pressure cooker takes 5 minutes at pressure. A microwave pressure cooker takes longer: it took me 12 minutes.  There are many factors involved in pressure cooking, so you have to experiment with the equipment you have at hand.
  4. I have tried this recipe in a regular pan on the stove (not a pressure cooker). I was curious whether the pressure helped in getting rid of the bitterness. But it turns out that it works out perfectly well even without the pressure.   The dal should be well soaked (at least a few hours)  and cook for 15-20 minutes on simmer. This also needs more water. So keep an eye on it.
  5. You could add garam masala at the end, if you so wish.  I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to spicing.  I found the flavors satisfying enough that I did not use it.

Vietnamese Tempeh Steaks

 

I was urged by my friend for an easy-peasy dish, but healthy,  delectable and surprising. This is my response: Indonesian Tempeh with Vietnamese sauce & garnish, served in the American “steak” style.

Tofu is to curd what tempeh is to cheese. Tempeh is fermented soy and is a superfood,  as professed by health gurus.  One of  health and nutrition results of 2017 was that including hot peppers in the diet is a good thing; so I could not resist the temptation of adding jalapeno peppers to the garnish. I used Vietnamese fish sauce; so strictly speaking it is not vegetarian– although its role in the dish is to provide a depth of savory flavor and those of you familiar with this ingredient have realized that it is not fishy at all. You can omit this, if you are not comfortable with its usage.

You may notice that there is no oil in the recipe:  I adapt this characteristic from southeast Asian techniques, which I find particularly interesting.

Here the tempeh steams in the sauce and turns into glaze, due to the sugar, when done.   Mise en place-ed, the dish is ready in 10 minutes!

Ingredients

Makes 2 portions

  • 16 oz tempeh (two packets of 8 oz each)
  • S1:  4 tbsps brown sugar + 2 tbsp fish sauce + 2 tbsp soy sauce + dash of Sriracha or red chilli powder + 1 tsp grated fresh ginger + 2 tbsps of lemon juice  + 3-4 tbsp white wine or sake
  • S2:  1 green jalapeno thinly sliced + 1 tsp lemon juice + zest of  half a lemon + handful cilantro leaves

Method

Cut the tempeh into 6 small “steak” pieces.  Place all the S1 ingredients in an iron skillet and mix.  Lay the 6 tempeh pieces.  Turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to gentle simmer and  cover. After 4 minutes,  turn each piece cook for another 4 minutes covered.  If the sauce has dried up, then add some more wine or water.  Be careful not to burn it since  the sauce contains sugar.

Mix the S2 ingredients for garnishing. Serve tempeh warm or cold, topped with garnish.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. You can use a non-stick pan instead of the iron skillet.
  2. I have used brown sugar, but you could replace this with palm sugar if you can lay your hands on it.

Greens Pistou

Under pressure to include greens in the daily intake and a little jaded with salads (not that I have anything against them), I had to come up with a way of throwing greens into the diet of even the fussiest eater.  This Provençal inspiration has a way of vanishing from my fridge,  so it hits the right taste notes!

Moreover, health gurus profess the inclusion of seeds and nuts in the diet. Nuts with their nuttiness move the taste needle in the right direction.  To take the needle even further: savory umami of  Parmigiano Reggianao and sweetness of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).  The latter provides both the preserving medium as well as its incredible deliciousness.

Milder than an Indian  chutney,  and not as rich as a pesto, you can over-indulge without consequences. Easy, healthy, versatile  and a refrigerator-life of a week: what more can I ask for!

 

 

Special tools:

Pestle & mortar or Mexican molcajete

Ingredients

  • T1: 1/3 cup sunflower seeds + 1 pod garlic + 1 dried chile de arbol
  • 5 0z arugula
  • dash of apple cider vinegar  or lime juice (for brightness)
  • 1/8 cup freshly shaved Parmigiano Reggianao
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • salt to taste

Method

Toast T1 ingredients on a skillet or in a toaster oven till lightly aromatic. If the aroma is strong, it may be too late: keep an eye on this as the seeds burn in the blink of an eye.  Peel the roasted garlic.

Coarsely pound the toasted ingredients with the rest, except EVOO.  Add EVOO little at a time while gently pounding.

[Indeed there is no shame in using the  food processor, if pestle-mortar is not your thing.  Just be careful not to turn this into a paste. First pulse the toasted ingredients. Next add all the ingredients except EVOO and pulse gradually adding the EVOO through the feed tube.]

Use in tea sandwiches, on toasts, as dips or  to dress rice/pasta.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Sunflower seeds can be replaced with pumpkin seeds or nuts of your liking.
  2. The greens have a way of turning black, if not handled carefully.  Add the acid (vinegar or lime juice) as you begin to pound/pulse the greens.
    Another way is a quick and easy (modern) blanch: cover the greens with a paper towel and microwave for 20-25 secs. No need to shock in cold water.
  3. Any greens can be used instead of arugula: I have used baby spinach, cilantro leaves, baby chard, baby kale, even sugar snap peas- all with excellent results.
  4. Once I dressed rice with this and  I overheard one of my fussy eaters say “Who knew brown rice could taste this good”.
  5. Refrigerated, it can last for a week.

Punjabi Waffles

Aloo paratha, with a Belgian twist! Vegan too. Waffles increase the surface area by three times over the regular disc, for the same amount of batter. Less oily than the regular griddle parathas, And, the little indentations hold the accompanying chutney perfectly. So more of the crisp brown-surface to relish, without the oily finish. To all the waffle buffs: this one is eggless and savory. To the paratha buffs: buckle-up, this one will transport you with the aroma, taste and texture!

I had once seen Jamie Oliver deftly use a food processor switching from regular blade to slicer to complete an incredible, otherwise labor-intensive, Thai salad in less than 10 minutes. Jamie will be proud of me, I switch blade twice in this recipe, going from regular metal blade (to brunoise the greens) to shredder (potatoes) to dough-blade (with ata).

When I served the Punjabi waffles at brunch; I was asked “Is this also good for me ?”, Sure, it is. The flour is whole wheat (atta) and half the stuffing is greens! And,wholesome potatoes can’t be all bad. Feel free to throw in 1 tbsp of freshly toasted flaxseeds or other superfood of your choice.

Special tools:

Food processor; waffle maker; silicone brush

Ingredients

Makes 4 waffles (8 portions)

  • B1: quarter of small onion + 1 jalapeno + 5 oz baby spinach + salt  to taste
  • B2: 2 medium (Idaho) potatoes, peeled, quartered (immerse in cold water till ready to process)
  • B3: 1 cup durum whole wheat flour (atta) + salt to taste + ½ tsp baking soda +  2 tbsp oil  + 3/4 cup water
  • 1/8 cup oil for the waffle maker

Method

Use the regular blade and put all the B1 ingredients. Pulse a few times till very finely chopped. Next, replace the blade with the shredder and shred the B2 ingredient. Follow your processors instructions, since it varies from brand to brand. Next, remove the shredder and carefully fit the third dough-blade.  Add all the B3 ingredients, except water.  Turn on the processor and gradually add the water till it forms a thick pouring consistency batter. The exact amount of water may vary based on the humidity. Note that this is not a dough but a batter. Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes.

Use the waffle maker as per the manufacturer’s  instructions.  Oil the surface with the heatproof silicone brush.  Pour 1/2 cup batter.  Close the waffle maker and cook till done on medium-high. You should see a browning on the surface and the interior should not be sticky.

Serve warm  with Indian chutney or Greek tzatziki.   

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. The best results are with the Indian  atta.  I used the Golden Temple brand, which I believe serves the Punjabi diaspora in Canada. Use substitutes only if you cannot procure this.
  2. If vegan is not your thing, then mix oil and ghee in equal quantities to brush the waffle maker.  Also, in B3 ingredients, you can include 1 tbsp of yogurt.
  3. Your waffles will not be greasy, even if you are a little generous using the silicone brush. I would stay away from PAM for this recipe.
  4. A regular paratha dough does not use any leavening agent; but I use baking soda here for the waffles, so that the dough rises and fills all the crevices of the mould. It also gives a softer texture and a gentle moistness, which I find more appealing than a paratha.
  5. If you do not want to use a processor, you can chop the greens, grate the potatoes with a box grater and make the batter by hand. If you do not want to use a waffle maker; you can make them on a griddle. In fact, the very first time I made them on a griddle and then it occurred to me that it can also be waffled! It turned out to be such a success in both looks and taste that I penned the recipe down.