Category Archives: Salads

Bhel Puri Chopped Salad

Chopped Salad Ingredients

Several years back our friend, Alf, prepared a traditional bhel puri to whet our appetites before dinner.  These tangy, spicy bites were such a hit that hubby and I both went after more during the main course.  This is no small statement, as Alf is a gifted cook; so in addition to delicious curries and vegetables appearing for the main course, we kept indulging in the bhel puris.

 

Bhel Puri is an iconic snack of India, often identified with the beaches of Mumbai.  Traditionally it is a puffed rice snack, or chaat.  The flavors of my salad version feature quintessential Indian flavors.  Cilantro-mint and tamarind chutneys mingle with diced potatoes, tomatoes, avocados and cucumbers.  A bit of diced red onion, a sprinkle of spices and your taste buds are doing a happy dance.

 

We’re fortunate living in the East Bay, where Indian restaurants and grocery stores are plentiful.  Given the size of India, and its many cultures, the wide variety of preparations offers ample opportunity for exploration.  Procuring ingredients is easy, sometimes with a bit too many options!

Indira Chopra of Vik’s Chaat Corner

 

I enjoy going to Vik’s Chaat & Market on Fourth Street in Berkeley.  I often grab a snack, chaat, to be precise, and do a bit of stocking up for my pantry in their adjoining market.  Indira Chopra began the operation back in 1989.  It’s still a family business, with her son, Amod Chopra at the helm these days.  But if you’re fortunate, you may find Indira behind the counter of their well-stocked grocery section.  She’s friendly and happy to provide guidance to those needing to expand our familiarity with Indian ingredients.

 

Our local farmers’ markets also provide an opportunity to taste Indian foods.  In addition to fresh and preserved chutneys, local producer/purveyor Suhki’s, offers samples of their samosas, naans and more.

 

Suhki’s Chutneys

One could prepare the chutneys from scratch as well.  If you’re already making your own fresh chimichurri or salsa verde, you’ve got a handle on making the fresh cilantro-mint chutney.  And the ingredients are readily available.  Tamarind is found at most Asian produce aisles, and I’ve seen it at Berkeley Bowl and Whole Foods too.  Give tamarind-date chutney a whirl too!

 

Summer’s firm-ripe tomatoes make it a perfect time to enjoy this salad.  The options are nearly endless here, after all, it’s salad!  I encourage you to mix-and-match ingredients to make this your own.

A few advance tips:

  1. The size of the diced pieces is not so important and ensuring they’re fairly uniform. You don’t want to dice them so small they mush and meld together; and not so large they dwarf the pieces of bhel puri when you mix them in.  You might leave the tomatoes and avocado pieces a bit larger than the potatoes and cucumber, as the former do tend to mash or break down a bit.
  2. I prefer the herbaceous cilantro-mint chutney; and less of the sweeter tamarind chutney. But give them each a taste and use a ratio that suits your taste buds.
  3. Adding some minced jalapeno pepper for a bit of heat may suit those who favor it.

Bhel Puri-Inspired Chopped Salad

About four salad course servings

 

  • 1 medium potato, boiled and diced into 1/ 4” – 1/ 2” cubes; about 1 cup (Use a waxy potato such as Yukon Gold, French fingerling, etc.)
  • 1 large tomato, diced into approximately 1/ 4” – 1/ 2” pieces; about 1 cup
  • 1 medium cucumber, diced into 1/ 4” – 1/ 2” pieces; about 1 cup
  • 1 large avocado, firm-ripe, diced into 1/ 4” – 1/ 2” pieces; about 1 cup
  • 1/ 2 cup red onion, diced fine
  • 1/ 2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped fine
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro-mint chutney, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind chutney, or to taste
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon ground cumin powder
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon ground coriander powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Just prior to serving:

  • 1 cup bhel puri snack mix, or amount to preference
  • 1/ 4 – 1/ 2 cup sev, fine; or amount to preference
  • Minced cilantro, for garnish
  • Chopped peanuts, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice, chutneys, cumin and coriander powders. Stir to blend.  Add the diced potatoes, tomato, cucumber and red onion; stir until mostly well mixed.  Gently fold in the diced avocado, minced cilantro and mint.  Taste and adjust spices, add salt and pepper.
  2. Just prior to serving, add in the bhel puri snack mix and gently fold into the salad. Transfer to serving plates and sprinkle on the sev. Add cilantro and peanuts to garnish.
  3. The bhel puri and sev will begin to soften very quickly once added to the salad. The salad is best eaten whilst they are still crunchy, immediately after they’re added.  If you need to make it in advance, set aside the chopped vegetables in the refrigerator; adding the bhel puri and sev just prior to serving.

Chopped Salad Ingredients Before Adding Bhel Puri and Sev Topping

Well Stocked Snack Aisle at Vik’s, Berkeley, CA

Surati Brand from Canada

Haldiram’s Brand from India

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Quinoa and Apple Salad with Curry Dressing

Whole Herbs     The gift of a huge bag of apples, from our neighbors’ back yard tree, sent me straight to searching for new ways to use them whilst they remain at their peak.  Throughout the countless desserts I came across, this little salad caught my eye and stayed with me as I recently paid a visit to my favorite spice shop and returned with this curry blend.

     “Curry” powder is a blend of spices, typically from South Asia; but can be found in North Africa and the Mediterranean.  Primary ingredients include turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, fenugreek, black and/or white pepper, and chiles for heat.  Blends are often the pride of the spicerer, and the varieties are many.  The one I use for this recipe is lighter and fruity due to cardamom’s presence.

     If you’re curious about which are best suited for your taste buds, I encourage you to visit a local spice shop to smell and taste them.  If you are unfortunate to be located far from any, a trip to the bulk aisle of a well-stocked market may provide an opportunity to at least sniff out a few.

     In addition to my neighbor’s backyard apples, it turns out the herbs and lemons in the salad are from my own backyard.  I’d wager there are others who are able to pull this salad together after foraging in their gardens – or a welcoming neighbor’s.Finely Chopped Herbs

     There’s plenty of summer left in front of us to enjoy this bright, light salad along with your favorite BBQ or picnic.

Advance notes for substitutions to make this your own:

     Substitute the fresh cilantro with fresh flat-leaf parsley or use more mint and chives. (There’s interesting science behind why people find fresh cilantro “soapy” tasting – it has to do with the genetics of one’s olfactory receptors.)

     Substitute the apples with firm-ripe nectarines, plums, or apricots.

Quinoa & Apple Salad w-Fork Closest

Quinoa and Apple Salad with Curry Dressing

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes About 5 – 6 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/ 4 cup whole almonds
  • 1 cup white quinoa
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder, or to taste
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh apple, cut into 1/ 8-inch thick wedges
  • 1/ 4 cup chives, finely chopped
  • 1/ 4 cup loosely packed fresh mint, coarsely chopped
  • 1/ 4 cup loosely pack fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a small frying pan or shallow saucepan, lightly toast almonds over medium-high heat on the stovetop until they become fragrant; about 7 – 10 minutes. Stir the almonds frequently.  Do not walk away from them as they can go from lightly toasted to burnt quickly.  Chop into coarse bits.
  1. Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a fine sieve; drain. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa and bay leaf; return to a boil.  Stir the quinoa, then cover and reduce the heat to lowest setting.  Simmer until quinoa is tender and has absorbed all the water, about 15 – 20 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf, then fluff the quinoa with a fork, then let cool slightly.
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, shallots, curry powder, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Whisking constantly, pour in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream; whisk until dressing is emulsified.
  1. Set aside a few slices of apples, chopped almonds and herbs for garnishing upon serving. Add the warm quinoa, apple and chopped herbs; folding gently until all ingredients are well combined.  Fold in the chopped almonds.
  1. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving. If refrigerating to serve later, set aside the toasted almonds and fold them in just before serving to preserve their crunch.
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Paula Wolfert’s Mint and Egg Salad

Fresh mint, and easy-to-grow!

Fresh mint, and easy-to-grow!

     Paula Wolfert is a culinary icon, and one I admire greatly.  You’ve seen her inspired recipes from me before, as her focus has been flavors of the Mediterranean; a climate much like ours here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Paula has been a long-time resident of Sonoma County, so many of her ingredients, originally discovered during her travels in the Mediterranean, also capitalize on our bountiful, local harvests.

     This latest cookbook of Paula’s recipes, Unforgettable:  The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life by Berkeley-ite, Emily Thelin, is a compilation of Paula’s previous recipes.  Moreover, it is a heartfelt biography of Paula’s journeys in travel and life.  It is an interesting read, and generous in photos of Paula, her past travels, and the amazing recipes.

Pastured eggs from Capay Valley

     Out of so many recipes, I chose this simple egg salad.  It’s spring now, and this salad is a light, fresh bite of the season.  Fresh mint abounds in my backyard.  It is paired aptly with spring onions (scallions) and grated eggs for a sophisticated combination that’s simple to prepare.

     Please give this a try with mint, even if you haven’t thought to use this much mint with eggs.  If you must, substitute some flat-leaf parsley for some of the mint.  Or take it in a slightly new direction and use tender, spring watercress.  It will be different, still delicious.

     In addition to enjoying this recipe as a first course, you might also want to serve it up on your favorite crusty bread, or planks of sliced cucumber.

Mint & Egg Salad Plated 1

Mint and Egg Salad

Adapted from Unforgettable:  The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life

Serves 4 as a light, first course

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 to 2 cups slivered mint leaves, depending on the intensity of the mint
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons mild red pepper flakes, preferably Marash (substitute piment d’esplette)
  • Juice of 1/ 2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Boil the eggs: Put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water to cover by one inch and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  When the water boils, turn off the heat and set a timer for 8 minutes.  After 8 minutes, drain the hot water and run cool water over the eggs to prevent further cooking.  Peel the eggs and set aside.
  1. Assemble the salad: Using the large holes of a box grater, and working over a large bowl, grate the eggs.  Add the mint, green onions and red pepper flakes; mix well.  In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice to taste; then drizzle over the egg mixture.  Toss to coat lightly and evenly.  Season with salt.
  1. Serve immediately at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Note:  It’s easy to upsize this recipe.  The number of eggs in it will provide a clear indication of portions.  Make more, you will be glad you did!

Grating eggs results in crazy-light textured salad

Grating eggs results in crazy-light textured salad

From Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert's Renegade Life

From Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life

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Broccoli Apricot Salad

four-salad-ingredients     In the deep of winter, this broccoli salad will surely brighten your plate and palate both.  By now I’m hard pressed to face yet another serving of winter greens with much enthusiasm.  This salad is a spark to brightness and crunch – and it’s been seeing a lot of “plate time” at our house.

     The genesis of this recipe was a plan to both simplify and lighten up traditional broccoli salad, using ingredients that are my son’s favorites.  Broccoli, check.  Apricots, check.  Marinated red onion, check.  Balsamic vinaigrette, check.  Yes, even as a young boy, my son’s favorite vegetable was broccoli!

     Too often broccoli salads involve a long list of ingredients and are laden with a heavy, mayonnaise-based dressing.  I was after a version that would be more refreshing and an antidote to the heavy foods of winter.  And wanted to incorporate the apricot flavors of warmer days!salad-ingredients-sliced

     This is salad, not science.  I encourage you to fiddle with it and make it your own winner.  But by all means use this as a proven starting point – even if your adaptation is into a kale salad!

A few advance notes:

  1. I used a specialty white balsamic vinegar infused with Blenheim apricots.  Naturally this amplifies the apricot-i-ness of the salad.  I get it at Amphora Nueva, in their original shop in Berkeley.  If you are in the Bay Area, they have expanded into San Anselmo in Marin County and Lafayette, Contra Costa County, too.  You can find them online and order. (I’m a huge fan and I hope you’ll check them out!)
  2. Substituting in plain white balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar will also produce delicious results.
  3. I prefer slicing the broccoli by hand to control the size of the broccoli florets. You want them small, bite-sized, but still recognizable and not a mass of mush-buds.
  4. Using the broccoli stalk provides important crunchy texture, and their sweetness helps to offset the potential bitterness of the florets. And they are good for you!  Be sure to use a vegetable peeler to remove any tough outer layer of the stalk.
  5. Select an extra virgin olive oil that tastes “fruity”; and avoid ones that are too “peppery” or “grassy”.
  6. Plan in advance to serve this salad. It requires several hours of marinating to bring out the best flavor.  So prepare in the morning for dinner, or even the night before.  It’s all good.

broccoli-apricot-salad

Broccoli-Apricot Salad

INGREDIENTS

Salad

  • 4 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces, about 3/ 4”-ish
  • Approximately 1 cup of tender broccoli stalk, sliced into 1/ 8” x 3/ 4” strips
  • 1/ 2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/ 2 cup dried apricots, cut into about 1/ 2” pieces
  • 1/ 2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons Blenheim apricot-infused white balsamic vinegar, or see advance notes
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, a “fruitier” one, not a “peppery” one. (I use less as I like more acidity for this salad.)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare the salad dressing.  Combine the vinegar, lemon juice and mustard in a large bowl.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until well-incorporated and hopefully slightly holding together (emulsified).  Add salt and pepper and taste.  You will want this dressing to be acidic to spark up the broccoli.
  2. Add the diced red onions and broccoli to the dressing and stir to combine.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for several hours minimum.
  3. When ready to serve, toss in the dried apricot pieces and toasted almonds.

Note:  The easiest way to toast sliced almonds is on the stove top, over medium heat, in a small , shallow pan.  It will only take about 4 to 5 minutes.  Begin stirring constantly once the almonds begin to brown; and toast until most are a nice golden hue.  Reduce the heat to low if they are browning too quickly or unevenly; and stir more frequently.  Do not step away from the pan during this toasting process.

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