Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dal-icious Dal

In the last few months I've grown to love cooking Indian food. Most of all, I love the spices - ginger, cumin, garlic, mustard seed, fennel, turmeric, cardamom... and I have amassed quite a collection. In addition to tasting great, many of these spices have wonderful health benefits (ginger and fennel fight bacteria and inflammation and turmeric has strong cancer fighting properties). The recipe posted below for dal is a combination of insights from my lovely and talented friend Vagisha and the dozen or so South Asian cookbooks I've read cover to cover recently.

Here's a little info on dal, for those who may be unfamiliar with that term: In Indian cuisine, the term dal is used to refer to lentils and other legumes. There are many varieties of dal used in Indian cuisine and they are prepared in many different ways. In this recipe I use red lentils, but you could substitute yellow split peas or split mung beans (mung dal)- all of these varieties of dal cook down to a creamy texture (rather than remaining individual beans, they will resemble refried beans once they are cooked). Some dal including chana dal (split chickpeas) and brown and green lentils retain a firmer texture when cooked - you could also use them in this recipe if you prefer solid legumes, but you will need to cook them about twice as long. Dal (all varieties) are a staple food item in India; being legumes they are a great source of lean protein and fiber. Dal are typically eaten with rice or various types of Indian bread (naan, roti, chappati, etc.). Sometimes dal are served as an entree (especially in parts of India where vegetarianism is the norm), but sometimes they are served along with a meat dish. I ate this dal with some steamed basmati rice and sauteed cabbage. It was a yummy, nutritious and filling vegetarian meal.

One last note: this recipe is quite simple to prepare, but the ingredient list is a little long and a few of the spices may be unfamiliar to some of you. I encourage you to find an ethnic grocer - either a brick and mortar building or an online vendor - and explore the spice isle!

Basic Dal:
2 Cups Red Lentils (or whichever variety you prefer)
4-5 Cups Broth or Water (I used about half chicken broth, half water)
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to taste - unless you are using a very salty broth)
1/4-1 teaspoon red chili powder (depending on how spicy you want it to be, I used 1/2 teaspoon)
Seeds from 8 Green Cardamom Pods, or around 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
2 Tablespoons Oil
1 Large Onion, diced
3-4 Large Garlic cloves, minced
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Small handful of cilantro, coarsely chopped

In a large pot over medium-low heat combine the lentils, 3 cups of water or broth, turmeric, salt, chili powder and cardamom. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the lentils are very tender, and beginning to turn into a paste. **Add more water or broth along the way a little at a time as needed for the lentils to cook thoroughly without getting too thick (you should end up with a slightly thin refried bean texture). It should take around 20 minutes for the lentils to cook. Set the cooked lentils aside.

In another large pot heat the oil and saute the onions until they are translucent. Add the garlic, cook another 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add the ginger, mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and cook another minute. Add the cooked lentils to the onion mixture, stir well to combine. Taste the dal and add more salt if necessary. Just before serving stir in the chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

By the way, I've included this recipe as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Slightly Induglent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays and Tuesdays at the Table. Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fruity Grain Salad

This dish was inspired by a bulgur salad our friend Kristin brought to Alfred’s birthday brunch party last Sunday. Alfred loved this salad, so I wanted to recreate it for him. I also greatly enjoy grain based salads, but since I cannot eat wheat, bulgur is off my list of options. Part of my objective was to make a version of this salad that I could enjoy too. I often use quinoa or millet in place of glutinous grains, but for this salad I wanted to use up a large amount of leftover cooked brown rice I had sitting in the fridge.

A few buzzes in the food processor and my cooked brown rice looked an awful lot like bulgur! The brown basmati also imparted a lovely nuttiness to this salad. If you want to keep this salad gluten-free but do not have any leftover brown rice in your fridge (and do not want to go through the trouble of cooking some and then chopping it in the food processor), I think quinoa would be a great substitute as would rice-based couscous which some natural foods stores and gluten free grocers carry.

I also took a little creative liberty with the other ingredients in this recipe, mainly trying to use up items I had on hand rather than buying new ones. There are countless options for modifying this salad: use pear in place of apple, use dried apricots, cherries or currants in place of cranberries, use pecans or almonds in place of walnuts, etc. So, I strongly encourage you to alter this recipe to suit the supplies in your cupboard and your taste preferences.

Whatever the particular ingredients, this is another perfect picnic salad – a wonderful excuse to take your food outside and enjoy the lovely spring weather!

Fruity Grain Salad:

3 Cups Cooked Brown Rice or other grain (I used brown basmati)
1/2 Small Onion, Finely Diced
1 Large Stalk Celery, Finely Diced
1 Small Apple, diced (use a sweet variety, I used Fuji)
1 handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 Cup dried cranberries
1/2 Cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped (Kristin used pecans)

3 Tablespoons Orange Juice
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon salt (a little more if your cooked grains are not salted)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1)If using cooked brown rice: place the rice in a food processor. Pulse until the rice is evenly chopped into small bits resembling bulgur.
2)Combine the chopped rice or your (cooked) grain of choice with the onion, celery, apple, parsley, dried cranberries, and walnuts.
3)In a separate bowl combine the OJ, olive oil, salt, cinnamon and cardamom.
4)Drizzle the dressing over the fruit and grain mixture, stir to combine thoroughly.

This salad tastes great right away, but it also keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.

By the way, I've included this recipe as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Slightly Induglent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays and Tuesdays at the Table. Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!

I've also included this as part of a monthly gluten free blog carnival - this month Amy of Simply Gluten and Sugar Free is hosting this event. Head over to her blog for lots of other recipes and tips on maintaining a gluten free lifestyle.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Simply Delicious Salmon

Salmon is hands down our favorite main dish. We’ve eaten and prepared it many ways: herb crushed, grilled on a cedar plank, smoked, poached, Asian marinated, topped with white wine sauce, etc. While the embellishments offered by these complex preparations add a certain flair, our absolute favorite “recipe” requires nothing more than a little olive oil, salt and pepper. This simple roasted fish has a wonderfully unmasked salmon flavor and melt in your mouth buttery texture. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Roasted Salmon:
1 lb. Salmon Filet, scales and bones removed, skin left on
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 - 1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
Lemon wedges, optional for serving

Wash the salmon filet and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Rub the olive oil all over the fish. Sprinkle the top of the fish with the salt and pepper. Place the salmon skin side down in a baking dish.

Turn your oven to 375 degrees. Allow the oven to preheat for 15-20 minutes. Let the seasoned fish sit at room temperature during this time.

When the oven is nice and hot put the salmon inside, and let it bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes the fish will be cooked medium (the thickest part of the filet will remain soft and dark pink inside).

*If you prefer the fish to be well done, allow it to cook another 5 minutes. Do not let it cook any longer or the fish will begin to lose its buttery texture.

Roasted asparagus and steamed rice are perfect complements to this dish.

Bon Appetite!

P.S. We make salmon just about every Friday night, we often have leftovers which we enjoy for lunch a top a salad the next day!

By the way, I've included this recipe as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Slightly Induglent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays and Tuesdays at the Table. Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

French Potato and Tuna Salad

This week we have greatly enjoyed the arrival of spring! Blooming daffodils and fragrant hyacinths always put a smile on my face. Of course, we also enjoy the host of culinary delights - from asparagus and artichokes to the year’s first berries – that spring brings. For the Delshad Duo spring = picnics and picnics = salads!
For weeks I’ve been itching to make a potato salad, but not the traditional American mayonnaise drenched version. This French inspired potato salad really hit the spot; it is a complete meal and it is perfect for picnics! Fresh herbs and vinaigrette dressing are essential, but you could use a different type of vinegar (maybe white wine or champagne vinegar) and different herbs (but I must I loved the dill flavor). There are also lots of other veggies you could add in (halved cherry or grape tomatoes would be nice) or use as substitutes for those I included (I think fresh asparagus would be a great substitute for the green beans).

Here’s how I made it:

French Potato and Tuna Salad

1 pound small red potatoes
1 large handful fresh green beans, ends trimmed and bean cut in half
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons Vinegar (I used apple cider)
5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
black pepper to taste
1 5oz can tuna in olive oil, broken into large flakes
6 kalamata olives, pitted and diced
1 Tablespoon capers
1 small handful flat leaf parsley, minced
1 small handful or dill, minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Fresh spinach leaves for serving

1)Add the potatoes (whole) to a pot of salted boiling water. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender all the way through (20-30 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes)
2)Add the green beans to a separate pot of salted boiling water, cook 1 minute, then drain and set aside
3)While the potatoes are cooking make the dressing by whisking together the mustard, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl
4)Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them, quarter them (while they are still hot), add them to the bowl with the dressing and toss to evenly coat the potatoes with the dressing
5)Add the green beans and all of the remaining ingredients
6)Serve over a bed of fresh spinach

Happy Spring and Happy Easter!

P.S. My camera has officially bitten the dust, until further notice all pictures will come from my camera phone :(. Needless to say, the picture doesn’t do this salad justice!

By the way, I've included this recipe as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Slightly Induglent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, and Tuesdays at the Table. Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!