Monday, July 23, 2012

Seasonal Salads with an Indian Twist

Doug and I cook a ton of Indian food, and I love it. I find all those spicy curries and soupy lentil dishes equally appealing in the hot summer or frozen winter. But no matter the season, I crave something fresh and crunchy to balance their soft warmth. And for that, let me present my favorite go-to Indian salads.

The winter version is a shredded cabbage salad. A head of cabbage (or three) always makes its way into my fridge in the fall, and keeps fresh for a suspiciously long amount of time. While that means it is often the only green vegetable available, it certainly isn't sexy. Have no fear - this simple recipe dresses it up just right to accompany a well-spiced meal and provide that necessary punch.

And recently, I've found a fantastic Indian-inspired cucumber salad more appropriate for the warm weather months. Doug claims it tastes like a perfect cocktail - well-balanced between sweet and savory, textured and smooth. I love the crunch from the peanuts and cucumbers, and the ghee offers up this (slighty guilty) richness to an otherwise simple combination of ingredients.

Both salads come together in a flash and are the perfect foil for a spicy Indian meal. 

Cucumber Peanut Salad
Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor, via 101 Cookbooks
Serves 4
  • 3 medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles, minced
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp ghee*
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 peanuts, toasted
Toss the cucumbers gently with chiles, coconut, lemon juice, and sugar. Over medium heat, melt the ghee in a small skillet. When hot, stir in mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to sizzle, add the cumin seeds and heat for an additional 30 seconds, just long enough to turn fragrant. Remove from heat, and stir in salt. Pour over the salad and mix in. Top with cilantro and peanuts; serve immediately.

*Ghee is a form of clarified butter, popular in South Asian cuisine. You can make your own or purchase at most international food stores.

Shredded Cabbage Salad
Adapted from Ruta Kahate, via smitten kitchen
Serves 4
  • 2 cups tightly packed, shredded green cabbage
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive or mustard oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
Toss together the cabbage, chile, lemon juice, salt, and sugar. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary; you are aiming for a well-balanced, sweet-sour taste. Heat the oil in a small skillet over high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and heat for 30 seconds or until the seeds begin to sizzle. Pour over the salad and toss. Allow the flavors to develop for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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