Sunday, October 26, 2014

Clean, Mean, Crisp And Crunchy Capsicum and Apple Salad

When I meet friends that I don't see often, I rarely go without taking lots of photographs. Apart from holding on to the memories, there are other reasons that are quite selfish. It is in the quest of the perfect Facebook profile picture where I look as slim and as happy and as put together as possible. Needless to say, only how I look reflects in my picture so I end up being disappointed with a lot of the pictures I take. This is the first time I went without taking pictures at all when my friends and I met a couple of days ago. Instead, I took pictures of the salad I had made because I was so in love with its looks.

I even managed to take decent 'arty' pictures of half-empty plates, something I have always wanted to do. Whenever I've tried, those plates would look like gory battlefields and I would abandon them. Ah, how important it is to appear perfect if not actually be perfect!

I somehow end up not liking my own salads because my dressings never seem to achieve the right balance of tastes and I felt the same way with this too. However, this time I did things the right way and tossed the salad only when it was time to serve it, and my friends lapped it up. One of them, H, said that the taste of the capsicum had adhered to the apple and she found it interesting. That was because I had cut up the fruit and vegetables and chilled them in the serving dish before taking them over to V's place where we ate. I had mixed the dressing too ahead of serving time and let it sit for a while so that the flavours could meld.

The ultimate result was my dream salad: The others liked it, so did I, it looked beautiful, stayed crisp, was light and had clean, uncomplicated flavours. Incidentally, did you see this article in the kitchn? Until I read it and the comments it attracted, I had always thought 'clean' meant light, straightforward flavours that came through without the diners having to wonder what they were. Turns out it could mean different things to different people, and even gets their goats.

Here's the recipe for my clean, mean, fruit and vegetable salad.

Capsicum/bell pepper - 3, diced
Cucumber - 1, de-seeded and diced
Golden apple -2, sliced
Juice of 1 lime

Toss the apples in lime juice, mix with the capsicum and apple and chill. 

Juice of 2 limes
An equal volume of olive oil
1/8 tsp of minced ginger
2 pinches each of cumin powder & red chilli flakes
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar substitute
1 tsp iodized salt

 Put all the ingredients in a small dish, 'beat' well with a fork and then store the dressing till you need to use it. Pour over salad at serving time, toss salad. Enjoy!


When I asked for critical evaluation, after some consideration, H said that maybe I could use fewer capsicum because not everyone might like more of those in relation to the rest of the components. She herself liked it, she said.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

How To Make A Mixed Gourd Salad

Someone always gets there first. Almost always. And I say this with a smile and a sigh rather than pique. I had been thinking of a gourd salad for a long time. However, I didn't search the Internet for it till I bought a variety of gourds a couple of days ago and was surprised to find several results for it. Most used one gourd, and those were mostly bitter gourd and snake gourd.I rather thought I'd be the inventor of the gourd salad but no, several people have beaten me to it, so let me call myself the inventor of this mixed gourd salad.

Most of the components of this dish are gourds, most of them are green and I'm quite pleased with myself at how I went about building and dressing the salad. The previous night, I had decided to bunk yoga class yesterday morning to spend more time in bed. I went to bed late, breaking my rather new rule of no-Internet-on-big-screens-at-night (my beginner-size, low-tech smartphone is the exception). I surfed and surfed - "yoga for weight loss", "yoga to prevent diabetes", Facebook (why had a schoolmate accepted the school rowdy as her friend, what had he made of himself - I couldn't find out) and several pages of results for gourd salads.

Despite all this, I couldn't sleep beyond my usual quota. (Why did I think yesterday would be any different from other days?) After spending a couple of wide-awake hours trying to solve the day's cryptic crossword, I found myself cutting and steaming vegetables for an hour. I whizzed a few ingredients to make a dressing and sprinkled it over the salad. Then I added - nay, squished into it - some bocconcini which was past its best-before date and immediately regretted it because I didn't think the flavours would go together and took out as much as I could. Live a little, Sra, my heart told me, so I added it back in. I did not add any salt because the cheese had some. Nor did I add any oil at this stage. I thought the fat in the cheese would coat it enough. (See notes below.)

For the salad
Snake gourd, peeled, chopped into strips: 1.5 cups
Ash gourd/white pumpkin/winter melon, peeled and diced
Tender ridge gourd: 1.5 cups
French beans: 6-8, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
Onion, sliced: 1

For the 'dressing'
Shredded coconut, fresh: A handful
Roasted peanuts: A handful
Green chilli: 1, chopped
A pinch of salt

 Lime juice: From two limes
Bocconcini: 5-6 balls

Cook the snake gourd and French beans in the microwave with a little water for two minutes on High. (I did not treat the other vegetables the same way as they were very tender and juicy.)

To make the dressing, pulse the coconut, peanuts, salt and green chilli just once to make a coarse mix that can be sprinkled over the vegetables.

Put the vegetables in a dish, mix the bocconcini into them, pour the lime juice over and sprinkle the mixture on top of the salad. Chill.

Notes: At lunchtime, I served myself some of the salad and decided it needed more salt. However, I added the salt to my portion of the salad and not to the entire dish lest it got all watery. It also seemed a bit dry so I added a spoon of plain oil to the salad on my plate, mixed it in gently, and then it came together. However, the Spouse had none of these complaints and liked it as it was.

I am sending this off to No Croutons Required, hosted this month by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen