Category Archives: beans / legumes

Cutlets Meet Vada Pav Sliders (Indian Potato Burgers)

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There is a delicious Indian treat called “Vada Pav” that is a round deep-fried potato ball served on a bun with garlic chutney. It is so good to eat with the crispy chickpea flour coating outside and the soft flavorful potatoes inside. I decided to try a  healthy twist on this dish, though I would never turn down the original! I’m not trying to improve it but rather make it a bit more healthy for everyday eating. Not that I’m suggesting that this be eaten everyday! With the addition of cooked mung beans, it’s more of a cross between the Vada Pav and a cutlet.

This is a recipe that calls for a few Indian ingredients. If you don’t have them, then come up with your own spice mix. I think a southwest version would be very good. Hmm… that’s definitely a future experiment! The traditional version of Vada Pav features garlic chutney. It gives it a delicious, spicy flavor. However, you don’t need the garlic chutney to complete this dish – sub in some spicy ketchup or other chutney or just dress it up as you would  a burger. You won’t be disappointed!

Healthy Twist on Vada Pav (Indian Potato Burgers) (Makes approx. 9 patties)

1 cup mung beans, cooked
1 potato, boiled or steamed, mashed and cooled (about 1 cup of potato)
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of hing
a few curry leaves, chopped
1/2 cup of onions, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic paste
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan) plus additional flour for coating
1/8 – 1/4 cup oil for pan frying
small round hamburger buns
1/2 cup dry garlic chutney (or to taste)

In a large bowl, mix together the mung beans and potato. In a small pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, hing and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the onion and allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring. Then add the garlic and ginger paste and cayenne. Allow to cook for a minute or until the garlic is cooked to your liking. Remove from heat and pour this in the mung bean mixture. Add the salt and 1/4 cup of chickpea flour and mash everything together until well combined. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.When the mixture is ready,  roll it into large rounds approx. 2″ in diameter. Set aside until all are rolled out. Place the additional chickpea flour on a plate and roll each ball in the chickpea flour, dusting the outside with the flour.

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Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a tbsp or 2 of oil. When the oil is heated, place a few of the balls in the oil, pressing down slightly on the top to flatten a little.

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Once the bottom is nicely browned, flip over each ball and cook on the other side, flattening a bit more.

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Once browned on the 2nd side, remove from the oil to a plate or paper. Repeat frying until all of the balls are cooked.

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If using the garlic chutney, spread a nice layer on the bottom bun, place the patty on the bun, top with sliced onion. Or skip the chutney and use condiments of your choice. Enjoy!

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Quick and Healthy Lentil & Veggie Salad (and How to Cook Brown Lentils)

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Hello! Continuing on with the Salad Project theme, here is a quick recipe that features those lowly brown lentils. I feel almost guilty blogging about such an easy recipe! However, I love this salad and lentils in particular: they are tasty, extremely healthy and the dry beans last a long time in the pantry. They cook quickly (no need for a pressure cooker or pre-soaking) and are very economical. I bought a huge bag of them at my local Middle Eastern market last week. I have been craving lentil soup lately so made a two-for-one batch of lentils. If you cook 1 1/2 cups dried lentils you will get approximately 5 cups of cooked lentils! Eat ’em, freeze ’em, share ’em… I will post the soup recipe later this week. BTW, sorry for the terrible photo! It was nearly impossible to get anything good with this winter lighting. We have summer weather but winter sun.

I have been making a variation of this Lentil Salad for at least 15 years. I think people are surprised that a bean salad can be so good. Maybe they are expecting a typical American-style salad with heavy dressing. If you add a bunch of veggies chopped up or shredded finely, it makes for a lighter salad. The addition of a citrus or other fruit lightens it up too but isn’t necessary. Of course, you can add any veggies or fruits that you like or have on hand. Today was the first time I have used cabbage but it turned out great. I even got a thumbs up from my 6-year-old! This would be a great side salad to a burger, piled on top of a lettuce salad or a potluck dish at a barbecue. Serve at room temp or chilled.

Quick and Healthy Lentil & Veggie Salad (Serves 4)

2 cups brown lentils (cooked but not mushy) (see notes below on cooking lentils)
1 cup cabbage, finely chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
1/2 cup parsley, leaves chopped finely
2 green onions, finely chopped
4 radishes, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp salt, or to taste

Combine the lentils and veggies in a bowl. Pour over the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Stir well, then taste for seasoning. You are done!

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Bonus recipe: How to Cook Whole Brown Lentils (or other small whole lentils)

As I said above, dry lentils expand a lot once they are cooked. If you cook too much for your meal, just freeze them. Wash about 1 cup of lentils in a medium-sized sauce pan, rinsing a few times and removing the floaters. Sometimes there may be little clods of dirt or stones. Do a quick pick-through to make sure you get all debris out. I rarely find anything but once I missed a rock and thankfully I was the one to find it!

The total cooking time will depend on how tender you want the final product. For salads, cook until just done but not split open or mushy. For soups or lentil loaf or burgers, you may want to cook them longer. I cooked lentils for a few years before I realized that I didn’t have to cook them to a mush (I was always making soup, so it didn’t matter). But the difference between just cooked and mush is a world apart. Once you are debris-free and well-rinsed, add at least three times as much water as lentils to cover. Place on medium-high heat and cover. Bring it to a boil. Do not add salt! Now you can continue using the fast method or the slower method:

Fast method – once the pot comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for approximately 25 minutes (less if using smaller lentils). Check for the water level after about 15 minutes, you may need to add more water. Remove from heat when the lentils are cooked to the desired tenderness and drain the excess water.

Slower method – once the pot comes to a boil, turn off the heat and keep the lid on. Let it sit for 1/2 hour up to a couple of hours. When you are ready to move on, drain the water (notice how much they have plumped up), taste a lentil for tenderness and cover the lentils with more water (twice a much water as lentils). Return to the stove, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook to desired tenderness. This cooking time will depend on how long you let them soak earlier (and how old your beans are, etc.). Remove from the heat and drain excess water. (I drain the initial soaking water to get rid of some of the scum and gas-making compounds – but it isn’t necessary.)

Enjoy!

Black Bean & Brown Basmati Burritos

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Hello! Today I opened a fridge packed with bits of leftovers from this past week. What to do with that leftover lettuce and cabbage salad? I have been eating salads almost everyday since the new year, so no salad today. With some leftover brown basmati rice and tortillas, I made up a very quick and satisfying (and healthy) lunch. I also used up the last of the leftover salad! I did save a few bites for our composting worms  – they get hungry too.

This looks like a lot of ingredients but it’s very fast to make. While the beans are heating up, you can prep the tortillas and cut up the garnishes. I don’t usually use canned beans because it’s so easy to make them from dry. Normally I get a bag of dry beans, cook the whole bag and freeze them in portions. Today I resorted to the can since I didn’t have any black beans in the freezer. For this quick bean recipe, I used prepared salsa (Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa) to give good flavor. It’s smart to keep a few things like this on hand for quick meals and for your emergency bin. I listed sour cream and cheese though I didn’t use them in my burritos and here you could obviously use a vegan option or a non-vegan option. There are a lot of great flavors going on already, so you really won’t miss the dairy or dairy-sub and the accompanying calories. FYI, in the picture you will see what looks like sour cream but it’s actually veganaise mixed with hot sauce. I thought it would be good since sometimes I use this as a dip for veggie-chicken nuggets, but it wasn’t that great. I don’t recommend it!

Black Bean & Brown Basmati Burritos (Serves 2)

For the Bean & Rice Mixture:
1 tbsp oil
1 yellow or white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 can of black beans (or 1 cup of cooked black beans)
1 cup of cooked brown basmati rice (or rice of your choice)
2 tbsp hot sauce (optional)
1/2 cup of salsa

Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the oil and after a minute add the onion and salt. Stir until the onion is translucent and cooked. Add the garlic, oregano, cumin and cayenne and stir around for a minute. Once the garlic starts cooking, add the black beans, rice, hot sauce and salsa. Stir and let heat for a few minutes. Mash the beans a little bit with the back of your spoon to get the mixture incorporated. Leave whole beans too. Once everything is heated thoroughly, remove from heat. Taste for salt and salsa and add if necessary. Set aside. Here’s a close up shot of the beans and rice (on the right side):

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Now you can start assembling the burritos:

2 large flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups of lettuce or mixed salad (I had romaine lettuce, purple cabbage and carrots)
1 ripe avocado, sliced
2 green onions, chopped
additional salsa or hot sauce to garnish
1/4 cup of sour cream mixed with 2 tbsp of hot sauce  (optional)
1/2 cup of cheese (optional)

Heat the tortillas a bit on a griddle or big frying pan. Once heated, remove to a plate. Pile on the black bean mixture, then top with your salad, avocado slices, green onions and salsa. Top with the sour cream and cheese if using. Roll up and enjoy!

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Crunchy Cabbage & Broccoli Salad with Asian Tofu

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Welcome to The Salad Project! Today’s inspiration is a winter salad with tofu, cabbage and Asian-inspired flavors. This may seem complicated but it’s super easy. And you can always leave off the green beans to save a step. As usual, substitutions are welcome. But try this full recipe if you can. It’s truly yummy!

A note about the tofu: You may use some other protein instead of tofu, but I think you do need a protein to make this salad complete. If you have never used tofu, be sure to press the water out before you marinate it. Less water = firmer texture and more flavor. While it’s pressing and marinating you can prepare the rest of the salad and clean up the kitchen! Or prepare the tofu the day before you will use it.

Crunchy Cabbage & Broccoli Salad with Asian Tofu (Serves 2)

First, make the tofu:

1/2 package extra firm or firm tofu (not silken, not high-protein)
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp agave syrup or maple syrup
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red chili flakes

Press the tofu between clean dishtowels or paper towels for 1/2 hour (or longer, but keep in the fridge). After pressing, cut into bite-sized pieces and place on a plate. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over the tofu. Allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes or longer (can keep in the fridge up to overnight). Place the tofu on a lightly oiled baking sheet in a preheated 400F oven for 10 – 15 minutes, turning the pieces over half way through cooking. When brown around the edges, remove and allow to cool to room temp. Here’s a close-up of the tofu:

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For the Sesame Green Beans:

2 tbsp sesame seeds (hulled or unhulled)
handful of fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
1 tsp sesame oil
pinch of salt

Toast the sesame seeds in a small pan. This takes just a few minutes, so stay with them while they cook. Set aside. Steam the green beans in 1 inch of water for 3 – 5 minutes until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Remove to a plate and sprinkle the sesame oil, sesame seeds and a pinch of salt over the beans.

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Salad:

1 cup cabbage, chopped or shredded
3 radishes, grated
1 large stalk broccoli, florets and stem
1 clove garlic (or 1/4 tsp paste) (optional)
1/2 tsp fresh ginger (or to taste), micro-planed (or paste)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp. agave syrup (to taste – optional)
pinch of salt or to taste
wedge of fresh lemon or lime
1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, green and/or white parts, chopped

For the salad:

Into a salad bowl, place the cabbage and radishes.

Prepare the broccoli by cutting off the florets and steaming them in 1 inch of water for 3 minutes until al dente. Drain well and put in the salad bowl. Use the stalk of the broccoli by first trimming off the fibrous cut end. Then peel the stalk and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add to the salad bowl. Add the garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, tamari, agave and salt to the bowl and mix well. Squeeze the lemon juice over the salad and toss in the cilantro and green onions. Stir and set aside.

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To plate:

Divide the salad between two plates or bowls. Top with the green beans and tofu. Garnish with some cilantro leaves and green onion. Enjoy!

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Southwest-style Salad with Spicy Cilantro Dressing

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Hello! Welcome to my salad project! Today I made a salad with kidney beans and red cabbage. I feel like I kind of cheated since I had some leftover kidney beans in the fridge… however, it’s a great way to use what you have on hand. You just have to think of what to add to enhance the items that you are trying to pull together. So today it’s southwestern flavors – serranos, cilantro, jicama, bell pepper. Lots of veggies to keep us full and nourished.

If you have never tried jicama before, you should buy one and give it a whirl. They are a bit sweet, crunchy and starchy. They are great in winter salads to replace cucumbers for some crunch. You can dice them and throw into salads or cut them in batons / sticks and dip them in something good like hummus. I may try to bake them… hmm. I’ll let you know how that works out. I hope you enjoy this version of the southwest salad. It’s super easy and of course you can sub out / in any ingredients you like.

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For the dressing:

1 cup or big handful of cilantro (with soft stems – remove any hard stems)
1 – 2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 serrano pepper
1 tbsp. vinegar
4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Seriously, don’t remove the cilantro stems. They have so much taste, just get rid of any that aren’t soft. With the serrano, I use the entire pepper (without the stem), ribs, seeds and all. If you want less heat, remove the seeds and ribs. Whiz in the blender until smooth. Add more salt to taste. Set aside.

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For the salad:

2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup red cabbage, shredded
1 cup red kidney beans (cooked!)
1/2 cup jicama, peeled and chopped
3 or 4 radishes, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1/2 avocado, sliced (sprinkle with the lemon/lime juice below to keep it from turning brown)
1/4 of a lemon or lime or 1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. sunflower seeds
salt and pepper to taste
tortilla chips for garnishing (optional)

Mix the lettuce and cabbage together, making sure all water is drained thoroughly. Divide between two plates or bowls. Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt and pepper over each serving (optional). Top with the remaining ingredients. Serve with the Spicy Cilantro Dressing. Enjoy!

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Summer Salads: Sprouts & Kickin’ Kale

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Hello! Welcome to This Spicy Life…

The holiday weekend is upon us. I hope you have a great weekend planned! I’m including two recipes for the (free) price of one today, in honor of the tradition of eating lots of salads and sides with the Independence Day feast. Well, most people do… some people only go for the barbecue!

The first salad is a cold salad made from mung bean sprouts (Indian-style, short sprouts). You will need to plan ahead a bit so that you have your sprouts ready to go when you want to serve this salad. It can take anywhere from 2 to 4 days to sprout the beans. If you are unfamiliar with sprouting, please see the Sproutpeople website. Just use a bowl if you don’t have a sprouter and use the instructions for the 1/4 – 1/2″ long sprouts.

The second salad is a creamy, spicy kale salad and can be eaten room-temp or slightly chilled. It isn’t really an Indian salad, but could still be served alongside an Indian meal.  Kale is one of my favorite veggies but I get bored with the usual preparations. For this recipe, I used Trader Joe’s Tahini Sauce for the tahini, but any plain tahini will work too. The TJ’s sauce has added lemon juice, garlic and salt. Any type of kale will do, but in this recipe I used the dinosaur kale (dark green with flat leaves).

On with the recipes…

Mung Bean Sprout Salad

Serves 2 – 4

  • 3 cups mung bean sprouts, 1/4 – 1/2″ long
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp green chili, finely chopped (optional or to taste)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 6 curry leaves (optional)
  1. Pick through the sprouts to remove any that didn’t hatch. These will be extremely tough and could break a tooth if you bite down unexpectedly! It will take a few minutes, but is worth the little bit of work. Any easy way to do it is fill your bowl of sprouts with water and skim off the top layers with your hand. Examine each handful as you place it in your colander, picking out any that aren’t sprouted. Keep doing this until you get to the bottom of the bowl. Then you can just pick out the remaining sprouts and toss the unsprouted beans (or keep them and cook them in some other recipe).
  2. Rinse the sprouts in cool water and drain in a colander or a salad spinner. Try to get off as much water as possible without disturbing the sprouts too much. 
  3. Place the sprouts in a large bowl and add the onion, cilantro, chili, salt and lemon juice. Mix gently.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start to pop, remove from heat and set aside until it cools.
  5. Add the mustard seed/curry leaf mixture to the salad and mix gently. Adjust the lemon juice and salt to your taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Creamy Kale Salad with Spicy Sesame Sauce
Serves 2 – 4
  • 6 cups of kale, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp dried red chili flakes (or to taste)
  • salt to taste
  • 6 tbsp tahini (or tahini sauce, see note above)
  • 2 tsp tamari or other soy sauce
  • lemon juice to taste
  1. In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the chopped garlic and chili flakes and turn the heat to medium-low (so the garlic doesn’t burn).
  3. When the garlic starts to change color, add the kale and about a half tsp of salt.
  4. Stir and cover with a lid. Allow to cook for a few minutes, checking on the kale and stirring every few minutes. Add a few tbsps of water to keep the kale from burning if it seems to be getting dry.
  5. When the kale is nice and wilted and tender, remove from the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes. (The cooking time can be influenced by the freshness of the kale and how much water was added during cooking, among other factors.)
  6. Remove the kale and any garlic bits to a bowl. Try not to pour too much water into the bowl if there is any left in the pan.
  7. Add the tahini and tamari/soy sauce to the kale mixture and stir. The mixture should have a creamy, smooth consistency. If it’s too thick, then add a bit of water to thin it out. If it’s too thin, add a bit more tahini.
  8. Now squeeze about 1/4 of a lemon over the kale and stir. Taste and add more if you like…
  9. Eat.

Chole Enchiladas with Roasted Jalapeno

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Chole Enchiladas with Roasted Jalapeno

Hello and welcome to This Spicy Life…

A few weeks ago I made Chole Enchiladas – a perfect fusion of Indian chickpeas curry and Latin whole wheat-corn tortillas.I thought this would be a great recipe to honor Cinco de Mayo that is coming up in a few short days.

I used a variation on my recipe for chickpeas curry posted here. You can use your own recipe or mine, just make double the recipe for the sauce so that you have sauce left over to pour over the rolled up enchiladas. The chole that I made was already spicy but made extremely spicy with the roasted jalapeno peppers added to the filling. If you want less spice, just remove the seeds and maybe use less jalapeno.

Chole Enchiladas with Roasted Jalapeno

Serves 4

  • 1 recipe chole, made with doubled sauce
  • 1 cup potato, minced
  • 6 whole wheat-corn tortillas or other tortillas (6″ – 8″, not the huge burrito size)
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 lemon, cut in wedges
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare an 8″x8″ or similar baking pan by rubbing with a bit of oil. Set aside.
  2. Roast the jalapeno peppers: there are many methods to do this. I put mine over direct gas flame and kept turning until the skin was blackened. (You can oil them and place under a broiler or put them in a cast iron skillet and turn them around over high heat.) Once roasted, set aside until they are cooled. Then with the back of a knife (the dull side), scrape off most of the charred skin. Don’t rinse under water as this removes much of the flavor. Chop into bite-sized pieces. You can remove the seeds if you find them too hot. Be careful to wash your hands well after handling the jalapeno! Set these aside until step 6. 
  3. Prepare the sauce part of your recipe for chole / chickpeas curry and remove all but 1 cup of sauce and reserve until step 7.
  4. Add the minced potato to the 1 cup of tomato sauce. Allow to simmer until almost cooked through. Add a small amount of water if it becomes too dry.
  5. Add the reserved chickpeas to the potato mixture and simmer for 10 minutes, adding a bit of water as needed so it doesn’t stick. However, this should be a very dry curry at the end of the cooking time.
  6. Stir in the chopped jalapeno and 3/4 cup of chopped cilantro. Taste for salt/seasoning and set aside.
  7. To the reserved portion of the tomato sauce, add a little bit of water to make a thick gravy consistency (if necessary). Set aside.
  8. Wrap the tortillas in foil and place in the oven for a 5 minutes. They will get a little heated and more pliable. 
  9. Into an oven-proof casserole dish pour 1 cup of the reserved sauce. Spread over the bottom.
  10. Take one tortilla and spread approx. 1/2 cup of the chickpeas on the center. 
  11. Roll up and place in the casserole dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and pack tightly together. 
  12. Pour remaining tomato sauce over the rolls – be careful to get sauce all over the tortillas (they may become dry if they aren’t sauced). 
  13. Cover with an oven-proof lid or foil. Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until heated through.
  14. Remove from the oven. Remove lid or foil. Allow to stand for 5 – 10 minutes.
  15. Serve with chopped onion, cilantro, chopped avocado and lemon wedges.