Category Archives: Nuts

Roasted Golden Beets & ArugulaWalnut Pesto Salad

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Hello! Welcome to The Salad Project! Our weather is unseasonably warm here in S. California so I’m having a burst of summer-type salads. I actually harvested a fresh red tomato from my garden today. I was not too hopeful about the taste since the texture seemed extra-firm. But what an explosion of summer flavor! It’s unexpected but appreciated!

Today I roasted some small golden beets with olive oil and salt. They came out of the oven crispy but soft – perfect for a salad! I also had a bag of arugula on hand from Trader Joe’s. I don’t often buy bagged greens but I haven’t made it to the Farmers’ Market in a few weeks. If you have never tried arugula, please do asap! It’s a slightly peppery green that is perfect in salads, cooked with pasta or made into pesto. ¬†You can throw it into some soup at the end of cooking for a burst of pretty green color. I think it’s perfect for pesto because it is so flavorful but also holds its bright green color. I sometimes add some fresh spinach too, just to amp up the nutrients. Today I made a batch of arugula pesto that I used for my dressing. Instead of my usual sunflower seeds, I added chopped walnuts and used walnut oil in place of olive oil. The combination of walnuts and arugula is fantastic! You just have to try it! I have about 1 cup left of this yummy sauce. The rest will be used with pasta salad tomorrow or maybe on sandwiches or in lasagna…Love, love, love pesto!

Roasted Golden Beets & Arugula Walnut Pesto Salad (Serves 2-4)

For the Roasted Beets:

5 small or 3 large Golden Beets (or other beets)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400F. Use about 1 tbsp of oil to coat a baking sheet. Set aside. Wash the beets thoroughly and trim any leaves. Cut in quarters or eighths, depending on size, and place on the baking sheet. Drizzle the remaining oil over the beets, coating all sides. Sprinkle the salt over the beets and place in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then if they aren’t soft enough, cover with foil and bake for 10 more minutes or until soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Now make the Arugula Walnut Pesto:

2 packed cups arugula leaves, washed
1 – 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 to 1 cup of walnut oil

Place arugula, garlic, salt and walnuts in a blender in that order. Pour in 1/4 cup of oil and turn on to blend. As it’s blending, slowly add more oil through the top (or stop the blender and add a bit of oil at a time) and continue to blend until the mixture flows freely and loosely in the blender. This is the best way I can think of to explain this! ūüôā The pesto will be a smooth, thick sauce (rather than the usual chunky pesto though you can leave it chunky if you like). Here’s a close up of the pesto (not the greatest shot – the sun is so low that it makes winter photography almost impossible!):

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Assemble the salad:

1 cup of cooked quinoa
1/4 of a lemon
2 cups of arugula leaves, washed and dry
2 pinches salt
black pepper to taste
2 tbsp walnuts, chopped
1 recipe Roasted Beets
1 recipe Arugula Walnut Pesto

Squeeze the lemon over the quinoa and mix well. Divide the arugula leaves amongst your plates and top with divided quinoa. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and black pepper over each salad. Divide the beets over each salad and top with a few walnuts. Now drizzle the pesto over each salad to taste. Enjoy!

Coconut Stuffed Baby Eggplants

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Coconut Stuffed Baby Eggplants

Hello¬†and Welcome to This Spicy Life! Thanks for stopping by – sorry that I have been absent for too long. I’m posting a recipe that I made almost a month ago. I was recently surfing around some other food blogs (for inspiration, ideas and fun) and noticed that a lot of people have posted similar recipes in the last month. I’m thinking that this must be the season for baby eggplants! Or maybe other people feel the same way and just can’t resist these beauties…

My version of Coconut Stuffed Baby Eggplant is inspired by a few recipes by different authors. Some recipes use onion, some don’t use coconut or sesame seeds. My recipe isn’t totally new, but I think that mine has more¬†shortcuts and a few different ingredients that combines for a nice flavor. Stuffed Eggplant is a wonderful South Indian dish that goes well with rice, a simple dal and a salad. In my picture, I served it with Rasam, Toor Dal and Kale Saag.

Coconut Stuffed Baby Eggplants

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 – 12 “baby” eggplants (small, round, purple variety)
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut (unsweetened, desiccated)
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp cayenne or red chili powder (or to taste)
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds or peanuts
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 2 -4 tbsp oil
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 shakes of hing (asafoetida)¬†(optional)
  • 6 curry leaves (optional)
Method:
  1. Heat a heavy, cast iron or other skillet over medium heat. When hot add the coconut, coriander powder, cumin powder and cayenne/chili powder. Stir together and let roast until the coconut starts to get specks of brown. Remove from the pan to a blender.
  2. Heat the sesame seeds/peanuts in the same pan until lightly toasted. Remove and put in the blender. Reserve the pan for later.
  3. Add the tamarind paste, salt and 1/4 cup of water to the blender and mix. Add more water if necessary to make a thick paste for stuffing.
  4. Wash the baby eggplants well in water. The stems will be kept intact unless they aren’t in good shape (in which case, remove the stem very close to the top of the eggplant).
  5. Cut the eggplants in quarters from the bottom toward the stem, but not all the way through – stop cutting about 1/2″ from the top or the stem.¬†
  6. Working quickly (so the eggplant doesn’t start to turn brown), use your fingers to stuff the eggplants on all cut sides with the stuffing. This is messy, but just get as much in there as possible and then close the four pieces back together a bit to hold the stuffing. The stuffing is really for flavoring, not to fill you up, so don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like it has a lot of stuffing. Fill all of the eggplants this way and set aside. Reserve any leftover stuffing.¬†
  7. Heat your cast iron pan or other skillet again over medium heat. Add 2 tbsp of oil and the mustard seeds. Allow to start popping and then add the cumin seeds, hing and curry leaves (if using). Stir around.
  8. Immediately place the eggplants in the pan and turn the heat to medium low. Sprinkle the left over stuffing on top of the eggplants. Add a bit more oil to the pan if the eggplants are sticking.
  9. After a minute, carefully turn each eggplant so that it starts to brown on another side. Keep doing this every minute or so until all surfaces are browned (be careful not to burn).
  10. Place a lid on the pan and reduce the heat to low. Allow to cook for about 5 more minutes (checking after 3 minutes) until the eggplant flesh is soft and cooked through. This timing depends on the size and age of your eggplants, it could take longer if your eggplants are very large or on the older side.
  11. Serve with rice, dal and salad. 

Korma Meets Filo Pie

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Korma Meets Filo Pie

Hello and welcome to This Spicy Life… Today India meets Greece in a pie made with a crust of filo (phyllo) dough and a nice korma for the filling. It’s a perfect marriage of creamy korma and flaky filo resulting in an extremely tasty meal.

This pie is inspired by a recipe from my brother who makes a delicious Greek Spinach Pie. He lives far away so I haven’t had his version for several years. I do remember fondly that it’s stuffed with tons of veggies such as zucchini, carrot, green beans and lots of spinach.

My korma recipe is a non-traditional take on a traditional north Indian korma. The recipe I adapted comes from Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni. I changed a few of her ingredients and made it without any dairy, keeping with the pure vegetarian theme of this blog. And I used way less oil than the original recipe called for – I used about 4 tablespoons of oil/margarine while the original recipe called for 12 tablespoons (plus paneer). But then there is added oil in the crust…oh well! You can use a variety of vegetables in this recipe. Just substitute similar veggies if possible. Broccoli would be excellent as well as leeks and peas.

A note about the filo: when I started making my brother’s spinach pie recipe on my own I experimented with using less oil on the filo leaves. It doesn’t work. I tried to oil just every other leaf (resulting in too dry, fly-away layers) and only the top layers thinking the juice would sink in (it only made a soggy mess). If you are scared of using oil, try using a traditional savory pie crust or just serve the korma with naan or rice.

Korma Meets Filo Pie

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 stick cinnamon (or 1 tsp cinnamon powder)*
  • 12 cardamom pods, crushed and skins removed (or 2 tsp cardamom powder)
  • 20 cloves (or 2 tsp clove powder)*
  • 2 cups onions, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 green chilies, finely chopped
  • 3 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 cup potatoes, diced in 1/4″ cubes
  • 1 cup cauliflower stems, chopped in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup carrots, diced in 1/2″ cubes or chunks
  • 2 cups cauliflower flowers, chopped in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup spinach, fresh or frozen, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas, cooked
  • 5 tbsp ground almonds (powder or paste)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp margarine or butter (or other fat), softened
  • 1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup soy milk creamer (or other cream)
  • 1/2 pkg filo (phyllo) dough, thawed in refrigerator overnight and set out at room temperature unopened for at least 20 minutes)
  • 4 tbsp oil (approximately) for brushing the filo leaves

For the Korma:

  1. Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add 2 tbsp oil.
  2. To the hot oil, add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.
  3. When the spices become fragrant (after about 30 – 60 seconds), add the onions and allow to cook until they become translucent. Stir frequently.
  4. Add the garlic, ginger and green chilies and stir. Allow to cook for a few more minutes until the onions start to get brownish on the edges (but not burned!).
  5. Add 2 tsp of salt, potatoes, carrots and cauliflower stems.
  6. Cook for about 5 minutes before adding the remaining cauliflower and spinach. (*see note below)
  7. Stir in the almond powder/paste and allow to cook for about a minute.
  8. Add the chickpeas and 1 cup of water. Stir everything together, lower the heat to the medium low and cover the pot. Stir occasionally and allow to cook until the veggies are cooked through (but not mushy). Add more water as needed but never more than barely covers the veggies. (The veggies can cook with the steam created when the pot is covered.)
  9. Remove from the heat. Remove most of the liquid using a spoon and reserve.
  10. Mix the margarine/butter with the flour in a small bowl. Be sure to mix it well so that all of the flour is fully incorporated.
  11. Stir 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid into the flour mixture, then add this back to the veggie mixture.
  12. Add the cream and stir well.
  13. Add additional reserved liquid if necessary to make a very thick gravy.
  14. Taste for salt and add more if necessary.

For the assembly of the pie:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Oil a round deep-dish pie plate (2 inches or more in-depth) or an 8″ x 8″ square (or similar size) baking dish.
  3. Put 4 tbsp oil in a small bowl. Set aside with a pastry brush.
  4. Remove the filo dough from the packaging and place on a cookie sheet or other surface.
  5. Cut the dough in half from long end to long end. Put half of the stack of dough under a moist towel while you work with the other half.
  6. With the pastry brush and working quickly, pick up a bit of oil and spread gently on the first layer of dough. Spread all around, don’t be too stingy but don’t have pools of oil either. Be sure to get oil on the edges and corners.
  7. Place this sheet in your pie plate or baking dish.
  8. Repeat with 8 more layers of filo, alternating the layers cross-wise. It’s okay if some of them rip a little bit. The layers should hang over the side of the dish.
  9. Now add the filling – spoon 3 – 4 cups or more (depending on the size of your dish) into the center and flatten out to the edges of the dish. You most likely will have korma left over.
  10. Repeat oiling and placing layers of filo, using 6 layers for the top.
  11. Roll the overhanging dough under and gently tuck into the sides of the pie. (This is a rustic pie, so doesn’t have to be perfect!)
  12. Score some vents in the top of the pie with a knife so that steam will escape.
  13. Place in the oven for 20 – 40 minutes or until nice and lightly browned on the top. (I know that this is a wide range of time but it depends on the size of your baking dish and how full your pie is…the filling is cooked, it’s just the filo that needs to cook and get browned.)
  14. While your pie is in the oven, wrap up your leftover filo and put it back in the freezer.
  15. Allow the pie to set up for about 10 – 15 minutes before cutting and serving. BTW, it’s normal for the top of the pie to break up into little crispy goodness pieces ūüôā

*While cooking the veggies in Step 6, you may want to pick out as many cloves as you can find along with the cinnamon stick (you can skip this step if you don’t mind serving with the whole spices or you can substitute ground spices for the whole spices).

Arugula-Walnut Pesto Pasta with Mushrooms

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Arugula-Walnut Pesto Pasta with Mushrooms

Hello! Welcome to This Spicy Life! Spring arrives in a few days, but I am ahead of the curve with this green pasta dish that is hearty but light. It’s a not-very-spicy recipe but you can spice it up by adding more chili flakes and/or raw garlic. If you are afraid of raw garlic, just keep this for a weekend (non-date-night) recipe!

This recipe was inspired by the wonderful spring weather as well as out of necessity. I needed to use up my bag of wild arugula and a bag of cut mushrooms I got at Trader Joe’s earlier this week. ¬†I was also skimming the food section on Huffington Post today and saw an article with beautiful pics of spring pastas. Therefore, a variety of inspiration, boiled down into a bowl of pasta.

Feel free to substitute whatever greens you have on hand. Pesto is very forgiving when you use different seeds/nuts and greens.  My usual go-to pesto recipe is part arugula and basil with pine nuts or sunflower seeds. The arugula keeps the basil nice and green and gives it a peppery taste. Parsley and spinach are also delicious as stand-ins for part of the greens.  Normally pesto contains cheese, but this is a vegan (non-dairy) version. If you would like to add cheese, add about 1/2 cup grated cheese (usually parmesan or asiago) to the blender when making the pesto. Or simply grate it on top of the finished pasta before serving.

Spring Arugula Pesto Pasta with Mushrooms

Serves 4 – 6

  • 4 cups boiled pasta of your choice
  • 4 cups arugula or other greens, rinsed and drained
  • 8 oz mushrooms, cleaned and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 – 2 tbsp flaked red chili
  • 2 – 4 tbsp olive oil or margarine/butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • black pepper to taste

For the pesto:

  • 2 cups arugula (or other greens), rinsed and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic (or to taste), peeled
  • 1/4 cup (or more) good quality olive oil
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, shelled
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  1. While cooking the pasta, make your pesto: place the garlic, 1/2 of the greens and 1/2 of the walnuts in a food processor or blender.
  2. Blend to a smooth paste by running the machine while adding oil a little at a time.
  3. Add the remaining walnuts, salt and greens (and cheese if using) and pulse until it becomes a chunky mixture. You may need to add additional oil. Taste for salt and set aside.
  4. Heat a pan over medium heat and add 2  tbsp olive oil.
  5. When it shimmers, add the mushrooms and flaked chili and let cook wtihout stirring for at least one minute.
  6. Stirring occasionally, let the mushrooms cook down. They will release their water and start to turn brown.
  7. Now add the arugula or greens on top of the mushrooms along with the salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  8. Allow to cook until the greens are wilted and any moisture evaporates. Turn off the heat.
  9. Add the cooked pasta to the pan, along with 1/4 cup of pesto. Mix gently to combine. Add more pesto to taste.

Serve while warm with a side salad and/or garlic bread. You can freeze left-over pesto sauce or use as a spread on sandwiches or a topping on baked potatoes… Happy Spring!