Keerai Pachadi (Paalak Raita, or Spinach Yogurt Salad)

Ingredients

2 large bunches spinach, roughly chopped (about 5 cups)

1 tsp canola or vegetable oil

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp split urad dhal

2 or 3 whole dried red chillies

1 small onion, thinly sliced

7 or 8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 1/2 to 2 cups of non-fat or low-fat plain yogurt

Salt to taste

Directions

1.  Place the spinach leaves in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for about 5 minutes.  If you prefer, steam or wilt in a saucepan.  Do not add water or any other liquid.

2.  While the spinach is cooking, heat the oil in a small frying pan.  Add the mustard seeds.  When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the urad dhal and dried red chillies.  Saute until the urad dhal just begins to brown.  Add the onions.  Saute until the onions start becoming translucent, but do not allow them to brown.  Add the tomatoes and saute for a just a minute or two.  Remove from heat.

3.  Combine the spinach and the onion/tomato mixture.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  Stir in the yogurt and add salt to taste.

Serve as a side dish to an Indian meal.  Can also be served as a dip as long as you chop all of the vegetables, including the spinach, much smaller.

Aloo Methi (Potato With Fenugreek Leaves)

Ingredients

2 tsp canola or vegetable oil

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1/4 tsp + 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

2 to 5 green chillies, diced (according to your heat preference)

3 to 4 large potatoes, 1-inch dice

1/3 cup fenugreek leaves (methi, vendhiya keerai), chopped*

Salt to taste

Directions

1.  Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan.  Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds.  When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the green chillies, 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder and 1/2 tsp of red chilli powder.  Saute for a few seconds.

2.  Add the potato, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and 1/2 tsp salt and stir to combine.  Add 1/4 cup water.  Reduce heat.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are just cooked through.  Add water as needed to prevent the potatoes from sticking to the pan.

3.  When the potatoes are cooked, stir in the chopped fenugreek leaves.  Add salt if needed.  Heat on low for a few minutes, until the methi has been warmed.  Serve warm as a side dish.

*Note: If you cannot find fresh fenugreek leaves, many Indian grocery stores stock frozen, chopped fenugreek leaves.  Some of them even come in frozen cubes.  I used 2 cubes for this dish.

Build A Meal 2 – Three-Course Veggieful

Okay, there’s quite a bit of chopping going into this meal, but it’s worth the taste of tons of fresh vegetables.

Appetizer/Soup

Tomato Vegetable Soup

Main Course

Creamy Asparagus Penne

Salad/Side

Masoor Dhal Salad

Dessert (pick one)

Let’s go with the simple and healthy here… fruit salad.  You want to be a little bit unhealthy?  Add a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream or mascarpone cheese creamed with a little honey and lemon zest.

OR

For something quick and warm, try out my Sweet Pastry Bites.

Creamy Asparagus Penne

Ingredients

1 lb penne

1 bunch asparagus, tough parts discarded, cut into 2 inch pieces

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 medium onion, finely diced

3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

2 cups skim milk

3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 to 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

1.  Boil water for the pasta.  Add salt to water.

2.  While water is reaching a boil, heat the butter in a large saucepan.  Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is just becoming translucent and the garlic is fragrant.  Add the fresh herbs.  Add the flour and mix well.  Cook until the raw flour smell is gone, about 2 minutes.

3.  Add the milk slowly to the sauce base, mixing well and ensuring no lumps form.  Cook on low to medium heat, stirring frequently, until the milk is heated through and the sauce begins to thicken.  Add salt and pepper and crushed red pepper.  Continue cooking until sauce has thickened.  Add peas and remove from heat.

4.  While the sauce is thickening, the water should have reached a boil.  Add the pasta and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the pasta is not quite done.  Add the asparagus and continue cooking until both asparagus and pasta are cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain.

5.  Add the sauce to the pasta and toss well to coat.  Serve warm.

Carrot Lentil Tahini Soup

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

4 to 5 large carrots, diced

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/2 cups red lentils (masoor dhal)

1 quart vegetable stock or water

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

2 tbsp tahini (sesame) paste

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

1.  Saute onions, celery and carrots in oil until just starting to soften.  Add lentils, spices, herbs and vegetable stock.  Mix well and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are soft and the carrots cooked through (about 30 minutes).

2.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the cilantro and tahini paste.  Puree using an immersion blender or, in batches, in a blender.

3.  Return to heat.  Adjust seasonings.  Bring to a simmer.  Serve hot, garnished with some more fresh cilantro.