I remember when I first came to live in the United States. I was living with a wonderful American family on a farm in Idaho. A big, huge change. There were lots of fresh produce available of course, especially in the summer. That’s when I was introduced to salads. Don’t get me wrong, salads are eaten all over the world but usually not as a meal. It’s almost always eaten as part of a meal, like a side dish or even a palate cleanser or like a condiment. In North America the salad reigns as a meal. That was a strange thing for me. To eat an entire meal that was mostly raw. I remember telling my mom about having a salad for dinner and she exclaimed in dismay, “can’t those people cook?”. After I got over the initial shock, I grew to love salads. I love the textures, the freshness and the variety. They are never going to go over big in any part of South Asia as a meal but I’m winning people over, one at a time.
I had this just the other day. It was great and refreshing after a hard workout! Yes, Ma…I ate it as a meal.
Radish Cucumber and Mango Salad
4 fresh radishes, thinly sliced
1 English Cucumber, thinly sliced
1 Mango, cut into small bite sized pieces
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp spicy brown mustard
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
Thinly slice cucumber, radishes and mangoes and place in a medium sized bowl. Add chopped cilantro. In a separate bowl zest the lime and then juice the whole lime. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and whisk until a thick emulsion is created. Pour over salad and toss. Chill and serve.
The last several days were like a blur. I made too many cookies, ate things other people made that I didn’t like (green bean casserole with little hot dog chunks, bad jello salad with beet pieces and funeral potatoes – that’s a Utah thing ), skipped meals, ran around doing a million things. It was busy, it was hectic, it was crazy. But today, I wanted to come home and eat something I made because dang it, my worst effort had to be better than a casserole made of macerated hot dogs (I have HUGE issues with hot dogs, it’s a long story). I had leftover baked chicken from last night and a couple of Zucchinis in the fridge. I decided it would be great to take out my mandolin (the cooking kind, not the musical instrument) and use the zucchini as the noodle and make some kind of a filling with the chicken and other veggies. It turned out pretty great and it was fast too. Total time with prep and baking under 45 minutes. It sure beats the beet jello salad (pun intended).
Palao, Polao, Pilaf….whatever way you want to pronounce it, it basically means “yummy rice” (that’s my translation). I’m Asian, which means I make a lot of rice, eat a variety of rice and think of ways to incorporate rice into stuff that probably shouldn’t have rice. We love rice so much, we even make pasta out of it! That’s good news for all those trying to eat Gluten-free. This is a simple go-to vegetable rice dish. It can stand alone as a main dish or is great eaten with any Egg Curry dish or even a Chicken Korma.
Here’s the recipe:
Vegetable Rice Palao
3 cups uncooked Basmati Rice
6 cups water
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 pound frozen mixed vegetables
5-6 Cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
2 Bay leaves
2 Cinnamon sticks
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp Turmeric
1 1/2 tsp Red Chili powder
2 tsp Cumin
5 whole garlic cloves and 1 1/2 inch ginger – grate together into a paste (I usually make a large quantity and keep it in a mason jar in the fridge)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Wash Basmati Rice until the water runs clear, this gets rid of the excess starch and makes a better end product. Set aside. Heat oil in a large 5-6 quart heavy bottom pan, add chopped onions and cardamom, cinnamon sticks, cloves and bay leaves. Stir fry until fragrance is released. Add salt, cumin, turmeric and chili and stir fry a few more minutes. Add the garlic and ginger paste last so that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add frozen vegetables, golden raisins and then the cashews (keeps the cashews from breaking into little pieces) and saute an additional 2-3 minutes to incorporate the flavors. Add in washed Basmati rice and gently stir to incorporate all the spices without breaking any of the rice grains. Add the water and bring to a gentle boil, turn down the burners on low and cover. Let rice cook on low until all the water is incorporated and rice is tender, should be about 10-12 minutes. Turn off heat and fluff gently with a serving spoon to incorporate all the vegetables evenly. Serve warm.