I'm trying to switch cooking gears from warming soups to cool and refreshing salads after summer made a quick and dazzling appearance after what seemed like a long cold winter and short cool spring. My first thought upon the arrival of hot weather was to make a simple chickpea salad with some fresh crunchy vegetables and my favorite Kalamata olives and sheep milk Feta cheese from a local Greek grocer — easy, nourishing and delicious with tantalizing contrasts of texture and color.
Using quality ingredients always makes these summer bean salads appealing, but what makes this salad different is the use of an Indian spice blend in the dressing. It may seem odd to combine an Indian spice blend with Mediterranean salad ingredients, but chat (or chaat) masala is such a vibrant spice blend that it deserves a wider scope than in just Indian food. A combination of dried mango powder, black salt and various seeds and spices, chat masala is hot, sour and salty all at the same time and goes wonderfully with cool or tangy foods — like a summer salad!
I am passionate about savory Indian flat breads. They are a perfect accompaniment to curries and are easy to make too. They do require a bit of patience however because usually only one can be cooked in the skillet at a time. No matter. The effort is well worth it, and in this case the bread requires no kneading.
These pancakes feature fresh fenugreek leaves — also known as "methi" — an annual herb that I was lucky enough to get my hands on. It is commonly used in Indian cooking and that includes the seed and ground powder from the seed. Slightly sweet, with a hint of bitterness, it is well worth using the fresh herb, but if you can't find it — and this is sometimes a challenge — substitute about 3/4 cup dried fenugreek instead. Most Asian and Indian grocers carry the dried leaves, seeds and powder, and often the fresh leaves. These grocers will also carry chickpea flour and chapati (or "atta") flour, but for 1/2 cup of chapati flour you may substitute 1/3 cup sifted whole wheat flour and combine with enough pastry flour to make 1/2 cup.
I never used to be a fan of lima beans. I think part of the reason is that the first time I had them was from a can and I put them in a salad with a rather dreadful dressing. Thankfully I have now mastered the art of homemade dressing. The salad was massive and I don't like to eat the same thing for too many days in a row — leftovers are fine, but there is a breaking point.
Now that I have discovered dried lima beans, I actually enjoy them. Although hummus usually is associated with chickpeas, here is an interesting twist made with lima beans and served up with crispy quinoa flatbreads and a somewhat spicy salsa with avocado. As the temperature heats up, hummus is just perfect, served up with favorite raw vegetables. If I didn't tell my dinner guest that lima beans were the shining ingredient, I think he would have figured that he was dining on a chickpea hummus. A thoroughly enjoyable culinary experience.
I don't typically deep-fry foods as I generally prefer baked versions of savory appetizers to keep the mess and grease down. But there are exceptions. Like these Indian spiced chana dal fritters for example. As it turns out, these light, crispy and spicy fritters weren't very oily at all, and I enjoyed them for lunch smothered with a homemade chutney. Crispy on the outside but delightfully moist and airy in the inside, these easy-to-make fritters are a treat indeed. And very addictive. They are best served warm and fresh out of the pan, but they do keep well covered in the fridge for a day or so. Simply heat them up covered with foil in the oven in a low temperature preheated oven and enjoy them again.