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Category Archives: Salads

Kosambari

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Kosambari is a cucumber-carrot-moong dhal salad that is popular in South India, especially in Karnataka. It is an integral part of wedding menus and is also offered as ‘Prasadham’ or Holy food in some temples. It is known by the same name in Telugu and as Kosumalli in Tamil. The salad does not involve cooking but demands prepreparation ahead of time. The moong dhal (greengram dhal) used is not cooked but soaked in water for atleast a couple of hours to soften it. So prior planning is important for the success of the final dish. Glance through the directions to prepare Kosambari and give it a try.

Directions to prepare Kosambari:

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cucumbers (medium-size)
  • ½ Carrot
  • 2-3 tbsp Moong dhal soaked in water for atleast 2 hrs
  • 1-2 tbsp Lime juice
  • Few Coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

For the Tempering:

  • 1 tsp Mustard seed
  • 1 Slit Green Chili
  • A pinch of Asafoetida
  • Few Curry leaves
  • 2 tsp Cooking oil

Method: 

  1. Peel skin and grate cucumbers using grater mould with bigger holes.
  2. Repeat the same with the carrot.
  3. Gently squeeze cucumber gratings to remove the juice.
  4. Thoroughly drain water from the moong dhal and spread it in a salad bowl.
  5. Add cucumber gratings over it, then the carrot and finely chopped coriander leaves.
  6. Drizzle lime juice over the contents of the bowl.
  7. Now add the tempering.

Procedure for tempering:

  1. Heat oil.
  2. Add mustard seeds and wait till they splutter.
  3. Add asafoetida and green chili.
  4. Turn off the flame and then add curry leaves.
  5. Transfer the tempering to the salad bowl.

Do not mix or add salt until service time. Do these just before serving to prevent the salad from becoming runny.

Servings: 3

Kosambari

Kosambari

Suggestions: 

  • Soak the moong dhal in hot water to accelerate the softening process.
  • Always keep the quantity of carrots lesser than cucumbers because they contribute to a larger volume and their taste may be overpowering.
  • Crunchy varieties of cucumber that do not exude much water on grating are preferable (like the ones available in Salem, Tamil Nadu).
  • Gratings of all vegetables are recommended to obtain harmony of shape, size and texture. However, if you loathe the idea of losing cucumber juice by squeezing the gratings, just dice the cucumbers and use.
  • If using diced cucumber instead of gratings, try this trick to soften the moong dhal. Do not soak the dhal in water. But spread them in the salad bowl, place the cucumber dices on them and set aside for a couple of hours. Allow the cucumber juice to soften the dhal.

Kosambari uses a beautiful interplay of colours, textures and flavours to produce a tasty salad. It is a healthy dish that not only offers micronutrients but also contributes protein from the dhal. It can be served as a snack or as a side dish to any of the three courses of South Indian meal. Though the recipe here uses a cucumber-carrot-dhal combo, pairing the dhal either with only cucumber or only carrot or only shredded cabbage are other possibilities. Unripe mango gratings (with the skin) can also complement this salad. But an ultimate way to take this salad to the next level is to add mango ginger (a rhizome that looks like ginger but tastes like unripe mango) gratings to it. It bursts with flavour in the mouth and enhances the taste. So, quick! Make this salad a part of your routine menu.

Links to Other Salads:

Greek Salad

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By now I had prepared Tabbouleh and Fattoush atleast a dozen times that I wanted to try something new. I surveyed the salad stall for inspiration. My eyes fell upon a plethora of salads like Caesar, Mediterranean, Greek, Russian, Jarjir, Arabic, stuffed grape leaves, so on and so forth. I instantaneously decided to go on a trial of the Greek Salad in my kitchen. The reason for the quick decision was partly because the ingredients were so easy to decipher and partly because, of late I had been hearing so much about all things Greek – like Greek yoghurt, Kalamata olives and had watched both the old and new versions of the movie, “Clash of The Titans”, based on Greek mythology. My mind was full of Greek characters – Zeus, Perseus, Andromeda, awful Medusa…

I perceived that the dressing contained zaatar (Arabic herb mix with sesame seeds and salt). But, just to ensure what other items went into the dressing, I sought the rescue of my usual saviour, Google. I found so many variations of the dressing used for this salad. As I skimmed through the comments section of the recipe blogs as I always do, one feedback caught my attention. It read, “I could literally drink this salad dressing, it is so good.”  If it was so good, then I thought I should definitely try it.

What remained now was to embark on the actual process of preparation. The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

Ingredients for Greek Salad

Ingredients for Greek Salad

  • 1 head Iceberg Lettuce
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1 Green Capsicum (This can also be substituted with small quantities of different coloured bell peppers)
  • 1 Tomato-Deseeded
  • 1 Onion
  • 10-15 Greek Olives pitted and cut into rings
  • Few cubes Feta Cheese 

For the dressing:

Items required for Greek Salad Dressing

Items required for Greek Salad Dressing

  • 1 clove Garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano, crushed
  • 1 ½ tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 ½ tbsp Lime Juice or to taste
  • 6 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil or just enough to coat the main ingredients

Whisk all the ingredients thoroughly well in a bowl. Since brined olives and feta cheese are used in the salad, add salt sparingly or skip it.

Preparation:

A salad is more about texture – so cut the cleaned vegetables according to the textural effect you desire. I prefer to shred the lettuce, baton the cucumber, julienne the capsicum, tomato and slice the onion thinly. Soak the onion slices in a bowl of cold water for about 10-15 min to reduce its pungency.  Drain the water, pat dry the onion slices with paper tissues or use salad spinner, if you have one. Mix all the vegetables together in a large salad bowl, add feta cubes and drizzle over the dressing. Serve and relish Greek salad.

Greek Salad (Horiatiki Salata)

Greek Salad (Horiatiki Salata)

Close-up of Greek Salad

Close-up of Greek Salad

By the way, this is just a version of Greek salad that has evolved over time. I tried emulating whatever I saw in the salad stall. The original and authentic Greek Salad (Horiatiki Salata), however is much simpler – it does not contain lettuce as one of the main ingredients or garlic in the dressing. The red wine vinegar is also optional. The feta should be genuine, made from sheep or/and goat milk.

Have you tried this salad? Are there any salads that are irresistible to your palate? I am eager to know.


A Delightful Arabic Salad Called Fattoush

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Fattoush is an Arabic salad. Nothing is challenging in its preparation, if you can find its three trademark ingredients – Khubz (Arabic bread or pita), Sumac (a tangy spice) and Baqleh (an herb also called as Purslane/Verdolaga or Paruppu Keerai in Tamil). The rest is child’s play. It just involves flinging in all possible cut salad vegetables, toasted khubz croutons into a bowl and drizzling over a dressing to flavour them. Sounds oversimplified? Take a look at the detailed recipe and find for yourself:

Main Ingredients:

  • About 4 khubz. Use scissors to cut the khubz into vertical strips and then again across them horizontally, to get small rectangular pieces. Spread them on a plate and toast in a microwave oven at high power for 3 minutes. Do not forget to turn over the pieces at just about half-time of toasting (1 ½ minutes), so that they do not get burnt. The pita croutons are ready.
Khubz or Arabic bread

Khubz or Arabic bread

  • One head of romaine lettuce. Wash the leaves and drain away the water. Discard the midrib of the lettuce leaves and then cut them coarsely. Tip: The salad spinner is a reliable and indispensable tool for draining away the water and is quicker than the conservative colander. Just twirl around the washed leaves in the spinner, twice or thrice till the water drains into the outer container. This helps in retaining the crispness of the leaves and prevents the salad from becoming mushy.
Salad Spinner

Salad Spinner

Lettuce leaves with water drained away using salad spinner

Lettuce leaves with water drained away using salad spinner


  • About 2-3 cucumbers, skin peeled and cut.
  • 2 carrots, skin peeled and cut into batons.
  • 1 medium size tomato, cut.
  • 1 medium size onion, chopped.
  • Few sprigs of mint leaves, cleaned and chopped.
  • Few sprigs of parsley, cleaned and chopped.

My search for baqleh in markets has not been fruitful till now. Consequently, my fattoush is always minus baqleh. But its absence does not affect the taste of the final product markedly.

Optional Ingredients:

Apple or pear, pomegranate arils, baby radish, purple cabbage, capsicum, black olives and feta cheese.

For the Dressing:

  • 1-2 tbsp of sumac
  • 2-3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped and pounded to a paste
  • 1/2-1 tbsp of lime juice
  • A pinch of salt

Blend all of the above thoroughly well. Sumac already has a sour taste with a tinge of saltiness and faltering in the quantities of sumac, salt and lime, may even leave the entire dish unpalatable. So go over the addition of lime juice and salt gradually, stopping every now and then to check for taste.

Sumac, the tangy spice

Sumac, the tangy spice

Preparation:

Put all the salad vegetables in a big bowl and pour the dressing over them. Mix gently so that the dressing coats all the veggies in the bowl. Add the croutons just before serving and toss. The croutons retain the crispness for almost ½ hr after incorporating in the salad.

Fattoush or Crumbled Bread Salad

Fattoush or Crumbled Bread Salad

Serving Size: 4

Enjoy the nuances of texture offered by the veggies, greens and croutons in this delightful salad.

The cause for delight is not only its taste, but also the ease of preparation and its versatility. It does not demand the vegetables to be chopped finely as in Tabbouleh; the extensive choice of salad ingredients adds to the convenience – but the essence is to keep the list short and simple to avoid the prepreparation step from becoming time consuming and dreary; we could swap some of the main and optional ingredients to arrive at various combinations – we could play around with, add or substitute almost all ingredients except one. The presence of this signature element, the khubz croutons is vital to maintain the identity of this dish because…yes, you guessed it right…Fattoush in Arabic means crumbled bread salad.

The salad being light yet filling is suitable as a snack and supper item. What’s more! When prepared at home, it works out much cheaper than the 500 fils a plate or 1.550 dinars a kg rate of the food courts.

Parsley’s Goodness Packed in a Salad

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Back in India, I have never used parsley. Though available, I guess its popularity is obscured by the more commonly used herbs like mint, cilantro and curry leaves. I just knew it as a mouth freshener and a garnish. But here in Kuwait I noticed it being frequently served as a salad. Tabbouleh, the salad is Lebanese in origin and tops all parsley recipes.

What started as an argument between me and my husband about the off-white ingredient in the dish led us to dig into the recipe. My guess was that it was coarsely ground peanuts soaked in water whereas my husband thought that it was grated coconut flower. None of us was right as we later discovered that the stuff in question was “Burghul”(parboiled, dried and ground wheat).

Burghul - parboiled, dried and ground wheat

Burghul – parboiled, dried and ground wheat

By then we had familiarized ourselves with the recipe and the easy obtainability of all the items required encouraged us to try our hands at it. The recipe is easy peasy.

Ingredients:

  • Parsley –one big bunch
  • Burghul–2 tbsp
  • Tomato –1 big and firm
  • Onion    –1 big
  • Mint      –a few
  • Lemon  –1
  • Olive oil–1 or 2 tbsp
  • Salt         –to taste

Methodology:

  • Destem the parsley; swish the leaves in a bowl of water; repeat the process twice or thrice to get rid of all the impurities sticking to the leaves; thoroughly drain the water from the leaves; chop the leaves as finely as you can – I sometimes use scissors for this.
  • Soak burghul in hot water for about half an hour so that it absorbs water and swells. Remove the burghul from water and press it with a ladle to drain away the water from the grains.
  • Deseed the tomato; chop it finely.
  • If you notice, efforts have been taken to remove elements that may contribute to sogginess. The goal is to retain the crispness of the parsley leaves to impart a better textural effect to the salad. And don’t ever add the parsley stem as it has a different flavour altogether and changes the taste of the end product.
  • Chop the onions and mint leaves finely.
  • Add all ingredients one by one to a bowl, squeeze the juice of the lemon on to them, sprinkle olive oil, add salt to taste and mix them gently.
  • Refrigerate for about 15 min and allow the flavours to infuse before you serve.

Now, you can call yourself the maker of an authentic Arabic dish.

Servings: 2

Parsley’s Goodness:

Parsley is a storehouse of volatile oils and flavanoids. Among its volatile oils, myristicin is antitumorigenic and chemoprotective. It helps neutralize particular types of carcinogens like the benzopyrenes that are part of cigarette smoke and charcoal grill smoke. Among its flavanoids, luteolin acts as an antioxidant and protects against free radical damage. It is also a rich source of vitamin K, beta carotene, vitamin C and a good source of folic acid and iron.

Vitamin K helps in the synthesis of osteocalcin and sphyngolipid. The former is a protein that strengthens bones and the latter a fat that maintains myelin sheath around nerves. The vitamin has a role in blood clotting and it prevents calcium build up in tissues that lead to heart diseases.

Beta carotene on conversion to Vitamin A in the body maintains the integrity of mucous membranes and epithelial linings and boosts the immune system.

Vitamin C helps in the synthesis of collagen-the main structural protein in connective tissues and promotes wound healing.

Folic acid ensures proper cell division, prevents neural tube defects and cancer of colon and cervix. It converts homocysteine into harmless molecules and wards off heart ailments.

As we all know, iron helps in keeping anaemia at bay.

Other “Do-good” Factors in the Salad:

Needless to say the dish also has anti-carcinogenic lycopene of tomato, anti-microbial thiosulphinates of onion, dietary fiber of burghul, digestion favouring menthol of mint, anti-scorbutic (scurvy preventing) vitamin-C of lemon and antioxidants of virgin olive oil. The salad serves as an excellent intermediary snack.

And come on, do I have to add more to make you try this!!!

Note:

Parsley fares in the “forbidden foods” list of kidney and gall bladder patients because of its oxalate content.


References:

Benefits of Mint Plant

Burghul-Cooking Tips

How to pronounce “Tabbouleh”?

How To Say “Burghul”?

Onions Are Beneficial For Your Health

Parsley

Six Health Benefits of Parsley

The Cook’s Thesaurus: Wheat

The Health Benefits of Bulghur, Bulgur or Burghul



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