Monday, July 13, 2015

Tofu (or Paneer) Tikka Salad

On our way to drive a dear friend to the airport, we stopped for dinner at a popular Atlanta restaurant called Chai Pani which serves an eclectic selection of Indian street food. Restaurant menus are prime inspiration for the aspiring home cook and that day, I came away wanting to replicate the grilled paneer salad that we enjoyed there. The menu describes it as organic spring mix with pickled beets, red onions, cucumber & tomatoes topped with grilled house-made paneer (Indian farmer’s cheese). Served with cumin-lime dressing.

This evening, I made my own version of this salad for a quick weekday dinner.

The first component: The greens or the salad base. I find that eating fresh greens is all a matter of convenience- if the greens are prepped and chopped and sitting in a transparent box in the fridge where you can see them, they get eaten quickly. But if a head of lettuce is hidden in a bag in the crisper, it is likely to languish there and end up in the compost heap.

The game-changer has been to prep the greens as soon as I get home from the store, before the greens get a chance to be shoved into the bottom drawer. I shred the lettuce or chop it into bite size pieces, then rinse it thoroughly in cold water and use a salad spinner to dry it as much as possible. Then I line a large plastic box with either paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, and put in the chopped greens. I'll often top the greens with other salad components, like shredded carrots and strips of bell peppers. Then the lid goes on tight and the box of greens is ready- it lasts for several days in the fridge and I can pull out handfuls at a time to make all kinds of salads.

The second component: The grilled tikka. Tofu or paneer would work equally well here- in my home, paneer tends to be something we make when we have company and tofu is more of an everyday ingredient. This morning, I made a quick marinade similar to this one, whisking yogurt, besan, tandoori masala, ginger garlic paste and salt together. I drained the tofu, patted it dry, cut it into cubes, mixed them into the marinade, and refrigerated it for the day. Right before dinner, I heated a non stick pan with a bit of oil and pan-fried the marinated tofu until it was golden brown and crispy. Of course, a real grill or broiler would work great for this step as well.

The third component: The dressing. We got some mint in the last veggie box. I pulsed together chopped cilantro and mint to a paste, then stirred in yogurt, cumin powder, salt and lemon juice to make a quick sauce.

The final component: Thinly sliced onions marinated with lemon juice and a bit of salt. The lemon juice quickly pickles the onions and takes the harsh raw edge off.





Finally, just assemble the salad: a bed of the salad mix, topped with warm tofu cubes, a garnish of onions and a generous dollop of dressing. We loved every bite. I can't wait to make this for all my family and friends- it has all the makings of a crowd-pleaser.

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Summer 2015's reading has been extremely rewarding so far....

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. A beautiful, articulate and thought-provoking book on aging, elder care and preserving a person's quality of life at the end of their life instead of simply prolonging it at all costs.

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg. Another very vivid and thoughtfully written book that took me deep into Afghan culture and into the lives of Afghan women.

Burnt toast makes you sing good : a memoir of food and love from an American Midwest family by Kathleen Flinn. This one is more light-hearted than the first two books. Flinn was raised as the youngest child of parents who were broke more often than not but who adored each other and embraced all sorts of whacky adventures. The book is full of her vivid, happy memories of family life.

I read some wonderful graphic novels:

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi. Through bold and graceful black and white sketches, Satrapi narrates the story of growing up as a precocious child of liberal parents in Tehran as it was rocked by the Islamic Revolution and war with Iraq.

In American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang brings together three seemingly unrelated story lines into a funny and creative story, fable and memoir all rolled in one. I am astonished at the talent of these artists. You can read graphic novels so quickly, but each and every panel is drawn so painstakingly and is a work of art in itself.

Right now, I'm reading Think Like a Freak (Freakonomics #3) by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner and it promises to be interesting. 

31 comments:

  1. hey Nupur,

    just the recipe that I was looking for. I have all those ingredients at home and was wondering what to do with that block of tofu in the refrigerator....wuld go as a lovely evening meal with a soup.

    raakhee

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    1. Hi Raakhee! How are you? If you made the recipe, let me know if it worked for you.

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  2. Now that is my kinda salad! I love having some warm/cooked component on top of my greens, usually its some sort of protein - tofu, beans, egg or sprouts but grilled veggies work well too. I have recently started using chutney's as dressings and they are such an healthy and tasty substitute. Here's one that I made recently that we loved a lot - grind 1/2 cup of roasted peanuts, 1-2 green chillis and an inch of ginger. Add 1/2 to 3/4 the cup of yogurt (depends on thickness), salt and sugar to taste, 1/2 tsp - 3/4th tsp cumin powder and blend it till it all comes together. This chutney is usually served on 'fasts' with sabudana vada or thalipith and tastes oh so great on salads.

    - Priti

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    1. Yup, I'm with you- warm hearty salads always work for me. I didn't think of it as a chutney playing the role of the dressing but of course, that's exactly what it is, and now you have started all kinds of ideas rolling in my head. The sauce/dressing really makes the salad. The "upvaas" peanut chutney is a great idea.

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  3. I just finished reading 'The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Life from a wedding reporters notebook' by Ellen McCarthy which was a light and entertaining read. I am currently reading Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen which is a great book. I tried the baked gobhi manchurian and it came out unbelievably good - nice and crispy. I am going to read next - Food52 Genius Recipes that will change the way you cook.

    - Priti

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    1. I used to read Vegan Richa's blog- should look it up again. How fun that she has a cookbook. She is full of great ideas.

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  4. Thank you for this yummy sounding recipe. Can't wait to try this!!

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  5. Chai Pani is a fun place. My Indian friends think that the flavors are too toned down. We are a good 40+ minutes away, else I'd love going there more often. Chef Daniel is a cool guy! I did a 4-part interview series with him for my blog. Take a look - http://therichvegetarian.com/dining-golden-temple-eating-malaiyyo-varanasi/.

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    1. Lakshmi- I loved reading the interview! Fun! "Nothing in India is subtle" LOL true that.

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  6. Nupur, Do you wash spin salad leaves after cutting? Wont it lose the nutrients? I have debated doing that for sometime but I generally just wash+spin the leaves and then store in the fridge and cut them just before using it. The salad looks yummy!
    Pickling onions and radish is on my to-do list too. I had them recently as a part of veggie bahn mi sandwich in hawaii and they were out of the world. So simple yet so tasty.

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    1. Hi Neha! I've read that, interestingly enough, lettuce leaves when cut release more anti-oxidants making them more nutritious and not less. But then they should be consumed within the next couple of days which generally works for me. Having said that, I only cut large leaves (like romaine lettuce) and not the baby spinach or mixed greens type leaves.

      Pickled veggies are such a great (and simple) way to make a dish special. The bahn mi sounds wonderful.

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  7. Great sounding salad Nupur, will give it a try soon.
    Currently on a no sugar, no carb strict diet.
    Reading and immensely enjoying The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff.
    Enjoy your summer, we are in the midst of winter, gorgeous Camellias of all colours in bloom and fresh winter vegies in abundance.
    Best - Shubha

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    1. Hi Shubha- good luck with your diet! And enjoy the beautiful winter. We're sweating it out over here, but there are plenty of good fruits and veggies in season too, like my favorites, watermelon and okra.

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  8. Nupur, I visited Chai Pani in Asheville, NC when I was there for a conference and loved it! So very flavorful - reminded me that not everything needs to be spicy to taste good:) I was in Atlanta recently for 2 days - no idea they were there too, but will visit the next time I'm there. Excited to try your recipe!

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    1. The Asheville Chai Pani is the original and the one here is the second branch. Asheville is such a cool city, right? We ate at a really fun Caribbean Latin fusion restaurant.

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  9. You won't believe it- I came to your blog meaning to search for a quick tofu recipe and your 'tofu' post was sitting there as if waiting. LOL..what a coincidence! I didn't end up making this one because I didn't have the time to marinate the tofu but I will definitely try this in the future. We are making several positive changes to our diet as well (read: cutting carbs, increasing greens etc) so I look forward to trying this recipe. Thanks! I've been making and eating a lot of beans and veggie bowls lately with different sauces.
    I love how much reading you are getting done.

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    1. Hi Lavanya! I got lucky with the reading- found a string of books that were all really good.

      Kudos to you for making positive changes to your diet. Veggie bowls are so versatile, and yes, the different sauces keep them interesting.

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  10. Great recipe Nupur! Even if I don't exactly replicate the recipes you mention - they are full of ideas of how to eat healthier yet tastier. We have started eating our rajma and chola with chopped green lettuce instead of rice and love it! Yesterday, I grated cauliflower and roasted it in a spoon of oil- added salt and black pepper - this was supposed to be the filling for gobhi paratha...but all this reading about low carb alternatives - I decided to use it as rice with daal! So I prepared 'cauliflower rice' for the first time - even though I didn't intend to :). We loved it and I plan to make it frequently now! Happy weekend! - Mansi

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    1. Mansi- How nice that you're enjoying veggies in many different ways! I've made cauliflower rice a couple of times and it was good (one time it got soggy because I didn't blot off water before grating it in the food processor), although my default route seems to be to roast cauliflower and use that as a bed for whatever curry/dal I make. Thanks for this nice note!

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  11. your blog is truly inspirational. read your post with regard to the healthy lifestyle (hereditary problem etc). had a geat impact, for we owe our health to our family. since than trying to change my lifestyle. successful to a great extenet.
    Thanks for being an inspiration

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    1. Good luck and best wishes to you!

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  12. I read Being Mortal and am recommending to all and sundry - especially those of us with parents that may be confronted by these very dilemmas. It helped me resolve somethings about my father's lifestyle.

    Highly recommended!

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    1. Hi Vishakha- I've been recommending it to all and sundry too- that's just the kind of book it is! Difficult topic, sensitively written.

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    2. Hi Vishakha- I've been recommending it to all and sundry too- that's just the kind of book it is! Difficult topic, sensitively written.

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  13. Just wanted to say Hi. Been thinking of you and wondering how your running is going...Hope the family is well as well. Take care. R

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    1. Hi R! You're so sweet! Running is going great- I am enjoying it, progress is very modest (I can barely run 2 miles at a slow clip and then I am totally exhausted) but I am getting out there and working on it. It is the hardest thing I have ever done.
      I switched to working full time, have had family visiting, so the blog is on a break until September I think. Hope your summer is going well!!

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  14. Hi Nupur! Thought about you when I was clearing my son's closet and found the hershey cap you had sent me last year :) How did ur 5 K go? Hope you are enjoying summer.

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  15. more than 1.5 months since the last post..stopped cooking ? ;-)
    hope everything is fine from your end.

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  16. Hey Nupur, great recipe, I had my own version in which I also add pieces of watermelon or some fresh pomegranate. Just thought of sharing with you :)

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