The Fresh Sheet…Cilantro

cilantro chutney - cilantro sprig

I love cilantro. I find its earthy and slightly tart citrus flavour to be refreshing, with a hint of peppery finish. But it seems that people either have a love or hate relationship with cilantro. Take my sister for example, she thinks cilantro tastes like soap and can detect even the tiniest bit of cilantro in any dish she tries. This love-hate relationship is so facinating that scientists have conducted research to understand the strong aversion to cilantro! There seems to be a few genetic traits that are linked to our sense of smell. These genetic factors may make us more sensitive to the aldehyde chemicals that give cilantro it’s unique smell and flavour and may change our perception to dislike them.

But did you know you can change your tastebuds to enjoy new flavours that you once disliked? Adults are just like kids who need to be exposed to foods numerous times and in numerous different dishes before we will accept them. The more often we expose our smell and tastebuds to the same foods and a variety of different ones, the more we can change our perception of new and unique smells and flavours. So, perhaps give cilantro another try. A Japanese study suggests that crushing cilantro leaves allows the enzymes in the leaves to convert the aldehyde chemicals into other substances that do not have that unique aroma you might dislike. I recommend crushing cilantro leaves into a vibrantly coloured and delicious Cilantro Chutney.

cilantro chutney with limes 2

Richly coloured, Cilantro Chutney is a tasty way to brighten up party snacks or a pre-dinner nibble. It makes a flavourful dip for veggies, tortilla chips or toasted naan bread. I also enjoy it as a cooling condiment for spicy dishes, roasted vegetables, baked fries and as a dressing for salads. Try it instead of pesto tossed with pasta or roasted potatoes. For a savoury snack, I will often stir cilantro chutney into plain yogurt.

cilantro chutney with chips 2

Cilantro Chutney
This recipe comes from a fellow dietitian, Gerry Kasten, who loves food and cooking and is an inspiration to our profession.

Makes 1-1/2 cups

3 cups lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, about 1 bunch
6 green onions, coarsely chopped
1 inch of fresh gingerroot, peeled and sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced into quarters
2 tsp granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the sugar and salt as needed. Cover and refrigerate or enjoy right away. Chutney will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days but is best enjoyed within a day or two.

cilantro chutney - empty bowls

From the Root Cellar: Carrot Apple Slaw

carrot apple salad

Getting ready for summer means eating up the winter fruit and vegetables you have in storage. I seem to have gone through all my frozen blueberries, blackberries and all my preserves. However, there always seems to be a carrot or two and the odd apple hanging around in my pantry – it’s not really surprising since both are widely available throughout the year. There are those days that I find myself gawking at those simple carrots and apples wondering what the heck do I do with them. The spring sunshine demands a fresh departure from the hearty, savoury dishes of months past; I need that burst of summer flavour that will inspire the rain clouds of April to disappear into the sunny days of the coming summer.

Slaws are a very traditional side dish and we usually remember them as creamy and rich and laden with cabbage. However, any combination of fruit and veggies works in a slaw form and a light vinaigrette is the perfect match for the energizing freshness of spring.

This recipe can easily add colour and flavour to dinner or fit into your lunchbox. I also enjoy it for an afternoon snack when the rain is pouring down and I’m trying to convince myself to get out for a walk. It’s natural sweetness makes it a hit with the kiddies too.

carrot and apple salad - close up

Carrot Slaw
Makes 4 servings

2 medium carrots, peeled and grated (about 2 cups)
1 apple, unpeeled and grated (about 1 cup)
squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh mint or parsley, chopped

Toss grated apple with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning. In a bowl, toss grated carrot and apple together. Cover tightly with plastic wrap to prevent further browning if not serving right away.
In a small bowl, combine orange juice and red wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Drizzle over carrots and apple and toss until well mixed. Add parsley or mint and toss to combine.
This sweet slaw is perfect for lunches, an afternoon snack or with dinner. If life is extra busy, simple toss grated carrot and apple with freshly squeezed orange juice and some chopped fresh mint for a super quick slaw.

Gluten Free? Be Grain Aware: Buckwheat Crackers (Plus a Contest!)

buckwheat crackers - close up

It’s no surprise that the most common question we’ve been asked this month is all about the gluten-free diet: “Is it healthy?” “Should I start following a gluten-free diet?” “Is wheat really that unhealthy for me?”

Let’s start from the beginning. One of the key principles of a healthy diet is enjoying a wide variety of different foods – we can’t get all of the nutrients we need from a single food or food group. From a safety standpoint, eating just a single food from any food group may also pose harm and, when it comes to your taste buds, enjoying a variety of healthy foods beats boredom. So, yes eating mostly wheat 6 times a day – especially in its most processed form – is not considered healthy.

In the North American diet, we might eat wheat cereal or a wheat muffin for breakfast; munch a wheat bread sandwich for lunch; wheat crackers for a snack and wheat pasta for dinner with wheat garlic toast. Wow! I’d say that’s a lot of wheat. And that’s just the obvious wheat sources. What you might not know is that many common pre-made and packaged products, everything from salad dressings to flavoured rice dishes, also have wheat added. When you add it all up, there’s almost no variety in our grain choices.

To add insult to injury, we almost always choose the most processed form of wheat: white pasta, white bread, white goodies, white baked goods, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard the rumours: white just doesn’t cut it when it comes to nutrition and health. White grains have had their nutritious bran and germ removed from the whole grain kernel, also removing essential vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals. You’re missing out on a whole lot when you choose white over whole grain.

What about our typical portion sizes of these nutritional zeros? They’re huge! It’s just too much white flour for our bodies to deal with.

Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance (perhaps 10% of us, according to some recent data), there’s no need to follow a strict gluten-free diet.

However, for good health, it is essential to:
1. Upgrade to truly whole grain wheat (think wheat berries, sprouted grain bread, 100% whole grain pasta etc.).
2. Eat a variety of different grains including gluten-free grains, so you’re not eating wheat 6 times a day. Hello barley, rye and buckwheat!
3. Be aware of your portion sizes. This isn’t your last meal ever! If you are hungry later, you can have more.

Our collective taste buds are accustomed to the mild flavour of white wheat. Rather than making major changes overnight, give your taste buds a little time to adjust to the richer flavour of whole grains. Start with half white and half whole grain if you need to. Upgrading slowly will give your taste buds some time to adjust to the new flavour of whole grains and make it easier for you to make changes that lead to longterm habits. This works well with homemade baked goods like muffins, pasta, 60% whole wheat bread, light rye bread or a combo of white and wild rice. You can also combine a few different grains like quinoa, rice, millet, barley and buckwheat to create a tasty alternative to rice. Grain mixes like this are also more readily available at the grocery store.

We’ve created a nutty whole grain cracker that uses the whole buckwheat groat or kernel. Buckwheat, despite the name, has nothing to do with wheat and is actually a seed – not a grain. These crackers are fairly easy to make and perfect for everyday eating or to wow your guests at a party. It’s naturally gluten-free but versatile, so you can make it with half all-purpose wheat flour and half buckwheat flour if you’re just starting to get to know whole grains.

buckwheat crackers - rosemary

Rosemary Buckwheat Crackers

1 cup buckwheat groats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely minced
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp water

buckwheat crackers - asiago

Asiago Buckwheat Crackers

1 cup buckwheat groats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Asiago cheese, finely grated
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a food processor, grind buckwheat groats to a fine texture. Some coarse pieces in the flour are fine. One cup of buckwheat groats will make 1 cup + 2 Tbsp of flour. Measure 1 cup of flour for the crackers and save the remaining 2 Tbsp for dusting and rolling.

Place 1 cup of the ground buckwheat groats in a large bowl. Stir in baking powder, salt and spices to mix well. Stir in cheese if making the Asiago crackers.

Pour in the oil and stir until well combined. Add water and stir until the dough comes together. The dough will be moist.

Flour hands, rolling-pin and counter. Split dough in two pieces. Pat down one piece of dough using your hands into a square shape. Roll to 1/4 inch thickness using a rolling-pin. Cut dough into 2 inch squares or rectangle shapes using a ravioli cutter, knife or bench scraper. Transfer crackers to a parchment lined baking sheet using a spatula or bench scraper. Repeat with remaining piece of dough.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until just starting to brown on the edges. Store in an airtight container or cookie jar for 2 weeks….if they last that long!

Both recipes will make about 30 crackers.

Our First Contest of 2013!

To help ring in the New Year, we want to connect with you on our Facebook Page! It’s the easy way to stay connected to everything we are doing on the blog. We have a whole grains gift basket to give away (within North America only) to everyone who likes our Facebook page by February 1st.

Thanks to the Healthy Grains Institute for providing some goodies for the gift basket. The Healthy Grains Institute did not compensate us for this post or have input into the content…they just generously provided some treats for you!

Resolution: Cleanse? Revolution: Eat cleansing foods daily! Pineapple Lime Smoothie

smoothie pineapple lime shade

After all of the rich, indulgent food and drink we consume in the month of December, eating better almost comes as a relief. There is nothing more I love in January than loading up on salads and green tea. This kind of food just tastes better to me right now and I certainly feel better for eating it. In the post-excess hangover, the idea of doing a more formal cleanse or detox program may pop up in peoples’ minds. While a thoughtful cleansing program can be helpful to some, cleaning up your act for two weeks and then going back to the burgers and fries might not be exactly what the dietitian ordered.

If you are thinking of doing a cleanse this January, or perhaps the cleanse program you started is almost over and you need a maintenance regime, why not consider making cleansing foods a daily habit? Eating well day in and day out has the most powerful effect on your overall health so resolve to simply eat at least one food daily that has powerful cleansing effects. Here is our list of 5 foods that, when consumed daily, will support your body’s naturally ability to cleanse itself.

Green, leafy vegetables: No surprise here…top of the list are the greens. We love kale but there are plenty of other greens to tempt your taste buds and nourish your cells. Spinach, chard, collard or dandelion greens, arugula, rapini, beet greens or kale in all its forms are supremely cleansing foods. Greens top our list because they are incredibly nutrient dense and contain multiple compounds such as glucosinolates and betalains which support detoxification mechanisms in the liver and are potently anti-inflammatory. Anti-oxidants such as kaempferol and quercetin help protect our cells from the effects of daily stress. Go raw in salads and smoothies and wraps, bake up some kale chips, sauté into soups, stews and casseroles.

Citrus fruit: Oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes are a welcome dose of sunshine throughout the drizzly, grey winter. Of course, citrus provides immune-boosting vitamin C but it also offers other helpful compounds to support cleansing. Limonins in citrus fruit are potent anti-carcinogenic substances that help prevent cell proliferation. Pectin, a soluble fibre found in citrus, helps lower cholesterol in the blood. Naringenin, a compound found in grapefruit might help repair DNA damage. Lycopene, also found in red grapefruit, helps protect against DNA damage in the skin. Always a great snack, don’t forget to try citrus fruits in salads and smoothies too. When you enjoy them, be sure not to over-peel citrus – the white spongy substance called pith is nutritious!

Foods rich in soluble fibre: Your digestive tract is a key site of detoxification. When it works well, you are able to digest and absorb the nourishing aspects of food and excrete what you don’t need. Your digestive tract turns over roughly every three days and that gets sloughed off, along with dead bacteria, in your feces. Fibre is key in cleansing. While insoluble fibre from cereals acts like a ‘broom’ to sweep the intestines, soluble fibre forms a gel-like sponge in your digestive tract, helping attach to cholesterol, fats and other substances and carry them out through the intestine. We need 25 – 38 g of fibre a day and if we can get at least 10 grams of soluble fibre, we are in good shape. Barley, oats, legumes such as lentils, psyllium, citrus, apples, eggplant and okra are all good choices.

Deep blue and purple foods: Berries, pomegranates, red onions and purple cabbage all have their own unique properties with respect to cleansing too. Ellagic acid, a compound found in these dark blue and purple pigments, helps support detoxification in the liver and sulfur compounds in red onions and cabbage boost the liver as well. These pigments all offer numerous anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds to support overall health and defend against the stressors of daily life.

Water: Water is the real staff of life. Our cells bathe in a liquid medium and keeping water flowing through our system allows all the metabolic wastes that cannot be excreted in our digestive tracts to be cleansed. Despite plenty of advice to the contrary, our best guess at how much water you need to drink daily is just that – an educated guess. Your water ‘prescription’ is as individual as you are depending on your activity level, the weather, stress and your diet. If you eat more plant foods, which contain more water, you will need less than someone on a heavily processed diet. Your cleansing goal? Drink as much water (fresh juice, seltzer or tea too) as you need to have clear or almost clear urine.

Let’s raise a glass to healthier living in the New Year, pineapple lime smoothie perhaps?
smoothie pineapple lime top

Pineapple Lime Smoothie
This smoothie is a perfect start for those new to drinking their greens. The pineapple lends an almost creamy quality to the smoothie and the spinach is chock-full of green goodness. This is a thick, fibrous smoothie…if you want it thinner, thin it out with water or more apple juice.
Serves 2

1/2 medium cucumber, broken into chunks
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1 medium apple such as gala or braeburn, cored and sliced
1 cup unfiltered, not-from-concentrate apple juice
2 cups (or handfuls) baby spinach
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until well-combined and frothy.

Resolve to Eat Breakfast…Breakfast Cookies

Happy New Year everyone!

Right about now, many of you might be launching into some healthy eating resolutions. January 1st never really works since after the party, what you really want is to sleep in and have a big, rich brunch. Then you might need a couple of days to focus on what you want the New Year to bring…which leads you to the weekend so you can prepare to make it happen. Personally, I love the ‘blank slate’ feeling of January. In reality, you can vow to evolve and change on a daily basis but there is a lot of tradition and cultural support for making a fresh start at the turn of the year.

So Heather and I thought we would share our slightly different spin on New Year’s resolutions. To us, dietary change as a whole works better when it is focused, concrete and sustainable. When you focus on building new, positive habits you avoid the deprivation trap and eventually the less positive habits get crowded out. It might not be as dramatic as a juice cleanse but it is sustainable!

So for the first weeks of 2013, we would like to offer our suggestions on healthy eating resolutions that will not only make you healthier but will actually be possible to maintain long term. Because of course, a resolution that you pick up every year in January and drop every year by February 1st doesn’t exactly spell real change.

For this week, we are taking our mother’s advice and advocating that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Here’s why…

1. You need to break the fast: As you sleep, your body has to switch from storing energy to liberating it to keep your organs and brain fueled with glucose. In order to do that, hormones such as glucagon and cortisol (the stress hormone!) rise and help convert stored energy into useful forms. When you eat breakfast within 2 hours of rising, the morning meal sends a signal that the fast is indeed over and the balance of hormones can shift into a fed, relaxed state. If you don’t, your hormones continue to work hard to keep your body running, which can lead to cravings, crabbiness and sluggishness.

2. You will set a good example for the kids (and for your future self!): In the morning we tend to have stronger willpower (there’s that old ‘fresh start’ again!) than at the end of the day and consciously eating a very healthful breakfast helps set the eating tone for the rest of the day. Bolstered by a good meal, you just might choose another good meal at lunch. For those of you with kids, modeling healthy eating behaviours pays off!

3. It will help you stay trim. There is some evidence that breakfast eaters weigh less than those who regularly skip it. This probably has to do with hormonal and metabolic response to prolonged fasting but the evidence is still a work in progress.

Convinced? Great! So…what should you actually eat for breakfast? Anything is better than nothing but certain foods are clearly better than others.

A medley of white flour, fat and white sugar will send your own blood sugars soaring and keep you on a blood sugar rollercoaster for the rest of the day. What you want is a meal that will help provide a slow, steady rise in blood sugars to hit the ‘reset’ button on your metabolism. Whole, intact grains, nuts, seeds and lean proteins, along with some fruit or veggies are a nice combination.

Here are a few options to try, some of which you can prep the night before for those who can’t think straight before 8:00AM:

– Scrambled eggs and spinach with a slice of sprouted grain toast. Bake the egg mixture in muffin cups for a make-ahead option.
– A smoothie with silken tofu, Greek yogurt or plant-based protein powder and fruit. Bonus marks for throwing a bit of kale or spinach in with your blueberries!
– Hard-boiled eggs and a piece of fruit for those in a super rush!
– Cottage cheese layered with berries, a bit of high fibre cereal, chopped nuts and ground flax seeds
– Our Brilliant Breakfast Cookie…ta da!

breakfast cookies - round & stacked

Brilliant Banana Breakfast Cookies

Makes 15 cookies.

Why are these cookies so brilliant? Because they are made from whole foods, with all their fibre, protein and slow-burning energy intact. Make them on the weekend and have an on-the-go breakfast ready when you are. Enjoy them with a skim milk or organic soy latte or crumble them over Greek yogurt to add vital protein to help you stay energized all morning long.

3/4 cup oat flour – if you can’t find oat flour, you can make it yourself by pulsing oats in a food processor until they are fine as flour
3/4 cup large flake oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

If you want to toast the walnuts, roast them in a preheated 375°F oven for 4-6 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together oat flour, oats, coconut, flax and salt. Stir in toasted walnuts and dried apricots.
In another bowl, mash bananas with a fork and stir in coconut oil, agave syrup and vanilla. Add banana mixture to flour mixture and fold until combined.
The dough for these cookies is pretty easy to handle so we recommend getting your hands dirty!

Run a little coconut oil on the inside of a 3 inch square or round cookie cutter so dough doesn’t stick. Place cookie cutter on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Add a small handful of cookie dough into the cookie cutter and lightly press the dough down with your fingertips. Aim for about a 1/2 inch thickness. Repeat until the baking sheet is full and cookies are about 1 inch apart.
Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Allow to cool 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

These breakfast cookies are perfect for freezing. They will keep for 1-2 months in the freezer. Simply remove from the freezer the night before and grab’n go for a quick breakfast in the morning.

October #Unprocessed…DIY a Better Bean

This is a bean house. I eat beans daily. Tofu, every once in a while. Eggs, pretty regularly. But my heart belongs to beans. Why? Because there is no food more satisfying, versatile and oh yes, economical. Beans and rice, that staple of traditional food cultures the world over, got me through my unpaid internship year. Since Heather and I are going #unprocessed this month, we thought it would be a great time to talk about making beans from scratch. Just for good, old-timey sake!

There are plenty of convenient legume options that will pass the October Unprocessed kitchen test – sprouted, dried beans; frozen beans and canned (withOUT the BHT or EDTA please!). However, the most economical and delicious way to enjoy beans is to soak and boil them yourself. They have a truly wonderful texture when you DIY. Properly soaked and rinsed beans are also easier on the ol’ digestive tract as you wash away some of the resistant starches.

I know you are busy. So am I. You can still soak beans. Here’s how:

The key is to take the assembly line approach and think ahead. Don’t try and cook soak the beans for a recipe the night before. After you boil them, you still have to make dinner. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have 2 hours to get dinner on the table on a Tuesday!

Start at night. When the house is quiet and you aren’t rushing around like mad. Choose a couple of varieties of beans you use most often – for me, this is the white cannelini bean and the black bean. You will need two large pasta pots. Economize prep time by soaking large batches: at least 3-4 cups of each dried bean topped up by enough water to at least give you 4 inches of water above the beans. Soak overnight or for a day.

The next day, once dinner is made and the dishes are done, drain and rinse those beans a couple of times and then fill the pot up with clean water and put those suckers on the stove. Let them boil as you sit back and watch a movie. See how easy this is? Once the beans are fork tender – about 45 – 55 minutes, you can let them cool and portion them into recipe-sized servings (1-2 cups, depending on how many you usually cook for) and toss them in the freezer. Date the bags. Voila! Beans as you need them.

There are plenty of delicious things to do with beans – add them to salads, soups (puree white beans in soups to make them creamy – delish!), mash for dips and sandwiches or add them to pasta. However, as the weather has made a sudden turn for fall, I was looking to cook up some serious comfort food.

Copyright Desiree Nielsen

White Bean, Pumpkin and Cauliflower Gratin

Give the potatoes a rest and up the nutrition quotient by layering cauliflower and pumpkin. You can take this recipe and lighten it up further by substituting light cheddar and evaporated skim milk. But the cream tastes really good…this serves 4-6 as a main course over your favourite whole grain or is sized just right as a side dish for a holiday meal.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green part only
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb sugar pumpkin, peeled and diced into 1 cm cubes
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped
2 cups light 10% cream, full fat milk or evaporated skim milk
1 tbsp organic cornstarch or flour
salt and pepper to taste

4 cups cooked cannelini or navy beans (about 2 small cans for those in a rush)
1 large cauliflower, trimmed
2 cups of shredded aged white cheddar or gruyere

Prepare the veggies: thoroughly wash the leek and then slice lengthwise; cut halves into thin slices resembling half moons. Place the cauliflower on the cutting board stem side down and start slicing into very thin, 1/2 cm (1/4 in) slices. Much of the cauliflower will start crumbling but you will end up with enough thin cauliflower steaks to line the bottom of the baking dish.

Cauliflower Copyright Desiree Nielsen

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large, 9 x 12 baking dish, arrange a layer of cauliflower “steaks”. Sprinkle beans over cauliflower and set dish aside.

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add leek and sauté until soft and glossy, about 5 minutes. Add pumpkin, garlic, cumin and thyme and turn up the heat a bit. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is soft, about 10 minutes. Add remaining cauliflower crumbles and sage.

Pour the cream over the veggies and heat through. Then, in a small cup, measure out the flour or cornstarch. Add a couple of tablespoons of the hot cream to the flour and whisk with a fork until there are no lumps. Pour the mixture back into the pan, stirring constantly. Allow the cream to thicken slightly and then turn off heat.

Carefully pour the veggie cream sauce over the baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes. Feel happy.

Indian Summer Meal

This week’s post is inspired by a few of our favourite local food heros. If you’ve ever visited Vancouver or live here, you know we’re some lucky folks home to a foodie meca of delightful cuisine. One of the best places to eat is Vikram and Meenu’s restaurants: Vij’s, Rangoli and the new Vij’s Railway Express food truck. These are a must eat at before you die kinda restaurants. Their food is unbelievably delicious and rated as one of Canada’s best restaurants. Where else can you go for both meatarian and vegetarian Indian cuisine that serves up nothing but “can I please have more”. Even waiting in line is fun when Vik brings you tasty samples to ward off the tummy grumbles.

But we don’t just love their food, we love their food philosophy. Both Meenu and Vikram showcase a love for cooking, eating and sharing food that makes us want to invite them into our homes for dinner. We like that they support local eating to the true sense by using traditional Indian spices and cooking techniques but with locally sourced meats, seafood and produce. Their cookbooks take the challenge out of cooking Indian and they inspire people to jump into the kitchen to make meals together. When my sister was living here, we enjoyed shopping, creating and eating Indian meals together. Vij’s cookbooks brought much inspiration in these kitchen endeavors. It was always such a delight and we still get together today to cook Indian food together. Here is one of my favourite Indian Summer Meals:

Tandoori Salmon with Cucumber Raiti & Sprout Salad
Serves 4

Cucumber Raiti
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup cucumber, grated (about half of a medium field cucumber – it’s important to use a regular field cucumber)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/8 tsp ground pepper

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate Cucumber Raiti until ready to use.
Enjoy any leftover as a dip for vegetable, naan bread or pita. It’s also delicious as a dressing for salad.

Sprout Salad
1/2 cup quinoa – I like to use a mix of red and white quinoa.
1 cup lentil or mixed bean sprouts
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1/4 of a red bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
zest and juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Or feel free to follow my instructions: combine quinoa and 3/4 cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit covered for 5 minutes. Fluff and cool to room temperature or chill in the refrigerator.
In a medium sized serving bowl, toss the quinoa, sprouts, vegetables, and cilantro together. Sprinkle with lemon zest and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Toss and season with salt to taste.
This salad is delicious on its own. I like to make a big batch on Sunday for my lunch over the next couple of days. It’s such a refreshing and light meal. It’s also delicious served with some of the Cucumber Raiti.  

 

Tandoori Salmon
1-1/2 Tbsp tandoori spice mix
1 Tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil (if preferred, you can use water instead)
4 wild salmon fillets

In a small bowl, stir together tandoori spice and oil to make a paste. Using a pastry brush, brush tandoori paste onto salmon fillets.
Preheat barbecue to medium heat or oven to 350°F.
Grill salmon fillets for 4 minutes per side or bake for 8-10 minutes until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
Serve grilled salmon with the Cucumber Raiti and Sprout Salad. The refreshing Cucumber Raiti will cool down the heat of the tandoori salmon.