Last month we challenged ourselves with a sweet something made from a fruit and two kinds of nuts which I interpreted as Mango Fool with Chocolate Chip-Nut Meringue Cookies.
This month Alessio, Asha, Pamela and I decided to make something using mint and a seasonal fruit or vegetable. All four of us live in different parts of the world and at any given time, what’s seasonal for one of us is not for the others.
Pairing mint with something else doesn’t seem like much of a challenge, does it?
Well, it was a bit of one for me. For one thing, even though it is available in plenty at the market here throughout the year, mint is not an herb we (as in my kind of traditional cooking) we use. North Indian cooking does make good use of it, on the other hand.
So even though I like mint in small doses, it’s not very popular in the family except as mint-coriander chutney. Even the much loved ice-cream tends get a wide berth if there’s mint in it.
Mint is great in any summertime cooler whether as a drink or a soup. Since our sweltering Indian summer has thankfully given way to the monsoons (at least in my part of the country), “cooling” is definitely not the need of the moment.
Then somewhere along the way between last month end and now, I just forgot about all this "mint" challenge till a couple of days back. This suddenly meant that making something with “mint and something seasonal” just got more challenging as it had to be with whatever vegetables and fruit were in my fridge.
What’s really seasonal here, as far as fruit goes at this point in time are mangoes and cherries both of which I didn’t have. What I had were apples, some pears, tomatoes, cucumbers, a cabbage, some yard-long beans, two bell peppers and a couple of zucchini.
After some consideration, it seemed the best way for me to go was with a salad. My freezer had a bit of stuff including some paneer (a soft Indian cheese) which I decided to use as well.
I'm not sure I could call apple seasonal right now as the season for Indian apples is on winter. Imported apples are however, now available all the year round in our markets. Similarly, tomatoes and cucumbers are also available all the year round.
Since I also needed to use these up, I am going to consider them seasonal as they're available in my market right now. I hope my partners in crime (?) will see this in the spirirt of the thing!
So I put together an apple, tomato and cucumber salad to which I added pan-grilled paneer. An orange-mint dressing was next and some lightly toasted broken walnuts were the final and finishing touch!
This salad can be served on the side with a main meal, but can make a filling meal in itself. It has plenty of vegetables, some fruit, nuts, protein and a bit of good fat. The lack of carbohydrates can be taken care of by adding a bit of cooked rice to it.
This is really not much of a recipe and all the ingredients can be adjusted or substituted for depending on what you like/ whatever you have on hand.
Apple, Tomato And Grilled Paneer Salad With Orange-Mint Dressing
(My own recipe)
For the salad:
2 apples (I used Fuji apples), chopped or thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
4 medium sized tomatoes, chopped or sliced into thin rounds
1 small cucumber, chopped or sliced into thin rounds
200 gm pan-grilled paneer cubes (with a tsp of olive oil)
2 to 3 tbsp chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
For the orange-mint dressing:
1/4 cup orange juice
½ tsp garlic paste
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp mint cut into strips
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the dressing.
In a small glass bow, whisk the orange juice and olive oil till well emulsified. Add the mint, salt and pepper. Mix again and refrigerate till required, if not serving the salad immediately.
The pan-grill the paneer cubes.
Heat one tsp of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Turn down the heat to medium and add the paneer cubes. Toss frequently till all the paneer cubes are uniformly grilled to a light brown colour. Remove to a plate and allow to cool.
In the meanwhile, cut the apples and toss them in the lemon juice to prevent them from changing colour. Cut the tomatoes and cucumber into desired shapes and size. I personally dislike eating large pieces of raw vegetable, and so tend to cut mine a bit smaller than usual.
Add the dressing and mix well so the pieces are coated with the dressing. Sprinkle the walnuts and serve immediately. Alternatively, do not add the walnuts but allow the salad to marinate in the dressing for about half an hour. Add the walnuts just before serving.
This recipe serves 4.
Please do take a look at what Alessio, Asha and Pamela posted for this challenge. Their "mint and seasonal vegetable/ fruit" preparations will be on their blogs in the next 24 to 48 hours, as we are all in different time zones.
The four of us go velveteering, as we like to call our monthly kitchen adventures, a new dish/ style of cooking/ cuisine every month. Each of us will share our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs.
If you would like to join us, please leave a comment at this post or send me a mail and we’ll get back to you.