Tag Archives: balsamic vinegar

An Experiment that was a White Bean Salad

12 Dec

“I repent of my diets, the delicious dishes rejected out of vanity, as much as I lament the opportunities for making love that I let go by because of pressing tasks or puritanical virtue.”

These compelling lines are from a book that I finished reading many weeks ago. This book is called Aphrodite which was authored by the famous Chilean writer, Isabel Allende. I picked up her book from my trip to India this year when I was scouting for books about food ( not cookery books per say, but books written about food in various shades). She had me at the opening line itself. Personally, I have had a love -hate relationship with food for ages. Probably it is only now that I feel quite comfortable in my skin and about food in general. Well this post is not about my see-saw relationship with food, but about a little experiment I conducted on unsuspecting folks to see for myself if there is any truth in the claims made by the author. I read the book in a matter of 3 days as soon as I had it delivered in my hands. I fell in love with the way she described food in all its glory and what it does to our body. We are what we eat – the author drives home this point with her sensual writing style that is so addictive.

The book talks about how food influences the different senses within us and has the power to awaken our sensuality. In her opinion,  it is difficult to really separate eroticism and food as one is inextricably linked to the other through memories and  sensual pleasure.

Also, some food is more Aphrodisiac than others, she says. For eg. vegetables and legumes have known to have fewer aphrodisiac properties compared to the meat and sea creatures. Infact, cleaning meat to prepare a sumptuous fare in itself is a sensual activity, she reckons. I do not think there is any truth in that, but it is my humble opinion. Having said that, I haven’t ever felt sensual trying to chop onions or peel potatoes. Maybe Ms. Allende finds it desirable to be flamboyant even in the most disagreeable acts of cooking which is definitely not the case with me. Anyways, this book piqued my curiosity more than I thought it would. Being a vegetarian (90% of the times), I thought I might want to give her hypothesis a little test and gathered a few vegetarian ingredients. I could have tested it with non vegetarian ingredients like chicken or such but I didn’t have them on hand when the urge to experiment was at its climax.

Now I needed some unsuspecting volunteers and calling friends home for a meal seemed the most plausible option. So I quickly tossed up a white bean salad along with other wholesome fare. The salad was much-loved since it was beautifully seasoned and looked very appetizing at the same time. Little chunks of feta cheese provided the much needed diversion in taste when the beans got a bit heavy on the tongue.  The meal also included other kind of wholesome food that would be considered aphrodisiac in their own right. Watching my friends eat with such gusto, I rubbed my hands in anticipation ( ofcourse only in my imagination). After the meal, they went home, without a clue about the conspiracy that they had unknowingly become a part of. Next day, I duly dialed their numbers asking them of how they ended their night, only to be disappointed to know that the experiment was a colossal failure. I could hear peals of laughter echoing at the other end of line and that only strengthened my resolve to try the same experiment with a different set of people. So I made the same salad for another set of people only to be embarrassed again. I feel lucky that I have a wonderful set of friends who understand me and wouldn’t lie to me because they know that whatever I do, I do with fair amount of seriousness. They also know that all the odd things I do are entirely in good spirit so that we all can have  a good laugh at the end of it.

They asked me that I should have tried the experiment on myself first before extending it to others. Well, they were right in stating this, but it wouldn’t have really worked in my case as I already knew what to expect. That would have given me the power to tilt the scale in the favour I desired at that time. So all in all, I still enjoyed tossing up this wonderful salad for my wonderful friends.  So to make the salad and test whether it works for you, follow my lead.

Recipe for White Bean Salad with Cherry tomatoes, Onions and Feta Cheese

Loosely adapted from the BBC Good Food Magazine

Ingredients

White Kidney beans, soaked for a few hours and boiled – 1 cup

cherry tomatoes chopped into halves – 6-7 nos.

Red onion (small) – sliced finely

Balsamic vinegar –  a little more than half a tbsp

Mint/basil/ Coriander  (torn) – for garnish( optional)

Feta cheese – crumbled

Salt according to taste

Pepper according to taste

Lemon juice – just a small squirt.

Preparation

1. The boiled beans need to be rinsed to get any scum off it and they look neater this way.

2. Mix all the other vegetables with the beans.

3. Season well with salt and pepper and garnish if you want

4. drop crumbled feta pieces on the salad

5. Add balsamic vinegar and toss well.

So the world was a little more happy because of this  silly experiment. Aphrodisiac or not, this salad is lovely and refreshing and I feel it would be a bonus if it does anything to your sensual appetite. Try it and tell me if you felt anything!

Summer Salad Special – Tabbouleh

14 Jul

Come summers and all I can think of is summer dresses, hats, trendy shades, lots of coolers to drink and plenty of salads. No wonder all that soup in my refrigerator is still untouched. Especially in this part of the world (Bahrain), where summers suddenly have a whole new definition and meaning. To experience the scorching heat bearing down upon you even for a minute can drain you of all the energy. It is only liquids and salads that can help you feel refreshed and have your energy pumping again.

As I do restaurant reviews, it has become almost like a habit to sample various middle eastern cuisine and then try to decipher the flavour. In my mind,  I try to keep the flavours alive in my mind, of all those that make a striking impression. One such thing that I order each time when I go out dining to a middle eastern themed restaurant is a very special salad – Tabbouleh. Tabbouleh in arabic literally translates as “little spicy”. An interesting thing to note about this salad is, though it is a basic combination of burghul, parsley, mint, tomatoes and spring onions,  every restaurant tries to take this to a different level by doing something extra special with it. It would be an extra ingredient or a special seasoning. A typical dressing would be of lemon, salt ( sometimes pepper) and olive oil but I have had a spicier version and sometimes a sweet one or even a vinegar-y tangy one too.

During one such visit I was enamoured by a particular version of tabbouleh and decided to re-create the flavours by trying it at home. The first time I made it, it  turned too soggy to eat, but I tucked in anyways. 🙂 I took down notes (only mentally,ofcourse) in the process and decided to give it another go. It turned out to be perfect timing because one of my favourite food bloggers, Anamika had made an event announcement. On her blog, Taste Junction she has a new contest which required entries for different salads.

Honestly, I can’t wait for her to make the round-up already, because it would mean fantastic salad recipes all in one place!! You have to go to her blog and find out how fantastically talented Anamika is with her cooking and photography. So my second attempt at Tabbouleh which was fairly successful one, I have decided to put forth it as an entry for the Salad Spread contest.

In my opinion, it’s the dressing of this humble salad that is the star of the fare. It is a refreshing blend of balsamic vinaigrette and grenadine syrup reduction. It is supremely important to use the freshest of ingredients since that would make the salad look and feel fabulous. As an avid salad consumer, I  have realized that size of the chop makes the salad taste very different. Seasoning and dressing is what gives the salad its character. With these pointers in mind, I got down to making Tabbouleh early evening, yesterday.

Recipe for Tabbouleh

Ingredients

3 fresh/firm large tomatoes

3-4 stalks of spring onion

A bunch of parsley which when chopped fine should come to atleast one and a half cups

Fresh mint- that when chopped should come to one cup

3-4 tbsp of burghul

one cup of pomegrante

some salt -pepper to season

2 tbsp of olive oil

1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

2-3 tbsp of grenadine syrup

water as required

1 tsp of sugar if required

Preparation

1. The first step would be to remove the parsley from its stalks and give them a good wash. Then it needs to be dried thoroughly before chopping because once chopped it releases a lot of juice.  Do similarly to mint leaves as well.

2. Soak the burghul in cold water and let it stay for 30-45 mins. After this time, the burghul is puffy and needs to be drained well.

3.  Chop the tomatoes next by deseeding them first. The aim is to keep the salad as dry as possible. Let the finely chopped tomatoes stay for a while to ooze out as much juice as possible.

4. Chop spring onions finely and keep them aside.

5. While all the ingredients rest, made the balsamic -grenadine reduction by adding all the mentioned quantities in a pan with some water ( 1 -2 tsps to start with) and let it all reduce. Add a tsp or two of sugar if you feel the concoction is too tart. Keep adding water in teaspoons to make sure you get the correction consistency-not too thick or too watery. Taste and check whether it suits you. When you feel it does, take it off the flame and let it cool. I like mine tangy and sweet.

6. Mix all the chopped vegetables ( drain the tomatoes well) and burghul(after draining it very well). Season it lightly with salt and pepper( I skipped pepper). Add pomegrante and toss the salad well. Pour the reduction on the salad and serve immediately with Pita (bread) and hummous (chickpeas dip). It works well all by itself too.

Notes- You can also try other seasonings such as ground cinnamon and/or all spice too.

If you want to keep it simple then a simple dressing of olive oil, salt and lemon works wonders.

It is absolutely important to use fresh ingredients for the true flavours to emerge

I made the balasmic vinaigrette by blending- 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp of olive oil. With the aid of a whisk I made it succumb into a creamy sauce. You can add salt and pepper at this stage to the vinaigrette and skip adding it separately to the salad.

Finer the chop, better the flavour.

The pink of the pomegranate against the green of the herbs has the most soothing affect on my eyes. Infusion of the reduction takes it to a whole new level with a tartness from the balsamic and the sweetness from the grenadine syrup. Perfect!

Do try it and see how beautifully the flavours work with each other.

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