Sublime Saffron Rice with Cardamom


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
saffron rice

The simplicity and elegance of basmati rice is clearly understated as evidenced by this lovely rice dish that will surely be a staple in my kitchen now. Simmered with cardamom and cloves and seasoned with delicate saffron threads, this fragrant and delicious rice pairs perfectly with hot legume curries, adding a mellow touch to the meal but shining all by itself. This dish speaks to the palate and was served with black-eyed peas with potatoes and tamarind and a lovely and refreshing avocado salad. Nothing else needs to be said.

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No Croutons Required - The Winners for August and the Theme for September


The theme for August was to come up with a soup or salad with coconut as the star ingredient. Jacqueline mixed things up a bit this month and chose her two favorite recipes from this inspiring roundup. Short, but sweet, and very impressive creations from contributors.

Congratulations to Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe who came up with this stunning African Curried Coconut Soup. I am quite certain this will be on my menu soon. Such a perfect blend of ingredients.


Congratulations also to Stuart of Cakeyboi who presented us with a mouthwatering Coconut Fruit Salad with Chocolate Balsamic Dressing. Why not feature coconut for both dinner and dessert. Pure heaven.


I will be hosting the September edition of No Croutons Required. This month I am inviting readers to submit a vegan soup or salad. Though I am not a vegan but a vegetarian who enjoys dairy products, I often find it cleansing to go without animal products for days on end. The possibilities are endless and I am looking forward to your inspired contributions to this long running event. As you head into your kitchens, you might also want to consider your gluten-free friends. Guidelines for entering can be found here.

Eggplant and Tomato Caponata

caponata

Eggplant is not something I cook with very often, but during a trip to visit my Dad and his lovely girlfriend Lois, it was up to me to come up with something with a large eggplant that was given to them by my Dad's cousin (who has a rather impressive garden). After some discussion and some frowny faces because neither my Dad nor Lois have enjoyed eggplant in the past, I did not want that lovely and lonely eggplant to go to waste. After some brainstorming, I came up with a delicious broiled and breaded version served with my favorite mushroom curry. This went over well with my family.

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Rice and Lentil Indian Pancakes


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Here we go again. More Indian savory pancakes, this time a spicy and filling thin pancake made with a seasoned rice and dal or lentil batter. Easy to make, easy to eat and easy to keep. Delicious on their own or with yogurt, sour cream, or your favorite chutney. I pretty much make a batch of crêpes or pancakes once a week to keep me going for breakfast and snacks for a few days.

My thanks again to Raghavan Iyer who inspired this recipe from his most excellent cookbook, 660 Curries. More recipes will continue to be forthcoming from one of my favorite Indian cookbooks. Readers who enjoy Indian food will be missing out if they don't have this essential book. I can't heap enough praise upon Mr. Iyer — I wish I could visit his kitchen. His efforts are certainly appreciated in my home and my friends and family always give a nod to his creations that I am fortunate to recreate with my own spin on the dishes.

Indian Rice Lentil Pancakes

Rice and Lentil Indian PancakesRice and Lentil Indian Pancakes
Recipe by
Adapted from 660 Curries
Cuisine: Indian
Published on August 26, 2012

Spicy and filling Indian pancakes made with a seasoned rice and dal batter

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Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup channa dal or yellow split peas
  • 1/4 cup whole mung beans
  • 1/4 cup toor dal
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 4 - 6 dried whole red chillies
  • 3 - 4 fresh green or red chilies, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • generous handful of dried curry leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or rock salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida
  • sesame oil for frying
Instructions:
  • Thoroughly rinse the rice, dals and beans under cold running water and transfer to a large bowl. Add the coriander seeds and dried chilies and cover with water. Cover with plastic wrap and let soak overnight.

  • Drain the rice and dal mixture and rinse. Transfer to a blender along with 1/2 cup of water, fresh chilies, cayenne and cumin. Purée, stirring as necessary and adding another 1/2 to 2/3 cup of water until you have a fairly thin batter. Transfer to bowl and then stir in the yogurt, onion, tomato, parsley, curry leaves, salt and asafetida.

  • Cover and let stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

  • Heat a teaspoon or so of oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet. When hot but not smoking, ladle in 1/2 cup of the batter and shape it into a 6-inch circle with the back of the ladle. Cook the pancake for 5 minutes, until little holes form on the top. Sprinkle a little oil over the top of the pancake and flip, cooking for another few minutes until both sides are a light golden brown. Transfer to a plate and keep warm in a 150° oven covered with some foil. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, brushing the pan with more oil as needed.

  • Refrigerate leftover pancakes in aluminum foil and reheat at 300° for 10 minutes.

Makes 12 to 14 pancakes
Savory Indian Rice and Lentil Pancakes

Some curry dishes and sauces to go along with your pancakes that you are sure to enjoy from Lisa's Indian Vegetarian Kitchen:
Mushroom Curry Simmered in a Fenugreek Cream Sauce with Green Peas
Indian Style Spicy Mung Beans (Moong Dal)
Spicy Sun-Dried Tomato Paste
Tomato Chutney, South Indian-Style

On the top of the reading stack: browsing the shelves

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Chickpea and Fresh Ginger Salad


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
gingered chickpea salad

It is well known that ginger is one of nature's best digestive aids. Load of pieces of fresh zesty ginger are combined with chickpeas and a tangy lemon and chat masala dressing to make this simple salad a tasty and easy to digest side salad or light lunch. Serve with some cooked grain, such as millet or rice, and you have all the makings for a perfectly balanced and delicious vegetarian meal. After cooking the beans and roasting the tomatoes if you wish (pretty much a hands off affair), the whole prep time is about 10 minutes. Simplicity is bliss.

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Baked Avocado and Egg with Miso Butter

baked avocado with egg

When I saw this recipe for eggs baked in avocado halves and dressed with a light miso butter, I knew I wasn't going to be wasting any time making it. I've been craving the smooth texture and rich nutty and buttery taste of avocados lately, and the recipe is so extraordinarily simple and quick — 3 or 4 minutes preparation and 10 to 20 minutes baking time — that it makes a perfect lunch or breakfast idea when you haven't anything planned ahead.

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Skewered Greek-Style Salad

Greek salad on skewers

Savoring the last few weeks of summer, I decided to bring the Mediterranean to Canada on a stick. Here we have a Greek-Style salad on a bamboo stick with a refreshing vinaigrette. Serve as an appetizer to highlight your main courses. This fancy presentation will have your diners in suspense as they await what comes next.

You may omit any of the suggested ingredients that make up the combination that I have presented and/or add your favorites and mix up the order of the presentation. Surely if you want to keep things simple, you don't have to include stuffed peppers with goat cheese, nor slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, but this gourmet sensation is worth a bit of extra effort. Slow roasting the cherry tomatoes adds an extra natural sweetness to this salad and any leftovers are perfect for snacking on and will add a special flourish to many dishes gracing your table.

The stuffed peppers might be the star of the show here or maybe the slow roasted tomatoes will receive the highest praise, but everything on this skewer comes together so well and compliments the other ingredients. The basil adds a cleansing touch to the palate making this a perfect light and refreshing appetizer. Vegetarians can make skewers as well as their meat loving friends.

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Thai Coconut Mango Quinoa Salad

Thai Coconut Mango Quinoa Salad

The term salad is really rather elastic, so I am hoping Jac will accept this for my submission to the August edition of NCR. The challenge this month is to come up with a soup or salad featuring coconut. Diners might consider this more of a side dish as it is thick and rather creamy, but I am calling it a salad because it is served chilled with fresh mangoes and a refreshing Thai green curry dressing. Bursting with fresh flavors complimenting the goodness of nutty quinoa, here this popular gluten-free grain is simmered in coconut milk to bring out even more flare in this dish. Now recognized as a superfood containing many essential amino acids and a nearly complete balance of proteins, minerals and vitamins, quinoa is simply delicious in addition to being good for your body too.

I am also sharing this with Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs who is once again offering up healthy, sugar-free vegan recipes for the weekly Wellness Weekend. Be sure to check out all of the delicious offerings from around the blogosphere.

I highly recommend making your own Thai green curry paste for this dish. It is easy to prepare and the paste will keep in the fridge for a week or more — just think of all of those Thai dishes you have been meaning to try with the remaining paste! If you choose not to make your own paste but want a vegetarian option, chop up some shallots, another hot pepper, ginger, a dash or two extra olive oil, and more parsley and whisk together with the dressing.


Thai Coconut Mango Quinoa SaladThai Coconut Mango Quinoa Salad
Recipe by
Cuisine: Thai
Published on August 17, 2012

Wholesome quinoa cooked in coconut milk and tossed with pieces of sweet juicy mango, fresh herbs and a green curry dressing

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Salad:
  • 14 oz (400 mL) can coconut milk
  • 1 cup dried quinoa
  • 2 large firm mangos, peeled and diced
  • 2 - 3 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
Dressing:
  • juice from 1 lime or small lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
  • 3 - 4 teaspoons green curry paste (recipe below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
Finish:
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup dry-roasted unsalted cashews, broken into pieces
Instructions:
  • Whisk the coconut milk with enough water to make 2 cups. Rinse the quinoa and combine with the coconut milk and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool.

  • When the quinoa is cooled to room temperature, transfer to a large bowl and add the mangos and jalapeños. Gently toss to combine.

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the lime or lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, honey, cayenne, green curry paste, salt and pepper. Add to the quinoa and gently toss until combined. Cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours.

  • When ready to serve, gently stir in the basil, parsley or cilantro, and coconut. Transfer to serving plates and garnish with the cashews and additional fresh parsley or cilantro if desired.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Homemade Vegetarian Thai Green Curry PasteHomemade Vegetarian Thai Green Curry Paste
Recipe by
Cuisine: Thai
First published on March 18, 2012

The base for one of Thailand's most famous food styles, green curry paste adds a vivid zesty and pungent flavor and aroma to curries and soups — this homemade version is especially vibrant and suitable for vegetarians

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Ingredients:
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon white or black peppercorns
  • 1 lemongrass stalk
  • 4 green chilies
  • 1 shallot, peeled
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1-inch piece fresh galangal or ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh coriander leaves, roots and stems
  • zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 2 teaspoons tamari (fermented soy) sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Instructions:
  • Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small saucepan or frying pan over medium-low heat, tossing frequently, until the seeds darken a few shades and become fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and grind to a powder with the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder.

  • Remove the outer leaves from the lemongrass, trim the ends and finely chop. Coarsely chop the green chilies, shallot, garlic and galangal or ginger.

  • Place the chopped ingredients in a food processor and add the coriander, lime zest and juice, and tamari sauce. Process to a smooth paste, adding up to a 1/4 cup of water as necessary. Add the coriander, cumin and peppercorn spice mixture, along the turmeric and sea salt, and process until combined.

  • Store in a sealed airtight jar for up to 2 weeks, or freeze in small batches for up to several months.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups
quinoa mango salad with coconut

More quinoa recipes you are sure to enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Quinoa
Quinoa Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Quinoa Soup with Corn
Quinoa Mushroom Goat Cheese Cake

On the top of the reading stack: High-Rise by J. G. Ballard

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Samosa-Style Stuffed Baked Potatoes


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
samosa style baked potatoes

Specializing in Indian food as I do, I am rather ashamed to admit that I do not have a recipe for samosas on my blog. I certainly have made this staple Indian appetizer in the past with homemade pastry and filling, but so far my variations have not been showcased on Lisa's Kitchen. When the weather finally gets cooler, that omission will be rectified.

In the meantime, after browsing through some of my cookbooks for light dinner ideas, I was inspired to make a samosa-style dish that used hollowed out potato skins instead of a pastry to enclose the spicy filling. More of a light meal than an appetizer because these potato halves are really rather filling, especially when served with a side salad and grain dish or Indian flatbread, such as besan roti. A most impressive presentation, it is the next best thing to traditional samosas — and healthier besides.

stuffed Indian potato

I served them with my tried and tested mushroom curry and topped the potatoes with velvety tomato chutney. This is one fine healthy meal for a warm summer day and to be enjoyed anytime of year for that matter.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Cottage Cheese Pancakes

This is the summer that I'm finally taking advantage of the rhubarb that grows so copiously and easily in the corner of our backyard. The tartness of rhubarb makes it a wonderful companion to the sweet fresh local strawberries that are still readily available, and I've already enjoyed using the combination in a colorful, sweet and tart strawberry-rhubarb syrup.

strawberry rhubarb cottage cheese pancakes

This time I've stewed the strawberries and rhubarb into a compote that's both combined in the batter of some simple and hearty cottage cheese pancakes and served on top of the finished plates, while the remaining liquid from the compote is reduced into another syrup. These pancakes are thick, sturdy and filling, and have absolutely no added sugar except the little bit of honey that goes into the compote — but they're quite delicious even on their own without the compote and syrup toppings. Weekends are always a good excuse to serve up something special for breakfast or brunch.

If you can't find pressed cottage cheese, substitute 1 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cottage Cheese PancakesStrawberry-Rhubarb Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Recipe by
Published on August 12, 2012

Thick, sturdy and filling cottage cheese pancakes made with a simple homemade strawberry-rhubarb compote and syrup

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Strawberry-rhubarb compote and syrup:
  • 1 rhubarb stem, chopped
  • 1 pint strawberries, halved or quartered
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
Pancakes:
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup pressed cottage cheese
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry-rhubarb compote
  • 1/2 tablespoon strawberry-rhubarb syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Instructions:
  • Combine the rhubarb, strawberries and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the honey. Simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender.

  • Strain the liquid and reserve the pulped fruits as a compote. Return the liquid to the pan and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to a syrup. Remove from heat and set aside.

  • In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cottage cheese and vanilla together with 2 tablespoons of the compote and 1/2 tablespoon of the syrup. Mix in the flour and stir to combine. Fold in the egg whites.

  • Heat a buttered or greased skillet over medium heat. Scoop a 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake on to the skillet. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the bottom is a golden brown. Turn over and cook for 5 more minutes or until both sides are golden brown and the pancakes are cooked through (you can test with a cake tester or toothpick).

  • Serve hot topped with the remaining compote and syrup, and whipped cream if desired.

Makes six 4-inch pancakes
strawberry pancakes

More pancake recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Lemon Curd Ricotta Pancakes
Cottage Cheese Blintzes and Peach-Plum Compote
Baked Whole-Wheat Strawberry and Blueberry Pancakes

On the top of the reading stack: Indian cookbooks

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Velvety Tomato Chutney


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
tomato spicy chutney

The rich aroma in your kitchen will have you wanting to just eat this thick tomato based chutney all on its own. After a taste test, I nearly did eat it all up. An ideal accompaniment to fried savories with a consistency rather like a relish or western-style ketchup with a hint of sweetness, I am thinking a small spoonful of tamarind paste could be used instead of the sugar for an even better result. Toss in some fresh cilantro for even more flavor and a few seeded and finely chopped hot chillies if desired. I'll be making this again and again.

Transfer to a sealed container if not using right away and the freshness will be waiting to dress up your meals for a few days. I know that I will always have some of this easy to prepare goodness on hand. If I can resist sticking the spoon into the chutney prior to dinner and into my mouth, a variation on my famous mushroom curry is next up for review along with a topping for easy potato-style samosas without pastry.

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Black-Eyed Peas with Potatoes and Tamarind


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
black-eyed pea curry

One of the most enjoyable aspects of gatherings with friends and family is to make a well-planned meal. Often it is a lot of work, but satisfying when you know that your guests are pleased with the result and well nourished. The gift of creative and delicious food is one of the best you can give.

This black-eyed pea curry was part of a three course meal that I served to my husband and best friend Basil. Hubby was sous chef that day and my thanks to him for his patience because I can be rather bossy in the kitchen. Everything has to be just right!

This dish was served with an elegant saffron rice and an avocado salad presented in the hollowed-out shells of the fruit. The light rice and cooling avocado salad tempered the complex heat that is a signature of this dish. Yet another successful Indian inspired meal.

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Refried Beans in Home Baked Taco Bowls

Call me crazy, but on one of the hottest days of the year I decided to turn my kitchen into a baking test zone. The occasion was prompted by ingenious ideas floating around the internet instructing cooks on how to make their own homemade taco bowls or shells from corn tortillas. I very much enjoy tacos rolled up in soft tortillas, especially as they are so easy to put together with your favorite filling, but this time around I wanted a hard-shell taco and I was surprised how easy they are to prepare at home after just a little practice.

homemade taco shells

I was particularly smitten with the idea of using the underside of a muffin tin to shape your corn tortillas into bowls before baking them. True, I did not make my own corn tortillas from scratch (next time) but I did use fresh ones from a local market. You will find that there really is no comparison with the salty and stale prepackaged ones found in the kits that are available at large grocery stores, and there's no need to worry about opening up the box to find a bunch of broken shells and crumbs. You can be sure these will impress your friends and family, and with a little patience you will not believe how easy they are to make.

homemade taco bowls

Home Baked Taco BowlsHome Baked Taco Bowls
Recipe by
Cuisine: Mexican
Published on August 6, 2012

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What you will need:
  • heavy-bottomed skillet
  • 12-cup non-stick muffin tin
  • olive oil for brushing
  • 6-inch corn tortillas
Instructions:
  • Preheat an oven to 375°. Turn the muffin tin upside down and lightly brush the bottom with olive oil.

  • taco shells muffin tinHeat a dry skillet over medium heat and warm a tortilla until softened, about 10 to 15 seconds on each side. Lightly brush each side of the tortilla with oil and sprinkle with a bit of spice if desired. Center the tortilla between four muffin cups and gently shape into bowl shapes. Repeat. You will be able to fit three tortillas on the tin.

  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the tortillas begin to brown and crisp up. Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes before taking them out of the tin.

  • Repeat this process until you have as many taco bowls as needed. They will keep for a few days stored in an air-tight container, although they are best when made the same day.

taco bowls stacked
  • An alternative method is to steam the tortillas in a vegetable or rice steamer for a few minutes before brushing them with oil and shaping into bowls. A second alternative is putting the tortillas between two microwave-safe plates and microwaving on high for 1 minute.

  • Note: I also tried this method using corn and flour tortillas as they are much more pliable and easy to work with than the corn tortillas, and don't require warming beforehand. I found the corn tortillas make a far superior taco bowl, more closely resembling what most of us would think of as the "proper" crunchy taco shell texture. You do have to be more careful with the corn tortillas because they tear easily if you are not gentle enough when shaping them into bowls. If you decide to use corn and flour tortillas, make them right before using so that they don't end up chewy and tough.

tacos with refried beans

Serving possibilities are as endless as the imagination of the cook. For my taco dinner I made up a batch of my famous spicy vegetarian refried beans, lined the bowls with some thinly sliced Belgian endive — you could use lettuce — and then scooped in a generous amount of the beans and topped them with grated extra old Cheddar cheese. Just pop under the broiler until the cheese is just melted, transfer to a plate, top with some fresh spicy salsa or sour cream and sprinkle with some chili powder or paprika, and serve with a side of fresh cooked brown rice and some salad greens.

tacos with homemade refried beans

More ways to make your own taco shells at home:
Mini taco bowls made with muffin tins
Hard taco shells baked on oven racks
Taco bowls made with canning jars
Fried taco shells

tacos

Avocado Salad

avocado salad

This one is hard to classify. Flavors of India and Mexico come together here for a most refreshing and impressive salad. The presentation really stimulates the appetite. Usually a salad is the first course or appetizer, but in this case I would suggest you leave it for the final course to cleanse your palate. This went along with a three course meal that I cooked up. Spicy Indian black-eyed pea curry with potatoes and tamarind and an elegant saffron-flavored rice made up the bulk of the meal and then my diners were all the time wondering how this salad would satisfy the taste buds. I must say, everyone went home will full tummies and happy with Lisa the cook who always aims to please and banish the hunger angel. Long a drifter, I now know my calling is very much mixed up with creating nourishing and irresistible food.

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Chickpeas with Yogurt and Fresh Mustard Greens


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
mustard greens with chickpeas

I do believe this is the first time I have cooked with or even tasted fresh mustard greens, and what a great culinary experience it turned out to be combined with chickpeas, spices and yogurt in this creamy curry. I was struck by the robust and piquant mustard taste of the greens, having to sample some raw before I put them in the dish of course. Somewhat bitter, they do add an underlying zesty flavor to this chickpea curry that is now a favorite in my kitchen. Mustard greens can often be found at an Asian or Indian grocer, and maybe even at your run-of-the-mill grocery store if you are lucky.

If you can't find mustard greens, a suitable substitute is kale, spinach or collard greens, though I am sure nothing can quite match the unique aroma and vibrant flavor that mustard greens add to your dishes and salads. Add some mustard powder to this creation if you have to miss out on the opportunity to enjoy mustard greens.

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