Curried Egg Salad with Yogurt

One of my favorite sandwiches is egg salad - but fat, cholesterol, and calories can add up pretty quickly depending on how you make it. This recipe cuts out mayo and some of the egg yolks and uses yogurt and curry to kick up the taste. Warning - this isn't your grandmother's egg salad! (p.s. You might also try replacing the egg with broiled or grilled chicken breast.)

Curried Egg Salad with Yogurt (~4 servings)
6 boiled eggs (remove yolks from 4 eggs or to taste), diced
1 1/2 tsp. curry
3 T. plain nonfat yogurt (more or less, to taste)

One or more of the following (to add crunch and flavor):
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 T. cilantro, chopped
1 T. green onion or chives, chopped

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well-mixed.

2. Make sandwiches using toasted whole wheat bread, wrap in lettuce leaves, or just eat with a fork!


Kheer (Rice Pudding)

To finish off the Indian dinner party, we had kheer, a milky rice pudding flavored with saffron, cardamom, and almonds. If you'd like to make a lighter version, substitute lowfat milk for whole milk and nonfat sweetened condensed milk for the full fat version. Admittedly, it won't be as a creamy as what you would find in a restuarant, but it will still be very tasty.

Kheer (~6-8 servings)
Dessert Masala
1/4 tsp. saffron threads
1/3 cup shelled raw pistachios
1/4 cup shelled raw almonds, coarsely broken
a few cashews, coarsely broken
1 tsp. ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. saffron threads
1/2 gallon milk
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup slivered raw almonds
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
2 drops rose essence or 1 tsp. rose water

1. Prepare dessert masala: Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until all ingredients are coarsely chopped and blended. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, soak saffron threads in 1/4 cup milk.

3. Place remaining milk and rice in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer (stirring and scraping bottom and sides of saucepan often to ensure that milk and rice do not scorch) until rice is very soft and milk is reduced by about half, approximately 35 minutes.

4. Mix in almonds, condensed milk, cardamom, and half of dessert masala. Continue to cook and stir about 5-7 minutes. Add the rose essence and saffron/saffron-infused milk. Transfer to a serving dish and cool, top with remaining dessert masala. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, serve chilled.

Mango Lassi (Aam Ki Lassi)

When I dine out at Indian restaurants, I often enjoy starting out with a mango lassi instead of an appetizer. These are remarkably easy to make at home, too - and are a great starter to serve as guests arrive for a dinner party.

Mango Lassi (Aam Ki Lassi) (2 servings)
2 cups plain yogurt (I used non-fat)
1 cup fresh or canned mango
1/2 cup crushed ice
up to 1 T sugar (depending on taste)

1. Combine yogurt, mango, ice, and sugar in blender. Puree until smooth.

2. Pour into glasses, with additional ice cubes if desired.

Spinach with Sliced Almonds (Badaam vaali Palak)

The feast of India continues in this post (catch up with the main dish here and here) with our vegetable dish. One of my favorite foods is spinach (which explains why one of my favorite Indian dishes of all-time is palak paneer [aka saag paneer], a creamy spinach dish with cubes of paneer cheese), so for my Indian dinner party, I wanted to make sure that I had a spinach dish included on the menu. For that role, I found this spinach, almond, and red bell pepper dish.

Spinach with Sliced Almonds (Badaam vaali Palak) (~4-6 servings)
2 T. sliced almonds
1 T. olive oil
1 T. Bengali 5 spices (panch-phoran)*
1 T. ginger paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1-3 fresh green chili peppers, minced
1/8 tsp. ground asafoetida
1 lb. fresh spinach, coasely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. garam masala

1. Dry roast the almonds in a small saucepan over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until golden. Set aside.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the panch-phoran, ginger, garlic, and green chili peppers and cook about 30 seconds.

3. Add asafoetida and spinach, stir and cook for about 2-3 minutes over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and cook for about 5 more minutes. Uncover the pan, increase to high heat, and allow juices to boil off. Transfer to a serving dish and keep warm.

4. Using the same pan, roast red pepper for about 2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Scatter over spinach, along with almonds and garam masala. Serve!

* Mixture of cumin, fennel, mustard, fenugreek, and kalonji seeds - if you don't have all of these, substitute with what you do have on hand out of the five.


Chicken Tikka Masala

Continuing on with recipes from the Indian feast of a few nights ago, here's the recipe for the chicken tikka masala that we made using the mint chicken tikka kabaabs I described earlier. Since you'll only need about half or three-quarters of the tikkas, you can save the extra tikkas for another meal, or give them to someone who needs a little extra meat with their dinner. If you aren't a fan of chicken, try substituting cooked vegetables, paneer cheese, lamb, or fish (if using fish, add it just before serving so that it does not disintegrate in the sauce).

Chicken Tikka Masala (~ 4-6 servings)
1/2 - 3/4 recipe Mint Chicken Tikka Kabaabs, removed from skewers

Fried Onion Paste
1 cup melted ghee or vegetable oil
2 T. ginger paste
4 cloves garlic, peeled (or minced)
1 large onion, sliced into thin half rings
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt

Masala Sauce
2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped (or 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (leaves + stems)
1 T. dried cilantro
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground paprika
1 tsp. garam masala
1 cup water
1/2 cup light cream

1. Prepare fried onion paste: Warm ghee over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic (if using minced garlic, do not add) and fry for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. Remove onions and garlic to a paper towel to allow excess ghee to drain off, reserve ghee for masala sauce. Place onions, garlic, and ginger in food processor and process until well minced. Add yogurt and process again until smooth. Set fried onion paste aside.

2. Add tomatoes and cilantro to food processor and process until pureed.

3. In a large pan combine fried onion paste, 1 T. of the reserved ghee, and tomato-cilantro puree. Cook over medium-high heat until juices evaporate, about 7 minutes.

4. Add dried cilantro leaves, cumin, paprika, and garam masala, stir and cook about 1 minute. Add water and chicken pieces, cook about 5 minutes.

5. Add cream and continue to simmer about 5 minutes, until all flavors are well-blended. Serve with a garnish of fresh cilantro.


Mint Chicken Tikka Kabaabs

After returning from India last year, I vowed to learn at least basic Indian cooking skills so that I wouldn't have to always get my Indian food fix at the restaurant down the street. Never one to just dip my toe in the water, I jumped into the deep end and got Neelam Batra's 1,000 Indian Recipes. After trying out a few of the easier recipes and reading through much of the cookbook to get an idea of what is involved in the cooking, this evening I invited several friends over for an evening of adventures in Indian cooking. Our main course was chicken tikka masala (which is, technically, a British invention if you believe the stories), made with grilled chicken tikkas (chunks of boneless breast meat). I'll post the recipe for the masala portion of the dish in a subsequent entry - for starters, here is the mint marinade that I made for the tikkas. These also make a great entree on their own, if you aren't up for the extra steps needed to make tikka masala.

Mint Chicken Tikka Kabaabs
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
2 small green chili peppers, stems removed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 T. ginger paste
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 T. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. garam masala

1 1/2 - 2 lbs. boneless / skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2" cubes
8 - 10 bamboo or metal skewers (if using bamboo, soak in water for at least 30 minutes prior to use)

Finishing Glaze
1-2 T. melted butter or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
2 T. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. dried fenugreek leaves or dried cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chaat masala

1. Combine onion, bell pepper, chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and mint in a food processor and process until well minced and mixed.

2. Add yogurt, lime juice, and garam masala and process until everything is well blended and smooth. [Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to use a blender for this step.]

3. Pour marinade into a large bowl, reserving 1/4-1/2 cup for basting, and add chicken chunks. Stir to make sure that all pieces are coated. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 6-24 hours.

4. When ready to cook, prepare finishing glaze by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. Place chicken chunks on skewers, about 5-6 pieces per skewer. Discard used marinade.

5. Grill skewers, basting occasionally, until chicken is cooked thoroughly. Alternatively, broil for about 5-10 minutes, baste skewers, cover with foil, and cook at 450F for about 25 minutes.

6. Just before removing tikkas from grill, baste with finishing glaze and cook for about 1 minute longer.