Friday, September 2, 2011

Marinated Kale Salad with Tomato Bhaji...

A few days ago I was at a salad bar/hot bar, looking for something to eat but finding nothing very appealing. I was about ready to settle on a simple bed of romaine with a few falafels and some humus when I ran into a friend, who was on her way out. After exchanging the usual "Hello, How are you’s" she exclaimed that she’d just eaten the best thing ever! She told me she’d combined the Rainbow Kale Salad from the Salad bar, with the Tomato Bhaji from the hot bar, mixed them together and found herself in heaven. She insisted I try it. I was a bit skeptical, I’d never even heard of tomato bhaji before and when I went over to check it out it just looked like Marinara sauce. However after we said our goodbyes I decided what the heck, it wouldn’t hurt to try it, she’d never steered me wrong before. I read the ingredients on the tomato bhaji and discovered it was an Indian, or at least an Indian inspired dish. Being a lover of Indian Food how could I resist now? Needless to say it was a phenomenal combination, and for days afterward all I could think about was the kale-bhaji combination.

The Bhaji on it's own....

I was so taken with the dish, that I desperately wanted to re-create it so that my husband could revel in it too. Since he’s not very keen on Salad bars - all that food sitting out in the open with Buddha knows who touching it, kind of puts him off - I knew the only way he’d taste if was if I made it at home. Thankfully I’d had the foresight to try and memorize as many of the dish’s ingredients as I could.

The Kale Salad on it's own....

So once home, I started a Google search for Tomato Bhaji recipes. The kale salad I could make my own version of, of course so that was a non issue. The problem was that while I found plenty of tomato bhaji recipes not a single one of them had all of the ingredients I’d memorized, and some of them had ingredients I know for certain were not listed on the tag of the dish I ate. To make things even more complicated most of the tomato bhaji recipes differed form each other as well, not only in ingredients but in quantities. My next step was to check my Indian cook books, both of which did not contain any recipe labeled tomato bhaji. There were a few tomato curry recipes but they were wildly different then the bhaji.

I was totally stumped. What was I to do? The only thing I could I guess, which was to make a few notes on a scrap piece of paper, roll up my metaphorical sleeves and proceed into the kitchen with all of my best intentions. I focused hard on the taste, texture and flavor of the dish I remembered eating days earlier. Remembered it’s perfect combination of sweet, sour and a hint of spice, combined that with all of my accumulated culinary knowledge and my ingenuity in the kitchen and.... voila! Success! A great success actually and I don’t say that lightly. There were definitely some harry moments along the way. A few times where I thought for sure I was going to fail and the whole thing would be awful, but I’m confident this tastes 95% accurate to the dish I ate at the salad bar. Now I can’t make any claims that it’s authentically Indian, since I don’t even know if the original dish I ate was authentic, but it certainly is delicious. It’s a wonderful, new, healthy and creative way to eat your greens, and it’s so damned good you’ll want to eat the entire pan. I know my husband and I nearly finished the entire thing off. My husband went back for thirds, something he doesn’t normally do, so my hope is that you’ll enjoy it that much too!

Marinated Kale Salad with Tomato Bhaji

Simple Kale Salad

1 bunch Kale
½ Red Onion sliced thin
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
1-2 tbsp maple syrup
sea salt to taste

Tomato Bhaji

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
18 Garlic cloves crushed
½ tsp Black Mustard Seeds
1 Large Yellow Onion (½ finely diced, the other half pureed along with the green chili)
½ Red Onion (leftover from your Kale Salad)
½-1 Green Chili (or more depending on how much heat you like)
1 ½ tsp ground Coriander
3/4 tsp Gram Masala
1/4 tsp ground Turmeric
5 Tomatoes finely diced
3 Tbsp lemon juice (to taste)
2 heaping tsp Red Curry Paste (more if you like heat)
1 6oz can tomato paste
4-5 tsp Dark Brown Sugar (more or less to taste)
Sea Salt to taste

- Make Salad first. To Assemble remove large ribs from kale and rip into bite sized pieces. Place in a bowl with the lemon juice, olive oil, and maple syrup and massage dressing into the kale. You can do this by hand or if you don’t wand to get your hands dirty mix very well with the back of a wooden spoon until kale is evenly coated and starting to break down a bit. A few minutes. Add in onion, and salt and give another good mix. Place in the fridge until ready to serve.

- Add mustard seeds to a dry skillet and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until they begin to pop and smell fragrant. Remove seeds to a bowl and place pan back over the heat.

- Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat, add crushed garlic and saute for 2 minutes.

- Cut your yellow onion in half. Take one half and cut it into smaller chunks then add it to a food processor with your green chili. Puree until smooth. Add this mixture to the garlic and stir.

- Finely chop the remaining half of your yellow onion, along with the remaining half of the red onion from your kale salad. Place into the pan, along with the mustard seeds and saute covered for 3-4 minutes until very fragrant.

- Add Coriander, Turmeric, and Gram Masala to the pan and stir making sure onions are evenly coated. Saute covered another 3-5 minutes until onions are soft and translucent.

- Add your diced tomatoes, stir to make sure everything is evenly coated, then saute covered for 2-3 minutes. Add salt, stir to coat, and saute covered another 2-3 minutes until you see liquid forming in the pan and the tomatoes are beginning to break down.

- Add in the tomato paste, red curry paste, lemon juice and brown sugar. Stir until well combined then cover and bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and allow to simmer covered for 15-20 minutes. By this time the dish should be thick and saucy like a marinara.

- Taste for sweet, sour and heat, and adjust seasonings as needed.

- To serve distribute your kale salad amongst plates, and top with several scoops of the tomato bhaji. Mix thoroughly before eating and enjoy on its own or with a slice of whole wheat naan or roti.

The whole thing mixed together...

*** Note - Remember that the dish is meant to be a perfect blend of sweet and sour, neither the sweet nor sour should be more prominent then the other. Also while some heat is required you don’t want it to be too spicy, nor do you want it to lack spice otherwise you’re essentially just eating tomato sauce. So keep that in mind if you’re going to adjust the seasonings. ***

1 comment:

  1. This was SO delicious! I love nearly anything that involves kale & the tomato bhaji was full of amazing flavors. - Matt