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Cooking with cucumbers from my garden.

Here are my last few posts about cooking from my garden for the year 2012. I pulled out my remaining cucumber plant a few days ago which still had a few cukes on the vine. I had left them on to mature on the plant so I could prepare this off the beaten path kind of a dish where the cukes are cooked in a coconut mustard sauce.

I’ve noticed some of my home grown cucumbers have a bitter taste just like the ones that I used to eat in India. The department store cukes never seem to have that problem, maybe their growers know something the average home gardener does not know.

Let me share a tip that is widely practiced in India, for eliminating the bitterness from a cucumber. Cut the tip off a cucumber and rub both ends vigorously. A whitish foamy substance oozes out, continue rubbing till all of it comes out. Then cut at the other end and repeat. This way the bitterness causing compound called cucurbitacins are pulled out and you have a perfectly edible cuke. This may be sound like an old wives tale but I swear by it. 

The cucurbitacins apparently reside just under the skin and near the stem end, so if a slice of cucumber tastes bitter, peeling the cucumber deeply should also work.

Cucumber in coconut, mustard and yogurt sauce

1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds, brown

1/3 cup grated coconut, fresh or frozen

1 hot Thai chili pepper

1 1/2 cups of diced, mature cucumber [peeled]

3/4 cups plain yogurt

Salt to taste

A few curry leaves for garnish

Soak the mustard in a tablespoon of warm water for about fifteen minutes.

Then grind the mustard, coconut and chili in a cup of warm water to a smooth puree, making sure the mustard seeds don’t remain whole.

In a saucepan put the coconut mustard puree, the diced cucumbers and salt to taste. Cook till the sauce is bubbling for at least a couple of minutes. 

Cool and add to the yogurt. Granish with curry leaves.

Serve with rice and a spicy dish or just plain Naan. 

Thanks for dropping by

Best, S.



Herb sauce/condiment made with thai peppers and herbs from my garden.

Many people I know grow at least a couple of different herbs. As window decoration. It gives them great joy to nurture. Some even grow herbs in beautiful containers in their patio. As patio decoration. These are normal people [read, not bloggers or food obsessed people] who go about their daily lives watering their pots and window sill gardens till winter arrives and the herbs die their seasonal death. Without ever having graced any dish.

True story as told to me by garden club members to whom I gave a talk a while ago! The topic, how to include herbs in everyday life. Here is a simple idea for anyone who grows herbs. It doesn’t matter if you have one or two or several herbs growing. You can always make chimichurri. It is basically a parsley sauce from Argentina which is popular throughout  South America. The other components are garlic, vinegar, oil, salt, and red pepper flakes.

You can substitute parsley with any or several herbs that you have growing. Use good quality ingredients as this is fresh sauce.

Here is my version from what is growing in my garden.


1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup mixed herbs [I used mint, oregano, basil, thyme and garlic chives, alas no parsley]

1 Thai pepper

Salt to taste

I skipped the garlic as I always do, but please add as per your taste.

Chop all the herbs, add it to the oil and vinegar and season.

This sauce is very versatile. It makes an excellent salad dressing.Tomorrow, some very interesting ways to use chimichuuri.

Hope you’ll put your garden herbs to good use.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

Cooking with end of summer tomatoes and garden herbs.

At this time of the year in the North East home gardeners are probably pulling out their tomato plants. The fruits are getting smaller, there are worm holes in them and the plant is an eye sore. I would say hold off a little bit more to give the remaining green tomatoes a chance to get a little bit bigger. I’ll share a green tomato recipe later. For now, what to do with the small misshapen, flavorless orange-red tomatoes? How about cooking them with some insipid grits? Two negatives make a positive, right? 

I would hear over and over again my friends say their single most hated dish was grits. I bought some to check it out. The instructions were to practically cook it in butter and smother with cheese. That sounded like a one note dish. I love carbs so I knew I was going to love grits. It was so easy to think of flavoring it with grilled tomatoes, herbs and lots, I mean lots of salt. That is how I like it and this South Indian girl eats far more grits than any Southern girl, I am sure of it!

There is no recipe as such for the tomato grits. Prepare grits according to package instructions [In just plain water, no butter please]. Slice or cut tomatoes in half and arrange in a baking dish. Drizzle a good quality oil,  and broil on high till brown spots appear on the tomatoes. You can then turn the tomatoes over and blister on the other side though I skip this step most of the time, like today. Plate the grits, drizzle some olive oil, add the broiled tomatoes, garnish with basil and other herbs of your choice. Salt liberally. Add pepper, pepper flakes or dashes of hot sauce, whatever  you prefer and enjoy. You won’t be a hater anymore!

Food Notes.

  • You can make this totally fat-free. Broiling tomatoes releases a lot of  juices which is very syrupy and mimicks the texture of oil. No need to drizzle oil on the grits either. It doesn’t take away from the taste as the broiled tomatoes are so flavorful.
  • I added basil, chives and thyme as a garnish to my grits.
  • I only use a glass, ceramic dish for broiling/grilling the tomatoes so I can confidentally consume the run offs. Can’t say the same if I were to use a regular metal sheet pan.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

                                                                                                                                                                  This might as well be called the ’Better Late Than Never Salad’! I made this salad with this season’s spring vegetables at least a few times in the past few weeks, wanting to post it. Alas! we kept pecking away at all its various components, I didn’t have much left behind to photograph! So before the summer season begins let me make another attempt and swat away those pilfering paws, just enough to take some pictures!
These days we are pampered by the continuous availability of fruits and vegetables from all parts of the world without regard to which season we are in. I had completely lost sight of what each season’s bounty was. Growing up in India, we only ate seasonally and that too as farm fresh as possible. Every day we would shop at the humble vegetable shack at our street corner for our daily fruits and vegetables. We also had the luxury of having vegetables carted to our front doors, not to mention our regular vegetable lady who sold her produce from her basket which she expertly balanced on her head as she stopped by every house in our street. Several varieties of greens, mud still clinging to its roots were staples in her basket. It doesn’t get any more ‘in season’ than that.     

                                                                                                                                                                    Nowadays with a return to a more localized way of eating, I am learning that artichokes, fava beans, asparagus, leeks and peas are typical spring vegetables, here in the U.S. I saw tender new baby potatoes in the market which must have just been harvested. So I put all these vegetable together along with greens from my garden and some dumplings that I made. I found eggless, spinach gyoza wrappers, which gave me the idea to make dumplings with fresh peas and mint which are growing like weeds in my container. I tossed it all together with a simple dressing for a wonderful ‘taste of spring’.

For the dumplings

About 15 Gyoza wrappers [I used Twin Marquis brand, which is vegan]

1 cup blanched fresh or frozen peas

½ cup finely chopped leeks

1 tablespoon butter + extra for sautéing the dumplings

30 mint leaves

Salt to taste


Saute the chopped leeks in the butter over a low flame for a couple of minutes. Add the blanched peas, salt to taste and puree the mixture. This is the filling for the dumplings.

Thaw the dumplings wrappers according to packet direction. On each wrapper place a couple of mint leaves in the middle and mound a teaspoon and half of the pea puree on top of the mint.

Keep a small dish of water close by. Dip your finger in the water and go around all over the edge of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper over the filling and seal all around so none of the filling escapes while cooking. Cover the dumplings with a cloth to prevent it from drying.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and drop about 5 dumplings at a time and cook for about five minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and arrange on drying rack. Finish all the dumplings this way. Then lightly saute in some butter till blisters appear on them.


                                                                                                                                                                     For the dressing [reduced wine vinaigrette]

1 cup light white wine of your choice

½ cup finely chopped leeks

1 tablespoon salted butter

Additional salt if required


Put the wine and chopped leeks in a small pan and let it come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook it down to about ½ a cup. Remove from stove and whisk in the butter to form a creamy dressing. Add salt if required.

The salad vegetables

Fava beans, shelled, boiled and peeled

Artichoke hearts, steamed

Asparagus, steamed

New baby potatoes, boiled

Spring greens from my garden

Carrots also from my garden

Putting the salad together.

Arrange the vegetables and spring greens, top with the dumplings and dress lightly with the vinaigrette.

Enjoy the taste, flavors and freshness of new born vegetables in this spring salad.                                                                                                                                                        

Thanks for dropping by.

Best, S.



                                                                                                                                                       The overeating from the holidays are behind us and I am in the mood for some detox food i.e. something simple and light and it helps if it is not too much of a hassle to prepare it. This simple vegetable soup is just what the doctor would’ve ordered. While I make many different vegetable soups, this one is inspired by the soup served at the Whole Foods soup bar.
The semi translucent broth with vegetables peeking through and the tiny pools of oil floating on the surface and the mouth watering aroma wafting around had me at ‘Hello’ the very first time I set eyes on it. I had to go home and recreate it and I have been making this soup ever since. Of course this is not an  exact version of the Whole Foods soup but it is certainly a very flavorful and fat free wannabe and my go to soup for any number of occasions. It can be a Detox soup when I need something simple after a serious case of over indulgence. It is sometimes a winter meal in a soup bowl and it is so effective as a cold and flu soup that it should be crowned the official ‘ vegetarian’ chicken noodle soup!. I’ve packed it in school lunch flasks and served it at the ‘Teachers Luncheon’ at my children’s school. If you can chop vegetables and know how to boil water you can make this soup, it is that easy!

                                                                                                                                                   Just take these everyday vegetables of carrots, celery, cabbage, onions, potatoes, cut them up like shown. Boil them in about 5 cups of water. Hold the cabbage till when the soup is done. When the potatoes are cooked through add salt to taste and add about a cup of crushed tomatoes [I use Furmano’s chunky crushed tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano]. Let it come to a boil, add the cabbage and turn the stove off. The cabbage leaves will wilt in the heat. You have to try it to believe the flavors that develop when these simple everyday vegetables come together in this simple soup.

 I fish out the soft mushy onions from the soup before serving. You can serve it with some condiments like pesto if you want to dress it up

                                                                                                                                                      or some noodles if you want something more substantial.


                                                                                                                                                     When someone is down with a cold, I strain the clear broth, and serve it in a mug. It is both nourishing and soothing.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.


For our simple Thanksgiving meal I wanted to make a corn based dish as a nod to the long and interesting history between corn and The Americas. Corn or maize was native to the Americas. It is thought to have been domesticated by the people living in the region of present day Mexico about 8000- 10,000 years ago. It was originally a wild grass plant and the natives of this region cultivated and developed it or in other words domesticated it for their consumption. From this region it spread to the rest of the American continent and to Europe through trade contact and exploration around 15th century and from there to the rest of the world. Today the U.S. is the biggest producer of corn.

Corn is believed to have been on the menu of the first [officially recognized] Thanksgiving. The pilgrims who left England in 1620 to flee religious persecution in their native England harvested their first corn crop in America in 1621 with the help of native Americans who taught them how to cultivate it. Thanksgiving was basically a harvest festival of giving thanks to having a successful crop in the ‘New world’.

Incongruous as it may sound, my mother used to make ‘Corn au gratin’ way back  when everyone else around us was eating traditional South Indian fare. So it was an easy dish for me to pick for our meal. W W N A D [ what would Native Americans do] if they had to make this dish in their time. Use buffalo milk, probably corn flour to bind the gratin and kept it simple. I used 1% milk + buttermilk, Masa flour, salt and pepper and cooked it in an oven instead of a pit in the ground. So here is my ode to the corn.

Corn au Gratin

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup milk [I used 1% milk]

2 tablespoons Masa flour [see Food Notes] or substitute flour

2 cups of mixed white and yellow frozen corn kernels

1/4 cup buttermilk

Salt and pepper to taste


Melt the butter in a pan over medium flame. Add the milk and the Masa flour and whisk continuously till it thickens, about 3-4 minutes. Turn the stove off. Add the corn, salt, pepper and buttermilk. Incorporate everything together. Pour into a baking dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for about half an hour to 40 minutes till the gratin is bubbling nicely. Turn the oven off and turn the broiler on and broil the gratin till you get nice black spots on the surface. Remove and let it sit for a few minutes before serving. You can skip the broiling step, but I think it gives the dish great visual appeal.

Stove Top Version

You can also make a stove top version like my mother used to. Just continue cooking once you’ve added the corn till it is cooked through. You may need to add a little bit more milk so it dosen’t get too thick. Wait for it to cool down, it will set nicely. We used to spread it over toast.

Food Notes

Masa is flour made from corn that has been treated with lime. The native Americans learned to treat corn this way in order to make more readily available, some of the amino acids that would have otherwise been inert to the human digestive system.  Another way they learned to compensate for the lack of these amino acids in untreated corn was to combine it in their diets with beans, fish, amaranth etc  to get the complete range of amino acids required for a balanced diet [See here for more on protein for vegetarians]

Thanks for dropping by

Best, S.


Don’t you think pumpkins and squash with their interesting shapes and colors make great subjects for still life art?


  I don’t know a lot of  people who would say that winter squashes are their most favorite vegetables but these knobbly, wobbly veggies are so versatile that it is such a pleasure to cook with them. You slowly come to see their potential and in turn begin to love them.

I was at a Moroccon restaurant last year and one of the dishes I ordered was a vegetable stew. It had big pieces of pumpkin, squash, potatoes and carrots in a very bland sauce served over the couscous. My Indian palette having been assaulted with spices and fiery heat since birth needed some oomph to spike the stew. The waiter gave me this exotic spice paste called Harissa which had me at Hello! and it totally transformed the dish.

 So here is my creation inspired by that visit. I found it interesting that the vegetables were steamed. A very healthy way to prepare vegetables and I am doing this more often now. I diced the vegetables to bite sized pieces instead of the very chunky pieces served at the restaurant. Made a tomato, onion gravy, added the Harissa paste and the steamed vegetables and what a colorful, flavorful way to prepare winter vegetables.

                                                                                                                                                           The soul of this dish is the North African spice paste which I am sure has as  many variations as there are people preparing it. The key ingredients being chillies, garlic and caraway seeds. However cumin and coriander are among some of the other spices that can also be added to the spice paste.

Autumn Vegetable Stew

For the Harissa

7-8 Kashmiri chillies [available at Indian stores, these chillies are very mild but give an intense red color, can substitute another chili pepper with similar characteristics]

2 cloves of garlic

2 teaspoons roasted and powdered coriander seeds

2 teaspoons roasted and powdered cumin seeds

1 teaspoon roasted and powdered caraway seeds

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

For the vegetables

1/2 cup of diced potatoes

1/2 cup diced sweet potatoes

1/2 cup diced acorn squash

1/2 cup diced white acorn squash

1/2 cup of diced butternut squash

{Skin peeled. I left a little bit of skin on. Consuming the skin is good for you and it looks pretty to boot}

1/2 cup carrots rounds

1 tablespoon of light olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped red onions

1 cup of roughly chopped red juicy tomatoes

A couple of pinches of cinnamon[optional]

Chopped parsley/ cilantro for garnish


 Soak the chillies and garlic in hot water for 15 minutes. Grind the chillis and garlic with all the spice powders and a tablespoon of the soaking liquid.  Add the olive oil to the paste and set aside. This is your Harissa paste. {if storing for later use add salt to taste}

Set up a steamer and steam all the veggies. Carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes take 9-10 minutes. The rest take 7-8 minutes. You can steam all the vegetables in a double tier steamer at the same time. The veggies should be a little undone in the center.




                                                                                                                    Remove  the vegetables from the steamer as soon as they are done, so steam does not condense on the vegetables and make them soggy. Spread them out. At this stage, after the veggies have cooled you can store them in the fridge along with the Harissa paste for upto two days before proceeding to the next stage.

                                                                                                                                                           Heat a pan and add 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the onions for a couple of minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes and cook in a moderate flame till the tomatoes break down and you have a homogenous tomato, onion sauce. Add 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of Harissa paste and mix into the sauce. Add the 3 cups of steamed veggies. Add salt to taste. Gently work the gravy to coat all the veggies, and add the cinnamon powder. Put a lid on the pan and let the veggies cook in the gravy for about 5 minutes. If the gravy is drying out add some water or the soaking liquid from the chillies. The veggies are done when the spices, flavors and salt have permeated the veggies. Check for salt and consistancy. Add water if you want it runnier. Garnish with your choice of herbs. I served it with lentils and couscous.

                                                                                                                                                          A dish using seasonal vegetables and reflecting the colors of the season, just perfect for Thanksgiving.

Thanks for dropping by.

Happy Thanksgiving, S. 



Lentil and Vermicelli salad


Honeyed Labneh with a Date and Fig sauce


I am going to be making a few assumptions here about Lebanese cuisine,

-that for most part it is down to earth, healthy and rustic, using simple and humble ingredients

-that many everyday dishes like hummus and tabouleh which have become synonymous with Lebanese cuisine probably don’t have a long ingredients list.

       Now you’ve probably heard this before, to assume is to make an ass of u and me! That could well happen here as it did when we went to Egypt a few years ago. I have this quirk when I travel, to rustle up some of our meals in the hotel room. As markets are always included in my sightseeing agenda, that is easily accomplished. So I fantasized about slathering creamy hummus on pita bread and dusting it with sumac, picked up from a jaunt through an Egyptian market. Never mind I hadn’t tasted sumac before but I was drawn to its color and who wouldn’t want to try a new spice mix?

         Well, I saw nothing that resembled a pita nor did I come across any hummus and forget about sumac. I went to the spice stalls and they appeared quite amused by my blatherings about sumac. When asking for hummus, I said it in every possible way, hummus, homus, homuus, hammus to get through to the people in our hotel, that I wanted to get my hands on some. They just looked at me strangely. I could not believe I was in a middle eastern country and the staples that I assumed I’d find here, were not available.

        Fast forward to earlier this year, I was taking Arabic lessons and my Moroccon teacher asked me how I made my hummus. What! she wanted me to preach to the choir? but since she asked, I told her about pureeing chickpeas and so on and she kept saying no, no how do you prepare ‘your hummus’ and we went back and forth this way. Then I asked her to describe the hummus she was referring to. She said she has it all the time in Indian restaurants and the humus is in a thick dark brown sauce. Was she referring to Chole? Bingo! It hit me, hummus is an Arabic word for chick peas and the dip as we know it, may not be prepared in every middle eastern country! No wonder I got strange looks from the hotel staff. Why is this chick obsessed with chick peas? Isn’t she supposed to be chasing pyramids like the rest of the tourists?!

          Anyway, based on my assumptions right or wrong, I wanted to pay tribute to the simplicity of everyday Lebanese cuisine for the Monthly Mingle hosted by Beth of DKS. I am so glad the challenge was not to just create a Lebanese themed dish but to use ‘unexplored and secret to the west’ ingredients. In my travels in the middle east or for that matter in restaurants here, I have not seen dishes with dates or labneh on the menu. So I decided to work with these ingredients. As I rummaged through my kitchen cupboards I was seeing many items that I could easily use, which prompted me to add a challenge of my own; to only use ingredients that I had at hand. I had so much fun experimenting and ta-da, I present to you a simple lunch that could have easily come from a Lebanese kitchen! I am of course assuming that is so!

Quite thrilled with unexpected find of grape vinegar, a forgotten purchase from an earlier trip to a Persian store.

Lentils and vermicelli salad

 For the salad
1/2 cup green lentils, cooked per packet direction
1/2 cup vermicelli, scroll down for cooking tips
Salt to taste

For the topping of fried onions
2 tablespoon butter
2 cups thinly sliced onions

For the dressing
1/4 cup grape vinegar
3 red chilies, mild
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of your favorite olive oil
3 tablespoon zatar seasoning
1 tsp salt

For the garnish
Cilantro or parsley

Soak the red chillies in the vinegar.

Cook the lentils per packet direction.


Warm butter in a broad shallow pan. Wait till the butter turns slightly brown, turn up the heat and add the sliced onions and spread it on the pan. You want to cook the onions to a deep crispy brown and not a soft mush. Remove the onions when done and set it aside.


Add the vermicelli to the pan in which you fried the onions. In the residual butter, toast the vermicelli to a golden brown. Add 3/4 cups of water, some salt and let the water come to a rolling boil. Now reduce the heat to a simmer put a lid on and cook for a few minutes till the vermicelli is done al dente. Remove the lid and fluff the vermicelli right away so it doesn’t clump together.

 Blend the chillies and vinegar together. Add the olive oil, zatar seasoning and salt and whisk everything together to mix well.

Putting it all together.
Add the lentils, vermicelli and 4 tablespoons of dressing and gently toss. Garnish with parsley or cilantro. Top with the fried onions and it is ready to serve.

Honeyed Labneh with Date and Fig sauce

For the Labneh

2 lb tub of full fat yogurt


For the sauce

4 Medjool dates

2 figs


For the garnish

Toasted white sesame seeds

To make the Labneh

Line a colander with a few layers of cheese cloth. Rest the colander into a deep bowl. Put the yogurt on the cheese cloth and tie around it. Leave it for 4 hours. A lot of whey drains away and you are left with a creamy yogurt cheese or Labneh. Yields 1 and 1/4 cups of  Labneh.

To 1/4 cup of Labneh  add 1 teaspoon of honey and mix well. This is the base for the dessert.

To make the sauce.

Soak the pitted Medjool dates in a 1/4 cup of warm water for 15 minutes. Puree it with the fresh figs and add a drizzle of honey.

For the garnish

Toast the sesame seeds.

Putting it all together

Serve the sweetened Labneh with some sauce and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.


Best S. 





This was our lunch yesterday.

 We eat salad meals quite often and this was the first salad of the season with fall vegetables and fruits. There can be so many permutations from this platter that everyone really eats a different salad and these MYO combos are such a fun eating experience. We felt so good that we had done our part in eating healthy, that we gave ourselves a pass and packed away platefuls of rice at lunch today! That’s how it goes in this family.
I have an urge this time of the year, to roast vegetables. So I decided to mix up some roasted beets and butternut squash with some figs, pears, fingerling potatoes and some spring and bitter greens. I made a very sweet dressing, and to contrast that, another slightly tart and bitter dressing. I can say this, you will eat with all our senses except the sense of sound, as words will be superfluous.

                                                                                                                                                     Roasted the beets and butternut squash in a 375 degree oven. Scrubbed the beets thoroughly and trimmed the top and packaged it in aluminum foil and roasted for an hour. Check to see if it is done, by piercing a fork and if it slides through easily, it is ready.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Diced the butter nut squash and roasted for about 30 minutes in the same 375 degree oven. I did not use any oil with the beets or the squash, nor did I have to turn the squash during the roasting  process. It was firm on the outside and soft inside. Check to see if it is done to your specs, you might want to leave it a little longer if you want it softer.  As soon as the beets and squash came out of the oven I seasoned it with some salt. [peeled and diced the beets first, ofcourse]

Scrubbed the potatoes clean and boiled in salted water till done. Best to do a taste test for this. Left them with skins on.

Dressing #1;  An apple cider reduction vinaigrette.

The sweet dressing complimented the mostly sweet fruits and vegetables. An apple cider reduction dressing without any oil, that’s right NO OIL. The reduction makes the apple cider so syrupy that the dressing is creamy enough without any oil.

I cup apple cider

1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard

1/2  tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tsp salt

Pepper to taste.

Reduce a cup of apple cider to a 1/4  cup. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk.

Dressing #2; A wine reduction vinaigrette.

A faintly bitter dressing, to contrast the sweetness and compliment the radicchio and Belgian endive. This is a wine reduction dressing. I had some left over wine from my brother and sis-in-law’s visit and I wondered if a wine reduction would work well in place of an acid in a salad dressing.? A little bit of experimentation later, I think I may have a fancy schmancy vinaigrette and probably this is the closest I’ll ever come to french cooking!

1 cup white wine [a 2007 New Zealand Reisling which was really, my relative’s choice of alcohol]

4 tablespoons of shallots very finely chopped

6-8 cloves of garlic cut into halves

3-4 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

Herbs of your choice. Optional. [I used 1/2 a teaspoon of chopped sage and rosemary combined]

Add the shallots and garlic to one cup of wine and gently heat in a stainless steel saucepan. The longer it takes to reduce the more infused the wine is with the flavors of garlic and shallots.

Reduce the wine so that when you strain the shallots and garlic, you get a 1/4 cup of liquid. Whisk in the olive oil and add the salt, pepper and herbs if using. This is a light dressing, so as not to overpower the natural taste and flavors of the salad.

The rest of the players in this medley.

Spring greens, Radicchio and Belgian Endive


Red and D’Anjou pears


Candied pecans and parmesan cheese crisps. See my previous post on how to prepare them.

Make your own [MYO] plate, choose your dressing or combine both, add your toppings or not and have it any which way you pretty please.

Or even add eggs as one of my children did.

 Do let me know when you try it and please give me your feedback.


Every fall without fail, I make batches of spiced and candied nuts, those deadly calorie bombs that you can’t stop yourself from eating. They make great holiday gifts and I usually reserve a batch for topping salads. This time I thought, why not make batches of other salad toppings, like parmesan crisps and croutons and store them as well? Fall salad lunches for large holiday gatherings will be much quicker to put together.

Parmesan Crisps

The first time I set eyes on these lacy creations, Martha Stewart was demonstrating how to make them on her TV show, more than 10 years ago. They are so easy to make, yet add a very special touch to any salad and are bound to be a conversation piece.

I make them on the stovetop, though they can be made in the oven as well.

Bring a non stick pan to a medium heat. Put ½ a heaped tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese on the pan in a mound. Then gently spread it to form a circle, about an inch and a half across. Wait for 40-50 seconds and you will see the cheese melt and  get a little brown.

Lift with a spatula and set aside. At this stage the cheese round is very pliable and you can shape it if you want. They will get crisp as it cools.

I make about 4 cheese crisps at a time. By the time I have spread the fourth cheese mound, the first cheese crisp is  done. Then, one after another the rest are ready to be removed.

Here are a few that I have shaped.

Candied Pecans.

Put a stainless steel pan on the stove and melt 1 tablespoons of butter. Then add 2 heaped tablespoons of sugar. [ I used raw cane sugar]

Keep stirring while the sugar melts and looks like this.

Now add I cup of toasted pecans and keep stirring for a minute or so till all the pecans are coated. Turn off  the stove and add salt and  a few pinches  cinnamon and paprika.  


Melt a tablesspoon of butter in a pan. Add about 3/4 – 1 cup of  day old cubed bread or french bread. Fry the croutons till they are golden brown. Add chopped seasonal herbs of your choice, salt and pepper to taste.

Yipee! we now have our ready made salad toppings. Watch this space! A big, bold and beautiful fall salad recipe to follow soon.


  • This post is more about the technique. Measurements of ingredients are not that critical. I have highlighted the quantities in purple.
  • These toppings have stored well so far for three days now.  UPDATE; The parmesan crisps are still crisp after13 days, stored in a tin box lined with parchment paper . The nuts have lasted in perfect condition for upto a week at least in previous occasions.
  • The nuts are lightly candied here, for candied nuts I’d use more sugar and less nuts. This can be tricky as sugar might harden and won’t be able to coat the nuts. A few tries and you’ll get the hang of it.
  • I packed everything in tins lined with wax paper.

Best, S.

Sending this off to fall fest event started by Margaret Roach from ‘A Way To Garden’.

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