June 2019


Cucumber-Cilantro Raita

June 14:National Cucumber Day

Our Indian friends, Govind and Vathsala S., cook hot and spicy vegetarian foods. While tasty and delicious, Islander cannot take the heat so they serve her raita to cool off her burning mouth (Highlander says she is a wimp)!

Raita is a creamy condiment that includes a mixture of yogurt or curd with fresh chopped vegetables (savory raita) and/or fruits (sweeter raita). We are more used to the savory version with cooling cucumbers to offset the fiery curries and dishes that our friends cook (even though they tone it down somewhat for Islander, she still thinks the food is too spicy for her).

As the weather heats up and the summer season approaches, keep cool as a cucumber with a raita recipe on National Cucumber Day.

Recipe

(Inspired by Govind and Vathsala S.)

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2-3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped

Directions

Wash, dry, peel and chop the cucumbers. Chop the tomatoes and onion. Place all in a large bowl.

Stir in the yogurt. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix in the cilantro. Cover and refrigerate for an hour to allow the flavors to blend. Serve as a side dish garnished with a sprig of fresh cilantro leaves.

Notes

  • There are different variations of raita. Some recipes call for scallions instead of round onions, mint instead of cilantro and cumin or coriander instead of garlic powder. A few raitaare sprinkled with red chili pepper, which Islander thinks would defeat the dish’s cooling properties.
  • Eastern Europeans have a similar recipe to raita. One Polish recipe, mizeria, uses cucumbers mixed in sour cream instead of yogurt.
  • Search our blog for other cucumber recipes.

Falafel

June 12: International Falafel Day

Falafels are one of our all-time favorite Middle Eastern foods! We eat them at ethnic festivals and Mediterranean restaurants around the United States. But when we visited Egypt and United Arab Emirates, we were able to taste a variety of this vegetable-based appetizer. They were served during breakfast buffets at the finest luxury hotels as well as on the roadside as street snacks and at fast food courts. We prefer them plain with a dipping sauce but falafels may be eaten as a filling in sandwiches. Either way, cooking and eating falafels are a fabulous way to observe International Falafel Day!

Recipe

(Adapted from Sol. S.)

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • ½ sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼tsp. ground cardamom
  • ½teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoons sesame seeds for coating (optional)
  • 3 cups oil for frying (vegetable, sunflower or other light oil)

Directions

In a large bowl, place the dried chickpeas and immerse them in water about twice as much their volume. Soak overnight to soften. Drain and rub off any leftover skins.

Chop the onions, crush the garlic cloves and chop the parsley and cilantro leaves. Zest the lemon.

In a food processor, grind the chickpeas with onion, garlic, parsley and lemon zest until fine and grainy but not mushy and pasty.

Place the mixture back in a bowl and mix with cilantro, spices (salt, cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander and cardamom). Add the baking powder, water and flour. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour to allow the flavors to blend.

Use a scoop to form 2-inch balls. Press gently so the mixture holds together. Flatten slightly into patties.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds if using. Deep fry in hot oil for 3-5 minutes until golden brown (make sure the centers of the falafels are cooked through). Drain on paper towels. Serve while still warm.

Notes

  • We like to freeze the uncooked falafels to hold their shapes better. On a baking sheet lined with waxed paper, put the uncooked falafels in a single layer. Freeze until firm. Transfer frozen uncooked falafels in a container and seal well until ready to deep fry.
  • Some people make falafels in mini sausage shapes or balls. Keep the mixture small so they cook through better and are crisp on the outside instead of bread-like (larger and thicker falafels might not cook all the way in the center).
  • Serve falafels warm with tahini, hummus or spiced yogurt dipping sauces or in a pita pocket with vegetables as a sandwich.

 

Oven Roasted Okra

bakedokra

June: National Okra Month

The lazy days of summer are upon us and we also get lazy about cooking complicated meals around this time of the year. So we keep things simple by oven-roasting seasonal vegetables like okra. We normally don’t go out of our way to make it because of okra’s “slimy reputation”. But because our neighbors and friends give us an abundance of organic okra from their garden and farm, we do not want their hard work of picking the pods to go unappreciated (besides, we are lazy to pick them ourselves, unless we pick them up in packages at the grocery store). We also find the easiest way to cook okra—in the oven. Just trim and toss them with a little olive oil and spices and roast them. Roasted okra is our lazy “ladies’ fingers” recipe post for National Okra Month.  

Recipe

 Ingredients 

  • 1 pound of okra
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon seasoning blend (see Notes)

Directions

Wash the okra and dry with paper towels. Trim off the top and end of each okra pod. Cut into ½-inch slices.

bakedokrasteps1

In a large mixing bowl, mix the olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the okra in the olive oil mixture. Sprinkle with seasoning blend (optional).

bakedokrasteps2

Spread them out onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Serve hot.

 bakedokrasteps3

 Notes