THALI FOR DINNER: MY TAKE ON MEATLESS MONDAY

In my attempt to practice Meatless Monday with a little more zest than soup or salad, I decided to try my hand at making a thali. Thali’s are what I call the Indian version of bento boxes. I was first exposed to these at Jerry Traunfeld’s (former executive chef of Herb Farm) highly acclaimed Seattle eatery: Poppy. I thought this was pure genius, even though it was not he who invented them. Although Poppy offers 4 versions: meat or vegetarian, large or small, I tried to focus on a vegetarian version of what I think of as Indian food. I love going to the Indian buffets, because they give me the opportunity to try several things, which was my inspiration for this meal. For my own thali, I decided to make a vegetable pakora, black quinoa salad, and glazed carrots. In addition to this, I made a raita and a couple of chutneys for dipping. I debated adding a lentil dish, but decided that there was enough food already.

The kids didn’t like this meal (big shock!), but my husband and I enjoyed it. I must admit that I have only recently clued into the fact that a lot of what I like outside of the curries tend to be deep fried. I can figure out how to bake a samosa, like I did with my empandas, but I don’t think that the pakoras would lend themselves to another form of cooking to take the calorie count down, but I must admit that I haven’t actually tried. I am hoping to help shave off a few of the pounds that were added during my sweets frenzy of the past several months. God forbid I should actually exercise to do it – LOL!

Speaking of, on March 1st, I went down and took a yoga class. My first formal class in years. They talked me into signing up for a month of unlimited classes as a “new student special”. I thought this would be great, seeing as how I had planned to take 2-4 classes a week going forward. So far, I have attended exactly that one class, making it officially the single, most expensive class ever. I know the month isn’t over yet, and I might actually make it to another class (or two??), but for now, this is laughable. If it hasn’t been something with the kids, it has been the car. I just can’t seem to make it work out. I guess an A for effort would be in order. Doesn’t make me feel better when I am pinching this roll of fat across my midsection though.

I have another observation to make: I have been looking at all the usual food blogger sites, like I always do, and have noticed that there is a disproportionate number of sweets featured. Since I tend to be a baker, first and foremost, I hadn’t noticed this originally. It wasn’t until I had shifted my focus to the savory, and more specifically the low-cal, that it became woefully clear that the reason for world-wide obesity isn’t a mystery. The prevelance of cupcakes and sweets, while beautiful to look at (remember I am a sucker for food photography!), is really not leading to anything good in the end. Moderation is key. With that, I am hoping to cut back on the sweets in my own home and see if we can’t slim down – the adults that is.

I hope you will give any or all of these a try and let me know what you think.

Black Quinoa Salad
1 c. black quinoa – rinsed
1 c. water
1 green apple – cored, thinly sliced and diced
1/2 c. cashews – roughly chopped
1 lime – juiced

In a small saucepan, add the quinoa and water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Cook for about 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes to see that all of the water has been absorbed and the quinoa looks dry. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Leave uncovered for 10 minutes or more to cool. Once cooled, add the apple pieces, cashews and lime juice. Toss to mix and serve.

Vegetable Pakoras
1 large potato – peeled and diced into small pieces
1/4 head of cauliflower – cored and cut into very small florets
1 c. spinach – cleaned, dried and chopped
1/2 onion – cleaned and grated, water squeezed out
1/4 c. cilantro – cleaned, dried and chopped
1 serano chile – seeded and minced
300 g. AP flour
1 t. salt
1 t. red chili flakes
1 t. cayenne
1 t. curry powder
2 c. water
canola oil for frying

Combine the flour and spices in a bowl. Whisk in the water until it forms a thick paste. Allow to rest while you prepare the vegetables. Combine the vegetables (including the chile and cilantro) into another larger bowl. Mix in the batter until fully combined. Get your oil up to temperature – I used a deep fryer for these, so can’t tell you the exact temperature. Once the oil is hot, use a large soup spoon to drop a dollop of batter into the oil. Allow to fry for 5 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and check for doneness. The outside should be golden brown and the potatoes should be soft. Once you have tested one, continue to cook these in batched that will allow them to bubble, without crowding. Drain over a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet. I salted them as they came out of the frying, but that is because I love salt. This is up to personal taste.

Coriander-Glazed Carrots Adapted from a Recipe from Food Network Magazine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
2 pounds baby carrots (preferably rainbow), tops trimmed
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 water
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the coriander seeds and toast 30 seconds. Add the carrots, then stir in the orange and lime juice, brown sugar, 1/4 cup water, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are almost tender, 13 to 15 minutes.

I placed these into a 200 degree oven until the rest of my dinner was ready. Once ready, I removed the carrots from the pan and placed the juices onto the stove top. Placed over medium-high heat, I cooked for about 5-10 minutes to reduce the liquid by half. I served the reduction over the carrots. I forgot to use the cilantro, but I can see how the color and flavor would have been a good addition.

Enjoy!

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