Tag Archives: cucumber

A Crunchy Salad for Summer

kosambri or mung bean cucumber salad

Kosambri or mung bean cucumber salad

A couple of months ago, we took a friend who was visiting Seattle, to see some of the iconic sights. After a stroll along the Olympic Sculpture Gardens and navigating the crowds outside Pike Place market, we went inside to see the fishmongers.  It was there, opposite the famous fish stall and next to the flowers, that my hay fever allergy started. I’d never had allergies before so I thought I was coming down with something until the food allergies also kicked in. For the first time in my life, eating an apple made my lips swell up and my throat burn. And oatmeal (at least I think it is oatmeal) made me feel ill.

So my list of Things That I Cannot Eat grew from just dairy to include gluten, sugar, oatmeal, apple, pear, alcohol and some nuts among other things.  I’d already been on a cleanse so while it wasn’t as hard as you might think, I’d sometimes scratch my head in despair trying to figure out what to cook. This has all been a bit of a bizarre experience especially since I ate pretty healthy to begin with. The allergy test results will be back in a few weeks and I’m crossing my fingers that some of those foods will come off the list.

I’m taking this as a challenge and an exercise in creativity. While I miss some familiar things like rotis, naans and chapatis, I can still make ragi rottis. Instead of white rice, I’ve switched completely over to brown and red rices and don’t miss white rice at all. Desserts? I’d given up sweets a long time ago anyway. What do I miss? Granola. Oatmeal with banana. A glass of wine with dinner. Samosas. Pasta. Parmigiano. The simple things in life really.

BUT there are still so many things that I can eat. For instance, I had slices of avocado with freshly ground pepper, Thai style egg curry with Sri Lankan rice, and this lovely mung bean salad from South India for lunch today. While my food needs to nourish my body, it still needs to taste good to nourish my soul. And this lunch hit the spot. It is crunchy, full of flavor, filling, and allergen free!

It’s not quite summer yet but I’m sure most of you are eagerly awaiting it. I know I am. I can’t wait to trade in boots for sandals and to stop carrying around an umbrella. In the meantime, I’m declaring it summer at home.

So here’s my recipe for Kosambri or mung bean and cucumber salad from Karnataka. I’m sorry to say that there is no more salad left. The husband couldn’t get enough of it last night which made me very happy.

Print mung bean and cucumber salad recipe

Ingredients

The ratio of ingredients is approximate. Feel free to vary to your taste.

  • 1 cup mung beans, rinsed and soaked for 2 days or till it sprouts.
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 green chilis, sliced lengthwise (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Recipe

Mix together all the ingredients except for the salt and toss well. Add salt to taste just before serving so that the cucumber stays crunchy.

Notes

I used whole mung beans although the original version of this salad uses split mung beans. Sprouted beans have more nutrition and are easier to digest. Plus I love how mung beans look.

I defrosted frozen grated coconut. If you don’t have access to an Indian store, you can sometimes find dessicated unsweetened coconut flakes in regular grocery stores. Rehydrate the flakes in warm water for 10 minutes.

mung bean cucumber salad

Kosambri

Kosambri salad

kosambri

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Stay Cool with Cucumbers

How’s the weather where you are? Here in Seattle, we finally got summer this week after months of whining and praying for it! And now that it’s here, we’re whining about how hot it is!

With summer comes BBQ season, cold soups and salads, and lots of Indian food too. Yes that’s right! Indian food in summer. Here in the US, spicy curries don’t come to mind when it’s hot outside. In India while the curries still remain spicy even in summer, different vegetables are featured. Various kinds of gourds and squashes are in season in summer.

The ‘Malnad’  (literally translating to land of rain) region of the south Indian state of Karnataka grows some of the juiciest, crispest and sweetest cucumbers around the area. This is where my mother’s family is from and we would visit every summer. Some of my best childhood memories are from summers spent at my grandparents, playing with my cousins, climbing trees, chasing away monkeys from the guava trees and of course devouring grandma’s savory and sweet treats. And yes eating lots of cucumbers.

Moroccan cucumber salad

Cucumbers contain a chemical called cucurbitacin that sometimes makes them taste bitter. My mom taught me to slice the ends off and then holding the cut end against the exposed part of the cucumber, rub it around it a circular fashion. This removes the white ‘poison’ as my mother called it. And supposedly the cucumber tastes less bitter. I say supposedly as I never use cucumbers without removing the ‘poison’. So if you think cucumbers have a bitter edge to them, try out this trick!

While cucumbers are perhaps not quite as tasty here as in the Malnad region, I’m so glad they are available. There are a couple of salads that are super easy to make that I’d love to share with you. The first one is an Indian style cucumber salad and  the second a Moroccan style salad. When you look for cucumbers, look for ones that are tender and don’t have any yellow on them. English cucumbers are nice as they are practically seedless and are crispier but they’re also more expensive.

Indian cucumber salad – Serves 2

  • 1 regular or English cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut  into spears
  • ~ 3 sprigs cilantro (1-2 tablespoons), roughly chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 green chili, ends cut and slit lengthwise (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Toss all the ingredients together (I use a tupperware box) just before serving. The cucumbers also make a great appetizer. You can prepare the salad ahead of time. But add the lime and salt, and toss again,  just before serving. This is a very flexible recipe – use more or less of the ingredients as you like.

Indian cucumber spears

Moroccan cucumber salad – Serves 2-3

adapted from Kitty Morse’s Cooking at the Kasbah

  • 1 english or regular cucumber, peeled, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, finely diced (Kitty Morse uses 2 green onions, finely chopped. I didn’t have any on hand)
  • ~ 3 sprigs fresh mint (about 1 tablespoon), leaves separated and chopped finely
  • 2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients together. Again, you can prepare the ingredients ahead of time and mix everything leaving out the lemon and salt till just before serving. This same salad with cilantro instead of mint is another version of the Indian cucumber salad. Make sure to use fresh mint. If the mint is not fresh, it can impart a bitter taste to the salad.

An easy summer salad

Now things just don’t get any simpler!

Happy Summer 🙂

-Veena

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Filed under India, Morocco