Thursday, June 16, 2011

There is 'curry' in my salad

When I refer to my salads on this blog, or while talking to friends, I am asked to write up something about them for ideas and inspirations. While it is not difficult, I am always stumped about what I should write about salads. They are usually just mixed greens with a few substantial things tossed in, and a dressing that I think would go with everything. There are no recipes and no stories to tell. However, I definitely understand the point of these queries. So I am going to try and fit in here some of my favorite salads.

The salad I am going to write about today actually does have a bit of a story attached. It starts with a recurring flashback from a few years ago. It was a hot and sunny summer afternoon in Salzburg. We had just crossed over from the old town to the newer part of town, and after escaping hordes of tourists we started looking for a spot to eat. I had a guidebook, but not enough time to figure out the optimal route to any recommended place. There was a train to catch, and we were getting hungry, and the summer heat was starting to get unbearable. There didn't seem to be any restaurants around, but finally, on a side street, we found a cafe that was open. Anything to eat was welcome at that point. I looked through the German menu and found nothing vegetarian. Zilch. I managed to communicate with the server and ordered a salad without any meat in it. She seemed to understand.

The salad was served in a lovely white bowl. Crisp greens, a lemony creamy dressing, and a topping of cooked potatoes and scallions, that had the classic 'curry powder' flavor that one tends to find in Europe. I wondered a little bit if the addition of curry powder was a concession to the color of my skin. In fact, that is what I seemed to remember long after, more than the salad itself. Since the salad was just something they put together for me, I found myself pondering over whether the 'curry powder' was standard or if it was an improvization, but I wouldn't have known because the menu was barely understandable.

Then one day, as I ran out of ideas and ingredients for my lunch while working from home, I thought about it. I sauteed some thinly sliced potatoes and onions, and added some basic spices, and used it to top lighly dressed greens. I also added some cashews to the mix. The warm topping and crunchy cashews over the salad greens was lovely and satisfying, and this combination soon became part of my regular menu.

To make it more filling, I toss in cooked and shelled edamame if I have them on hand, or cooked garbanzos beans, or add a boiled egg on the side. And every time I eat this salad, I think of the non-descript cafe in Salzburg.

Salad with spicy potatoes

Mixed Green Salad with Warm Spicy Potatoes

Makes 1 main salad, multiplies easily for more servings


For the salad:

2-3 big handfuls of mixed greens (like mesclun or spring mix)
1 small-medium potato (yukon gold, red, or similar type)
2-3 Tablespoons thinly sliced onion or 1 small shallot
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon roasted cashews
a handful of shelled and cooked edamame or garbanzo beans (optional)
salt to taste
1/8 teaspoon coriander powder
1/8 teaspoon cumin powder
pinch of turmeric powder
pinch of red chili powder

For the dressing:

1/4 teaspoon mayonaisse (or tahini for a vegan version)
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper


Wash and dry the potato(es). Slice it along the length, and then slice each half along the length again. Slice each resulting quarter thinly along the width.

Slice the onion or shallot thinly.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet, and when it gets fairly hot, add the sliced onions, and potatoes and a pinch of salt. Saute on medium high heat until the potatoes start to turn golden brown. Add the cashews and beans, and the spices, and saute everything further for a few minutes. Turn the heat off and let it cool just a little so that the potatoes are not steaming hot.

In the meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together until they emulsify and form a dressing.

Place the salad greens on a serving plate, spoon just enough dressing to dress them lightly, and toss with a fork. Top with the warm potato mix.


In place of combining various spice powders, use a scant 1/2 teaspoon of a mild spice mix, such as a commercial curry powder or garam masala.
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