April 10, 2012

Quinoa Fruit Chaat

While in San Francisco a month ago, we ate a lovely Sunday Brunch at The Palace Hotel's Garden Court and one of the memorable items on the menu was this lovely Chilled Quinoa Berry salad. Ever since then I've been thinking about making something similar at home. I bought Quinoa a few weeks ago, and have had a hard time keeping berries in the house (... we have a teenager with a voracious appetite, who happens to inhale berries on sight!). So finally, I gave up trying to recreate what I had in SF. Instead, I used what fruits I had on hand and made Quinoa Fruit Chaat instead. 

Quinoa Fruit Chaat
Chaat (Hindi: चाट) is a Indian term describing all kinds of savory snacks. Often, these are sold at road-side shacks or stalls or carts in India. Of course, chaat is served in restaurants across the country and also prepared at home. The flavoring includes Chaat Masala, which is most often a mixture of Salt, Dried Raw Mango, Pomegranate Seeds, Cumin, Coriander, Black Pepper, Black Rock Salt, Mint leaves, Ginger, Nutmeg, Chilli Powder, Cloves, Cumin, Asafoetida etc. One can use either each of these ingredients individually, to taste, or simply buy a ready-to-use mix online. You cannot go wrong with MDH's Chunky Chaat Masala - it has been tried and tested by generations of Indians and it still works!!  

Preparing Quinoa: Most colanders will not hold Quinoa very well because the raw seeds are rather small. To rinse, use either a metal-mesh strainer, or a cheese cloth. Rinse the seeds in ample amounts of water. For every cup of Quinoa, bring 1.25 cups of water or vegetable broth to a rolling boil in a deep lidded saucepan. Add quinoa, reduce heat to a simmer, and then reduce further to low. Cover and cook for ~20-25 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove, and let sit for another 5-7 minutes, before removing the lid and fluffing the contents. Quinoa seeds like to show you when they're ready to eat :) the grain swells up to almost twice its size, becomes translucent and the germ ring pops out, forming a spiral around the seed. For salads, you may want to cool the quinoa, before it is chilled. In order to do that, transfer the steamed quinoa from  the saucepan to a large plate, let it sit until it reaches room temperature and then transfer to a storage container. 

Prep Time: 5 minutes with previously cooked quinoa.

Ingredients:
  1. 1/2 cup  Quinoa, cooked & chilled 
  2. 1 fresh Mango, sliced & diced
  3. 1 fresh Pear, sliced and diced
  4. 1 tbsp Craisins
  5. 1 tbsp Raisins
  6. 1 tbsp Roasted Almonds, slivered or sliced
  7. 1-2 tsp Chunky Chaat Masala, to taste
  8. Lemon/Lime Juice, to taste
  9. Salt, to taste.
Directions: Simply toss everything together :) and enjoy!! One cool thing about this recipe, you can use any fruit you have on hand. Simply cut it into bite sized pieces and toss it in. 

My Assessment: While this recipe didn't recreate what I had in SF a few weeks ago, it worked its magic in its own way. I loved the nutty flavor and texture of quinoa, which was enhanced by the roasted almonds and the sweetness of the fruit was balanced well with the savory flavor of the Chaat Masala. 

Quick Note: Chunky Chaat Masala tastes heavenly on just sliced bananas.  Sprinkle some directly on sliced bananas, and add some lemon/lime juice on top. Yumm!!

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