STEAMED ASPARAGUS WITH CARDAMOM BUTTER
Rich Vellante, the talented executive chef of Legal Sea Foods restaurants, developed this wonderful recipe during the "Spices of Life" project when we were working with Chef Suresh Vaidyanathan from the Oberoi Hotel group in India.
2 tablespoons whole cardamom pods (about 50), smashed with the flat side of a knife
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 pounds fresh asparagus, tough woody stems snapped off
1/2 teaspoon salt
Toast the cardamom pods in a heavy skillet for about 5 minutes over low heat, shaking the pan from time to time until the cardamom is very fragrant. Add the olive oil and butter and slowly heat to infuse the oil and butter with the cardamom flavor for about 10 to 15 minutes while the asparagus is cooking.
Rinse the asparagus stalks and arrange in a heatproof plate, such as a pie or quiche pan, or in a steamer basket. (If using bamboo, line the basket with a piece of parchment or wax paper.)
Fill a large pot or a wok with several inches of water and heat until boiling. If using a plate, set it on a tuna fish can with both the top and bottom removed. Or, set the steamer basket in the wok. Steam the asparagus 5 to 6 minutes, or until just tender. Remove and arrange on a serving plate.
Pour the cardamom butter and sprinkle the salt over the asparagus and serve.
+ Ayurvedic doctors credit cardamom with stimulating the heart and aiding digestion. Cardamom, cinnamon, and bay leaves together are referred to as the "Three Aromatics." The combination is believed to aid in the absorption of medicine. AVOCADO TOMATO SALSA
This salsa is delicious, easy, and versatile. I serve it with many grilled foods, including seafood, pork, and chicken. It's also excellent as a dip with tortilla chips. To preserve the salsa and prevent it from darkening, bury the avocado pits in it, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator. It will keep for 3 to 4 days.
3/4 pound ripe tomatoes, rinsed and drained, stems removed
2 avocados, peeled, pit removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Juice of about 1 1/2 limes (about 4 1/2 tablespoons)
1 jalapeno chile, cored and seeded, or to taste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup minced scallion greens
2 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped coarsely
1 teaspoon salt
Makes 5 to 6 Cups
Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1/2-inch dice and put in a serving bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients and carefully stir to mix evenly. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Use as directed in the recipe or served with any type of grilled meat, seafood, or vegetable.
+ Avocados help to lower cholesteral and regulate blood pressure, and are good for the skin. SPICY SALMON CURRY
Six to Eight Servings
According to Camellia Panjabi, author of THE GREAT CURRIES OF INDIA,"curry," as the word is used in India, simply means gravy. The origin of the word, from kaari, is a meat, vegetable, or seafood dish especially suited to (but not always eaten with) rice. This aromatic sauce, with its unique blending of myriad flavors, is quite different from the typical overpowering curry sauce. Other types of seafood, including shrimp, scallops, or other firm-fleshed fish fillets, may be used in place of the salmon.
2 1/2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped coarsely (about 2 cups)
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, seeded and diced, with juice (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
2 pounds salmon fillets, skin removed, cut into 2-inch-wide sections
2 cups fresh peas or thawed frozen peas
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon tamarind pulp dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water, seeds removed*
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice of 1 medium lemon)
2 small bird's-eye chiles, ends trimmed and seeds removed**
1 small jalapeno chile, ends trimmed and seeds removed
3 stalks lemongrass, ends trimmed to tender heart and tough outer stalks removed, cut into chunks***
8 cloves garlic
1 2-inch length fresh ginger, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
Prepare the Seasonings by dropping the ingredients in descending order down the feed tube of a food processor, or into a blender, with the machine running. Pulse and scrape down the sides of the work bowl with a spatula until you have a rough but even texture. If the lemongrass remains in large pieces, carefully scrape the seasonings onto a cutting board and chop by hand.
Heat a heavy wok or a Dutch oven or large casserole over medium-low heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and heat until very hot, about 20 seconds. Add the seasonings and stir-fry over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 3 to 4 minutes, until very fragrant.
Add the chopped onions and stir, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, and sugar, and cook, partially covered, for 5 to 7 minutes. Add the salmon, peas, salt, tamarind, and lemon juice, stir together, and cover. Cook until the fish turns opaque and a knife passes through easily, about 6 to 7 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve on a platter or in serving bowls. Serve with steamed jasmine or basmati rice.
+Ayurveda cautions against eating too many tomatoes, believing that they can be toxic to the body, but it also considers them to be healing when cooked with certain spices. Tomato juice with cumin is recommended for improving digestion.
* If tamarind pulp is unavailable, use freshly squeezed lime juice or cider vinegar to taste.
** If unavailable, substitute 1 1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes or to taste.
*** Fresh lemongrass is available at most Asian markets. You may use dried, but first reconstitute by softening in boiling water to cover for 20 minutes.
Excerpted from Spices of Life by Nina Simonds. Copyright © 2005 by Nina Simonds. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.