Make-at-Home Indian

I had the good fortune of hosting a birthday dinner last weekend, and decided to try my hand at Indian. Thanks to “Real Fast Indian Food” by Mridula Baljekar, the meal only took 2 hours to make.  Fortunately, my friends are patient.

This recipe is actually quick – a delightful salty sweet combination, perfect for summer. It’s also great for feeding the hungry while willing the rice to cook faster.

Paneer, Avocado and Mango Salad
2 TBS peanut oil (or other high heat oil)
1.5 tsp ground, roasted cumin
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp coriander seeds
3 TBS chopped cilantro
1 TBS chopped, fresh mint
salt and pepper
2 avocados
Juice of 1 lemon
2 ripe, but firm, mangoes
10 oz queso fresco, cut into bite sized squares (It’s supposed to be paneer or halloumi cheese, but I couldn’t find any)
Lettuce leaves to serve

1. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add cumin and red pepper flake. Immediately add the cheese and fry over medium-high heat until at least 2 sides of the cheese pieces are browned. Yes, you will have to flip them – carefully. The queso fresco held up well for ~ 8 minutes, at which point it started getting too soft to flip.

2. Turn off the heat and remove pan from stove. Add coriander, cilantro and mint to pan with fried cheese. Let cool. FACTOID: coriander is the seed from the cilantro plant. 

3. Halve the avocado and cut the insides into small-ish cubes. Scoop out into a bowl and toss with lemon juice. Peel the mangoes and cut the flesh into similar sized pieces as the avocado, add to bowl with avocado. Add the cheese mixture from the pan into the bowl with the avocado-mango mixture.  Mix gently and thoroughly to coat the fruit in spices. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Line a large platter or bowl with crisp lettuce. Spoon mixture on top of lettuce and sprinkle with additional chopped cilantro and/or mint. Attempt to make cute lettuce wraps. Give up and eat with a fork.

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