Tuesday, May 18, 2010

RECIPE - Spinach and Palm Heart Salad with Tamarind Dressing

Although most cooks and diners think of tamarind in the context of Southeast Asian or Indian foods, the fruit is used extensively in Brazilian cuisine. The tamarind tree originated in central Africa, and from there Arabian traders took it too the Indian subcontinent and on to the countries of Southeast Asia. Portuguese explorers and traders then brought it back from Asia to Europe, and carried it on to Brazil, where it's become a popular food source.

Brazilians love tamarind juice, tamarind Popsicles and tamarind candies. The fruit is also valued in cooked dishes, where the addition of tamarind juice adds an acidity and sharpness that is similar to, but not identical to, the acidity of citrus juices.

Here's a modern-day Brazilian recipe for a light and healthy salad of spinach and palm hearts (palmito) with a tamarind based dressing.
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RECIPE - Spinach and Palm Heart Salad with Tamarind Dressing
Serves 2

1/4 lb. (100 gr.) tamarind pulp (can be purchased in Asian and Latin American markets)
2 Tbsp. light sesame oil
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. salt
4 cups lightly packed spinach leaves
2 stalks hearts of palm, thinly sliced
1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
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Place the tamarind pulp in a medium bowl, and pour boiling water over to cover. Let stand for 20 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Pull the seeds out of the tamarind pods, place the pulp of the pods in a small sieve and press the pulp through the sieve into a bowl. Combine with the sesame oil, rice vinegar and salt to taste. Reserve.

Put the spinach leaves in a large salad bowl. Add the sliced palm hearts, then the tamarind dressing. Finally, toss lightly to coat the spinach leaves with dressing, sprinkle the sesame seeds on top of the salad, and serve.

Recipe translated and adapted from Mannequim Magazine, Feb. 2010.

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