Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fresh Fenugreek

A bunch of fresh fenugreek leaves (a.k.a. "methi").
In an earlier post, "Bitter Is Good," I included a recipe for bitter melon that also featured fresh fenugreek. One person in the comments asked if next time I bought some, I could post a picture, so she would recognize it if she saw it in the market. So, Angelique, this one's for you.

Fenugreek seeds as well as fresh leaves are used in Indian and Ethiopian cuisines. In Chinese medicine, the seeds are used as a kidney tonic. Both seeds and leaves have a slightly bitter taste and a unique fragrance, which (be warned) your body will exude for about a day after you eat them. It's not unpleasant, but unusual, potent, and fairly long-lasting.

Because I love pretty much everything green, especially fresh greens with strong, exotic flavors, I look for it whenever I stop at an Indian market. I've used it in dal (Indian lentils of various types), soups, and salads.

After buying a couple of bunches specifically for the photo, I came up with a salad that I think makes this strong herb accessible to the average westerner (that is, if they're okay with sprouts). It's very simple, yet the combination of flavors and textures is pleasantly complex.

First, I made a mixture of grated carrot and beet with sliced red onion and celery, and tossed it with a vinaigrette made with 18-year-old balsamic, Dijon mustard, Udo's DHA Oil Blend, Celtic salt and freshly ground black pepper. I let it sit for a bit to let the flavors develop, while I prepared the rest. To serve, I laid down a thick bed of fenugreek leaves in each bowl (they're easiest to manage if you pluck small sprigs of three or four leaves each). I placed a mound of the carrot-beet mixture in the center, and surrounded it with slices of avocado. It still needed something, so I added a ring of radish sprouts, lightly fluffed to make an airy, spicy thicket over the avocado. The result was pretty cool--the carrot and beets provided a slightly sweet counterpoint to the herb's bitter edge, the avocado brought in a slightly unctuous richness, and the radish sprouts threw in tiny bursts of mild heat. As we took our first bite, my wife and I both uttered the "F" word (in a good way).

Note: When you're asking for "methi" at an Indian store, it'll help if you pronounce the "th" as if you're about to say "thee," but just before it comes out, you turn it into "tea." I don't know if that makes sense, but try it, and maybe they'll get what you're saying.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Alan! I especially appreciate the pic of the salad showing the fenugreek to scale with other ingredients I recognize -- thanks for the recipe idea too!