Sunday, April 22, 2012

Green Foods Need Love, Too

So, it's Earth Day.  In celebration, I thought I'd do a recipe that I've been talking about for a while but haven't gotten around to yet: Mint Chutney also known as Green Chutney.  This is a popular condiment in Indian cooking, and I, personally, could eat it on just about everything. It's especially good with Naan and a nice curry.  Don't let its green and runny appearance fool you (apparently some people find that off-putting), this little sauce is delicious, subtle, and can pack a sneaky punch.  I make no pretensions to authenticity. This recipe is the result of my experiments with a very basic recipe, tweaking until I got the flavors where I wanted them.

What You'll Need
Cutting board                                                     Food processor or blender
Knife for chopping                                             Spoon
Measuring spoons                                              Small serving bowl
3 small green chilies                                          1 bunch cilantro
1 tomato                                                             1 bunch mint
3 Tbsp water                                                     1 7oz package grated sweetened coconut
3 Tbsp lemon juice                                             3 spoonfuls plain yogurt
3/4 tsp salt

Now Let's Make Mint Chutney!
Before we get started, let's have a few words (okay more than a few) about ingredients. For the chilies, I like to use the small green ones that you can find in bags at a good Asian grocer (these are about a finger length). If you can't find those, go with serrano peppers (pictured, since I couldn't find the others this go round). For the tomato, try to get a juicy variety; one of the big round ones should do.  

Take your three chilies, and begin chopping them. Slit the chili length wise, starting just shy of the top (stem side) and going all the way through the tip. Turn the chili to the unsliced side and repeat.  Essentially you've quartered your pepper, but left the quarters attached to the pepper by not cutting through the top.  Now, starting at the tip and moving toward the top, begin chopping your pepper. Repeat for the other two peppers. Set to the side, and coarsely chop your tomato. Add the peppers, tomato, 3 Tbsp water, 3 Tbsp lemon juice and 3/4 tsp salt to the blender or food processor (I got a food processor for my b'day, y'all and it's heaven). Blend until nice and liquidy.

Take your bunch of cilantro and rinse it really good (as I've said before, cilantro from the grocery is filthy). Gather the leaves in as tight a bunch as possible and chop the cilantro beginning at the leafy end and moving toward the end that's all stems.  Don't worry about any of the stem getting in the mix during the process; it's all the same flavor and you won't notice once liquified. Discard the stemmy chunk you're left with. Add the chopped cilantro to the blender. 

Now, for your bunch of mint (also rinsed) you can either use two containers of mint found with the other refrigerated herbs (usually near the salads), or you can take it fresh from the garden. Either way, you want enough leaves (leaves only here! Mint stems are woody) to fill your two hands cupped together. Pluck the leaves from the main stem and, when you're sure you have enough, add them to the blender.

Next, take your bag of sweetened coconut, and add about half the bag to the blender. I know sweetened coconut sounds weird and most recipes call for plain, but I find that the sugar is necessary to the overall flavor of the chutney. It adds a balance to things that wouldn't be there otherwise.  Anyway, by now you should have cilantro, mint, and coconut in your food processor waiting to go. Blend! If you're using a blender (as I sadly was still), you may have to stop occasionally and use your spoon to press things down a bit. Blend until liquidy. 

She forgot to take a photo
Content yourselves with me,
Add about three big spoons of plain yogurt (I was using a tablespoon; you know the bigger one that's great for soups and cereals) to the blender and blend.  Once the yogurt is throughly mixed in, its time for a taste test.  Take a taste and wait a few seconds for the spicy to catch up to you. Too powerful? Add a big pinch of coconut (that's a pinch using all your fingers, by the way) and a smaller spoon of yogurt. Blend. Repeat until level of spiciness and flavor suits your taste.

Serve in a small serving bowl. Provide everyone with smaller condiment bowls so that they can dish themselves their own private stash of mint chutney.  This chutney can accompany just about any Indian dish you decide to make. Happy Earth Day and remember green food needs love, too, so enjoy!

I'm so much tastier than I look.


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