Asian Pear and Avocado Salad with Garam Masala Syrup

Sorry I’ve been quiet for a little while here.  Last week was a little crazy with work, and then I got sick with the flu on the weekend.  Oh the flu, how I loathe the flu.  Argh!

Anyway, just before I got the flu, I did keep my promise to myself on my weekly cooking challenge of making a new dish.  I tried a pear and avocado salad with garam masala syrup.  The name of the salad threw me off because it sounded so odd.  I mean, I understand using garam masala in cooking meat dishes.  But in a salad?  Really?

*****

This recipe came from Epicurious, cut-and-pasted here:

For garam masala syrup
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 (2-inch-long) piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 (1- by 1/4-inch) pieces fresh ginger, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons green or white cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • 10 whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

For salad

  • 1/4 cup raw green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (not roasted)
  • 2 firm-ripe California avocados (1 to 1 1/4 lb)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Asian pears (1 lb total)
  • 4 oz mixed microgreens or baby greens (4 cups)

Make syrup:
Bring all syrup ingredients to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer until syrup is reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep, covered, 1 hour. Pour syrup through a sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.

Prepare salad:
Heat a dry heavy 10-inch skillet over moderate heat until hot, then toast pumpkin seeds, stirring constantly, until puffed and beginning to pop, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer seeds to a plate and season with salt.

Halve, pit, and peel avocados, then thinly slice lengthwise. Gently toss slices with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste, then gently toss with 1/4 cup syrup.

Halve pears and core, then thinly slice lengthwise. Toss pear slices with remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup syrup.

Drain pears, reserving syrup, and arrange slices on 4 plates. Transfer avocado slices to plates with a slotted spoon, discarding syrup. Toss greens with reserved syrup from pears and salt and pepper to taste. Mound greens next to avocado and pear slices and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

*****

The recipe says to use 2 cups of water, but I don’t find that necessary.  1 1/2 cup was plenty and it took long enough to reduce it down.  I wouldn’t suggest using 2 cups of water.

I didn’t have pumpkin seeds, so I didn’t put those on.  I think it would have been good with some pumpkin seeds or maybe toasted cashew nuts.  And I didn’t use asian pears, as I had some Bartlett pears on hand at the perfect ripeness.  I don’t think using Bartlett was a distraction from the salad.

Now, the real star of the show, of course, is the garam masala syrup.  Oh yeah, that was one very interesting dressing!  The guinea pigs I made the salad for all agreed that the dressing was interesting, and took a little bit of getting used to.  But at the end everyone decided that they liked it.  The ginger flavor really came through, but you can also tell there are a lot of other flavors working their magic together.

My favorite part of this recipe was making the garam masala syrup.  Cliff gave me a mortar and pestle set for Christmas 2 years ago, and I love every chance I get to use it.  I used it to crush up the peppercorn, cardamom pods, and coriander seeds.  All the spices, ginger, sugar, gets boiled and reduced down to a thick and golden colored syrup.  It is spicy, sweet, tangy, and just…interesting!

This is something that doesn’t take a lot of effort, especially when my box of “exotic spices” are properly stocked on my shelf, but gives an interesting twist to a regular dinner.  Two thumbs up!

Sorry, no pictures of the final salad.  I was so excited to eat it that I forgot to take pictures of the salad.

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