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:
- 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
- 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)
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.
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.