Last week, surrounded by boxes and lacking any surface on which to properly eat a meal (We donated a lot of furniture, including dining table and chairs, coffee table and desk--my 3 favorite places to eat!), I enjoyed a delicious respite from the chaos. Monica Bhide, a lovely, talented food writer friend, decided to throw a virtual dinner party to promote her gorgeous new cookbook, Modern Spice.
When she asked if I could participate, I was afraid the move would make me miss the fun, but I should have known better. Monica does Indian food (and her native Indian cuisine is indeed the subject and inspiration for Modern Spice), but she does it her way. Her recipes are imaginative and beautifully balanced, never choosing excess over pared-down purity of flavor. I wanted to do a main course, but when she sent me the recipe for seared trout with mint-cilantro chutney, it looked so easy that I feared I wouldn't be pulling my weight at this virtual party!
This recipe can be done in 20 minutes, literally. It sounds incredibly simple (which it is), but the flavors are anything but. The chutney, with just a few ingredients, manages to be complex, verdant, spicy and perfectly matched to the simply seared fish. It was an ideal weeknight meal, and I want to make the chutney over and over for a dozen different uses. I'd love it drizzled over eggs or mixed with Greek yogurt for lamb kabobs. I used the leftovers to spice up salmon tacos I had for lunch the next day.
Getting ready to make the chutney with cilantro, serrano chile, mint and lemon (the lime was for gin & tonic--moving calls for libations!)
Monica has enlisted a fantastic group of bloggers (including Dorie Greenspan on desserts!) to fill out her dinner party menu, so click over to her blog, A Life of Spice, to see more food from the book (she will have a round up of mouthwatering pics of everyone's dishes done by Monday night). There are some cocktails and appetizers (mini-Cheesecakes with tomatillo chutney!) that I really want to try.
And finally, Monica and her publisher have also generously provided a copy of Modern Spice for one of you, my lovely readers! To enter to win, leave a comment on this post by Wednesday at midnight, eastern time. Tell me what dish most appeals to you from Monica's virtual dinner party, or talk to me about Indian food. Be sure to leave your name and where you live (must have continental U.S. mailing address to win), and I'll announce the winner here on Thursday.
Pan-Seared Trout with Mint-Cilantro Chutney
If you are reading this recipe and thinking, “Really, can it be that simple?”—yes, it is, and it is simply delicious. Don’t take my word for it, though. Get a pan out and start searing!
Julie's notes: Good substitutes for the trout are cod, snapper and tilapia.
Serve the trout with a drizzle of the Mint-Cilantro Chutney.
Prep/Cook time: 15 minutes
4 skin-on trout fillets, about 6 ounces each, halved lengthwise
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1⁄4 cup Mint-Cilantro Chutney
1. Season the trout fillets with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the trout, skin side down. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the trout is cooked through.
3. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, skin side down.
4. Place each fillet on a serving plate and drizzle each with up to a tablespoon of chutney. Serve immediately.
This is the most popular chutney in India, hands down. It can be found in many Indian-American homes, in restaurants, and now in jars on grocery store shelves. Its charm lies in how simple it is to prepare. My father always adds a little yogurt to his chutney to make it creamy and then pairs it with lamb kebabs. My mom-in-law adds a hearty dose of roasted peanuts and serves it with savory snacks; Mom adds pomegranate seeds—you get the idea—to each his own. This versatile chutney has so many uses. Thin it a little and use it as a salad dressing for a crisp green salad; use it in the consistency provided here as a spread on a baguette topped with fresh cucumber slices; or simply drizzle it on some freshly grilled fish for a fresh flavor. One word of advice here: Green chutneys have a short shelf life. Make them in small batches and make them often—they only take a few minutes but the rewards are well worth the effort (which really isn’t much).
Julie's notes: I did use the optional serrano chile with some of the seeds, but I did not use the optional dried pomegranate.
Makes 1 cup
Prep time: 5 minutes
1 cup packed cilantro (leaves and stems)
1 cup packed mint (leaves only, please)
1 green serrano chile (optional; if you don’t like too much heat, remove the seeds)
1⁄4 small red onion, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon dried pomegranate seeds (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 teaspoon table salt
Up to 2 tablespoons water
1. Blend the cilantro, mint, chile, onion, pomegranate seeds (if using), lemon juice, and salt in a blender to a smooth paste. To aid in the blending process, you can add up to 2 tablespoons of water, if needed. Taste and add more salt if needed.
2. Transfer to a covered container and chill for about 30 minutes.
3. Serve cool. This chutney will keep, refrigerated, for 4 days.