Monday, June 22, 2009

Monica Bhide's Seared Trout with Mint-Cilantro Chutney (and a chance to win her book!)

Moving is not fun at all. As you're reading this, I will probably be in transit. I'll be deprived of a kitchen until about July 1, but at least there are no dishes to do!

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.

Serves 4
Prep/Cook time: 15 minutes

4 skin-on trout fillets, about 6 ounces each, halved lengthwise
Table salt
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.

Mint-Cilantro Chutney
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.


pxilated said...

I like Indian food, but since I don't really know what I'm doing I always feel like it tastes the same regardless of what I make. I should probably get a cookbook, but I feel like after all these years in the kitchen, I should be able to wing it. =)

Christie's Corner said...

This looks wonderful. I love the fresh take on Indian. I was really pleased how quickly the my dish went together, too.

Nice to see you at the potluck table!

Kelsey B. said...

This looks awesome! I love your blog, everything is so tempting. Wasn't it fun to do this event with Monica? What a great time!

S said...

The trout looks fantastic - I'm wondering if it would be possible to make my own dried pomegranate seeds from the fruit in my garden. Only have a few recipes for Indian food that I make on a regular basis but I'm always on the look out for easy recipes.

Tania said...

I am definitely excited about this and the cheesecakes with tomatillo chutney...I'll be tuning into the virtual dinner party for sure (what a cool idea!).

hparusel said...

I love a Mingling of Tastes! I also love Indian food, but I'm like pxilated - all I really know to do is throw in some curry powder. I'd love some actual guidance in the preparation of Indian food. Thanks for the opportunity to win the book!

Kim said...

We are in sore need of weeknight dinners that are good and nutritious. And we have mint growing on our deck!

We have recently discovered an Indian lunch delivery, here in podunk nowhere, and are eating lots of Indian food now. But the most shocking part is we had spicy Indian chicken curry, and my 1 year old son loved it! This curry is spicy enough to make my nose run, and he just dug right in and wanted more more more!

Andrew's Mom said...

I love Indian food - especially samosas. said...

I have not really cooked Indian food. I would love to win this book!

Anonymous said...

YUM! I like the sound of this!! Thanks for the recipe! Great site! :)

kamalabhoopathy said...

Indians use more mint and cilantro in our day today cooking. Different versions of chutneys are also there.