winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing

winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table

I must make a confession, I'm not the best at naming recipes and at times, I struggle with what to call some of my recipes. Since most of the dishes I create and share are often not traditionally Indian and in some way are inspired by my environment and emotions, it's can get difficult. I don't like to name my dishes as "Indian ___" as it sounds odd. Those kind of names bug me as much as as I hear the word "chai ___" but when you go through the recipe there is no chai (tea) present. If I called this salad dressing as Indian spicy cilantro dressing, I'd be uncomfortable. I call this my "noun-adjective paradox" because it can .  So I usually defer to the much more simpler method of labeling my dishes with the prominent ingredients I use in them, I did it this time too. This delicious salad dressing today had me up for hours, wondering whether I should call it an Indian-inspired dressing or an Indian green goddess dressing. Whatever it might be called, this is one tasty and spicy green salad dressing to enjoy!

One of the best things I've finally tasted in 2016, is the pink lady apple. I'd heard of them before but never eaten one until recently. These ladies are a game changer, a life changer, they look good and they taste good. Their texture is crisp enough to dump it into a salad and if you slice them thin enough, it gives you just the right amount of sweetness and crispy texture to each bite you consume. Overall this salad is pretty "wintry", I put purple/red and regular good old green curly kale leaves, some cooked black lentils, avocado (not so winter) and the lady apples. It's a hearty salad and the dressing is very, very guilt free. I use Califia's unsweetened almond milk to make the base of the dressing, fresh cilantro leaves for flavor and color, add lime juice for acidity and fresh thai chilis and ginger for a kick. But to make it thick and give it body, this dressing needs some fat and plain almond butter does the trick here making it creamy enough to hold.

winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table
winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table
winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table
winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this salad,

  • Any type of kale will work here, just shred it well and toss the midrib out. 
  • If you can't find lady apples use Granny smith apples the tartness works well.
  • If you cut the apples and don't want them to brown. Soak them in an ice cold water bath with 2 tablespoons of fresh lime or lemon juice. Drain the slices before you add them to the salad.
  • I like to presoak my lentils as it does make them cook faster when it comes to boiling. 
winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table

winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing

yields: 4 servings


for the salad

1 cup cooked black lentils

4 cups shredded kale leaves (I used a mix red and green varieties)

1 large avocado, diced

1/2 cup red onion, diced

1 pink lady apple, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pepitas, toasted

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. And toss to combine. Keep aside refrigerated until ready to serve with the salad dressing. Salad dressing can be added and tossed with salad or served on the side . 

spicy cilantro dressing

yields: about 1 1/2 cups


1 cup Califia unsweetened almond milk

4 tablespoons almond butter, unsweetened

1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped

1 cup packed cilantro leaves

4 tablespoons lime juice, fresh

6 black peppercorns

1 teaspoon thai chili peppers, chopped

1 teaspoon fine grain salt

1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Serve with the winter salad. 



Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Califia Farms but all opinions expressed are solely my own.

peach and vanilla cake with spiced almond milk

peach and vanilla cake with spiced almond milk| A Brown Table

A few things I've picked up on, now that I spend all my time in San Francisco;

  • You can never predict whether it will be warm, hot or chilly. Windy days aren't too bad but they happen often.
  • When it comes to food options, it's rare that you can go wrong. The city has so many tasty options for different price points and for different diets. 
  • It's a dog-friendly city. 
  • My life involves food, a lot of it. But I find it interesting that this city and the people here, are hugely, food centric. It comes up in a lot of conversations and rightly so.
  • Food trends are innovative from both a culinary perspective and a technological one.

Since, I've been traveling a bit for the past few weeks (house hunting, work stuff, etc) and also avoiding the heat wave that's hitting this side of the world, I've been focussing on easier and less time consuming items to cook at home. This desserts falls right into that category of easy-to-make, less time consuming and incorporates seasonal goodness in the form of ripe and sweet yellow peaches. I start by infusing Califia's unsweetened almond milk with two types of cardamom, black and green along with crystallized ginger and a few threads of saffron. Once the infused almond milk is completely cooled and chilled, you can either drink it directly or you could make this super easy peach and cake trifle type dessert.

Peaches are one of the best gifts of summer and with a light vanilla flavored cake such as angel food cake or a pound cake, you will have the easiest and fruitiest dessert to serve your friends and family and one that requires very little effort!

peach and vanilla cake with spiced almond milk| A Brown Table
peach and vanilla cake with spiced almond milk| A Brown Table
peach and vanilla cake with spiced almond milk| A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips when preparing this trifle that you might find useful,

  • If you use the sweetened almond milk from Califia make sure you adjust your sweetener levels accordingly when preparing the milk. I suggest using sugar or honey but feel free to use your favorite sweetener.
  • The amount of saffron I use to flavor the milk is a very tiny pinch and you will get a very tiny tinge of yellow color. Adding too much saffron can make this milk taste unpleasant. 
  • I love yellow peaches because they are sweet and when ripe their texture is soft. You could use something firm like a white peach but I find that doesn’t play well with the texture against the cake.
  • The cake: Here you can play around a little. I like angel food cake and vanilla pound cake to keep it simple. This way the spiced milk and peach flavors don’t get mellowed out by whatever might be in the cake. To kick things up a notch, you can also grill the pound cake or toast it a little before adding it to the dessert. 
  • I like to leave the ginger behind in the milk when I serve the dessert but if that’s too intense then you can remove it.
peach and vanilla cake with spiced almond milk| A Brown Table

peach and cake spiced almond milk trifle

yields: 4 servings


3 cups Califia unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup honey

12 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed

2 black cardamom pods, lightly crushed

1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

a pinch of saffron threads

4 yellow peaches, ripe

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, fresh

3 cups vanilla pound cake/angel food cake, torn into bits or cubed

  1. Place all the ingredients from the almond milk to the saffron in a thick bottomed saucepan. Heat on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from stove, transfer the milk with the spices into a container, cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours or until chilled.
  2. Peel the peaches and slice in half to remove the pit in the center of the fruit. Quarter the peach and then cut each quarter into half. Drizzle the lemon juice over the peach segments and allow to sit for 2 minutes at room temperature. 
  3. When ready to serve, toss the peaches with the cake pieces carefully in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Divide this equally between 4 glasses or serving bowls. 
  4. Remove the cardamom pods from the chilled almond milk and discard the pods. Shake the milk and pour over the cake and peach mixture in each glass. Add the leftover ginger bits from the milk on top of the cake. Serve chilled and immediately. 

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Califia and all opinions stated here are purely my own.

rose and strawberry almond milk falooda

rose and strawberry almond milk falooda | A Brown Table

You'll notice a new tab up on the blog, it's a link to my photography portfolio. Some photographs will be familiar and others new to you but in general, it's a collection of projects I've worked on or currently working on. When people ask me what I like more being in the kitchen or working with the camera, I find it hard to choose and honestly, I don't think there should be a choice. In that very sense, maintaining a food blog is the nexus of these two elements and I think it also answers that question. Probably, one of the most exciting things is having the choice to do things the way you want to and breaking and bending the rules, be it food or the camera. 

"Falooda" is probably one of the most popular dessert type drinks you can find in India. When I visited India, last year I got one and made sure it was topped with ice cream. An ice cold glass of sweet rose flavored milk served with ice cream, thin vermicelli noodles and basil seeds. But before I talk about my version, I have to give a shout out to a Persian dessert that is the origin of this delicious drink.

Persians have a dessert with a similar name called "Faloodeh" which is pretty spectacular, the ones I've generally eaten at Persian restaurants, is a rose and lemon flavored frozen dessert with thin vermicelli noodles and I like to top it off with some sour cherry sauce. But there are variations, on this theme that I know I have to taste soon. If you visit a Persian restaurant get it, you will love it. 

In this updated version of the Indian drink, I've skipped the dairy in favor of almond milk from Califia. Falooda is all about the layers so I stuck with the theme because that's what makes it rather exciting, besides all the lovely flavors. I kept the vermicelli and the rose, well sort of. Ideally you would use rose syrup but rose water is much gentler and you can control the sweetness, the syrup on the other hand can be super sweet in this drink. Basil seeds can be tricky to find but chia seeds are easily found at most stores and give a similar gelatinous texture after being soaked. I added a layer of strawberry purée to give a pop of color to the drink (usually the rose syrup does that job) , the purée is also sweetened with sugar which is why I avoided sweetening the almond milk but if you want you can sweeten the milk or use Califia's sweetened almond milk. The garnishes I suggest are all optional, some of you might like edible rose petals while others might not but the ice cream is always a nice touch (you know how much I love ice cream, I'm rather surprised that for once I didn't have any at home to add to this falooda).

rose and strawberry almond milk falooda | A Brown Table
rose and strawberry almond milk falooda | A Brown Table
rose and strawberry almond milk falooda | A Brown Table
rose and strawberry almond milk falooda | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this drink,

  • You'll notice I don't call for adding any extra sugar or sweetener to the almond milk. The strawberry purée is pretty sweet to begin with so I didn't find the need to add any more. However, if you want it sweeter, feel free to add more sugar. You can also use Califia's Almond Coconut milk blend or their pre-sweetened almond milk. They will all work very well in this drink.
  • Chia seeds absorb a lot of liquid, you might find the need to shake or stir things up in the jar when you soak them overnight. You might also need to add a little more milk to the seeds if you find them in a big chunky clump. 
  • The strawberry purée is rather thick but if you want you can thin it out a little if you prefer with water or simple syrup. Just remember that as it thins out the vermicelli will sink through and sit on top of the chia seed layer. 
  • This drink is pretty heavy and I find it best served after a really light lunch or dinner. 
  • Since this drink is all about layers when presenting, it's important not to mix them up when preparing the glasses. Carefully prepare the layers but be extra careful when pouring the almond milk over the vermicelli layer. Another trick that works well here, carefully pour the milk over a spoon so it doesn't disturb the layers.
rose and strawberry almond milk falooda | A Brown Table

rose and strawberry almond milk falooda

yields: 2 servings


4 cups unsweetened Califia almond milk, chilled

3 tablespoons chia seeds

1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, hulled

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 cups water 

1/4 cup vermicelli noodles (broken into 2 to 3 inch long fragments)

1 tablespoon rose water 

1 tablespoon dried rose petals (optional)

ice cubes/crushed ice for serving (optional)

vanilla or strawberry or rose ice cream for serving (optional)

1. Take 1/2 cup of the almond milk in a medium-sized clean glass jar, sprinkle the chia seeds over the milk. Close the surface of the jar with a tight lid or cling film and shake. Leave the chia seeds to expand and absorb liquid for a minimum of 4 to 6 hours but preferably overnight in a refrigerator.

2. To prepare the strawberry purée, place the strawberries in a medium-sized thick-bottomed saucepan on medium heat along with the sugar and half cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium-low then cover with a lid and cook the contents of the saucepan for another 5 minutes. Remove from stove, allow to cool and then purée in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Strain the purée through a fine mesh strainer and discard the seeds. Reserve the strawberry purée and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to chill before use. 

3. To prepare the vermicelli noodles. Bring the remaining two cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the vermicelli and cook until soft and tender (they do not need to be al dente but should be cooked completely). Remove from stove, drain the hot water carefully and add cold tap water to cool the noodles. 

4. To prepare the falooda, take 2 tall glasses. Layer each with half of the chia seeds. Then layer about 1/2 cup of strawberry purée (you can use less if desired) over the chia seeds carefully with a spoon. Drain the water from the cooked vermicelli and divide the mixture equally between the two jars over the strawberry pureé layer. To the remaining almond milk, add the rose water. (You can also sweeten the milk with a little sugar or sweetener of your choice. See Note in Tip section above). Pour the almond milk over the layered noodles in each glass carefully to avoid the layers from mixing. Garnish with rose petals or ice cubes/crushed ice and/or ice cream if desired (you can do all three if you want in any combination). Serve chilled with a long spoon. Before drinking, stir the contents of the glass.

Note: This post was sponsored by Califia farms and all thoughts expressed here are solely my own.