Cooling Pitta spinach and date salad

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With the pop up café madness behind me (for now! And which was a huge succes by the way! ) I am back with a salad recipe that has “Pitta balancing” written all over it. We are smack in the middle of summer, which can be a very challenging time for fiery types that are  easily overheated. Of course I adore all elemental types in Ayurveda. But I must admit I have a special weak spot for Pitta’s. I so love their energetic and optimistic nature, their can do attitude and sharp intelligence. If you need a problem solved you want to be within walking distance of a Pitta. Some people find Pitta’s really full on and a bit too much at times. But that is only when they have been consistently overdoing things and not taken enough time to unwind and center themselves on a regular basis. When in balance a real Pitta is like the sun. Radiant, warm and full of energy. Everyone’s wants to come and warm themselves by their blazing flames.  Truth be told though; you don’t want to get too close to the sun, do you? You just might get burned…

Pitta’s are the ones who are most likely to suffer from burn out. They love to work, are very career driven and ambitious and generally like to have their ego’s stroked. Which is all nice and dandy but when in overdrive it can turn them into extremely demanding, judgemental, jealous, impatient and angry people. Not so fun to be around, I tell you. So relaxing and taking time for family, friends and leisure is even more important for them than for Kapha’s or Vata’s. Being by or near bodies of water has a very calming effect on them. As do cooling forms of yoga like ying yoga.  Daily meditation is a must as well as investing quality time in loving relationships.

imageIn the food department the sweet, bitter and astringent tastes are the most balancing for Pitta. They should be especially weary of too much salt, spicy and /or oily foods. Deep fried foods are an absolute no go area for Pitta. They are most likely to suffer from food allergies since Pitta in our bodies resides in our blood, among other locations. So many may have mild to very severe allergies to nuts and shell fish.  Their innate high burning digestive fire make them best able to digest raw foods and so especially in summer salads are perfect . Being the big ego’s they can be, especially male Pitta’s will love to eat spicy foods and may enjoy engaging in competitions with their buddies of who can eat the hottest food. Not a good idea. Actually a really bad one. Especially when the whole deal is washed down with acidic and heating alcohol in sweltering heat. A surefire recipe for disastar!

Try this cooling and really delicious recipe instead. I wish I could say that I came up with this one, but alas I did not. It is again thanks to one of my great food heroes that I came across it.  It comes from Ottolenghi’s cookbook “Jerusalem” and I did make some adjustements for it to suit Pitta even better. In general Pitta’s don’t do well on raw onion. By marinating the slices, for even 10 to 15 minutes, in a bit of white wine vinegar you get rid of the pungent, acrid taste that the raw version can have. If you don’t want to use vinegar a bit of lemon or lime juice also works really well. Adding the dates to this marinade gives a hint of sweetness to the dressing, perfect for Pitta. The original recipe fries torn pieces of pita bread in butter to use as croutons for the salad. I used ghee instead of butter and less of it for Pitta. But coconut oil would also be a good option for Pitta. Plus a great vegan alternative. If you are a Pitta with a nut allergy substitute the almonds for sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

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This recipe uses one of my favorite Middle Eastern spices; sumac. There are many debates about what sumac actually is as some say it is the powder of a dried sour cherry while others contest that it is the name of a spice mix that, among other ingredients, contains before mentioned sour cherry powder. What I use is indeed the powder of a dried berry that is related to the mango and, in its whole shape, looks like a purple peppercorn. It is mildly sour in taste with a very fruity aroma. I love it and nowadays I can find it real easily at my turkish or Iranian grocer.

If you serve this salad on it’s own it would be a great idea to cook some puy or green lentils until just done and toss them through for a more satisfying meal. You might need some extra dressing in that case. Or do as I did and serve it as part of a mezze spread with sweet potato skordalia (I’ll explain some other time, just believe me when I say divine!), quinoa salad and red lentil köftes with pickeled beetroot slices. It doesn’t get anymore perfect than that!

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Pitta’s spinach, date and pita bread salad (Recipe from Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem)

serves 4  as a main meal or 6-8 as a mezze platter

  • 1 tablespoon white wine or apple vinegar
  • 1/2 medium red onion (thinly sliced)
  • 100 gram pitted and quartered Medjool dates
  • 20 grams ghee
  • 2 small wholegrain pita bread roughly torn
  • 75 grams blanched unsalted almonds roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • 1/4 teaspoon himalaya salt
  • 150 gram baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice (or more to taste)

Put the vinegar, onion and dates with a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Mix well and leave to marinate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile heat the ghee in a small frying pan and fry the pita bread and almond pieces in 4 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden brown and crispy. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac and 1/4 teaspoon of himalaya salt. Set aside to cool.

When ready to serve toss the spinach leaves with the pita and almond mix. Add the olive oil to the dates and red onion mixture and mix this through the salad as well. Now mix in the lemon juice to taste. Season with salt and pepper.

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