Flavors from Around the World: Chaat Masala


Posted by Elizabeth Lindemer on 5/29/18

Chaat6

 

For anyone who has been paying attention to food trends over the past several years, there’s no doubt that you’ve noticed the mention of and, dare I say, the growing attention that Indian cuisine has been receiving year after year. And why not? It’s brimming with life, it’s fun and colorful, and it definitely delivers on big flavors.

As a chef, I am constantly looking for something new and exciting, whether it’s preparing a meal for my family, researching concepts for one of my customers or making lunch in the presentation kitchen for some special guest. It was just one of these occasion, several years ago, that I ran across a recipe for Chaat Masala salad that consisted of chickpeas, corn, tomatoes and cucumbers with an appropriately named seasoning....Chaat Masala. The word “chaat” means lick in Hindi and “masala” is the general term used for any spice blend.

Chaat1Chaat masala is a dry spice mix that is complex and transcendent to say the least. Similar to many spice blends around the world, there are as many varieties as houses that make it...with each family and street vendor having their own unique blend. Most often it contains chili peppers for a pleasant touch of heat together with cumin, coriander and ginger and alongside kala namak, a distinctive black salt that gives it a really exceptional salty note, and amchoor powder which is a dried unripe mango powder that lends a great sour flavor. It can often be found with asafoetida, a fine yellow powder that comes from the sap of a species of giant fennel known as ferula. Asafoetida gives the blend a “funky” aroma...but don’t let that cause you to shy away as you’d be missing out on an amazing culinary experience. In addition to the aroma (which by the way, does fade if heated) it also lends a savory oniony-garlic note with mild bitterness. As you can see this spice blend hits all of the senses...creating an alluring and addictive seasoning that will have you licking your fingers after you’ve devoured every last bite of ______. (I’ll let you have fun filling in the blank with all of the magnificent foods you’ll be trying it on!)

If you happen to be in a market that sells one of the retail blends you may even encounter a separate variety specially designed for fruit. This variety tends to focus less on the cumin, coriander and ginger and a bit more attention is given to the chili pepper, black salt, amchoor and asafoetida. Whether you purchase it or make it yourself, you’ll want to keep it at the ready. I’m lucky enough to work for Fuchs North America where we make remarkable customized spice and seasoning blends every day, so whipping up a batch of my own is quite simple. Let me know if you need some to play around with!

Traditionally it’s used as a finishing touch to... well, just about anything, in addition to the namesake chickpea salad or over fresh cut fruit. I often find myself incorporating my seasonings on a variety of items that may not necessarily be their usual format. I’ve found some rather exciting combination doing just this and my jar of Chaat Masala is no stranger to this experimental side. You too will come to find that it goes quite well with dairy...it makes a great snack when sprinkled over a piece of toast with some butter or dashed onto a bagel with cream cheese. And Hello Potatoes!... It’s a wonderful compliment to some toasty roasted baby reds and it can do wonders to a basket of crispy sweet potato fries! I have yet to encounter a fruit or vegetable that I don’t find elevated with a sprinkle of Chaat Masala. When writing about food I find it helpful to first invest in a little kitchen time, so to get myself in the mood for the occasion of writing this blog I decided to whip up a fresh fruit salad with my go-to chaat masala! What will you energize with your chaat masala?


  • Elizabeth Lindemer
  • Chef Elizabeth Lindemer, CEC

Kashmiri Spiced Carrot Cupcakes


Posted by Rebekah Wicke on 7/27/17

Watch as Chef Elizabeth uses our Kashmiri Spiced Carrot Cake Mix from the new South Asian Collection to make cupcakes!

Lemon & Herb Chicken Skewers


Posted by Rebekah Wicke on 7/27/17

Watch as Chef Elizabeth uses the Lemon & Herb Dressing seasoning from our Summer Sensations Collection to spice up chicken skewers!

Maghreb Style Boharat Chicken Wings


Posted by Rebekah Wicke on 6/13/17

Watch as Chef Elizabeth uses the Maghreb Style Boharat seasoning from our African Exploration Collection to spice up wings, veggies, and more!

A Foodie's Paradise: Culinary Exploration of Puerto Rico


Posted by Elizabeth Lindemer on 3/28/17

Puerto Rico 7

We arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Saturday evening around 7:30pm. It was warm and somewhat humid, but for someone who is always cold, it was quite comfortable. We caught a taxi and checked into our room with the typical excitement of chefs being in an almost foreign country and having empty stomachs from a 4 Puerto Rico 3hour plane ride. So, naturally, we decided to explore and find some good food. Our first bearings brought us to the beach, which was only 2 blocks from where we were staying! It was dark so we couldn’t see much, but as we looked down the sandy strip in each direction you could see the lighted patios of beach side resorts and restaurants.

A woman walking her fluffy dogs on the soft cream colored sand recommended that we head over to one of her favorite places La Playita. The restaurant was just a short walk away, and as we arrived we were greeted with a warm smile and seated on the patio which reached out over the ocean. Waves lapped at the boards under our feet gently, and we waited patiently to place our order...and waited...and waited. Finally we moved back over to the bar, since this is where the staff seemed to be congregated in hopes of better service. (Island life is a bit more laid back, which is just what was needed, but we were starving) One of the young men immediately noticed that we had moved to the bar and jumped into action making us drinks and placing our order. Although we didn’t have the sound of the water, we had the joy of conversation with the young men working there who were happy to share their stories and recommend more places to see and restaurants to visit during our stay. That night we dined on Tuna Tartar and Whole Fried Red Snapper, both of which had that sweet and clean taste that only comes with very freshly caught fish. The snapper had been placed in a marinade of sofrito (Puerto Rican sofrito version is heavy laden with green peppers, onions, garlic and varying amounts of spicy peppers) this morning and then fried to a crispy perfection before being topped with a mixture of garlic and butter sauce. Our server explained that the chefs went shopping every morning so that they worked with the freshest ingredients possible. Oh, the perks of being in Puerto Rico!

After spending much of the next day enjoying the sun and surf of the local beach, we decided we were ready to find a more authentic experience and would check out the area that was recommend by our server from the night before. One such place, we were told was a favorite of the locals....just what we were looking for!Puerto Rico 1

We traveled about four miles west down 187 to Piñones and as we arrived we could see the place was packed, bumper to bumper cars and crowds of people. The area of Piñones is just over a little, heavily trafficked, two lane bridge and bumps up to the shore. It’s a small space that is basically a loop with limited parking and packed mostly with restaurants that feature open aired seating and cases of hot food stacked high with an assortment of fried and grilled goodies. It was clear that this wasn’t a tourist trap since among the crowds milling between the cars, restaurants and beach we appeared to be the only tourist here.

It didn’t take long to see that one of the restaurants, Puerta Del Mar, was the crowd favorite. Lines of people waited to order from the walk-up counters, tables inside all Puerto Rico 6packed with happy families and friends, and a delicious plume of smoke wafting from the outdoor grill that was being manned by two jovial men.
Since neither my husband nor I speak Spanish (five years of French aren’t coming in too handy....), we played a bit of charades with Fidel, our waiter, to place an order. It took a bit of patience on both ends, but we ended up with everything we wanted. We started with chicken and pork pinchos; it was these lovely snacks that had lured us from across the parking area with their grilled BBQ goodness! The scrumptious skewers of meat are basted over the grill with alternating rounds of a sweet BBQ sauce and generous amounts of melted butter until they are perfectly cooked. This was followed by the traditional tostones (mashed and fried plantains), fried pork mofungo served with slightly sweet and vinegary slices of pickled onions and peppers, and then finished off with a sweet and delicately briny array of raw oysters and clams on the half-shell that were so big they were falling out of their shells!

Although we were clearly not the typical customer here and spoke basically no Spanish, we found everyone to be so pleasant and helpful. Something we would continue to see throughout our stay in Puerto Rico. We even managed to share a few laughs, mostly at our expense as we attempted/butchered the language while trying to pick up a thing or two.

Read more about Chef Elizabeth Lindemer here

 


  • Elizabeth Lindemer
  • Elizabeth Lindemer
    Corporate Executive Chef