The Vedic Chef: Sweet, Sour, and Salty Spanish Tapas

Did you know that tastes can heal you? Ayurveda cooking traditions have long acknowledged the six tastes—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent—for their balancing properties. The goal is to incorporate all tastes into each meal, which can sometimes be challenging. One fun way to make sure you include all tastes is to mix and match snacks. You can incorporate sweet, sour, and salty tastes into your meal with the following three Spanish tapas (snack) recipes.

Sweet

On average, Americans consume 90 percent sweet foods, which include grains, certain dairy products (milk, cream, and butter), fruits, sweet vegetables, legumes, nuts, and sweeteners. Sweet is kapha in nature; it can nourish and build body tissue, and can heal Vata and Pitta conditions such as anxiety, dry skin, digestive issues, and inflammation.

Panir Kebabs with Mango Sauce

Kebabs originated in the Middle East—they were very popular in Turkey and Greece—back when soldiers used swords to skewer and grill food over a fire. This tasty kebab recipe includes panir, a fresh cheese made from curdled milk and lemon juice that can be baked, fried, or grilled without melting.

Ingredients for the Panir:

  • 2 quarts full cream or organic or raw milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Ingredients for the Mango Sauce:

  • 3 fresh mangos, peeled and mashed
  • 2 tablespoons finely-chopped leek
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove powder
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 2 tablespoons finely-chopped mint or cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-chopped green capsicum pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coconut sugar

Ingredients for the Kebabs:

  • 5 to 6 tablespoons sesame or sunflower oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped leek
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • 5 tablespoons partially ground fennel seeds
  • 1 pound fresh panir, cut into 1 inch cubes (or substitute with tofu cubes, seitan, or tempeh)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped leek
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/3 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/3 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons Chef Johnny’s Vata or Pitta Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • 2 cups eggplant, broccoli, and carrot chunks
  • Rosemary stalks or small wooden skewers

Directions for the Panir:

Pour the organic full cream or raw milk into a large saucepan and bring to a rolling boil.

Pour fresh lemon juice into the boiling milk and stir with a wooden spoon until lumps of white cheese float in the whey. Remove from heat immediately.

Pour the contents through a sieve or colander. Place a weight on the cheese (such as a honey jar on a saucer); allow to drain for 15 minutes.

Place the panir on a flat surface and cut into cubes or thin slices.

Directions for the Mango Sauce:

Place all ingredients (except mint) in a saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally until ingredients combine into a sauce.

Add the mint after about 20 minutes, stir, then pour into a serving bowl.

Directions for the Kebobs:

Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan. Add the ginger and leek and gently sauté for 5 minutes.

Add the fennel seeds, stirring often, then add the panir cubes.

Sauté on medium heat until the panir cubes are golden brown on all sides. Sprinkle with lemon juice, basil, Bragg Liquid Aminos, Chef Johnny’s Seasonings, salt, and black pepper.

Cut the vegetables into similar-size pieces, drizzle with oil, and bake in an oven-proof dish on 350 degrees F until tender.

Skewer a piece of panir and one or two vegetable chunks. Serve with mango sauce drizzled or in a separate dish for dipping.

Serves 8

Sour

The sour taste comes with fermented foods (i.e., vinegar and sour kraut), certain fruits (i.e., lemons and sour grapes), and ripened or aged foods (i.e., yogurt and cheese). It can help build tissue; increase mineral absorption; sharpen the senses; and stimulate digestion, circulation, and elimination. 

Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Roll with Tomato Marjoram Dipping Sauce

The Mediterranean flavors of eggplant, zucchini, tomato, and herbs in this tapas dish are quite irresistible, probably because these combinations have derived from centuries of cooking traditions in Italy, Spain, the Middle Eat, and South America, where eggplants are marinated with oils, herbs, garlic, and pepper. In this original recipe, you can use almond cheese if you’d like the dish to remain vegan, but goat cheese will also work well.

Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 4 tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cashew cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram (or 2 teaspoons dried marjoram)
  • 1/3 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the Roll:

  • 1 peeled eggplant, sliced lengthways with a peeler
  • 2 zucchinis, sliced lengthways with a peeler
  • 2 teaspoons Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • I clove garlic, minced very finely
  • 3 asparagus stalks, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 10 fresh, chopped basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 8 ounces almond cream cheese or goat cheese

Directions:

Thoroughly mix all sauce ingredients together in a blender and move to one side.

Sauté the eggplant and zucchini strips in a stainless steel or griddle pan.

Alternatively, fry strips by heating a pan, adding oil, spraying with Braggs Liquid Aminos, and frying until soft and golden brown on both sides. When done, place the strips on a plate with a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

In the same pan, gently sauté the garlic and finely-chopped asparagus for 5 minutes, then add the pine nuts, thyme and black pepper and salt to taste. Continue to cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes.

Mix the cheese and the asparagus mixture in a bowl. Add the chopped basil leaves and parsley.

Lay the eggplant strips on a flat surface. Place one zucchini strip on top of each eggplant strip.

Place 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture at one end of each strip. Starting at the end with the filling, roll up the strip and secure with a cocktail stick.

Serve on a plate with cooled dipping sauce. Sauce can also be heated on low for 5 minutes and served hot.

6 Servings

Salty

Of all the tastes, the salty taste most effectively balances the Vata dosha.  It can build and lubricate tissues and stimulate digestion.

Blanched Fried Spiced Almonds

This simple, satisfying tapa is not only hard to resist; its blanched almonds can help nourish your reproductive tissue.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups blanched almonds
  • 3 tablespoons almond or sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons Chef Johnny’s Vata seasoning
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice

Directions:

Blanch the almonds by adding them to a saucepan that contains 1 pint of boiling (filtered) water. Boil for 3 to 4 minutes, remove from the heat, sieve, and run under cold water. Remove the skins and allow to dry.

Heat the oil on low in a stainless steel skillet or saucepan, then add the almonds. After 3 to 4 minutes, add the Chef Johnny’s Vata seasoning and salt. Stir until the almonds turn light, golden brown.

Turn off the heat. Add the Bragg Liquid Aminos and lemon juice. Stir and move to one side to let the almonds dry. 

Serve with drinks.

Serves 8

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About the Author
Chef Johnny Brannigan
Chef Johnny Brannigan is an international Ayurvedic vegetarian and vegan chef with a deep knowledge base in Vedic wisdom and holistic medicine, and a lifelong love of food and cooking. Trained in Ayurveda and as a teacher of meditation by the Maharishi in Switzerland and Thailand, he has cooked and taught in over 33 countries, writing new recipes along the way. He co-founded The Organic Snack Company in 1998 in the U.K. and then travelled to the United States, where he cooked at The Raj, the top Ayurvedic spa in the country, and wrote The Global Vegetarian , his first cookbook. He’s also the chef/co-author of the seven-award-winning cookbook,...Read more