Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Indian-Inspired Ahi Nicoise Salad with Curry Aioli Dressing for Food 'n Flix February: Today's Special

In Today's Special, a sweet, food-filled independent comedy, one of the characters, Akbar (a taxi-driving gourmet chef) makes a comment about how it is too bad that the French didn't colonize more of India instead of the British, because the merging of those two cuisines would be much better. That was my inspiration for this Indian-Inspired Ahi Nicoise Salad--a marriage of a classic French dish with some Indian elements for February's Food 'n Flix.   

After viewing Today's Special on Netflix I knew I needed to "host" it for one of my very favorite blogging events Food 'n Flix--combining foodie films with dishes inspired by them. The story of Samir (Aasif Mandvi) a sous chef in a tony Manhattan restaurant. Skipped over for promotion to chef and told his cooking is "cold and paint by numbers" with no "passion or imagination," by his boss, Samir quits with the intention of going to France to study French cooking. When his father gets sick, Samir has to stay and run the family's run-down restaurant, Tandori Palace. Samir is out of his element and when the cook quits, it is Akbar, a mysterious cab driver and chef who becomes his mentor and Samir begins to find his passion. 

The film is packed full of wonderful food--Indian, French and  some fusion--plenty of inspiration to choose from. At first I was going to make a Madhur Jaffrey dish as she plays Samir's mother in the film, but a craving for a really good salad and a desire to change up a favorite French classic had me pulling together a recipe of my own.

Some of the common elements of a Nicoise are present--the tuna, hard boiled egg, tomatoes and Nicoise olives. Potatoes are essential in a Nicoise and I made mine delectable cumin-roasted baby potatoes (quartered and tossed in olive oil, ground cumin, salt and black pepper and roasted at 425 degrees F. for 25 minutes). In place of the usual green beans, I used chickpeas--spiced with lemon and garam masala. The bed of spring greens was tossed with fresh mint and instead of a more traditional French aioli, I made a creamy Curry Aioli Dressing and topped it all with some crispy fried onions. Served with triangles of grilled nan it was a delicious blend of two wonderful cuisines and seemed to capture the movie's flavor.

Indian-Inspired Ahi Nicoise Salad with Curry Aioli Dressing
-An Original Recipe by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen

Salad Components:
-mixed spring greens
-fresh mint
-cumin-roasted baby potatoes
-hard boiled egg
-grape tomatoes
-spiced chickpeas (aka: One-Minute Channa
-Nicoise olives
-seared ahi tuna steak, sliced
-Curry Aioli Dressing (recipe below)
-crispy fried onion pieces

Layer a bed of mixed spring greens and fresh mint on plate. Compose servings asparagus, roasted baby potatoes, quartered hard boiled egg, baby tomatoes, spiced chickpeas, and Nicoise olives around perimeter of plate. In center, place the sliced grilled tuna. Top tuna with Curry Aioli Dressing and fried onions. 

Serve with grilled nan bread and Enjoy!

(OK, so what's up with the GINORMOUS mint sprig taking over the salad?!?! I swear that it didn't look that big in the camera view finder. This is what happens when someone (yep, that would be me) is randomly snapping pictures in a big hurry so they can finish before the Oscar's red carpet coverage begins and doesn't stop and look closely!) ;-)

Curry Aioli Dressing
-An Original Recipe by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 1 cup)

1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp of your favorite curry powder blend (or to taste)
salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and additional curry powder or lemon, if desired. Place in fridge one hour before using so flavors combine.  

Notes/Results: One fantastic, full of flavor salad! You might think that there is a lot going on in this salad and there is, but it all works together so well. Only three components have Indian flavors--the potatoes with their cumin, the chickpeas with garam masala and the Curry Aioli Dressing and they all complement each other. The dressing was excellent on each part of the salad--especially the tuna, potatoes and asparagus. I loved the crunch of the fried onions and the little bursts of cool when a mint leaf was speared.This salad does have a lot of separate pieces to it but using a few shortcuts--packaged fried onions, store bought mayo in the aioli and canned chickpeas, make it easier. One of the best salads I have made or eaten lately, I will make this again. 

I am sliding in under the wire as usual (bad host!) and the deadline is today, Tuesday 2/26. But, if you missed this round and you would like to join in the Food 'n Flix fun, you can also join us for March's pick, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, hosted by Tina at Life at Squirrel Head Manor. Check out Foof 'N Flix here. I'll be rounding up the Today's Special-inspired dishes here on 2/28--so be sure to stop back by and check it out.


  1. An Indian french fusion..you don't see that very often! But it looks delicious!

  2. That's awesome...I should have just cooked something myself instead of going out. Live and learn :-) Your dish looks absolutely delicious and I would try your cooking anytime!

  3. It's been too long since I had a nicoise salad, and this Indian-inspired one sounds wonderful; I must try the one minute channa and the curry aioli dressing. Sounds like a healthy dish to enjoy with the movie.

  4. This is so much fun, Deb! I love the curry aioli and spiced chickpeas - and the French and Indian fusion is perfect. I'd eat this in an instant... ginormous mint sprig and all ;P

    thanks so much for hosting this month and for picking such a great foodie flick!

  5. I love what you did with this dish. And the mint leaf doesn't look THAT big!

  6. Sorry I missed this round! I love that you spiced up the potatoes and used the chickpeas. This looks delicious. I still vow to watch this film even though I missed this posting.


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