Indian Bento

indian bento

(See Note on Bento below)

Indian spices were the inspiration for this bento filled with Mini Meat Samosas with Spiced Yogurt Dip, Spicy Chickpeas with Tomatoes, lentils with rice and cucumber sticks. A dry lettuce leaf keeps the saucy chickpeas separate from the rice and samosas and a small lidded container keeps the dip in place.

Chickpeas, red-ripe tomato and spices combine to make a very flavorful side dish that won't overwhelm any entree. Kosher salt has a more subtle flavor that really works with these spices and helps to pull the juices from the tomatoes.

Spicy Chickpeas and Tomatoes:

Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

    2 cups cooked chickpeas
    1 large tomato - seeded and diced
    1 large green pepper - seeded and diced
    1 cup yellow onion - finely chopped
    2 Tablespoons olive oil
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper and cook until fragrant - about 3 minutes.
  2. Add chickpeas, tomato, spices and salt. Stir well and heat through. Serve.

Samosas are meat-filled turnovers popular in India. The usual filling is lamb, but ground beef is not only more readily available, but also more frugal. Served with a spiced yogurt dip, these are ideal for lunch or served as an appetizer.

Mini Meat Samosas and Spiced Yogurt Dip:

Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Ready In: 40 minutes
Yield: 30 turnovers

Ingredients

    1/2 pound lean ground beef
    1/2 medium yellow onion - chopped
    1 clove garlic - minced
    1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
    1 teaspoon Kosher salt
    2 Tablespoons lemon juice
    1/4 cup cilantro leaves - finely chopped
    1 Tablespoon fresh mint - finely chopped
    10 egg roll wrappers
    oil for frying

Directions

  1. Brown ground beef in a large skillet and drain well. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add oil to pan and cook onion until soft. Add ground beef back in to onion.
  3. Stir in garlic, ginger, spices, salt, lemon juice, cilantro and mint. Heat through.
  4. Cut egg roll wrappers into 3 even strips.
  5. Place one teaspoon of meat filling onto one end of strip and fold over to form a triangle. Continue folding over and over to make a triangle shaped turnover. Place a small dab of water on the end of the strip and press down to seal.
  6. Heat one inch of oil over medium to medium-low heat and fry turnovers in small batches until golden brown.
  7. Drain well on paper toweling before serving.

Spiced Yogurt Dip:

Combine 1 cup plain yogurt with 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 1 Tablespoon honey and salt to taste. Blend well and chill until serving time.

A Note on Bento: Bento is, very simply put, a Japanese lunchbox that's making waves across the U.S.. Traditionally made with rice, meat, poultry or fish and pickled or other cooked vegetables, bento can be as intricate or simple as you'd like. The bento I send always come back empty and the kids prefer them to the usual bagged lunch.
Bento boxes can be as simple or elaborate as the food they hold, from laquered boxes with built-in dividers to reuseable plastic containers available just about everywhere lately. It's important to keep moist foods separate from dry foods to decrease the risk of spoilage. Silicone muffin liners are ideal for keeping foods separate, but anything from dry lettuce leaves to waxed paper works as well.
While leftovers are perfect, any food that tastes as good chilled as it does hot will do. To keep foods cold until lunch time, small condiment packets like kethcup, mustard, mayo or relish, when frozen, are the perfect size ice-pack whether meant to be consumed or not.
Fill-ins help food keep its shape and stay put; some ideas for fill-ins are grape tomatoes, grapes, baby carrots, individually wrapped cheeses and dried fruit. Experiment with your own kids' favorites and have fun with it, your kids will have the most envied lunches at school.

See more recipes from Anne Coleman (aka Short Order Mom).

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