Beet, feta and water amaranth salad

Sometimes, one ingredient can be such an inspiration for a whole recipe to be built around it. Feta cheese for us is one such ingredient. Neither S nor I can resist the intense saltiness and rich flavour of feta. That so much salt isn't good for our health is easily forgotten when we lay our hands on this one cheese. I for one will willingly compensate with a salt free meal, if I have to, but never miss an opportunity to bite into this salty bit of heaven.
A few weeks ago we went shopping in the recently opened Hypercity supermarket in Inorbit Mall at Hitech City. This supermarket in Malad, Bombay was our favourite weekend haunts to stock up of food stuffs and we were so glad to find an outlet here. This is one place where foodies and non-foodies can easily go overboard buying all kinds of stuff to last several months.
We go in with a list of some five items, needlessly take the HUGE shopping cart thinking that we make our toddler sit in while we browse around peacefully. In the end the best laid plans go to dirt. Atri is in my arms, the shopping cart is full of items we never imagined that we wanted and three of the five simple items on my list were not in stock that day :) Such is life!

So we managed to pick some Danish brand feta cheese on that visit and with beets sitting in the fridge, the idea for a simple salad was tossing around in my mind. Later that day, some local greens called Ponnaganti / ponnanganni / water amaranth made their appearance from cart vendor and happily joined the salad party. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm only too happy to try out the local greens in all kinds of dishes - along with vegetables, in dals and in salads. So what if I don't find the endives and rockets of the world, or the ones i do find are all wilted for want of a home, I'm happy to substitute them with locally available greens, saving on all the food miles and reducing my carbon footprint . Cooking 'glocal' is the way to go, isn't it?

Here's the recipe for this very simple salad.

Beet, feta and water amaranth salad
Serves 2

2 large or 3 medium beets
100 grams of feta cheese
1 cup washed, picked and towel dried water amaranth leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
Freshly cracked black pepper

Pressure cook whole beets. I generally cook it for 3 whistles and then leave it on sim for 7-10 minutes. Remove when cooled. Slide off the skins. They'll come off very easily. Dice into medium sized cubes and keep refrigerated until it's time to use them.
Crumble / dice feta into small cubes.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for dressing. I did not use salt in this as the salt in feta makes up for it. Add the beets, greens and feta. Toss with a gentle hand so as not to get the feta all mashed up. Serve chilled with soup or pasta.

More about ponnaganti koora from the ENVIS website
Useful resource - The ENVIS centre on medicinal plants has listed a huge variety of species with vernacular names and medicinal benefits making it easy for us to identify new plants.
I learnt a recipe for ponnaganti koora from my neighbour where it is cooked with split moong dal with a light tadka. This made a delicate tasting accompaniment to rotis.

A bunch of fresh water amaranth
Water amaranth also features on some other food blogs -

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