When I read food writer Monica Bhide’s (@mbhide) tweet calling for participants for a virtual potluck, I was curious. I had never heard of Monica or her work before but I wanted to find out what this virtual potluck entailed. She was calling on bloggers to each cook a dish from her latest cookbook release, Modern Spice, and ‘bring’ it to her virtual potluck today.
I was assigned an appetizer: savory mini-cheesecakes with red pepper and green tomatillo chutney. At first, I was a little worried about some of the ingredients needed for the chutney, particularly the fenugreek and asafetida, which I had never used or seen before. The only Indian store I knew is in North Miami Beach and I wouldn’t have time to go there during the week. I set out to participate anyway. I found a lot of the ingredients I needed at Whole Foods but not the fenugreek, asafetida, curry leaves or black mustard seeds. These I found at Spice N Curry (123 SW 107th Ave.) an Indian store/cafe in Sweetwater.
Despite the long list of ingredients, I was surprised at how easy this dish is to make. The sweet-and-tart chutney is a great complement to the savory cheesecakes. ‘It’s like a savory dessert,’ was the reaction one of my friends who tasted them.
So here you have my virtual potluck dish. Keep reading for the recipe.
Savory Mini Cheesecakes
Makes 30 pieces
Prep/Cook time: 25 minutes
Non-stick cooking spray
30 mini phyllo shells
One (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 medium egg
5 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons Red Pepper and Green Tomatillo Chutney
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange the shells on the sheet.
2. Whisk together the cheese, egg, and sour cream until well combined.
3. Place 2 teaspoons of the mixture into each shell. Bake for 15 minutes or until the filling is firm and set.
4. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
5. Top each cheesecake with about ¼ teaspoon of the chutney and serve.
Red Pepper and Green Tomatillo Chutney
Makes 1 generous cup
Prep/Cook time: 40 minutes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 or 6 fresh curry leaves
Pinch of asafetida
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon onion seeds
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
4 whole dried red chilies
2 cups diced green tomatillos (10 to 12 medium tomatillos)
1 cup seeded and diced red bell pepper (1 medium pepper)
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
¼ cup sugar
½ cup water
¼ cup white vinegar or fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon table salt
1. In a medium skillet, heat the vegetable oil. When the oil begins to simmer, add the curry leaves, asafetida, and the cumin, fenugreek, and fennel, onion, and mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds begin to sizzle, about 1 minute, add the chilies, tomatillos, bell pepper, ginger and sugar. Mix well.
2. Add the water and vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue on a gentle simmer for about 35 minutes, until the tomatillos and bell pepper are soft and the liquid is syrupy.
3. Add the salt. Mix well.
4. Remove from the heat. Remove the whole chilies, if you like. Transfer to a container and cool.
5. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Note: Be careful when using fenugreek seeds. They add bitterness to a dish, so a little goes a long way. Also, they are not substitutes for fresh fenugreek or dried fenugreek leaves; the flavors and textures are miles apart.
*Photo by Rachael Lee Coleman