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Cooking With "Next Food Network Star" Champ Aarti Sequeira

Updated 7:30 PM EST, Tue, Aug 17, 2010

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Former CNN producer turned reality TV sensation Aarti Sequeira has been crowned Food Network's new star for her Indian twist on American classics. Aarti joins Sara to whip up her "Ugly Duckling salad" and salty, sweet limeade.

The Ugly Duckling Salad
Serves 4

Dressing:
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts, plus more for garnish
1 to 2 cloves, garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (use two if you really like garlic!)
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp hot sauce, (Aarti recommends Sriracha), optional
About 1/2 cup hot water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
A splash of extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1 bag baby spinach
1 Fuji apple, cored and sliced
1 celeriac bulb, peeled and grated*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

*Aarti's Note: Peel and grate the celeriac right before serving so it doesn't oxidize and turn brown.

For the dressing, warm a small skillet over medium heat. Add pistachios, shaking the skillet frequently so that the nuts don't burn. Toast until the pistachios turn slightly brown and are fragrant. Quickly remove the pan from the heat and transfer the nuts to a bowl; otherwise they might scorch.

Add the pistachios to a blender along with the garlic, half of the lemon juice, the hot sauce, if using, hot water, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and the canola oil. Blend until smooth. If it doesn't form a paste, add more water and more oil and blend until smooth. The consistency should be like a thin hummus; don't worry if you feel like you're adding a lot of oil. Taste and add a little extra-virgin olive oil and more lemon juice if you want more zing, which Aarti recommends. Set aside once you're happy with it.

Wash the spinach and dry thoroughly, so the leaves can be coated with the dressing.

Toss the spinach, apple, and celeriac in a large serving bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour half of the dressing over the salad and toss again. If you prefer more dressing, add it all, which Aarti recommends. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then garnish with pistachios and serve.

Salty Sweet Limeade
Serves 4 to 6

6 cups cold water
8 limes, juiced*, plus lime wedges for garnish
1 1/2 cups passion fruit juice, optional
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt


*Aarti’s Note: Put the limes in the microwave for 30 seconds to really get the juices flowing, but be careful, because when you cut into them, they'll fizz at you!

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large pitcher and serve. It's a real thirst quencher!

First Published: Aug 17, 2010 2:54 PM EST

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