If you like Indian food, I can recommend a great restaurant in the Napa Valley. Neela’s is located in downtown Napa. I’ve eaten there twice with my colleague, Luci Sheehan. Neela Paniz, the chef-owner, serves fabulous contemporary Indian cuisine. She’s also an incredibly nice person.
Luci and I first came across Neela at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus, up the road from Napa in St. Helena. Neela was giving a cooking demonstration.
I’m glad we saw Neela because it spurred us to try her restaurant. The eatery deservedly has earned great reviews. Neela previously owned the highly regarded Bombay Café in Los Angeles. She sold that in 2007 with plans to retire. But after visiting the Napa Valley several times she fell in love with the area and opened Neela’s in 2009. Lucky for Napa.
And lucky for us Neela recently shared a recipe for one of the dishes on her menu: Jhinga Dalia Salad. It’s a composed plate of Tandoori shrimp, cracked wheat “couscous” salad, and fresh arugula with lemon vinaigrette. (The recipes for the shrimp and arugula salad are listed separately from the cracked wheat and can be combined to create the Jhinga Dalia Salad. The dish is garnished with mint chutney.)
The cracked wheat “couscous” is called dalia. It’s cooked like rice and then combined with a variety of sautéed vegetables, including green beans, peas, red bell pepper and corn. Neela says you can serve it as a breakfast or brunch side dish. “Dalia also works well as a healthy snack,” she adds.
The Tandoori shrimp are first marinated with a spicy paste made from garlic, ginger, cumin, garam masala and other spices, plus some extra virgin olive oil. They’re then grilled. The arugula salad, meanwhile, gets a dressing made from extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
To plate the salad, toss the arugula with a ¼ cup of dressing and place it on a serving plate to one side. Warm the dalia and fill a ramekin, stuffing it down so the dalia takes the shape of the ramekin. Unmold the dalia on the plate next to the salad. Place four grilled tandoori spiced shrimp on the plate, and add some mint chutney as a garnish.
It’s the next best thing to eating at Neela’s yourself.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch