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Smoked Eggplant Chutney 


Smoked eggplant is like a pen pal that you have so much in common with but you just can’t seem to trust. You seem to agree upon many things, but when push comes to shove, you don’t want to count on it.

Smoked eggplant is intense. It’s a strong flavour to eat. A lot of times, we try to smoothen it out, but I say- pack it up with everything you’ve got, and face it head on. You won’t be disappointed. 

I used half a medium sized eggplant for this chutney and ate it with a moong-Proso millet Kitchadi, and I was so happy. Here’s some happiness for you. 

Okay. Recipe for half an Italian eggplant (a medium-big one) 

Rub a drop of oil (I used sesame) on your eggplant, and roast it over a flame. I used a tiny grate that I use to make rotis, and alternatingly smoked the eggplant on high and low flame. Stop when you see the peel black, and a mushy eggplant hugging you from inside. 

 Next- grind coarsely/fine, depending on the texture you’re looking for: 3 tbsp peanuts, 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (if you bought it raw, toast on dry hot pan for a min until it begins to pop, toss and cool), 1tsp red chili flakes. Set aside. 

Then, take as much of the black peel off the smoked eggplant. Slowly mash it into your processor. To this, add 2 tbsp of grated coconut if you desire. 1 tbsp of thick coconut milk will be okay as well. 

Grind this(add water to liquefy if you please) mix with your previous mixture, salt, add the juice of one small-medium lemon. Taste. Now, we add the fun stuff.

In your pan, heat (on low heat)- 1 tsp sesame oil, and as it gets hot, add 1 tsp coconut oil. To this, add mustard seeds, red chilli flakes, and- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced. Your mustard seeds won’t pop in coconut oil. Instead, they will foam over and fry well. Quickly turn off the stove and let the flavors infuse into the oil.

Add the oil with seeds et al to the chutney, enjoy over pita, naan, breads, with rice, quinoa, carrots, small chicken bits, anything in life.


PS: As I lay on the couch thinking what else you could eat this with, I imagine a sandwich- whole wheat, a tbsp of chutney mixed with a tbsp of yogurt or mayonnaise, with roasted sweet potatoes and carrot, fresh spinach with a sweet, lemony dressing. 

Be a dear and try it? 

Roasted Beets: Spice Mix

I wanted to make a quick roasted sweet potato, and surprised myself by throwing a beet in there. My workout-buddy and I like to eat a boiled sweet potato for breakfast after a workout, before work, it is easy to make, tastes good cold, and is easy to carry. I promised her that I would fancy it up a bit, so I decided to make a fig and walnut yogurt (will post that soon!) and dry-roasted sweet potatoes.  

I love cinnamon in my breakfast, it is a great spice to wake up with. It lowers your glycemic index, it makes things delicious, as you can see, I take my cinnamon very seriously, and lovingly. Fennel, toasted, makes good nutty(pun intended), it adds a tiny, almost alcoholic kick to the most boring food, especially if it is freshly roasted and ground. 

What you need:

– Sweet potato: 2

– Beet: 1

– Coconut oil: 1 tsp 

For the spice mix:

– Cinnamon: 2 small sticks

– Fennel: 1 tsp

– Paprika: 1/2 tsp

– Salt to taste

– Black pepper (if you insist) 

What I did:

How do I eat food that isn’t seasoned with paprika, in the morning? This was the question I asked myself, as I dry toasted the broken cinnamon sticks and fennel seeds in a pan. I ground them, added the paprika, and salt, and suddenly, I had the kitchen smelling like the crack of dawn after a good night’s sleep. 

  

 Again, I don’t have an oven, I boiled my sweet potatoes and beet, I peeled them, I cut them into chunks, I heated the coconut oil in the pan, I roasted the vegetables, I tossed them with the spice mix, I saved them in a box to take to the pool tomorrow. It was easy, and exciting enough. 

  

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Baingan Bartha: Smoked Eggplant Curry

I have recently begun to cook for myself again, and I find myself reaching for vegetables I love, suddenly, I remember foods that have played in the undercurrents of my mind, and also, I found a fat, gorgeous eggplant.

What you need:

-Eggplant (Italian-type, large): 1

– Green chilies: 2

– Onion: 1

– Tomatoes: 2

– Garlic: 4-5 cloves

– Green peas (fresh/thawed): 1/2 cup

– Cilantro: to garnish

For the spice mix:

– Dhaniya (coriander) powder: 1 tsp

– Turmeric powder: 1/4tsp

– Garam Masala: 1/4 tsp

For the tadka:

– Cumin seeds: 1/2tsp

– Fennel seeds: 1/2 tsp

– Oil

What I did:

Barta is usually made with a smoked eggplant. You could roast your eggplant in the oven. Just rub a couple drops of oil on it,place it in a pan, and roast for about 15-20 minutes at 250 F, until you can see the peel come off.

In Chennai, in my oven-free apartment, I did this:

I used a pair of tongs, a kitchen towel, turned the stove off and back on, but made sure that I got all the parts of the eggplant, and none of my hand, on the fire.

Here’s what happened:

Roasted Eggplant

 

The purple peels right off, leaving you with a soft, delicious mush, your heart on a plate.

I quickly grated the onion and garlic.

Then, I heated some oil in a pan, added the cumin and fennel seeds, (I think that eggplant and fennel have the most curious, wondrous marriage) the onion, garlic, chopped chilies, chopped tomatoes, and let it cook, with a lid on. Meanwhile, I scored the eggplant with a butter knife, and broke it down with the grain of the vegetable. I added this to the pan.

Once, a friend and I had driven to a ‘tea festival’ on the outskirts of Atlanta, only to leave disappointed, hungry and exhausted. We stopped at a Nepali restaurant, and tried to order food off the menu, but as it turned out, it was so late that they had no vegetarian food left. That was when the kindly old chef walked to me and said that he would whip me up a baingan barta, and it was the sweetest, kindest lunch I had eaten. Since then, I decided to always include peas in my baingan barta, like he had in his, that day. It is a great sweet offset to the smokiness, and breaks the mushiness in the texture.

I blanched my peas and added them to the mixture, and let it simmer.

I covered it for a bit, and voila! Ready to be eaten and shared.

Spicy Sprout and Pear Salad

I’ve moved back to Chennai, India, where the average temperature is 98F everyday. Some days are good, with 95, but most days we are at 100F.

Now you’re updated on the weather around me, and it’s time to talk about food. Sprouted lentils are nutritional in all ways, and they’re easy to make or buy in Chennai. I was inspired by a lentil and pear sabzi that I saw on a friend’s Instagram to try to make a sprouted lentil version.

What I used:
Sprouted lentils (assorted) : 2 cups
Pears: 2, small-medium sized. Make sure they are super ripe!
Cilantro leaves: A handful, chopped
Cayenne: 2 tsp
Lemon juice: 1 tsp, adjust to taste
Raw mango: I used about tsp, grated
Raw tomato: optional. I don’t like raw tomatoes but I’d say they would taste great!

What I did:
I soaked my store bought sprouts in salted warm water for about ten minutes to rid them of unwanted junk. Then I drained them and microwaved them for 4 minutes. To this, I added the salt, cayenne, chopped pear and grated raw mango(and/or tomatoes), and tossed it and microwaved it for one more minute.

Then I garnished it with cilantro leaves and: voila! Happy salad times began.

Enjoy cold or warm. If you like more fruit, feel free to throw in some pineapple or orange bits!

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red quinoa, rainbow carrots, jicama,

Red Quinoa Winter Casserole

I found beautiful rainbow carrots and jicama at the farmer’s market in Palo Alto, and inspired by how delicious they tasted oven-roasted last night, threw together this red quinoa casserole for lunch today.

What I used:

Quinoa: 1 cup, uncooked

Vegetable broth: 1 cup

Rainbow carrots: 2, big

Jicama: 10-12 strips, about 3/4 of a regular sized vegetable

Garlic: 4-5 cloves, cut in halves/ chopped roughly

Cayenne: 1 tsp

Black pepper: 1 tsp

Salt: To taste

Olive oil: 2 tbsp

Parmesan & Pecans: Optional, grated over.

What I did:

In a saucepan, I heated one cup of water, and added one cup of broth when it was warm. To this, I added one cup of red quinoa. While this was cooking, I cleaned and peeled my carrots and jicama, dicing them into chunky bits. I like chunky roasted garlic in my food, so I sliced the cloves into 2-3 big bits each.

In a bowl, I mixed together a tablespoon of EVOO, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of cayenne, and 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper. I microwaved this for 30 seconds to make the oil easier to move, and then tossed the vegetables in this mixture and let it sit until the quinoa was done.

I greased a pan with the rest of the EVOO and preheated the oven to 425 F. I added a layer of quinoa to the bottom, and poured in any leftover broth/water from the saucepan. A pinch of salt and black pepper over this make it come together with the rest. A layer of vegetables, and quinoa alternatively and finally some crushed pecans on top with sliced parmesan make it all better!

Baked this at 400 F for about 20 minutes, and voila!

Topped it off with some chopped chives for color.

ImageEnjoy happy quinoa times, but not without:

Masala Kale Rice

Masala Kale Rice

Here’s a quick and easy masala-kale-rice recipe I tried out and absolutely loved.

What I used:

Rice: 1 cup, cooked

Kale: 3 cups, chopped

Green peas/sweet corn/minced carrots: 1/2 cup, optional

Onion: 1/2 jumbo yellow, sliced

Garlic: 4-5 cloves, sliced

Ginger: about 1.5″, minced

Green chillies/Serrano pepper: 2-3

Red chilli/ cayenne powder: 1 tsp

Roma tomato: 1

Fennel seeds: 1 tsp

What I did:

In a pan, I heated a tablespoon of lightly flavored oil, and fried fennel seeds in them. To this, I added the onions, garlic, ginger and green chillies. I proceeded to sweat these together and added the chopped tomato once the mixture turned slightly golden. Then, I added the chopped kale, salted it to taste, and a tiny pinch of sugar; then I allowed it to cook to a mellow, masala-y state. To this, I added cayenne and green peas, sautéed it for a minute, and let it rest with the lid on, off the heat.

Cooking rice well is my huge achilles heel, I absolutely bomb every time I don’t use a rice cooker. Moving in with my best friend, I could hide behind her rice making skills. But tear stricken pot blackened meals later, we went ahead and bought a rice cooker. It made beautiful fluffy rice, that I added to the mix and tossed it around until I had a beautiful long grained crazy kale fiesta. I garnished it with cilantro, and was joined by aforementioned roommate/bff to demolish our iron and Vitamin A filled carb fest.

To make better food, substitute rice with quinoa and add 2 tbsp of chia seeds to your Masala Kale Quinoa. But until then, go forth and be fabulous with:

Indian Kale recipe masala greens

Masala Kale Rice

Happy Holidays! Here’s this now:

Caramel Bread Pudding for the twenty something soul

Do you have a sweet tooth? Do you like sweet fixes? It doesn’t matter. Here’s this now.

Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Caramel sauce bread pudding

Caramel Bread Pudding

For the pudding:
7 slices of bread (these were small slices, like store brand whole wheat)
Sultanas/Raisins/Walnuts/Pecans
Sugar- 1/2- 3/4 cup (total)
Star anise- 2 (use Nutmeg if you’d like)
Eggs- 2
Milk- 3/4 cup (I used 2%)
Butter- about 1/4 stick.
 

For the sauce: 

2 tbsp cooking oil (preferably canola)

4 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup whole milk/ 2 tbsp heavy cream (I used 2% milk)
a pinch of salt
 
 
 
 
 
Make the pudding:
Take about 1 tbsp of sugar and spread it evenly on a plate. Very lightly grease a heated pan. Press each slice of bread into the sugar on both sides and toast on pan (this is a ‘sugar’ toast, which you’re probably familiar with.) I like to get them dark brown, so the bread has a nice semi-charred flavor. Toast all slices and cut them up.
If you are using pecans/walnuts, I’d add 1/4 tsp of salt to the leftover sugar , roll the nuts in it, and toast them in the pan as well. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 F and melt the butter in a baking dish. Once it has melted, throw the  bread+nut/dry fruit mixture and coat in the butter.
In a bowl, beat the eggs. Add the rest of the sugar and beat until you get a nice sugary-eggy yellow colored mix. Fold the milk and the spices in. Beat some more. The more you beat, the more fluffy your pudding will be.
Pour this over the bread-nut mix and toss to coat evenly. Let it bake for about 45- 50 minutes.
 
 
 
Make the sauce:
Heat the oil in a pan, add the sugar and stir until it melts. You want the sauce to brown but not become a bitter brittle. I like the caramel to be a tad bit bitter just to complement the sweetness of the pudding. Stirring continuously is the trick. Stir until it reaches a gooey consistency and is a nice brown, but not too deep. If you can pull it up from the pan like a sticky, fluidly string, you’ve reached a good point to take it off the stove. I like to take it off the pan so there is no additional residual heat. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cream/milk. Do this slowly so the dairy does not break. Add the salt and stir continuously.
 
I like to pour the caramel sauce in and let it cook with the pudding for about 10 minutes before it rests and cools. You can add it in after you take the pudding out as well.
 
The pudding is done when you a knife comes out clean (or coated in only the caramel!)
 
Cut yourself a piece and enjoy!