Friday, June 21, 2013

# 285 Eggplant in Tomato Gravy for a Food Hero

June 16th was special for Fathers around the world.  Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there.  It wouldn't be fair if I didn't mention my father in the month of June.  This post is in remembrance of my father!!

Fishing or farming were not part of my childhood at all, although my parents made sure they raised me on some of the freshest and healthiest fruits and vegetables.  Being a scientist, my father was particular about our daily quota of vegetables, fruits and nutritious home made food.  My parents were sticklers for making sure diary, fruits, fish, eggs, grains and vegetables were part of all our meals. Many decades ago no-one talked about the 'five a day' theory or health benefits of fruits but my mother kept up with his menu pattern until he passed away.

I've been oblivious to the pains and benefits of growing your own produce myself, although my father had his own vegetable garden in the back yard where he grew fresh okra, tapioca, bananas, eggplants, guavas, tomatoes and peanuts as a mere hobby.  Our family lived in a fascinating city in India with a healthy climate all year around, the capital of the powerful Maratha empire and a colonial British architecture. The quarters we lived in had a lot of land hedged in with green shrubbery. There was enough room to grow a flower garden, a beautiful lawn and a big back yard vegetable garden with trees.

I admired his passion at maintaining a flourishing veggie garden and the fact that he grew a few of his favorites himself. Being a renowned scientist he had a busy schedule from which he had to find  dedicated time for this hobby. But he spent his evenings outside making veggie beds, watering his plants and removing weeds. Had he been alive and well, my father would have been 86 years old today but he is still my "Food Hero"!!

If I were to follow in his footsteps, the Urban woman in me would get her hands dirty cultivating an expansive vegetable garden and growing all her produce. But, in reality I'm have not an accomplished gardener like him.  I could easily be enticed into growing tomatoes, herbs, green beans and green peppers, but with some extra time and effort I would love to grow eggplants, squash and even cauliflower someday.  

 Eggplant was one of my Dad' favorite vegetables so here's to Father's day--sorry Dad I've used the eggplants from the supermarket.  I've certainly inherited his passion for this purple vegetable because they are versatile and can be flavored with almost anything but tomatoes and eggplant are a match made in heaven!!

Whole baby eggplants- 10
Chili powder- 1 Tblspn
Turmeric- 1 Tblspn
Tomatoes- 2 large
Onions- 1 chopped fine
Coriander powder- 1/2 tspn
Green chilis- 2
Garlic cloves- 7
Salt to taste
Olive Oil as needed.
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tspn


Wash and dry the eggplants. Keeping the stems on the eggplants, slice into quarters from the broader end to the stem without  completely splitting them, but keeping them whole.
Mix together half of the turmeric and chili powder adding salt to taste and 1 tspn on Olive oil.
Take one eggplant at a time and apply the chili mixture to the inside of the quartered eggplant stuffing it with the spice without breaking them apart. Keep aside.

Next, slice the onions, garlic and green chilies into smaller pieces and keep aside.
Also chop tomatoes as small as possible and keep aside.

Place a large wok over a medium fire. Add 2 Tblspns of Olive oil. When it gets warm, add the eggplants and slowly brown them on all sides by turning after every minute or two. Drain and keep aside.
In the same wok, add another Tablespoon of olive oil, when it gets warm, add mustard seeds and let them crackle. Toss in the chopped onion, garlic, green chili mixture and saute for a few minutes until the onion turns golden brown. Add tomatoes and coriander powder and let it cook together until a soft mushy red mass is formed.

Add enough salt to taste, toss the eggplants and 1/2 cup water. Cook covered until the eggplants are cooked inside and absorbs the gravy.
Serve hot with steamed rice or rotis.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

#284 Spaghetti Squash in Broccoli Rabe Pesto

The word 'Fiber' used to bring pictures of unattractive Oat Bran muffins and Metamucil to my mind, until recently. Today, we're conscious of the nutrition value on a can of beans or oatmeal while shopping. We watch out for high fiber content in the foods we buy- making sure it is just enough to satisfy our body's fiber needs. What is fiber? It is an integral part of a plant that your body cannot digest and it could come from whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits or vegetables. That doesn't sound very appetizing now, does it? It may even sound horrific(undigestible plant food), but it's really quite good for you. The discovery that fiber can help in heart, diabetes and even gastrointestinal health has made it the most sought-after dietery ingredient among health 'nuts'.

While on my quest for fibre rich products, I came across a familiar yellow oval Spaghetti Squash and bright green Broccoli Rabe. What caught my eye was this vegetable that I hadn't brought home in years, the Spaghetti Squash. It is versatile, loaded with fiber and very satisfying. Although most of its calories come from natural sugars it also contains high nutrients and much lower carbs than pasta. I split the squash into halves and gently placed it in a Microwave in a bowl filled with water cooking each half for some 20 mins. Then remove the cooked flesh away from the skin and voila you can serve this with plain old salt and pepper. But this squash has the relative texture of pasta, is a fantastic substitute and even looks like spaghetti.
Broccoli Rabe is a bit bitter when serving it steamed, so a little pulse with nuts and cheese and you have a phenomenal pesto. While my date with this long lost friend went really well, here's how it became memorable............

Anne Burrell had a marvelous recipe for Broccoli Rabe Pesto that I 've been wanting to make for some time. It
had potential for change so here it is with my own twists and turns:
1 cup Broccoli rabe tough stems removed
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Lemon juice- 2 Tblspn
garlic cloves-4
salt and pepper to taste
Olive Oil

Cook the Broccoli Rabe in boiling water for about 1-2 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge in ice water to stop the cooking.
This will keep the color of the Rabe bright and attractive. Measure out 1 cup Broccoli rabe leaves to make the pesto and keep the rest aside to serve aside the Squash.
Drain the broccoli rabe and squeeze out any excess water; coarsely chop. Place the broccoli rabe in the bowl of a food processor and puree until it is a coarse paste. Add the nuts and parmigiano and puree until smooth.
Taste and adjust the seasoning; you probably will need more salt.
Add the yogurt and pulse until combined. Taste for seasoning once again-it should be full-flavored, slightly bitter and creamy at the same time. Set aside.

Cook the Squash in the microwave (when baked, I noticed a change in color) in a bowl of water for   10  mins.Cool and gently remove the strands of squash using a fork and into a shallow glass dish.
Add 1 tspn of freshly ground black pepper (white pepper if you have it in the pantry) a little melted butter or EVOO as needed and toss in the pesto allowing the strands to be completed covered. Serve with fresh bread or a salad.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

#283 Korean Style Eggplant Rollatinis over Cilantro Cream

When R and I feel a craving for  'Korean' food we go straight to the part of town bustling with Asian  restaurants. Bibimpap and Bulgogi are undoubtedly the Korean favorites in my family and someone orders at least one of them at every visit. I wouldn't try making Bibimpap at home without the hot stone pot it is traditionally made in, but I've tried the diverse set of pickled vegetables in Korean cuisine that creates a play of flavors. The array of seaweed salad, pickled anchovies, beans sprouts and of course Kimchi that are served before the food is brought out acts well to cleanse your palate.  Out of all these, most outstanding is the pickled cucumbers and radish in vinegar and chili-they are also simple relishes to whip up at home. Kimchi is available in plenty at the Asian grocery and so is Tofu.  I've been experimenting with Korean style foods and flavors so why not use simple veggies to create a flavor that reminds one of Korean food!!!

Would you say Tofu is processed? It is made from curdling soy milk into solids so it could fall in that category, yet it has been a prominent food in Asian cuisine for hundreds of years.  The nutritional value of this product is so high that it's highly recommended for vegans/vegetarians. When Tofu is pressed enough to drain out all the water it takes on any flavor, and makes it usable as a stuffing for vegetables useful for its high protein content.  Chili garlic paste has been used in the vinegar pickles as well as for falvoring the Tofu in this dish.

Homemade Pickled Diakon Radish and Cucumbers

Firm Tofu-  1 pack
Chili-garlic paste- 1 Tbslpns
Soy sauce- 1Tblpsn
Green onions- 2 stems chopped
Large Italian Eggplant-1 (or 2 medium sized eggplants)

Cilantro Cream:
Sour cream- 1 cup
Chopped Cilantro- 1/2 cup
Lime juice, salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients well to form cream.

                                                     My favorite chilis and chili pastes!
1. Remove Tofu from the pack and press for a few hours until all the water is removed.
You may wrap the tofu in paper towels, place over a bowl with a heavy can over the tofu
for a few hours. The water drains out slowly.
2. Crumble the tofu into a warm pan with olive oil to saute. Add chili-garlic paste
soy sauce and saute until the tofu has no water remaining. Add onions and mix well.keep aside.
3. Slice the Eggplant about 1/4 inch thick like cross sections that go lengthwise.
4. Place on a baking sheet and roast until slightly soft and browned. remove.
5. Take each eggplant section and place a Tablespoon of tofu in the middle.
6. Roll the eggplant from the narrow end and over the filling tightening gently as you roll.
7. Serve warm or cold with cilantro cream poured over th top.

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