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Roasted Eggplant and Bell pepper with Kale

Indian restaurants serving North Indian cuisine typically have a dish called Baingan Bharta. This dish is made with roasted eggplant stewed with onions and tomatoes spiced with garam masala, the quintessential spice mix for North Indian dishes.   A parallel can be drawn to babaghanoush, its middle eastern cousin, which is also made of roasted eggplant – but the similarities end there.  While I don’t know the genesis of baingan bharta, my hypothesis is that the dish came to India with the Mughals and took its own spicy form in India.  My version is simple in its flavors and does not use many spices, relying on the flavors of the vegetables and aromatics to shine through. 

What You Need

  1. 1 large eggplant
  2. 1 red bell pepper
  3. 3 medium sized tomatillos
  4. 1 bunch kale 
  5. 3 cloves of garlic
  6. 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
  7. 2 thai green Chillies
  8. 4 green onions
  9. 2 Tblsp of oil 
  10. 1/2 Tblsp olive oil
  11. 1/2 tsp turmeric
  12. Salt and pepper to taste

How It’s Done

  1. Finish the mis en place.  Mince the chillies, ginger and garlic.  Chop the green onions, de-stem the kale and chop fine.
  2. Massage the kale with olive oil and salt and set aside while you work on roasting the vegetables. This reduces the bitterness and also helps kale cook faster.
  3. Roast the eggplant, bell pepper and tomatillos on the gas flame, periodically turning them so they are evenly charred and roasted.  You can also roast them in the oven, although I find the gas stove top method more efficient.  Roasting concentrates and enhances the flavors of the vegetables.  Below are images of the roasting eggplant and bell pepper.
  4. Wrap the roasted vegetables in separate aluminum foils and let sit for a few minutes.  The steam will help remove the charred skins.
  5. While the roasted vegetables are resting, heat oil in a pan and when hot, add the green onions and sauté for a minute, then add the ginger, garlic and chillies and let cook for another minute. Add turmeric and sauté.
  6. Now, decking the tomatillos and chop, and add to the pan. Let the tomatillos sweat and release their juices. 
  7. Skin the eggplant – it looks like the image at the bottom. This roasted eggplant can now be easily cut- just run a knife through vertically and horizontally. Remove the seeds from the bell pepper and chop similarly, into small pieces.
  8. Add both to the stewing tomatillos, also adding the kale to the pan. Mix well.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until the kale is cooked, about 7-10 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature with naan or chapati or rice.     

Sweet Potato and White Bean Cutlets

What do you make when you have cooked sweet potato, white beans and left over rice you want to finish?  Cutlets! I haven’t made cutlets or tikis as they are called in Hindi for more than a decade, as I feel guilty about the roil it takes, but this time, I couldn’t resist it. 
What you need

  • 2 cups of cooked sweet potato
  • 1 cup of white beans cooked (or canned)
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice
  • 3 Tblsp of chopped cilantro
  • 1 green chilli minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger minced
  • 2 Tblsps of chia seeds
  • 1 tblsp of sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp of amchur (dried mango powder) or sumac
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 1.5 cups Breadcrumbs or oat flour 
  • Oil for shallow frying

How it’s done

  1. Mash and mix all the ingredients and let sit for 15-20 minutes. The chia seeds should absorb some of the moisture, enabling you to form small balls or cutlets.  The mixture will still be sticky – the potatoes were boiled and retain a lot of moisture.  
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, or use a non-stick pan to reduce the amount of oil used, and cook the cutlets until done. Doneness is determined by the firmness of the cutlet and the browning it achieves.  I used less oil and spent more time cooking these on a medium flame to get the crispy outside and the smooth inside.

Serve with a mint chutney and heirloom tomato avocado stack.  The heirloom tomatoes and avocados are simply dressed with salt and pepper, and a light drizzle of avocado oil. They help to balance the spice from the cutlets for a wholesome meal. Enjoy!!

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup

The Bay Area is seeing an unusual amount of rain this year.  We’ve had rain for most of January and today is the first day in February when the sun decided to grace us.  Cold, rainy weather is perfect for soups and nothing like spicy soups to really warm up your body and soul! All the ginger carrot soups I have tasted so far have been sweet, and while sweet soups have a place in this world, I am not a fan.  I wanted a soup that highlights the ginger and brings out the heat from it, and wasn’t sweet beyond the natural l sweetness of the carrots.  So I went ahead and created my version.

What you need

  • 4 large carrots
  • 1.5 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 onion
  • 4-5 medium tomatillos
  • 3-4 Thai chilies ( per your spice tolerance)
  • 3 Tblsp of cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Water or stock as needed
  • Cilantro or scallion greens for garnish

How it’s done

  1. Dice the onions, carrots and the tomatillos. Mince the ginger and chilies
  2. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and sauté the onions. As the onions become translucent, add the chilies and ginger and cook for a few seconds. Now add the tomatillos and let soften, covered.
  3. Once the tomatillo is all mushy, add the carrots and sauté, and then add 3 cups of water and let boil. Add salt and pepper
  4. After the carrots are cooked, take the overn off heat and purée until smooth. Now taste for salt and consistency. Return to heat and add water or stock, if necessary.  If you like your soup creamy, feel free to add some milk or nut milk, instead of water or stock at this stage. 
  5. Garnish with scallions (or cilantro) and serve not.

The soup is exactly what I wanted – gingery, spicy, warming. A steaming cup of soup with grilled cheese is a perfect meal to eat while watching the rain (or snow) fall.

Butternut Squash Turnovers with ginger, coconut and pumpkin seeds

I love savory recipes with sweet vegetables. Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkins typically find spicy and tangy application in my kitchen.  I decided that I wanted to try something different with butternut squash, while developing a menu for a brunch party.  The theme of the brunch was spices, and I had a lot of savory dishes. So I decided to pair the squash with ginger and honey. Coconut and pumpkin seeds add a crunch and freshness to this dish

What you need

  1. 1 medium sized butternut squash, cubed
  2. 1 cup honey, or to taste
  3. 1 cup coconut flakes or shredded dry coconut
  4. 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  5. 1 Tblsp ginger powder
  6. 2 Tblsp fresh grated ginger
  7. 6 Puff pastry sheets, thawed
  8. 1 Tblsp Sesame seeds 
  9. 1 egg, for egg wash

How it’s done

  1. Cook the butternut squash with a pinch of salt in the microwave, about 5-7 minutes. Squash should be cooked through so you can mash it
  2. Mix cooked squash with ingredients 2-6. Taste for sweetness and adjust to your taste.  Intention is for the turnover to be medium sweet, not dessert like
  3. Roll the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface till it’s evenly smoothed and about 1/8 inch.
  4. Cut into six squares
  5. Place 1 tablespoon of filling near the top right corner of the square, leaving enough room to close
  6. Take the left bottom corner of the pastry square and close it over the top right corner, using a fork to crimp all the edges.  You will have a filled triangle at this stage. Place ona lined baking sheet
  7. Take a knife and cut a small slit on top of each turnover
  8. Whisk the egg with a little water and brush on top of the turnovers, sprinkle sesame seeds
  9. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the tops are golden brown

I served these without a sauce but these could do well with ginger marmalade on the side.  The turnovers are crunchy, medium sweet, with the coconut and pumpkin seeds giving it a nutty flavor and texture.  One improvement I could make to this is to toast the coconut flakes, which will make it even more nutty. 

Ghost of Granola -2

Ghost of granola is a name to denote the blank canvas that nuts offer to spice or flavor me up.  My second creation brings the flavors of Chivda to my nut granola. Chivda is a snack mix very popular in Maharashtra, a western Indian state.  My exposure to Chivda was when I was living in Nagpur, and this was a snack made for Diwali to serve when friends and family visit. Chivda is different from a regular snack mix in that it is made with flattened rice (poha), peanuts, coconut bits, raisins, green chillies and curry leaves, and a little bit of lemon juice.  This makes it sweet, salty, spicy and tangy – hitting most taste buds. The process of making the nut granola is exactly the same as described in my previous recipe, with the exception step 2 ingredients.  To get the flavors of Chivda, mix the following:

  1. 2 Tblsps of vegetable oil
  2. 6-10 curry leaves
  3. 2 tsps of turmeric powder
  4. 6-8 green chillies, chopped up
  5. 1/2 tsp of asafetida
  6. 1 Tblsp of flaxseeds ground and mixed with 3 Tblsp of water
  7. Salt to taste
  8. Pepper to taste

Combine all of the above and add to the nuts. Also add 1 cup of peanuts. Bake till crispy, mixing as you go along. Eat when you want to snack, for breakfast, over yogurt…or just because. It is yummy!!!

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