Archive for the ‘Indian’ Category

Your bharta is baingan…

I have kind of a love/hate relationship with eggplant.  As a vegetarian (well, sorry, pescatarian) I feel like I’m supposed to love eggplant, since it so often plays the meat substitute role. It’s not that I don’t like eggplant at all, it’s just that often I find it in dishes where its presence seems to totally disgust me. Usually this is because it’s too mushy when it isn’t supposed to be – if it’s supposed to be mushy, it’s usually fine.  Neuroses much?

When I figured out that I DEFINITELY like eggplant curry, I decided that my main beef with eggplant is the skin. The skin is gross! It stays tough while the eggplant gets mushy creating bites of competing textures that, rather than being awesome like lots of other competing textures (see: coconut + mini marshmallows on ice cream; nuts and raisins on oatmeal) is, in fact, grody. Grody to the max. But now that I know this I have the power to eat delicious eggplant all the time, I just have to skin those bad boys! And what better way to start than with Baingan Bharta – the dish that reconciled me with eggplant and that has a pun-inducing name to boot.

I knew just who to turn to for a recipe – Madhur Jaffrey. If you’re not familiar with her, you should be.  She’s the queen of awesome food.  I think learning how to cook Indian food at home is one of the best things that has happened to me in the last couple years.  Indian food seems so daunting, but is actually just so so easy when you know how to combine the spices.  Anyway, I don’t actually own any of Madhur’s explicitly Indian cookbooks (though if you feel like getting me a gift…) but I do have this book, and it’s so great. Her recipe for “Smoked Eggplant – Bharta” is super easy and so satisfying.  First you roast your eggplants – these ones were baby Italian eggplants, because that was all the store had that day. I’ve made this again with two regular sized eggplants, which was about the right amount.  You make several fork piercings in them so that the steam can escape, and you roast them whole in a 450 degree oven.  She estimates it will take about an hour – I can’t say exactly how long worked for me, because while mine were in the oven my power was cut and so they sat in a hot but off oven for a bit over an hour, but seemed to cook in there anyway! You know that they’re done when they get all wrinkly and you can feel that they’re very soft on the inside.

After you roast the eggplant, you cut the tops off, peel them by hand, and chop up the inside of the eggplant.  The rest of the recipe comes together in just a few minutes – saute some onion and ginger and garlic in a pan, add about a cup of tomatoes (I used canned), reduce for a few minutes, add in your chopped eggplant and some spices – about 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, and some salt.  Let that simmer together for 10 minutes or so, finish it with some chopped cilantro, and that’s it! Madhur Jaffrey mentions that she often eats it lukewarm as a spread for toast rather than as a main meal, and I tried this with the leftovers and was blown away.  In the moment when I was eating my eggplant toast I exclaimed that I would cook up big batches of this all the time to keep in the fridge and have for lunch! This hasn’t actually happened yet.

On this particular evening I also found an online recipe for Saag to have alongside my Baingan Bharta and we tossed some chickpeas into it for some protein.  The Saag was good but a little runny – I’m desperate to find mustard greens somewhere to try this again because the last time I was in Montreal we had mustard greens from a Pakistani restaurant that were unbelievably delicious.  In good time. For now, I leave you with this – a video of a bunny rabbit that I was babysitting that weekend.  She’s eating dandelion greens and radicchio.  Is that cute, or what?!  Bunny!

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Alright, I could make a million excuses here again for why I haven’t posted as frequently as I’d like, but I don’t really have any good excuse.  Except that I got a kitty cat and I’ve been spending more of my spare time throwing crumpled up balls of paper down the hallway for her to chase! But I’ve still been cooking and taking photos, and have a backlog of things to tell you about.  I will try and post a lot in the next few days to get up to date and also since this weekend is Thanksgiving there’s sure to be some delectable treats being made in this lil’ apartment.

So, onwards! First off, I canned some tomatoes! See?

I won’t go into too much detail about it, but it’s exciting! I used Roma tomatoes, which are the best for canning since they’re meatier and not as watery, and I only got three 500ml jars out of them, but I’m excited to crack them open in the dead of winter to make something really delicious that tastes like summer.

Next up, I made a delicious pumpkin curry with a pie pumpkin from my CSA.  I’m very excited to actually make a pumpkin pie this week from an ACTUAL PUMPKIN because I’ve never done that.  We always used canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling, don’t insult me! We spiced it ourselves and all that, but never bothered with actually starting from a real pumpkin.  I don’t think I realized that there was such a thing as a pie pumpkin, but there is, and they’re much smaller than regular pumpkins.  As soon as I realized that pie pumpkins existed and that I didn’t have to try and cut a giant pumpkin in half, I was all for it!  But trust me, trying to work with a full-sized pumpkin is nutty – my mom and I once made a pumpkin risotto that was amazing, but had to enlist Jeff solely for the purpose of cutting the pumpkin because it was insanely hard to do.  Anyways, a few weeks ago I used a pie pumpkin for something other than pie, and made a curry with it!  This is not a recipe from a blog or a book, I just sort of made it up as I went along.  First, you cut the stem off of your pumpkin, cut it in half, and scoop out all the seeds and guck with an ice cream scoop.  Save the seeds, so that you can burn them later on in the oven! Then you cook your pumpkin.  I steamed mine, since it seemed like the method that was both the least time consuming (rather than roasting it) and the least gross (as opposed to microwaving it for 30 minutes – microwaves should not be left on for that long!).  It was super easy to steam it, and then once it’s cooked and cooled, you can easily slip the skin off.  Or, if you’re impatient like me, you can slip the skin off while it’s hot and burn your fingers a hundred times.

Then I cut the pumpkin into cubes (very mushy cubes) and brainstormed what to do with it.  A curry, I thought!  I figured a curry would also be a good way to use up a bunch of the CSA veggies that I’m always working to get through.  Actually, to be honest I think I used store-bought swiss chard in this curry, and then a few days later got the HUGEST bunch of swiss chard in my CSA share and struggled to use it all up.  But bygones.  All good curries start with onion, garlic, and ginger.  And, ideally, a chili pepper, but I didn’t have one so I skipped it – but I was sad that I did! You want to saute your onions and garlic and ginger until they’re looking really good and translucent, and then add a spice mix.  I’m no expert at Indian spice mixes, but I’m starting to get the hang of what you want in them – a bit of turmeric, a bit of cayenne, a lot of cumin, a lot of coriander, some garam masala – all good things to have in there.  I think this is basically what I used, and probably added in some cumin seeds as well.  Saute the spices with your onions – it will be really dry and gummy, but let them cook for a few minutes, and then add a bit of water or broth to it and scrape up the brown bits from the pot.  Then, add some tomatoes.

Basically, once you’ve got the tomatoes in there, you can add all the stuff you want, let it simmer, adjust your seasonings to your taste, and play with it until you’re ready to eat.  In this case we threw in some potatoes (which we boiled separately to start) and chick peas, along with the pumpkin and then, in the last moments of cooking, some chopped swiss chard.

It looked pretty much like this, which is to say, glop:

But, you know, glop is basically what I want out of my Indian food – I am fairly sure Paul and I remarked that it was the perfect consistency.  You want something that is saucy enough to be good on rice, but not so soupy that it’s, well, soup.  This was pretty successful, particularly for a made up recipe.  And pumpkin, like all squash really, is a delicious addition to curry.

Lastly, I will just quickly tell you about the potato leek soup I made – the first such soup that I’ve made without an immersion blender, since I no longer have one and absolutely refuse to puree soup in batches in a blender or food processor.  I did that once a long time ago, and frankly, it’s not worth the effort.

So, potato leek soup goes like this: you chop up some leek.  You saute it in butter, and season them a bit with salt and pepper and whatever else you’d like, such as thyme.  Then, you add a bunch of chopped up potatoes, Yukon Golds work best, and that was what came in my CSA (with the leek and the thyme) so that is what I used.  Add some water or broth until the potatoes are just covered, and boil away until they’re nice and tender.

When the potatoes were good and tender, I just mashed them with a potato masher, in the pot.  Mash away, until desired consistency – it will never be perfectly silky smooth, unless you blend it.  But I liked the hearty texture of it – it made it feel more like a meal then when it is pureed.

Once your potatoes are all mashed up, add more liquid until it is the consistency you’d like.  I added a bunch of milk, and also some buttermilk, because it seemed like the right thing to do.  Adjust your seasonings (i.e. add salt) and serve! Best if topped with grated aged cheddar and alongside some toasty buttery delicious bread.

That’s all for now, but stayed tuned for more catch-up posts in the next couple of days before I create a small feast on Monday for Thanksgiving!

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