Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bagare baingan (cashew-stuffed baby eggplants in a tamarind sauce)

This is an impressive-looking dish, but surprisingly easy to make, and definitely the best use I've ever found for those adorable little baby eggplants that are so in season right now in the northern half of the world.  I've made it several times and in fact can't believe I've never blogged it before.  The recipe I'm giving is based on several others; it's a popular Indian dish and googling the recipe will give you several variations.  Some opt for a more soupy, watery sauce but I prefer something that stays together a little better on a plate, so mine is drier.
Bagara baingan (cashew-stuffed baby eggplants in a tamarind sauce)
Serves 1 or 2

2 tsp canola or peanut oil
2 dried red chilies (broken in half and squeezed a bit to remove the seeds)
8 cashew nuts
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 tbsp dried coconut
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp tamarind paste (not concentrate)
200 g (about 4 small) baby eggplants

Heat 1 tsp of the canola oil in a small frying pan.  When hot, add the chilies, cashews, and coriander seeds.  Stir and fry for a minute, then add the onions.  Continue to stir fry until the onion begins to brown, then add the coconut and sesame seeds:

When the coconut begins to brown, add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for 30 seconds more.  Cool this mixture slightly, then grind to a paste in a blender (or if you have one, a Magic Bullet is perfect for this), adding the turmeric, salt to taste, and enough water to allow the mixture to blend.  You want a thickish paste that more or less holds together, but it doesn't have to be too dry:

Now get your tamarind sauce ready.  Put the tamarind paste into 2/3 cup water and microwave for one minute.  The paste, which starts out quite firm and solid, will soften up and you can stir it into the hot water.  Strain out the solids and set the tamarind water aside.

Cut a each of the baby eggplants into four, stopping at the stem, and stuff them with as much of the cashew paste as you can.  You'll likely have some paste left over.  This is okay.  It's also okay if you don't.

Heat the remaining tsp of oil in the same pan you used to fry the paste ingredients to medium-high heat and, when hot, add the stuffed eggplants, and fry for a few minutes, turning them gently:

Now add the tamarind water and any leftover stuffing paste:

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the eggplants are tender, about 10 minutes or so.  I was cooking from Monisha Bharadwaj's India's Vegetarian Cooking and she suggests serving this with another recipe in her book, lemon rice.  I took her suggestion, but changed the lemon to lime and added a little lime zest.  Here's an online recipe which is pretty much exactly what I did.  Basically, you fry cashews, black mustard seeds, curry leaves, pre-soaked channa dal (yellow split peas, not shown here because I forgot to add them and had to fry them up separately) and peanuts in a little oil:

Add turmeric for that magical colour and haunting flavour:

And fold this mixture, along with lemon juice (or in my case, lime juice and a little zest) and a little salt into freshly cooked basmati or jasmine rice.  Heavenly!  Seriously, there is something truly divine about the addition of citrus to jasmine rice...Viva Vegan has a great recipe for lime rice as well, and if you haven't tried it, well, you should!

Here's the final plate, with the addition of those unsung heroes, steamed yellow beans and broccoli:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Corn with cauliflower

This post is sort of all over the place, because every aspect of this meal was equally delicious.   What you're seeing here is the corn with cauliflower (phulaar makai nu shaak) from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, along with the curried black chickpeas (kala channa masala) from Monisha Bharadwaj`s India`s Vegetarian Cooking, the zucchini-lemon couscous from Donna Klein`s The Vegan Mediterranean Kitchen, some diced tomatoes (from My Mom and Dad`s Garden), along with the Bulgarian-style tofu yogurt (vegan recipe of genius courtesy of Bryanna Clark Grogan, see sidebar for recipe).  So the whole meal is a sort of Indian-Italian-NewAge-Vegan fusion type of thing.  But oh, did it work!

I can`t blog everything, but with a nod to the kala channa:

I crave this at times like Rapunzel craved campion...
...and the zucchini-lemon couscous:

...I`ll concentrate on the cauliflower and corn.  It is corn season here in Alberta, Canada, where I live, and we are getting all kinds of wonderful fresh corn in our markets.  I picked up some peaches-and-cream corn the other day, cooked up a few cobs, ate most of them right out of the pot they were so sweet and wonderfully delicious, but managed to save some kernels for this dish. 

You will, I believe, have to acquire the cookbook for the exact recipe, but here`s the process:

Start with heating a little canola or peanut oil in a skillet.  When hot, add a little cumin:

Give it a quick stir, then add cauliflower:

Stir-fry this for a bit, then add onion:

...turmeric, corn...

...a paste of ginger and hot green chili, and finally, cilantro:

This can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold.  I served it hot, right out of the pan.  Madhur Jaffrey calls this dish superb, which, in fact, it is.  Lord, I love cauliflower more and more each day!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Purple enchiladas with green tomato sauce

I made my own birthday supper this year (I am 47!), a Mexican-themed meal mostly from Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan.  One of the things I made were her enchiladas, straight from the recipe, an experiment in that I had never made enchiladas before and had rather a limited idea of what they actually are, and also because I made her pine nut crema for the first time, for guests. 
The recipe for pine nut crema did not initially float my boat.  Actually, it sounded kind of gross, like some of the cashew-based toppings I've tried in the past and disliked.  But I tried it anyway.  Oh, what a good intuition that turned out to be!  My omni guests had seconds of the enchiladas (even after I had explained that the topping was made of pine nuts and tofu) and picked away at the leftovers all during the after dinner talk.  The recipe is quite similar to the pine nut cream in Veganomicon for those of my readers who have one of these cookbooks but not the other (and for those who have neither, both recipes are available on Google Books).  Anyway, though I didn't blog it because I was fearful the whole recipe would fail/be awful/because I was cooking several other dishes and needed all my powers of concentration to make it all come together, everything was awesome and the supper was a success. 

I had some of the crema left over, however, so today I did another take on the enchiladas, just for me, with somewhat different ingredients.  Terry Hope Romero uses white waxy potatoes and chickpeas in her filling.  I used purple potatoes, beans, and black beans in this one.  Otherwise, it's pretty close to 1/4 of the enchilada recipe in Viva Vegan.  Here's a photo essay of the process. 

First (as shown above) peel the potatoes and dice them into approximately 1/4 inch pieces.  Put them in a little water, just to cover, and add one very small beet, also diced into 1/4 inch pieces:

If you play your cards just right, by the time the potatoes and beets are tender, there's very little water left in the pot.

In a small skillet, fry a little red onion, garlic, hot pepper, cumin, oregano, and epazote (okay, I subbed asafoetida) until the onion is translucent and tender:

Add the potatoes, black beans chopped up, and some vegetable broth:

Cook and stir until the mix is moist but not watery, and add salt and pepper to taste:

You may or may not find this appetizing-looking.  If not, just imagine
waxy white potatoes and chickpeas and you'll get more or less
the same taste...
Now, if you're wise, you have already prepared your green tomato (or tomatillo, should you be lucky enough to have tomatillos) sauce.  Pour a little of this into a plate, and soak your tortilla (or chortilla, shown here) well on both sides.  The purpose of this is to soften up the tortilla so that it will be flexible enough to be rolled around the filling without cracking (ahem, not a problem with chortillas!):

Once the chortilla is good and coated, lay a line of filling along one end:

...roll up the chortilla, and place it in a casserole with a little of the green tomato sauce in the bottom:

Do the same for all the chortillas (in this case, three), and spread a little more of the sauce on top:

At this point, you can refrigerate the casserole for a while if you like.  When you're ready to cook, glop on the pine nut crema (pine nut crema!!!):

A nice thick layer!
Preheat the oven to 375F, cover the casserole with aluminum foil, and bake for 25 minutes.  Then remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes or so.  If the crema hasn't browned and speckled by then, you can broil it for a few minutes.  Then it's done.  It should cool for about 5 minutes before you serve it:

Don't bother trying to separate the rolls - if you've used tortillas (or even chortillas) the chances are you won't be able to do it.  Just treat it as a kind of Mexican lasagne and cut it.  Mmmmm.....

I served it with a simple saute of zucchini, garlic, oyster mushrooms, and some absolutely awesome slow-cooked tomatoes my mom brought over this afternoon, the recipe for which I will be blogging very soon, and with baked acorn squash.  A great meal, though messy!  I'm not completely enchanted with the color combination, but have been dreaming about it pretty much non-stop since my birthday (and I do have those pesky purple potatoes to dispose of), so I thought I'd give it a try...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cover your eyes!

Mom and Dad, seriously, what kind of fertilizer are you using?

Okra with Soy Curls, sausage, and tomatoes + chortillas

Chortillas?  Wait and see, they are an original invention of genius for the corn-tortilla challenged, like me. 

Yes, I'm back.  I have missed blogging!  While I've been away, reading but not responding to the very kind comments posted here, I lost a bunch of weight and have successfully kept it off for over five months.  I'm looking so great, feeling so fantastic both mentally and physically, and have so much energy that I'm highly motivated to maintain my current weight and fitness.  I also really, really love to cook and eat.  This isn't a "my weight loss journey" type of blog, but if you read over my old posts, you'll see that in the past I've been a healthy though high-fat and enormous portion kind of cook, the kind that starts every meal with a generous pouring of oil into the bottom of a frying pan, more oil if things look dry, plus a little drizzle for flavour at the end, the kind of cook who makes enough for four because she's too lazy to divide recipes, then eats it all because she doesn't want leftovers (you all don't see that part...).  So I've had to make big changes in the way I cook and eat and think about food, and this has taken some time.  As the song says, old habits die hard.

An example of the new style - steamed mixed grains, cauliflower tabbouli,
black-eyed peas with greens
So the focus of the new "airier" Airy Way is on the creation of delicious single-portion (I live alone) low-fat vegan meals that are yet delicious and filling, the creative use of leftovers, veganizing non-vegan dishes, and tips on cooking for one.  I've been winging it on my own so far, but there are a number of books out there on cooking for one which I hope to look into in the near future--and the fact that such books are being published is I hope an indication that my new direction may be of interest to some readers.  Surely the demographic of single vegan hedonists who love to cook, hate leftovers, and are trying to stay slim must be significant! But if you're, like, cooking for two, no worries, you can just double the recipes.  And if you're not into low fat cooking, just do what I used to do, and add fat.

And more - butternut squash curry with coconut and
fresh peppercorns
So, anyway, on to the real subject of today's post.  Yesterday in Superstore there was this huge flat of fresh okra.  I've never cooked with fresh okra, so I got all excited and bought some, and used part of it in this dish. 

First, though, the chortillas.  I don't know how many of you have tried to make corn tortillas without a tortilla press.  I've done it a few times, without notable success.  My corn tortillas are a nuisance to roll out, and always seem to turn out dry, crumbly, and not very tasty.  My chapati, on the other hand, rock.  So my brilliant idea was to try a flatbread that was half chapati flour and half masa harina, and lo, chortillas were born!  They worked great, were a dream to roll out (no waxed paper required), and were as thin and pliable as chapati but tasted like corn.  Perfect!  Here's what I did:

makes 3 seven-inch chortillas

1/4 cup chapati flour
1/4 cup masa harina
pinch of salt (optional)

Mix the flours and salt, if using, together in a medium bowl.  Add enough warm water to make a stiff dough.  It should be stiff, but not crumbly, and should not stick to the counter when you knead it.  Knead for about two minutes, until the gluten in the chapati flour begins to develop and the dough can be moulded without cracking.  Divide into three and form each piece into a flattened ball, like this:

Now cover the pieces with plastic wrap or a plate to keep them moist, and let them sit for at least ten minutes.  This sitting period is important for chapati as well as chortillas--it allows the dough to relax so it can be rolled out more easily, and also just makes them cook better.

When you're ready to cook, heat an ungreased skillet (cast iron works best if you have it) to medium.  Roll out one of the balls to about a 1/8 inch thickness--nice and thin without actually being transparent.  You'll probably have to dust the rolling pin and rolling surface with a little chapati or masa flour.  Flip the rolled chortilla back and forth between your hands a few times to knock off any loose flour, and place it on the hot skillet and cook it on one side for a minute or two.  It should bubble up in parts.  If it starts to burn right away, your skillet is too hot!  Flip it, and cook the other side.  You should get some nice golden speckling, like this:

It's done--move it to a plate and cover it with another plate or a bowl to keep it moist.  You can briefly reheat it in the microwave or oven just before serving, if you like.  Do the same for the other chortillas.

Now, for the:

Okra with Soy Curls, sausage, and tomatoes
serves 1

1/4 cup dry Soy Curls
1/2 tsp olive or canola oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 oz seitan sausage (about 1/4 cup), preferably a chorizo (spicy) kind, chopped
1 fresh hot pepper (like Thai, ring of fire, etc.), minced, or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 cup sliced raw okra
2/3 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
Salt and pepper

First, rehydrate the Soy Curls in some kind of broth or hot, flavoured water.  I used hot water with a teaspoon of Bryanna Clark Grogan's "chicken-style" broth powder (see sidebar for a link to the recipe).

Tell me this doesn't look strangely appealing..

This will take about 10 minutes.  While the Soy Curls are reconstituting, chop up the remaining ingredients:

Now heat a little oil in a non-stick skillet, and add the onions.  Stir and fry for about five minutes on medium-high heat, until the onions are translucent.  Add the drained and squeezed Soy Curls, the seitan, garlic, and hot pepper (if using), and continue to stir and fry until the onions and Soy Curls are beginning to brown:

Add the paprika, the diced tomatoes with their juice, and the okra:

Bring to a boil, add a little vegetable broth or water if it looks dry, cover, and cook until the okra is tender, about 7-10 minutes.  Add pepper and taste for salt, and serve with, in this case, chortillas, steamed broccoli and cauliflower with the Green Goddess dressing from Vegan Appetite, and some steamed beet greens:

Yum!  I did have two chortillas left over; however, I've got plans for them...