Saturday, May 23, 2009

Roasted Eggplant and Dill and Potato, aka Baigan Ka Bartha and Aloo Soa Ki Subzi

It was Saturday night and the husband and I planned to make some dinner using recipes from our new(ish) cookbook "Everything Indian Cookbook by Monica Bhide, 2004.

I LOVE Indian food but am always hesitant to make it home because some the ingredients are hard to get, or because I don't want to buy a whole jar a of tamarind paste or whatever and have to eventually throw it out. Also, it never tastes like what I have at the restaurants. But with the 2 recipes in this title, I felt it was doable because we happened to have all the ingredients on hand, or knew we could get them at the local Safeway (BTW, Thriftway, we miss you!)

Roasted Eggplant (Baigan Ka Bharta) from "Everythin Indian Cookbook"

3 pounds eggplant (we used 2 large ones)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped roughly
1 tsp Ginger-Garlic paste (recipe below)
1/4 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp coriander powder
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Fresh chopped coriander, for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 475. (I used the broiler and but the oven rack to the second highest position).

2. Rub 2 tablespoons of the oil on the eggplants on a baking sheets and place in the oven. Cook until the eggplant is soft and the skin is charred. Turn occasionally so all sides get charred. Remove from oven to cool.

3. Once eggplants are cooled, peel and discard skin. Mash the eggplant with a fork into a smooth pulp. Set aside.

4. In a large skillet, heat the reamining 2 tbsp of oil over medium heat. Add th eonions and saute until they are transparent. Add the Ginger-Garlic Paste, red chili powder, and coriander powder, saute for 30 seconds.

5. Add the tomatoes and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Use the back of your spoon or spatula to mash the tomatoes. When the mixture is ready, oil will start to separate from the mixture (mine never did this so I went ahead to the next step).

6. Add the eggplant and mix well. Add salt to taste and fry for about 7 - 10 minutes stirring constantly. Remove from heat, garnish with fresh coriander and serve with basmati rice.

I order this every.single.time. at our local Naan 'n Curry and love it so much. This version was OK. Don't get me wrong, the balance of spice with the eggplant and tomato was really nice, but I was looking for something with more oomph, more kick, more flavour. I think next time, I'll add more ginger-garlic paste or maybe add curry powder or garam masala or something. Maybe even a chili.

Ginger-Garlic Paste From "Everything Indian Cookbook"

2 serrano chilies (optional)
1/2 cup gingerroot, peeled
1/2 cup garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp cold water

1. Remove the stems from the green chilies (if using)

2. Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree to form a smooth paste. Add mo more than 1 tbsp of water to help form a smooth consistency.

3. Store the paste in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. The paste will keep for up to 2 weeks.

We put ours in a glass Pyrex container with lid. We put plastic wrap to keep any air out and have kept it in the freezer for about a month now. You could probably halve or quarter this recipe since you really only seem to use about a tsp or so for each recipe!

Dill and Potato (Aloo Soa Ki Subzi) From "Everything Indian Cookbook"

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (we only had ground cumin so we used about 1/8 tsp of that)
2 green chilies, seeded and minced (we used serrano chilies)
2 large russet potatoes (or 3 medium) peeled and diced
1/2 cup frozen peas (we omitted these)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 tsp turmuric powder
salt, to taste
water, as needed

1. In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium. Add the cumin seeds (or ground cumin). When they begin to crackle (or when ground cumin becomes fragrant), add the freen chilies; saute for 10 seconds.

2. Add the potatoes and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the peas, dill, turmeric, and salt; saute for another 2 minutes.

3. Add a few tablespoons of water (the husband added 4), cover and cook on low heat until the potatoes are cooked through, about 10 - 12 minutes.

How can you go wrong with potatoes and dill? This dish was fine, but next time, I might add some curry powder or garam masala for more flavour. We kind of added salt as we ate since the recipe doesn't tell you exactly how much to add.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wine Night

The hubs and I have been keeping a particular bottle of wine for a special weekend. By special, I don't mean an anniversary or birthday but a weekend where we have no plans, can start drinking early in the evening so we can enjoy the sunset, and can have enough time to make some food to go well with the wine.

Matthews Estate 2005 Claret:

This wine was described to us as a "big, chewy red" (see my earlier post titled, "The Wines of King County" for details) and I really don't know enough fancy shmancy wine lingo to describe it. It definitely had a full flavour with enough acidity to make your mouth water a little while you held it in your mouth.

I can truly say that I researched high and low for what would go well with this special wine. I know what you're thinking, "easy, some cheese and crusty french bread!" Well yeah, but what if we don't eat wheat or cow products? "Ohhhhh... well that makes a big difference!"

The one with the black wax (?) is manchego, and the one that is diced finely is the pecorino romano.

Have no fear, we found 2 sheep's milk cheeses: pecorino romano, and manchego. Here was our menu for our much anticipated night with Matthews Estate 2005 Claret:

Tomatoes with olive oil and fresh basil atop slices of manchego cheese
Grilled portabello mushrooms and red bell peppers
Rice pasta in olive oil with garlic, olive tapenade, and pecorino romano.

The tomatoes should be self explanatory! We used 2 medium sized vine-ripened ones.

For the grilled mushrooms and bell peppers, I brushed them with olive oil, seasoned them with salt, and sprinkled a bit of balsamic vinegar on them. We used them on the George Foreman because our BBQ wasn't working (boo!) so if you can BBQ them, do it until all the liquid evaporates from the mushrooms.

For the pasta, it didn't quite work as planned. We used rice spaghetti and the water we cooked it in got really sludgy, and so the spaghetti was pretty sludgy. I rinsed it with cold water to wash the sludge off but now the pasta was cold! The idea was for the hot pasta to warm the olive tapenade and melt the pecorino romano a little. Not ours. It just sat there looking cold so I threw it in a frying pan to heat it up a bit. After it heated up, it was delicious!

If you're using wheat pasta, you won't have this problem so cook as much pasta as you need, drain and while still hot, toss it with olive oil, a few tablespoons of olive tapenade, and as much or as little pecorino romano (or similar cheese like parmesan) and let stand for a few minutes while the cheese softens and melts.

Of all out dishes, I though the tomato/fresh basil/manchego went best with the Claret, but the Hubs thought the pasta paired best.

Sorry for the unspecific quantities for the dishes, but just keep tasting adn testing until you get the level of saltiness you like!

Chickpea spinach salad with feta

*Disclaimer: I've been copying and pasting recipes from all kinds of blogs for years now and had been keeping them for my own use. I never thought I'd start a food blog so I never cited the source. If this recipe is from your blog, please leave me a comment so I can properly credit you.

Chickpea spinach salad with feta:

I love chickpeas and I love feta. I decided to indulge the other day at the supermarket and but a block of high quality (or at least the price made me think so) goat feta. Not as salty as the stuff in the brine, which is kind of a bummer because I was hoping the feta would add some saltiness to this salad. Not the end of the world that it didn't though, because it still added a creaminess to it.

I'm not the precise measuring type so all ingredient quantities are approximate.

1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked until soft (you could use 1 can instead)
2 bunches of spinach, blanched, squeezed dry and chopped roughly
1 tbsp good olive oil
juice of 1/4 - 1/2 a lemon (depends on how lemony you like it)
1/4 - 1/2 cup crumbled feta (depends on how feta-y you like it)
Salt and pepper

Place the blanched, squeezed and chopped spinach in a bowl, making sure it's evenly spread out, and leaves are not squeezed together. Pour the chickpeas over top. Drizzle with olive oil, making sure it is evenly distributed. Add lemon juice, tossing to coat all of the spinach and chickpeas. Sprinkle the feta cheese over top and again, toss to distribute evenly. Have a taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

You could keep the spinach raw if you like, but the spinach I had on hand was pretty beat up so I decided to blanch. Your call...