Baingan Bharta (Eggplant Curry)

I used to despise eggplants. With their weird rubbery purple skin and unappetizingly bland looking fleshy innards, they were definitely not one of the most desirable vegetables to consume. However, while cooking for nearly 40 people at my co-op one day, someone requested that we use up all the remaining eggplants in the fridge before they spoiled. So, I dug out Ammi’s old recipe book (Manisha Kanani’s The New Indian Cooking Course) and tried the “Aubergine Curry” (aubergine being synonymous with eggplant). Not only was it a big hit with everyone at dinner that night, but it become my new (and only) favorite eggplant dish! I have made it so many times over the past three years that the page in my cookbook is well-stained and crumpled from overuse (as any good recipe should be). Check it out below and let me know what you think! 🙂

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Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups button mushrooms, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chili, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp grond coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp fresh coriander
  • 1 fresh coriander spring to garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wrap the eggplants individually in aluminum foil and bake in the oven for an hour or until soft. Remove, unwrap, and allow to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan and fry the mustard seeds for 2 minutes until they begin to sputter.
  3. Add the spring onions, mushrooms, garlic and chili and fry for 5 minutes.
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  5. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, and salt and fry for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
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  8. Peel the skin off the eggplants, cut the flesh into small pieces, place in a small mixing bowl and mash roughly with a fork. You can also leave the skin on and instead cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the soft flesh with a spoon into a mixing bowl.
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  10. Add the mashed eggplant and chopped fresh coriander to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
  11. Garnish with a fresh coriander sprig. Serve with naan or chapati and enjoy!
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Masoor Daal (Lentils)

Nothing can be more homey or comforting than a plate of masoor daal and rice. Although this is generally considered a simple dish only to really be cooked at home for one’s family, it ranks high on my list of comfort foods. And I must say, this quick dish most definitely brings comfort during these cold New England winters that I am still adjusting too. I have been working off a recipe from my Ammi (mother) for over three years now. Check out my own adapted version below.

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Ingredients

  • 2 c masoor (red) lentils (yellow split peas can also be a substitute)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh ginger (or ginger paste)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tomatoes cut into small pieces
  • 1 small onion

Directions

  1. Wash the lentils.
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  3. In a pot, add lentils and enough water to cover the lentils. Cook covered until you see foam forming on the top. Drain off all the foam.
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  5. Add salt, pepper, chili powder, turmeric, ginger, and tomatoes.  Cook covered until the tomatoes soften and the mixture looks creamy, stirring occasionally. About 30 minutes. If the mixture is too thick, add water.
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  7. Heat oil in a frying pan. Add the chopped onion and stir fry for about 3-5 mins.
  8. Add cumin seeds and garlic. Fry until onions are golden brown.
  9. Pour this mixture into the cooked daal.
  10. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with basmati rice and enjoy!

Homemade Pizza

I decided to venture into some long forgotten territory and throw together a few homemade pizza’s for my little brother’s birthday bash! The last time I made pizzas from scratch was for a house of 36. The pizzas were so large that each took up an industrial size baking sheet! This time, I definitely had to scale down my operation and made only seven, 12-inch pizzas.

The dough recipe I used is a combination from those I found at SimplyRecipes and YumSugar, and advice from past pizza making excursions of Ammi and Abba (Mom and Dad). The sauce is a recipe I’ve been perfecting for nearly three years now, first taught to me by a very close Italian friend, and I use it for many of my pasta dishes. Finally, the suggested toppings are some pairings I’ve experimented with or tasted in the past. Try it out on your next pizza night and let me know what you think! 🙂
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Ingredients

Dough (makes two 12-inch pizzas)

  • 1 1/2 c warm water (105°F-115°F)
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 c bread flour (you can use all-purpose flour, but bread flour will give you a crisper crust)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

Sauce

  • 1 (28 oz) can whole, peeled tomatoes, with juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 
1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • salt to taste

Toppings (some suggestions)

  • shredded mozzarella
  • pineapple and black olives
  • fresh tomato chunks and fresh basil leaves
  • thinly sliced potatoes and corn
  • artichoke hearts and spinach
  • pistachios
  • beets
  • eggplant chunks and summer squash

Directions

Dough

  1. In a large bowl, add warm water. Sprinkle in yeast and sugar and let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Stir to dissolve completely if needed after 5 minutes. You want to be sure that the water is not too hot, or else you will kill the yeast, but you want it warm enough that they are activated. Adding the sugar also makes sure they have yummy things to eat when they awaken! If you can smell the fermentation and see bubbles in the mixture after 5 minutes, you know your yeast are alive and ready to make some dough!
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  3. Add in olive oil, bread flour, and salt until throughly mixed. (You can also use an electric mixer to do this).
  4. Kneed the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Sprinkle in more flour as needed so the dough is not too wet or sticky. (Again, you can also use an electric mixer with a dough hook for this, on low to medium speed for about 10 minutes).
  5. Lightly coat the dough with olive oil and place it in a large bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit refrigerated overnight. Many recipes say to let the dough rise for 1 1/2-2 hours in a warm place, but I every time I’ve made pizza dough I’ve always let it rise overnight in the fridge. I recently stumbled upon a New York Times article that also describes the benefits of an overnight rise.

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Sauce

  1. Using a food processor (or a knife), shred the can of whole tomatoes so that only a few, small chunks remain.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until they are golden brown, about 5-10 minutes.
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  4. Add minced garlic and cook for another 2-5 minutes.
  5. Add tomato mixture, basil, oregano, black pepper, and salt to taste. Let simmer on low heat for 45 minutes – 1 hour, stirring occasionally until sauce is thickened. The key to this sauce is really the time. The longer the simmer, the more fully the flavors combine. If you have fresh basil, add 1 tsp fresh chopped basil for a really nice kick.

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Finally, making the pizzas (without a pizza stone)!

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F for 30 minutes – 1 hour.
  2. Remove the plastic cover for the dough and punch it so it deflates a bit. Divide the dough in half. Form two round balls and place each in its own bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes while the dough “proofs.”
  3. Take one ball of dough and flatten it with your hands on a slightly floured work surface. Starting at the center and working outwards, use your fingertips to press the dough to 1/2-inch thick. Turn and stretch the dough until it will not stretch further. Let the dough relax for 5 minutes and then continue to stretch it until it reaches the desired shape (in this case, 12-inches in diameter). Use your palm to flatten the edge of the dough where it is thicker. Pinch the edges of the dough to form a lip.
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  5. Place the pizza pan or large baking sheet in the oven for at least 15 minutes. Remove with a pot holder and drizzle with olive oil, turning to coat the whole pan/sheet.
  6. Transfer the dough upside-down onto the prepared sheet and bake for approximately 2-5 minutes. Remove with a pot holder and carefully flip over the slightly cooked dough.
  7. Cover with tomato sauce, cheese, and desired toppings. Try not to load up each pizza with a lot of toppings if you want a really crispy crust.
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  9. Bake until the crust is browned and the cheese is golden, about 10-12 minutes.
  10. Repeat for the second ball of dough.
  11. Let cool for about 5 minutes, cut into slices, and dig in!

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Chicken/Tofu Tikka Masala

One of my all-time favorite dishes and one of my first original recipes (original in that I tried out many a recipe before settling on some sort of frankenstein of them all that made my tastebuds jump for joy). The key to this dish is patience. Patience to let the marinade infuse its magic into the chicken/tofu and patience for the create and tomato sauce to fuse harmoniously. But all that patience is worth the delicious creation at the end!
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Ingredients

Marinade

  • 1 c yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
  • Or: instead of chicken, one package of extra firm tofu cut into large cubes

Main Dish

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 can 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. In a large bowl combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 tsp cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger and salt.
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  3. Stir in chicken/tofu. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
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  5. Preheat grill to high heat.
  6. Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread the chicken on skewers and discard the marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side. If using tofu, do not use skewers and grill for about 6-7 minutes on each side. Instead of grilling, you can also pan fry the chicken/tofu until cooked, discarding the marinade.
  7. Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat.
  8. Sauté garlic for 1 minute. Add 2 tsp cumin, paprika, and salt and sauté for another minute.
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  10. Stir in tomato sauce and heavy cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.
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  12. Add grilled chicken/tofu and simmer for 10 minutes.
  13. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with naan.