Brinjal Pulippu Kootu

Eggplant Kootu I say brinjal, you say eggplant, and they say aubergine. Whatever. It’s delicious, it’s my favorite veggie, and today I have for you one of the most delicious ways you can cook it up and eat it: Brinjal Pulippu Kootu, a tangy dal you might never have eaten before unless you’re a native of Tamil Nadu.

When I first started cooking up Tamil food, I was a little amazed at how Desi’s vegetarian family managed to cook up the same basic ingredients — lentils, curry leaves, veggies, tamarind, and spices like coriander seeds, red chillies, mustard seeds and turmeric– into very different-tasting dishes every day of the week. These “dals” (as lentil-based dishes are known through the rest of India), went by different names too: sambar or kuzhambu, kootu, and masiyal. Befuddled, I’d ask Desi: “How can you tell which is which?”

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Brinjal Kootu

Over time I learned. Here, if you are interested, are the most glaring differences: A sambar is tart with tamarind, whereas a masiyal is tarted up by souring agents other than tamarind, like green tomatoes or lemon or raw mangoes and may or may not include lentils except as a seasoning. Masiyals also typically use lentils other than tuvar dal or split pigeon peas, like moong dal. And then there is the kootu which is not tart at all-and is typically thicker than sambar. A kootu also often includes black pepper and coconut which makes it quite distinct and utterly delicious.

But exceptions, as you know, make up the rule, and today I have for you a recipe for the renegade Pulippu Kootu: the Kootu that’s tart like a sambar but is otherwise the spitting image of a kootu. Go figure.

If your head’s spinning by now, stop, get up, and go to the kitchen and cook up this kootu– that’s all you really need to do anyway, right? If you want to stick with tradition you should make this kootu with brinjal or eggplant, like I did, or with chow chow (available here in the United States as chayote squash). Or you can experiment with another veggie, although here’s a little tip: you really don’t want to stray from the deliciousness that eggplant brings to this dish.

TGIF, everyone, and hope you have a lovely weekend!

Eggplant Kootu

Brinjal Pulippu Kootu
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Curry
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • ½ cup tuvar dal or split pigeon peas
  • 9 small round eggplants, cut into a ½-inch dice
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated coconut (you can use frozen, but thaw before use)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp tamarind extract. (or 1-inch ball of tamarind pods, soaked in ½ cup of water for 30 minutes. Extract the tamarind pulp by crushing with fingers and discard the dry solids)
  • For ground masala:
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp udad dal or black gram dal
  • 1 tbsp chana dal or bengal gram dal
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • ½ cup peanuts, covered with water and microwaved for five minutes. Or you can bring them to a boil on the stovetop, lower heat, and let them cook 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • ¼ cup freshly grated coconut. Again, you can use frozen but thaw first.
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. Mix the lentils and turmeric, add water and cook until the lentils are really soft and mashable. Pressure-cooking works best here — and the fastest– but you can do this on the stovetop. Use enough water to cover the lentils by an inch, bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook the lentils until they are soft and mushy. You will need to check frequently to ensure the water hasn’t dried out.
  2. Make the ground masala. Heat 1 tsp of oil and add the masala ingredients. On medium heat, saute the ingredients, stirring frequently, until the coconut turns a few shades darker. Be watchful because coconut burns easily.
  3. Remove the masala ingredients to a blender, add enough water to make a paste, and blend to a smooth paste. Set aside.
  4. In a large saucepan, place the chopped eggplant, add the tamarind, some salt, and enough water to almost cover the vegetables. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn heat to low, cover and cook until the brinjals are thoroughly cooked. Don’t take shortcuts here because half-cooked brinjal is worse than no brinjal at all.
  5. Add the cooked lentils, peanuts, and ground masala paste. Stir well, add water if the mixture is too thick, bring to a boil, lower heat, and cook at a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes.
  6. In a small saucepan, add the remaining 1 tsp of oil and then add mustard seeds. When the mustard sputters, add the coconut and curry leaves.
  7. Saute the coconut and curry leaves until the coconut turns lightly golden.
  8. Add to the lentils and mix thoroughly. Stir in the coriander leaves.
  9. Serve hot with some boiled rice and potato curry.

Potato curry

 

 

Tofu Paneer Bhurji

Tofu Paneer BhurjiA bhurji, in India’s culinary lexicon, is a messy scramble of any sort. There’s anda bhurji, or egg bhurji, a spiced-up version of scrambled eggs that blazed a path from India’s street food stalls to become a popular  breakfast staple in every home kitchen. And then there’s paneer bhurji, a popular restaurant dish made with the creamy Indian cottage cheese paneer, that’s spicier, more lavish, and — dare I say it — more delicious.

In recent weeks, I was hit by a deep craving for Paneer Bhurji. Maybe it was the neat slabs of paneer I saw in the refrigerator at the Indian grocery store that did it, or maybe it is this stubborn cold weather that refuses to shake off (it’s snowing here in DC today), making me crave warm, spicy, rich food. Either way, I wanted nothing more the other night than to scoop up some Paneer Bhurji with a puffy naan and stuff my face.

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Tofu Paneer BhurjiThere was nothing to stop me. In my refrigerator were some firm tofu, green peppers and red onions — perfect ingredients for a marvelous vegan Paneer Bhurji. And a healthy one, because while paneer is packed with fat and cholesterol, tofu isn’t. But there was one thing. While the tofu would make a perfect stand-in for the paneer, texture-wise, it would not have that very important richness that the cheese would bring to the dish. And that’s when it hit me: cashew cream, an ingredient I have often used as a cream substitute in Indian dishes.  A little bit would go a long way in making my Tofu Paneer Bhurji taste as luxurious as the original dish.

So Tofu Paneer Bhurji it was that night, and it was quite perfect. In fact, it didn’t last around here for more than a few minutes. Which is not to say that I ate it all up. Erm…let’s not get into that now, ok?

Tofu Paneer Bhurji

Vegan Paneer Bhurji
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 14-oz pack firm tofu. Place the tofu in a colander and cover with a paper napkin. Place a heavy weight on top and leave it alone for 15 minutes to drain out any excess water from the tofu. Don’t worry if the tofu crumbles a bit– you are going to crumble it anyway.
  • 12 cashew nuts, soaked in ½ cup of water for 30 minutes, then blitzed into a smooth paste
  • 1 medium red onion, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, minced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and saute until they start to brown.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger. Saute for a minute, then add the green peppers, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and paprika. Stir to mix and add the tomato puree.
  3. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato puree is thick and a few shades darker.
  4. Crumble the tofu and add it to the saucepan. Stir well to mix,
  5. Cook the mixture on medium heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add the cashew cream and salt to taste. Turn off heat.
  7. Stir in the coriander leaves and lemon juice. Serve hot with naan.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 95 Fat: 5.4 grams Carbohydrates: 7.7 grams Fiber: 2 grams Protein: 5.6 grams

Tofu Paneer Bhurji

 

Cauliflower Wild Rice Pilaf

Cauliflower wild rice pilafMy Cauliflower Wild Rice Pilaf is a healthy and delicious one-pot meal that is quick enough to cook up for family on a weekday night and elegant enough to serve company. It also makes a great brown bag lunch.

In Indian cooking, a pilaf or pulao is a rather spare rice dish seasoned with a few spices. It’s  different — and less fussy — than other rice dishes like a biryani, say, where the spices are richer and where the ingredients are separately cooked and then put together. Since I don’t do fussy on weeknights, this worked just perfectly for me.

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Cauliflower WIld Rice PilafAll I needed to do was to chop up some onions and garlic and separate the cauliflower into florets, and the dish pretty much cooked itself.  Although pilafs are usually cooked up in one go– meaning that you would add all the ingredients to one pot and cook them together — I did roast the cauliflower separately because if I added the cauliflower to the same pot, it would end up all mushy and not firm and golden and delicious.

Wild rice is very easily found now, but in case you cannot find it you can try this dish with brown rice as well, or even another grain like quinoa. Be sure to adjust the cook times, because these grains will require less time to cook than the black rice does. Brown rice would need about 45 minutes, no more.

I know this is a rather matter-of-fact post but it’s early Sunday morning and honestly, do you really want me to be sitting at the computer when I could be sleeping in? :) 

Cauliflower WIld Rice Pilaf

Cauliflower Wild Rice Pilaf
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • For pilaf:
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1 cup puy lentils
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne or paprika, for less heat
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice of one lemon
  • For roasted cauliflower:
  • 1 head of cauliflower, florets separated
  • ½ tsp cayenne or paprika
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Mix all of the roasted cauliflower ingredients together in a baking dish. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and roast for 45 minutes or until tender but slightly al dente.
  2. To make the pilaf, heat the oil in a large pot and add the onions. Add salt, ground black pepper and sugar and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions soften and then turn golden-brown.
  3. Add the garlic, cayenne, ground cumin and salt and saute for a minute.
  4. Add the wild rice and puy lentils and mix thoroughly.
  5. Add the vegetable stock or water, bring it to a boil, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, lower the heat to simmer and let it cook for an hour.
  6. When the rice is done, open the pot, fluff the rice and lentils gently with a fork, and mix in the roasted cauliflower and lemon juice.
  7. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 221 Fat: 4.2 grams Sugar: 2 grams Fiber: 15.9 Protein: 14.6

 

Beet Burger with Chipotle Cashew Hummus

Beet BurgerGet a delicious start to Spring with my Beet Burger with Chipotle Cashew Hummus.

This burger is simplicity itself: instead of making a patty with grated beet and other ingredients, I take a thick, juicy slice of roasted beetroot, saute it with some seasonings to add more flavor, then sandwich it between layers of caramelized onions, hummus flavored with chipotle chili,  and crisp, clean greens. All of this goodness goes on my whole wheat burger bun. Yum.

This is the perfect recipe for the grill: you could marinate the slices of roasted beet in the seasonings and then saute them in a grill wok, adding yet another layer of smoky flavor.

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Beet Burger

The hummus recipe, which I’ll also share with you, is a simple variation on the traditional recipe. I love adding chipotle chilies to various sauces (remember my Pasta with Chipotle Cashew Cream?) and this time, instead of tahini, I decided to use roasted cashews in the hummus. The experiment really worked– I know I’ll be making this amazing hummus again and again.

I won’t chatter on too long today because I can’t wait to share the recipe with you. It involves a few steps, but none of them is hard. If you try this once, I guarantee you will be making it again. And again. I know I will.

Beet Burger

Beet Burger with Chipotle Cashew Hummus
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • For Beet Burger Patty:
  • 3 large beets, scrubbed clean
  • Oil to spray
  • 2 tsp minced or crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Ground black pepper and salt to taste’
  • 1 tsp dry sage
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • For Chipotle Cashew Hummus:
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas. If using canned, drain thoroughly.
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced
  • 12 roasted cashew nuts
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • For Caramelized Onions:
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • Leafy greens like baby spinach, baby chard or baby kale. A mix of spring greens would be great here also.
  • For the buns, follow my Whole Wheat Burger Buns recipe but shape into 12 buns instead of 6. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 23 minutes.
Instructions
  1. Make the beet patties:
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Place a large piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet, spray with oil, place the beets inside in a single row, and fold the foil over to cover completely. Crimp the edges of the foil to seal.
  4. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a knife inserted in the thickest part of the beet goes through cleanly and without resistance.
  5. Remove the baking sheet and let it cool for 15 minutes, then open the foil and let the beets cool until they can be handled.
  6. Peel the beets by rubbing the skins off, then slice into ¼-inch-thick slices.
  7. Heat the olive oil in a wok or large saute pan.
  8. Add the garlic, sage and salt. Add the beets and salt and saute for about five minutes.
  9. Sprinkle on the lemon juice and set aside.
  10. Make the chipotle cashew hummus:
  11. Place the garlic pods in a small piece of aluminum foil sprayed with oil, roll up the foil into a ball, and roast with the beets for 30 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, discard the skins and reserve the gooey, roasted garlic.
  12. Place the chickpeas, cashew nuts, roasted garlic, chipotle chili and salt in a food processor. Add enough water to make a smooth paste that’s thick enough to smear on a burger bun. Blend into a really smooth paste. If you are using the extra virgin olive oil, pour it in through the feed tube as the hummus is blending.
  13. Make the caramelized onions:
  14. Heat the oil, add the caramelized onions and a pinch of salt. Saute for a minute, then add the ground black pepper and sugar.
  15. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become golden brown and soft. Turn off heat and remove to a bowl.
  16. To build your burger, cut a whole wheat burger bun in half, smear some hummus on the base of the bun, layer on some greens, then a beet patty, and finally some caramelized onions. Smear some more hummus on the top half of the bun before capping off your burger.
  17. Dig in, and enjoy!

Beet Burger

Healthy Chia Waffles

Chia wafflesOur Saturday mornings begin, like most mornings, with a walk for Opie. But because we have more time on our hands, we treat him to an outing in the woods, or at one of the trails nearby where he can walk unfettered and meet other dogs — his favorite thing to do.

Because Opie has osteoarthritis we have to make sure his walks are long enough to exercise him without being so long that they will further wear out his joints. Our usual Saturday morning haunt, then, is this loop trail at a local park that brings us right back to the car. Opie loves it because part of the trail goes through a wooded area, giving him that mix of exercise and adventure that his little doggy heart craves.

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vegan chia wafflesBy now he has friends that he looks forward to meeting on the trail every week. There’s Genevieve, a gorgeous, long-legged Goldendoodle who runs like the breeze and never stops long enough for Opie to get a good sniff at her, which infuriates him although he’s too much of a gentleman to complain. There’s a friendly golden retriever who lives in a house near the trail and will escape ever so often to greet dogs passing by — he has a real soft corner for Opie. There’s Dougie, a gender-bending (at least by name) lab mix who is usually there with her human siblings and their nanny, and would rather have her belly rubbed by Desi than play with Opie.  Or Molly,  a black-coated beauty who likes jousting with Opie over attractive-looking twigs. Those dogs.

Opie trail

By the time we get home after all that dog chasing and belly rubbing our appetites are really going. It’s the perfect time for my Healthy Chia Waffles made with whole wheat and spelt.

vegan wafflesI make a lot of waffles and pancakes. always wholegrain and always healthy, and I’ve shared many of them on the blog before, so you might wonder what’s special about this one? Well, you’ll have to make them yourself and find out, but I’ll tell you one little secret: it’s the chia seeds. They give these waffles that lightness and a crunch that’s absolutely sublime.

I use whole wheat and spelt flours for the batter (never, ever use all purpose flour for waffles and pancakes– it only makes them bland and pasty), and I also add in a good amount of flaxmeal not only to act as binder but also to boost the waffles’ fiber and protein — and omega 3 — content.

It takes just minutes to mix up this batter, and a few more minutes to make them in a waffle iron. Try making them for your next weekend  breakfast, and I’ll bet that not just you but your doggies will love them too. When we sit down for breakfast, Opie’s always waiting under the table to demand his share.

chia waffles

Healthy Chia Waffles
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup spelt flour
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp flaxmeal
  • 2 cups almond milk or any non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp vinegar
Instructions
  1. Mix the almond milk and the vinegar and set aside to curdle.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the whole wheat and spelt flours with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. To the almond milk, add the chia seeds and flaxmeal. Whisk together.
  4. Add the almond milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until everything’s just moistened. If the mixture is too dry, add a little more almond milk.
  5. Cook in a waffle iron, per instructions. I have a Belgian waffle maker that makes six thick waffles per recipe, but if you have a regular waffle maker you would get 8-10 of these.
  6. Serve with any syrup of your choice. We love them with pure maple syrup.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 2 waffles Calories: 248 Sugar: 6.4 grams Fiber: 8.1 grams Protein: 8 grams