Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

My apologies for not blog-hopping as much - work has been positively crazy lately with back to back meetings (around 7 in a day, believe it or not) and that means sitting glued to the computer for most part and that is definitely not a healthy thing and my back is complaining a lot these days as a result. To add on to my work woes there is an offsite meeting in a different city next month and the thought of being away from the kids for an entire week is rather unnerving...  This will be my first time but hopefully it will be a case of "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and help us all get stronger in a way. Will update you later on how that pans out.

Coming to the recipe of the day, I remember ordering Eggplant Parmesan quite often when I first visited Italian restaurants in the US... It came on a bed of spaghetti noodles and was a very filling dish what with it containing deep fried, bread crumb coated eggplants, layered with marinara sauce and mozzarella & parmesan cheese. It is definitely a great way to get eggplant hating people but like many restaurant dishes, it's fairly easy to adapt the recipe to a lower calorie version by making a few changes such as baking instead of deep frying. In an effort to retain the crispness of the eggplants,  the version I make at home does not involve layering the baked eggplant slices and instead I just apply a thin layer of the sauce and sprinkle some cheese. My daughter said that it was like cheese pizza and she's right... this must make for a great low carb alternative to cheese pizza. We enjoyed this with a salad for a tasty weekend dinner.

UPDATE:  Added 28/Feb/2013 - I forgot to mention about how to choose the large eggplants for this dish.. since some can have lots of seeds and be bitter - that could affect the taste of the dish. Choose smooth skinned eggplants that are firm and look fresh... and importantly they should seem light (for their size). The lighter they are, the less seeds they contain.

BAKED EGGPLANT PARMESAN



Ingredients:

Eggplant (large) - 1 (I prefer peeled)
Bread slices - 4
Parmesan cheese, shredded - 1/4 cup
Mozzarella cheese shredded - 1/2 cup
Egg - 1
Egg whites - 2 or  Egg beaters - 1/2 cup or additional Egg - 1
Oregano/Italian Dried herbs - half tsp
Dried Red Chilli flakes - 1 tsp (reduce or omit if you don't like it spicy)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Storebought tomato sauce/marinara sauce (I used tomato basil) - 1/3 cup
Olive oil - to spray

Method:

1) Peel Eggplant and slice into 1/4 inch pieces (lengthwise). Salt lightly and allow to rest for 30 to 45 mins. You will see drops of water form...  Blot with a kitchen towel/paper napkin. What this process does is to draw out the moisture from the eggplant so it will get crisp when baked instead of becoming soggy.


2) In a mixie jar, add bread slices, dried red chilli flakes, dried herbs, parmesan cheese and blend until powdered.  Spread on a wide plate.


3) In a slightly wide bowl, beat together the eggs (or eggwhites or egg beaters) with a bit of salt and pepper.

4) Preheat oven to 375F and line 2 big baking sheets with foil or parchment. Coat lightly with oil.

5) Dredge/Dip the blotted eggplant first in the egg wash and then in the bread crumb mixture. Lay on the baking sheet(s). Repeat with remaining slices of eggplant without overlapping and bake for about 20 mins.. flipping once after 10 mins.

6) Once the eggplants get browned...  remove from stove, spread a tbsp or so of marinara sauce on each slice of eggplant and sprinkle some of the mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese has melted 5 to 10 mins.




7) Remove and serve with salad of choice or as is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Kadhamba Kootu/Kuzhambu

My aunt (Sumathi athai) would make this kuzhambu once a year for thiruvadhirai and since that usually would come during the months of Dec/January there would be a good supply of winter veggies, especially mochai. She would use 21 different veggies, if I remember right... which explains the name of the dish since it's a medley of vegetables.  For some reason, my mom or grandmother never made this so I would eagerly await the thooku (a stainless steel vessel with a fitting lid and a handle) of this tasty kuzhambu each year that my aunt would bring for us.  During my last trip, I got the recipe from her and quickly scribbled it down and now I can enjoy this anytime of the year :)  This pairs really well with ven pongal or just plain white rice and is chock full of vegetables, also it's a recipe with no onion or garlic. In my mind this is like aviyal meets sambar and they live happily ever after :)

KADAMBA KOOTU / KUZHAMBU



Ingredients:
Mixed Vegetables - 2 to 3 cups (I used ashgourd/wintermelon, vazhakkai/raw banana, potato, avarakkai/flat beans, carrot, green beans, chow chow/chayote squash, brinjal)
Fresh/Frozen mochai (Papdi Lilva) - half cup


Toor Dhal - 1/4 cup
Channa Dhal- 1 tbsp
Mung Dhal - 1 tbsp
Tomato - 1 small
Tamarind - 1 small lemon sized, soaked in warm water
Chilli powder - half tsp
Sambar powder - 2 tsp
Turmeric powder - half tsp

Salt - to taste

To Grind:
Coconut Grated - 1/4 cup
Cumin seeds - half tsp
Green chillies - 2
Black pepper - 5

For Seasoning:Gingelly / Sesame Oil (Nallennai) - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds- half tsp

Urad Dhal - half tsp
Cumin seeds - quarter tsp

Methi seeds - 4 or 5
Curry leaves - few

Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp
Asafoetida - a pinch


Method:
1) Cut veggies into uniform 1 inch cubes. Cook them (except tomato and mochai) with some water, salt and turmeric till soft (but not mushy). If in a rush, I use a pressure cooker and cook for 4-5 minutes once the pressure builds up and switch off the stove.

2) Pressure cook the Thuvar dhal, channa dhal and mung dhal together with some turmeric and asafoetida till soft and mushy. Mash them up.  I also pressure cooked the mochai till soft with a touch of salt.

3) Extract the tamarind water from the soaked tamarind and strain.
4) Grind together the coconut, cumin seeds, green chillies and black pepper with some water to a paste.

5) In a big pot or the pressure cooker itself,  bring together the cooked vegetables, mochai and tomatoes and allow them to cook for a few minutes with about 1 cup of water before adding the tamarind water, chilli powder and sambar powder. Allow this to boil for about 10 to 15 minutes.

6) Add the mashed dhals at this point and the ground coconut paste. Adjust salt and consistency of gravy and allow to boil for another 5 to 10 minutes. Switch off the stove.

7) In a separate small kadai, heat the oil and add the seasoning ingredients... once the mustard splutters, add the curry leaves and pour into the pot with the kuzhambu. Sprinkle coriander leaves and cover. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Avocado Methi parathas with Broccoli Paneer filling

Trying to get a balanced meal on the table on weekends is not an easy task and if you take into consideration some other variables such as what each person likes and what is easy enough to pack for lunch the following day etc. it just makes it even more complex. I find that if I don't plan what to cook ahead of time it takes a longer time to make dinner..  One such evening, I had no clear plan of what to make so decided to make stuffed parathas and took out my food processor, which made everything so much quicker and coupled with some home-made yogurt this made for a tasty, satisfying meal.


AVOCADO METHI PARATHAS with BROCCOLI PANEER FILLING

Ingredients:


Whole wheat flour/atta - 2.5 cups
Avocado - half, cubed
Olive Oil - 2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Warm water - as needed to knead :)
Methi leaves - 1 cup, chopped
Oil - to cook parathas


Filling
Broccoli - 1 head, minced in the food processor - about 1 to 1.5 cups minced
Paneer - 150g
Potato - 1, boiled and peeled (optional)
Ginger - 1 inch piece

Coriander leaves - 10 stalks with leaves
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Sambar powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - half tsp
Cumin powder - half tsp / Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - half tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tsp

Method:
1) For the dough - put whole wheat flour, methi leaves, cubed avocado, olive oil and a few pinches of salt in the food processor with the kneading attachment. Let it run through for about 15 seconds to mix well. Then drizzle the warm water through the feeding tube while running the food processor (about 45 seconds) until a smooth dough is formed. You could very well do this by hand too if you don't have / want to use a food processor. Allow this rest for about 30 mins or so (during which time I worked on the filling).


2) Wash and cut broccoli into big florets and place in food processor (with chopping blade this time) along with ginger... pulse until minced. Remove and keep aside.

3) Next add big pcs of paneer and coriander leaves in food processor and pulse until it crumbles.

4) Heat a pan with a tsp of oil and add the minced broccoli and saute with some salt until tender. Stir in the masala powders to taste and cook for a few more mins. Switch off the stove and stir in the crumbled paneer and mashed potato (if using). Allow to cool a bit.

5) Make lemon sized balls of the dough and equal sized balls of the broccoli paneer filling as well. Roll parathas, place filling in the middle, cover and re-roll (for detailed steps, please refer to this post).


6) Cook on a tawa on both sides (on medium) and brush with some oil. Serve with plain or spiced masala yogurt.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lettuce & Apple Salad with Lemon Poppyseed dressing

So many of us are trying to adopt healthier eating patterns and usually fruits and vegetables are the most important feature of such meals. As I've mentioned many times earlier, while I love soups, salads have not always been on my favorite list but there are some versions that I have begun to favour. When my SIL mentioned that she has a new favorite dressing - lemon poppyseed, I decided to try it for some beautiful romaine lettuce that I brought home. It's a sweet and tangy dressing and little did I expect the entire family to like it... even my 3 yr old son who generally favors fried foods/chocolates ate a bowlful of lettuce leaves and left only the apples in the bowl! The toughest critic liking it is always a win in my book. What's more, they wanted an encore for dinner the following day  :)


 ROMAINE & APPLE SALAD with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing|




Ingredients:
Hearts of romaine (rinsed and patted dry) - 2 bunches - chopped into 1 inch pcs

Apple/Pear - 1, chopped into pieces (I peeled it but it's optional)
Sweetened dried cranberries - 1 to 2 tbsp (or use raisins)
Roasted walnuts/almonds - 2 tbsp, chopped

For the dressing - about 1/3 cup
Lemon juice - 2 tbsp
Sugar - 1 tbsp (you can go upto 2 tbsp if you want it more sweet)
Olive oil - 2 tbsp
Dijon Mustard - 1 tsp
Chopped red onion  - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/8 tsp
Pepper - 1/4 tsp
Poppyseeds (khasa khasa) - 1 tsp (Black poppyseeds will have a better impact but I only had the white ones).

Method:

1) In a blender or mixie jar, grind together lemon juice sugar, onion. Blend in the mustard and olive oil. Remove this to a bowl  and add the poppy seeds and stir in to combine with salt and black pepper to taste.


2) Toss the romaine hearts, apples with 2 to 3 tbsp of the lemon poppyseed dressing with some salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the dried cranberries and walnuts and serve. Best when served fresh.

We had a tasty meal by combining a big bowl of this salad, some black bean soup and  this pull apart bread (that was featured on so many blogs last week) - it was far too tempting to not try it out.  I followed the recipe in Lata akka's blog and used sun dried tomatoes and pepper jack cheese for a filling.