Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Stir fried eggplants - South Indian style

This is a South Indian version of a stir fried eggplant dish. the farmers markets in summer are filled with various kinds of eggplants. I used fairytale eggplants, which are 3 to 4 inches long and slender and not bitter either. These small eggplants are combined with red onions and a fragrant mixture of spices and lentils and perked up with a healthy dose of dried red chili to produce this mouth watering dish.

Stir fried eggplants - South Indian style
1 lb fairy eggplant
1 1/2 cups sliced red onions
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 - 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon urad dal
1 tablespoon chana dal
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  1. Trim the tops of the eggplants and quarter them vertically or halve them depending on the thickness of the eggplant.
  2. Dry roast the coriander seeds, urad dal and chana dal separately for about two minutes each over medium low heat. Make sure they do not burn. Once cool, grind the coriander coarsely in a coffee grinder. Set aside. Then grind the two roasted dals into a fine powder. Mix the three powders in a bowl to be added at the end.
  3. Heat a large heavy bottomed skillet with olive oil over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. when the seeds begin to pop, add the sliced onions and cook over medium heat for 4 minutes stirring once or twice.
  4. Add the eggplants to the onion mixture and the turmeric powder. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix well. Cook covered over medium low heat for 8 to 10 minutes till the eggplants are soft. Toss after every 3 minutes.
  5. Once the eggplants are soft, add the spice powder and the dried chili flakes. Mix well and cook for another 5 minutes over medium low heat. Taste for seasoning and adjust the salt accordingly.
Serves 4 as part of a composed meal

Monday, August 31, 2015

Chinese five spice roasted cauliflower in a "manchurian" sauce

This is my riff on a cauliflower manchurian, a popular dish at Indian Chinese restaurants. In the traditional version, the cauliflower florets are dipped into a batter and deep fried. Then the fried cauliflower is tossed in a spicy sauce. I decided to stay away from deep frying and roasted the cauliflower instead. I used Chinese five spice to flavor the cauliflower which is a mixture of spices. Most commonly used spices are star anise, cloves and cinnamon with the bite of Szechwan pepper, all married together with ground fennel seeds. The roasted cauliflower tastes great on its own, but I wanted to make a "manchurian gravy". On its own the roasted cauliflower makes for great finger food.
Chinese Five Spice Roasted cauliflower in a "manchurian" sauce

1.5 lb cauliflower, cut into medium sized pieces (large florets cut into quarters and the smaller ones into two)
1 teaspoon Chinese Five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper powder
3/4th teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, sliced

For the sauce
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon tamari sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 heaped teaspoon black bean chili sauce

  1. Preheat a large baking sheet at 425 F. Toss the cauliflower with the five spice powder, garlic powder, white pepper powder, salt and 2 tablespoons canola oil. Mix till all the florets are well coated. Then lay them on the baking sheet in a single layer and cook for 25 minutes.
  2. Towards the last few minutes of cooking, heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add the chopped onion and the sliced garlic and a tiny pinch of salt and cook for about 3 minutes - at this point the onion will start to pink at the edges. Add the roasted cauliflower to the onion mixture and the ingredients for the sauce and mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes and remove from the fire. Serve hot.
Serves 3 with an egg fried rice or 4 as part of a multi-course meal

Friday, August 21, 2015

Chinese sweet corn soup

This is not a fancy soup but some version of which you will get at every Chinese restaurant. I have been having this soup since my childhood and this is my take on it. Loved by my daughter who enjoys corn in any form and not really liked by my husband who is trying to avoid starchy vegetables. I combine fresh corn with canned creamy style corn. Thickened with some corn starch and subtly spiced with white pepper with swirls of a beaten egg with some sesame oil, it is quite delicious!

Chinese sweet corn soup
1 fresh corn on the cob
1 can of cream style sweet corn (8.25 oz can = 1 cup)
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 teaspoons rice wine
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper  or to taste
Kosher salt to taste
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon chili sesame oil
1 large organic egg
1 scallion, green parts only finely sliced for garnish
  1. Remove the husk from the corn and shave off the kernels into a bowl.
  2. Heat a sauce pan with canola oil and add the chopped onion and minced garlic with a pinch of kosher salt. Saute on medium heat for 3 minutes till the onion has softened.
  3. Add the corn kernels and 1 cup water and cook for 10 minutes uncovered on medium heat till the kernels are cooked and the water is almost completely absorbed.
  4. Add the cream style corn and one and a half cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the rice, wine, white pepper, and salt and mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Create the corn slurry by mixing the corn starch with  1 tablespoon cold water. Add it to the soup and bring to a boil. In the meantime beat the egg with 1/8th teaspoon kosher salt and the sesame chili oil. When the soup starts to thicken, reduce the heat and add the egg slowly stirring constantly to form threads. If you like egg to be in flowers, then stir slowly to allow the egg flowers to form. 
  6. Garnish with the chopped scallions and serve.
Serves 3