Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Roasted eggplant with chickpeas and chermoula

Roasted and mashed eggplants feature in Indian as well as Mediterranean cuisine. In India, it is made into Bharta - roasted eggplant cooked with onions and tomatoes, the Greeks serve it as Melitzanosalata - a roasted eggplant dip with yogurt and the Turks serve it as Baba ghanoush - roasted eggplants with fresh herbs.

I have used the Indian version as my base for this recipe and incorporated cooked chickpeas and flavored it North African style with a Chermoula spice mix. Chermoula consists of various fresh herbs and spices and is used as a marinade for chicken and lamb. But I found this dry Chermoula spice mix on the web at http://www.herbies.com.au/ and I have been using it as a spice in various dishes. This particular version contains  Cumin, Paprika, Onion, Turmeric, Cayenne, Garlic, Parsley, Salt, and Pepper. The combination of spices works well with the smoky flavor of the eggplants and the sweetness of the caramelized onions and tang of the tomatoes. The chickpeas provide a textural contrast to the soft eggplant. The dish is cooked with cilantro and the final addition of chopped cilantro leaves gives the dish an additional burst of freshness.

Roasted eggplant with chickpeas and chermoula
1 large purple eggplant (a little more than a lb)
1/3 cup cooked chickpeas (I used organic canned chickpeas)
1 large tomato chopped (1 cup)
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 teaspoon chopped green chili (Jalapeno or Serrano)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons chermoula spice mix 
½ cup chopped cilantro, leaves and tender stems
4 teaspoons canola oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the eggplant on a baking sheet and place it on the center rack of the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes turning it after every ten minutes, till the skin is charred and coming away from the flesh. Remove from the oven and cool. (Or you could roast it over the fire if you like a smoky flavor like I do).
  3. Once cooled, use a kitchen towel to scrape off the charred skin. Cut off the top and smash the roasted eggplant with a potato masher and set aside.
  4. Heat a heavy bottomed skillet with canola oil and add the chopped onion. Sauté over medium high heat till the onions are soft and light brown, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped tomato, cooked chickpeas, mashed eggplant and salt and sauté for 2 minutes over medium high heat uncovered. Then add the chermoula mix and cover the pan and cook over medium heat for another 5 to 7 minutes till the tomato is well incorporated into the eggplant. Add half the cilantro leaves and continue to cook for another couple of minutes. Serve garnished with additional cilantro leaves.
  5. Serve with Pita chips or Pita bread in a whole wheat wrap with some shredded lettuce.

Serves 2 to 3

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Campanelle with butternut squash and goat cheese

Roasted butternut squash is very versatile. It makes a nice salad paired with slightly bitter arugula or along with woodsy shiitake mushrooms. Also, works well in a creamy risotto as well as combined with pasta.

In this recipe, butternut squash is roasted with citrusy coriander and then tossed with a caramelized mixture of onions, garlic and fresh red chilies. The whole mixture is added to very pretty flower shaped pasta and goat cheese to create a sweet and tangy pasta dish. Toasted pecans give it some additional richness and crunch and a generous handful of parsley provides a fresh flavor.
Pasta with butternut squash and goat cheese
1lb peeled and cubed butternut squash
2 teaspoons coriander seeds crushed with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 tablespoons sliced fresh medium spicy red chili pepper
½ - ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup toasted pecans, chopped into bite sized pieces
¾ cup finely chopped parsley leaves
3 oz fresh goat cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Toss the cubed butternut squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, crushed coriander seeds and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast in a preheated oven on the middle rack for 40 to 45 minutes turning halfway till the squash cubes turn a light brown.
3. In the meantime, heat a 3 quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoon of olive oil and the chopped onion, garlic and red chili. Cook over a medium low flame for 5 to 8 minutes till the onion is soft and light brown.
4. While the onion is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, drain (save a cup of the pasta water) and add the pasta to the onion and garlic mixture.  Add the roasted butternut squash and half the chopped parsley as well. Toss to combine and heat the mixture over low heat. Finally add the goat cheese and ¼ cup pasta water to form a sauce. Check for seasoning and adjust the salt. Garnish with chopped pecans and the rest of the chopped parsley.
5. Serve immediately.

Serves 3

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mushrooms en papillote

En papillote means “in parchment” in French. This method of cooking involves the food to be put into a parchment paper pouch and then baked. The moisture from the food steams the food and creates a sauce while baking. Of course you can add liquids to create more sauce as well as add flavor.

Most often fish and chicken are cooked using this technique, but I tried to cook everyday button mushrooms and they were delicious. I flavored them with some thinly sliced garlic, lemon rind, rosemary and chili flakes and baked them for 18 minutes in a hot oven. The mushrooms were succulent and the sauce was light, tangy and perfect for dipping bread.

Makes a perfect accompaniment to roast chicken or fish or as a light side to accompany a cheesy casserole.

Mushrooms en papillote
1lb medium sized button mushrooms, cut into quarters if large
2 tablespoons finely minced rosemary
4 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt 
¼ teaspoon chili flakes
Zest of one large lemon
Juice of ½ lemon, plus a few wedges for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Divide the mushrooms into 4 equal portions and place each portion in a large piece of parchment - it should be at least 10 inches long - this will facilitate to make a pouch.
  3. Divide the garlic, rosemary, chili flakes, salt and lemon zest equally over the four portions of mushrooms. Add 1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil to each of the portions and fold the parchment to make a pouch ensuring there are no gaps for the steam to escape. [If you do not have parchment, then aluminum foil will do as well.] Place the pouches on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet on the middle rack of a pre-heated oven. Bake for 18 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and let it rest for a couple of minutes.
  4. Place the individual packets in shallow bowls to catch the juice. [Be careful while opening the packets since the steam is very hot.]
  5. Serve with crusty bread and a wedge of lemon on the side.
Serves 4

Asparagus, Leek and tomato tart

Tart and butter are synonymous. Hence we rarely ever eat tarts. But this one is made with olive oil and that too very little. I discovered this recipe from The Greens restaurant in San Francisco which is famous for its vegetarian cuisine.

The dough is made with a combination of all purpose and whole wheat flour and requires very little kneading. Despite using whole wheat flour the dough is very light. I top it with a mixture of sauteed leeks and fresh asparagus covered with sliced tomatoes and sharp cheddar cheese. It makes a great main course for a light lunch paired with a green salad or a first course for dinner.

The assembled tart
The 3 inch tomato and goat cheese tart

Asparagus, Leek and Tomato tart

Tart Shell
Makes two 9 - 10 inch crusts and the trimmings make two 3 inch crusts

1 ¼ cups unbleached all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus extra for spraying
  1. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a mixing bowl.
  2. Transfer the flour mixture to the food processor with the metal blade inserted. With the motor running,  add the olive oil, then ¾ cup water. When the dough comes together in a ball, turn off the motor. Scrape the dough out of the food processor and knead very gently on a lightly floured board just until the dough is smooth. Do not over work or the dough will be tough.
  3. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Press each ball into a disk, about 4 inches in diameter. Dust lightly with flour if the dough is sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for and hour or longer at room temperature.
  4. Sprinkle a small amount of unbleached flour over your work surface. Put the piece of dough on it, and lightly dust the top with more flour. Roll the dough from the center to the far edge, in one direction only, turning the dough, until it is quite thin, with a diameter of at least 12 inches. Keep dusting lightly with flour if the dough sticks.
  5. Spray a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom with olive oil. Gently fold the circle of dough in half and lift onto the pan, with the fold in the middle of the pan. Unfold the dough so that it covers the pan. Press gently into the pan. Using the rolling pin, roll over the tart pan to trim the edges. Save the trimmings to roll once again to make another 3 inch tart.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack in the preheated oven for 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool before adding the filling.

12 thick asparagus stalks - woody ends removed and thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 cups finely sliced leeks, whites only
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2.5 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
one medium sized plum tomato, thinly sliced
  1. Heat a medium skillet with olive oil and add the chopped leeks and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and the asparagus and toss well. Cook for another 8 minutes over low heat till the leeks are soft and creamy and the asparagus is cooked. Add the remaining salt if required and the freshly ground black pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Assembling the tart
  1. Spread the filling into the tart shell and sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the filling. Decorate with the tomato slices and bake in a 375 F oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.
  2. Cut into wedges and serve with a fresh green salad.
Serves 4 as a first course or 2 as lunch.

***Note: I used one dough ball and froze the second one. When using from frozen, you need to thaw out the dough at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Braised collard greens with sweet corn

Collard greens are large dark colored leaves which are part of the cabbage and broccoli family. They are grown in different parts of the world and are referred to by different names. ***In Brazil, it is called couve, couve-galega in Portugal, kovi or kobi in Cape Verde, berza in Spanish-speaking countries, raštika in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia and raštan in Montenegro and Serbia. In Kashmir, it is called haak. In CongoTanzania and Kenya (East Africa), the plant is called sukuma wiki.

Collard greens are hearty greens which take to braising very well. Simmered over a long period gives it a beautiful creamy and silky texture. They have a slightly bitter flavor and I combine them with onions and sweet corn and braise the leaves to make a wonderful tasty dish. The onions caramelize with slow cooking and become sweet and along with the sweet corn contrasts well with the bitter greens. The addition of the chili peppers gives the dish a slight kick and the cumin gives it a faint smokiness.

Braised collard greens with sweet corn
5 cups thinly sliced organic collard greens (ribs removed – about 9 large leaves)
1 cup finely chopped white onion
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno or Serrano chili
1 cup frozen or fresh sweet corn kernels
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ cup water
4 teaspoons canola oil
1/8th teaspoon granulated sugar
½ - ¾ th teaspoon salt

1. Heat a medium sized sauté pan with canola oil. Add the cumin seeds – when they pop, add the chopped onion, garlic and chili peppers. Sauté over medium heat for about 3 minutes till the onions are soft and light brown.

2. Add the finely sliced collard greens and toss with onion mixture. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup water and cover and cook for 5 minutes over low heat. Remove cover and stir the mixture. Add the sweet corn kernels and ¼ teaspoon salt and mix. Then add ¼ cup water and cover and continue to cook over low heat for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Finally check for salt and add the sugar, mix and cook covered for 5 more minutes. By this time the collard greens should be soft and creamy. Serve warm.

Serves 2

*** This information is from Wikipedia

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kadhi (Yogurt soup)

Yogurt soups are found in different parts of the world but most people would associate them with being cold soups. However, kadhi is an Indian yogurt soup which is served warm. It is made with yogurt and chickpea flour and a few spices garnished with some fresh herbs. Each region has their own version of kadhi - some are sweet and others are spicy. This is my mild interpretation of the many kinds out there. It is tangy, a bit spicy from the ginger and green chilies and aromatic from the cumin and mustard seeds. A generous sprinkling of cilantro leaves gives the soup a fresh clean flavor. It is traditionally eaten with steamed rice and a dry vegetable.

Kadhi - Yogurt soup
1 cup low fat plain yogurt
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ tablespoons chickpea flour (besan)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 ½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped Serrano peppers (mild hot green pepper)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Scant ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, leaves and soft stems

1. Mix the yogurt, chickpea flour, cayenne and turmeric powder with a whisk to ensure there are no lumps. Add the water and whisk to combine. Pass it through a sieve if necessary to remove any lumps.

2. Heat a medium saucepan with ½ tablespoon canola oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and Serrano pepper and sauté for 30 seconds to a minute till the ginger is light brown. Add the yogurt mixture and slowly bring it to a boil stirring to ensure that it does not stick. It is important to keep the heat low; otherwise the yogurt will curdle and separate. Once it comes to a boil – takes about 3 minutes, reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes stirring occasionally till the chickpea flour has cooked and the soup is no longer watery. The consistency that you are looking for is that of fresh light cream.

3. In another small saucepan, heat ½ tablespoon canola oil and add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook over medium heat till they pop. Remove from the heat and pour the oil along with the seeds into the simmering yogurt mixture. Cook the yogurt mixture for another couple of minutes to incorporate the flavor of the spices and serve warm garnished with fresh cilantro.

Serves 4
Serving suggestions:
Serve with steamed rice and sauteed zucchini with chickpea flour or cauliflower with ajwain.