Thursday, October 11, 2012

Beluga lentil salad with beets and Feta

Beluga lentils are the perfect lentils to use in a salad since they hold their shape after cooking. Once cooked they glisten, which makes them look like caviar. Combined with sweet beetroots and salty feta with some pomegranate for that crunch and burst of sweet-tart goodness, this salad not only looks stunning but also tastes fantastic. And whats more, it even tastes great a couple of days after. The final addition of parsley gives the color contrast and some freshness.

Beluga lentil salad with beets and Feta

1 cup beluga lentils
2 small red beets
4 oz Greek Feta cheese
2 small cloves of garlic, peeled
1 small shallot, peeled and cut into two
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ - ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon chili flakes
¼ cup finely chopped parsley leaves
¼ cup shelled pomegranate

1. Cook the beluga lentils with enough water, ½ teaspoon salt, one small clove of garlic, and the shallot for about 20 minutes over medium heat till they are soft but hold their shape.
2. While the lentils are cooking or prior, cut the feta into ¼ inch cubes and marinate them with olive oil, one clove of minced garlic and chili flakes for at least 1 hour.
3. Drain the lentils and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the red wine vinegar and allow the lentils to cool.
4. In the meantime, boil the beetroots for 15 to 20 minutes till they are soft. Cool, peel and cut into ¼ inch cubes. Add to the lentils and toss.
5. When the lentils and beets have cooled completely, add the feta cubes along with the marinade and ¼ teaspoon salt or to taste and mix well.
6. Refrigerate, till you are ready to serve. Just before serving, add the pomegranates and the chopped parsley.

Serves 4 to 6

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stir fried Baby corn, Broccoli and Water Chestnuts

Baby corn is very rarely available fresh in New York City. Having lived in Singapore for many years, this is one vegetable that we miss. So, a few months back I decided to give in and buy a can of baby corn and a can of water chestnuts. The baby corn was for an Indo-Chinese dish called Baby corn manchurian and the water chestnuts for dumplings. Neither of these dishes materialized and combined with the fact that I had very few fresh vegetables in the refrigerator, this dish was born in a matter of minutes.

I had a head of broccoli and some brown beech mushrooms (aka 'hon shimeji') {see pic below}and I added the canned corn and chestnuts - it was a great combination of textures. These mushrooms grow in bunches of tiny and delicate white stems 1 to 2 inches high, topped with small light brown or cream-colored caps. They are crisp with a juicy crunch and have a mild, slightly nutty flavor. In New York I buy them at the local Japanese grocery store. Of course you could substitute these with shiitake or cremini mushrooms as well (4 oz would be enough).

I flavored the oil with sliced ginger and dry red chilies and sauteed the onion and garlic in the flavored oil. Then I added all the vegetables and the sauce. The secret ingredient in this sauce is kecap manis. The description as per the Gourmet Sleuth website is " [KEH-chuhp MAH-nees] An Indonesian sauce similar to a sweet soy sauce flavored with garlic and/or star anise. Kecap manis is sweetened with palm sugar and is used as a condiment. The sauce is thick and not at all salty and has a very rich caramely flavor." This sauce is available in Asian grocery stores or online at Asian supermarket. It balances the spice of the dry red chilies and the saltiness of the soy sauce. Served over short grain brown rice with some pan-fried frozen vegetable dumplings, it was a quick weeknight meal.

Stir fried Baby Corn, Broccoli and Water Chestnuts
Brown Beech Mushrooms

1 15 oz can of sweet baby corn
1 8 oz can peeled sliced water chestnuts
1 medium head of broccoli, florets separated
1 head brown beech mushrooms, base trimmed and separated into small clumps
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped into ¼ inch pieces
3 thin slices of fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 spring onions, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
2 whole dry red chilies
2 tablespoons shao-xing rice wine
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
2 tablespoons canola oil

1. Drain and rinse the sweet baby corn and the water chestnuts with cold water and set aside. Slice the baby corn down the middle – if they are thick spears, cut into four strips.
2. Heat a wok or a large heavy bottomed skillet with canola oil over medium heat and add the ginger slices and dry red chilies (break the chilies if you want to increase the spice quotient of the dish). Once the chilies start to brown and the ginger sizzles, add the onions and garlic and cook over medium heat stirring often. Cook for about 3 minutes till the onions get light brown edges.
3. Now add the broccoli stems and the rice wine and cook covered for 3 to 4 minutes till the broccoli is al dente.
4. Add the rest of the vegetables, light soy sauce and the kecap manis and stir fry over medium high heat for a couple of minutes. Add about quarter cup water and continue to cook till the broccoli is cooked.
5. Finally add the chopped spring onions and give it a final toss.
6. Serve with brown rice.

Serves 3

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Eggplant in a yogurt sauce

This eggplant dish is inspired by the yogurt based dishes from the northern state of Kashmir in India. Along with yogurt, which provides richness to dishes, Kashmiri cuisine is also known for its use of ginger and fennel. While Kashmiri food is very meat centric, this eggplant dish is a great representation of an almost authentic preparation.

I have used baby eggplants, which are available in India and in Indian stores in the US. But you could use the long Japanese eggplants or Italian eggplants, both of which have less seeds, cut into one and a half inch pieces.Typically the eggplants would be deep-fried and then cooked in the yogurt sauce, but I am one of those people who is averse to deep fried foods. Hence, I saute them in a little oil and finish the cooking in the sauce.

This dish is best eaten fresh and with jeera pulao (recipe below) or steamed rice.

Eggplant in a yogurt sauce

Baby eggplants

1 lb small eggplant
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground dried ginger
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground asafetida (hing)
1 cup low fat yogurt
½- 1 cup water
¾ cup chopped cilantro

1. Heat a large heavy bottomed non-stick skillet (large enough to fit all the eggplant in one layer) with 1 ½ tablespoons canola oil.
2. Add the eggplant and cook over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes till the eggplants are blistered.
3. Add the remaining ½ tablespoons canola oil and the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Now add the ground fennel, ground ginger, red pepper flakes, turmeric and asafetida and cook for 30 more seconds.
4. In the meantime, blend the yogurt with the cilantro and add to the eggplants. Cook covered over low heat till the eggplants are soft and have absorbed the flavor from the yogurt and cilantro sauce. Add water ¼ cup at a time if necessary, depending on how much sauce you desire.

Serves 4 as a Main course

Jeera Pulao
1 1/4 cup basmati rice rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoons ghee or canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

  1. Heat a sauce pan with the ghee or canola oil. Add the cumin seeds and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  2. When the seeds begin to pop, add the rice with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil. Once boiled, reduce the heat to low and cook covered for 15 minutes, without lifting the lid at all.
  3. Once done, turn off the heat and let the rice remain covered for 10 minutes. Now remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.