Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Potato Bhaji

This recipe is very versatile, because you can switch the potatoes for other vegetables, for example cabbage or green beans. It's extremely simple.

In Indian cooking, it is important to know how to create the "forney" which is the oil and spices that flavor the entire dish. To make the "forney" one must heat up their oil, and then add various spices. The hot oil helps to release the flavor in the spices and also takes on the flavor combination of the spices that have been added to it.

The "forney" for this dish is what can be applied to the other vegetables.

Potato Bhaji
Makes 3-4 side portions

4 fresh curry leaves
1/2 tsp asephoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 hot green chillies
4 medium size red potatoes, cooked, peeled, and chopped into large chunks
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp canola oil
salt to taste

Heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds start to pop, add the asephoetida, curry leaves, turmeric and green chillies. The moisture from the curry leaves and green chillies will create some splattering so be careful not to get burned. If the oil seems like it is going to burn anything, remove it from the heat. Let these ingredients sizzle in the oil for a minute without letting anything burn. This is the "forney".

Next, add the onion. Cook until softened. Finally, stir in the potatoes. Cook for a few minutes, making sure the potatoes are properly coated with spices all over. Finally, add the cilantro. The cilantro should be added right at the end of cooking so it can maintain it's fresh taste and green color.

Eggplant Bhaji

I sometimes go to Jackson Heights, the Indian area in Queens, New York. There are tons of restaurants, jewelry shops, and clothing shops all within a couple block radius. Every time I step off the subway into this neighborhood I feel as if I am stepping into a different world. The food, the smells, the music, the ladies dressed in saris; they are all little reminders of the world which exists thousands of miles away in India.

One thing that's great about this neighborhood are the prices of the items in grocery stores. On this occasion I stocked up on red onions, an eggplant, small green chillies and a bunch of roma tomatoes. In Manhattan these ingredients would cost at least three times as much.

Here is what I made with the ingredients I purchased in Jackson Heights.

Eggplant Bhaji
Makes 6-8 side portions

1 eggplant cubed
4 roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 large red onion, diced
2 hot green chillies, sliced in halves
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp of turmeric
2 tbsp of canola oil
salt to taste

Heat oil. Saute the turmeric, onions, chillies, and garlic in oil until softened. Add the eggplant. Continue to cook on a medium heat until eggplant starts to soften. At this point add the tomatoes. Continue to cook gently until the eggplant is fully cooked. Add salt to taste. The entire cooking process will take approximately 30 minutes. Eat with rice or pita bread or naan or a roti; whatever carbs you have will be a good accompaniment.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Tomato Soup

This recipe is a real classic. It's rich and warm, and goes perfectly with a nice grilled cheese sandwich. Plus, it's way more nutritious than the Campbell's variety!

Tomato Soup
Makes 3 servings

1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, sliced
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 ounce of butter
1 tbsp of flour
1 bay leaf
1 pinch of nutmeg or mace
500ml of water
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in the pan. Add the carrot and onion and sweat them until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Next, add the flour, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. It is important to make sure that the flour has cooked, otherwise there will be a terrible raw flour taste in the soup.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot. Stir thoroughly and make sure there is no flour stuck to the bottom. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Finally, it is necessary to puree the soup in a food processor. This can be done when the soup is hot or cold, but if it's done when the soup is hot, precautions must be taken so as not to burn oneself.