Stuffed fingerling eggplants – Gutti Vankaya

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Today I put forward another family heirloom that our grandma, ammamma, passed on to us grandkids, an eternal love and appreciation to brinjal/eggplant or vankaya. This recipe here is a love letter to this vegetable. Our family call this the king of all vegetables. I always complained how the eggplant here does not have the same taste that we find back home. I may have found a solution to this problem- grow your own!

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When I curated the saplings for my patio kitchen garden, I knew I had to pick the finest small eggplant variety to grow. These organic little fingerling variety is just that! It gives the Asian sized eggplants and in bunches! I could harvest five at a time and had five more on their way on the plant. Talk about instant gratification!

After teasing my instagram followers for weeks on the eggplant harvest updates, starting from flower to fruit, I took votes on what to make out of them. An overwhelming majority wanted to see the recipe for this simple stuffed eggplant recipe. The nostalgia was palpable guys! I, personally, was debating between an eggplant pot rice meal versus this stuffed eggplant. I went with what people wanted to see in this space.

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I have heard how fresh vegetables taste different from store bought ones, but never realized that freshly plucked vegetables are totally a league of their own! They cook quickly without needing much heat and melt in your mouth.

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I added the curry powder that amma made and sent from India and will also be posting that recipe for those that are interested. So, the famous way of making the stuffed eggplant is to fill the sliced eggplants, which are still held together by the green stem, with a spoonful of this curry powder and add them to hot oil in a pan. But, what we need to realize is the vegetable needs a little longer to cook and the curry powder does not need to be recooked at all. So, this process will need to burning of the curry powder. Instead, what amma recommends is to lightly salt the eggplants and add them to a pan with a teaspoon of oil to cook. Within few minutes, under closed lid, they are cooked to the core and we can add the curry powder to the slit eggplants.

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Ingredients:

  • 5 small eggplants
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • 2-3 tbsp curry powder
    • 1/2 cup grated coconut
    • 2 tbsp chana dal
    • 1 tbsp urad dal
    • 3-4 whole red chillies
    • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
    • A pinch of asafoetida/hing
    • Salt

Recipe:

  1. For making the curry powder, dry roast the lentils – chana dal and urad dal and when they are brown, add the red chillies and coriander seeds, which do not take as long to brown. Turn off the heat and add the grated coconut. Let the contents cool down in pan. Transfer the contents to a spice jar or blender and add salt and hing and grind to a uniform powder. This can stay bottled in an airtight jar for few weeks to months.
  2. Take the eggplants and use a knife to carefully slice them in length, but still held together at the stem.
  3. Rub some salt on the inside using your fingers delicately.
  4. Warm up the skillet and add a teaspoon of oil and place the eggplants in the oiled skillet.
  5. Once you hear one side sizzling, slowly turn them such that the uncooked side touches the skillet and cooked side comes up.
  6. After five minutes of cooking, close the lid and keep cooking on medium heat.
  7. Check in five minutes to see whether the eggplants have shriveled up. If not, turn the direction and continue cooking with the lid closed.
  8. Add 2 tbsp curry powder and try to use a spoon to scoop it inside the eggplant gently.
  9. Cook under closed lid for another two minutes and turn off the heat. The eggplants will continue cooking in the hot skillet for a little while longer.
  10. Serve it with a cup of hot rice with a dollop of ghee or a flatbread roti, again with a dollop of ghee! Do not forget the remove the stems before eating though.

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Mung bean “Hummus” – Pesarapappu pachadi

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I know, I know, calling this a hummus is a bit of a stretch but then this dip is so amazing and versatile and performs all the tasks assigned to a hummus. So, let’s begin, shall we?

This has “beans”, lots of cumin and lime juice and has a consistency just like hummus. The difference being, there is no tahini. Instead, we use asafoetida and curry leaves for seasoning.

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This simple dip or chutney uses very few ingredients but packs a punch in terms of flavor and nutrition. As I have been trying to add more pregnancy friendly recipes in this space, I decided to start with the easiest recipe of all for a working mom-to be. Mung beans or green gram are a type of lentils that are commonly used in Indian simple home food. It is not found in any Indian restaurants that one frequents to, but isn’t that what food blogs are for? To share what our moms and grandmas have been dishing out for ages. Whole mung beans are green and generally found in the dried food bins of any organic market or whole foods. The yellow one that I used here are a polished version of the green mung beans. Lentils, especially mung beans are rich in folate, iron and thiamine, some of the most important nutrients for pregnancy and this dip here uses the soaked and uncooked version, ensuring that none of these nutrients lose potency by overcooking.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups soaked mung beans (whole or polished)
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 dried red chillies (based on potency, change the number)
  • Juice from 2 medium limes
  • 1/2 tbsp asafoetida powder
  • 1/2 tbsp mustard seeds
  • handful of curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • salt to taste

Recipe:

  1. Soak mung beans for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Use a food processor or a blender to process soaked mung beans, salt, asafoetida, cumin and red chilies into a thick paste like consistency. Use only the juice from lime to blend. Avoid adding too much water.
  3. Heat the ghee and add mustard seeds and curry leaves and let them splatter before adding it to the chutney.

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Weekend Chatter

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How is the weekend going? It is summer time and all I can think about are the luscious mangoes from our trees in the backyard in India. Year after year, the summer comes and goes, and the longing never leaves. One day, I wish to be back, just driving around, buying colorful cotton threads, eating street vendor’s fresh steaming idli for breakfast, snacking on juicy mangoes without so much as even cutting them. One day.

Speaking of nostalgia, have you guys heard that my all-time favorite food-based podcast “dinner party download” aired its last all new episode in December 2017?! It was always a joy to hear Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam instroduce themselves and the varied guests on the show week after week for TEN YEARS on NPR. I still haven’t gotten over this! What was wonderful about the show is the variety of sections they covered. The podcast always started with an “Icebreaker” where a guest shares a joke that you can share at a party where you don’t know most people and can just use this to break the ice or start a conversation.

Next, they used to go over “Small Talk” where they talk about the week’s news highlights and a story that you may not have heard all over the news. This gives you plenty of intelligent fodder for any crowd. A small example is about how someone won a a race in a marathon in Venice when the motorcycle that led the route accidentally took a wrong route, taking all the locals through a longer route!

Then they had a “History lesson with booze” with Michelle Phillipe telling us a very interesting tale every week and a bartender from a place listed in the story making a signature drink that incorporates the story! I will always remember this tale they had on how Niagara falls had no water supply suddenly one day mysteriously and a bartender from Buffalo, NY making a drink that goes with the tale!

Next section was “Soundtrack” led by a different musician each week, giving few album choices suiting their sensibilities and how it would fit in with the party they would have at their home, pairing it with stories of how their party mood evolves through the night. I have found SO many interesting albums and artists through these sections!

They would then have a “Guest of honor” talk about their life or work or recent achievements, before moving onto them giving us tips “How to behave” answering all the listeners’ dinner party etiquette questions. This was probably the first section I had ever head on the Dinner Party Download when I was listening to it while driving in DC area. They also had sectioned like “Main course” where they would talk about a certain food topic per episode.

This nostalgia is just killing me guys! I need me some fresh mangoes and podcast hosts with rather long NPR sounding names.