After a 4-week hiatus, I give you this healthy broccoli recipe. I wish I could say that I’ve kicked my sugar addiction and the focus of this blog will now be classic healthy recipes, but that might as well be an early April fools joke. I have plenty of decadent desserts and sweet recipes in the pipeline! I will continue to throw in a healthy recipe or two, especially as the weather gets warmer and we begin to think about squeezing into that bathing suit again. This Spicy Cumin Scented Broccoli recipe is a great way to change-up that boring green vegetable routine but still keep it healthy.
Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines. It’s also becoming quite trendy. In New York, Whole Foods has even included a hot bar/buffet of Indian Food in their prepared food section. There is still room for improvement in the quality of mainstream Indian food but I think my grandmother would have been as pleased as I am to see this flavorful cuisine take off. There are a few Indian style recipes in her book, “The Art of Good Cooking,” such as Curried Carrots and Peppers and Indian Beef Curry which I’ve done for this blog. Like many of her international recipes, these were unique and practically ground breaking when they were written in the 1960’s – before what some may consider the food revolution. The availability of spices like ground coriander, turmeric, cumin seeds, or garam masala have come a long way since then. I, however; didn’t begin to enjoy Indian food until my late teens when my step mother introduced healthy and flavorful north Indian style recipes such as this vegan coconut green bean and peas dish.
It can be difficult to eat healthy this time of year. Especially here in the Northeast where we just made it through one of the coldest February’s on record. Heavier fatty foods like mac and cheese or meatloaf and mashed potatoes are often enticing while really fresh produce is harder and harder to find. We have to remind ourselves to “eat your vegetables” like our mothers always said, because the idea of a salad for lunch when it’s 5 degrees outside, just doesn’t cut it. Enter the Middle Eastern Vegetable Bake. This vegetable mélange is the solution to healthy eating and cold weather cravings – with a touch of warmth.
Catching the tail end of eggplant the season, this eye-pleasing dish showcases the juicy late summer (or fall) vegan favorite. I previously posted a couple of my grandmother’s vegetarian dishes. Paula Peck was not known for cooking vegetables and when she did, there were often whole sticks of butter or cups of olive oil involved. As a veggie lover though, I’ve managed to revise some of these dishes so that the flavor is maintained, but with less fat. In this case, the eggplant is stuffed with a fragrant mixture of garlic, onion, celery, tomato puree and herbs. These flavors soak into the eggplant as it roasts with just enough olive oil to keep it moist. The resulting succulent meaty flesh will make you forget that you’re eating an almost guilt-free and healthy dish.
So what does this strange recipe title “Imam Byaldi” have to do with eggplant? Well according to my grandmother’s introduction to this recipe in “The Art of Good Cooking,” the old Armenian title means “’the Holy Man fainted’- of shock because the eggplant tasted so good!” Ok so nobody is going to faint when they eat this stuffed eggplant, but it is pretty tasty.
4 small eggplants
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon crumbled bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Cut eggplant lengthwise into halves. Salt cut sides generously and let stand for about a 1/2 hour (this draws out the bitterness from the eggplant).
Preheat oven. Rinse eggplants and dry with paper towels. Brush cut sides with some olive oil. Place eggplants on a baking sheet, cut side up. Bake until centers are soft and lightly browned.
While the eggplants are baking, prepare the following stuffing: sauté onions, green pepper, celery, and garlic in remaining olive oil until vegetables are soft but not brown. Add chopped celery leaves and parsley. Stir until leaves are wilted, then add tomato puree and herbs. Add sugar then salt and pepper to taste. Cook a few more minutes. Set stuffing aside until needed.
When eggplants are tender, allow them to cool so they can be easily handled. Raise oven heat to 350 degrees.
With a small knife, make an incision lengthwise, down the center of the cut side, being careful not to cut all the way through the eggplant. With your fingers, press soft pulp away from the incision on the 2 long sides so that a good-sized hollow is formed. Fill the hollows with the prepared filling, using a spoon.
Arrange stuffed eggplants on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with additional olive oil if filling looks dry. Bake for 45 minutes, basting with olive oil as necessary.
Note: To speed up this recipe, cut eggplant 1/2 inch thick and after it has been baked until tender, place slices of eggplant in a casserole. Arrange them alternately with the stuffing. Bake 30-40 minutes.
Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking”
I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Indian style recipes in “The Art of Good Cooking.” This was the first one I tried from the book and to be honest, I was skeptical. I first experienced well made tasty Indian food in high school. I say “well made” because prior to this, my experience with Indian food consisted of overly spicy burning your entire mouth to the point that you can’t taste and might as well be eating canned dog food mixed with oil and heavy cream. My stepmother introduced me to healthier, flavorful dishes, mostly of north Indian decent.
This recipe uses curry powder which was more available than spices such as turmeric, cumin, and ground coriander that curry powder can (but not always) be essentially comprised of.
A vegetarian dish that if served with rice and a side of Raita is easily a full satisfying meal. It has over 5 different vegetables which makes the dish more lively, and each one is easy to find and inexpenive. Like most curries, a fair number of ingredients are needed for this recipe. I find that each one creates a distinct layer of flavor within the dish that contributes to the overall highly spiced (but not necessarily hot and spicy-that’s up to you) multi-fascited profile. This is no boring dish.
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 large onion diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated or minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons curry powder (or 1 tablespoon each ground coriander and cumin, 1 /2 tablespoon turmeric)
1 fresh serrano pepper or cayenne pepper to taste
1 small cauliflower cut into florettes
2 red potatoes peeled and diced
1/2 – 3/4 cup stock (or as needed)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 pound fresh green beans trimmed and cut in half (or 1 package frozen green beans)
1 package frozen peas
1 lemon juiced
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Heat oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Add mustard seeds. When seeds begin to pop, stir in green pepper, onions, garlic, serrano pepper if using and ginger, and saute until tender. Add curry powder, cayenne if using, salt, and pepper. Add cauliflower and diced potatoes and toss in spice mixture. Add stock and tomato sauce. Cover pot and simmer over medium low until potatoes and cauliflower are tender – add more stock if needed. Add green beans, then peas. Continue to cook until all vegetables are tender. Do not allow to dry out too much. Alternatively, you may turn up the heat at the end if there is too much liquid – there should not be too much sauce surrounding the vegetables. Add lemon juice. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
Just before serving, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and shredded coconut. Serve with fluffy steamed basmati or jasmine rice and Raita.