How an Indian does Italian

Growing up, in my very Indian family, the only “American” food that was cooked in our house was spaghetti (which was strangely made on Saturday mornings) and a dish that we called – eggplant. No, not eggplant parm. I didn’t know what parmesan cheese was until my first year in college (also never had cream cheese, sour cream or mustard until then).  This is an entirely different thing. A bastardized version of caponata. I’m pretty sure my mother has never heard/seen/eaten anything called caponata.

I don’t know who came up with the recipe. I’m not sure how it all got started – but I do know that in my family and in my cousin’s families – this is what you get when they say,”we’re having eggplant for dinner”.

I make it now for my little tribe too. I’ve changed a few details. All the veggies in this dish were fried when my mom made it (and still makes it). I don’t fry anything – not because I’m so super healthy – but because I’m really bad at frying. Things burn. Stoves are covered in oil. I stink like burnt oil for hours – it’s not good. So I do a little saute/steam method. It works. I still use a bit of oil – but I use olive oil instead of the corn oil my mom uses to this day. I tried to talk her into canola once but it was a lost cause. Who am I to judge?

Here’s all you need. Please note: do not buy expensive sauce or make your own marinara or something. You need Ragu. Or some other cheap jarred sauce. Trust me. And don’t go trying to add fresh basil – hold yourself back. Pretend like this is the 80s and we haven’t all been watching The Food Network obsessively.

Olive oil, eggplant, peppers (red, green, yellow – whateva), sauce, cheese (again use what you have, cheddar, mozzarella, etc).

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First chop up your very pretty peppers and onion in a hearty julienne and throw them into a non-stick pan with about a tablespoon of oil. Cover and saute/steam for about 10 minutes until both are cooked through and soft.

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While the onions and peppers do their thing, cut the eggplant(s) in half and then in thick slices. Then think about the fact that literally nothing on earth smells better than onions and peppers cooking. I hear you all screaming at the computer now,”bacon does!”, “cookies baking do!”, “a baby’s head smells better!”. Calm down.

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Once the onions and peppers are done, pour them into a medium-sized pan. Add another tablespoon of oil, cover and cook the eggplant. I like to do this in batches. In the end you’ll use 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil to cook all the eggplant.

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I’ve tried doing the above steps in different ways through the years. In a crockpot. Roasted in the oven. Grilled. I like this way the best. Once the eggplant is done – add to your assembly pan. Don’t worry if there are still firm pieces – it’ll spend a ton of time in the oven and cook through.

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Add the bottle of sauce, stir, cover with foil and put into a 350 degree oven for atleast an hour and a half.

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Use this time to work, mother, wife, clean the house, clean the car, or…if you’re me, have a cup of coffee and a piece of last night’s dessert (raspberry cobbler).

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After about an hour and 1/2 – check your dish. Does it look like this? If yes, it’s done!

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Add the cheese. I ended up using half cheddar/half colby jack. It’ll go back in the oven for about 5 minutes and then, done!

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Like a caponata – eat this with some good, crusty bread. Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste.

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Now, if you come of my mother’s house and she says we’re having eggplant for dinner, you’ll be ready.

 

 

Masala Meal

Thought this would make you chuckle, or smile, or at least distract you for a minute. Your welcome.

Every once in a while (like last week and today), I have to fly to the West Coast. Per our company policy – if your flight is over 6 hours or a red-eye, you get to fly business. Before you think this is all fancy and neat, please realize that it also means selling your soul to your BlackBerry and having a phone surgically implanted on your face, but other than that, it’s cool.

After you make this pact with the devil and board your business class seat, it ain’t so bad. Free food, free booze, and enough leg room to really stretch out. All good. But in order to book these flights we have to create a profile at work, window or aisle, carrier preference, frequent flier miles and meal choices. I guess when I filled out my meal choices I picked something called Asian Vegetarian. Which I am. Which is me. So it make total sense right?

Turns out that Asian Vegetarian means that while everyone else gets a salad and some chicken with pasta, I get a full-on Indian feast. Two vegetables, rice, bread, yogurt, condiments. Delish. But also…very…fragrant. The first time I got it, I was mortified. But I still ate it. And it was so much better than salad and pasta.

On today’s flight a really nice insurance rep who was sitting next to me tried to exchange his meal for mine. No dice. You can’t just decide to be Asian Vegetarian on a whim people. Nope. Go to your travel profile and commit for life. That’s how its done.

The picture doesn’t do it justice.

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You had me at cilantro

It’s hot here. It feels like a 100 degrees in the shade.

Yesterday we were invited to a BBQ in our neighborhood by this adorable couple (second relationship for both. They met while she was on vacation with her daughter in Italy. He came over to be with her. An amazing love story).

I met her through a book club that I joined (although I haven’t actually made it to any of  the meetings, ahem.)

Anyway. We were invited. We went. We had enough sangria to fill a pool. Good times were had by all.

Here’s a perfect salad to bring to a BBQ – especially on a hot, sunny day. No mayo. No diary. And it only gets better as it sits on the buffet (and you drink the sangria).

Here’s all you need  - black beans, whole kernel corn, cilantro, jalapeno, 2 peppers the color of your choice, an English cucumber, lemons, limes and some kosher salt.

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It’s all about the prep and dice. Drain the beans and rinse. Add the corn.

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Dice the peppers about the same size as the corn and beans. The jalapeno should be seeded and diced even smaller. I thought I would need 2 but these were lethal so I only used 1.

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Next, seed the cucumber with a spoon. Dice and add to your other stuff. I know English cucumbers are “seedless” but there are still some watery seeds that I like to get out. You can skip this part if you think I’m nuts. Which I am.

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Now comes the good stuff. My world could be made of cilantro and I’d be a happy camper. If you don’t like cilantro, made another salad. This one’s not for you. And neither am I. Just kidding. Not really.

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Add lemon and lime and some salt and you are done baby! If you are organized and have your shit together, make this the night before and let it sit. If you are like me, make this frantically right before you have to take it/serve it and smell like cilantro and corn for the party.

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A smaller quantity of this with red onions added can also be a spectacular salsa. Add diced avocado and top a taco or fill a burrito.

Happy hot Sunday.

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up

I bought the wrong chicken.
Because I went to a big bulk store, I bought a lot of the wrong chicken.
I blame the universe.
I blame the gods.
I blame tenderloins because they look like chicken breasts.
Hmm? Look at the label you say?
Shut it.
So I needed to return it quickly.
I grabbed it, grabbed my keys and bolted out the door.
And landed face front on the front step.
Actually I fell into a bush first.
It broke my fall.
And then I landed on the front step.
My keys and my package of wrong chicken landed around me.
We were a sight.
If a vegetarian falls with some chicken did a vegetarian really fall at all?
So there I was. On the ground. Yelping for help.
And now here I am.

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Did I trip? Did I miss a step?
No idea. I just went down like a big old elm. Timber!
It’s not so bad.
I’m icing.
I’m elevating.
I’m Advil’ing
Waaaa!!
Come on 2013!

Thanks God for the Thanksgria

Before I tell you about the sangria, let me show you my turkey. Where are pictures of your turkey?? Come on, I’ll show you mine and then you show me yours. I know you took a pic.

Here’s the before and after

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Here’s a picture of my plate – because everyone always asks what a vegetarian eats on turkey day. Ok one person asked but that’s fine. Here you are.

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See, I did good.
And finally, the holiday in a glass – the thing that makes ricing 20 pounds of potatoes and still having your husband say it’s not enough worth it. The gas in my engine, the wind beneath my wings, the fuel to my…you know.

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I hope you all slept in or woke up at pre-dawn to buy something at a crowded store. Whatever works for you. Cheers everyone!

Not that kind of vegetarian…..

Last weekend when my sister and her man were here, we were kidding around about our eating habits.  When she first met him, she was trying to explain our kind of vegetarian.

She told him simply,”we’re not vegetable vegetarians, we’re more like Taco Bell vegetarians.”

Very true.  Ok, so maybe we don’t mean Taco Bell literally, but the point was good.  We are not health fanatics.

Usually, when people hear you don’t eat meat, they instantly throw some grilled veggies on a plate – which is very nice, and I am always appreciative.  But really, that’s not what I want.  I want a meal.  Something with some love, some pizzaz, or at least some cheese.

Something like this…

or something like this…..

These two amazing meals were made possible by the good people at The Fairmont Hotel in Boston.  I love Boston.

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