Spicy cilantro eggplant

By Shalini Kolluri

The rich aromas of fresh cilantro and fried eggplant bring back fond memories of my childhood. My mother almost always made this recipe during family gatherings and feasts.

She often advised me to balance the sour flavor in my recipe with a pinch sugar. This little tip not only enhanced the taste but, also delicately counterbalanced the pungent acidity that many ingredients bring to the food.

Take marinara for instance, adding carrots or some sugar to the sauce neutralizes the acidity in the tomatoes beautifully. Sometimes, a hint of agave cleverly masks the sourness of vinegar in a salad dressing.

Traditionally this south Indian recipe uses tamarind (sour) and jaggery (sweet). The two strong ingredients that compliment one another. However, I have decided to use raw honey and lemon juice instead.

The goodness of honey:

Honey is also called ‘Madhu’ in the Ayurvedic texts, which means ‘the perfection of sweet’.

Honey is a natural super food as it contains valuable vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, natural sugars and enzymes that aid digestion. To extract the maximum benefits from honey, it is best not to use it very hot (above 40 degrees C) or with very spicy food.

Hope you enjoy making one of my favorite versions of eggplant!

Ingredients:-

2 tablespoons canola oil
4 Japanese eggplants
Salt as needed
2 cups cilantro (washed and chopped)
1/2 table spoon raw honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 or 2 cayenne chili peppers

Method:-

Dice the eggplant in thin circles. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium-high. Add the eggplant in. It may splatter a bit, especially during the first minute or so of cooking.

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Fry the slices on each side.

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In the meantime, while the eggplant slices are cooking, add 1 cup of chopped fresh cilantro and 1 or 2 cayenne chili peppers into a blender. With a teaspoon of water blend the ingredients into a coarse paste.

Add the cilantro chili paste to the eggplant once the slices are golden-brown and tender.

Stir in the salt and reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from stove and wait for it to cool down. Add honey and lemon juice and mix.

Serve with brown rice.

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Stir Fried Spinach and Tofu

By Shalini Kolluri

When Popeye ate his spinach I knew he became strong enough to beat up Bluto, but little did I know that he was also reducing his chances of having asthma, constipation and heart disease.

Spinach is extremely versatile. It has made its mark in almost all the cuisines of the world today. It not only adds a lovely color to your dish, it makes it super healthy too.

Being a self-taught student of Ayurveda, I understand that spinach is more than just a source of fiber, minerals and Vitamin K. In ancient India it was known to be a cooling medicine that helps your skin glow and keeps those nasty headaches at bay.

Eating raw spinach in salads is really popular now, but that may not be the best way to consume it since it has a high content of oxalic acid that promotes gout and arthritis. Boiling spinach is the best way to decrease the content of oxalic acid.

Here’s one simple recipe that uses my favorite leafy vegetable.

Ingredients:-

2 tablespoons olive oil

¾ package extra firm tofu

Coarse salt as needed

1 red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon Cumin seeds

½ teaspoon ground pepper

½ teaspoon Coriander seeds crushed

¼ teaspoon mustard seeds

1 pound baby spinach

2 tablespoons low-fat yogurt

2 cups brown rice

Method:-

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium flame. Add tofu and cook, until golden brown for about ten minutes. Add pepper and salt. Stir it and transfer it to a plate.

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Heat the other tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add garlic, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and crushed coriander seeds and cook, stirring, until the spices are toasted.

Add the spinach and cook, until just wilted for 5 to 7 minutes.

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Remove from stove and wait for it to cool down.

Stir in the yogurt and add salt as needed. Serve with brown rice.

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R-Rated Blackstrap Molasses Muffins 

Have you ever tasted blackstrap molasses?  It has a bittersweet robustness that rounds off well into a smooth aftertaste. I substituted it in muffins  for sugar while adapting from a recipe published in the Tassajara Bread Book and I managed to concoct some of the most sprightly muffins I have tasted in a long long time. But I must add that the muffins, tempered in sweetness and resplendant in a molasses-ness, are more suited to an adult palate; perfect for those seeking to infuse their diets and bodies with deliciuos yet nutrient-rich foods. However, my two-year-old, who has adventurous taste buds, is gobbling them up too!

The recipe is yours to have but first a little background on blackstrap molasses, a kickass ingredient that has the potential to be the next big thing, toeing the same line as culinary stalwarts such as bacon and cayenne.

Blackstrap is the dark viscous molasses that is left over after vigorous extraction of sugar from sugar cane. The third boiling of sugar syrup leads to this beauty.

Unlike refined sugars, BS is rich in iron, calcium, other minerals and vitamins. Also, it has no fat, making it a fantastic sweetener for both health nuts and weight watchers.

Now the recipe that got my heart racing and fingers blogging after a phenomenally long time —

You will need: 

(For 12 muffins)

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/2 cup blackstrap molasses

3/4 cup fruit juice – mango, orange, guava or berry or a mix of any of them.

3/4 cup milk

Two heaped teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder

Method —

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Mix the dry ingredients and then the wet ingredients in another bowl. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients till it forms a smooth batter. Do not over-mix.

The fruit juice gives the muffins some additional natural sugar and the cocoa deepens the brown and gives the muffins an appetizing look.

Once the batter is smooth, add the batter to the cups of a greased or lined muffin pan.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Once done, store in airtight containers. If you are freezing them, use a plastic wrap.

All the best. Let me know what you think.