Eggplant Bhurta – simple and quick

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I got this recipe from my cousin Amna in Chicago. Amna was one of the world’s best cooks until she was confined to bed. Now she’s the best teacher anyone could have. I’m either in Chicago in her kitchen or on the phone with her from my kitchen in Florida.

Eggplant Bhurta, or Baingan (Eggplant in Hindi) Bhurta, or Bangin’ Baingans (as the hubby calls it), this is a very flavorful and easy dish to make in a very short time. The picture above is not very flattering. I forgot to take a photo until after we’d eaten most of it so this is a closeup of the leftovers 🙂 with my trusty phone.

Ingredients

  1. Eggplant – 1 large
  2. Cooking oil – 2 tbsp (I sometimes use more if I serve this with steamed rice)
  3. Onion – 1 medium
  4. Tomato – 1 large
  5. Tomato paste – 2 tbsp (optional – I like the tartness)
  6. Cumin powder – 1 tsp
  7. Cilantro – 1 cup chopped
  8. Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Preparation

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Pierce the eggplant all over with a fork and bake in the microwave oven for 7 minutes (standard microwave).

While the eggplant is baking, chop the onion and tomato.

Fry the onions in the oil until soft and glassy looking, add cumin powder and fry until the cumin gives off a roasted smell then add tomato, and tomato paste. Continue frying until tomatoes are just tender.

Cut the eggplant lengthwise into four. Strip the skin off (allow to cool first) and discard. Chop the eggplant and add to the onion and tomato mixture and stir fry for about two or three minutes. Add the salt and cayenne powder and cilantro. Cover and let simmer on the lowest setting for about five minutes to infuse the eggplant with all the flavors.

I served this with Biryani yesterday but it’s good with steamed rice or any of the Indian or Pakistani breads.

Flying North in Winter?

No, it isn’t the deep dish pizza or Hot Doug’s Hot Dogs or the Book Cellar. Although, any and all of those would bring me to Chicago at any time of year, but this week, in the midst of yet another deep freeze it is my beautiful cousin Amna. Temps were a little friendlier when I booked the tickets. Had no idea I was flying into a third polar vortex. Yikes! But I’m happy to be with Amna although Amna may have been happier flying south to Florida in the winter but she has Post Polio Syndrome and can’t really leave home without a very complex entourage of nurses and equipment to keep her mobile while breathing safely. For now it’s a fun family reunion in her cozy apartment at the top of a building on the truly great Lake Michigan. And yes, as I cook away in her kitchen, I stop frequently to watch the winds push the ice floes around on the lake. It’s an amazing sight. Amna is no longer able to get to the window but I take lots of photos and stream them to her iPad so she knows what’s happening outside.

Amna has lived in Chicago for over thirty years and had never heard of a polar vortex until this winter and  now wow the third one is about to send this beautiful city into another deep freeze. After a week of above freezing temps, the lake is once again transforming into a winter wonder world. It is a beautiful city at any time of year.

I think I’m going to create a new item on my menu bar for Amna’s Chicago Kitchen. My cooking is inspired by her. I cook healthy foods. I try to. We have heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, etc. etc. etc… in our family and we’re doing our best to keep it all as far away as possible for as long as we can.  My goal is to keep things clean, easy, fresh, whole, and as vegetarian as possible.
I hope you’ll visit again. Ciao

Biryani with Soy and Green Peas

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Ingredients for Garam Masalah

(Mix the following Garam Masalah spices in a bowl)
Cumin – 1 tsp
Cinnamon – 1 piece about an inch
Cardamom – 5
Cloves – 6
Peppercorns – 6
Bay leaf – 2
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Note…. When you mix the dry spices together, do a few extra batches and put them in ziploc bags for future cooking adventures. Saves time.

These spices are the basic whole (not ground) ingredients for “Garam Masalah.” Whole spices taste more delicate and the aroma is infinitely more pleasing. You can get all the above whole spices in a single bag from a local Indian store in the spices section. Just ask for a bag of whole mixed spices.

Other Ingredients

Onion – 1 medium, thinly sliced
Corn or Canola oil – 1/2 cup
Ginger and garlic paste – 1 heaped tsp (I buy the mixed paste at the Indian store)
Tomato – 1 medium, chopped into small pieces
Peas – 1 1/2 cups (I use frozen)
Soy meat – one cup (I use the Laxmi brand) soaked in two cups of warm water for 20 mins
Tomato paste – 2 or 3 tbsp
Cilantro – 1 cup chopped
Rice – 2 cups (I like the very long-grain Basmati from the Indian or Pakistani store)
Cayanne pepper powder –  to taste (I use 1/4 tsp)
Salt – to taste

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Preparation

Fry the onions in the oil on medium heat until golden brown.
Add ginger and garlic paste and fry for two minutes stirring to prevent sticking.
Add the whole garam masalah mixture, the chopped tomato, and tomato paste.

Drain the soy chunks and add them to the mix. Add the peas. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes making sure the mixture stays moist (you can add a little water at a time so it doesn’t dry out too much).

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In a separate pan, cook the rice until almost tender. I use 1 1/2 times water to the rice (with salt). Drain any left over water and then layer the soy mixture on top. Cover and cook over low heat until rice is tender. Add chopped cilantro over the top and continue to cook over very low heat for about five minutes.

When you ladle it out into a serving dish, do not mix the rice and soy mixture too much. Just fold  with a spatula. You can always add more fresh cilantro at this point.

I served this to friends in Chicago (yes I’m crazy to be in Chicago when it’s so cold here) and they loved it. I also made eggplant and daal to go with it. Recipes follow soon.

Enjoy in good health!

Sooji (Semolina) with Berries

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This is a no-sugar-added recipe. We use it for breakfast or dessert. It keeps well in the fridge for four or five days.

As a child I loved the Sooji Halwa my grandmother made and I’ve always loved the German breakfast version. Two totally different ways of cooking this very versatile and nutritious food. Semolina is not safe for people who cannot digest gluten or have celiac disease. If you are able to include this in your diet you will benefit from its amazing properties. And it is a great comfort food at the same time.

Semolina is rich in protein, B-complex vitamins, selenium, and iron. It gets its calories from carbohydrates a great source of fuel for your tissues.

Most Sooji Halwa is rich and has a lot of nuts and sometimes dried fruit. Pistachio, raisins, and slivered almonds to name a few are often sprinkled over the top and sometimes added during the cooking. It is absolutely delicious. We used to have it for special occasions and generally for breakfast. The German versions I’ve had included breakfast dishes and desserts.

My version of this recipe combines my grandmother’s recipe with a German one and to pack more nutrition into it I add more fruit.

Makes six larger breakfast servings or eight smaller servings

Ingredients:

  1. One cup of Sooji or Semolina
  2. Quarter cup of cooking oil
  3. Two cups of hot water
  4. Half a cup of evaporated milk
  5. Five or six green cardamom crushed
  6. Two  cups of frozen blueberries and strawberries or fresh (chop the strawberries) – save half a cup for garnish.
  7. A sprig of mint for garnish
  8. Sweetener to taste

Preparation:

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Add the cooking oil to a saucepan over medium heat (you can also use butter or margarine instead)

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Add the sooji and stir into the oil

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Stirring frequently cook until the sooji is a light brown in color

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Take the sooji off the stove and allow to cool a little then add the hot water and stir in so it’s all mixed in well without lumps

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Return to the stove, then add the milk and continue to stir

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Add the crushed cardamom. Once the sooji starts to pull away from the sides, remove from the stove and add sweetener. I used Stevia for this one. Stir in well before you add the fruit.

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Add the frozen berries (I defrost them first, a minute in the microwave). Do not return to the stove.

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I use extra blueberries to garnish.  Make a well in the center with a spoon and add defrosted blueberries and pour the juice over the sooji.  A sprig of mint from my garden or yours.

If you try out this recipe please let me know how it turned out. Leave a comment. Thanks and happy cooking!

Juno Beach – Dogs, Kite Surfers, and a Musician

 

The day started out a bit cloudy with a chance of rain but it turned out to be a perfect beach day and we were already there early this morning. This time we checked out the dog-friendly part of Juno Beach which is about half a mile further north of the fishing pier. A great place to set up folding beach chairs (we brought ours), perhaps pick up some coffee on the way, watch the kite surfers and dogs playing. And today we met Sam who was walking along the beach playing his ukelele.

Chai with Anise and Cardamom

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This is a Chai recipe not just for rainy days but for any time you want a little break from whatever you’re doing. I love chai and I make this twice a day. Once for breakfast and then again mid-afternoon. I’m a chai addict. For me there is no day without it.

Serves two and more… depending on the cup/mug you use.

Ingredients

  1. Three cups of water
  2. One tablespoon loose leaf black tea
  3. One tablespoon anise seed
  4. One half tablespoon cardamom seed
  5. One cup of evaporated milk
  6. Sugar or sweetener as desired

Preparation

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Add one tablespoon of loose leaf tea to 3 cups of water and bring to a boil (I buy my loose leaf black tea from a local Indian store).

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Add a tablespoon of anise seed

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and a tablespoon of green cardamom (I get my spices from the local Indian store)

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Boil for a minute (at this point I add half tsp ginger powder sometimes If I want a more wintery mix in my chai)

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Add a cup of evaporated milk (I use whole but fat free is ok too) and bring to a boil. Watch this closely because I have had many accidents at this point with boiling tea all over my stove. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove from the stove and pour into a teapot.

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I have a teapot with a built-in strainer so I pour it directly into it. Works great for me but before I had this teapot I would  pour it through a strainer into a regular teapot or a jug. Pour into cups and sweeten with sugar or sweetener. I use Splenda. Hubby uses Stevia.

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Enjoy! The tea will keep for the day and you can warm it up as needed. You can refrigerate it for four or five days and it tastes just as good. Just remember to strain it and not leave the tea leaves in the mix.

Chickpea and Pomegranate with Tilapia

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When I can’t get to the beach, I love to cook. I like to eat everything raw and the rest of my family prefers cooked. This recipe works well for all of us. It combines cooked and raw vegetables. There are many ways to vary it. Use your imagination. I’m using some of the ingredients I love and always have in my kitchen.

Serves four

Ingredients

  1. Two cans of chick peas (drained, rinsed)
  2. Four frozen fish filets (Tilapia is what I happen to have today)
  3. One medium yellow onion
  4. Handful of parsley leaves
  5. One bunch of celery
  6. Seven or eight baby carrots
  7. Seeds of one pomegranate
  8. One lemon (you can add apple vinegar as well)
  9. One tsp each dried rosemary and thyme and salt to taste

Preparation

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Chop the onion and add half the onion with a tablespoon of cooking oil in a sauce pan and cook for five minutes (I use canola for cooking and olive oil for raw)

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Chop the celery and carrots. Add half the celery and all the carrots to the onions in the saucepan.

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Add a tsp each of dried thyme and dried rosemary.

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Add a cup of water or enough to just barely cover the chickpeas. Cover with a lid and simmer on low heat for an hour. At this time, get the frozen tilapia out and leave on the counter to thaw.

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While the chickpeas are cooking, wash the raw vegetables and herbs.

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Chop the parsley and mix with the remaining chopped onion.

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Add the pomegranate seeds, onion, parsley, remaining celery, and the juice of one lemon. I sometimes add apple vinegar also. Add salt to taste. I use an iodized sea salt.

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Use a slotted spoon to lift the chickpeas into the raw mix.

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I sometimes bake the tilapia (still frozen) at 360 F for 25 mins or I fry thawed for about five minutes on medium to high heat or until soft and flaky. Serve while fish is hot and the vegetable mix is cool.