Monday, September 26, 2011

Fail: Eggplant Curry

A cautionary tale.

I've used the AllRecipes Baingan Bharta recipe many many times over the years for a quick and easy on-hand-ingredients type of dinner.  A few days ago, I got lazy and just chopped and stir-fried the Japanese eggplant I had with spices, added chopped tomatoes, kale, and a can of chickpeas.  Go to add a bit of yogurt to finish it off, and things came to a screeching halt.  Instead of a creamy sauce that integrated well with the tomatoes, I had a watery pile of vegetables flecked with white yogurt curds.  Gross.

So, why the horrendous error? The original recipe has you cook the yogurt for 10 minutes with tomatoes, and you'd think the acidity and heat would cause separation anyway. AllRecipes commenters have also apparently stir-fried eggplant in this recipe successfully. My only suspicion is that I somehow stuffed it up by adding kale and chickpeas, though in theory these aren't super acidic so shouldn't affect anything. Is the lowfat yogurt to blame? I'll try this again with regular eggplant, no additions next time to see what I end up with.

For the curious, yes I still ate this over the course of a week. With eyes closed, I could pretend that the curdy things were cheese chunks and that made everything okay.

Monday, September 19, 2011

2012: A Hypothetical Food Bucket List

One of the more ridiculous things I've come across on the internet lately is this guy who made an off-hand New Year's resolution to his buddy to eat 2011 chicken wings in 2011.  But he's actually doing it!  And profiting from it!  And bringing the publicity show to Hoboken!

Now, do I have the drive or attention span to devote a year of my life to one particular thing in order to become an internet sensation?  Certainly not.  But here are a few things of similar volume or caloric content to wings that I could easily EASILY eat 2012 of next year, and not make a big deal out of it.

Things that would probably do me some good:
  • Ounces of kale - I made a conservative estimate to a friend last weekend that I eat kale ten times every week. When I'm at home more in the winter, it's more like 15. And if you don't think that putting away 20 ounces of kale per week is a lot, consider that one of the big bunches in the supermarket is usually less than a pound. I KNOW.
  • Toast + fatty spread + vegetable - Bit vague of a combination, but think along the lines of mayo/tomato, avocado/spinach, goat cheese/grilled veg; the possibilities are endless.  From 2005-2006, I ate a toasted sandwich almost every day for breakfast and lunch until I got sick of toast (as you do). But it's been 5 years, and I could get the roof of my mouth back into shape in no time.
  • Cups of tea - I'd probably need to integrate some decaffeinated nonsense at some point, but I hit about 3-4 English breakfasts or green teas on a normal day. I've also been wanting to get into Yerba mate. Has anyone tried this? Thoughts? 
  • Tacos - Perhaps counter-intuitive, but tacos can indeed be healthy when made vegetarian with a small amount of cheese/sour cream (you know, not this kind or this kind [YUM]).

Things that would probably kill me:
  • Eggs - I've been known to put an egg or two on just about anything with excellent results.  But the cholesterol is mind boggling here. And I refuse to be one of those sterile no-fun egg-white only people. But I've got low blood pressure to start with, so this could definitely happen.
  • Cheese sticks - The stringy fun of single-serve 'mozzarella' cheese has the similar interactiveness of a chicken wing, without the saucy mess. Refer to above potential heart disease-inducing issues.
  • Scoops of ice cream - Impossible in the winter months? Nope. My summertime daily average would more than carry me here. If working at Friendly's didn't kill my love of frozen dairy, nothing will.
  • Shots of whiskey - Easy.  It's the rest of life that would be difficult to keep up with.

So. Dare I pose any of these challenges to myself? Is my effort better channeled more productively into something else ridiculous like running 2012km?  I've got 3.3 months to figure it out.

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Sweet and Spicy Fresh Corn Fritters

    Many members of my family hail from upstate New York, where cheap fresh corn is readily available for most of the year.  There is actually a rather competitive bragging streak about being able to find the lowest price at so-and-so's farm stand, which I usually just sit and listen to and seethe with envy.  So when I do finally see bargain-priced end of season corn in my local, I jump on it without any hesitation or cooking plan in mind. 

    Yes, plain boiled ears are delicious and totally underrated as a vegetable, but I've been eating them to the point of overdose lately and there's something about that sweet, uncooked corn flavor that I love even more than the chargrilled version topped with cheese and mayo.  These fritters are a great side to serve with other late summer treats like fresh tomatoes and grilled zucchini, the availability of which I fear is quickly coming to an end.

    I've streamlined the original recipes quite significantly (whipping egg whites? no thank you sir!), reduced the salt, and increased the spice here, so I think this is the easiest and tastiest version.  They're also best eaten right away to maintain the crisp texture (otherwise they get a bit spongy), so store some of the batter for a day or two in the fridge if it looks like you'll have leftovers. 

    One day I'll turn the oven on again, but until then, I'm more than happy to survive on tomato sandwiches, caprese and kale salads, and these. And I'm always seeking more summer veg recipe ideas, so do send them my way!

    Fresh Corn Fritters
    Adapted from Alexandra Cooks (originally from WSJ)

    Serves 4 (about 16 fritters)
    Total time: 30 minutes (all active)

    • 1/2 cup fine-ground cornmeal or quick-cooking polenta (I subbed medium-ground cornmeal which worked fine)
    • 2 fresh ears of corn, kernels removed and separated
    • 1/4 of a large onion, minced
    • 1 small jalapeño, minced (leave out the seeds if you don't like it spicy)
    • 1/2 rounded teaspoon of cumin seeds, smashed with the back of a knife (or mortar and pestle for the fancy)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for seasoning
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
    • 3/4 cup plain yogurt (greek, lowfat, or regular)
    • 1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus extra for frying
    • 2 eggs
    • Optional for serving:  cilantro, sliced tomato, extra plain yogurt

    Mix cornmeal/polenta, corn kernels, onion, jalapeño, cumin, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Add yogurt, olive oil, and eggs and stir until blended.

    Set a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Once hot, add 1-2 heaping spoonfuls of batter to the pan for each fritter and spread into small circles (I did about 4 batches of 4 at a time).  Cook for 2-3 minutes on one side, then flip when the top looks somewhat dry and cook for another 1-2 minutes until both sides are golden.*  Remove fritters to a plate lined with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Repeat until all batter is used up (adjusting the seasoning if necessary), or refrigerate remaining batter for up to a few days.

    Serve with cilantro, sliced tomato, and additional plain yogurt.

    *A cautionary note: try to get all the rogue corn kernels out of the pan in between fritter batches as they have a tendency to spit and pop with each splash of oil you add!