Dig-In Meals – A column highlighting Indian spices in recipes that take traditional Indian food and add a western twist!
With Thanksgiving around the corner, I am busy planning the feast I will be making for my family. As I peruse recipes, I am reminded of the significance of this holiday, the time we will spend together, the laughter, the tears, and the arguments that will invariably follow. Which reminded me of something my friend, Amisha Dodhia Gurbani, said to me, “Food is memory. Food is communication. Food is love.”
I met Amisha through a friend and formed an immediate connection. We are, both, Gujrati cooks who lost our moms and try to recreate their recipes. Amisha makes being a computer engineer, a mother of two young children, a recipe developer, and a food photographer for Jam Lab, look so very easy. When she published her book, Mumbai Modern, earlier this month, I jumped at a chance to pre-order it and have bookmarked nearly every other page!
As the entertaining season descends upon us, the recipes Amisha shares with us from her book will be perfect for any gathering you are planning. I would also highly recommend my go-to showstopper recipe for dessert (exclusively in her book) — Chai Tiramisu with Rose Mascarpone, Whipped Cream, and Pistachio Sprinkle.
Brussels Sprouts, Dates, Walnuts, and Pomegranate Arils With a Toasted Coriander-Cumin Vinaigrette
Serves: 5 to 6
The flavors in this salad are wonderful, with sweetness from the dates, crunch from the walnuts, and fall freshness from the pomegranate arils. The whole combination is so good that it will become a hit in your family and at any Thanksgiving get-together.
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon (1 g) coriander seeds
- ¼ cup (32.5 g) olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (29 g) apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons (40 g) maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons (4 g) za’atar
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon (1 g) red chili flakes
- 1½ teaspoons (9 g) flaky sea salt
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ pounds (680 g) brussels sprouts, halved
- ¾ cup (100 g) coarsely chopped dates (about 12)
- ¾ cup (90 g) coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
- ½ cup (80 g) pomegranate arils
- Toast the cumin and coriander seeds: In a small saucepan on medium heat, toss the cumin and coriander seeds for around 2 to 3 minutes, until you start to smell their aroma and they are slightly browned. Turn off the heat. In a small coffee or spice grinder, coarsely grind the seeds.
- Make the vinaigrette: In a glass jar, add the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, za’atar, smoked paprika, red chili flakes, flaky sea salt, black pepper, and ground toasted cumin and coriander seeds. Shake the jar vigorously for 15 to 20 seconds until the mixture has combined.
- In a large bowl, toss the brussels sprouts with the vinaigrette. Set them aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400ºF (200°C).
- Place the marinated brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, flat side down, and place it on the middle rack of the oven for about 35 minutes in total. Halfway through, remove the tray and, using a flat spatula, move the sprouts around to redistribute.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
- Return the brussels sprouts to the large bowl. Add the dates, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds and toss to combine.
The salad can be made a day ahead and served at room temperature.
The vinaigrette can be made a few days in advance and stored at room temperature.
Bharela Ringan Nu Shaak (Peanut and Chickpea Flour Masala–Stuffed Eggplants)
Did you know eggplant has a lot of nutritional benefits? It works as an antioxidant and is known to benefit cholesterol levels. It’s high in fiber and low in calories. This vegetable takes only about 20 minutes of cooking. The stuffing can be made a day ahead and stored in the fridge. It is really that simple and a fantastic way to add flavor to the eggplant.
- 1.3 pounds (600 g) small eggplants
- Peanut and Chickpea Masala Stuffing
- ¼ cup (25 g) chickpea flour
- ½ cup (70 g) toasted unsalted peanuts
- ½ cup washed and tightly packed cilantro
- 2 green chilis (more if you like it spicy)
- 1 inch (2½ cm) ginger
- 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek (optional)
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder (more, if you like it spicy)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1½ teaspoons table salt
- 2 tablespoons (15 g) grated jaggery or 1 tablespoon (12.5 g) brown sugar
- ¼ cup (32 g) frozen or fresh coconut
- ¼ cup (60 g) vegetable oil
- 1½ tablespoons (22 g) lemon juice
- Tempering (vaghar)
- 3 tablespoons (40 g) vegetable oil
- Pinch of asafoetida
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 cup (240 g) water
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro, washed and tightly packed
- 2 tablespoons frozen or fresh coconut
- Wash the eggplants, dry them, cut a slit crosswise at the bottom of each up to the top, while still keeping it intact. This is where the stuffing will go.
- To Make the Peanut and Chickpea Masala Stuffing
- In a small skillet on medium heat, add the chickpea flour. Constantly stir it for 3 minutes, and you will see it brown slowly. Once it is a light brown color after 3 minutes, remove it from the heat. Let it cool.
- In a high-speed blender, add all the ingredients and mix until it forms a paste. It should have some texture, and not be completely smooth. You do not want it to be coarse or fine. It needs to be in between for the best texture.
- Once the mixture is ready, remove it into a bowl using a small rubber spatula to get all the bits from the processor.
- With your hands, add a heaped teaspoon of stuffing into both the slits of the eggplant. Repeat for all the eggplants. You will have extra stuffing left, which we will add to the entire dish.
- To Temper and Cook
- In a medium pot on medium heat, add the oil. Let it heat up for 1 minute. Add the asafoetida, cumin seeds, and mustard seeds, and let it come to splatter for 30 seconds.
- Add stuffed eggplants and all the remaining stuffing into the pot. Sauté to cover the eggplants with oil. Cover with a lid completely and cook for 5 minutes. Sauté occasionally turn the eggplants over to cook all the sides.
- Add ¼ cup (60 g) of the water in the pot, cover the lid, and cook. Stir the eggplants occasionally to cook all the sides. Cook for 5 minutes. The water helps to steam and cook the eggplants through and through.
- Repeat, and add ¼ cup (60 g) more water, cover the lid, and cook.
- Repeat Step 3 with the remaining water. The total cooking time of the eggplants after tempering is 20 minutes.
- The eggplant will look mushy after20 minutes of steaming and cooking. Remove from the heat.
- Garnish with cilantro and coconut. Serve with warm Plain Rotli (page 345 in the book) or Spinach Puri (page 342 in the book).
The same method can be used for okra, potatoes, and sweet potatoes as well. The total cook time will vary.
This dish can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days. To reheat, warm in the microwave, or you can warm it in a pot on the stove.
Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: [email protected]