Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Recreating the Caravan

One of my fond memories from college is sitting on a floor cushion at the Caravan Serai, eating the vegetarian platter while doing homework (and sometimes watching the belly dancer). I could sit there for hours, scooping up the dal with my naan and enjoying the atmosphere.

An Afghani restaurant in an aging building in the early post-911 days spelled some hard times for the restaurant and it is now long gone. But years later I'm left craving the vegetarian platter: yellow lentil dal, subzi paneer (spinach with soft yogurt cheese), bademjan borani (eggplant and tomatoes), aromatic rice, and yogurt.

Tonight I attempted to recreate the recipes- but vegan and lower in fat.

Creamy Subzi, sans Paneer

1 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp. asafoetida
16 oz. of frozen greens (I used 1/2 spinach and 1/2 kale)
1/2 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

Heat canola oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeƱo, and asafoetida (watch out for those pepper fumes!) and saute until onions are translucent. Add greens and cook until hot throughout. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, cornstarch, lemon juice, salt, and yeast until smooth. Add to spinach and simmer until liquid has thickened considerably and spinach is creamy.

Bademjan Borani

I'm usually a fan of lightly cooked vegetables, to preserve nutrients and texture. But I remember this eggplant dish as being cooked so long it fell apart into a rich, buttery eggplant mash. This version can be fat free, so it is not quite so rich. It is, however, just as delicious. Feel free to drizzle with flax oil after baking to get a more rich texture.

1 medium eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick and quartered
1/2 onion, sliced
1 tsp. cumin seed
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. fennel seed
3/4 tsp. salt
1- 14.5 oz can organic tomatoes
1-2 Tbsp. flax oil, optional

Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss everything together (except flax oil) in a glass baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Then remove foil cover and bake an additional 10-20 minutes, until liquid has evaporated and eggplant is falling apart. Drizzle with flax oil if desired.

Yellow Split Pea Dal

Everytime I make dal I use a different made-up recipe. Here is today's recipe which uses a pressure cooker. It makes enough to pack in your lunches all week. And I know it has kind of a lot of oil in it- but it really carries the spices' flavor.

2 cups split peas
4.5 cups water
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. cumin seeds

Combine peas, water, ground cumin, ground coriander, salt, and 1 Tbsp. oil in a pressure cooker. Bring up to pressure and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let pressure release slowly to finish cooking. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a small pan. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and red pepper flakes. Cook until seeds begin to pop and then remove from heat. When you open the pressure cooker, pour the hot oil and spices over the dal. Stir to combine and adjust salt to taste.

Fragrant Brown Rice
I know, I know. Long grain brown rice is not very authentic. But it's what I had in the kitchen and it's so good for you!

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp garam masala
1.5 cups long grain brown rice
3 cups water
1/4 cup raw cashew pieces
2-3 Tbsp. raisins
1-2 Tbsp. cilantro (optional)

In a dry saucepan, toast the cashews until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove the cashews and set aside. Add the oil, rice, and garam masala and heat until rice is coated in oil and smells fragrant. Then add water and cover, brining water to a boil. Then reduce heat to simmer rice for about 40 minutes or until tender. When done, stir in cashews and raisins. Garnish with cilantro.

Here's how beautiful the spices look when you are frying them in oil for the dal:


erin said...

Oh, man... so many good recipes to try! This looks awesome. And thanks for reducing the oil. Your dal recipe was already on my list; now I'll just have to add this... : )

Liz said...

Your blogs make me hungry, no matter what I may or may not have eaten already today. I remember the Caravan Serai, too, but your cooking always looks unbeatable. Thank you for posting your recipes! Mmmmmm.....