Tag Archives: fennel

Recipe: Spicy Indian Eggplant with Tomatoes

27 Oct

I have always loved logic problems. You know–the kind where a man in a blue coat on a bus is sitting two seats away from a woman with red hair who is diagonally across from another woman using an iPhone and one seat away from a man with a green scarf reading the paper.  Eventually, given more clues, you’d have to say where everyone was sitting, what color hair they had, what they were wearing, and what they were doing.

Perhaps that is why I also greatly enjoy certain culinary challenges. For example, tonight we had friends over for dinner and had a lovely time with them. But having lived in Berkeley, we learned early on to ask if our guests had any dietary preferences or restrictions. This time around, several of our guests could not eat dairy, gluten, or meat (two friends are each avoiding one of those items, the other cannot have two of them–but no one friend is avoiding all three). Five people at the table tonight ate anything and everything. No one was vegan.

So, what to serve? In cases such as this, I find that Indian food is perfect. There are myriad vegetarian and non-dairy options, and rice does not contain gluten. So I decided to use this opportunity to experiment by making several dishes I haven’t tried before. This eggplant dish is one of them, and one of the reasons I chose it is that it can be served at room temperature. Anything that can be made ahead of time, I like. This recipe, which family members deemed a keeper, is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.

Spicy Indian Eggplant with Tomatoes
Serves 6

1 tsp. ground ginger
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1/8 c. water
1 3/4 lb. baby eggplant
about 1.5 c. canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp. whole fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 (15-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/8 tsp. cayenne (or chili flakes)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Preparation

1. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into halves, then cut each half lengthwise into four strips; cut the strips in half crosswise.
2. Heat 1/2 c. of the oil in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat; when hot, add one layer of eggplant and cook until the eggplant is golden-brown, turning pieces over as they cook.
3. Remove eggplant and drain on a layer of paper towels.
4. Repeat until all eggplant slices have been cooked, adding additional oil to the pan each time as needed.
5. Once all the eggplant has been cooked, keep about 3 tbsp. of the oil in the pan, and discard the rest.
6. Add the fennel and cumin seeds to the hot oil in the pan. Stir for a few seconds, then add the tomato, ginger-garlic mixture, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, salt, and sugar
7. Stir and cook for 5-6 minutes, breaking up the tomato pieces with the back of a slotted spoon. Continue to cook until the mixture gets thick and paste-like.
8. Return the eggplant to the pan and gently mix in; add the lemon juice. Cook on medium-low for about 10 minutes, adding some of the reserved tomato liquid if the eggplant looks too dry.
9. Check the seasonings and adjust as needed (you may like to add more salt, or a pinch more sugar, or a bit more lemon juice).
10. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe: Sausage, Fennel, and Mushroom Pastry Puffs

6 Mar

Puff pastry is a magical ingredient. If you have some in the freezer, you will be able to pull together a savory meal or a sweet dessert in barely more time than it takes to cook the pastry once it has thawed. If you are someone who makes puff pastry from scratch, my hat is off to you. I may get there one day, but for now I am happy to rely on the prepared kind. In this recipe, the onion and fennel almost melt together, adding a subtle layer of flavor to the sausage and mushroom. And crisp, flaky pastry makes everything better.

Sausage, Fennel, and Mushroom Pastry Puffs
Yield: 12 puffs

1 pkg. puff pastry (about 17.5 oz. = 2 sheets), almost thawed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lg. onion, finely chopped
1 bulb fennel, trimmed, cored, and finely chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
sprinkle red chili flakes
salt & pepper
6 links sweet Italian turkey sausage (1.5 lb.), casings removed
6 tbsp. grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
chopped parsley (optional)

Preparation

1. Let puff pastry thaw while you make the filling — but before the pastry comes to room temperature, unfold it and slice each sheet vertically into three sections along the fold lines (each sheet is folded like a letter), then cut each section in half. After cutting up both sheets, you will have 12 small rectangles of pastry. It is easier to cut the pastry, and to maintain the rectangular shapes, when the dough is still a tiny bit frozen. Set the pastry rectangles to one side in a single layer (if they are touching each other, they may stick together).

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add onions and fennel. Cook until onion is soft; add chili flakes (if using) and season with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms to the onion/fennel mixture and cook until liquid is released and mixture is relatively dry. Add the sausage, and cook until all liquid has evaporated, breaking up sausage as much as possible. Check seasonings, then let mixture cool for a few minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Place one pastry rectangle into each muffin cup; the edges will drape over, which is fine–the end result will be somewhat free form. Distribute the filling among the muffin cups, sprinkle parsley (if using) and about 1/2 tbsp. Parmesan/Romano on top of each puff, and bring the pastry edges over the filling to loosely cover.

4. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.