Mar 2, 2011

For the ♥ of Artichoke

Where do I begin? If you haven't had an Artichoke, you're missing something BIG. Of course it's
not available fresh in India, but go and get that can of tender, sweet love and you'll know what I'm talking about.

I am always very excited to get myself a can of Artichoke hearts. I absolutely love Artichoke hearts and crave for it every so often, much to my chagrin (you'll know why by the time I end this post).

Artichoke is very versatile. It has no particular taste of it's own but also reminds me somewhat of an asparagus. It melts in your mouth as the layers unfold and goes well with or on top of almost anything.

This time I decided to punctuate the mild sweetness of the Artichoke with Fire Roasted Peppers and drizzled it with a sour Greek Style Olive Oil Dressing and it was heaven. K and I ended up eating the entire bowl of salad meant for five and even added more artichokes in towards the end.

Artichokes, according to a Wikipedia entry, have the highest reported total antioxidant capacity amongst vegetables. It is also known to aid digestion, strengthen the liver and gall bladder functions and raide the HDL/LDL ratios.

A warning though, about an hour after we ate our meal, we couldn't stop our bowels clearing themselves out! After about 4 such trips, I searched for 'artichoke diuretic' and there it was. We found the culprit! It's a good cleanse, though we ended up feeling hungry for a midnight snack. Lesson learnt - Go slow on the Artichoke.

Anything for the ♥ of Artichoke!

Mar 1, 2011

Vegan Caesar Salad

The usual recipe for a Caesar Salad contains, besides the lettuce and croutons, some egg, some fish and of course some Parmesan Cheese. In India, the fish and eggs are usually replaced by Mayonnaise for the vegetarians, so that still leaves us non dairy eating folk out of this salad since we still don't get Vegenaise or any vegan cheese alternative in India. I used a simple replacement for the mayonnaise leaving the basic ingredients the same.

This replacement is an adaptation of my friend T's invention that I have also used to add some 'cheese' to the Eggplant Lasagne. I love her for making this and I know I am going to add it to many more recipes.

For the Salad:
Lettuce Leaves (you can use as many kinds of lettuce you find!)
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (I like some colour in my salad)
A dash of Worcestershire Sauce (always placed right next to Soy sauce!)
Croutons (I cut up bread into small cubes, drizzle some oil and herbs and bake it till it's crunchy)
Lemon Juice

For the cheese/mayo replacement:
1 block of firm tofu (200gms)
Olive Oil
2 cloves of Garlic

Squeeze out the water from the tofu by pressing it between your hands. Break it up and put it into a blender/ chopper. Let it get mushy and look almost like spoilt curd (you can grate it alternatively, but I find the blender easier). Heat one teaspoon oil in a pan, add some garlic, and add in this tofu puree. Cook it well while stirring at intervals till the tofu softens, which will happen in about 5 minutes or more. Add some salt.

In a large salad bowl, add in the lettuce, tomatoes, pepper, garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce salt and mix well. When the tofu-cheese has cooled down add it in. Refrigerate before serving and don't forget the croutons.

Cheesy Eggplant Lasagne

This recipe is a culmination of inspirations from two close childhood friends/neighbours. One, my dear friend S who now lives in the Emerald City and another dear friend T who is one of the very few chaddi buddies of mine who hasn't left this country (yet)!

S wrote to me about the Eggplant Lasagne she makes at home all the time replacing those sheets of whole wheat with sliced eggplant. Eggplant might not be everyone's favourite vegetable, but this recipe turns it into something else. It's quite a common recipe and it's very easy to veganise.

T on the other hand, cooked up this lovely appetizer for the (three) vegans at her birthday party using mushrooms, peppers and tofu. It so happened that the morning S wrote to me, this was my dinner and I had to use T's method of making tofu into cheese for the lasagne.

This is not my original recipe, in fact you will find hundreds if you search for it. I just adapted it to my taste.

You need:
One large Eggplant, peeled and sliced thin
2 cups Red Pasta Sauce (Home made or store bought. I usually blanch/ steam the tomatoes,
puree them and put it through a seive. Cook Onions, Garlic, Capsicum, add herbs and add the tomato puree, a hint of chilli, salt and pepper. Let it simmer for 15 mins.)
1 block of firm tofu (200gms)
2 cloves of garlic
Any more veggies you want to add in to the lasagne like mushrooms, spinach, steamed carrots, peppers, zucchini, etc or you can just keep it simple and serve a salad on the side.
Any oil (olive/ rice bran/ sunflower/ safflower)
Oregano and Thyme

The Eggplant has to be cooked well before it is assembled into the lasagne. There are two ways of doing it in your oven or on a pan. If you don't have an oven, just heat a little bit of oil in a pan and put in as many slices of eggplant as you can. Turn it over when it is soft and brown underneath and cook both sides well. This may be a bit of a mess specially because the eggplant sticks easily.

The other way is to preheat your oven and arrange the eggplant in an oiled tray. Sprinkle some salt, oil, oregano, thyme and chunks of garlic. Let this cook for 20 mins or till brown and then turn it over and cook for another 15 minutes.

While this is happening you can get started on the tofu. Squeeze out the water from the tofu by pressing it between your hands. Break it up and put it into a blender/ chopper. Let it get mushy and look almost like spoilt curd (you can grate it alternatively, but I find the blender easier). Heat one teaspoon oil in a pan, add some garlic, herbs, salt and add in this tofu puree. Cook it well till the tofu softens which will happen in about 5 minutes. It takes a bit of stirring and scraping, but it's totally worth it. This can be used as a base for so many more recipes. I also made a Vegan Caesar Salad with this which I will add next.

Once you have everything ready, it's time to assemble. Remember to preheat your oven/ grill at least ten minutes before so you can get your hands on this thing faster!

Use a wide bowl and start with a layer of the cooked eggplant. Once you have your base covered, top it up with some of the sauce and vegetables if using any. Then comes the cheesy layer of the tofu. Repeat till you are exhausted with all your ingredients and remember to end with the tofu cheese. Sprinkle some oregano and thyme on top and pop it in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. The idea is to get it nice and hot and maybe even allow the tofu on top to brown a bit (only if your oven has a top heating device).

That's it! Serve hot with some nice salad (I made Fire Roasted Peppers, Artichokes and Cherry
Tomatoes in the Greek inspired Olive Oil Dressing)

(Sorry about the bad picture, when the food is ready to eat, taking a picture is the last thing on my mind.)

The juicy eggplant is such a brilliant replacement for the sheets of wheat. It sucks in all the flavour of the tomato sauce and has a lovely flavour of its own to add to the experience.

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