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Punjabi Food and Pumpkins

Rajma and vangi batata bahaaji
The mantis
All carved and illuminated

All that loot from spices shopping last weekend was put to good use tonight. Using some very small eggplants I grew, leeks, and the aforementioned spice bounty I was able to create an eggplant dish that I ate, and enjoyed, which can be hit or miss with eggplant. I also made beans with the spices found in a Punjabi Rajma recipe, but I took liberties with the dish, using roman beans instead of kidney beans, even though rajma means kidney bean. That wasn't the only rule I broke making this dinner, as technically the eggplant mixture was supposed to be mixed together with the rice, but I chose to cook basmati rice separately and serve the beans and eggplant over top. Then, after cooking, I topped with toasted pumpkin seeds which were roasted in cumin, fenugreek, garlic, red pepper, and tumeric, I believe. This was an unplanned added bonus, as we had a friend over and carved pumpkins tonight.

Speaking of pumpkin carving, I had forgotten how much fun it is. I haven't tried my hand at it in my recent memory, and it's a lot more interesting than it was as a child, since now I do not feel like it is necessary to limit possible pumpkin designs to faces. I carved on a pumpkin that is just starting to turn orange, but has been sitting with a dry stem on the vine for a few weeks now, so I figured it was time to pick it anyway. The rest of the pumpkins carved were bought from roadside stands around here, since the pumpkin output of our garden was quite pathetic. Stem borers and the drought were to blame. So many seeds came out of these pumpkins we also made a tray of garlic and pepper spiced seeds, and one wasabi tray.

All the pumpkins came out pretty amazing, with the IWW cat with hidden anarchy symbol, seahorse, and mine, the mantis. Is that what you guessed it was? I have also heard it looks like tiger, and I also feel like it looks like it has devil horns, which were supposed to be antanne. The vine comes out of the top lid part and looks like additional antanne which is what inspired the mantis carving.

Banana Smoothie, in Green

Banana smoothie with vanilla soy protein

I drank something green today. I have been smelling the enticing vanilla scent of soy and spirulina protein powder wafting from my cabinet for too long now. Since buying it a while back I never seem to have fruit and some almond or soy milk on hand to make a drink with it. I know it says on the package you can mix with any liquid, but I consumed this smoothie today as a treat, and soy protein with water sounds more like a punishment. I can assure you, there is no "green" taste, and I assume the colour comes from spirulina, though it could as well be from the oat protein or some other plant materials in the powder. At any rate, I finally got to try it, and kept the smoothie relatively simple, with a banana, almond milk, soy protein and some cocoa powder. It may have been my imagination, but I do feel healthy today, which is probably on account of the exercise which I'm getting back into the habit of doing rather than the drink. It is a good way to get fruit in and eat something sweet at the same time, and get into the Halloween spirit with a green beverage. Maybe next time I'll do something really scary and put some spinach or kale in there.

Essential Spices

All the spices fit here before
New and improved selections

I don't like to think of spices as a luxury. They should be counted as a necessity. Most vegans or vegetarians I know tend to know more about what to do with spices than the average omnivore, which could be why they are so much better at making tasty dishes. I had gotten a library book recently and was excited about trying Indian cooking more, since I have mostly had Indian food at restaurants. After a trip to an Indian grocery store and a Vietnamese grocery store, the cabinets no longer are devoid of spices and ingredients. I was out of everything, including coriander seeds, fenugreek, curry leaves, bay leaves, mustard seeds, black salt, amchoor, cumin seeds, nutmeg, and more. In fact, the spice collection now takes up three more shelves than before. So far I have made aloo gobi with a purple cauliflower and some red lentil dal, but forgot to take pictures in the excitement of returning from the spice stores. Something with eggplant probably will be up next.

Spicy and Sweet Barbeque

Barbecued seitan and mashed potatoes

I made a loaf of seitan the easy way, which means steaming it in one piece in the crockpot for two hours, flipping halfway through. Just a little bit of water in the bottom allows it to steam but not boil, resulting in the perfect texture. After this I split the loaf in half, thinly sliced the resulting pieces, and put them back in the crockpot with all kinds of barbecue ingredients, including but not necessarily limited to: apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, puréed tomatoes, chilli peppers, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, liquid smoke, and a bit of store bought barbecue sauce from the end of a bottle. This dish was pretty much perfect in taste, but I was going for more of a pulled pork style barbecue, so next time I think I will use the mandolin to slice the seitan and also put the stuff on a bun. When barbecue is involved, its hard to make a mistake.

The last tomato picking

I have been holding off on picking all the tomatoes for awhile. I figured that I could let them ripen on the vine still because its not yet cold enough for the plants to die. I however, found out this year that when the temperature drops below 50 F at night the plants cannot produce lycopene, so the tomatoes will not get red outside. Also, when it does get down near freezing the skins burst, and its much harder to handle tomatoes and ripening them with burst skins.

I picked them all and got about 15 gallons volume wise, I'm not sure how many pounds of tomatoes that is. Now they are ripening in paper bags so that I can soon can them and preserve the last of the tomato harvest. On the other hand, I'm not sure why the eggplant harvest was so bad. Most plants only made one tiny one as opposed to the buckets and buckets of tomatoes.

Fajitas and Uses for Parsnips

In trying to enjoy parsnips in new ways, I roasted them along with some sweet potatoes and white potatoes. They were ok, but the dinner went in a direction away from roasted roots, though the different aspects melded without folly.

First I had put black beans in the crockpot to cook, and then I had roasted the vegetables. Then I needed to do something with all of the tomatillos, so I made salsa and canned three jars. Having leftover tomatillo salsa, it seemed wise to eat it on the beans. Thus, the fajitas and roasted parsnips combination was complete.

Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew

sweet potato peanut stew

Stew may not sound like something you haven't had before, but this one is unique. Using ginger, peanut, chili powder, and some other spices, sweet potatoes and red beans are shown off in this dish in a manner unlike many things I have had before. Onions and garlic, cooked to brown, along with carrots and green peppers are included here, but I won't write this out in a recipe since this is something you can make up as you go along, and that is what I did, so there's no reason to follow my formula. There is peanut butter and some vegetable bullion for the liquid, as well as crushed tomatoes, but recipes I referenced called for tomato paste to thicken it better. Garnish with coconut flakes, green onions, peanuts, mint, or basil for an even more colourful presentation.

A pasta to enjoy summer's prosperity

summer crops
Pasta with tomato and eggplant

I have been nearly buried under piles of vegetables in the kitchen all summer. The counter and table have not seen the light of day in a few months, due to being filled with produce that needs canning or cooking in a timely fashion from the garde. I am not complaining, but I am fascinated how much food can be generated from a few plants. Fresh tomato sauce has been something I've been making lately, both to can and to eat fresh, and it is quite a luxury to be able to use pounds of produce per meal every day if I want.

Eggplant is an under appreciated vegetable for me. It seems like such a challenge to prepare it in a way that brings out is best characteristics. It must be peeled, salted beforehand to drain off excess water and rinsed, and then cooked until the insides are a mush to create the ideal eggplant experience. Opinions may vary. This eggplant was grown in our garden and used for a dinner once before, but the extras were prepped at that time- breaded and frozen- so they just needed to be fried this time.

The tomato sauce required about 15 tomatoes and a head of garlic. If I was to give you a recipe it would begin, "Plant your seeds in January"... The basic idea is just to peel tomatoes and mush them into a pan. I use my hands to squeeze them into pulp. Then boil off the excess water, add beer (I used a home made hefeweisen, but use whatever you wish) and spices, and enjoy. Cook it for at least an hour for maximum thickness.

You will find that it is worth it to make your own sauce, no matter how many tomatoes you have to grow or how early in the year you need to start. The tomatoes I used were a mixture of the kinds that we have growing, some heirloom varieties such as Marmande, Romanesco and Pearson, but there are also Roma and some yellow pear types added.


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