Monday, July 14, 2008

Vegetable Curry Dish and Zucchini Cake

Part 1: Eggplant, Green Beans, Pumpkin, and Basil in Coconut-Tomato Curry

At the farmers' market last week, we got some eggplant, beans, and greens. The sign had blown off the eggplant, so I wasn't sure what kind it was, but from looking at this site have decided it was Japanese eggplant, which conveniently was what the recipe I used had called for. It was long and skinny, but had a dark skin like in the picture.

I always have trouble finding good recipes for eggplant, so I turned to a new cookbook I have from Moosewood: The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without by Mollie Katzen. There were many interesting recipes for eggplant, but most looked like side dishes. I decided to make a dish called Eggplant, Green Beans, Pumpkin, and Basil in Coconut-Tomato Curry. I found a copy of the recipe online here.

I can't say I followed this recipe too carefully. Since I was also planning on baking a cake from scratch, I decided to take some major shortcuts. They didn't have curry paste at Trader Joe's, and the thought of hauling the kids on another shopping trip was not appealing, so I got two bottles of Red Curry Sauce from Trader Joe's. I also thought the dish was lacking in protein, which seems oddly common in vegetarian recipes, so I added tofu to the recipe. Rather than seek out a kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin), I used frozen butternut squash cubes that I already had at home.

Since the recipe only called for one eggplant, and I had a few, I decided to double the recipe. I started by stir frying three pounds of tofu, and then let it simmer in the curry sauce for a while. Since I used store bought curry sauce, I just added in the vegetables from the recipe. I put in two cut-up eggplants, four cups of chopped beans, and four cups of squash from the freezer that I steamed first. After 10 minutes, the vegetables still didn't look fully cooked, so I let it go for another 10 minutes. Since it said the recipe reheats well, I did all this prep early in the afternoon, and then reheated at dinnertime and added in the basil. I also cooked up a pot of brown basmati rice from Trader Joe's. The dish looked like this:

For the kids, I left out some ingredients while cooking and gave them their own plates with separate foods, in addition to a bowl of the vegetables with curry.

The results were quite good. I thought I might have overcooked the vegetables, since they looked pretty wrinkly, but everything tasted great and you could really taste the freshness of the beans. I'm not a big fan of spicy food, so I thought the curry might be too intense, but it was a good amount of spice. Josh thought the curry distracted a bit from the flavor of the vegetables, though. The kids ate a lot of food from their plates, and the toddler surprised me by eating tofu and vegetables from his bowl of the curry dish. The tomatoes and squash pretty much disappeared into the sauce, but probably added to the flavor even if I didn't necessarily notice it. It was a fairly easy recipe to make, and if vegetables are chopped ahead of time could be done rather quickly.

I thought the dish would go well with Indian bread, like the frozen naan we often get at Trader Joe's, but Josh had already started making no-knead bread the night before, so we had that instead.

I would definitely make this dish again, and would like to try making the curry sauce from scratch and using an actual kabocha squash, since it sounds really good. If anyone knows where to find one locally in Cambridge, I'd love to hear about it. I think the tofu was a great addition and would include that again. The meal reheated great and we ate it again for dinner the next night.

Part 2: Zucchini Cake

It was my husband's birthday, and I decided to keep with the theme of cooking local for dessert as well. We have zucchini growing in our community garden plot, so I decided to make him a zucchini cake. I found a recipes in The Classic Zucchini Cookbook for chocolate zucchini cake which sounded great, but my husband is unfortunately not a big chocolate fan, so I decided to make this one instead. It's supposed to be a three-tiered cake, but that sounded huge and too complicated, so I did two-thirds of the recipe and made a two-tiered cake instead, which was still way too big for our family of four.

As you can see, my cake decorating skills leave much to be desired, and I certainly can't compete with the beautiful work done at Mark Joseph Cakes. (Pardon the shameless plug for relatives who recently started their own business.)

The cake was fairly simple to make, and my 3-year-old was thrilled to be involved in the process, though not surprisingly did not manage to keep the cake a secret when his dad got home from work. He ran right over to me and whispered, loudly, "Can I tell him about the cake? Can I tell Daddy the secret?". It took much longer to bake than the recipe called for. I baked it for 35 minutes and still looked underdone in the middle. Otherwise, the cake turned out fine. It was moist and sort of dense, and the cream cheese frosting was really good. I don't think I'd make it again, unless I had a cake to make and extra zucchini around. My real issue with cake that includes vegetables is that I think of it as healthy, which means it seems like appropriate breakfast food or snack food the next day. However, I doubt with a cup of oil and four total cups of sugar, that this was much healthier than a traditional cake.

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