Thursday, January 10, 2008

Veggie dinners

I have never understood the aversion to Brussels Sprouts that many people profess. Maybe if you eat them boiled, I suppose they wouldn't taste like anything much, but sauteed or baked in a creamy, cheesy sauce, this vegetable is delicious. We only get access to BS in the winter here, so whenever I see packets of this small, delicate looking cabbagey vegetable, I instantly pick it up. I've had it cooked many different ways, but when I have to leave it to my cook, I just get her to rustle up a simple, Indian style sabzi - slice the brussels sprouts finely and cook in a seasoning of oil with roast cumin seeds, then add some chilli powder and salt. If cooked until slightly soft but still crunchy, this makes a great accompaniment to rotis or rice and dal. The bitter-sweet taste of the vegetable really shines through in this simple dressing. It also tastes good in an open sandwich - just top a slice of lightly buttered bread with this, some cheese and grill until the cheese turns melty. The crunchy brussels sprouts taste adds a nice texture.

One type of vegetable that I typically don't enjoy is the ones that are sweetish. That includes sweet potatoes, over-ripe pumpkins and chayote. In fact, we typically don't buy sweet potatoes very often, because I'm always stumped as to what to do to them.

Well, yesterday we had a food disaster at home. The gas cylinder was finished, and there was some problem with the spare one, so the nozzle just didn't fit properly. We borrowed a cylinder from the neighbours but the nozzle seemed to be the problem. So there we were, with no rotis or rice for dinner, and the ground masala for chholia ke kebab just sitting there helplessly. I didn't feel like making do with bread, and then my eye fell upon the sweet potatoes which had been sitting in the kitchen since my last sabzi mandi expedition a week ago. "I'll try baking them", I thought, and promptly wrapped them up in foil, carefully pricking them over with a fork because I do not want things exploding all over the kitchen. I also washed and wrapped up a potato to keep in reserve, and popped the veggies into the oven at 250 degrees for about 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, I put a lump of home made plain yoghurt into a muslin cloth, tied that tightly and left it hanging over the washbasin to let the liquid drip away. I had some chives which I snipped into 1 cm segments - I love doing that. When the yoghurt had stopped dripping, I unfolded the cloth and turned the yoghurt over into a wide bowl. I added the snipped chives and a dash of salt and stirred it up nicely and parked the dip into the refrigerator to cool while the potatoes cooked.

The sweet potatoes were a tiny bit overcooked, and probably need less time - say 35 minutes - in the oven. The sweet potato juice had oozed out and coated parts of the skin which had turned caramelized. The potato was nicely done, with its skin nice and crunchy. I quickly brushed a bit of salted butter over the split halves of the sweet and plain potatoes and served them up with a dollop of yoghurt dip on the side. The yoghurt dip is a great low-cal substitute for sour cream with chives, by the way.

I really enjoyed the sweet potatoes this way, with the sweetness brought up to a smoky point, and the hard caramelized skin to crunch into as if it were candy - if you look at the picture above, you can see the caramelized bits. I'm already pondering over the possibilities of whipping up some honey mustard or hot-sweet chinese or Thai style sauce to serve with it next time. And the roast potato of course tasted delicious with the fake sour cream dip. It turned out to be a pretty satisfying dinner, despite the lack of bread and multiple things to eat - simple, wholesome and surprising. What more can one ask for?


ejm said...

I am one of those people who used to loathe brussels sprouts. I now absolutely adore them.

I also adore sweet potatoes (another dreaded vegetable of my youth). Our favourite way to prepare them is to cube them, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle on a bit of salt and oven-roast them til they are a bit soft and begin to caramelize (350F for around 30 minutes). We then let them cool and just before serving, re-roast them for 10 minutes or so til they are crispy. They are wonderful that way - still chewy on the inside but with that fantastic caramelized outside to take away the sweetness.


bird's eye view said...

That sounds delicious - do you leave the skin on the cubes or do you peel the sweet potatoes and then bake them?