Sunday, August 28, 2005

Rice Kick, pts. 1 & 2

Sometimes nothing beats rice. It's a good thing that we're both huge fans, because I go through phases where I could eat rice with my meals for days on end. And while I love all kinds of rice, I'm particularly fond of a nice basmati rice dish.

This week was one of those rice weeks. A few days ago I suddenly announced I was going to be hitting the Asian-inspired dishes hard for a while. I was craving stir-frys and Japanese-style seafood dishes served on beds of rice, I was craving eating out of our Japanese bowls. As it turns out, I've yet to make any of the dishes I envisioned, but we have been enjoying our basmati rice.

Friday night we made a recipe we'd made once before and had been dying to make again ever since. The recipe we used was based on one we got from our good friends at Les Touilleurs on Laurier, and it's basically a Moroccan-spiced salmon dish (if you can imagine such a thing). It also happens to be an amazing recipe, and we thank them for it.

Saumon à la Marocaine

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 small salmon fillets w/ skin
1 tbs olive oil

2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp each of lime, lemon, and orange zest
1 cup yogurt (preferably Balkan or Mediterranean style)

Preheat your oven to 400 F. In a mortar, grind the cumin, fennel, and coriander. Transfer to a serving dish and add the salt and pepper, mixing evenly. Rinse and pat dry your fish fillets. Place each fish fillet in the spice mixture, flesh-side down (skin-side up), so that each fillet is evenly covered on one side with the mixture. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick, oven-ready pan over medium-high heat. Cook the fillets in the pan for 3 minutes, flesh-side down. Finish cooking the fillets by baking them in the oven. Depending on the thickness of the fillets, this may take another 1-3 minutes. If you like your skin crisp, broil the fish for the last 30 seconds.

Sauce: in a saucepan, combine the juices with the zest, and place them on medium-high heat. Reduce this mixture down to 1 teaspoon. Allow to cool. Blend the juice mixture with the yogurt in a bowl. Salt to taste.

We served the salmon fillets with a dollop of the yogurt sauce, some green beans sauteed with new garlic (yes, those are hunks of garlic in the photo), and basmati rice. We left the delicious yogurt sauce on the table for additional dunking and made good use of it.

Vij's Eggplant Masala
Originally uploaded by michelle1975.

Last night I made one of my favorite recipes, one that we mentioned a number of months ago when we wrote about a saffron chicken dish we'd made, but which we've never really discussed in detail. It's a variation on a recipe from Vij's, a fantastic nouveau Indian restaurant in Vancouver that I frequented for years when I lived out there (going all the way back to the time when Vij's was just a hole in the wall on Broadway). The original recipe--Oven-roasted Eggplant and Butternut Squash Curry, a modern take on a traditional bharta dish--originally appeared in The Globe and Mail a few years back as part of a profile on "new Indian" and Vij in particular. Although I like the version with squash, I make this recipe much more frequently with just eggplant, and my favorite version is the one I make during the warm weather months when we have access to our outdoor grill: Grilled Eggplant Masala. Grilling the eggplant so that they're lightly charred gives the dish the most wonderful smoky flavor.

Grilled Eggplant Masala

3 to 4 tablespoons canola oil
1⁄4 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 large onions, chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1⁄4 teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds (optional)
1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
11⁄2 teaspoons salt
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 medium-large eggplants (the lighter in weight, the better)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1⁄2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in large heavy frying pan on medium high heat for 30-45 seconds. Sprinkle in the asafoetida powder and cumin seeds and let them sizzle for about 45 seconds. Don't let the cumin seeds turn dark brown or black in colour. Add the chopped onions and sauté until lightly browned. Add the coriander, ground fenugreek, black pepper, cayenne and salt. Sauté for one minute and add the tomatoes. Sauté the tomatoes for approximately 5 minutes on medium heat or until the oil separates from the mixture. You now have the "masala" for the curry.

Preheat your BBQ to medium heat. Slice the eggplants in two lengthwise. Brush with a bit of oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill the eggplants on the BBQ until the the flesh has turned extremely tender and the skin has become lightly charred. If the eggplants are charring too quickly, move them to a cooler part of the the grill or to the upper rack and allow them to cook slowly until the flesh is cooked through. Remove from heat and scoop the eggplant out of its skin, discarding the skin. Add to the masala. Mix well and heat on medium for 5 minutes, using a spatula to chop the eggplant as you stir. Stir in green onions and chopped cilantro at the last minute and serve.

I served the Eggplant Masala with saffron rice and some nan bread.

It's amazing how many people out there are afraid to make rice. If you have a good pot, with a nice, tight lid, and you follow the directions below, there's nothing to fear. So here, finally, is a rice recipe.

Saffron Rice

1 cup Basmati rice, rinsed
2 cups water
10 threads of saffron, ground in a mortar
1-2 tbs butter
salt to taste

Melt the butter in a medium pot (one with a tight-fitting lid) over medium heat. Add the saffron and stir for 15-30 seconds. Add the rice and sautee for 1-2 minutes. Add the water and raise the temperature to high, stirring occasionally. When the water begins to boil, stir the rice well one last time, turn the heat down to low, and place the lid on the pot. Simmer the rice for 18 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 2 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a spoon or fork and serve immediately.



Ana said...


That Eggplant Masala looks very good. I'm looking for some vegetarian dishes so I think I'll give this one a try.

aj kinik said...

hi Ana,
You won't be disappointed. Remember, you can oven-bake the eggplant, too, with excellent results, but grilling the eggplants gives the dish even more depth.

And if you're ever in Vancouver, check out Vij's. I still have dreams about their Rapini with red peppers, cashews, and homemade paneer.