Saturday, May 7, 2011

Malai Kofta (sortof)

When one of the buttons on my camera stopped working last week, it was the end of an era.  I've used the same little camera since 2005, and I guess I would have kept on using it indefinitely if something decisive hadn't happened.  

So, from the Fujifilm FinePix E510 to the Fujifilm FinePix JV100.  Nothing special, but it's funny to note that the new camera is 1/3 the size, 2.5x the resolution, and 1/5 the price--though I guess to most people my camera's looked like a dinosaur for quite a while.  This reminds me of stories the ancients used to tell about how digital watches used to cost a gazillion dollars...


This weekend I cooked dinner for my friend's birthday.  She requested "something Indian-ish," and I thought how some of my favorite things to make--especially baingan bharta and chana masala--feature the vegetables most likely to cause inflammation (eggplant, tomato, potato--for more on this, see the comments to this post).  So I thought I'd try to mix it up and make an Indian-inspired meal that avoided those veggies.  This is what happened.

Malai kofta are one of the richest and most delicious things on the menu at many Indian restaurants.  They're also by definition never vegan.  I looked at a few recipes, but decided I didn't want to use the typical rich gravy.  So, going off this recipe from happy vegan face, I took a lot of the interesting parts of the sauce and added them to the balls themselves.  Then, as I also felt like skipping the potato, I turned to this recipe for green bean falafel, about which I've blogged before.  I picked and chose the best parts of the meatballs, the gravy, and the falafel, and then I changed some of the method as well: when I made the falafel, the raw onions and garlic were way too strong, so this time I sauteed them before mixing them with the green peas and beans and other bulky ingredients.  The meatballs (shown at right before cooking) were then briefly fried until they were crispy on the outside.  In the end these were a good deal like the green bean falafel, but they had a more balanced flavor and a slightly more coherent texture.  (fyi: the word kofta appears in many different languages)

Then here was the particularly odd move: I simmered them not in a spiced gravy, but in Georgian Cilantro Sauce, which I first made last fall.  Along with the garlic in the sauce, cilantro is supposed to have great health benefits, including (perhaps) fighting inflammation, removing heavy metals from the blood, and aiding digestion...though I'm so far from being an expert on this stuff that I take it all with a grain of salt.  In any case, this sauce tasted great, and it fit well with the other flavors in the meal.

The dinner was rounded out by a few standards: dal with ginger and lime, sauteed greens following this Brussels sprouts recipe, and brown basmati rice with turmeric, garlic, and salt.  And for dessert we had maple-coffee ice cream from Scoops.

Green Vegetable Kofta

canola oil
1/2 small yellow onion
1-in piece ginger, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper, minced
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 c frozen green peas and green beans, thawed and pulverized in a food processor
2 TB cashews, toasted and ground
1 slice of bread, pulverized into bread crumbs
1.5 TB ground flax seed + 4 TB warm water
1/2 c finely ground cornmeal, plus more as needed
more oil

1. Heat oil in a small frying pan.  Add onion, ginger, garlic, and spices, and cook until things are fragrant and translucent (5-10 min over medium-low heat).
2. Thoroughly combine saute mixture with chopped peas and beans, and cashews, bread crumbs, flax seed mixture, and cornmeal.  Roll into small balls, adding more cornmeal or liquid as needed.
3. Heat oil in a high-sided frying pan until quite hot.  Add balls and fry them, turning as needed, until golden brown.  Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.  Set aside.  Makes about 20 balls.  Serve after simmering briefly in gravy or cilantro sauce, or eat as you would falafel.


Christina said...

What do you mean, they cause inflammation?! What do you have against tomatoes & eggplants? I love tomatoes and eggplants!

Julia said...

They certainly are delicious. But it seems that nightshade vegetables--peppers, potatoes, eggplants, and tomatoes--do increase inflammation. Most foods are at least slightly pro- or anti-inflammatory, but nightshades are particularly inflammatory.

Several reasons why this might not matter that much: first, unless you're suffering from something like arthritis or sports injuries, the occasional eggplant's probably not going to do much. And secondly--further proof that age-old food traditions can be just as smart as nutrition research--most of the places you encounter these veggies, they're paired with some super-duper-ANTI-inflammatory foods, especially ginger and garlic (like in Indian or Italian food).

So I'm not hating on tomatoes and eggplants. Some of my favorite things to eat of all time are tomato- and eggplant- based dishes. This was more of a self-imposed challenge than a model for how we should all always be eating. My stomach would be very sad if the nightshades went away completely. :)

Julia said...

List of anti-inflammatory foods

On Nightshades

Hannah Jastram, if you're reading this, I'd be curious to hear your (better-informed) take! :)