Sweet Potato Tikka with Coriander Chutney

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In our family, sweet potatoes always make an appearance at Thanksgiving. My mom would make this amazing whipped sweet potato dish that I loved, but I think she and I were the only ones that actually liked it. My dad wasn’t exactly a fan. Last year, I tried something new, and created a sweet potato dish with an Indian twist, and it was easily the best part of our Thanksgiving meal.

I made these sweet potato tikkas (or patties) again this year, and dad and I had them on Thanksgiving night, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday evening, because they were so good. On Saturday, I paired these tikkas with Chole to create a layered, deep flavor profile, and it was the BEST use of leftovers ever. I have a feeling that next year, chole will be included in our Thanksgiving spread. 

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Coriander chutney is a staple in Indian cuisine. If you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant, they always give a small side green chutney (that’s the coriander chutney) and tamarind chutney (it’s sweeter and maroon in color) with papad/papadum (crispy discs made of black gram). Coriander chutney can be slightly spicy and fairly citrusy and bright. Indians eat coriander chutney with a myriad of dishes, so it’s a fairly useful condiment to know how to make. Of course, you can buy it prepackaged in an Indian grocery store. My dad also likes to make a big batch and then freeze small portions into ice cube trays, so he can defrost little portions as he needs them. Smart guy!

Sweet Potato Tikka with Coriander Chutney
Serves: 6-8 (makes 3-4 patties per person)
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients
For the Tikka
4 sweet potatoes
⅓ cup finely chopped white onion
1 tbsp. finely grated ginger
1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
⅓ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh green chili
2 tbsp. gram flour (chickpea flour/chana besan)
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cumin seeds
½ tsp. garam masala
½ tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
2 Tbsp bread crumbs
½ lime
oil, as needed

For the Chutney
1/2 clove garlic
1 green chili
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 cups fresh cilantro, loosely packed
1-2 tablespoons water
Salt, to taste

  1. For the Tikkas: Put sweet potatoes in pot and fill with water. Cover and boil on high heat for approximately 30 minutes or until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork without resistance.
  2. Set potatoes aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes with your hands and put into a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher.
  3. In the meantime, mix ginger, garlic, cilantro and chili until a coarse paste is formed.
  4. Add onions, seasonings, garlic-ginger paste, flour, lime and breadcrumbs to potatoes. Mash and mix until well-incorporated.
  5. For the Chutney: blend all ingredients until smooth.
  6. Heat oil in a saute pan on medium heat. Using your hands, form 2-inch wide patties from the potato mixture.
  7. Cook tikkas for about 4 minutes, or until brown, then flip and repeat. Serve warm with coriander chutney.

Caramelized Onion Gravy

Gravy is one of those things that vegetarians usually don’t get to enjoy. It almost always has chicken or beef or turkey or some other meat stock, and it’s truly upsetting to me. I mean, my potatoes often go naked! I mean, I guess it’s not a bad thing all the time, because I sometimes use straight up butter as a makeshift gravy, and that’s okay with me. But every Thanksgiving, I make gravy.

For my family, making gravy is tough. Most vegetarian gravies are made out of mushrooms because they are the “meatiest” vegetarian option, but my dad hates mushrooms. I don’t know why, but I can understand it, I guess. Anyway, every year I have to make onion gravy, which is easy to make but so easy to mess up. But here’s a simple and flavorful recipe of buttery, salty, creamy, vegetarian gravy. Serve this up with my Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes! 🙂

Caramelized Onion Gravy

Serves: 16
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon plus 4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely diced onion
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. With the heat on low, melt one tablespoon of the butter in a small or medium saucepan.
  2. Increase heat to medium, and add the onion. Cook the onion 10 – 15 minutes, until it is caramelized.
  3. Remove as much of the onion as possible from the saucepan (don’t rinse out the pan though!)
  4. Keeping the heat on medium, add the remaining four tablespoons of butter and the four tablespoons of flour.
  5. Cook the roux (the butter and flour), stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes.
  6. Add back the onions, then stir in the two cups of vegetable broth.  Continue stirring over medium heat until the gravy starts to boil.
  7. Lower heat to a simmer and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir occasionally until the gravy becomes thick and smooth.

Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes

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Confession: I am and have always been and forever will be addicted to mashed potatoes. I’m fairly convinced that the poofy clouds that I imagine are in heaven are actually made of mashed potatoes, and each bowl of earthly mashed potatoes is hand delivered by angels. Okay, that might be dramatic, but my love for potatoes, and especially mashed potatoes, is real.

When I was a kid, one of the first things I learned to “make” for myself was instant mashed potatoes. You know, those dehydrated potato flakes that come in a box? Yeah, those. I’d make them just about every weekend, sometimes twice a weekend, and sometimes even during the week. I was a pretty unhealthy child, okay, what’s it to you? Anyway, as you probably know by now, I was an insanely picky eater, so when I liked something, it was miraculous and my mother let me just run with it. Mashed potatoes are my jam, so I’ve spent the better part of the last 25 years running with it.

In more recent years, I have outgrown the strangely-lumpy-yet-soupy texture of boxed mashed potatoes. Fortunately for my waistline, real mashed potatoes are much more time consuming, so I don’t make them that often, but when I do, you best believe that I savor every. last. bite. Also, there are scant any leftovers. Every. Last. Bite. Remember?

Mashed potatoes are a great blank canvas, and a staple Thanksgiving food. In previous years, I’ve added different vegetables, herbs, garlic, cheeses, sour cream, and different ratios of cream and butter. This year, I tried something different — cream cheese. And, not to toot my own horn or anything, but my dad and I agreed that these were the best potatoes in the history of our family’s Thanksgiving dinners. Success! This recipe is adapted from The Pioneer Woman, but I of course made some modifications. I also served this with Caramelized Onion Gravy.

Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes
Serves: 8-10
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
1&1/2 sticks Butter
1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened
1/2 cup (to 3/4 Cups) cream
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp pepper, or to taste

  1. Boil potatoes in a pressure cooker until 4-5 whistles have gone off. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into large pieces. Place potato pieces into a large pot over low heat. Mash with a potato masher.
  2. Turn off the stove and add butter, cream cheese and cream to potatoes and mash again.
  3. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, and heat potatoes on low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until warmed through. Serve hot with my Caramelized Onion Gravy.

Thanksgiving Recap

The past few weeks have been absolutely wonderful. I love the holidays and all of the joy the season brings. From Thanksgiving until New Years, everyone seems slightly happier despite the shifting temperatures (read: cold), and there’s a definite sense of camaraderie among strangers. Or, maybe that’s just in the Midwest. Whatever it is, I am truly grateful to have spent the past few weekends with loved ones, and I am so excited to spend Christmas with my family, and am especially excited to celebrate my niece’s first Christmas with her.

I spent Thanksgiving with my dad at his place in the south, which by the way was no warmer than it is up here. I was severely disappointed by the temperature, but the moderate-yet-more-than-Ohio-has-gotten-in-a-while sunshine was a pleasant consolation prize. And of course, my dad is the cutest and the bestest ever, so seeing him made me a million times happier.

There are a few days in the year that “fat free” ingredients just won’t cut it, and Thanksgiving is absolutely one of them. Other such days include Christmas, New Years Eve (hors d’oeurves and champagne galore!), the Super Bowl (a variety of dips are the best part of any sporting event), your birthday, your significant other’s birthday (they can’t eat chocolate cake alone, you know?), and National Chocolate Day, obviously. This year’s Thanksgiving menu was no exception. We used real butter, real cream, real cheese, real deliciousness.

The key here is portion control, and combining small portions of heavy, fatty, yummy entrees and sides with lighter, healthier options too. Which is why we made a salad, obviously.

Many people are curious to know what vegetarians eat at Thanksgiving in lieu of a turkey. When the table consists of mostly meat-eaters/turkey lovers, vegetarians often resign to eating a plate full of gravy-less mashed potatoes and bread rolls. While I do load up on mashed potatoes every year, our fully vegetarian meal features some sort of pasta (usually ravioli or lasagna) as the main entree. Always carby and delicious.

Here’s a picture of our spread (individual recipes to follow):
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ClockwiseCaramelized Onion Gravy,  Sweet Potato Tikka with Corriander Chutney, Apple and Raspberry Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese, Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes, Daddy’s Special Lentil Soup, French Baguette, and Four Cheese Ravioli with Tomato-Cream Sauce and Fresh Basil.

Dad and I are generally extremely informal when it comes to Thanksgiving, because, well, it’s usually just the two of us. Therefore, we sat on the sofa, used the coffee table as the dinner buffet, and watched football/Harry Potter while we ate. But we did bring out fancier plates! It’s important to remember that Thanksgiving isn’t about the formalities and the fine china and extensive tablescapes. My Thanksgiving this year was my perfect Thanksgiving, spent with my most incredible father (who I still call Daddy all the time by the way), eating yummy food that we only get to eat once a year, browsing the sale ads in the newspaper, creating a strategy for the shopping to follow, and sharing a giant bowl of chocolate ice cream with my dad, in our sweats, at midnight.

Dad and I at a late night screening of ‘Last Vegas’. 

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Spinach-Cheese Balls with Angel Hair Pasta

There are very few foods that I sometimes feel like I’m truly missing out on as a vegetarian. I’ve always thought that chicken wings were really fun looking, and a good cheeseburger would hit the spot. But as a young girl, one of the things I really, really wanted was a meatball. Do you remember that old song and story, “On Top of Spaghetti,” the one where someone sneezes and the meatball onto of a pile of spaghetti rolls away? I think that was my first introduction to meatballs, and they seemed fascinating.

My mom used to make a pretty amazing substitute to meatballs. Indian-style cheese balls, filled with paneer and green chilies. They were spicy and crunchy, yet soft, and took a considerable amount of time to make, so in our house, they were rare. Saved only for special occasions, or when Kunal and I begged relentlessly and mom caved, they were the highlight of pasta night. Kunal and I bickered over the biggest ones and the crunchiest ones and, of course, the last one, because they were so important to us. I mean, we argued about all things food related, and sometimes still do, because food is just that important.

Last night, my BFF Alli came over for a “Vampire” themed dinner, in celebration for the season premiere of our favorite show, “The Vampire Diaries,” and the series premiere of its spin-off, “The Originals.” Yes, a night of really beautiful vampires. See below for exhibit A.

Alli brought spooky looking red sangria and fizzy black raspberry sodas (that looked just like blood!), and made yummy pumpkin cheesecake brownies. I made roasted garlic crostini (because you know, vampires and garlic), olive tapanade crostini, and beet and fennel salad. We made the entree together in a tag-team effort: Alli made the pasta and sauce, while I made a more Americanized version of cheese balls. Alli’s palate doesn’t tolerate a lot of spice and heat (even though you’re getting better, Al!), so I didn’t think that chilies would be a great idea. I also wanted to incorporate vegetables into the dish, because there were a whole lot of carbs on our menu, so I threw some spinach. This recipe is adapted from here.

Some pictures from the night!
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Spinach-Cheese Balls with Angel Hair Pasta
Serves: 20
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
9 oz (1 box) frozen chopped spinach
1 egg, beaten
1 cup shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
15 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
Cooking spray
Serve with: cooked angel hair pasta with marinara sauce.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or baking paper.
  2. Remove spinach from pouch, and place in colander. Rinse with warm water, turning and breaking apart occasionally, until completely thawed. Drain well. Using a paper towel, squeeze spinach to remove water.
  3. In the meantime, mix together egg, all cheeses, sour cream, olive oil, salt, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and oregano. Stir until well combined.
  4. Stir in spinach, and mix well.
  5. Slowly add flour, a half cup at a time, until a stiff dough is formed.
  6. Shape spinach-cheese mixture into 1″ balls (about 40 balls). Roll spinach-cheese balls in breadcrumbs to coat evenly, and place on baking sheet.
  7. Spray the tops of the spinach-cheese balls with cooking spray, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden-brown.
  8. Serve on top of angel hair pasta with marinara sauce.

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