Monday, February 7, 2011

Meatless Monday, Straight Outta The Ground, A Fast And Easy Entree

    When I was putting together my Pongal menu for the Foodbuzz 24x24, I knew that among the rice and rassam and sambar and vadai, I needed a centerpiece vegetable dish. there was no question I was making an aviyal, also known as a vegetable stew.
   I love aviyals and I've been making them for years. What do I love about them? Hey, what's not to love about a wonderful vegetable dish utilizing the season's best, letting them simmer and then finishing it all off with a tasty sauce of yogurt, coconut and spices. If you have them, toss in a few dal badi (pieces of dried crunchy dal cakes). Oh, did I mention it takes under an hour? Well it does, making it perfect for a snappy. Meatless Monday meal. Pair it up with rice or maybe a salad and it's done.

South Indian Vegetable Stew

Here's what to do:
    If using dal badi pieces, heat 4 Tbs of coconut or vegetable oil  in a deep kadhai, pot or skillet. When it's hot, toss them in and stir them around until they turn a nice reddish gold color.
   Add in all the vegetables that are going to be used. Here's where it gets interesting. This dish works  with whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand. Can't find long beans, bottle gourd or bitter melon? Use green beans, carrots, squash, zucchini, eggplant or potato. Toss in some peas at the end. Get seasonal. Get local.
  I visited my local farmers market...
And this is what I found.
Potatoes, carrots, crooked neck squash, zucchini, green beans, long beans, butternut squash and a couple of tiny purple eggplant. Use your judgement and your imagination. There are no hard and fast rules here. After all the chopping, this is what I had.
  So back to the recipe. Add all of the vegetables to the hot oil and badi in the pot or kadhai (If you include frozen peas, defrost them and add them at the very end of the cooking process).  Add in:
 2/3 cup of water
 1 tsp of turmeric
 About 8 fresh curry leaves
Bring the water to a boil and  turn down the heat. Put a lid on the pot and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Give it a stir every now and then to make sure it's not sticking. If it looks like it needs a little water, add a bit, but this dish should be cooked with as little water as possible. You'll get plenty of moisture from the vegetables.

    While the vegetables are simmering, make the sauce.
 In a bowl mix together:
 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
 2/3 cups of shredded, fresh or moistened, dried, unsweetened coconut
2 hot green serrano chilies seeded and finely chopped.
When the vegetables are tender and cooked, add the yogurt mixture to the pot along with:
2 tsps of salt
1 cup of defrosted peas.
Stir it all together
 This is enough for 6 to 8 hungry people. It's an easy, inexpensive and fast vegetarian entree that takes advantage of whatever you might find in the market fresh and in season. An aviyal is often served as part of a Pongal feast, but because of it's use of so many fresh and seasonal vegetables, it's great anytime of year whether feasting or barbecuing. What better way to get carnivores in the family to warm up to a meatless main dish, than spiking it with a bit of coconut?


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