Sunday, February 26, 2017

Phodi - A desi version of Italian eggplant parmesan (no parmesan though) :-)

It has been a long time since I shared the books on my night stand and the movies I watched, I thought of doing this as part of today's post especially because I am back to reading this new year and also have been watching movies fairly regularly. And timing can't be better with Oscars 2017 just a few hours away, right?. Well, I was writing the draft of the post (as you can imagine) earlier this afternoon and got to posting the final version only now (after watching the Oscars) :-). Did you watch it? Any favorites? I have only seen 'Arrival' so far this year, the others 'Hidden Figures', 'Moonlight', 'La La Land' and ofcourse 'Fences' are on the list, will get to them slowly, may be on the tube if not in theaters. But I am glad to be back to reading books at my old pace. Two of the things that make me really happy in this life - a pile of good books and a pantry full of raw materials. Books to help me in and out of any situation and pantry grounds me to the current moment, focus on the basics. I currently have a bagful of books on my nightstand and two of them are by the same author recommended by a friend. I also recently watched a wonderful movie on the recommendation of another friend. Both suggestions were spot on and I loved both the books and the movie :-).
A dear friend who is also a published author recommended William Trevor to me recently. I am always partial to short stories, I feel like a well written short story has the potential to make a greater impression in a few short pages than a long, elaborate novel. While novels provide a wide space and a broad brush to slowly and deliberately introduce characters, build the story line and express emotions, short stories do not offer any of this luxury but infact demand that the writer be totally convinced about what (s)he is trying to convey in the tight space. Only a very able writer can do justice to paint a lingering image within a span of a few pages of his/her writing. A well written short story can be very powerful while a badly written one can fall flat on its face. William Trevor makes reading short stories a pleasure and I am hooked into his style of writing and the characters he brings to life with his narration. Having finished both 'A bit on the side' and 'Cheating at Canasta', I am on a waiting list for his 'Collected Short stories' next :-). Thanks J for the recommendation, not sure how I never got to his books earlier.

Another friend S mentioned Helen Mirren's "Woman in Gold" on Netflix to me. With HM in the lead I didn't need additional push in the direction and watched it last weekend when I was home alone while BH was busy at some conference. Based on a true story, the movie deals with the recovery of a piece of art with a very intimate personal connection. As any work with the Nazi Germany, this movie has the power to put a knot in your stomach but I enjoyed watching the movie. It is still on Netflix and definitely a watch worth its time. Again, thank you S for the lovely chat and the movie reco :-)

Do you have books or movie recommendations? Something that you enjoyed spending time with? Share them in the comments.
Moving on to the recipe today, here is a deceptively simple and delicious snack, appetizer, side dish made with eggplants. Depending on your mood, you can serve this as a starter or main course. I first tasted this a decade+ back at one of BH's colleague's home when we went there for dinner. His parents were visiting and as R & wife had two young kids that demanded the parents's time and attention, aunty had taken charge of the kitchen. They are originally from Gokarna, the beautiful northern karnataka temple town and aunty's food was everything I had read and imagined from that region. The ease and skill with which she rolled out soft akki rottis and served them hot off the griddle for the ten of us while making it all look so effortless is something I can never forget. I most definitely remember calling nammamma that night and telling her all about aunty's cooking :-). After all these years, I don't exactly remember the entire spread (it certainly was a spread) but one dish that became an instant hit with us was this 'phodi'. She had made them with eggplants and potatoes and kept them ready even before we reached their home and served it along side the akki rottis for dinner. Yumm!!
Eggplants and I have a long history, it started with me completely hating the vegetable and staying miles away from it to decidedly ignoring it when it made its way to my plate to falling in love with nammamma's vangibhaath to enjoying the delicious gojju to totally changing sides with amma's stuffed vankaya. I am sure many of you can relate with this, it is not a vegetable that has universal appeal of the spuds but everyone in my family with the exception of DD loves this simple, nutritious and healthy vegetable. The only way DD eats this vegetable currently is in the form of this phodi and sometimes the stuffed version. I exploit that shamelessly and make this often so she gets to eat the vegetable and hope that someday she will be a convert just like her own mom :-). BH on the other hand can eat this phodi all by itself and call it a meal, such is his love for the humble eggplant.

Being an ardent Olive garden fan, DD called this Indian eggplant parmesan since it resembles the Italian dish in looks :-) but the name is misleading as the ingredients and taste is very different as is the cooking method. If you love eggplants and like the texture of tenderized/shrivelled eggplants and are trying to skip cheese and Italian seasoning, this is a perfect dish. Go ahead and give it a try.
What do you need for Phodi? 
1 medium sized eggplant
3 Tbsp oil
Spice mix: 
3/4 cup upma rava/sooji
1 Tsp red chili powder
1 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp coarse crushed black pepper
1/4 Tsp asafoetida
1/4 Tsp Turmeric powder
How do you make Phodi? 
  • Wash and pat dry the eggplant, cut both the stem end and the opposite end.
  • Cut the eggplant in discs of about 1/4 inch thickness and keep them immersed in a bowl of water to avoid discoloration.
  • Heat a heavy (preferably cast iron) griddle on medium heat and let it heat up (a sprinkle of water should immediately sizzle)
  • Take a wide plate, add all the ingredients listed under spice mix and mix them uniformly. 
  • Taste test a pinch and adjust salt, chili powder or black pepper to suit your taste.
  • Make sure the pan is hot, drizzle a couple of drops of oil and smear it all around the pan and reduce heat to low. 
  • Take an eggplant disc from water, shake away all the water and dredge it in the dry spice mixture to form a thick & even coating on both sides. 
  • Lay the eggplant disc on the hot griddle and repeat for as many pieces as your griddle can hold. 
  • Drizzle drops of oil on and around the eggplant discs, cover and cook for 2mins. 
  • I use a glass lid for this so I can see the progress of cooking from outside without having to lift it multiple times :-)
  • Once the top layer is moist and the disc looks a little shrivelled, gently lift each one and turn it over. 
  • Let it cook for another minute and half, add a drizzle of oil on top. Do not cover while cooking the second side. 
  • Take the discs off the griddle when both surfaces have reached your desired color and crispiness. 
  • These taste delicious hot off the griddle and equally yummy when they cool down making it an easy lunch box item or a make ahead item for a party. Just warm it up before serving. 
  • Eggplant tip: Select one that feels heavy for its size. Also look for seedless varieties of eggplants. Get one that is dark purple in color and is not squishy.  
  • You can use potato slices, sweet potatoes instead of eggplant
  • Cooking time varies with the heat and the thickness of the discs
  • Always cook this dish on low heat allowing the vegetable to cook thoroughly and not burn the outer surface. 
  • Covering while cooking ensures moisture is captured and the vegetable cooks in its own juices. 
  • It is important to keep the spice mix as dry as possible until you are done. Avoid water drops falling into it too much, if you are making a large batch, I suggest you take out handfuls of the mixture into a separate plate and replesnish as you need.  A wet mixture doesn't stick well on the vegetable. 
  • Do not skip asafoetida or turmeric as it brings a distinct flavor to the dish. 

1 comment:

NamsVeni Pothas said...

wonderful our favorite snack.