Grilled eggplant panini
When a quick bite is all we need, a sandwich is the first thing that comes to mind. When we want to make it healthy and tasty, a grilled veggie panini is a great option. Eggplant particularly lends itself to grilling. My husband is allergic to eggplant, but I love eggplant. So, the grilled panini is our perfect solution, where I can use eggplant in mine and other vegetables in his sandwich. This is one of my favorite panini recipes.


Ingredients (makes 3 to 4 sandwiches)

eggplant - 1 large
whole grain sandwich buns - 6 to 8
olive oil - 1 tbsp
paprika/red chilli powder or flakes - 1/2 tsp
salt - 1/4 tsp
mozzarella cheese - 3 tbsp

Method:

Take olive oil in a bowl and mix in the paprika and salt. Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch circles. Brush eggplant and sandwich buns with seasoned olive oil mixture. Place eggplant pieces on a panini/sandwich press and grill on high until done. Grill the sandwich buns separately. Assemble the paninis by placing an eggplant piece on a sandwich bun, topping it with a tablespoon of cheese, placing another eggplant piece on top of it and covering with another sandwich bun. Serve fresh and warm.

Notes:
1. Any cheese/cheese singles can be used as per preference.
2. I use the large eggplants we get in the US - if a different variety of eggplant is used, the quantities need to be adjusted accordingly.
Red Pumpkin Milk Stew
My side-dishes for flat-breads are mostly spicy. When I felt like having something slightly sweet for a change, there was the slice of red pumpkin in the refrigerator - rich in Vitamin A and fiber, low in calories. My mom used to make a stew called "parangikai pal kootu", which I decided to try.



Ingredients (serves 2):

pumpkin - 2 cups (peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes)
milk - 3/4 cup
sambar powder - 1/2 tsp
ginger paste - 1/4 tsp
salt - 3/4 tsp (adjust according to taste)
green chillies - 3
grated coconut - 2 tbsp
cumin seeds - 2 tsp
mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
black gram - 1/2 tsp
lemon juice - 1 tsp
oil - 1 tsp

Method:

Grind coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds to a coarse paste in a food processor and keep aside. Heat oil and add mustard seeds and black gram. When it splutters, add pumpkin, salt, sambar powder, ginger paste and coconut mixture. Fry for a couple of minutes and then add milk. Allow to cook for a few minutes. Once the mixture just starts becoming mushy, add lemon juice, mix well and serve hot with rice or breads.

Notes:
This dish is kind of sweet and spicy. The traditional recipe calls for a touch of jaggery, but because the pumpkin in the US is already extra-sweet, I skipped this step.
Instant honey-glazed Nut balls
Quick, heathy, fresh, home-made snacks for weekday evenings are, to me, the most challenging to find. Nuts are high in fats, but these are "good" fats that help in lowering the "bad" cholesterol. After a long day's work, I made these energizing honey-nut balls in a jiffy, and they also disappeared in a jiffy!


Ingredients:

almonds - 2 cups (broken)
raisins - 1/2 cup
honey - 3 tbsp
olive oil - 1 tsp

Method:

Take almonds in a saucepan. Roast on medium heat for a couple of minutes and add raisins. Mix well and turn off the heat. Add honey and stir well. While the mixture is still warm, grease your hands with olive oil, take a handful of the mixture, press firmly and roll out into tight, lemon-sized balls.

Notes:
Any nuts or combination of nuts can be used, as per individual preferences.
Fried gram and beans stir-fry (Beans paruppu usili)
Paruppu Usili is my husband's top favorite. But I just can't get myself to prepare it - as it takes at least an hour to prepare, involves a lot of utensils and vanishes in a flash, but doesn't quite fit my "quick and healthy" bill. By the time I'm done, I'm so exhausted that all my plans for the rest of the day are thrown to the winds, and worst of all, it doesn't always taste so good either. So, mastering this dish is not something I would have ever attempted, but for my sister-in-law. She makes amazing paruppu usili, without needing a dose of glucose after the "ordeal". When she visited us this holiday season, she gladly offered to prepare it for her brother and let me share her recipe on my blog. This recipe goes to Akila's event Dish name starting with F.


Ingredients (serves 4):

beans - 1 lb (about 450 grams) chopped fine
red gram - 1/2 cup
red chillies - 5
ginger paste - 1/2 tsp (or peeled ginger - 1 inch piece)
oil - 2 tbsp
mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
black gram - 1/2 tsp
curry leaves - 1 stalk (optional)
turmeric powder - a pinch
salt - 1 tsp

Method:

Soak gram in warm water for half an hour. Drain and grind with minimal necessary water to a thick paste, along with red chillies, turmeric powder, ginger and half the salt. Steam-cook the gram paste, cool and disintegrate into tiny lumps. Keep aside. Microwave the beans with the remaining half of the salt for 5 minutes (or until cooked) and keep aside. Heat oil in a saucepan. Add black gram and mustard seed. When it splutters, add curry leaves and gram lumps. Fry for about five minutes, until the gram lumps start turning golden brown. Add cooked beans, mix well and allow to fry for a couple more minutes. Serve as a side dish. Makes a particularly great combination with morkuzhambu.

Notes:
1. To steam cook, the gram paste can simply be placed on an idly plate over a thin layer of covered boiling water for about 8-10 minutes.
2. Frying the gram properly is the very essence to make or break this dish.
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