Friday, June 20, 2008

Yet more beet love...saag cheelas

My last post dealt with the noble beet and I haven't been able to get beets out of my mind since. Is it because my favorite color is red? Is it something about the swirly, hypnotic pattern you see in the flesh when you cut it into diagonal slices. I'm not sure, but I tend to just humor my food obsessions until they lose their own momentum, so let's just go with it for now.

Having juiced several beets, I was left with a healthy bunch of lovely dark green and deep magenta beet greens. Never again will I toss out these lovelies, nor will I bother buying beets that have been ashamedly decapitated by some unwitting tool of a produce clerk. I've been trying to eat more green leafy vegetables as of late (recall the green-shake obsession not too long ago) and I had a hankering for Indian food today.

Occasionally, on my 'day off', my red-haired vegan comes home for lunch. Today was such a day, so I needed a meal that could be multi-tasked, since I had a reasonably full to-do list. So this involves soaking lentils, mixing batter and letting it sit, soaking very sandy and gritty beet greens in vinegar water and chopping vegetables between trips down to the basement.

So this is a 'puttering around the house' recipe.

As noted in an early post, I'm also obsessed with pancakes. I adore Indian pancakes (dosa, or dosai), but I haven't much success with making them at home. I set out today to make some baked pakoras (vegetable fritters), but decided mid-way to morph my recipe into a pourable batter instead and make a pancake-ish thing.

Beware: This recipe uses fussy ingredients probably only found in an Indian grocery store or a fiendishly well-stocked supermarket.

The whole meal consisted of daal (lentils), the veg. pancakes, a bell-pepper and radish salad and some parathas (indian flatbreads) from my freezer.

Saag Cheela

I only found out that my new creation might already have a name. After lunch, I got a hold of my friend Aishwarya and described them to her. She thought the best match was 'cheela'. These are chickpea-flour based pancakes that are often mixed with minced vegetables. So there you have it. I made mini beet-green cheelas and I didn't even know it!

1 cup besan (chickpea flour)
3/4 c water
greens from 1 lb of beets (greens from about 5-6 beets)
small onion
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ajwain seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper


1. Soak the greens in a large bowl or a clean sink for several minutes, agitating a bit. This will get rid of all the sand/grit that comes along with root greens. I usually pour in a splash of regular (white, distilled) vinegar when soaking vegetables. Rinse the greens a few times to make sure all the grit is gone.
2. While the greens are soaking, find another medium-sized bowl and add the besan, water and seasonings. Stir this well with a whisk to break up all clumps. Let this sit for 20 minutes or so.
3. Mince the greens and the onion in a food processor until very fine (or by hand).
4. Add the vegetables to the besan batter and mix thoroughly. The batter should have thickened a bit after sitting.
5. Heat a non-stick frying pan to medium-high and use a paper-towel to apply a thin coating of oil.
6. Drop large spoonfuls of batter onto the frying pan and cook like pancakes. I made mine roughly 2 1/2-3 inches in diameter.

I served these with some yellow daal (mushy lentil puree) and a little salad.

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