Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Plethora of Panini: Delhi or Deli?

Although I find middle eastern and Indian food pretty delicious, I
do have to admit one qualm I have with it. Most of what I have tried
is-- overcooked-- for lack of a better word. I'm sure this is because I
haven't gotten to experience traveling in that region and haven't had
the advantage of befriending an outstanding traditional Indian chef.
Even with books, recipes, and restaurants most of what I've tried/seen
has been really heavily cooked dishes of (mainly) grains and legumes.
Not bad, but I always like to have something very raw and fresh with
my meals.

I know there are a lot of salads or cucumber dishes, but too often they
are submerged in dairy.

Another thing that I've found when using Indian recipes is needing to
really know the spices. That is usually the main draw of this region's
dishes-- the spices! So exotic and exciting, but if over done it gets
a heavy dusty taste. That is really the only way I can describe it.

If you don't agree with any of this, please feel free to call me on it.
I'm just describing my own experiences. When making an Indian
spiced Panini, I wanted the flavors you know and love with an added
freshness. This is into way traditional, just a delicious experiment.

When making Paninis I always try to consider what the sauce is going
to be. Sometimes it is a spread, a cheese (vegan please), or dressing.
It should be something that is still tasty when hot or melted, as you
will be grilling it. All that the sauce does is keeps the entire
sandwich from being super dry and crunchy. You want a hot, flavorful,
moist interior, with a crisp, crunchy crust.

You can do more than one. I used veganaise and mustard with the
balsamic vinegar panini for example. Sometimes the vegetables add
enough moisture on their own, but not always.

For this panini I did two. I had a hummus spread on one side and
vegan yogurt on the other. I added a little salt to the yogurt as
the Whole Soy brand, my brand of choice, is a little sweet sometimes.

For the vegetables I separated them and seasoned them differently, to
add variation and to avoid the over spiced taste that I spoke of earlier.

To the onions, garlic, peppers, and chilis I added some red chili
powder, cayenne, and black and white pepper. I sauteed them until the
onion was soft and tender. I just used water instead of oil whenever
they started to look dry. I added no more than 1/4-1 tsp of each spice.

It depends on how much you are making and how strong you want it.
I made enough for two sandwiches: 1/2 onion, 1/2 pepper, 3 cloves
garlic, 1 hot pepper with 1 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne, and
1/2 tsp of everything else.

Remove your veggies from the pan and get ready to cook the eggplant.
In a tablespoon of oil, quickly roast a tsp or so of cumin seeds. Add 1
tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp coriander, and 1/4 tsp ginger (opt). Cook briefly
and add about half an eggplant cut into 1/4 inch slices. These were
salted and rinsed beforehand to extract the bitterness. Cook each side
in the spices until the edges of the eggplant appear dark and soft.

Assemble the bread with all the ingredients so far... add some fresh
sliced tomatoes and some cilantro and grill! It may seem spicey, but
the coolness of the soygurt and fresh tomatoes balance it all out for
a perfect panini!

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