I’m thankful that we are alive… that’s really the only thing I’ve ever learned from this, my favorite of all western holidays, a very pagan holiday with a long history that Christianity was never able to stamp out. I always take October 31st and November 1st off from work. Always always. And I enjoy it every year!
This one was a relatively quiet one for me. I didn’t attend the costume balls at any of the local clubs of the preceding weekend. I didn’t work on an elaborate costume of any kind. Instead, I enjoyed a quiet Wednesday afternoon carving 3 butternut squashes into small jack-o-lanterns, simultaneously doling out candy to trick-or-treaters when they knocked. There were more than usual this year, and let me tell ya: some of them were quite an eerie sight! The most memorable? A mother and her three young daughters- all dressed as witches, another mother and her two children dressed as Japanese spirits or something, and the next-door kid who donned a fantastic grim reaper (death represented as a black-hooded-and-caped skeleton wielding a scythe) costume, complete with remote-controlled blood that oozed down his face. Lovely. Have some candy.
Night fell, the holiday truly commenced, and I set my jack-o-lanterns outside to ward off any stray evil spirits. By 8 o’clock the trick-or-treaters became sparse, and because I was in a sociable mood and tired of being inside the house, decided to venture out to a local haunt. Halloween is one of the western gay community’s most popular holidays, and, although the weekend costume balls had come and gone, I felt sure that this particular Wednesday would still draw a crowd out into the night. I was right! It was nice to mingle with familiar faces, most of which I thankfully recognized!
I thought I’d also share a little recipe with you. My old friend May taught me this dish, so I assume this is a Hmong dish, but it could be Laotian, it could be Thai, it could very well be known and enjoyed throughout this region. Who knows- I’m not even sure of the proper name for this dish! I tend to call it Bitter Flowers, as this is what the finished dish reminds me of. Flowers. Very spicy and bitter flowers. If you are a person who would enjoy taking a piece of lemon-rind, sprinkling it with ground chiles and salt and devouring it with glee, then this dish is for you! It is essentially a stir-fry of bitter eggplants, those in the photo above being a popular type of these (nope, dey ain’t no pumpkins), but I know of two more: a type that is more egg-shaped with lengthwise ridges as well, and a teeny-tiny eggplant often called “pea eggplant” (as they look like large green peas). All three of these are remarkably bitter and widely available here all summer and autumn in the “Asian” markets and at the farmers’ markets. Heaps and heaps of them. And I usually make this dish a few times during the season, but this year I didn’t get to it until now, and barely at that as some of my stash had become soft. Luckily, most were still usable!
1-2 T oil
fresh red chiles, seeded and sliced- I used 3, but to taste…
1 stalk of lemongrass, sliced very thinly at a diagonal (discard the dry outer leaves and use the paler portion near the root end)
Uh….a quantity of bitter eggplants– such as what would fit into a pair of cupped hands…sliced 1/8″ across into “flowers”
salt to taste (yep, salt…nam pla is not used in this dish- disturbs the colour scheme probably)
1)Heat the oil in a wok over med-low heat and add the chiles and lemongrass; stir-fry for about a minute, just enough to infuse the oil with flavour.
2)Add the bitter eggplant slices and stir-fry just until until a bit wilted, but not entirely soft; they should still retain their shape.
3)Remove from heat and add salt to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature with khao nyao (sticky rice) or any other rice on hand.
This is most refreshing in hot weather, or anytime that the appetite is a bit jaded. Perky, very perky. Oh. and before I forget: this simple recipe is also used for bitter melon.
May you all enjoy the bounty of the harvest, good health, and good spirits. Et men…er Amen. 😀
The story goes like this: Three elegantly-dressed ladies: A Marathi, a Malayali, and a Konkani from Karnataka, sashay into a Turkish restaurant together and politely request of the chef to prepare something that all of them would like. After summoning his only waiter to their side, he takes a moment to ponder the task set before him, and then begins to work in his kitchen. Little do they know he isn’t really a Turk…but he has dabbled enough in the cuisine to be open for lunch now and then; today is their lucky day it seems…. a short time later, after they’ve serenely polished off a few cool drinks while waiting, the chef returns, grinning from ear to ear. With just a hint of smugness, he sets down a platter of steaming and fragrant…………
Well, you probably know the rest of the tale. This story is as old as the hills!
One of these and a few small sides can make for a wonderful lunch, or serve with cocktails or at tea-time, cut across into 1″ slices for beautiful dainty finger food. As they are bread-and-side-dish in one, these are excellent to take on picnics or outings of any kind for a convenient meal.
It is almost necessary to have a baking tile or tiles or “pizza stone” set on the middle position rack of your oven for these to be successful. (see note) The filling for this can be made a day or two in advance. In fact it is somewhat better to do so, allowing the complex flavours to blend quite harmoniously.
Pide with a savoury filling of tomatoes, brinjals, and capsicums
For the filling:
6-8 small brinjals(about 3 cups), tops removed, halved, and sliced to 1/4″
1 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 T oil
1/2 C besan
2-3 t oil
a pinch of asafoetida
3/4 t black mustard seeds
1/2 t cumin seeds
1 t fenugreek seeds
6 curry leaves, chopped
2 t ground red chiles
1/2 t turmeric
1/4 t ground black pepper
2 C mild or sweet capsicums(such as bell, poblanos, new mexico, california), chopped to 1/2″
2 C tomatoes, skinned and chopped fresh or canned
2 fresh green chiles, seeded and sliced thinly
8 cloves of garlic, minced or pasted
1/2 C water
3/4 t salt (or to taste)
2/3 C finely-chopped coriander leaves
1)Sprinkle the brinjal slices with salt in a bowl, mix well, and let stand for an hour. Drain off the liquid that accumulates and rinse three times. Squeeze out as much water as possible with your hands or by using a piece of cheesecloth. Heat 1 1/2 T oil in a pan and fry the slices until nicely browned and somewhat dry. Remove these to a dish lined with cloth or paper to cool and drain the excess oil. Chop roughly and set aside.
2)In a pan set over medium-low heat, roast the besan until fragrant and a shade darker. Set aside.
3)Heat 1 1/2 t oil in a wok or karahi. Add the hing, a second later add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, add the curry leaves and ground spices. Stir once or twice and then add the capsicum, tomatoes and chiles. (mind the spluttering)
4)Cook this mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally at first and more frequently as the mixture reduces, until the oil appears at the edges and it has formed a paste. Turn heat to low.
5)Add the brinjals and garlic and continue to fry, stirring constantly, for 4 more minutes.
6)Add the water and salt to taste and mix well. Add the roasted besan and mix until well-combined. You should have a thick paste now. Add the coriander leaves and remove from heat.
Making the pide:
1 T active dry yeast
1/2 t sugar
1/2 C warm( not hot) water
1/2 C all-purpose flour
3 1/2 C bread flour
1 t salt
3 T oil
1 C plus 1 T lukewarm water
filling from above
1 egg, lightly beaten
1)Dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes. It should have bubbles. Stir in the A-P flour, cover with plastic and let rise 30 minutes.
2)Place the bread flour in a large bowl; make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture, salt, oil, and lukewarm water. Gradually work the flour into the contents of the well to form a dough. Take this dough and knead it on a floured surface for 15 minutes until it is smooth and elastic, and no longer sticks to your hands. Add more flour if necessary and continue kneading until the dough no longer is sticky.
3)Oil the large bowl and place the dough back into it; cover with plastic and let rise 1 hour.
4)Take the dough out and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, place on a floured sheet or tray and cover with a damp towel. Set aside for 30 minutes.
5)Preheat oven with tiles at 500-550 F for 30 minutes before you bake.
6)Take each ball and roll out roughly to a 6″ X 12″ oval on an oiled board. Divide the filling into 8 parts and place a portion on each oval. Spread the filling, keeping 1/2″ away from the edges. Fold the two long sides of the dough over the filling, the edges overlapping along the center. Press down on the folded edges a bit. At the ends, pinch together 1″ from each side to seal. Brush the tops with beaten egg, sprinkle with kalonji seeds.
7)Place one or two pide on the hot tiles at a time and bake 6 minutes, until golden. Keep the finished pide wrapped in a dry towel to stay warm while you finish baking. While you bake, you can assemble the next in line.
The structure for these filled pide was taken from Ayla Algar’s beautiful cookbook, Classical Turkish Cooking. The filling, created by me, was not only heavily inspired by one from this book, but by several other recipes, most notably bharleli mirchi from Anita and her mother-in-law, Manisha’s lovely transcription of a recipe for thakkali chutney by Ammini Ramachandran, and Shilpa’s very nourishing tomato saru. My thanks to them and to all of my readers for your support and encouragement in my new blog. I hope to continue posting recipes of interest in the future. Stay tuned!
NOTE: Unglazed quarry tiles, available at home improvement centers or ceramic tile suppliers, can be, and are often used for baking. Before using, rinse them well and allow to dry several days. Season with oil and heat in a hot oven for a few minutes. Thereafter, keep the tiles oiled often until shiny and black. Scrape to clean and, if necessary use water only (no soap of any kind!) and allow to dry thoroughly before using.(they will crack if still damp).