Monday, April 11, 2011

More Experiments in the Kitchen

I have been learning to make my favorite dishes healthier without sacrificing their taste and texture. There's a lot of information on doing that if you look for it on the Internet or in specialized cookbooks. I am learning to use that information to my advantage.

One very popular trick among the health conscious folks out here is to bake food that you would normally fry. They use it for chicken wings, French fries, crispy fish and so on. I tried it with samosas and pakoras. You have to be familiar with your oven to know the best height for your baking racks for something you are experimenting with, but it's a great way to save a whole lot of fat and calories. The samosas turned out pretty well, and the pakoras turned out really well. Maybe because I knew my oven better when I did the pakoras, or maybe because of the nature of the dish.

But the stuff I am most excited about is the almost fat free chocolate cake and the almost fat free dal makhani I made. These are both things I really, really like. I made both of these without any butter, oil or cream. Well, except for the tablespoon of olive oil (for about four servings) that went into the dal to help keep the liquid from rushing out from under the pressure cooker's whistle. I don't really know if you can do without that little bit of oil, and I don't really think you should try to do without it. A little oil, especially the good kind, should always be part of your diet.

Here's what I did with the cake. I replaced the butter in the recipe with pureed prunes in the same quantity by volume. When I first read about this suggestion on the Food Network website, I was more than a little scared, because I have always hated prunes. My grandmother would sing their praises and try to get us to eat them everyday, but I couldn't really swallow them without feeling a desire to throw up.

But after having tried a bunch of food network recipes and cooking ideas, I put a little more trust in these people and decided to try it. Of course, prunes are good for you because they have a boatload of antioxidants. Plus, they are on the sweeter side, especially if compared to the butter they replace, so you can cut down significantly on the sugar in the recipe. You know what? Once you mix up the prune puree with cocoa powder, everything tastes like cocoa. It's all good. Mix it up with some flour and eggs, bake it up, eat it up. You can see some prune bits, depending on how finely you puree it, but you can't really taste them.

And for the dal, I replaced cream with unsweetened fat free condensed milk (or evaporated milk, whatever you like to call it). The milk, though unsweetened, is a little on the sweeter side because its sugars caramelize at the high temperatures that it is subjected to, so you would want to either balance it out with some yogurt, or spice it up a little more than usual. The dal tasted just like my mom used to make it. To me, that's really terrific taste.

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