Friday, August 06, 2010
Cannoli is the self-anointed king of our neighborhood.
He spends his days chasing all sorts of delicious adventures in the front and back yards of each of the seven homes that line our street. On hot days he presses his long, lithe body against the cold concrete bench in our front yard, stre-e-etch-es under the shade of the evergreen, and falls asleep without a care in the world. At other times he lurks under the neighbor's maple tree, lying in wait -- back domed, ears perky, eyes sharp-- for some poor old mouse scurrying unsuspectingly by.
Cannoli burst into our world one hot summer afternoon last year with an excited rat-a-tat-a-tat on the door. It was a neighbor, surrounded by about half a dozen kids from her family. "We found him in the bush near our house!" screamed Diana, the pretty, round-faced one, before I had even opened the door.
Her aunt held up a tiny, slightly afraid, black fur ball who looked just a few days old. "We don't know what to do," she said. "We've called the shelter and they said they can't take him in before he's six weeks' old."
That first day, my neighbors -- at least the adults in the family-- seemed eager to find another home for the tiny kitten. But by next morning, perhaps with some pressure from the kids, they'd decided they wanted to keep him.
And so Cannoli came to live on our street.
Most of the homes on our street have cats, but everyone else keeps their cats indoors. Cannoli seemed hell-bent on changing that. Come spring you couldn't help but notice he was just about everywhere. My worried talks with his parents always yielded the same response: "He just won't stay inside."
It soon became pretty clear that neither Cannoli nor his parents wanted him to be an indoors-only cat. I worried about the dangers: cars, other animals, not to mention diseases. Cats themselves also pose an unnecessary risk to wildlife: they are adept at catching birds and will do so, and while that may be all well and good when they are feral or living in the wild and need to hunt for food, domesticated cats don't need to hunt because they eat at home.
Over the months I've forced myself to make peace with Cannoli's wandering ways. His family seems to love him, especially his little sister Destiny, and they do take care to bring him in at night and during storms or bad weather. He's even adopted us into his extended family. A lot of the time he sits on the bench in our front yard and doesn't budge an inch even when Lucy and Opie approach him with rambunctious doggie curiosity. Instead, he hisses and bats his little paw at them to scare them away. When he's hungry he runs up to me and orders me, with a long, slow, but authoritative meee-o-ow, to bring him treats or food.
I've no doubt that, despite my human misgivings, Cannoli the Cat thinks he's living the perfect life.
And now for the recipe which I adapted off the wonderful Vah Chef.
I've had a decent number of eggplants show up in my could-be-better vegetable garden this summer and I couldn't be a happier since both Desi and I love this delicious veggie. I've said this before on my blog and I'll say it again to all you who think the eggplant is bitter or rubbery or whatever: cook your eggplant. This is not one of those veggies that tastes good al dente, like broccoli or carrots. Eggplant cooked to perfect tenderness has a creamy, delicious consistency and buttery taste that's to die for.
In the original recipe, the Vah Chef deep-fried the eggplants. Doing that gives the eggplants a silky texture that's quite wonderful, but then again as anyone who's cooked with eggplants knows, they drink up oil like a sponge. My easy and very effective way around this dilemma is to just toss the eggplant with some spices and a tiny amount of oil and bung it all into the oven for 10 or 15 minutes. The eggplants come out all silky and soft and creamy and I can eat guilt-free. I also cut out the sesame seeds that he roasts and powders with the peanuts because I didn't have any on hand. The subzi was still delicious.
On to the recipe now. Enjoy!
Andhra-Style Eggplant Subzi with Peanuts
2 medium eggplants, chopped into 3/4-inch squares. Toss the eggplants with 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp of chilli powder, salt to taste, and 1 tsp oil and place in a 400-degree oven for about 10-15 minutes or until really soft and cooked through.
1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
2-3 red chillies
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
10-15 curry leaves
2 green chillies, minced (optional-- don't use if you don't like your food too hot because we've also got the red chillies)
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger, grated
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/3 cup peanuts, roasted slightly in a dry skillet until light brown spots appear, and powdered coarsely
Salt to taste
Heat the oil.
Add mustard and cumin and, when they sputter, add the red chillies and curry leaves.
Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and saute another minute.
Now add the coriander powder and the tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato begins to express the oil.
Add the cooked eggplants and stir well to mix. Cook another 5 minutes so the flavors meld together.
Add the powdered peanuts and, if desired, some chopped, leafy coriander.
Serve hot with rotis or rice and dal.