A couple of more simple side dishes for busy weeknights.:)
First, we have keerai poriyal (spinach stir-fry). You can absolutely use frozen spinach if you're in a real rush, but nothing beats the taste of fresh! This is a very easy yet amazingly flavorful way of preparing spinach. The spinach is scented with garlic, onions, and infused with the smoky taste of fried red chillies. Definitely a winning combo!
Fresh spinach - 1 medium bunch, cleaned and cut into small pieces
Onion - 1 small, chopped
Garlic - 2 cloves, chopped finely
Salt to taste
Red chillies - 5, or to taste, broken in half
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig, torn in half (optional)
1. Heat oil in pan and do the seasoning. Add onions and fry for 2-3 minutes.
2. Add garlic and fry until garlic softens and onion is translucent.
3. Add cut spinach, squeezing well before adding to pan to make sure you're not adding excess water. Spinach has a tendency to let out a lot of water as it cooks, so make sure you've removed any water used in washing it before adding to pan! :)
4. Now, add salt and blast the heat as high as it will go on your stove! Stir frequently until the spinach has wilted and there is no liquid left in the pan.
Enjoy as a side dish with any rice, roti, sambar, rasam, etc. As my appayee (father's mother) used to say, make greens so that they retain their green color! Looks appetizing and they retain their vitamins. :)
Royal vegetable side dish:
This next one is based on a dish I saw on Sun TV's Unavum Aarogiyamum cooking series presented by chef Jacob. This dish was apparently made a very, very, very long time ago for royalty. But it tastes awesome for commoners like us, too! The combo he used was eggplants and 2 other root vegetables. I had tapioca (yucca) and potato on hand, so that's what I decided to use. It was soooo phenomenally good!
The taste was sort of nutty from the roasted dal flour and a bit spicy from black pepper. Black pepper is the only source of spice in this dish, so be sure to adjust accordingly! It is so comforting, especially with the cold weather!
Small eggplants - 8-10, cut into large dice
Tapioca/yucca/maravali kizhangu - 1/2 cup, cut into large dice
Potato - 1/2 cup, cut into large dice
Urad dal - 1 tbsp, dry roasted and powdered
Rice flour - 1 1/2 tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Coarse black pepper - 2 tbsp, or to taste
Oil/ghee (Ghee is traditional, but feel free to use oil)
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
1. Boil the potato and tapioca/yucca until cooked, but still retaining its shape. Strain and keep aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan and do the seasoning. Add the eggplant and turmeric powder.
3. When this is 3/4 cooked, add the urad dal powder, rice flour, salt, taro root, and potatoes.
4. Fry, stirring constantly until the roasted smell of the dal comes out. Make sure you stir constantly, without breaking the vegetables, to make sure the powders don't stick on the bottom of the pan. I found a non stick pan verrrrry useful here!
5. Once everything has cooked and is nicely browned and crispy, add the coarse black pepper. Allow to heat through and turn off the heat.
This is also very versatile and can go with a variety of dishes (rice, rotis, pulav, sambar, rasam, etc). You can also substitute the eggplant with other vegetables that retain their shape well. Alternatively, the tapioca and/or potato can be subsituted with other root vegetables.