Wh-aat??? It’s August already? Where did the time go? I’ve been cooking my little heart out with fresh summer produce all summer long, but the recipes barely make it to the blog. I am so sorry about that guys, but I will try my best to bring you all of them before the season comes to an end. You can hold me to that.
For now, feast you your eyes on these gorgeous little patties or fritters or whatever you want to call them. I call them my secret weapon, which I unleash upon my unsuspecting little guy.
You see, the little guy will grudgingly eat dal and other curries with his rice or rotis, but he loves spinach (and even beet greens or Swiss chard cooked like spinach). And that’s about it. I know I shouldn’t complain because he eats the one vegetable that most other kids (and many adults) loathe. But try to feed him something different like eggplant, okra, mushrooms or even carrots, and he’ll run so fast in the other direction.
So now, I’ve made it my mission to sneak in those other vegetables in any way I can. Boy also likes anything that looks burnt, that is food that has a nice sear on it. Think baked meatballs, patties or fritters. So like a good mama, I hide all the vegetables he refuses to eat in meatballs or little pan-fried patties. It’s not the most original or most brilliant idea in the world, but it has so far made for some pretty interesting recipes like this one.
As you can see from the mise en place shot above, it is my play on pan-fried falafel or lentil fritters. I used red lentils called massor dal, which is really quick and easy to cook, softer on the tummy and nutritious. I added a big heaping bunch of fresh spinach and sneaked in some roasted eggplant.
I’ve read all about involving kids while shopping for produce or even taking them to Farmer’s Markets and all to actually encourage them to start exploring food. Well, you know what? Been there, done that. My kid plays along very nicely, but zips his mouth shut when asked to try something he thinks doesn’t like. So even though he helped pick out those beautiful tiny organic eggplants at our local Farmer’s Market, when it was meal time, he didn’t want anything to do with them. So I put them in his fritters. Bwahahaha!!
Then I made this creamy herbed yogurt sauce to go with it and blended an avocado with it. Yes, you guessed it, he doesn’t eat avocados. But this sauce went down a hoot and he even commented how more delicious it was than ranch. Put your hands up in the air, folks! We have a veggie convert!!
So, if you have a somewhat picky eater or you yourself would like to eat healthy, wholesome and interesting meals, then this recipe is for you. The beauty of this recipe is that it is a great base that you can build upon. Replace the spinach and eggplant with any combination of vegetables. I’ve made this with corn and jalapeno (with the seeds removed) and it was delicious. You can also replace the red lentils with other lentils of your choice. Or use chickpeas for a play on falafel. Omit the yogurt sauce and this becomes entirely vegan.
The lentil fritters and yogurt sauce/crema recipes follow. Read on for the deliciousness!
You will need: (Makes 12 fritters)
- Red lentils (Masoor dal) – 1 cup
- Spinach – 1 big bunch, finely chopped
- Eggplant – 3 small ones
- Whole wheat bread crumbs – 1 cup, or as required (I made the crumbs from a whole wheat loaf I baked myself)
- Dried oregano – 1 tsp
- Red chili flakes – 2 tsp
- Cilantro leaves – 1 tbsp, finely chopped
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Oil – 2 tbsp
- Wash the lentils in water and drain the starchy water. Soak the lentils in fresh water for 30 minutes or so.
- Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 375 deg.F. Cut the eggplants into halves lengthwise. Season lightly with a pinch of salt, dried oregano or black pepper and roast for 15 minutes. You can also sear them on a hot skillet on the stove-top. Cool the eggplant slightly and chop them finely.
- Now cook the lentils in a pot in 1 1/4 cup of water till they are soft, but not entirely mushy. Strain any water remaining and add the lentils to a big mixing bowl. Save the water to add to curries or soups or to make dough for rotis.
- Lightly mash the lentils with the back of a ladle or spoon. Again, do not mash them all the way, just make them soft enough to shape the fritters.
- Add the chopped spinach and eggplant and mix well. Add 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, dried oregano, red chili flakes, cilantro leaves and salt. Mix well to form a dough like you would for meatballs. Keep adding more bread crumbs till the mixture is fairly dry and holds together.
- Pinch off lemon sized balls of this mixture and form patties with your hand. Rest the patties on a large plate or cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes, just to dry them out a little. This helps to retain their shape when cooked.
- Heat oil in a large skillet and arrange the patties in a single layer. Cook on one side on medium heat for 3-4 minutes, flip and cook the other side for a couple of minutes till slightly browned and crisp. Remove to a plate and serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator once completely cooled. Reheat gently on a hot skillet or in the microwave. Serve with a zesty yogurt sauce. Recipe follows.
- You can use yellow lentils or toovar dal in place of the red ones. You can also use chickpeas in this recipe. If you are using dried chickpeas, soak them in water overnight and cook them in enough water to come up to an inch or two above the chickpeas in the pot.
- You can add any number of vegetables to this recipe. Corn, onions, grated carrots or even broccoli would work well.
- I used dried oregano and red chili flakes as the seasoning. You can easily replace them to use your favorite herbs and spices.
- You can also bake the fritters in a 400 deg.F oven for 12-15 minutes or till golden.
You will need: (Makes 2 cups)
- Thick yogurt – 2 cups
- Cilantro leaves – 5-6 sprigs
- Mint leaves – 4-5
- Avocado – 1, large
- Salt – to taste
- Red chili flakes – a pinch, optional
- Blend the yogurt, cilantro and mint together.
- Mash the flesh of a ripe avocado and whisk into the herbed yogurt.
- Season with salt and sprinkle some red chili flakes on top, if so desired. Store in the refrigerator till ready to use. The avocado will help thicken the sauce slightly as well.
This makes for a delicious snack, appetizer or even light lunch along with a healthy salad.
So tell me, what creations do you come up with to eat healthy and make your kids eat healthy as well? Do you like fritters? Do try this non-fried, healthy version and let me know how you like it.