My refrigerator this morning was full of half-filled containers. How uninspiring! Nothing but leftover cooked vegetables that never quite made it to anyone’s plate this weekend. There were a few issues here-1) I couldn’t do more grocery shopping thanks to the lack of refrigeration real estate 2) None of the leftovers were substantial enough to serve to a family of 4 and 3) I am on a sustainability rampage with my kids teaching them about not wasting paper, food, blah blah blah – now, how could I contradict myself and toss them in the trash! Besides, the food was perfectly edible. I just had to find some way to re-purpose them.
I then remembered Mumbai’s famed ‘Pav Bhaji’ – yum, the ultimate in street food. Pav means bread roll and bhaji means spiced vegetable (spicy but not necessarily chili). The dish is made from unused cooked vegetables, but you need not turn up your nose, it is here that lies the strength of the dish. The Bhaji got a head start with the cooked vegetables. It is full of flavor already and tender vegetables are cooked further in fragrant tomato gravy, it is then lightly mashed together and generously heaped on to a soft bread-buttered roll. Sprinkle some fresh diced onions for a little crunch, a hit of fresh lime juice for zing and a knob of butter for that added luxury and then sit back and sink your teeth in to the most exotic Sloppy Joe ever.
Recipe for Veggie Sloppy Joe
For this dish, feel free to swap out the cauliflower for any other cooked veggie on hand (mushrooms, turnips, spinach, corn) – just remember to cook any uncooked produce first.
- 2 tbsp. cooking oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 tbsp. ginger and garlic paste
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- Salt to taste (about ¾ tsp.)
- ½ tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. coriander powder
- ½ tsp. cayenne
- ½ an eggplant, cut in small cubes and sprinkled with salt
- 2 large tomatoes, finely diced
- ½ head of cauliflower, broken in to smaller florets/ cabbage, shredded
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- ¼ cup peas/ ¼ cup string beans
- 1 large russet potato, boiled and grated
Seedless burger buns , butter (for rolls), fresh limes, 1 tsp. of diced onions per roll
1) Heat oil, add cumin. When it turns 2 shades darker, add onions and sauté until they begin browning
2) Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a minute to lose raw taste
3) Wash and strain the eggplant and add to the onions, cook until the purple skin looks shiny black. Add the turmeric, salt and cayenne. Add the tomatoes and cook for a couple minutes. Add the cauliflower and carrots and cook until tender
4) Add the red bell pepper and peas/ beans. Once all vegetables are soft and have lost their raw taste, grind to a mash with a hand blender. Add the boiled and grated potatoes. Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly
Spread butter on the insides of the buns and place on a hot frying pan with the buttered side facing down. When it has a golden crust, remove and heap on the veggie Joe, sprinkle with onions and squeeze a few drops of lime juice.
Saira Malhotra, is of British –Indian descent and is a chef, food writer and cooking instructor based in New York City. Raised in Hounslow, U.K, or rather ‘Little India’, where the air is aromatic with roasted spices, little did Saira know these moments would follow her from being a student in France and Italy to residing in NYC with her husband and kids and parlay themselves unexpectedly in to a culinary career. She is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York City. Come visit her at her food blog: www.passportpantry.com where she shares approachable and international recipes