Janet's Notebook
Garden Fresh Veggie Recipes Keep You Picking and Grinning

Creamy, Fresh Eggplant Raita

Fresh is best... and what's fresher than straight-from-the-garden veggies?! The gals and I are slowly beginning to see signs of the big garden payoff - that moment when our beloved plants begin to yield more fresh veggies than we know what to do with. It's our absolute favorite problem to have.... The solutions are always so delicious!

"Last year I was introduced to spaghetti squash, and I was amazed by its versatility!" says California cook Julia McGinnis. Simplicity is the ticket in her signature recipe for fun veg. With just four additional ingredients, she transforms plain spaghetti squash into a light, flavorful dish that the kids will love. "This simple dish converted me (and my teenage niece and nephew," she says. And at just 120 calories per serving, it has fast become a guilt-free pleasure for Julia's family and mine alike. She suggests serving it as a light addition to grilled chicken or fish... but it's also smashing all on it's own.

Eggplant is the name of Grishma Shah's game. She recently won a Blue Ribbon for her cool and creamy Raita, an eggplant dip with flavor galore! "My family recipe... has been passed to generations from my grandma to my mom/aunts and so on. I learnt it from one of my aunts who still makes the best of all." The secret to Grishma's delicious success dwells within her inspired combination of peanuts, cilantro and chiles. Bathed in a creamy mixture of gingered yogurt and eggplant, the intense flavors meld into a spectacle of flavor... perfectly suited to a summer day! "Every time when the family gets together at my grandma’s place for any type of celebration this condiment has to be there," says Grishma. "The meal is incomplete without it!" Serve with pita, veggies or as an accompaniment to spicy Indian fare.

It's the health benefits of summer's veggie variety show that really gets Ms. Marti Green grinning. A champion of the healthful cook, Marti herself has learned to cook recipes that suit her mindful menus. In fact her Healthy Ginger-Cumin Cauliflower is among those dishes she credits with her "losing 80lbs and keeping it off... never leaving the table hungry." Instead of turning to a heavy cheese or butter sauce, Marti uses fat free chicken broth to infuse the cauliflower with added flavor and richness. Toss in just a pinch of garlic, turmeric, cumin and ginger for a kick of earthy spice, simmer to perfection and plate! It's as easy as that. The result - garnished with bright green cilantro and specks of black pepper - is a ravishing recipe consisting of a mere 40 calories per serving. We'll take two, please!

And I simply cannot talk veg without mentioning my new-found love of an age-old sweet, Halwa! This confection can be found in many Middle Eastern cuisines, but I had never in all my days had anything quite as unique as Preethi Raghav's carrot version of the recipe. It's absolutely, unexpectedly, plain delicious. "I still remember the day like yesterday when my paternal aunt made this sweet for my farewell party," recalls Preethi. "Even now, reminiscing that day, the taste of butter and carrots, so well-balanced, makes my mouth water." And it's no wonder! Her family's Halwa has a phenomenal balance of flavor: creamy cashews, fresh shredded carrot, sweetened condensed milk. Quite frankly, this recipe is unlike anything the Test Kitchen gals and I have ever tried.. and something we can't wait to make again. Veggies for dessert - who knew?!

Happily, I do believe this is just the beginning of our hunt for fun to celebrate our garden goodies. It surely is a wonderful time for relaxing with a good meal. What do you have cooking?

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Vasupradha Raghav-Vasudevan - Jun 21, 2012
Thanks a lot Kim and Donna :)
Donna Thiemann - Jun 21, 2012
Congratulations to the amazing cooks above! I just love new veggie dishes too! I can't wait to get them made!
Kim Biegacki - Jun 20, 2012
Wow, all these veggie recipes sound amazing and so different. I think I would like to try the Raita first. I love trying new dishes!

Preethi and Julia, your dishes look and sound amazing too. I will have to try them out next. Thanks for sharing with us. :-)
Julia McGinnis - Jun 19, 2012
Wow! I feel so honored to have my dish featured here! I'm going to try these other amazing dishes you mentioned as well!
Vasupradha Raghav-Vasudevan - Jun 19, 2012
It's such a pleasure and honor to be mentioned in this note!

I thank Janet and the crew for this mammoth effort of starting this club and taking the time and effort to appreciating each and every budding cook :)

Love from my Indian Kitchen

Kudos to the crew and awesome club!!