Saturday, April 10, 2010

South Indian Pancakes

We've been working on our recipe for dosas--savory fermented rice and dal pancakes--for years now. Sometimes the batter came out well, but we had trouble getting it to rise consistently. Our eureka moment about dosas happened in India last winter, watching the cooking instructor pour perfectly bubbly batter onto a hot griddle. It's hot in India! That's why the batter ferments so perfectly and gets so bubbly. So, if we could just get our dosa batter to India temperatures at home, we could make real Indian dosas that stay together and fold nicely. Success!

Making dosa batter takes a few tries to master, so don't bust this one out for that big first date until you've practiced a few times. You can also use dosa batter for uttapam, which thicker and sturdier, like a personal pizza. We've provided recipes for both here. If you want to make some of each, make the uttapam while the batter is still thick, then thin it down for dosas.

1 cup parboiled rice (boil 1 cup rice in a large pot of water for 5 minutes; drain.)
2 cups raw rice
1 cup urad dal
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon salt

This works equally well with brown rice, white rice, or a combo.

Combine everything, except the salt, in a large bowl with enough lukewarm water to cover and allow to soak overnight. Drain, reserving the liquids. Blend until you have a consistency like thick pancake batter, adding only enough of the soaking water to lubricate your blender. Pour into a bowl that leaves room for the batter to double in size.

Cover with a towel and place somewhere warm. The batter likes to be 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit. In Kerala, that's just room temperature. Here in Berkeley, we use our dehydrator, which has adjustable temperature settings. We've heard of other creative solutions like leaving it in the oven on low, with the door propped open, or near a radiator. Within eight hours, the dough will double and fill with tiny bubbles. You should detect a pleasantly sour, yeasty smell. If your dough doesn't rise after the first eight hours, you don't have to give up! Try adjusting your heat source and give it another eight hours. Once your batter has risen, mix in the salt and proceed with one of the following recipes.


1 batch of batter, risen
coconut oil for frying (Coconut oil is solid in cold weather, but will quickly become liquid if you leave the bottle somewhere warm. Liquid oil is much easier to drizzle!)

Choice of toppings:
chopped red onion
finely minced green chili
chopped cilantro leaves
chopped tomato
chopped nuts
minced fresh herbs
cubed feta (not traditional, but quite delicious!)

Heat a well-seasoned cast iron or crepe pan over medium-high heat, and coat the pan lightly with oil. When the oil is as hot as possible without smoking, pour about a 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan. Quickly toss on some toppings, plus a little drizzle of oil around the edges.

When the pancake looks firm enough to flip (3-5 minutes), gently loosen it with a clean, greased metal spatula. Flip it over and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Carefully scrape away any bits that stuck to the pan and add a little more oil. When the oil is hot, begin your next pancake. Serve warm, with a selection of curries and chutneys.


1 batch of batter, risen
coconut oil for frying

Stir a little water into your batter for a crepe-like consistency. Heat a well-seasoned cast iron or crepe pan over medium-high heat, and coat the pan lightly with coconut oil. When the oil is as hot as possible without smoking, pour about a 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan, spreading it around in a spiral pattern with the back of your ladle. It should be thin, with some lacy areas, but no large holes. Pour a fine drizzle of oil around the edges to help them get crispy.

Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the dosa easily lifts from the pan. If your dosa is nice and thin, you won't need to fry on both sides -- just transfer to a plate, fill with a thick curry and serve. If your dosa came out a little too thick, there's no harm in flipping it over to make sure it's cooked on both sides.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Broccoli Noodle Casserole

What can we say?--it was rainy out and we were feeling nostalgic for the vegetarian casseroles of the 1970's, so we crafted this adaptation of a noodle casserole recipe in our favorite Eastern European cookbook. Parents, consider this dish a useful weapon in the battle to get your pasta-worshipping kids to eat their broccoli. It's Mollie-Katzen-tastic with both sour cream and cottage cheese, and we've tinkered with it to ensure that the broccoli doesn't get overdone during the baking process.

16 ounces whole wheat fusilli or rotini
1 head broccoli, broken into bite-sized pieces
2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
black pepper
1 onion, chopped fine

Optional toppings:
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
olive oil
more paprika

Preheat oven to 350. Cook the pasta until al dente. Steam the broccoli (try this in a steamer basket over the pasta!) until barely fork-tender. Meanwhile, mix the cottage cheese, sour cream, salt, paprika and pepper. Grease a casserole dish. Combine all of the ingredients, except the toppings, in the casserole dish. Drizzle the top with a little olive oil, then breadcrumbs, then a sprinkling of paprika. Bake for 45 minutes.