Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dosas at Home

I think about dosas a lot. I love nearly every Indian dish I've ever tasted but I've actually dreamed about dosas which says something either about dosas or about me. I've been reading about them for weeks, gearing myself up to try making them at home. Most recipes have you soak rice and lentils, grind them together, and ferment them over a few days. Not necessarily difficult but planning is required. Planning isn't one of my strengths, sorry to say. I'd pretty well convinced myself that my homemade dosas wouldn't be worth eating anyway.

I was looking up a recipe on Bureka Boy's blog today, a yeasted roll with exotic flavors to serve with coffee (and I'll write about those soon, I promise) when I came across an old recipe of his for No Wait Dosas--just the kick I needed to finally try making my own.

No long-soaked lentils here--these are replaced by wheat flour. And rice flour takes the place of the soaked rice, making these a snap to whip up in the blender. I omitted BB's mustard seeds as I wanted those to flavor the filling. Grated coconut added a lovely nuttiness to the batter.

These don't have the lovely sourdough tang of a classic dosa, and mine didn't have quite the crunchy/chewy texture of the professional varieties I've tasted. But nonetheless, they were very tasty. I made an approximation of potato fillings I've eaten before, bright yellow with turmeric and speckled with green cilantro and black mustard seeds. The crepes take a bit of skill on the griddle, but you'll get the hang of them quickly enough. These came together in under an hour and that's with a pot of chana dal to serve alongside. Bureka Boy's recipe for quick dosa batter is here and my potato filling is here. I hope when you give these a try you'll get hooked, too.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Little Something for the January Blahs

I am not at my best these days. My luxurious 3 week winter break is just a fond memory, all the kids' activities are back in full swing, and there's been a great deal of extra stuff needing my attention of late. As one might imagine, nutritious home cooked meals have been few and far between. I should be posting here more often but I can't imagine anyone needing to get the details on the burritos, pasta, and tuna melts that have kept everyone fed around here. Sadly, that's so often what it comes down to. My efforts to uplift my family's meals haven't come to much lately as we've just gone for the old standbys, food without fuss, just enough, really to keep going. Not what I envisioned for my family years ago when the introduction to Laurel's Kitchen regularly got me all fired up. Well, what is parenting all about if not dispelling illusions right and left?

Another oft-used cookbook back in the days when my kids were too young to complain was The Savory Way by Deborah Madison. Among the many treasured recipes this book contains is Smoked Chile Salsa, something I need to make a few times every winter. In her introduction to the recipe Madison writes:

This sauce is based on a Mexican sauce I like very much but that is almost impossible to find. Búfalo is illustrated with a picture of the charging body if a red buffalo, which is just about how it feels in your mouth.

The book was written way back in 1990 before Búfalo became easy enough to find in any town with a Latino population but I find this homemade sauce to be infinitely better even without the stylish little glass bottle. This isn't a tomato-y chip and dip kind of salsa but rather a rich, flavorful, slightly smoky, slightly tangy hot sauce to be served in small dollops. It's plenty picante but also delightfully full of flavor, and just the thing to add some zing to the boring, inoffensive kid food we've been living on. Burritos with tasteless canned refritos? This sauce will help. Stodgy home fries? You'll want this sauce. Another pan of macaroni and cheese? It won't make the boxed stuff edible, but this sauce will definitely do something worthwhile to cheesy pasta. My very favorite way to use it involves sautéing chunks of sweet potato in a bit of broth until tender and tucking them into a warmed tortilla with cheese, and home-cooked pinto beans. A nice drizzle of this smoky, tangy sauce sets off the sweet potatoes beautifully. Too bad my kids won't touch my sweet potato burritos with a ten foot pole.

The recipe is here. I hope it helps to liven up these cold, dull mid-winter days.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Say It Ain't So!

Many years ago, my sweetie and I spent a number of months living in Mexico. This was my first trip outside the US and it was full of exciting discoveries. One of the biggest thrills for me was all the delicious fresh produce. I enjoyed trying exotic new fruits like mangoes (which I still adore), papayas (not so much), and deliciously sweet fresh pineapple. But what I never expected to delight me as it did was the taste of Mexican bananas which were fresher, sweeter, and more flavorful than anything I'd eaten at home. I was a banana fiend in Mexico. I ate piles of them fresh and made a top nearly every morning to have some blended with fresh pineapple at the licuado stand in the central plaza of Cuernavaca. I still remember the first banana I ate after returning home, in a Safeway in California. It was woody, dry, and tasteless and I was, quite frankly, bereft.

I am still a voracious eater of bananas. I buy quite a few pounds each week, organic whenever possible. I know, I know -- the localvores would string me up for my love of this high-traveling exotic. So sue me. I love my bananas. They even have numerous health benefits.

All of this preface is to set the scene for the deep funk in which I find myself this afternoon after listening to the latest episode of Good Food. After the regular market report, host Evan Kleinman spoke with Dan Koeppel, the author of the recently published Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. According to banana experts around the world, my beloved fruit is on its way to extinction due to the combination of a devastating fungus and a lack of genetic diversity. Needless to say, I'm finding news of the pending banana apocalypse very upsetting, but for those people whose diets are heavily banana-dependent this could be a real tragedy.

I'm waiting to get my library's copy of the book, but found Koeppel's Popular Science article to be fascinating reading in the mean time. And I think I might just run out and stock up on my favorite fruit while I try to wrap my head around the idea of a world without bananas.