Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dosas + Simple Sambar & Cilantro Raita

I'm not much for hyperbole, so I'll just give it to you straight: this is the greatest victory ever to have happened here on earth, or possibly anywhere during our lifetime, or maybe ever. What, you may be asking yourself, is he talking about? I'm talking about making an entire batch of dosas, fermented Indian rice crepes, at home without one of them sticking to the pan and burning to bits. 

Let me explain. About 11 years ago, I fell in love with dosas. I loved them so much that I wanted to learn how to make them in my own home. With a little guidance from my friend Sharon and a lot of help from Krishna I got there, sort of. I could make the batter without a problem, and I could get a few of the dosas to turn out without sticking and burning...but most of them would be a mess. They would either stick to the pan, or I would add too much oil and end up with a greasy mess. It was so frustrating, and it felt like a horrible failure.  

So, being able to to make a successful batch of dosas feels wonderful. I'll bet I make them way more often now. HERE is my dosa recipe; read it first!

Here are my 8 foolproof tips for cooking a dosa at home:

 1. This is important! Place 2 tablespoons of oil into a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet and leave it to soak in overnight. I got this genius tip HERE.

2. Use medium heat; the cast-iron pan shouldn't be smoking.

3. In a small bowl place 2 tablespoons of canola oil and a folded-up paper towel. Wipe the cast-iron pan with the oil-soaked towel between cooking each dosa.

4. Use a cold, very smooth, well-fermented dosa batter.

5. Use a metal ladle, pour about 1/4 cup in the center of the cast iron pan like you're making a pancake, and then push the batter outward in concentric circles.

6. Keep your eye on the edges and the thinnest parts of the dosa. Once they start to turn a deep brown, the dosa is ready to be removed.

7. Use a butter knife or offset spatula to loosen the edges of the dosa, and using your fingers, peel the dosa from the skillet.

8. If you're making dosas for more than a few people, make them ahead. Stack them when they're cooked and store them in the fridge. They actually reheat nicely in a dry skillet.

Simple Sambar

Sambar is a pungent broth for dipping dosas and idli. Use a boxed broth or stock to save time.

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
1 tablespoon green cardamom
2 cloves garlic
1 medium celery rib (sliced)
1 medium carrot (sliced)

In a medium pot bring the broth, mustard, cardamom, garlic, celery, and carrot to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Cilantro Raita

1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
1 cup  roughly chopped English cucumber
1 cup fresh cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
1  medium jalapeño (stem removed)
1/2 teaspoon cane sugar
Kosher salt to taste

Into the work bowl of your food processor, add the yogurt, cucumber, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeño, sugar, and salt. Blend until mostly smooth. Serve as a condiment with any curry.