Adai: Pancake To Dai For

The Indian subcontinent offers a cornucopia of grains and lentils pancakes: dosa, chakuli pitha, uttapam, pesarattu, adai, chitau… Here is a simple, unfermented one inspired by adai. Not your mother’s adai. If you can believe it, this is even better!

It takes a little planning (prepping overnight) but made even simpler with the use of a no-fuss waffle maker. The waffle provides larger browned surface area and even little pockets to trap the accompanying sauces. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Food processor; waffle maker; silicone brush

Ingredients

Makes 4 waffles (8 portions)

  • Soak separately overnight or until  bite-test  (few hours) in plenty of cold water: 1 1/4 cup grains + 1 cup lentils
  • Flavor base I: Saute in a little sesame oil : 1 tsp skinned white (urad) lentils + 3 stalks of curry leaves + ¼  cup desiccated coconut + 1 red dry chili
  • Flavor base II: 1/4 cup chopped cilantro + 1/2 cup diced onions + 1/4 tsp heeng + 1/4 tsp turmeric powder + 1/2 inch ginger, microplaned + salt to taste
  • 1/8 cup oil for the waffle maker

Method

Drain the grains and lentils and process in a food processor with the Flavor Base I till smooth. Don’t worry if the batter continues to be a wee bit gritty– the soaking has hydrated it and it will steam during the cooking. Mix in the Flavor Base II ingredients. The batter will be thick.

Use about 1 cup of the thick batter at a time in the waffle maker (follow manufacturer’s instructions). Use a little oil with each use. It takes about 4 minutes for each.

Serve warm  with Indian chutney or sambar.   

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. The grain/cereal used here is oats (steel-cut). The lentils used here is of 4 kinds, equal in volume: toor, masoor (with skin); black urad (with skin), black eyed peas. The use of lentils with skin adds fibre and nutrients, with no compromise on taste.
  2. The traditional way to make it is crepe-style in a pan/skillet (see picture below): this takes a lot of patience, care and skill.
  3. To my delight, I discovered that the waffle maker works remarkably well, and, makes an even better presentation!
    The batter has no leavening agent and no fermentation– then how come the waffle making works? The staple ingredients –grains, lentils– are well hydrated (passed the  bite-test ). The trapped moisture steams with heat making the interior deliciously fluffy without being pasty. And, the outer layer is invitingly crisp.

A Fistful Of Grains

Muthia means a fistful and you may have seen it in Indian Delis (or Freezer sections). The one here however is even more interesting. And, if the title triggers flashes of Clint Eastwood, it is intentional 😉

But back to delicious, conscientious eating. A more assertive substitute for plain white rice is a mixture of whole grains that Asian grocery stores are already stocking. There is always leftover rice and here is how you transform les restes to je ne sais quoi irresistible morsels. Enjoy!


SPECIAL TOOLS:

None.

INGREDIENTS

  • Macerate overnight: 1 1/2 cups cooked mixed grains + 1/4 cup yogurt + 1 shallot finely minced + 1/4 inch ginger finely grated + 1 finely chopped green chilli + salt to taste + (optional: oat flour)
  • For tempering: 1 tbsp oil, 1/tsp mustard seeds + 1 dozen fragrant curry leaves
  • Slices of heirloom tomatoes for serving
  • Topping: cottage cheese

METHOD

If the rice mixture is too runny, thicken with the oat flour. Steam the rice mixture for about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly and shape roughly into little balls (fistfuls).

Heat oil in a non-stick pan for tempering. Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. When they begin to sputter, gently place the balls. Flip gently after a tw minutes and let lightly brown on the other side.

Serve warm with slices of Heirloom tomatoes and topped with a little cottage cheese.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. The mixed grain used here was from the Asian market. It has regular and hulled barley + rye berries + black rice + red rice + brown rice. Follow the instructions on the package.
  2. For steaming, I used a steaming basket lined with parchment. Since the steaming basket was that of a pressure cooker, I succumbed to temptation and pressure-steamed for 12 minutes, under medium pressure. This softened the grains a bit.
  3. Since the grain here are not as docile as plain white rice, in fact they provide a nice texture.

Squash Blossoms with Curry Leaves

The local farmer’s market yielded a carton of fresh squash blossoms this weekend (community is still under cautionary shelter-in-place). Baked Fiore di Zucchini stuffed with ricotta over tomato coulis, is one of my favorites in most Italian Bistros. The creaminess of the cheese with the sweetness of the tomatoes never fails to seduce me. I was tempted; but I dove into my childhood instead. My mother’s très fin squash blossoms.

I have adapted her formula. I mix in the South with the East (apropos India) for a bold, assertive version. Enjoy!

SPECIAL TOOLS:

Blender.

INGREDIENTS

  • 16 squash blossoms
  • Rice Batter:
    • 1 cup brown rice soaked in plenty of water for 1 hour
    • Flavoring: 1 Thai red chilli + 1 tsp whole cumin seeds + 1/2 cup loosely packed curry leaves (approx. 10-12 stems) + garlic salt to taste
  • oil for shallow frying

METHOD

In a blender, blend the soaked rice (with no water) and the flavoring ingredients till mixed into a non-grainy paste. Clean, wash and shake-dry the blossoms.

Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat. Generously, douse each blossom in the rice batter and place on the skillet. After 2-3 minutes, flip each blossom and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Serve hot.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. Most Indian grocery stores have curry leaves in the refrigerator section, in case you are not one of those lucky ones with a curry plant in your backyard 😉
  2. For an even more flavorful version, you may lightly saute the curry leaves in a little oil, to bring out the heady aroma of the leaves, before throwing into the blender.
  3. Curry leaves, the strongly aromatic greens, is the South-Indian component I mention. It also turns the batter an attractive tender green color.
  4. How long should the rice soak? Follow the bite-test.
  5. The blossoms went well with horseradish sauce, but feel free to use any sauce or chutney of your liking. A purist like me enjoys it without any!
  6. I used brown Jasmati rice, since that was the most accessible from the pantry. Any type of rice would work. This is a very forgiving recipe.
  7. Instead of using spices, I use garlic-salt (my mother may frown at this since garlic is not the traditional allium for the blossoms).

Latke with Leftover Rice Batter. Grate one large potato (no need to peel) and soak in plenty cold water. Squeeze excess water and mix with the rice batter. Adjust seasonings. Make latkes as usual. Unusual, but very delicious!

Baobab Kombucha

While fourth of July is best celebrated in the time of Covid-19 in responsible and measured isolation, here is an incredible summer bubbly to cheer you up! Homemade kombucha is used here, but farmers market or store bought is equally uplifting. Baobab debuted only recently, but is already heading towards becoming the queen of the pantry!


SPECIAL TOOLS:

None.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 tsp Baobab powder
  • 1 cup kombucha (chilled)
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)

METHOD

Place the powder in a glass. Pour the kombucha over the powder, mix with wire whisk so the powder is blended (few seconds). Serve immediately.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. If using honey, first mix it well with the powder, using the wire whisk, before adding the kombucha.
  2. The Baobab powder adds a little citrus, but a lot of fizz!

Juneteenth Baobab Millet Pudding

I never thought I knew so little. Until the last few weeks. I learned about Juneteenth; learned why the French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi insisted on the Statue of Liberty; and, discovered that one could learn Twi on an app!

I had always admired the beauty of baobab trees, but did not know that its fruit is considered a superfood. A bag of baobab fruit powder was promptly mail-ordered and with a few quick experimentations, here is an easy concoction inspired by the flavors of Indian kheer and American key-lime pie. Enjoy! And, yes, an additional enjoyment point is that the purchase of baobab products helps small farmers in Africa.


SPECIAL TOOLS:

None.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup foxtail millet (this serves 3)
  • 4 tsp baobab fruit powder
  • Sweetener: 3-4 tsps condensed milk
  • Topping: candied nuts, oat-almond bark OR fresh berries

METHOD

Grain: In a thick bottomed pan toast the millet. Meanwhile, heat about 2 cups of water. When the millet turns fragrant (about 2 minutes), add the hot water to it and let simmer on medium for about 15 minutes until cooked.

Take off heat and fluff the grains add the baobab powder while still warm and mix well. Chill.

Serve cold with toppings. Sometimes the millet absorbs the liquid while chilling- then you could add a little regular or almond milk to your serving.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. Baobab fruit is mildly tart and citrus-like. Adjust the amount of powder to your liking.
  2. I usually heat the water in a Pyrex cup in the microwave while the grain is toasting. The timer on the microwave times both the toasting and the heating.
  3. The use of condensed milk captures the richness of an Indian kheer that is lovingly cooked on gentle heat for hours.
    Adjust the amount of condensed milk to your taste.

Help-Local-Biz Tacos

The shelter-in-place has not been easy, particularly for neighborhood businesses. I am trying to do what little-me can: firstly, continue all my gym memberships although they have closed their doors respecting physical distancing. Secondly, the extensive use of contactless Farmers markets and other pickups. Here I present a minimal taco cobbled from these different sources. And, the results will make Jean-George Vongerichten envious! 😉 Inspired by one of my favorites from his ABC Kitchen, Union Square NYC.


SPECIAL TOOLS:

Taco holder to serve.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 lb oyster mushrooms
  • Adobo sauce: 1 tbsp oil, 1/2 onion diced, 1 crushed garlic, 1/4 cup crushed tomatoes, 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, 1/4 cup stock
  • Topping: sake lees vinaigrette
  • Fresh corn (masa) tortillas.

METHOD

Adobo sauce: Heat oil and saute onions till soft. Add garlic and let soften. Add the remaining ingredients and let simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside.

SIice the mushrooms. In a non-stick pan dry-stir fry till softened and earthy-fragrant. This takes about two minutes. Season with salt and then add the sauce and mix for a minute or two.

Soften the taco on the open flame for a minute- flipping with a pair of tongs. Place the mushroom stuffing topped with little dollops of the vinaigrette. Enjoy warm.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. This is a minimal taco, but is comparable to any of your seven-layer, bursting at the sides taco.
  2. The mushrooms are from Deep Roots Farm.
  3. This is my first introduction to sake lees– a byproduct of sake. The sake lees vinaigrette is from resourcED, a pricey pick-up from Blue Hill. But may be worth the $$$ for their fascinating spread. This vinaigrette brightens the mushrooms in the taco.
    (vinaigrette: sake lees, white verjus, lemon, honey and rapeseed oil)
  4. Another green that I was introduced to was Celtuce. A celery or lettuce ? I never thought I would like a lettuce -or celery- so much. It was the stems. Peel away the fibrous layers — may take a few stabs with your peeler. Then slice very thin. Is great as salad with a light dressing of lemon juice (or not). It can be lightly sauteed as well and is used as a vegetable in China.