The book: A Girl & Her Greens, by April Bloomfield with J. J. Goode (Ecco, $34.99)
The recipe: Dosa with curried cauliflower and yogurt
Why I tried it: Dosa is one of my million favorite foods, but it’s one of the ones I’ve almost never made. I usually hunt it down on my visits to New York, in Little India where I used to live. One sight and one taste of that golden, crisp scroll, as long as my arm, is enough to remind me why I love it so much, but also why it so intimidates me. Could I really make dosa at home? It seemed almost too good to be possible, but as usual curiosity got the better of me. And after all, I reasoned, April Bloomfield knows what she’s doing. She won’t fail me.
Why I loved it: I won’t lie: it’s a little bit of a project. But for the longest part of it the legumes are just sitting there fermenting – you don’t have to actually do anything. You could cook the curry ahead of time if you wanted and just focus on dosa-making when the time comes. I was surprised how easy it was to cook dosa. If you’ve ever made crêpes, it’s not that different, but you only have to cook one side. You can try spreading the batter around with the base of a measuring cup, as Bloomfield suggests – it didn’t work out so well for me though. So I just thinned the batter and tilted-and-swirled like I do for crêpes. The result? crisp, golden dosa, just ready to fill with the curry. They’re best eaten piping hot out of the pan, which means that the ideal serving size is 1. But if people are willing to wait their turn, you can turn them out sequentially.
Estimated preparation time: 1 or 2 days for the batter to ferment, 45 minutes for the cauliflower curry, about an hour to make dosa.
Dosa with curried cauliflower and yogurt
Serves 4 to 6
FOR THE DOSA BATTER
2 cups basmati rice
1 cup white urad dal
1/4 cup chana dal
1 teaspoon Maldon salt
FOR COOKING AND FILLING THE DOSAS
Several teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Maldon or another flaky sea salt
Curried Cauliflower with Peas (recipe below), warm
Generous 4 cups Greek yogurt
A small handful of delicate cilantro sprigs, roughly chopped
Make the dosa batter: Combine the rice and the two types of dal in a large mixing bowl and add 10 cups of water. Stir well and cover the bowl with cheesecloth or a lid left slightly ajar. Leave the bowl at room temperature (and away from any cool drafts) to ferment until the mixture smells slightly sour and looks a bit frothy, about 24 hours. If you like your dosa a little more sour, which I do, let it ferment for another 12 to 24 hours.
Drain the rice mixture, reserving 4 cups of the liquid. Blend the rice mixture with 3 cups of the reserved liquid until completely smooth,
Gradually add up to another 1 cup of the liquid if necessary to achieve a texture like that of heavy cream. When you’re ready to make the dosa, stir in the salt until it has dissolved.
Cook and fill the dosa: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until it’s good and hot. Before you cook the first dosa, add about 1/2 teaspoon of oil to the pan and swirl the pan to coat the bottom as best you can. Between dosa, wipe the pan clean.
Stir the batter well before making each dosa. Spoon about 4 cup of the batter into the center of the pan and using an implement with a flat bottom, such as a metal measuring cup, spread the batter into a very thin round about 8 inches in diameter. Start in the center and spread the batter outward using a circular motion. You need a really light touch to get the batter nice and thin without creating any big holes (tiny holes form naturally and that’s a good thing). You’ll get better with each one you make—and you have plenty of batter, so don’t fret if you bungle the first few.
After spreading the batter, add a very light drizzle of oil and a light sprinkle of salt to the surface of the dosa. Let the dosa cook, without messing with it, until the edges begin to brown and lift from the pan and the underside is a light golden color, 1 to 2 minutes. Use a spatula to gently lift an edge, then transfer the dosa to a plate—it should come away from the pan easily and cleanly. Spoon 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the curried cauliflower to one side of the dosa. Add a dollop of yogurt and a generous pinch of the chopped cilantro. Fold the dosa over the filling to make a semicircle and serve straightaway while you get to work on the remaining dosa.
CURRIED CAULIFLOWER WITH PEAS
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion (about 1/2 pound), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 red Thai or another small, very spicy fresh chile, thinly sliced (including seeds)
1 small head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 2 x 2-inch florets (about 3 cups)
2 generous tablespoons very thinly sliced cilantro stems
2/3 cup drained, trimmed, and finely chopped canned whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon Maldon or another flaky sea salt
10-ounce package frozen baby peas
1 heaping tablespoon Greek yogurt
Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat until it smokes lightly. Add the onion, stir well, and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and just beginning to color, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and chile and cook, stirring, until the onion has browned in spots, 3 to 5 minutes more.
Add the cauliflower and cilantro stems to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, just until the cauliflower has picked up some of the brown color from the onion, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garam masala, and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato is thick and jammy, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the peas and 1/2 cup of water, scraping the sides and bottom of the pot to get at that nice browned stuff. Pop a lid on the pot, reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is fully tender but not mushy and the liquid has thickened a bit, about 20 minutes. (You might have to remove the lid for the last 5 minutes to help the liquid evaporate.) Stir in the yogurt, turn off the heat, and let the curry sit covered for a few minutes so the flavors can meld. Serve straightaway.
The curry keeps for a day or two in the fridge. Add a splash of water and gently warm it before serving.
From A Girl & Her Greens by April Bloomfield with J J. Goode. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.