Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quick Zucchini Dosas

In Spring this year, V and I became the proud custodians of a 12 feet by 5 feet garden plot in our local community garden. We were hoping for beginner's luck and dreaming of bumper crops of eggplant and methi but let's just say that I am thankful we have the option of buying our food. Between our rookie mistakes and the voracious squirrels, the poor plants did not stand a chance. There were plenty of hilarious moments, like when our more experienced garden neighbor pointed out that the one plant that was growing well and that we were watering desperately was, in fact, a weed. And then we had asparagus growing, which is wonderful, except that we had never planted any. 

V remains persistent in his gardening efforts and now he has been getting us herbs from the plot, and picking a modest amount of okra every day. We saved the okra for a few days and made a delicious gojju with it this weekend, using the incredible gojju powder sent by my sister's ma-in-law. 

Generous (and more experienced and successful) garden neighbors have been sharing their bounty with us. That's how we ended up with what must have been one of the biggest specimens of summer squash in the state of Missouri. Even after using it for a couple of stir fries, I had a large portion of this monster left over.

So one morning at breakfast, a huge heap of the summer squash was shredded and tossed with salt to draw out the moisture. Then I stirred in some salt, onion and spices, and enough chickpea flour and rice flour to make a batter, and made us some filling, savory dosas in a matter of minutes.  

You can use any summer squash or zucchini in this recipe, or cucumbers, or a combination of the two. I never bother to peel the vegetables unless the peel is too tough and stringy. While making dosas, I love to sprinkle them with sesame seeds for extra flavor and texture; this is the way cucumber dosas were always made when I was growing up. 

Summer Squash Dosas

  1. Shred the summer squash into a large bowl. I started with about 3 packed cups of shredded summer squash.
  2. Add a small minced onion, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, a pinch of turmeric, red chili powder or minced green chilies, and salt to taste. Add some minced fresh herbs like cilantro or chives if you have any on hand. 
  3. Let the squash sit for 10 minutes to draw out the water. You won't need any additional water for the batter because these vegetables have a very high water content. 
  4. Add scoops of chickpea flour and rice flour (in about equal amounts) until you get a pancake like batter. 
  5. Heat a cast iron (or non stick) griddle. Ladle batter into the center. Now, using wet fingertips, spread the batter around to a thin dosa. You can spread the batter with the back of a ladle but I find that wet fingertips work much better. With a tiny bit of practice, you'll never risk burning your fingers. 
  6. Drizzle oil around the edges. Sprinkle sesame seeds on the surface. Let the underside get brown and crispy. 
  7. Flip over the dosa and let the other side cook.
The dosas are wonderful on their own or with your choice of a dry or fresh chutney. We enjoyed them with peanut chutney. 

I'm excited to share some personal news with you: I'm 7 months pregnant. If all goes well, V and I will have a little one in late September. Summer temperatures have been off the charts this year in St. Louis (and in much of the US) and light meals like these are perfect for me.

Have a lovely rest of the week, everyone! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Banana Vanilla Pudding

Hello again! July started with a sizzle in St. Louis. We alternate between sunny scorching days and storms with torrential downpours. After a particularly spectacular storm a couple of weeks ago, we woke up to find that a tree in our backyard had split in half- with the half that crashed leaning on our back porch! 

On the food front, we're sticking to simple meals and old favorites- yogurt rice with sprouts and subzis, veggie burgers on a bed of shredded raw vegetables, hummus wraps, idlis and dosas. On a whim, I tried making faloodas from a little "falooda kit" packet and were thrilled at the nostalgic taste of the slippery basil seeds and bright pink rose flavor. Last weekend, I picked up more falooda supplies and will soon write a post about this classic summer sundae. 

Here's another classic dessert- not one that I grew up eating but something I tasted one summer in NYC at the Magnolia Bakery and felt an instant connection to. Nilla banana pudding is a Southern US classic treat of comforting rich custard, vanilla biscuits (wafers) and sliced bananas. For more about the right way and the wrong way to make this dessert, check out this post

Of course, the minute I ate a spoonful of banana pudding, it brought back taste memories of Brown & Polson's instant vanilla custard- my mother made this often and loved serving it with mixed fruits, as a topping on homemade date and walnut cake, and spooned on top of jiggly cubes of jelly. 

You could easily make some instant custard of that type and layer it with vanilla wafers and bananas for a 5 minute version of this dessert. I used eggs and cornstarch to make the custard from scratch, which takes about 20 minutes. 

Banana Vanilla Pudding
(Adapted from this recipe; serves a crowd of 12 to15)

1. Make the custard:
  • Whisk 2 eggs in a saucepan. 
  • Whisk in 4 cups 2% milk.
  • In a small bowl, mix 5 tbsp. cornstarch with a little milk to make a paste.
  • Pour the cornstarch into the milk and mix well.
  • Stir in a scant 1 cup sugar (less would do) and 1/2 tsp. salt.
  • Cook this entire milk mixture on medium heat until it gets hot and bubbly, stirring every few minutes. 
  • When it boils for a minute and thickens well, it is done.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in 1 tbsp. butter and 2 tsp. vanilla extract. 
  • Let the custard cool for 20 minutes.
2. Assemble the pudding by layering Nilla wafers, 3 bananas (sliced quite thinly on the diagonal) and vanilla custard in a casserole dish. I made 3 layers. Cover and chill for 4 hours, then serve and eat up within the next several hours.

Please know that this recipe makes a LOT of pudding. You can easily halve the pudding recipe if you want to.

Have a lovely week, everyone!