Grains are the food of life. They are incredibly malleable—you can turn them into beer, crunchy clusters, sugared pops, crumbly cakes, chewy cookies, fluffy loaves, hard flat crackers, soft flexible sheets, slippery noodles and architected breakfast cereals that will turn milk different colors.
Most cold cereals are fortified with vitamins, which is a good thing because most people don't each enough fresh fruits and vegetables. However, most cold cereals are loaded with sugar and not at all adventurous. There are many more flavors in the world besides sweet. Let's consider savory alternatives.
Every culture has its own comfort food made of grains, whether it is a bowl of rice, warm yeasty bread, tortillas or grits. India is the inspiration behind this recipe. I first tasted this dish during a yoga retreat in upstate New York that served wonderful vegetarian food. It contains ingredients that may be unfamiliar to some people; however, you have to try something new once in a while to experience truly extraordinary flavors.
A dosa (pronounced doh-sah), is a pancake that tastes a little like sourdough bread wrapped around a savory potato-carrot-green pea filling, garnished with a dollop of cilantro-coconut-green chili chutney. An authentic dosa is a pancake almost as large as a newspaper and nearly as thin. This recipe is for a smaller, fluffier pancake that you can stuff with filling like a crepe. Make the batter a day in advance to allow for fermentation, which creates the unique flavor.
2 tablespoons oil or butter
1 large onion, diced (1/4 inch)
3 medium potatoes, diced
1/2 cup water
1 large or 2 small carrots, diced
1/2 cup green peas
1 teaspoon black mustard seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cashew pieces
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 green chili pepper, minced (more or less to taste depending on heat)
2 cups long-grain white rice
1/2 cup navy beans
1/2 teaspoon salt
Start in the morning one day before serving. Wash rice and beans several times, then place in a bowl or large jar. Pour enough water over the mixture to cover it, with 2 inches to spare. Leave to soak all day long. In the evening, divide into two batches and grind in a blender or food processor until smooth. Put the puree into a bowl, and add salt. Cover and leave in a warm place overnight (12-15 hours). If it is winter and cool in the house, put the batter in the oven warmed to just 100 degrees and then turned off. The batter will ferment, increase in volume and smell a little yeasty when ready. It can be stirred and used at this point or stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Cook like a crepe or pancake, in a skillet brushed with oil. Pour a scant 1/2 cup into hot skillet and tilt pan to spread it out and make it thin. When bottom has lightly browned, flip with spatula and brown the other side. Remove and place on plate for stuffing.
To prepare the stuffing, start by heating the oil in a skillet with lid over medium-high heat and add black mustard seeds to "pop." Add onion and cumin seeds and sauté for three to four minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, peas, chili, turmeric, salt and pepper. Sauté for a few minutes, then add water. When steaming, cover skillet and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally and adding more water if potatoes start to stick. Once the vegetables are tender, add lime/lemon juice, cashews and raisins. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
To stuff the pancakes, simply put a few heaping spoonfuls of the stuffing onto one side of the pancake and fold the empty side over the top. Serve with cilantro-coconut chutney on the side (available at Indian grocery). Also good with sweet chutneys such as Major Grey's (mango) or tamarind. (This recipe is from my sister, Catherine, who used to run a café in Ojo Caliente, N.M.) Serves six to eight.