In the mood for a quiet, intimate setting, we left our 4th floor walk-up apartment in the center of York Town, in route to the tiny French place right around the corner. I recall looking forward to drowning myself in bechamel, while 'my man' was adamant about finally ordering the escargot appetizer. As we eagerly approached the front door something seemed off. Did we round the wrong corner? Did that sole glass of wine back home cause us to be terribly misguided? The soft ecru panels that hung so elegantly in the window were replaced with bamboo blinds and the color of the door had gone from red to blue. Without focusing on the words, the menu displayed aside the window seemed different...and the smell (though vaguely familiar) was definitely unexpected. That’s when we noticed the sign up above, "Upscale Indian Cuisine."
As is customary after experiencing a sudden loss, we spent the next few minutes mourning our quaint French bistro ~ reminiscing over meals we shared and tearing up over those we hadn’t. My husband's sadness quickly turned to complete dismay over the escargot that so many times could have (and that night certainly would have) been. What about our waiter?! Had we meant nothing to him?! We felt cheated...depressed...but most of all...we felt hungry.
Freezing from the frigid wind tunneling up 1st Avenue, all of a sudden we found ourselves comfortably seated at a cozy table outfitted with tiny, tea lights and crisp white tablecloth. The gentleman in charge brought us a plate of hot, soft, chewy flat bread (we'd come to know as naan) whose garlicky aroma and multiple dipping sauces had us mesmerized the instant it came into view. We were apprehensive to order off the unfamiliar menu.
We spent the rest of the evening in the pleasant company of our waiter Sanjay, listening to the soft strumming of a sitar, drinking Kingfisher and sampling the exquisite flavors of Indian cuisine. So much more than “curry” we were ashamed and embarrassed by our lifetime of close-mindedness towards this ethnic food, full of enchanting flavors and vibrant colors! Snails... a distant memory, the words “aromatic spices,” “saffron-almond” and “glowing charcoal” were top of mind. As we sat there sharing a clay pot of tandoori chicken, it couldn't have been more clear that French food...that particular evening... was never meant to be. That blustery, winter night in the late 90’s..."the Greek Fates were Indian my friend"...and for the two of us...they had another plan in store!
Here's a South Indian Vegetarian Dish we made the other night. (Be sure to see cook's notes and substitutions below the recipe.) Spicy, Fresh and Delicious... the only thing I missed was a bit of crunch (maybe the coconut I omitted would have provided) - so maybe consider adding thinly sliced onion or pepper - not sure that's authentic - but it's honestly what we missed from the recipe. Otherwise this vegetarian Indian meal was an awesome change of pace!
Rava Dosas with Potato Chickpea Masala
Gourmet, November 2009
by Melissa Roberts
For masala filling:
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1/3 cup dried grated unsweetened coconut
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 (3-inch) fresh jalapeño, coarsely chopped, including seeds
1 (2 1/2-inch) piece peeled ginger, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups water, divided
1 large onion, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 (15-to 19-ounces) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup frozen peas (do not thaw)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
For rava dosas:
1/2 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
Vegetable oil for brushing
Make Masala filling: Peel potatoes and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer to a bowl and cover with cold water. Toast coconut in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and wipe out skillet. Toast cumin seeds in skillet over medium heat, shaking skillet frequently, until fragrant and just a shade darker, about 30 seconds. Transfer to another small bowl. Reserve skillet. Purée jalapeño, ginger, and garlic in a blender with curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric, oil, 1/4 cup water, and 1 teaspoon salt until smooth. Transfer purée to skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, about 8 minutes. Drain potatoes, then add to onion mixture with cumin seeds and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are barely tender, about 10 minutes. Add chickpeas and remaining 1 1/2 cups water, scraping up any brown bits, then briskly simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, 16 to 20 minutes more. Add peas and cook, covered, until just tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in toasted coconut and cilantro.
Make dosas while potatoes cook:
Whisk flours, cumin seeds, salt, and water in a bowl. Generously brush a 12-inch nonstick skillet with oil and heat over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Pour 1/2 cup batter into skillet, swirling until bottom is coated. Cook, undisturbed, until dosa is set and edges are golden, about 2 minutes. Flip using a rubber spatula and cook dosa until underside is golden in spots, about 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate. Make more dosas with remaining batter, stacking and covering loosely with foil to keep warm. To serve, spoon masala filling into dosas.
Masala filling, without coconut and cilantro, can be made 6 hours ahead and chilled. Reheat before stirring in coconut and cilantro.
*Instead of the curry, cinnamon and turmeric I used one tablespoon of the Indian spice Garam Masala. I also omitted the coconut as I didn't have any on hand.
For the Rava Dosas, we opted to make a Simple Crepe Recipe (By: JENNYC819 on allrecipes.com) of: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water, 1/4teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons melted butter (as oppose to the one above). Not as authentic - but in the essence of time they were perfect!