Saturday, April 20, 2013

Vegetable Tortillitas

I have never been one to catch onto trends quickly. It is no surprise then that I went to my first Zumba class only a few months ago. In fact it is a surprise I went to any kind of dance class. Dancing has never been my thing, and I have always been very diffident about it. For my first class, I took a spot at the back of the room, trying to follow along rather awkwardly. As the music proceeded, I realized that I just had to let go and have fun. Spanish songs that sound like new Bollywood music? Check. Belly dancing moves, hip hop beats? Check. And that certain Korean 'style'? I was supposed to groove to that too. How embarrassing. It took me some getting used to, but I find now that if taken with the right dose of attitude, Zumba can feel like a one hour vacation for the body rather than just a workout.

What does that have to do with this post? Well, the dish I am writing about is a little bit "everything goes" like Zumba. It started off from a Mark Bittman recipe for Spanish Tortillitas, and I adapted it with some Indian flavors, giving it a healthy and vegan twist, but the end result is utterly fun and enjoyable. It makes for a fine brunch or solo light meal, and is a fantastic (and I don't use this word lightly) vehicle for many different kinds of leftovers.

Tortillita cooking on pan

The first time I made it, I had a little leftover sauteed cauliflower with garlic and spices, made using Madhur Jaffrey's recipe for Baghari Phool Gobi. I used it in place of the shrimp, and had such a satisfying lunch while working from home, that the recipe zoomed up very quickly in my repertoire of all-time-bests.

Since then, I have used sauteed cabbage, brussels sprouts, or any type of greens such as these, and they all work great. Here is just one variation in which I used brussels sprouts and panch phoran, that I have made and loved.

For about 7-8 pancakes

1 cup besan
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (see note)
1 teaspoon baking soda
salt to taste

For the filling:
1 cup finely chopped brussel sprouts
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 green chili, finely chopped
8-10 sprigs of cilantro, finely chopped
2-3 Tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon panchphoran
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1-2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)


Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a deep skillet or wok. Add the panch phoran, and as the seeds start to swim around, add the Brussels sprouts, chili, and turmeric. Saute until the vegetable is coated with the oil and spices. Add some salt, and continue to cook for a few minutes on high heat until the Brussels sprouts start to get a few light brown spots. Then turn down the heat and cook for a few more minutes. Add in the chopped shallots, and let it cool. You can make this ahead of time as well.

In the meanwhile, mix the flours, baking soda, and salt. Add about 2 cups of water, starting with 1 cup, and whisking until a thick mixture of pancake batter consistency is formed. You want it to be just thick enough so that you can pour it from a ladle.

Add in the cooled Brussels sprouts and cilantro, and stir gently with a large spoon. Heat a wide non-stick skillet or omelet pan, and spread a few drops of oil on it. Pour in about a ladleful of the batter, and spread it around gently by swirling the pan to form a pancake. Check in a couple of minutes to see if it is starting to get brown on the bottom. When the top feels set, flip with a spatula, and cook for another two or three minutes, adding a few drops of oil on the side until is crisp outside. Try to serve and eat immediately.



* You can use just all purpose flour as in the original recipe. I have tried different kinds of flours in the mix, like cornmeal, fine rawa, and atta. Feel free to experiment, keeping overall ratios about the same.

* Use a non-stick skillet. When I tried to make this on a cast iron pan, it stuck to the pan miserably!

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