Apr 122013


India in 2006 flowed over me in a blur of bright colors, chaotic roads, fort tours, and naan. One of many lasting effects of the journey was a deep obsession with aloo tikki chole chaat. I’ve haunted myriad chaat shops and Indian food joints in my home city and elsewhere, looking for that perfect balance of tender, tangy, sweet, spicy, crunchy that is, in my opinion, one of the world’s greatest comfort foods. Along the way, I discovered kati rolls — another type of Indian street food that basically covers any kind of filling wrapped in flatbread. For a while, my standard kati roll was aloo masala — spiced potato — but then one day I discovered unda-style kati rolls. These fall into the category of “everything’s better with a fried egg on top” foods — except that the egg is beaten, not fried, then used as a sort of lining for the flatbread.

It’s remarkably easy to do at home, using a corn tortilla. In fact, it’s a great way to solve that problem of corn tortillas tasting dry unless they’re dipped in oil, etc. It’s a great breakfast-on-the-go choice, if you skip the messy fillings and just use well-seasoned egg. And using corn tortillas in this unda-style quesadilla is helpful if you’re avoiding white flour and, thus, the more traditional flour tortillas. This Tex-Mex version gives me all the flavors I crave without that heavy, cheesy, leaden feeling. (Though you could certainly add cheese here, if you’re inclined.) I also really like unda-style quesadillas with sliced avocado and a crunch of sea salt. Also with parmesan and snipped herbs. And if you happen to have any leftover sautéed mushrooms, that’s a delicious variation, too — particularly when topped with a bit of crème fraîche.

Try to use a skillet that is about the same size as the tortilla. As you can see in the picture, above, the beaten egg attaches to one side of the tortilla. Once it’s set, you simply flip it over and add whatever additional ingredients you like on top of the egg whilst giving the tortilla side a nice bit of browning. Slide out of the skillet, fold, cut in half, and top as desired.

Pairing: A Winemaker’s Margarita

This is an easy at-home margarita that I’ve been shaking up for about a year now. The recipe was given to me last spring by David Hopkins, he of the killer Bridlewood Syrahs. At some point, our wine-tasting dinner conversation veered to the topic of sweeteners, including my preference for Grade B maple syrup (it packs more intense maple flavor than Grade A!) and our mutual shrug toward brown rice syrup. It was around then that he mentioned his use of agave syrup in margaritas, and I managed to jot down the specifics. It goes a little something like this:

Recipe: Dave’s Margarita

Fill a cocktail shaker about 2/3 full of ice. Add:

1 Tablespoon agave syrup
2 shots añejo tequila (Dave uses Cava de Oro)
the juice of 3 limes

Shake it up and pour into a glass, along with some/most of the ice. Float a little Cointreau on top and enjoy!

Recipe: Unda-Style Quesadilla

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large egg, beaten
1 smallish corn tortilla, about 6″
kosher salt to taste
about 2 scant tablespoons Quick Spanish Sauce (see below)
sour cream
fresh cilantro leaves
hot sauce, Tabasco, or harissa

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet that is about the same size as your tortilla. Add the beaten egg and let cook for a few seconds, then place the tortilla on top of the egg. Let the egg continue to cook until the whole thing is set enough to flip over with a spatula. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the egg, then top with a couple of spoonfuls of Quick Spanish Sauce — leaving about a 1-inch diameter around the edges with no sauce. Once the tortilla is lightly browned, slide it out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Quickly fold it in half; then slice in half. Top with a bit of sour cream, a few cilantro leaves, and hot sauce to taste. Makes 1 quesadilla.

Quick Spanish Sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small white onion
1 orange bell pepper
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon white whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
14-ounce can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
1 cup water

Mince the onion, bell pepper and garlic in a food processor — pulsing until finely minced, but not pureed.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion mixture and saute until soft. Add the flour, salt, chili powder, tomatoes and water. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes melt into the sauce. Taste for seasoning. Makes about 3 cups. Leftovers keep in the fridge for a good week or so. Tasty on all kinds of tacos and enchiladas, as an omelet filling, and in sandwiches.

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