Fun with NAAN! Garlic Naan and dessert Naan

I love Naan.  The word Naan means “bread”.  In fact, the name describes the type of bread, which is a leavened flat bread.  So, whenever I hear people  say “Naan bread”, I cringe inside.  Naan is very popular not only in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh but in Afghanistan as well.  There are different varieties of Naan based on the region and even individual cooks. Unlike other flat breads like chappati, roti, paratha or puri, Naan is usually cooked in a small clay oven called a Tandoor that can reach temperatures of up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.  It heats from all sides so it only takes minutes to cook, creating a beautiful char on the outside while keeping the inside of whatever is cooked (like Tandoor chicken, kebobs, or naan) nice and tender. Cooking Naan in the Tandoor creates wonderfully crispy yet slightly smoky edges  with a soft and tender middle.  I don’t own a Tandoor oven (I’d love one!) and the highest temperature my oven reaches is 500 degrees when it is set to broil.  To mimic the effect of the tandoor, I have used a pizza stone in the past, which works quite well.

Not too long ago, I had to make about 30 naan and serve it fresh and hot for a party.  I knew that trying to make them all on a pizza stone would take forever.  The solution was fairly simple. I used a skillet and the oven.  Using a skillet, especially a cast iron skillet to cook one side of the naan is a brilliant time saving idea and allows me to “half” cook several naan ahead of time when I am having a party or guests over.  When everyone arrives, I just pop in the naan under the broiler to finish the cooking process.  I finish off the process by dabbing a stick of cold butter on the surface of the hot naan and it’s ready to be enjoyed.  When the weather turns warmer, I make naan on the grill all the time.  It only takes about 2 minutes on each side.  Naan is so versatile that it can be used to make naan pizza or dessert style by adding dried fruits, nuts, maple syrup, honey and even dark chocolate chunks and goat cheese.  It’s really up to your creativity.  This is a popular dish to make for some of the classes I teach at the University and in the community.  I hope you have fun with it.  By the way, a note of caution, try not to substitute the full fat yogurt with non-fat yogurt.  The fat actually helps to tenderize the naan and to brown properly under the broiler.

Garlic Naan cooking class
Garlic Naan cooking class
Roll out the naan into a tear drop shape
Roll out the naan into a tear drop shape
Add cilantro and garlic on raw naan
Add cilantro and garlic on raw naan
Place garlic naan in hot skillet with the garlic/cilantro side up
Place garlic naan in hot skillet with the garlic/cilantro side up
Cook until bottom is nicely browned (about a minute)
Cook until bottom is nicely browned (about a minute)
Place in preheated oven, about 6 inches away from broiler unit at top.
Place in preheated oven, about 6 inches away from broiler unit at top.
Dab the hot naan with a stick of butter
Dab the hot naan with a stick of butter
Serve hot!
Serve hot!
To make a dessert version, top with nuts, coconut and dried fruit
To make a dessert version, top with nuts, coconut and dried fruit
Drizzle with warmed honey or maple syrup
Drizzle with warmed honey or maple syrup
Serve warm with some chai
Serve warm with some chai

Here’s the recipe:

Garlic Naan

6-7 Naan

3 cups all purpose flour

½ cup warm milk (I prefer whole milk)

½ cup full fat plain yogurt (room temperature)

1 tsp sugar

2 ¼ tsp yeast

¼ cup warm water

1 tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

Garlic and chopped cilantro

Butter

  1. In a small bowl, mix together warm water, yeast and sugar and set aside until yeast is bubbly (3-5 minutes). In a large bowl mix flour, salt, and baking powder together. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in yogurt and milk along with the frothy yeast mixture. Begin kneading together to form a soft dough. Dough should incorporate well but be slightly sticky.
  2. Form the dough into a ball and rub a little oil over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for about 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size.
  3. After dough has doubled, punch it down and make 6-7 equal sized balls out of dough.
  4. Adjust rack in oven to be 6 inches away from the broiler. Turn on the oven to broil (most ovens that should be 450-500 F). Take a non-stick or cast iron skillet and heat over medium heat.
  5. On a clean countertop, sprinkle some flour and roll out dough to an oblong or tear drop sized shape.   Press in some chopped garlic and cilantro and place naan with the garlic/cilantro side up on the hot skillet until it begins to puff around the sides and gets nice dark brown color on the bottom. Do not flip over.
  6. Place Naan on a baking sheet. Repeat the process until the baking sheet has enough Naan. Usually 3 Naans are the maximum amount that will fit on a sheet. Place under the broiler for 1-3 minutes, keeping an eye on the bread. When the top gets nicely browned and slightly charred, take it out of the oven.
  7. While the Naan is still hot, brush with a little butter or use a cold butter stick with half the wrapper off and dab over the hot naan. Serve warm.
  8. To make dessert naan, add pistachio, almonds, coconut, dried fruits (such as apricots, golden raisins, dates), dot with butter and cook in the same fashion.  Add additional butter and either warmed honey or maple syrup while still hot.  It’s delicious.

Japchae – Korean style sweet potato noodles

Even though I love eating food from all over the world, I feel as though I could cook food from Asia and never run out.  That is because Asia is a huge continent.  Almost 80% of the entire world’s population resides in Asia.  It is also a very diverse continent, not only in culture and people but with food as well.  Even though I grew up eating a lot of South Asian food (from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan),  I love food from other parts of Asia as well.  Korean food is one of the cuisines that I have really enjoyed the last few years.  The sheer amount of side dishes that can be prepared is delightful and the taste range varies from spicy hot to fresh and mild.  I especially love to make meals that are tasty, looks gorgeous and has lots of vegetables.  Which is why I have been making a lot of Japchae lately.  It is a Korean dish made with sweet potato noodles.  I love the texture of sweet potato noodles, it is a lot like glass noodles or cellophane noodles (made with Mung beans) – it is slightly chewy, absorbs flavors well and can be eaten hot or at room temperature.   This makes it perfect for picnics, pot lucks or summer days at the park. It is also a dish that can be easily made completely vegetarian by substituting Shittake mushrooms for the beef.  I guarantee that if you make this for your next get-together, you will be the hit of the party.  You can buy sweet potato noodles at most Asian markets or online.  Here’s the method:

korean sweet potato noodles
korean sweet potato noodles
Japchae Ingredients at a glance
Japchae Ingredients at a glance
Marinated beef for japchae
Marinated beef for japchae
Cook the egg, then cut into strips
Cook the egg, then cut into strips
Blanch the spinach then place in cold water
Blanch the spinach then place in cold water
Stir fry the green and regular onion
Stir fry the green and regular onion
Stir fry mushrooms
Stir fry mushrooms
Stir fry carrots then add red peppers
Stir fry the marinated beef
Stir fry the marinated beef
Stir fried ingredients
Add noodles and toss
Mixed Japchae
Mixed Japchae
Serve warm or at room temperature
Serve warm or at room temperature

Japchae

Korean style sweet potato noodle stir-fry

Serves 4 – 6 (depending on appetite)

Beef Marinate:

4 – 6 ounces eye of round beef, cut into ¼ inch wide and 2½ inch long strips (The butcher can use a slicer to do this for you)

OR if you would like to make this a vegetarian dish, substitute dried Shittake mushrooms for the beef strips

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp ginger, grated

1 tbsp rice wine

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp rice syrup (can substitute corn syrup or raw sugar)

1 tbsp applesauce

½ tsp cracked black pepper

1 tsp sesame oil

Mix all ingredients together. Make sure all the beef strips are well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Japchae stir-fry:

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp and 1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

2 large eggs

½ tsp rice wine

1 bundle of spinach, washed and drained

1 bundle of Sweet potato noodles or glass noodles

3 green onions, cut crosswise into 2 inch long pieces

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

5 -6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced

¾ cup julienned carrots (match sticks)

1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

ground black pepper

salt to taste

oil as needed

Method:

  1. Crack the eggs into a bowl. Beat in a pinch of salt and ½ tsp rice wine with a fork.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to a heated nonstick pan. Swirl the oil around so it covers the pan, pour in the eggs and tilt the pan so the mixture spreads thinly. The eggs will cook quickly, about 1 minute. Flip the eggs over and let it sit on the pan for 1 more minute. Remove from heat, cool and cut into strips. Set aside.
  3. Bring a 4-5 quart dutch oven of water to a rolling boil. Add the bunch of spinach and blanch for about 30 seconds. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, take out the spinach and place in a large bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. Squeeze out all the excess water. Season with 1 tsp soy sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil and mix well. Place in a large mixing bowl.   Keep the water in the pan boiling to cook the sweet potato noodles.
  4. Break the noodles into 3 inch section and drop into the boiling water and stir. Cook for 5-7 minutes until noodles are nicely cooked, yet slightly chewy. Place the noodles into the large bowl next to the spinach and add 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Mix together while the noodles are still warm so all the flavors are well absorbed.
  5. Heat a 12” skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, when it begins to shimmer, add the onion, the green onion, and a pinch of salt. Stir-fry about 2 minutes until the onion are translucent. Place the onions over the noodles.
  6. In the same skillet pour another 1-2 tsp of oil then add the mushrooms with a pinch of salt. Cook until mushrooms soften and begin to release a little water, about 1 minute. Add to the bowl of noodles.
  7. Heat up the skillet and add 1 tsp vegetable oil. Place the carrots and stir-fry for 30 to 40 seconds. Add the red bell pepper strips and a pinch of salt and stir-fry another 30 seconds. Transfer to the noodle bowl.
  8. Return the pan to the heat source for the final time and add 2 tsp of oil. Add the marinated beef (discard any extra liquid). Stir-fry until beef is fully cooked and no longer pink. Place the cooked beef in the noodle bowl.

In the noodle bowl add 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and about 2 tsp of toasted sesame seeds and mix all together by hand. Top with additional toasted sesame seeds and egg strips.  You can serve this at room temperature or hot.  The noodles are very versatile.

Mixed Veggie Niramish

Niramish is the Bengali word for mixed vegetables.  There are of course, a million ways to cook niramish depending on the cook.  I decided to make some last night using frozen mixed veggies because I was in a hurry.  Normally, I love using a variety of fresh vegetables, especially picks from the local farmer’s markets.  There are some nights though, speed is of the essence.  Given the choice of eating something unhealthy or making something fast and tasty out of frozen veggies…Well it’s no contest. It ended up tasting great and it was quick!

Stir fry eggs right in the middle of the onion and bell pepper mixture
Add turmeric at the end to add more incredible nutrients  (it’s a powerful anti-inflammatory) and color
Serve with rice or flat bread or spaghetti squash

It’s quick and delicious

Here’s the recipe:

Mixed Vegetable Niramish

2 pound bag of frozen mixed vegetables

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp garam masala

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)

1 tsp turmeric

1 green chili, seeded and slit lengthways

5 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

Heat oil in a large skillet and stir fry the onions and bell peppers along with cumin seeds.  When the onions and peppers are tender and the cumin seeds are popping  make a well in the middle and add the eggs.  Scramble the eggs then add garam masala, salt, garlic and stir fry a few minutes.  Add in the vegetables and mix well.  Cover and lower heat to let the vegetables cook and become tender for 6-7 minutes (stirring in between).  Add in turmeric last and mix well so that there is a nice golden color.  Cook about a minute for the turmeric to incorporate.  Serve with rice or flat bread.