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.

Marshallese Style Grilled Chicken and henna tattoos

We had a little party last night.  It was only about 19 people if you counted all the kids.  For our house that’s not a lot of people. We almost always have more people than we actually invited. One year for Thanksgiving I invited 15 people and 55 people showed up.  How does that happen, you wonder?  Well, people bring people.  They know they’ll be welcome at our house so they bring their friends.  The only problem it sometimes poses is that I don’t know about it in advance.  It’s hard to feed 55 when you’re cooking for 15-20.  I have learned to always make extra for those unexpected (but welcome) guests.  Now my friends from the Marshall Islands, they know how to “partay”.  They routinely have get-togethers for large crowds.  There is no such thing as a small Marshallese gathering.  They celebrate EVERYTHING.  Oh, it’s Tuesday…let’s have a party.  They never miss a chance to live in community.  I love that about them as a people group as much as I love their grilled chicken.  Of course when I asked around for a recipe nobody could really quantify anything.  So, I decided to come up with my own concoction.  You’ll be happy to know that many Marshallese have eaten my chicken and given it the “NOD” of approval!

Come on over for some good food, good times and mehndi (henna tattoos).  There’s always room for a few extra people…

Flat leafed parsley, garlic, ginger, onion and brown sugar
Add toasted sesame seeds, a dash of chilli flakes, soy sauce, honey and mix
Marinate the chicken thighs in the refrigerator overnight
Grill at a medium temperature
They are sooo good!

Mehndi is an ancient art form using crushed up leaves from the henna tree. It is non-toxic and leaves a stain behind for 2-3 weeks.
My little effort on my friend Abbie’s shoulder

I always have a hard time doing designs on myself, never turns out good

Marshallese Style Grilled Chicken

10-12 bone-in chicken thighs with the skin off and visible fat trimmed

1 1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/2 bunch flat leafed parsley, chopped

1 whole garlic

2 inch piece of fresh ginger

1 small onion

dash of chilli flakes

2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Take the skin off the chicken thighs and trim all visible fat.  Wash and set aside.  Blend in a blender or processor garlic, ginger and onion  together.  In a bowl, mix together all ingredients before pouring in soy sauce, stir to incorporate well.  Pour over chicken and either place in a large ziplock bag and seal or put in an airtight container.  Marinate overnight in refrigerator.  Grill over medium heat and serve!

Grilled “Sausage” Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Grilled Portobello mushrooms are a wonderful delight.  They are smokey, meaty and juicy.  Almost like a burger.  They are stupendous when stuffed with other delicious things.  I wanted to have a tasty and filling meal without a lot of fat and plenty of proteins.  I had some extra lean ground beef on hand but you can easily use ground turkey or chicken.   I added caraway and sage to make it taste like sausage then added some low-fat goat cheese and fat-free feta cheese to the mix.  I also added fresh baby spinach leaves which was great as a “filler”.  These turned out wonderful. They were cheesy, melty and bursting with flavor. We felt like we were treated to a restaurant quality meal and we even had left overs for lunch the next day.

Mix together the ingredients for the “sausage”
Saute the meat mixture until everything is cooked
Add all the other ingredients to the home made sausage before filling the mushroom caps
Grill covered for 12-15 minutes

Wonderful served with fresh fruit and a salad

Grilled “Sausage” Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms 

4 Portobello mushroom caps

1/2 pound extra lean ground beef or turkey

3 scallions, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1/2 tsp caraway seeds

1 tbsp chopped fresh sage

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup fat-free feta cheese

1/4 cup goat cheese

1 cup chopped fresh baby spinach

1 tsp dried basil

Wipe the mushroom caps with a damp paper towel and salt and pepper them on both sides, set them aside on a cookie sheet.  In a small bowl mix together the ground beef/turkey, caraway seeds, sage, garlic, salt, scallions.  Mix well together and cook over medium high heat until meat is nicely browned and all the flavors are “married”, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix to the cooked “sausage” mixture the feta and goat cheese, basil and baby spinach.  Top each of the four mushroom caps equally and place on a heated grill, covered, for about 12-15 minutes.  Serve as a main dish along with some fruit or a nice crunchy salad.

It’s Chicken Satay time!

I am doing a shout out to my former student “Nate”. He mentioned several times in class how much he loves to grill and I promised him some Indonesian/Thai inspired food…. so here it is Nate!! Not only are these Chicken Satays very quick and easy to do, they are high in flavor and low in fat.  Perfect accompaniment for our summer workouts.  (I should mention that we’re almost done with our first week of P90x and Insanity and I’ve lost 1 1/2 pounds so far….13 1/2 to go!).

I should mention that I always prefer to use chicken thighs over chicken breast because they have a lot more flavor and they are a lot cheaper too.  You can buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs or you can easily de-bone the chicken thighs at home.  All you need is a sharp knife and the ability to cut along the edges of the bone and you’re done!!

The secret to this dish of course is the sauce.  I love how this sauce turns out.  I could eat it by the spoonful but then I’d have to work out some more.  Please do use the Sweet Soy Sauce instead of the regular soy sauce.  If you must use regular soy sauce then choose the low sodium kind and use only 1/8 cup otherwise your sauce will be very salty.  This is great as an appetizer or a main dish served with Coconut Fried Rice and a fresh crunchy salad.  We also ate other veggies dipped in the sauce along with our chicken!

Place all the ingredients for the sauce directly into the pan and heat over medium heat
Divide the sauce, one for dipping and the other for basting!
Place chicken skewers on grill and cook for 6-8 minutes turning over once.
Baste during the grilling process with the sauce
Serve with the reserved sauce
Chicken Satay with peanut sauce

Chicken Satay

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into strips

1/2 cup natural peanut butter (or you can grind up some peanuts) – I like chunky

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup sweet soy sauce

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

3 garlic cloves, minced

scallion, diced (for garnish)

In a saucepan place all ingredients except chicken and scallion.  Cook over medium heat until sauce is bubbly.  Take off heat and cool sauce.  Divide sauce into two parts.

Cut chicken into 1″ inch long strips and thread onto skewers.  If using bamboo skewers make sure you soak them before hand so they don’t burn and fall off.  Spray chicken with non-stick cooking spray and place on hot grill (about 300-350 degrees) cook for 6-10 minutes covered,  turning once.  Baste with half of the sauce (make sure the dipping portion is never in contact with the raw chicken) during the grilling process and serve with remaining sauce garnished with sliced scallions.   The sauce is also fantastic for dipping carrots, cucumbers and other fresh veggies as well.

Pizzas on the grill

It’s (almost) summer time and that means lots of cooking on the grill.  I really enjoy using the grill to cook during the warmer weather because it keeps the house cooler and I love how everything tastes when they are grilled.  I decided to make pizzas on the grill.  It’s one of my fast go-to grill dishes because everything can be cooked outside without any prep in the “house” kitchen.  All you need is a grill basket for vegetables so smaller pieces don’t fall through and you’re good to go.

I have been using the no-knead artisan bread for my pizza crusts because they turn out beautifully and this bread dough is a dream.  You mix the thing up with a wooden spoon and stick it in your fridge, it’s sooooo easy! I usually have some in my fridge ready to go (each batch can keep in the fridge for almost 2 weeks).  The toppings for these pizzas are as varied as the person making them.  I hope you try some out and go crazy with the toppings.  When my basil is full-grown, I plan to make  home made mozzarella and have Margherita pizzas on the grill.  What’s not to love?

Place all the veggies on the grill basket on the grill to cook
Place pizza dough with a little olive oil on both sides directly on the grill and cook covered for 3 minutes
Flip crust over, top with veggies and chicken (or shrimp) if desired and a little mozzarella and parmesan cheese, cover and cook another 3-4 minutes. Enjoy!

Pizza on the grill

Pizza crust – No knead artisan bread

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or fresh mozarella

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Fresh cracked pepper

kosher salt

Cherry tomatoes cut in half (about 1 cup)

Assorted vegetables: red onion, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplants etc.

If using chicken breasts, cut into strips and marinate in a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar,salt, garlic and thyme and throw it on the grill to cook.

Cut vegetables into strips and the cherry tomatoes into halves.  Toss with salt, fresh cracked pepper, basil and olive oil and place in grill pan on the grill and let it cook.

Take a small portion of the dough and roll it out fairly thin (about 1/4 inch thick) and pat it lightly with olive oil on both sides.  I like to make it personal size – so about 6-8 inches “circles” or whatever shape they turn out to be. When vegetables are cooked, place  pizza directly on the grill and close the lid for 3 minutes (grill should be on high heat, 600 degrees or so).  Flip the dough over so the cooked side is on top and place some of the grilled cherry tomatoes on the dough along with other veggies and chicken (if using).  Sprinkle a little cheese (go easy)  less is better.  Close the lid and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Pizza should be done with the cheese melted and the crust wonderfully crunchy and smoky.