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.

Roasted Corn, Mango and Lentil Salad with Red Chili Ginger Honey Lime Dressing

It’s a long name, I know.  But It’s a great salad!!  I had a bunch of corn on the cob left over from a recent meal and I wanted to re-use them in something fresh.  I roasted up the corn over the burners, (that’s the wonderful thing about having a gas stove) and added in some lentils for protein and Mangos for sweetness and it was delightful.  Roasting the corn adds a slightly smokey flavor and the English cucumbers are crispy, crunchy and fresh….hmmmmm, it’s very tasty! I’m glad it turned out so good.  With the weather getting warmer and summer just around the corner, I know I’ll be making this salad a LOT!!

Ingredients at a glance
Roast corn directly over the burner (if you have a gas stove)
Using a Bundt cake pan really helps when cutting the corn off the ear
When cutting Mangoes, first slice on either side of the large seed
Cut squares into each of the slices
Flip the skin down to pop the mango cubes "up"
Slice the cubes off the skin
Cut all the Mango from around the seed
Whisk together the dressing
Toss everything together and serve

Here’s the recipe:

Roasted Corn, Mango and Lentil Salad with Red Chili & Ginger Honey Lime dressing

6 half ears or 3 whole ears of corn, roasted and taken off the ear

1/3 red onion, finely chopped

2 Mangoes, chopped

1 small English Cucumber

small bunch Cilantro (Coriander leaves)

1/2 cup dried lentils

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Dressing:

1 lime

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Red chili, seeded and minced

1 inch piece of ginger

1 tablespoon honey

In a medium size pan place the lentils with 1 1/2 tsp of salt and 2 1/2 cups of water and bring to boil, turn it down to a simmer and cover until they are tender (should take about 20-25 minutes).  In the meantime, roast the corn over a burner by holding it with a pair of metal tongs.  When roasted, cut the corn off the cob and place in a large bowl.  Cut both Mangoes into small cubes and add to the roasted corn.  Add the English cucumber and the red onion to the other vegetables as well.  Drain Lentils and rinse with cold water before adding it to the vegetables. Sprinkle with chopped Cilantro and get the dressing ready.

Preparing the dressing: 

Zest the lime in a small bowl using a microplane, also using the microplane grate the ginger to yield about 1 tsp.  Juice the lime and add seeded and minced chili, salt, pepper and honey and start whisking as you add the olive oil in a drizzle, this will turn the mixture into a nice and almost creamy emulsion.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly.  Serves 4.  Great with Seared Yellowfin Tuna or by itself.

Baklava

Who makes Baklava on a beautiful, Spring, Thursday afternoon?  I guess I do.  In today’s Cultural Aspects of Food class at the University of Utah we enjoyed a bounty of Fillo- filled Greek delicacies.  We made Spanakopita http://kolpona.com/2012/03/21/spanakopita-greek-spinach-triangles/ and Baklava and talked about hydrogenated fats, cholesterol and even “pink slime”.  We also talked about how we can indulge in a decadent dessert like Baklava every once in a while because it’s rich in Mono and poly unsaturated fats, a high source of protein from the nuts and has less fat and calories than the average chocolate cupcake with a mile high frosting tower.   While we talked about nutrition, food chemistry and science there was also the exclamations of “This is SOOOOO GOOOOD”, a lot of “mmmmm” and “ahhhhhs”.  That’s what learning should be don’t you think?  Amid all the scientific information there should also be the connections of culture, history and stories of  people and places.
This recipe is from my friend Kathy Paras who is a second generation Greek-American.  She’s been making this Baklava recipe for years, passed down to her from her mom and aunts.  I love recipes like this because it’s been around orally for more than one generation so you know it’s time-tested.  I also love knowing that in the middle of a busy university we talked about science and food while enjoying a dessert that someone’s mom made up in her kitchen in Greece years ago.

Baklava Ingredients
I use Almonds, Walnuts and some Pistachios for garnish
Coarsely chop the nuts in a food processor
Add freshly grated nutmeg, orange zest and other spices to nut mixture
Brush the bottom and sides of a 17x2x2 pan
Layer Fillo dough one at a time and brush each one with melted butter
Layer nut mixture in thirds, with 4-5 layers of Fillo in between
Cut Baklava into diamond shapes
Place a clove bud in the center of each diamond shape
Pour cooled syrup over hot Baklava
Let Baklava rest for at least 7 hours

Serve at room temperature

Here’s the recipe:

Baklava

1 pound box of Fillo Dough

1 pound of Walnuts

1 pound of Almonds

3/4 pound (3 sticks) of unsalted butter, melted

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Nutmeg

1/4 tsp Cloves

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2 tsp orange zest

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Whole cloves

ground Pistachios for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

Take out Fillo dough and place it on a cookie sheet and cover with a damp towel, this is very important so the dough does not dry out. In a food processor coarsely chop the nuts.  Place the ground nuts in a large mixing bowl and add all the spices (except whole cloves), vanilla extract, sugar and orange zest.  Mix well.  Melt butter in a glass bowl and brush 17 x 2 x 2 (or an approximate sized) dish with melted butter.  Make sure to brush the sides as well.  Place a sheet of Fillo on the bottom of the pan and brush it with butter then layer another piece and repeat with 10 layers of Fillo.  Layer one-third of the nut mixture on the Fillo then layer with 3-4 pieces of dough, buttering each layer.  Layer the next third of the nut mixture and repeat with another 3-4 pieces of Fillo.  On the very last layer add about 7-9 sheets of Fillo dough (butter each one well).  Brush top of the last Fillo dough with butter and cut into diamond shapes.  Place a clove bud into the center of each piece.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1 hour, until golden brown.  While the Baklava is baking prepare syrup so it has time to cool by the time the Baklava comes out of the oven.

Syrup

2 3/4 cup water

2 cups Sugar

Boil slowly for 15 – 25 minutes then add 1 tablespoon of Lemon Juice (this helps it NOT to form crystals) and 2 tablespoons of honey and let simmer an additional 10-15 minutes.  Let cool completely.

Pour over hot Baklava and cover for 30 minutes with wax paper.  Uncover and let the Baklava set for 7 hours at room temperature before serving.  This ensures that all the syrup has soaked in without making the pastry soggy.  Serve at room temperature.  Try not to refrigerate this dish because it affects the texture and taste.  Makes about 36 diamond-shaped Baklavas.