Indian food and I have a certain love affair. Well OK, mostly I do the adoring, I can’t be sure that the sentiment is returned. It is the invigorating spices, the way the flavors explode across your tongue as the complex components of the dish come together and balance on the palate. At once fiery yet soothing, intricate yet elemental, interesting yet familiar. The possibilities are endless and with a little knowledge of the authentic ingredients, an incredibly rich and satisfying dish can emerge out of your kitchen with minimal time and effort.
Moving beyond the wonderful flavors, the nutritional benefits of Indian cuisine are really quite impressive. Focusing on whole grains and plenty of fresh vegetables, each plate is finished with wonderful spices that possess a myriad of health benefits. Take tumeric: this powerful spice is known for its anti-inflammatory powers, as well as it’s ability to fight cancer and impede the aging process. And then there is my favorite, cumin. Not only is it a rich source of iron, it actually stimulates pancreatic and liver detoxification enzymes to aid in digestion and keep our internal systems healthy. Pretty amazing seed indeed.
About two years ago, I learned a naan recipe from Thom and Jane at the Millbrook Inn that blew my mind, and I have been making it at home ever since. Well, to be honest, I stalled on my naan making for the past six months because I became uncomfortable with the amount of white flour used. So I started experimenting with using half white flour and half gluten free flour, such as brown rice or amaranth. It actually worked out pretty well, although the resulting flatbread is certainly a denser, earthier bread. This week, I decided to try a completely gluten-free naan, as well as a completely white bread to test side-by-side. The truth? I truly enjoyed the whole grain version more. A touch of butter, course garlic salt and sprinkling of cilantro... wow! It felt like a true side dish, which a distinct grainy flavor and texture on the tongue. It is not the fluffy neutral naan you may be used from your favorite Indian restaurant, but it is delicious none the less. Try it this week aside any Indian dish. Yum.
Whole Grain Naan Flatbread
A wonderful gluten-free bread to serve aside any Indian dish. Make sure to use whole milk yogurt, as it is a necessary fat in this recipe. Feel free to explore other whole grain flours to find your favorite, although this combination is pretty good...
1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp. xanthan gum
½ tsp, baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt (heaping)
1 cup plain WHOLE yogurt
1 tbs. butter
chopped cilantro for garnish
Place first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowls. Mix and fluff with a fork. Add yogurt and stir to combine. Using your hands, gather the flour to create a ball, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1-2 minutes. Add additional flour if needed to make a soft, resilient and slightly sticky dough. Place ball back in the mixing bowl, cover it with a damp cloth and leave in a warm spot to rest for 1-2 hours.
Heat cast iron griddle over medium heat.
Working with a handful of dough at a time, roll into a thin oblong using a heavy rolling pin and floured surface. Additional flour may be necessary at this time to prevent sticking. Slap onto the griddle and cook for 3 minutes per side, until each starts to brown slightly. Remove from heat, spread with a touch of butter and sprinkle with garlic salt and cilantro. Stack naans and cover with a clean cloth. Serve hot.
To reheat leftover naans, use griddle or broiler.
* Dough may be prepared, rested and then wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for several days before cooking.
Relax. Eat Well.