In the winter time, there is nothing like piping hot, flaky naan fresh from a tandoor oven. David and I are fortunate enough that we will be able to learn how to make naan and lots of other classic Indian vegetarian dishes– from an expert. My siblings bought us a two-hour private cooking class that we are taking January 30 (so stay tuned for our homemade naan). Until then, I’m trying out various store-bought brands to see which flavors and textures I like best. See the verdict. The rating goes 1 to 10 (10 being the best).
365 Everyday Value Whole Wheat Naan
Appearance: The bread is flat and shaped like an oval. The fluffy, well-browned bubbles give the bread a handmade appearance.
Texture: Light but not as flaky as freshly baked restaurant naan. The flatbread is thicker and more dense than it appears.
Flavor: A bit bland. There is just a faint sweetness. Also comes in original (plain) and garlic.
Health: 260 calories and 7 grams of fat per flatbread. The whole wheat flavor is definitely your best bet in terms of nutrition. It’s tempting to eat more than one since the bread is so light. The challenge is eating just one serving.
Cost: $ 3.49 for the package of 4 flatbreads.
Recommendation: You can eat naan with any food, Indian or not. In fact, most of the time I like to use the naan to make pizzas on the grill.
Resolution Stats: 21 new food stuffs tried, 84 more to go.
Final Verdict: If you are looking for authentic, flaky naan, try making your own or buying it from your favorite Indian restaurant. Sometimes you can buy pizza dough from a pizzeria, so see if you can also get naan dough. If you buy the store-bought stuff, I suggest getting the plain or whole wheat flavors, grilling it first, and then adding your own garlic or onion topping.
This recipe for fusion flatbreads was inspired by a trip this weekend to visit my brother in Washington, DC. Knowing that I like good food, my brother tried to pack in as much eating as possible into the three days. After we finished our poached eggs and toast Sunday morning, we headed to ACKC Cocoa Bar Cafe for their dark chocolate bars with espresso nibs. Saturday night, I ate dinner for two and had dinner twice– First, dove into some spicy Thai dishes at Mai Thai and then enjoyed an unexpected late-night feast at his friend Angela’s place — she greeted us with warmed tortillas, homemade vegetarian chile and creamy guacamole. Friday night, we packed in Asian and Latin food at the tapas restaurant Masa 14. The menu ran the gamut from chipotle miso black cod to a fruity-spicy coconut tuna ceviche, and most of the dishes succeeded at fusing the ingredients. The wild mushroom flatbread with Oaxaca cheese and avocado, however, had nothing Japanese about it, except that I picked out some of the super hot chiles with my chopsticks. Back home in NYC, I decided to continue the weekend’s gastronomic delights with my own combination creation –Flatbreads with Fusion.
Latasian Flatbread Recipe
1 store-bought flatbread (options: Indian naan, store-bought pizza dough, flatbread crackers)
1/2 cup cooked and shelled edamame
2 habanero chiles, seeded and chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 slices Monterey Jack Cheese
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon miso paste
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1.Place a pizza stone in the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Allow at least 30 minutes for the pizza stone to heat.
2. In a food processor, puree the edamame, chiles, miso, soy sauce, and sesame oil until smooth.
3. Spread the mixture over the flatbread.
4. Top with chopped tomato and Monteray Jack cheese.
5. Slide the flatbread onto the stone and bake for about 6 -8 minutes, until puffed and golden. Transfer the flatbread to a cutting board and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.
I own three cookbooks, that’s it. Most of the time I just try and recreate my favorite restaurant dishes. Even when the food doesn’t come out exactly right, I like knowing that it’s my creation. The only cookbook I use on a pretty regular basis is Mark Bittman’s ginormous vegetarian cookbook, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and I’m not even a vegetarian! The part I love most about the book is that Bittman treats vegetarian food like a cuisine, rather than a series of substitutions. His cookbook presents ingredients that lend themselves to vegetarian cooking — everything from chickpeas to sushi rice and demonstrates how to use them in range of ways. Take nuts. Bittman devotes an entire section to the lexicon of nuts and seeds and then offers various ways of how to season and cook with them. See the recipe for Caramelized Spiced Nuts below or feel free to experiment and make your own nutty creation!
Caramelized Spiced Nuts
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 15 minutes
2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
2 cups of sugar (variation, sugar in the raw)
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unsalted mixed shelled nuts (I just used almonds)
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with the oil. Put a wide pot or deep skillet over high heat, and 2 cups of water and the sugar, and bring to boil. Stir in the spices, salt and nuts. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced to syrup, 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Turn the heat to low under the nuts and remove with a slotted spoon, letting the excess syrup drain off a bit and then spreading them on the baking sheet.
3. Roast the nuts for 10 minutes, tossing once or twice with a spatula. Remove from the oven and let cool; the sugar coating will harden as the nuts cool. Serve or store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 or 3 days.
There are a number of terrific Indian restaurants in NYC, but when I’m in the mood for a light, healthy, inexpensive Indian snack– I always head to Hampton Chutney West Side (464 Amsterdam Ave.) for their addictive dosas and fresh chutneys. I also love that the restaurant posts their nutritional info– only 189 calories and 3 grams of fat per dosa.
I recommend the spiced potato masala dosa ($7.95) with the mango chutney. If you’re not a fan of spicy Indian food, there are plenty of other nontraditional fillings, including roasted tomato, arugula, with jack cheese and grilled portobello mushroom, spinach and roasted onions, with goat cheese.
The dosas taste like delicate, flaky sourdough crepes. The dough is made with rice-and-lentil flour and baked until crisp.
Paper-thin and quite long– about the length of a large sub
Tasty vegetarian, spiced potato and onion filling
Freshly made mango chutney
Cheez-It crackers have been a favorite of mine since childhood. Unfortunately, these cheese crackers are not made with real cheddar. Turns out the big wheel of cheese on the front of the box is a sham. Their delicious toasted cheese flavor comes from a cheese imposter. I was looking forward to trying the Whole Foods Brand alternative called Quack’ n Bites, but they are not nearly as good when it comes to taste. See the final verdict. The rating goes 1 to 10 (10 being the best).
Quack n’ Bites organic Cheese Crackers
Appearance: These crackers are shaped like teeny tiny ducks. The shape is cute, but the size is disappointing.
Texture: Crisp, baked crackers. Nice crunch.
Flavor: I felt like I had them before. They taste like Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, but not as salty or cheesy. Again, disappointing.
Cost: $2.99 for a 5.5 ounce box.
Health: Just because these crackers are organic, doesn’t mean they’re actually healthful. You are much better off snacking on fresh fruit and veggies or making your own crackers. 68 of these ducklings have 140 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. Of course, I made sure to check the nutrition label, and they do have cheddar cheese!
Recommendation: Enjoy these crackers straight out of the box, in tomato soup, or crumbled over a salad.
Resolution Stats: 20 new food stuffs tried, 85 more to go
Final Verdict: Reasonably healthy as far as crackers go. If you are looking for a packaged snack with lots of flavor, not your best choice.
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I woke up this morning at 9:30 am. At 10:00 am, David told me that we’re having friends over for brunch at 11:00 am. So I took a two-minute shower and frantically ran around the kitchen, pulling out pots and pans. Somehow, with a few eggs, ricotta cheese, a butternut squash, and honey, I was able to whip up a pretty good frittata. The omelet worked nicely with David’s breakfast potatoes, sweet mimosas, and a beautiful fruit salad that our friends brought over. Our kitchen was a mess, but our breakfast table looked like an elaborate brunch buffet. Check out the yummy frittata recipe below.
Ricotta Frittata Recipe
1/2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into thin wedges
1 teaspoon skim milk
1 cup low-fat or fat-free ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons light olive oil
11/2 teaspoons wildflower honey
1. Preheat the oven to 450F degrees or the broiler to high.
2. Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet and set over high heat. Add the squash and cook for about 5 -7 minutes, turning often, until golden. Sprinkle with sea salt, drizzle with honey, and transfer to a bowl.
3. Wipe the skillet clean.
4. Beat the eggs with the skim milk. Add the beaten eggs to the squash. Season well with sea salt.
5. Heat the clean skillet over medium heat. Swirl the remaining olive oil so that it coats the entire skillet.
6. Pour the frittata mixture into the skillet.
7. Arrange small spoonfulls of the ricotta cheese over the top of the frittata.
8. Cook for about 6 -8 minutes on medium-low heat, until the sides of the frittata start to set.
9. If you are using the oven, place the skillet in the oven and bake for about 10 – 12 minutes, or until well set, puffy on the sides, and lightly browned on the top. If you are using the broiler, cook for 1-2 minutes just to set the top.
10. Let cool a little. Flip onto a plate and drizzle with more honey.