Take advantage of the latest hot product at the grocery store – naan. The flatbread, most commonly associated with the cooking of India, is enjoying newfound popularity at the grocery store. Readily available in pre-packaged form, the tear-dropped shape bread comes in flavors such as whole wheat and garlic. Like Boboli before it, naan is the trendiest way to put a new spin on pizza – a blank canvas for whatever the creative cook can dream up.
Dress it up with any combination of ingredients and blanket the whole mixture with cheese or use naan as a platform to showcase melted cheese, much like a grilled cheese sandwich. Try pepper jack, Monterey Jack, provolone or mozzarella combined with other favorites such as Parmesan and Asiago.
In Indian and Central Asian cooking, flatbreads are as common as biscuits and cornbread in the South. Traditionally, naan is baked in a small dried clay oven where a hot fire heats the inside walls. The dough is thrown against the walls where it sticks and bakes. The experienced baker chooses just the right moment to pull it out of the oven – when it’s browned and bubbly – and before it slides onto the ground. The main difference between naan and other flatbreads is in the cooking: a skillet instead of an oven. In some countries, yogurt is added to the flour in naan to soften the texture of the final product.
Although you can serve naan plain, cooks have found a way to pair the ethnic food with a gourmet taste of America, similar to the upscale taco craze. You’ll find naan topped with everything from barbecued chicken and smoked Gouda, to roasted vegetables and Gruyere, to smoked salmon and cream cheese.
Because few of us have a tandoori oven in the backyard, you can slide the naan onto a grill, or you can pop it in the oven. It’s delicious any way you do it.
There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what exactly is a whole grain. You wouldn’t think it would be that complicated, but the the food makers are experts at confusing the consumer. Labels everywhere talk about how their bread or cereal is a good source of whole grains. They mention that their food comes from a whole grain and then imply that you are eating a whole grain food. But are you? You aren’t.
Products that are made from whole grain FLOUR are NOT the same as eating whole grain. Whole grain foods are generally made from wild rice, millet, quinoa, barley, seeds, or wheat berries. These go into the food (bread, cracker, cereal) in their WHOLE, or original form. You will physically see the grain or seed, and have to chew it to eat it. This is very different from whole grain flour. Flour is where the grain has been ground before it is used. Whole wheat bread, for example, is brown, but does not have the seed or actual grain in it.
I do not want to dismiss eating foods made from whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour is good, and a good step in the right direction in terms of having a higher fiber and vitamin content than regular white bread. However, if you are looking for a food that has a lower glycemic index than white bread, the whole wheat bread is not going to be that much better. They are both around 70 on the glycemic index.
Whole grain foods are a little trickier to find and tend to cost a little bit more. Many times these products will be found more readily in markets that have organic foods, and they are frequently in the freezer section. They don’t have as long a shelf life, so they have to be kept frozen.
As always, variety is important and so is taste. You have to find the balance that works for you and your wallet. Choosing more whole grain foods is a good goal, but you don’t have to accomplish it overnight. Start slowly and find foods that you enjoy eating. Remember, drinking lots of water is VERY important when you start increasing the fiber content of your diet. 🙂