V-Day is for Naan Lovers

Ah, the much frought around hallmark holiday and church feast-day is approaching! No, I'm not talking about Mardi Gras...it's Valentine's Day, y'all! Tall Drink of Water and I did about as much kitch as we're capable of yesterday at a nice dinner out, because our plans for the big 2-1-4 include being in community with people we love rather than gorging with the box of chocolates and cheeky gifts. 

The most meaningful part of Valentine's Day 2012 was definitely the afternoon Tall Drink of Water and I spent baking naan for the dinner we'll be part of on Tuesday evening. Not only is it totally fun to make stuff that isn't babies with someone you love, but it's also fun to share something tasty around the table with others.

If you're a friend of Indian Food, you've probably stuffed your face with this delicious flatbread many a time over dal or sag paneer, but did you ever consider making it at home? I'm a big fan of this recipe* over at The Fresh Loaf and have made it several times with much fun and success. While TDoW and I were rollin' in the dough (ha! bread-making joke!) I pondered aloud, "Why doesn't EVERYONE make their own naan?! It's so easy! And fun! And delicious!" (in between bites of a fresh piece from the oven). I feel the need to confess this bold statement on the web so that later, when I maybe have a life, you all can remind me of that one time that I thought everyone should make their own Indian flatbread from scratch. 

"So what's the high demand for naan?" you might be thinking. Beyond sopping up delicious Indian food you probably never considered the value of such great bread, so people, get ready, 'cause the train's a comin'! The train that's making you a much bigger naan-fan! 

While hanging out in Texas over the Thanksgiving holiday, my dear Father-in-Law (Uncle Dad) and his fabulous partner, M'Dear showed TDoW and me our new favorite use for naan while celebrating gratitude in all our lives. This post is for you, M'Dear! 

If the hype wasn't enough, I give you. . . Naan Pizza! - So fresh, so easy, so yummy!

Here's how it works: whip up a batch of naan from The Fresh Loaf's fantastically easy recipe ahead of time. I usually make a big batch and freeze a few flatties. When you've got some thawed or fresh naan to work with (fully baked, mind you) top it with some of your favorite things, like you would a thin-crust pizza. Then throw it in the oven (on broil or 500°F) for just a couple of minutes (enough to melt your cheese). Voila! You have a beautiful, tasty, personal pan pizza, an excellent kitchen party entertainment plan for your guests and the ability to enjoy an Indian stable without the weird gastro-intestinal results. 

Since Thanksgiving, I've made naan pizzas several times, always in the company of great friends (I think they taste better that way). Here's a few combos that are great:

Carmelized Onions, leftover holiday ham & gruyere cheese (for veggie version, you could totally sub pear in for ham and it would be tasty)

Basil Pesto, red bell peppers & goat cheese 

Marinara Sauce, arugula, black olives and mozzarella

For Valentine's Day, why not go heart-shaped?
Tall Drink of Water was especially proud
 of his dough-shaping skillz (yes, with a z).
...the possibilities really are endless. Don't forget to adapt the fresh loaf recipe just a tad below.

*In between rolling out the dough and baking it, I like to brush each piece lightly with water and add a teeny bit of kosher salt. It makes the perfect pretzel-like pizza canvas. Just don't over do it on the salt!



Sprouts, Sprouts, Sprouts, Sprout the Word, Word, Word

I hope that's a messed up version of some Campy Christian song...otherwise I'd feel a little stupid right now for re-adapting a non-existent song for a post title!

Let's talk about Sprouts, baby--those goofy looking things you find in the produce section that you're not really sure exactly what purpose they're made for except sneaking into things to add a little texture. There are many types of sprouts; in fact everything in a plant-based diet starts as a sprout at some point, but the most common sprouts for eating are alfalfa and bean sprouts.
I don't know if you can see them, but this yummy salad has
homegrown sprouts on it! 

Because of a fantastic small group that Tall Drink of Water and I have been part of for the last two years, we recently discovered sprout-cultivating. Isn't that fun? We're cultivating community, and our community is now cultivating sprouts. One of our group member's responses to reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle was creating a kit for sprouting. Normally these bad boys run about $15 at a health food store, but this one was the best price of all: free from a friend. 

Our DIY guy made this simple kit from a quart size mason jar and a piece of plastic meshy screen material. If I knew what to call it, I'd tell you, but hopefully the pictures will help.

The fun thing about sprouting is that it's like immediately rewarding gardening. Food-E and Tall Drink of Water haven't quite developed our green thumbs yet, so this was a great positive-reinforcement activity for the gardening-challenged. Here's how it works:

Day One: Put 2 Tablespoons Seeds into your sprouting mechanism; for us, the highly technical mesh-covered Mason Jar. Then rinse your seeds and strain them a couple of times using the built in strainer on top of your jar. After they're rinsed, cover the seeds about half the volume of the jar and let the jar sit right side up overnight away from sunlight (we set it in our pantry). 
Rinsing the seeds; I think these are wheat berries pictured.

Day Two: In the morning, strain the water out of the jar and rinse the seeds again. This time, make sure all the seeds get to the top of the jar (the mesh) when you turn it upside down. Then place the upside down jar on a clean kitchen towel to sit for a few hours, also away from sunlight. Like so:

2-3 times a day, rinse the seeds and put them back on the towel.

From top left moving counter-clockwise: wheat berries
on day 2, 3 and 4.
Day 3-4: Keep rinsing the seeds 2-3 times a day and replacing them on the towel. Gradually you'll notice the seeds break open and little thready strings come out and you'll feel like God or something (I can make plants grow with the turn of my wrists!!!). Keep the seeds away from sunlight until you think they've reached the desired size. For us that's usually at the end of day 3. 

Day 4/5: Once the sprouts have grown long enough for your liking, it's time to photosynthesize! This time, when you rinse the seeds in the morning, move the jar & towel to an area that receives sunlight. I leave it in the window sill where it doesn't get too saturated in sun to dry them out or overheat my little baby seeds. Still rinse the seeds a couple of times a day, but at the end of the day they should have nice green tips and look similar to the sprouts you might find in the store. 
Alfalfa sprouts after a bit of photosynthesizing

Now you can put these in a container and store them in the fridge, or enjoy them right away! I bet they keep for about a week, but we can't keep from eating them long enough to find out. I was a fair-weather sprout consumer before --they were ok, but not something to long for or write home about. The home-grown sprouts however...are truly delicious! The sprouts actually have flavor, not just weird texture and are an excellent addition to any salad or sandwich. I can't wait to try them in bread - my project for the week!


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