October 20, 2010

Fall Break Part 1: Flatbreads

Honestly, if you've ever had flatbread - of any type - then it's probably one of your favorite foods. Tortillas, naan, foccacia, pita, lavash, puri, piadine, even fried dough and pancakes count. They're flavorful little packets of bready goodness, served warm and toasty with some flavorful fillings. They also make a great way to eat well with limited cooking resources, supplies, and money.

For the next couple of days I'm going to do a mini-series on what my friends Damiano and Sarah and I made during fall break in Maine. We were away from Wesleyan and were provided with a little rest and quiet, in addition to some spacious counter tops. That said, none of the things we made could not be made in our tiny kitchen at Wesleyan.

For our first two meals, we had variation on a theme: stuffed flatbreads.

The first night we got there we had some fish tacos. Tacos are a great way to get creative while not getting too complicated. Don't just think your typical taco, rice, beans, salsa, cheese and sour cream. Mix it up a little. We had ours with some grilled fish, cheese, sliced red cabbage, lemon wedges, cilantro, spicy mayo and fresh corn salsa. I've included the recipes below. But remember, you can add anything to these and they turn out great.

A couple of helpful hints for making tacos (or stuffed flatbreads) in general:

  • Add some flavored mayo (or sour cream, if you prefer). It makes it creamy and delicious. 
  • Serve the tacos warm. I prefer corn tortillas, but be sure that you serve them pipping hot. 
  • Add a couple of super fresh, crunchy vegetables to put on top. Cucumber, cabbage, shredded carrot, avocado, parsley, cilantro, red onion, etc... all work great. Concentrate on the veggies, not the meat/protein. The veggies are what make it poppin' and rockin'. 
  • Don't just stick with the traditional stuff. Pretty much anything works in one way or another. Eggplant, mushroom and spinach with lemon mayo in a taco? That's totally delicious. 
For lunch the next day, we had pita with red cabbage slaw, avocado, cucumbers and onion. We didn't have any pita, so we made it. If you're looking for an easy way to make flatbread that's very forgiving, fun to make and so tasty to stuff in your mouth, try these. The recipe is from Rose Levy Beranbaum's book The Bread Bible (one of my favorite cookbooks). Here's a link from the blog "Smitten Kitchen" with a great photo guide to making the pita from The Bread Bible. As this blog says, even if they don't puff all the way (like ours) they still turn out as wonderful flabreads! If you can make pizza dough, you can easily make these. If you've never made pizza dough, you can still make them. And they're super fun to watch puff up in the oven. And they just taste so good. You''ll never want store bought pita again (though you could definitely buy some pita and stuff them how we did and they'd be delicious). Recipe below.

So I hope this opened you up a little more to the tasty, tasty world of flatbreads. Seriously though, flatbreads are a truly wonderful food. They can be stuffed with a limitless combination of ingredients, they're warm and bready on the outside, cool and refreshing on the inside. And they're just so damn good. Like I said, they're probably already one of your favorite foods. So what are you waiting for? 

Recipes after the jump.

Fish Tacos with Fresh Corn Salsa and Spicy Mayo

I like to serve all the toppings nicely arranged on a platter on the table and let everyone stuff their own. 

-Get 3 small corn tortillas per person and heat in the oven wrapped in foil. Serve pipping hot with:

-Sauteed, baked or grilled white fish fillets
-Fresh corn salsa (below)
-Spicy mayo (below)
-Shredded cheese
-Thinly cut red cabbage
-Fresh cilantro
-Lemon wedges

Fresh Corn Salsa

This is best with the freshest, sweetest corn you can get your hands on. But frozen corn would work well too (use one medium sized bag of frozen corn instead of 3 ears of corn). 

-Using 3 ears of corn, take the kernels off the cob and place in a medium sized bowl. Chop 2 medium tomatoes and half a red onion and add them to the corn. Also add a finely chopped jalapeno pepper and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro. 

-To that, add the juice of half a lemon or lime, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, a healthy splash of hot sauce, salt and pepper. 

-Mix well and serve at once or store in the fridge for up to 2 days. 

Spicy Mayo

-Put half a cup of prepared mayo in a bowl. 

-Add 1-2 teaspoons hot sauce (a flavorful hot sauce like sriracha works well for this).

-If you are particularly adventurous, add a squirt of lime.  

Warm Pita with Red Cabbage Slaw

If you want to make the pita yourself, see this recipe here

-For the slaw: Thinly cut one small head of cabbage. Add to that half a red onion, chopped, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, juice of half a lemon, a splash of hot sauce or cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons mayo/sour cream/plain yogurt, salt and pepper. 

-Warm pita rounds in the oven or on the stove in a pan and top with the slaw mixture, sliced cucumber, avocado, and red onion slices. Top with a squirt of lemon and some freshly chopped Italian parsley

-Optional: After heating the pita, rub with a little olive oil and sprinkle on some crushed cumin