Pita bread

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With winter came a long period of inactivity on my blog. While, I have not been able to write about it much, it has been fun. Almost every other weekend, either we were hosting friends or getting invited to their places. Food was an integral part of this socializing. So I got several opportunities to experiment. Sometimes, it was a matter of recreating and perfecting an old special item. Sometimes, I dabbled in new cooking style. Sometimes, it was an effort to make something at home that I have often enjoyed eating outside.

Today’s post falls in that third category. I have immensely enjoyed Mediterranean food, since I first tasted it in various ‘Türkische Imbiss’ in Berlin. Thankfully, Michigan has not disappointed me either. Now and then, my husband and I go to the nearest middle-eastern eatery to enjoy shawarma, kebabs, falafel, and of course… a basket full of piping hot pita breads.

I really wanted to be able to make these breads from the mixed grain wheat flour I have at home, which I use for making Indian flatbreads of roti and parantha. After a few mistrials, I finally decided to try making those with the ‘boule’ master recipe, which I had used last year to bake bread loaves. I got this recipe in the book ‘Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day‘ by Jeff Hertzberg  and Zoë François. While it calls for unbleached, unsifted, all-purpose white flour, it has worked with my usual whole wheat/ multi-grain flours. So here is my way to pillowy and pliant pita flatbreads.

PITA FLATBREAD (WITH MULTIGRAIN WHEAT FLOUR)

Yields about 8-12 breads, depending on the size you roll.

Ingredients:

3 1/4 cups of multi-grain wheat flour, plus some more for dusting
1.5 cups of lukewarm water (only a tad more that body temperature)
1 sachet of yeast (roughly about 1 heap full of a tablespoon)
A pinch or two of salt
Method:

  1. Mix the yeast and salt in water. Let it proof for five minutes.
  2. Add the flour to this water and mix the dough with a spatula.
  3. If needed, with wet fingers, lightly mix the dough so that there are no dry patches. No kneading is necessary any further. It makes a rather shaggy loose kind of a dough, but that is what we want.
  4. Cover the dough with a loosely-fitted lid and let it rise for two hours.
  5. After the first rise, the dough can be used to make bread. Though, I like to refrigerate it overnight to make it more manageable.
  6.  To make pita, dust your platform and fingers with some dry  flour. Form a ball by pulling the top of dough to bottom repeatedly for about a minute or two.
  7. Divide it in smaller balls/ patties to make pitas.
  8. Dust a patty with dry flour and roll lightly to make a circle (width of which should never go less than 1/8th inch). Sprinkle with flour while rolling, whenever necessary.
  9. Heat a cooking pan/ griddle to medium-high heat and place a freshly rolled pita onto it.
  10. Wait till you see bubbles on the surface, and then flip it to another side.
  11. Now it will start puffing up. Lightly press bulging pita on all sides to make sure it gets baked uniformly.
  12. Flip more than once to get those nice brown spots on both the sides of flatbread.
  13. Remove from the pan and let it cool on rack
  14. Now, conquering the temptation to devour this soft bread right away, turn your attention to rest of the pitas to roll and bake 🙂

After cracking this perfect recipe for homemade pitas, the possibilities to use it are endless. We have so far enjoyed these with hummus, herbed yogurt dips, grilled tempeh, sautéed vegetables, and curries… oh and even, guacamole once. So go ahead and make your combos, with no further doubts!

Kimchi Chronicles

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I have always been rather fond of Korean food. My first brush with it was at the Korean restaurant in Delhi and I was absolutely exhilarated. Interestingly, its appeal to me came not from its exoticism, but by its familiarity. Each morsel invoked memories of a particular delicacy from home. Strange, isn’t it? How can a Korean meal make a girl from India homesick?

The answer lies in the umami flavor. Having grown up around coastal villages, I have always been rather partial towards seafood. Some Korean flavors made me reminiscent of a chutney that my mother used to make from the kolim” shrimp paste. Kolim or Mysopodosis orientalis is a shrimp variety that is found in the coastal waters around Vasai and Palghar, both of which are located on the north of Mumbai. Having immigrated to non-coastal cities in last ten years, relishing a kolim chutney may have become a rarity for me. Yet, I keep finding ways to relive its memories and have learned to find it in the umami flavors. Naturally, I took ready liking to Korean cuisine. Not to mention, its emphasis on fresh green vegetables made it rather wholesome experience in our quest of healthy eating.

After coming to Michigan, it took me only few more days to once again enjoy a hot pot of Korean bibimbap at the local restaurant and my resolve to venture into the Korean cooking was refueled. My first experiment was of Kimchi, as you can see in the title and the accompanying photo of this post. I largely followed the recipe given by the Kitchn here. There were only some tweaks though.

  1. I did not have the napa cabbage at hands, so I tried it with the regular green cabbage.
  2. Instead of daikon, I used red raddishes. I did not peel those because of my philosophy of not loosing the nutrients in the vegetable peels. Plus, it adds nice bits of color to the final product.
  3. I happened to have some bamboo shoots (acquired from the local Chinese store), so I threw those in for the good measures.
  4. Instead of Gochujang chili paste, I made a spice paste with red chili flakes, apple cider (instead of sugar), garlic, and sesame oil.
  5. I have made two different batches of kimchi so far. A pesco-vegetarian  version used 1-2 tbspoons of kolim chutney that I brought from my mother. The vegan version uses seaweed paste (hydrate 2 teaspoons of seaweed in a half a cup of water for fifteen minutes and then blend it in with the spice paste).

It took about four days for the kimchi to ferment to the sourness that I liked. It was a great fun to check it on everyday, push the vegetables in its briny-spicy soup, and yeah of course… then smacking those fingers clean 🙂

Now that we have our kimchi ready in the fridge, we have used it in number of ways. Not only it can be enjoyed as a spicy pickle on the side, it serves as a great addition to perk up a bowl of soup or noodles or rice congee. In the collage above, you can see the  snaps of the soups and congee I made using kimchi and its brine. It adds range of flavors from umami to spicy and salty to sour. With kimchi, you can even altogether skip salt and not notice it. While making noodles and vegetable soup, I stir fried kimchi along with other cut vegetables. Whereas, in case of congee, I just mixed its dollop or two over already cooked rice congee along with some steamed vegetables. Since it is already a finished product due to fermentation process, it works both ways. I think, now homemade kimchi is going to be a regular feature on my pantry shelf.