Sunday, June 29, 2014

Naan Vs. Pita

I was at Bible study, the other day, when the group came across Exodus 16:31, which says, "Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey."  We were trying to decide how to picture manna in our minds, and I surmised it may have looked like an early form of naan.  Someone then chimed, “Oh, you mean pita.”

Indian Naan bread
Subject: Indian Naan bread | Date: 08/10/2007 | Photographer: jetalone | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Pita Bread
Subject: Greek Pita Bread | Date: 03/25/2007 | Photographer: AlMare | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

I knew the breads were different, but I didn’t know enough to be able to articulate the difference.  Thus, I gave a hem, a haw, and a shrug and the discussion progressed.  When I got home I was still annoyed that I hadn’t known what distinguished the two breads, so I did some digging.

Pita and naan are, as I knew, varieties of flatbread, traditionally made from refined flour and yeast.  There are distinct differences though.

Pita is  a flat rounded slightly leavened bread, originally from the Middle East, with a hollow inside like a pocket, which can be filled with food.  Made from a dough of water, flour, yeast, and salt, the dough can be heated in one of two ways.  Baking the dough in an oven maximizes the soft puffy texture, but mellows the flavor.  Conversely, cooking the pita on a stovetop costs the bread some puffiness, but produces crispy toasted spots on the surface of the dough.

Pita comes in 4 different sizes and at least 3 different thicknesses ranging from mini to pocket to the larger loaves. All the types can be used to make sandwiches such as Gyros and Falafel. The medium to thicker ones can also be toasted and eaten with cheese, olive oil, hummus, or other toppings.

On the flip side, naan is a softer lighter leavened flatbread from northwest India.  This version of flatbread consists of flour, water, yeast, cooking fat (e.g. butter, ghee), and yogurt, which gives the naan its softer texture.  Unlike pita, for the bread to be “naan” it must be baked in a tandoori oven to give the bread its characteristic smoky flavor.

Naan is typically brushed with butter and is served along side Indian meals.  However, modern chefs are topping naan in new ways to make everything from Naan Bread Margherita Pizza with Prosciutto and Grilled Open-Faced Sandwiches.

As it turns out, the manna God gave the Israelites probably wasn’t like naan or pita bread.  Theologians believe it was a flaky substance, roughly the consistency of the glaze on an Old Fashion Donut, which the Israelites baked into small honey flavored pancakes.  Still, not only will I be prepared if naan or pita  ever arise in conversation again, I’ll know what to do with these tasty breads.
Naan Bread Margherita Pizza with Prosciutto - from

2 naan breads
2 teaspoons olive oil, or as needed
1 green onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
8 slices mozzarella cheese
1 large roma tomato, thinly sliced
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 slice prosciutto, sliced
6 leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Place naan breads on the prepared baking sheet; brush each naan with olive oil. Spread green onion and garlic over each naan. Arrange 4 slices mozzarella cheese onto each naan; top with tomato slices. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper. Top tomato layers with prosciutto, basil, and Parmesan cheese.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until pizza is crispy on the edges and cheese is melted, about 8 minutes. Turn on oven's broiler and broil until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling, about 2 minutes.

Billy Starr's Open-faced Grilled Naan Sandwich - from

1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 Tbl. Tikka Masala paste
2 each, 6 oz. chicken breast, cut into 3 each, 1/4-inch thick, long slices on the bias
1 Naan bread, halved for two sandwiches
2 zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch lengthwise
1 vineripe tomato, sliced thin
1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup Sriracha Hippy-Shake*
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

The day before, in a bowl, combine Greek yogurt and Tikka Masala paste and add chicken. Marinate overnight. The next day, heat grill pan on the stove top.
Brush the naan bread lightly with olive oil and grill both sides till warmed through.
Remove bread to your service plate. Brush the zucchini slices with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill both sides till just cooked through. Layer grilled zucchini onto grilled naan bread. Top zucchini with layers of thin sliced tomato. Wipe off excess marinade from chicken. Add a touch of oil to the hot grill pan and grill chicken till cooked through. Top your sandwich off with the chicken slices. Sprinkle sandwich with the crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle the sandwich with the Sriracha Hippy-Shake. Eat proudly with a knife and fork.

*Sriracha Hippy-Shake
Makes about 1/3 cup
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 squeeze of a half lemon
In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, Sriracha and lemon juice. Thin with water to a milkshake consistency.

Recipes print as a single pages for your recipe file or refrigerator.

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