Lesson number one about trading urban living for rural Green Acres: You give up that perpetual buffet of authentic ethnic food options. While just about half the U.S. population lives in rural areas, most restaurant options reflect a bland line of fast food restaurants and heat-and-serve diners.
But when we moved to our Wisconsin farm over a decade ago from Chicago and opened our B&B, Inn Serendipity, this lack of international booty didn’t qualify as a deterring fork in our road toward sustainable living in the country. We life gives you a lack of pad Thai, curry or sushi, you simply learn to make your own.
Here’s the good part: many ethnic specialties root in relatively simple recipes and techniques. Sometimes centuries old, these culinary traditions lasted both due to three factors: good taste, use of available, local ingredients and ease of preparation. A quick Internet search harvests multiple recipe options and information for just about whatever you want to cook up, transforming even our country kitchen on County Road P into an international dining mecca.
Case in point: Naan, that Indian flatbread staple. We needed to add a dash of flavor to the last of our rutabagas in the root cellar, so my husband John started sautéing them into an Indian-style curry. Bread made a natural accompaniment, with no ethnic markets or Joe, the Trader to be found within an hour’s drive.
No worries, naan appeared on the table thanks to a basic stock of pantry staples already at home. While variations exist on naan, historically often made in a clay oven, I came up with this simplified version that cooks up the bread on a grill:
1 standard package active yeast (.25 ounces or 2 ¼ t. bulk yeast)
1 c. warm water
1 beaten egg
¼ c. sugar
3 T. milk
2 t. salt
4 ½ c. flour (approximately)
4 t. minced garlic (optional – adds great flavor)
¼ c. butter, melted
• In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand 10 minutes.
• Stir in egg, sugar, milk, salt and flour to form soft dough. Knead on a floured surface or with the dough hook on a Kitchenaide Mixer (my preference) until smooth, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.
• Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a cloth. Set aside to rise until doubled in volume, approximately 1 hour.
• Punch dough down. Knead in garlic.
• Pinch off small balls about the size of ping-pong balls. Roll into ball-shapes and place on a tray. Cover with a towel and let double in size, approximately 30 minutes.
• Heat grill (approximately 375 degrees; I cooked these on our woodstove). Roll balls of dough into a thin circle and place on lightly oiled grill. Cook for approximately 2 minutes and turn over.
• Brush cooked side with butter and keep grilling until both sides are brown.
Photo credit: Lisa Kivirist