It’s very tempting to call the topic of this blog “pizza” but, instead, I am referring to these endlessly delicious and versatile dishes as “flatbreads” because it suggests so much more than a round baked pie of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Almost every culture around the world uses some version of flatbread and, even among those that don’t have a traditional version, you can create one with any cuisine in the world.
Some of the characteristics that make flatbreads so appealing are that they are usually presented thin, a little crispy (as opposed to fluffy and doughy), and they don’t have to be perfectly round like a pizza. The easiest way to start is to buy Indian naan flatbreads in stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Most stores also sell raw pizza dough in classic, whole wheat, or gluten-free varieties. There are pizza crusts and flatbreads made of cauliflower, which you can also try. In ethnic markets you can find pita or lavash (large sheets of very thin flatbread) ready-made. Personally, I like to spend my energy and creativity on the toppings, so I purchase ready-to-prepare flatbreads at the store. Or, if you’re ambitious, you can make your own from scratch:
Makes 10 small flatbreads, but you can alter the size to make fewer, larger ones
2 cups flour
1 Tbs. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 cup warm water
1. Combine yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl. Let the mixture sit until yeast is activated and begins to foam. About 10 minutes.
2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, oil and mix with your hands. Knead the dough for a few minutes and set aside in a well-oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm area for 1 ½ hours.
3. After 1 ½ hours, remove the dough and place on a floured surface. Divide the dough into 10 small balls and roll into small disks using a rolling pin. Repeat with all balls of dough. Place the disks onto a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap for 20 minutes. When disks have risen slightly, begin adding toppings.
Middle Eastern/Mediterranean flavors are growing in popularity and there’s the added bonus that these cuisines are heavy on vegetables and therefore healthier. This Tomato Arabian Flatbread recipe features a widely used spice blend called zaatar. It’s not only used on flatbreads, but also for flavoring rice, cous-cous, fish and meats.
Zaatar Spice Blend
1 Tbs. dried thyme, crushed (or oregano)
2 tsp. ground cumin*
1 Tbs. ground coriander*
1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbs. sumac
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. chili flakes- optional
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for optimal freshness.
2. *If using whole seeds (cumin and coriander), toast them first.
3. This will make the most flavorful zaatar. If you don’t have whole seeds, simply use ground spices.
Tomato Arabic Flatbread
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 Tbs. olive oil
2 small Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. red chili flakes
1 Tbs. paprika
1 Tbs. allspice
1 Tbs. tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Roma tomatoes, diced
2 Tbs. zaatar
1 Tbs. minced parsley
1 Tbs. minced cilantro
4 pieces of naan or homemade flatbread
1. Sauté the onion and garlic until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, tomato paste, and herbs and cook for 10-12 minutes.
2. Brush the flatbread with olive oil, top with the chopped tomato mixture, add the diced tomatoes and sprinkle with zaatar.
3. Bake in the oven at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Top with the minced parsley and cilantro.
For omnivores, there’s nothing like the flavor of ground lamb on a Greek-inspired flatbread. Topped with high-quality lean protein, some vegetables, and a little dairy, it’s a complete meal.
Greek Flatbread with Ground Lamb and Raita
3/4 lb. ground lamb
3 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs. dried oregano leaves
3 Tbs. chopped fresh mint leaves (or 1 Tbs. dried mint leaves)
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
4 small yellow tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1 cup prepared raita (available in mid-Eastern markets or Trader Joe’s or see recipe below)
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 plain naan ovals, or homemade flatbreads (see recipe above)
1. In a large sauté pan, cook the ground lamb in 1 Tbsp. olive oil, about 5 minutes, and set aside in a bowl
2. Sautee the onions until almost translucent, about 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
3. Put the cooked lamb back in the pan with the onions and garlic; add the oregano and the mint leaves and stir together over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
4. On a baking sheet covered with parchment, toast the naan (or bake the homemade flatbread dough) in a 400-degree F. oven for about 7-10 minutes, or just beginning to toast; remove the flatbreads from the oven.
5. Place 2 Tbs. of raita onto each naan, then sprinkle the ground lamb mixture onto each; equally divide the bell pepper, tomato, and red onion; sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
Yield: about 2 cups
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup chopped seeded English hothouse cucumber or Persian cucumber
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
3 tsp. chopped green onions
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground sumac
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt. Chill covered, until ready to serve or for an hour.
Indian food has continued to grow in popularity in the United States. Chicken Tikka Masala can be considered an Indian “comfort food,” but it contains plenty of healthful FoodTrients such as protein for building muscle, ginger and turmeric for reducing inflammation, plus cooked tomatoes, which are good for prostate health. You can substitute chicken breast, if you must, but try the thighs for amazing flavor!
Chicken Tikka Masala Flatbread
1 1/2 Tbs. canola oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
3 Tbs. tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 tsp. garam masala (available at ethnic and specialty markets)
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
6-8 pieces of naan bread (available at specialty supermarkets and Trader Joe’s)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup raita
½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
1. Heat canola oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken and onion to the stockpot and cook until golden, about 4-5 minutes.
2. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, ginger, garam masala, chili powder, and turmeric until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Stir in tomato sauce and chicken stock; season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
4. Stir in heavy cream until heated through, about 1 minute.
5. Serve on top of warm naan flatbread.
6. Garnish with a drizzle of raita, a few slices of red onion and plenty of cilantro.
Here’s a simple Mediterranean-inspired flatbread recipe that boasts an unusual combination of flavors—sweet honey and blue cheese. Imagine this one as part of a brunch.
Red Grape, Blue Cheese Flatbread
1½ Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. coarse salt
4 pieces of lavash or naan bread, cut into rectangles
1 Tbs., fresh (or 1 tsp., dried) rosemary, chopped
½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup red grapes, halved
¾ cup blue cheese (Maytag, Gorgonzola, etc.), crumbled
1½ Tbs. honey
¼ cup green onions, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
3. Using a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, dried oregano, and salt. Brush the tops of the naan or pizza crusts with the olive oil mixture.
4. Divide chopped rosemary, sliced red onion, halved grapes, and crumbled blue cheese evenly on top of the crusts.
5. Bake at 400 degrees F for 6-8 minutes, or until pizzas turn light golden brown on edges.
6. Remove flatbreads from oven; drizzle with honey and sprinkle with chopped green onions before serving.