“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”
Robert Browning (1812-1889) English poet
Grilled Bread with Mediterranean Chopped Salad
This is my entry in the Click photography contest whose theme for September is "Crusts". If you haven't heard of "Click", visit Bee and Jai's blog, Jugalbandi. A great read and a great theme based photography contest.
Flatbreads were probably one of the first breads to be cooked on earth and had no leavening agents such as yeast or other ingredients that would encourage the bread dough to expand. Wild yeast spores were probably a happy surprise later on in the evolution of flatbreads from flat, nearly tasteless to enriched, flavorful bread beautifully puffed from the wild yeast. Thousands of years ago, grains were the predominate crop and ancient man learned to harvest these grains, grind them into flour and mix with water to make a dough. The dough was then spread out and cooked on a flat hot rock. The flatbread we are most familiar with is the pizza, but every culture has it's own unique version of a flatbread. In Mexico, there's the tortilla, Navajo fry bread in the American Southwest, and pita or pocket bread in the countries of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. These are just a few, there are many more variations. In other words, flatbreads are worldwide, leavened or unleavened, baked, stuffed, fried or grilled.
Inspiration for the Grilled Bread with Mediterranean Chopped Salad came from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's recipe for Silk Road Non featured in their book "Home Baking, The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World" and a recipe for Chopped Mediterranean Salad on Grill Bread from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's new book, "Barbecue".
Not being able to resist playing around with the Silk Road Non recipe, I substituted some semolina for part of the flour, baked half according to directions, but saved the remaining dough to cook on the Weber gas grill. I added some oregano and a small diced hot pepper to the Chopped Mediterranean Salad,
Below is a photo of the baked Silk Road Non served with a vibrant Tomato Chutney.
Baked Silk Road Non with Tomato Chutney
Grilled Bread with Mediterranean Chopped Salad
Silk Road Non
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups warm water
7-9 cups all-purpose flour, or 2 cups whole wheat flour, plus 4-6 cups all-purpose. (I used 1 cup semolina and the rest all-purpose, but next time will use more semolina)
1 tablespoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the 3 cups water. Add 2 cups flour and 1 cup semolina or the whole wheat flour, if using. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer and on low speed, combine ingredients until a smooth batter is formed. Cover bowl and let sit 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.
Stir in the 1 tablespoon salt. Add 3 tablespoons of the melted butter and fold in. Continue to add remaining flour, one cup at a time until dough is too stiff to mix.
Switch to kneading paddle and knead for 8-10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. You may need to add some additional flour if dough is sticky, but just a little at a time.
Place dough in a large clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume, at least 2 hours, or in cool place for 8 hours, or overnight.
Arrange rack in upper third of the oven and place a large baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles. If you don't have the stone or tiles, use a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 500° F.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Cut in half and set one half aside, covered with a cloth or plastic wrap. Cut remaining dough into 6 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball, then flatten with palm. With a rolling pin, roll each piece into 8 inch diameter rounds. It helps to quarter turn each piece to assure roundness. You can roll two pieces at a time, giving one time to relax while you roll the other. After rolling each piece, set aside on a floured surface and cover with a towel. Continue with second piece of dough if you don't plan to grill the remaining half. Let rest 15 minutes before baking.
To prepare the breads for baking, warm remaining tablespoon of butter until liquid. Lightly dust a peel with flour or semolina. Place a dough round on the peel, prick the centers with a fork leaving about 1 inch around the rim of the dough. Brush with small amount of butter.Sprinkle with a small amount of kosher salt and or a small amount of crushed red pepper. Don't overdo either.
Open oven door and slide the first bread onto the stone. Bake 5 1/2-7 minutes until "well-flecked with gold". Using a long-handled spatula, lift bread off of stone and place on rack to cool for 5 minutes or so. Place in a cloth until ready to serve. If you have a large stone, you can cook two at a time. Continue baking remaining breads in the same manner.
To grill the bread rounds
Prepare dough in the same manner as above. Omit butter for brushing, but have nearby 3 tablespoons olive oil. Preheat a gas grill on medium or light briquets for a charcoal grill. You can also use a heavy ridged pan and grill these on the stove top. If you are using the stove top, preheat pan for 5 minutes. Make sure your grill racks are perfectly clean before grilling breads.
When ready to grill, brush each round on both sides with a small amount of olive oil and place on grill rack. Watch carefully, you may need to adjust the heat. Place rounds on grill rack and cook until nice and toasted on one side, about 4 minutes. Flip and grill on the other side until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes more. Repeat with each round.
Mediterranean Chopped Salad
2 medium large tomatoes, cored, seeds removed and diced small
1 large cucumber, halved, seeds removed and diced small
6 ounces kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and coarsely diced
1/2 small hot green or red pepper, seeded, ribs removed and diced small
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber, olives, hot pepper, parsley, and oregano. In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil and red wine vinegar. Add just enough of the dressing to the chopped salad, tossing lightly until evenly mixed.. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve. Fold the crumbled feta cheese into the chopped salad. Place a grilled bread round on each plate and top with a portion of the salad. Serve immediately. Serves 4-8.