Monday, July 2, 2012

Cooking With Kids: Flatbread and Tzatziki Sauce

My older daughter is 5 1/2 years old and has always been a pretty decent eater, but there are lots of ways I think she could broaden her horizons (kids can always eat more vegetables).  One of the methods I'm employing to help open her little mind is getting her into the kitchen with me.  Since I cook every day, teaching opportunities are plenty, but as every busy mother knows, it's often easier to send the kids out of the kitchen so you can just get shit done.  There are times that I question my sanity in having asked her to help me cook.  There's more mess, and I usually have to make up tasks to keep her occupied.

But it's definitely worth the effort in those few times when she gets to really help, and she shows pride in her work by gleefully consuming whatever we've made together.

In my endeavor to plan a fun summer before she starts kindergarten, I decided to have some cooking days together where we make things she'd like.  Yesterday was one of those days.  The girl can eat her weight in bread, and I think all kids like dipping stuff, so I settled on flatbread with hummus.  Sadly, I was out of chickpeas, so I had to modify my plans.  In comes easy peasy tzatziki sauce, that quintessential Greek/middle Eastern condiment made from cucumbers and yogurt. We have some lovely cucumbers going gangbusters in our garden right now, so this was a perfect substitute for hummus.

The flatbread recipe is one I've made before, and it was actually better this time around because the dough was gently hand-kneaded by a 5 year old instead of being over-kneaded in my KitchenAid.

My kiddo proclaimed the tzatziki good, but when she got her plate of bread and dip, she pretty much just ate the bread.  It's a start.

Adding flour and kneading the dough.  She did it all herself!

Risen dough ball.

Cooking the flatbreads on our griddle.  The lack of oven usage makes this recipe perfect for summer.

The four finished flatbreads.  These taste awesome as-is, but they're even more divine with a brushing of olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt.

Tzatziki Sauce
Makes about a cup and a half

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced small
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. minced onion
2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley or mint
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (you can use regular yogurt, but I like the thick consistency of Greek)
a squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl, season to taste, and chill before serving.  This makes a refreshing dip for pita wedges, carrot sticks, or other veggies.  It's also great on grilled chicken kebabs or gyros.

Pan-Grilled Flatbread
Makes eight 6-7" breads
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1 pkg. dry active yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 tsp. table salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 cup whole wheat flour, sieved before measuring to remove coarse flakes of bran  (NOTE: I omitted this step and just increased the amount of regular flour by 1/2 cup)
2 cups bread flour, plus additional as needed

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water.  Stir in olive oil, sugar, and yogurt until well combined.  Add salt and flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is incorporated, about 3 minutes.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 12 minutes.  (NOTE: This is a great task for kids!)

Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot until dough doubles in size, about 45 minutes.  Turn dough out onto floured work surface, divide in half with a knife, and cut each half into 4 pieces.  Using your fingers or a rolling pin, flatten each piece of dough into a circle about 6 to 7 inches across.

Heat an electric griddle over medium-high heat.  Mine has a temperature dial, so I use the 350 degree setting.  Gently place 2-3 dough circles in the griddle when hot.  Cook until small bubbles appear on the surface of the dough, about 30 seconds.  Flip with tongs and cook until the bottom is speckled brown, about 2 minutes.  Flip again and cook until the bottom is speckled as well, 1-2 minutes longer.

Transfer to a rack to cool.  These are tasty brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, and eaten hot.  If they last that long, you can wrap them tightly in foil and store them at room temperature for up to 2 days.  Reheat in a 300 degree oven until warm, about 15 minutes.