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Make lentil dip, naan as alternatives to hummus, chips

Likening naan bread to pizza dough, this blog’s previous post offered Indian-Italian fusion fare.

Given that my most recent food section column provided a recipe for pizza dough — with the acknowledgement that more Americans than ever before made their own this past spring — why not make naan bread from scratch? The process is very similar, particularly for people who prefer to use pizza stones for baking their pies.

A key differentiator is adding yogurt to naan’s yeasted dough. I always have yogurt on hand, so that’s not a tall order. Likely to trip me up more is gauging the perfect water temperature to bloom the yeast. An instant-read thermometer comes in handy for that part, recommend recipe testers for the Chicago Tribune.

Once you have your naan, consider serving it with this red lentil dip, similar to hummus but a welcome change of pace. The garnish of chiles and peanuts makes a nice contrast to the smooth lentils and pillowy bread. If you want to mix up the dip from quick-cooking, inexpensive lentils but don’t want to bake the naan, feel free to serve this with packaged flatbread or even pita chips.

Basic Naan

3 cups flour, plus more for work surface

1 packet (1/4-ounce) or 2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup warm water (110 to 115 F)

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 tablespoon expeller pressed canola oil

In a large bowl, mix the flour, yeast and salt. Stir in the warm water, yogurt and oil. Work with floured hands to make a dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, for 5 to 6 minutes. Put dough ball into a floured bowl and cover with a cloth. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, for usually about 1 hour.

Line your oven with a pizza stone or clay baking tiles. Heat oven and tiles to 500 F.

Punch down dough and divide into 6 even pieces. Roll 1 piece into a ball then stretch into a thin elongated oval.

Place oval in preheated oven on preheated stone. (You can bake 2 breads at a time if your stone is large enough to allow space between breads.) Bake until bread puffs up and turns golden, for about 5 minutes. Remove and wrap in a towel. Repeat to bake other breads. Serve warm.

Makes 6 flatbreads.

Recipe adapted by the Chicago Tribune from Christine Manfield’s “Tasting India” (Conran Octopus, 2011).

Red Lentil and Peanut Dip

1 cup (6 ounces) split red lentils, well rinsed, drained

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 teaspoons grated fresh peeled ginger or store-bought ginger puree

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garam masala or curry powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil

3 dried New Mexico or guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded, cut with scissors into 1/8-inch strips

1/2 cup shelled, dry-roasted peanuts, finely chopped

Chopped fresh cilantro

Freshly baked naan, Crispy Naan Wedges (recipe follows) or pita chips

Heat a medium saucepan filled halfway with water to a boil. Add the lentils. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain lentils and place in a large bowl. Stir in the garlic, ginger, cumin, curry powder and salt until well mixed. Keep warm.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Reduce heat to low. Add the chile strips and peanuts. Cook and stir until golden, for 1 or 2 minutes.

Spoon lentil dip into a serving dish. Spoon peanuts and chile with oil over top. Garnish with the cilantro. Serve warm with freshly baked naan or pass the Crispy Naan Wedges or pita chips for dunking.

Makes 2 cups.

CRISPY NAAN WEDGES: Heat oven to 400 F convection or 425 F. Cut 2 naan from 1 package (8.8 ounces) into small wedges. Place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon expeller-pressed canola oil. Toss to coat everything with oil. Bake in preheated oven, for 5 minutes. Turn wedges over. Bake until golden and crisp, for about 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Tribune News Service photo