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Cooking with Myra: Celebrating Easter with family

April 26, 2011 at midnight
Updated April 25, 2011 at 11:26 p.m.

Naan Pizza

NAAN

4 cups all-purpose flour

11/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

21/2 tsp. active dry yeast or 1 packet yeast

1/2 cup warm water, plus a couple more Tbsp. if needed

5 Tbsp. oil or ghee

1/8 tsp. baking soda

1 cup plain yogurt

Ghee or melted butter to brush on the naan

Spices (like nigella, cumin, sesame) or herbs, dried or fresh, optional

Dissolve the sugar in warm water, about 105 degrees. Add the dry yeast to the warm water and stir till the yeast is dissolved. Set aside for 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to froth and rise. This indicates the yeast is active. Set aside.

Sift flour, salt and baking soda. Add yogurt, 5 tablespoons oil/ghee, and activated yeast to the flour.

Use your fingers, mix all ingredients together till you can pull them into a soft dough. You also can use a mixer. Add more water by the tablespoon if you need it but just enough to make a soft but not a sticky dough. Flour a flat surface like a large cutting board or kitchen counter and knead the dough till it is smooth and stretchy, for about 5 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, brush the surface of the dough with some oil, cover with a towel and set it aside in a warm place for it to rise for about 2-4 hours; it will double in volume.

Punch the dough down, knead again for about 4 minutes, divide the dough into 8 parts. Place these on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and allow to rise for 30-45 minutes. Prepare a floured work surface.

Take one divided portion, dust it with flour and roll it out to a tear drop shape, (about 6-8 inches long ) in a floured surface. Do not roll back and forth. Stretch the dough outward as you roll from the center. Do not reroll. Sprinkle the surface roll out into elongated shape, like a football.

Sprinkle the top of the Naan with spices or herbs or both, if you wish. Gently press down with the rolling pin to make them stick to the dough.

Brush the other side of the Naan with water. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place as many Naan as the stone/tray can hold with the wet side down. Cook the Naan for about 2 minutes; the top will be light golden and the Naan might start to puff. Flip the Naans over, cook for 2 minutes. If you want it lightly charred, set the oven to broil and cook till the top starts getting charred spots, for about 30 seconds to a minute. Watch this step very closely.

Remove Naan from the oven and brush generously with ghee or melted butter.

Stack them, and keep them covered in aluminum foil, and wrap the package with a kitchen towel to keep them warm. These can be kept refrigerated for use later for pizza.

NAAN PIZZA

Naan

Basil pesto

Fresh spinach leaves

Prosciutto or Italian salami

Sliced fresh mozzarella

Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place naan on a cookie sheet. Spread pre-baked naan with about a tablespoon of basil pesto. Cover surface with spinach leaves. Place about 2 strips of torn prosciutto over the leaves of spinach. Top with slices of fresh mozzarella and reheat in oven for about 7-10 minutes. Serve immediately. You can use other toppings for the naan. Olives, peppers, figs, bacon. Let your imagination be your guide.

By Myra Starkey

Most holidays commemorate a specific event or are observed for a special purpose. Easter is no different. It celebrates the Resurrection. Or for those not so religiously inclined, it celebrates chocolate bunnies, hunting Easter eggs, or a recognition that winter is over and whites and pastels colors are OK to add to ones wardrobe.

Easter is one of those major holidays when it seems like the family should all get together to eat excessively and visit unhurriedly. To me, it seems like there are holidays that are for gathering of friends, those being New Year's, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, but there are other holidays that are meant for family, which include Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

For family holidays, it isn't a question of who we will be with, only whether we will be in Victoria with the Starkey clan or in Lake Charles with my people, the Mitchems. One of the compromises of marriage is that we trade off or alternate. It's been that way for about the last 30 years.

What I really like best is when I can talk my family into all gathering here for a holiday that is really a "Starkey holiday," so that I can be with both families at the same time. We all associate well because we all love to visit and eat.

This Easter was just such a mixed holiday. Between the Starkey and Mitchem extended families there was a total of 33 people. As you can imagine, that involved lots of cooking.

On Thursday night, we kicked off the festivities at our house with baked spicy garlic shrimp and coriander rice. Then, Good Friday night brought a bounty of fried shrimp and zucchini mint salad.

We all went out to the Starkey ranch on the Guadalupe River on Saturday for an early afternoon feast that included ham, smoked pork tenderloin and smoked honey ribs, roasted Brussels sprouts, baked pasta and spinach, wild rice and cranberry salad and at least six kinds of pie, including my mother-in-law's famous pecan pie.

We gathered on porches, under trees and sat in every available chair. The young kids raced around the house, hiding from one another.

The high school girls felt they were too old to run and so rocked to and fro in the hammock discussing things that high school girls discuss. The college contingency talked about parties but stopped immediately as the adults approached.

After giving our food awhile to digest, we floated down the river in inner tubes, and then congregated on the deck on the riverbank. The younger and more adventurous swung repeatedly off the rope swing and into the green water below.

A warm breeze rustled the leaves in the tall pecan trees above that shaded us. It was delightful to sit and visit in such a beautiful setting.

On Sunday after church, we had a lighter meal of fish tacos with mango salsa, before the various relatives began to depart for home and a week of renewed efforts to diet.

I suppose that perhaps the only bad thing about all this eating and socializing is that I do tend to forget about the meaning of the holiday that brings us together as a family. I try to think of it, but then find my thoughts progressing to the next meal or activity. Maybe God looks down on us in these times of family celebration and smiles, knowing we are enjoying one of the greatest blessings He gives, and that is family.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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