I like to pair dishes, like a Margherita pizza, with bold, unconventional flavors, like coriander and nigella seeds. Using cracked coriander seeds, rather than ground, enhances the flavor of the chili flakes. Nigella seeds pair well with tomatoes. A little sprinkle over this fresh tomato-topped pizza gives the tomatoes a fragrant, nutty flavor. You can also use olive oil instead of ghee if you prefer.
Margherita Naan Pizza
Dough from 1 recipe Naan (recipe below)
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the pizza
2 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoon nigella seeds
2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
2 teaspoon cornmeal or semolina
¼ cup [50 g] Ghee (recipe below), melted (or olive oil)
1 cup [185 g] multi-colored cherry tomatoes, halved crosswise
1 cup [160 g] grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 cup [80 g] shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
(Makes 4 flatbreads)
½ cup [120 ml] whole milk, heated to 105 to 115°F [41 to 46°C]
1 large egg
2 tablespoon plain full-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 cups [280 g] all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour, plus more for rolling out the naans
(Makes approximately 1¼ cups [250 g] of ghee)
1 pound [455 g] unsalted butter, cubed
To make the Margherita Naan Pizza
Place a baking steel or pizza stone on a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 500°F [260°C] for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into two equal parts and shape it into balls. Cover one ball with a kitchen towel. On a clean, lightly floured work surface, roll the remaining ball into a circle ¹/8 in [4 mm] thick and 12 in [30 cm] in diameter. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel. Repeat with the second ball of dough.
Crack the coriander lightly with a mortar and pestle, add the nigella seeds and chili flakes, and set aside.
Prepare one pizza at a time: Flip over a baking sheet, wrong-side up, and place a sheet of parchment paper on the baking sheet. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of the flour and 1 tsp of the cornmeal on the parchment to coat evenly. Place a rolled-out circle of dough on top of the paper and drizzle with a little melted ghee. Spread out half of the tomatoes over the dough. Sprinkle with half the mozzarella and 1 Tbsp of the spices in the mortar.
Slide the circle of dough onto the preheated baking steel, discard the parchment paper, and shut the oven door. Lower the heat to 425°F [220°C] and bake until the edges of the crust start to turn golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Garnish with half the chopped chives and flaky salt, and drizzle with a little extra ghee. Repeat with the remaining circle of dough and serve the pizzas hot.
To make the Naan dough:
I prefer homemade naan to dense and doughy store-bought ones. It’s so easy to whip up; you just need to plan ahead so the dough has time to rise. I use whole-wheat pastry flour to make naan because it contains more fiber than all-purpose flour but less gluten, which helps produce a softer bread. The naan dough is actually a twofer because you can use it as a base for flatbread pizza. While the choice of toppings is endless, Margherita pizza sprinkled with nigella seeds is my favorite way to eat up all those colorful little tomatoes we grow in our backyard.
Using a fork, whisk the milk, egg, yogurt, butter, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle with the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. The mixture should be bubbly on the surface.
Put the flour in a large bowl or mound on a clean work surface and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture into the middle of the well. Using clean hands or a large wooden spoon, gradually mix the flour from the inside wall of the well into the liquid to form a sticky dough. Knead well for 4 to 5 minutes.
Fold the dough by grabbing it from the underside and stretching it and folding it back over itself. Rotate a quarter of a turn and repeat three or four times. Brush a large bowl with a little oil and put the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a dark, warm place until doubled in size, about 4 hours.
Divide the dough into four equal parts and shape it into balls. On a clean, lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the balls of dough, one at a time, into circles about 1/8 inch [4 mm] thick and about 6 inches [15 cm] in diameter.
To make the ghee
Ghee is one of the most popular fats used in Indian cooking. It is a form of clarified butter, from which the milk solids and water are removed. Because the milk solids and sugars are caramelized in the fat before their removal, they give the ghee a nutty fragrance. Ghee can last for months if stored correctly because the water, sugar, and proteins are all removed.
Line a strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and place over a clean, dry 1 pint [480 ml] jar with a tight-fitting lid to hold the finished ghee. Set aside.
In a heavy, medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter, stirring occasionally with a large metal spoon. As the butter starts to melt, skim off and discard any foam that rises to the surface. Cook until all the water in the butter boils off, and the fat stops sizzling and turn a deep golden yellow. The milk solids at the bottom of the saucepan will be reddish-brown. The entire process should take 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully pour the liquid through the cheesecloth-lined strainer into the jar. Seal the jar and store the ghee in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months, or indefinitely in the refrigerator.