Today was all about bread. Nicole and I spent the afternoon at my sister Anna's house where a yardful of guests enjoyed the new tandoor oven her family built. My brother-in-law Mazin sawed the bottom off a terra cotta pot and built a brick structure to surround the pot so he could bake a traditional Iraqi bread. You make a fire in the bottom of the oven and the terra cot part of the oven gets extremely hot.
Here the impressive part. You prepare thin pieces of dough in more or less round shapes and spread them on special pillows, moistened to avoid combustion. Then you slap the dough against the side of the oven. When the dough bubbles and starts to brown, you peel it off with tongs. The end product looks and tastes a lot like the naan that Indian restaurants serve. Today, Anna and company made a whole wheat version (next time we're adding some honey to the dough)--my favorite--as well as a white, and one that mixed in ground lamb and onion.
I'm not a big fan of grilling, so often the experience of cooking outside is lost on me. Today, though, the brisk air felt great, and I didn't even mind the accidental eyebrow thinning I got at the hands of the oven (the thing gets damn hot). And the bread is yummy, especially with the lamb biryani and the yogurt Anna makes from their goats. A great cooking day. More accurately: a great eating day, since all I did was contribute dessert.