OK, I normally don’t highlight a specific grocery product, and while I don’t have any investment or vested interest in this product, I really like these Flatout flatbread products. Why? These thin flatbreads — sold in most supermarkets — can be used in multiple applications, and depending on the product you select, most are high in dietary fiber and low in calories. Additionally, they provide ample protein and only have one or two servings of dietary carbohydrates, which is important for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes who need to portion control their carb intake.
Sure, you can go to Costco and purchase a container of Hye Roller sandwiches or those Armenian cracker-bread based rolls filled with lettuce, cold cuts and cheese. Or you can simply create your own with Flatout flatbread. Flatout is just as pliable as moistened cracker bread, but you can control what you fill with your self-made rolls, which means substituting healthier options for your fillings.
Since the Costco version usually has a flavored cream cheese spread, I create my own using fat free cream cheese. I’m pretty sure Costco uses regular cream cheese, which contains 10 grams of fat along with five grams of saturated fat per ounce. I “spike” my cream cheese with additional flavor, depending on my selected protein, which I slather over the surface of the Flatout as the first “filling.” When using either turkey or chicken, I mix the softened cream cheese with cranberry sauce. I have even used chunky canned cranberry sauce when we don’t have a batch of freshly made sauce in the refrigerator. If my selected protein is roasted pork, I mix a chunky jam such as peach or mango into the softened cream cheese, as hearty stone fruits are perfect partners with Mr. Porky. If the selected protein is beef, I’ll reach for something a little more savory to add to the cream cheese, like chopped sun dried tomatoes, minced Kalamata olives or even freshly minced chives. But why cream cheese? Because of its slightly tacky quality, I find that cream cheese also functions like a “glue” that holds the rest of your roll-up fillings in your sandwich instead of having them squirt out the back end with your first bite.
And like the Costco variety, you can also slice your rolled sandwich into individual servings that look like … sushi! Like a Flatout Sushi!
Roll cold smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber and avocado slices for the perfect smoked salmon rolled sushi. Want other options? Pair shredded roasted duck with hoisin used in place of the cream cheese and sliced green onions for a Peking duck rolled sushi, or shredded roasted pork, pâté — also used in place of the cream cheese — along with pickled julienne of carrots and daikon and lettuce and mint for a rolled banh mi! All you really need is a sauce or “glue,” protein and accompaniments to tie the flavors together.
Unlike the usual toasted cubed bread that gives salads a nice contrasting crunch, Middle Eastern cuisine uses toasted or fried pita bread as their “croutons,” even giving their salad a name; fattoush. And since Flatout resembles pita bread without a pocket, I simply tear pieces of Flatout flatbread and then toss them in a zip-top bag with olive oil and various spices depending on the salad’s “theme.” For my Middle Eastern salads, I tossed the shredded Flatout with olive oil and Ras el Hanout or a 12 dried spice blend from North Africa, then bake them for 15 to 20 minutes until the pieces are nice and crisp. It’s great when tossed with salad greens in a pomegranate molasses-based vinaigrette.
Another option is to toss the torn pieces with canola oil, then sprinkle it with either furikake or Chinese five spice and bake. Then toss them with won bok-based greens and shredded carrots with a sesame oil-based vinaigrette for an Asian-inspired fattoush. Or for an American twist, toss those torn Flatout pieces with vegetable oil and either a Tony Chachere seasoning, an Old Bay seasoning or any good barbecue dry rub, then bake and toss with salad greens, smoked proteins and a tomato-based vinaigrette. It would do any summertime picnic proud.
Another benefit of these flavored Flatout “croutons” is that once they bake crisp and toasty, you can even consume them as is without a salad. They are great in a salad but just as good on their own. A healthy toasted snack in itself! How many of you can say you simply nosh on boxed croutons while watching TV?
This is kinda a no-brainer as Flatout also makes a product called Artisan Thin Pizza Crust, which basically is just a slightly larger traditional Flatout. I still prefer the traditional Flatout as their smaller size allows them to be baked in most toaster ovens. And when it comes to pizza toppings, your imagination is your only limit, whether you desire traditional red sauce, white sauce, BBQ sauce or any varieties of pesto to cover the bottom of your pizza then whether you want a protein or simply go with veggies then finally your choice of cheese. The only difference with Flatout pizzas (other than a complete lack of guilt after consuming the whole pizza) is their thinner crust doesn’t allow hordes of toppings … unless you don’t mind sharing those toppings with your lap. And to crisp the bottom of the crust requires placement directly on a hot surface like a pizza tile or cast iron surface.
My absolute favorite pizza application is to slather the Flatout with a mushroom and truffle cream made by an Italian firm named Menu and sold by the Website igourmet.com. I top the mushroom cream with thinly sliced fresh mushrooms, a little cracked black pepper and both grated Parmigiano Reggiano and mozzarella (the mozzarella mainly functions as “glue” to hold the fresh mushrooms in place). I can simply have one or two of these baked beauties with a glass or three of Pinot Noir for breakfast, lunch, dinner or all three …
If you simply fold a Flatout in half, you have the perfect vehicle to hold cheese, shredded proteins and even beans and rice that toasts nicely in a frying pan that also can be topped with the salsa of your choice. And because it’s folded, it leaves one less seam where your fillings can escape during their flat top or pan toasting. And if you notice, most of the quesadillas made in restaurants use flour tortillas, so Flatouts don’t deviate that much from the authentic one. They just have a little more dietary fiber and protein. But why stop with just the traditional Mexican fillings? Shredded chicken, fresh chopped rosemary, thinly sliced potato rounds and Monterey Jack gives you a Cali quesadilla or crumbled meatballs, marinara, sliced fresh basil and mozzarella for an Italian quesadilla? All you basically need is your filling and some type of cheese to hold the Flatout sides together.
When Bread Gets Old
So the next time plain sliced bread just doesn’t excite your palate anymore, reach for these fiber and protein fortified starches. Along with toasting up nicely, they are also very versatile food “carriers” that can span many different ethnic cuisines and they probably are as healthy for you as any commercial carbohydrate. At the very least, your palate and waist may thank you …
The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.