I have a great sandwich in mind, but first we need to make some Pita
Breads into which to stuff the filling. You know how the best pitas are that perfect combination of tender, chewy, pliable, resilient? That’s exactly how Linda’s turn out. Every single time.
My friend, Linda, in the PNW has a recipe for Pitas unlike any other I’ve ever tried. It works, my friends. The breads are tender, yet still puff up and form perfect pockets that hold whatever you can dream up to stuff into them. They contain no added fat, so their tenderness derives from a high percentage of lower-protein all-purpose flour. Here is the link http://www.food52.com/recipes/5053_pita_bread, though I’ll repeat the recipe below. Please visit her food52 page and take a look at some of her other gorgeous creations. Hint: she is a great fan of pizza in particular. It is entirely possible to have fresh bread and eat it too, all on the same day, even if your day is spent at work. See Step 3 for advice that works like a charm.
LINDA’S PITA BREAD: Makes 6 large or 8 average size pitas
- 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, or 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- A pinch of sugar
- 2 1/2 Tsp salt
- 1 cup bread flour
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- Add the water to a large bowl, stir in the active dry yeast and sugar – proof it = let it sit until foamy 2-5 minutes. Stir in the flour and salt. Mix until uniformly moist. If using instant yeast, measure the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt into a bowl, then add the water and mix until uniformly moist.
- There’s no need to knead for a long time. You basically want to develop enough of the gluten so that the pitas puff up and and hold your filling when baked, but not so much that they’re tough and don’t puff well. Knead by hand or with a mixer until dough no longer feels sticky. I kneaded mine using a mixer and dough hook. Within 4-5 minutes, the dough had come together with a uniform appearance, and it had a small “foot” at the bottom of the bowl where a bit of it stuck. That was fine with me. It told me that there was still an acceptable amount of moisture in the dough that would turn to steam in the oven, enhancing the puff of the pita. Linda makes the point later on that you need not fear using enough flour while shaping to keep the pitas from sticking to the board. At that point, you’re not going to be working any more flour into them, and it is important that they not stick to your work surface.
- Cover with a piece of plastic, and let rise for about 2 hours. You can let it rise, covered, in the refrigerator overnight OR during the day while you are at work. Be sure to let the dough sit out about an hour before forming pitas and baking.
- An hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500F, with or without a baking stone. Pita dough likes a very hot oven. Think of that water that needs to turn to steam.
- Before forming a round, dust the surface of the dough with flour and pull off a piece – size is up to you. I used a bench scraper to divide my dough into 6 relatively equal pieces. Dust the piece with more flour and shape it into a ball, at this stage, this dough is sticky but easy to handle, it’s ok to use the amount of flour it takes to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the rolling pin.
- So, using your hands, a little flour and a rolling pin, roll the dough into a thin but kind of puffy round…see special note below. I like to pat them out gently partway first, then finish off with a few quick passes of the rolling pin. It takes no more than a minute to roll out 3 and transfer them to the oven.
- SPECIAL NOTE: In the past I rolled the dough so flat that it didn’t puff, however, others say the flatter you roll the puffier…I have since found that what worked for me is not to go so flat. For a good-sized sandwich, aim for 6″ diameter rounds, not more than 1/4″ thick.
- If using a baking stone, I open the oven and just use my hands to toss 3 pitas onto the stone. I bake them for 5-6 minutes, until well puffed, then use tongs to to lift them out. If using a baking sheet, line it with parchment and dust it with a bit of cornmeal or semolina. Arrange 3-4 pitas on it, and follow the same baking times. It may take 1 or 2 minutes longer to achieve a good puff. Turn over with tongs, and bake for a couple of minutes more.
- When you pull them out of the oven, wrap the pitas in a clean dish towel and set on a rack to keep them soft.
MEDITERRANEAN PITA FILLING
As perfect as the pitas are, this is the perfect filling for them. It owed its debt of silkiness to the roasted eggplant and a generous hand with the olive oil. It is bright and sweet with Meyer lemon and grape tomatoes, tart and naturally salty from Kalamata olives and Feta cheese.
1 small eggplant
Sea or kosher salt and pepper
1 yellow onion, peeled & 1/4″ dice
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 cloves garlic, smashed & minced
2 handfuls grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup pine nuts
Roasted eggplants, pulp scooped out
Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon*
1/4 cup kalamata olives, lightly chopped
1/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
* Meyer lemons are smaller and significantly sweeter than conventional lemons. If the latter are what you have, use zest & juice of 1/2 lemon, plus zest & juice of 1/4 orange.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Brush cut sides with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Lay eggplant cut side down on parchment. Bake until the flesh is very tender when you pierce it with a paring knife, about 20-30 minutes, depending upon size, especially of the bulb portion.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet or shallow stove-top braising pan, film the bottom with olive oil and place over medium-high heat. Don’t stint on it; it’s going to be part of the total flavor profile. When hot, the oil will “shimmer” or “ribbon”. At that point, add the onion, red pepper flakes, fresh thyme leaves, and grape tomatoes, along with a pinch of salt. Sauté until onion and tomatoes have softened. Add garlic and continue to sauté until very fragrant. Add pine nuts and continue to cook until they take on a toasted color and aroma. If eggplant is not yet done, remove pan from heat until it is.
- When eggplant is done, remove from oven. Hold each half using a kitchen towel or pot holder. Use a large metal spoon to carefully scoop the tender pulp out of each one. It should have a beautifully silken consistency. Drop into skillet with onions and garlic. Use your spoon to break up the pulp and incorporate the onions, garlic and seasonings. Continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add lemon zest and juice, and Kalamatas. Sauté until olives are warmed through. Add Feta cheese, and continue cooking until slightly, but not completely, melted. Remember, the olives and the Feta are going to be salty, to do the final taste for seasoning only after they’re in and warmed through.
- Remove from heat. Let sit for a few minutes while you prepare the pita breads. Cut each one in half across the diameter. Use your fingers to gently open the pocket in each side. Spoon some of the filling into each one. Serve immediately!
Well, do I feel fortunate. Susan, of The Wimpy Vegetarian (thewimpyvegetarian.com) this afternoon gifted me with a Liebster Blog Award. Liebster is German for “dear” or “darling,” and nothing could touch me more. It is designated for blogs with 200 followers or fewer. Out of gratitude to Susan, I have some darlings of my own to whom I would love to pass along the esteem. Along with Susan’s, each has become extremely dear to me for reasons of wisdom, kindness, generosity, and sheer love of sharing love via food:
In order to accept the award, please look over the following gentle “rules,” and decide how you would like to spread the love.
There are a few rules around this award:
- Copy and paste the award on your blog. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award in a post where you award the leibster to your favorites.
- Pick your five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers who deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.
- Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs.