Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Thinking Outside the Bread Box - The Pita

If I’ve learned anything from the times I've traveled in France, it's that bread is an amazing thing.

Baguettes, croissants, pains aux chocolat, artisan loaves, crusty rolls, focaccia, multi-grain...they're all divine and they will all get their moment in the spotlight here eventually.  But it’s important to remember that when it comes to sandwiches, bread is not the be-all, end-all.  In this ‘Thinking Outside the Bread Box’ mini-series of posts, I’ll be exploring sandwiches that go beyond the traditional two-slices-of-bread realm.  Part One’s show pays homage to the Pita.

Al Salam Pitas: so fresh and perfect!
The pita is a brilliant piece of food architecture.  My favorite pitas come from Al Salam Pita Bakery and Restaurant at 101 Street and 34 Ave.  They are huge, so soft and baked fresh every day.  Another good choice is Byblo’s Bakery Pitas, from Sobey’s or Save-On.  Both kinds will dry out quickly if not eaten within the first two days of their purchase, so plan accordingly.  

These fresh pitas are delightfully soft and their pockets are perfect for stuffing with tasty sandwich innards.  Anything goes!  I’ve stuffed pitas with turkey, roast beef, plain cheese or all veggies.  For this particular pita experience, created in Two Acts, I packed mine with homemade hummus, grilled Masala chicken strips and fresh vegetables for a delectable Indian/Mediterranean-theme.

Hummus is surprisingly easy to make and there are tons of recipes online, a few of which I pulled from to make my own.  But if making your own hummus is not in the cards, I recommend Sensations’ Roasted Garlic Hummus at Sobey’s.  It is smooth and thick and its chunky garlic topping sold me instantly.  When paired with the Al Salam Pitas, it doesn’t last long in my house!   Hence, I made my own this time.

Hummus Cast Photo: Just toss these together and puree!
Act I - To take the Homemade Hummus plunge, you will need:

4 tbsp Tahini
2 tbsp Lemon Juice
2 tsp Garlic, minced
2 tbsp Olive Oil, plus more for topping
1 19 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Seasalt, to taste
Paprika, sprinkled for topping
A sturdy Food Processor

  1. Mix the tahini and lemon in the food processor for 1 minute.
  2. Add the garlic, olive oil and salt. Mix for another minute.
  3. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, add to the mixture and puree.
  4. If too thick, add 1 tbsp of water and keep mixing.
  5. Add more garlic and seasalt to taste. And you can bet I did!  (For safety-sake, make sure to unplug the food processor when you sample!)
  6. Sprinkle some paprika and drizzle olive oil on top.

A loud but very simple process.
 For Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, add some chopped roasted red peppers (from Scarpone’s, found in the mustard/condiments section) to the puree and keep tasting for desired flavour. It's also fun to watch it turn that beautiful rusty colour!

Intermission: Clean-up

Clean up for either kind of hummus is super easy – just grab some pita and scoop from the remnants in the food processor!  Delicious and done!

You could conceivably stop right here, but then this wouldn’t be a sandwich post, would it? Onward!

Act II – The Creation of the Grilled Masala Chicken Pita requires:
Grilled Masala Chicken Pita Cast Photo

2-3 Chicken Breasts, boneless, skinless
2-3 tbsp Indian Masala spice
1 Red Pepper, sliced
2 Carrots, shredded
Handfuls of spinach
Homemade Hummus

  1. Preheat the grill or use a non-stick skillet on med-high heat.
  2. Grill the chicken for a minute (on each side if you’re using a skillet) and add the Masala spice (generously, if you like, on each side).
  3. Cook through until no longer pink inside.
  4. Remove from heat and cut into strips.
  5. Tear off a thin strip around half a pita and open it up.
  6. Spread a thick layer of hummus on one side of the pocket.
  7. Stuff the pocket with chicken strips, red pepper, tomatoes, carrot and spinach.
  8. Tuck the hummus side of the pita around the stuffing and fold the other side on top to create a bulging, half-moon type shape.
  9. Enjoy!
I couldn't resist taking a bite first but it still makes for a good photo! 
The Review:

Eating this pita(wich) warm off the grill is such a treat.  It’s full of different, yet complimentary flavors: the garlicky hummus, warmed by the spicy chicken and the cool, sweet crunchy vegetables.  The great thing about using both kinds of pitas is the sizing options: Al Salam pitas are extra-large, while Byblo’s are small to medium-sized.  

Let your appetite dictate your size but either way, make sure to tear some up for the Encore:

Roasted Red Pepper and Plain Hummus and Pita!
Hummus for dessert!  

1 comment:

  1. Yum...for a great hummus recipe try the blog "smitten kitchen"