Yes! All of that!!
The culinary stylings of the Mediterranean have been enticing my palate of late. That braised chicken being the biggest culprit (https://addictinthekitchen.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/mediterranean-braised-chicken-with-tri-color-cous-cous-spiced-yogurt-and-tahini/) I haven’t been able to get those flavors out of my mind!
This time I decided I would attempt something new: making my own pita bread! And what goes better with pita than homemade baba ghanoush and perfect lamb burgers? Um, nothing!
Every recipe that I read for the preparation of the pita bread warned that, while this is a simple dough to prepare, getting the “full balloon” can be tricky if it’s your first time. The full balloon occurs when you put the bread in the oven and it totally puffs up creating that famous infinitely stuffable pocket. I didn’t get the full balloon effect though I did have some nice pocket formation so I’ll take that as a victory. I guess it just means I’ll have to keep making pita bread until it works! Practice makes perfect! And the bonus is, even if they don’t puff up they still make a great flatbread.
Homemade Pita Bread, Baba Ghanoush and Lamb Burgers
For the Pita Bread:
I used a recipe that I found on Food Network’s website: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/pita-bread-recipe0.html
- 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
- 2 1/2 cups warm water, around 105 degrees F
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- About 4 cups unbleached all purpose flour or bread flour, I ended up needing 3 cups total
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
The first step in making the dough is making what’s known as a sponge. To prepare this, pour the warm water into a large bowl and sprinkle over the yeast. Stir in the yeast to dissolve and then add in the whole wheat flour, one cup at a time. Add in one cup of the all purpose or bread flour and stir for one whole minute to develop the gluten. When combined allow the sponge to rest for as little as ten minutes or up to two hours. I let mine rest for about an hour and a half.
After the hour and half, add in the salt and olive oil and stir to combine. Add the all purpose or bread flour one cup at a time until the dough becomes too stiff to stir. Turn the dough out onto a board or countertop and knead for 8-10 minutes. The dough will be smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough ball into an oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise on the countertop for another one and a half hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (I think the next time I make pita I will heat to 500 and see if it helps). You want to cook the dough in a really hot oven on a really hot surface. I used my cast iron skillet, lightly oiled with olive oil, and placed it in the oven while it preheated.
The dough will have doubled in size after the hour and a half and at this point you’ll want to gently punch it down. I split the dough in half and refrigerated it so I could use it later in the week. I cut the other half of the dough into four equally sized chunks and rolled them out into large circles on a lightly floured countertop. When the cast iron skillet is screaming hot, retrieve it from the oven and place one dough circle inside. Place it back into the oven and let cook for four minutes. When baked, remove the pita to a wire cooling rack and then wrap with a kitchen towel to keep moist. Repeat this process with the other three dough circles until you have four beautiful pita breads!
The other half of the dough will keep up to a week and just keep getting better. Make sure you put it into a container where it will have room to continue expanding.
For the Baba Ghanoush:
- 1 large eggplant
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1/4 cup tahini
- juice of half of a lemon
- 5 stalks each fresh cilantro and fresh mint
- 1/2-3/4 cup good quality olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Split the eggplant down the middle and drizzle with oilve oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes until the eggplant flesh is nice and soft and the cut sides are nice and golden brown. After 20 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out all of the cooked flesh and transfer it to the food processor. Add the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, cumin and herbs and pulse to combine. Then, with the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until a smooth, thick paste has formed. And voila! Baba ghanoush!
For the Lamb Burgers:
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1/4 good red wine
- 2 stalks fresh mint, chopped
- olive oil, salt and pepper
Place the ground lamb into a large bowl and add the garlic, shallot, salt and pepper. Begin to mix the meat using your hands to incorporate the aromatics. Add the red wine and continue mixing until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
Form the meat into patties (I did 1/3 pound burgers so I got three out of this but you can go up to four, or make sliders even!) Sprinkle the outside of the patties with a little extra salt and pepper and sear them in a hot cast iron skillet in a little olive oil. 5 minutes on the first side and four on the other should get you a nice crust on the outside and a good medium-medium rare on the inside. You can always cook the meat more if you prefer it that way.
I stuffed my burger into the pita bread and dressed it up with crumbled feta cheese, sliced tomato, sliced cucumber, greens and shmeared some baba ghanoush all over the whole thing! So So SO good!