Greek Pita Bread…the Staff of Life

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I understand people going gluten-free but I’m a serious carb girl and that diet just is NOT going to enter my realm!  Both my mother’s and father’s families were bread people and growing up so was my family.  Dad, being almost vegetarian, forbade white bread in our household.  “No, no, a thousand times NO!”, as he would say, to any refined, fluffy bread.  We grew up on what was known at the time as “brown bread’.  No one ate it.  Just us.  And the Pangratz’ who lived one island over.  They were Catholic, too.  We all laugh now at the thought of being the “only” Catholics or the “only” kids who didn’t have white bread.  Both sets of parents were really strict.  Jane is the Pangratz’ daughter, our good, good friend, and agrees how it gave us all quiet comfort knowing we had a little company when it came to the following:

  1. Friends.  If our parents didn’t know your parents you weren’t part of our lives.
  2. Money?  You don’t need any money.  Money’ll just get you in trouble.  If you want candy you can go charge a bit at the “little store”.
  3. If everyone else got to be out until midnight we had to be home by 10:00.  Period.  (We still sneaked out.)
  4. We could not double date until we were 15 and single date until we were 16.
  5. If we stepped out of line we were grounded.  Unless we came home from school drunk and then we had to stand in the corner.  I shit you not.
  6. If you are a boy (i.e. Tommy) you can have all the fast boats you want.  If you are a girl “You can look cute in your bikini and sunnies on somebody else’ boat” and “I don’t want to have to tell you again but YOU ARE NOT GETTING A BOAT!”  Sigh.
  7. You will go to confession every Friday evening and Mass every Sunday.
  8. To keep you out of trouble, (it didn’t work), you will have tennis lessons, ballet lessons, sailing lessons, swimming lessons, music lessons, painting lessons and drama lessons.
  9. You WILL write thank you notes for anything and everything you receive in life.  And they won’t be mailed until Mama approves of what’s written.
  10. You will never have a pretty, pink petticoat.  Petticoats are for trashy little girls.  Nor will you EVER have a ruffle on your plain, white sock.
  11. Your forearms will never touch the table while dining AND you will put your fork down quietly on your plate after every single bite.
  12. Your date will never pull into the driveway and honk for you to come out.  He will ring the doorbell, come in and chat for a bit with Mom and Dad.
  13. When you’re outside playing and Mama calls you into the house you will immediately drop what you are doing and, while running home, call out, “Coming, Mama!’.
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Fresh mozzarella, basil and chopped heirloom tomatoes crown these pitas for a healthful summer dinner.

 

And the list goes on and on.  My parents ran a very strict household but we were happy and much-loved.  Really the only downside was the lack of edible food.  I’ve told you before Mama was a disaster in the kitchen and, to add to our woes, didn’t really care about food.  But we always had brown bread.  And margarine.  And lettuce.  I must have eaten hundreds of butter and lettuce sandwiches.  Tommy crawled on his stomach through the house one night all the way to the kitchen to steal half a loaf of bread he was so hungry.  Hopefully James will never have to do that.  And when he does reach for bread most probably he’ll find something like this.  Toothsome, soft pita bread.  Easy, fast and wonderful to have on hand.  And think of how happy your children will be when they go into YOUR kitchen and find FOOD!


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The recipe for pita that I typically use is from Susanna Hoffman’s brilliant tome, “The Olive and the Caper”.  It’s a fantastic cookbook brimming with all sorts of facts, tips and suggestions.  For me, it is the “Joy of Cooking” of Greek food.  As she explains, Greek pita bread is different from Near East pitas and flatbreads.  It doesn’t puff up in the middle nor open up to make a pocket.  Greek pita bread is wrapped around a filling, as in a gyro, or torn to scoop up bean dip, scordalia or taramosalata.  Or it can make a fabulous pizza or open-faced sandwich!

HOMEMADE GREEK PITA BREAD

yield:  20-25 approx. 4″-5″ diameter

  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups warm water no more than 115°
  • 2-1/4 ounce packages active dry yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, or more for sprinkling
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Stir together 1 cup of the water and the sugar in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top and set aside until bubbly, about 15 minutes.
  2. Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in the 1/3 cup oil, the yeast mixture and the remaining cup of water.  Stir and knead until the dough can be scooped up into a ball.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and silky, about 5 minutes.  Lightly coat the dough with oil, return the dough to the bowl, cover with a cloth or loose plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free corner to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Punch down the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes.
  5. Divide the dough into 12 portions or how ever many you want.  12 portions will roll out to 8″-9″ rounds and, as I like mine smaller, I typically portion out about 20 pieces rolled out to about 4″-5″ in diameter and all should be rolled to about 1/8″ in thickness.  Without overlapping, place as many rounds as will fit on your baking sheets, cover them with a damp cloth and set aside to rest for 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.
  6. While the dough is resting preheat the oven to 500°.
  7. Bake the rounds for 5 minutes and check for doneness.  You want the bottom of the rounds to start to turn golden but not at all crisp.
  8. When done stack and wrap in a clean cloth.  Serve immediately or let the breads cool completely, wrap in plastic and refrigerate.  They will keep well refrigerated for up to 3 days.  They may be frozen up to 2 months.  Reheat before serving.

 

 

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