Filled Spinach & Garlic Pita

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Filled Spinach & Garlic Pita

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Published prior to 2008

This pita has a very compatible combination of flavors that lends itself to a filling of humus or tabbouleh (see recipes for both below) or a garlicky, lemony tuna salad. This recipe will make 8 pitas. You can easily cut it in half to make 4.

2 cups (16 ounces) warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups (1 pound, 7 3/8 ounces to 1 pound, 9 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 packet or scant tablespoon active dry yeast, or 2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (optional but will help the pitas stay fresher longer)
4 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced (or more or less depending on whether you want a suggestion or a mandate)
10 ounces spinach, cooked, chopped and drained
1 scant tablespoon salt

Mixing: Pour the water into a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, the yeast and about 2 cups of flour without worrying too much about lumps. Leave this little "sponge" to begin to work and expand while you mince the garlic and cook and drain the spinach. (If you're in a hurry, bottled, minced garlic does quite well as does frozen -- and then thawed and drained -- spinach.)

When everything is ready to be put together and the sponge looks full and bubbly, mix in the optional oil, the spinach, the garlic, the salt and a further 3 1/2 cups of flour.

Kneading: Stir this together as well as you can in the bowl and then turn out onto a kneading surface where you've sprinkled the remainder of the flour. Knead the dough, adding enough more flour to keep it from sticking to you or the board, until it has really come together, about 2 or 3 minutes. Then give it a rest while you clean out and grease the bowl.

After this little rest, the flour will have better absorbed the moisture, the developing gluten will have relaxed, the dough will feel less lumpy and more cohesive. Continue kneading until the it's springy and smooth (or as smooth as it can be with spinach and garlic pieces in it).

Rising: Shape the dough into a nice ball, place it in the greased bowl and turn it over so that the top has a thin film of grease on it. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let the yeast go to work. While the yeast is busy, you can make fillings to go in the pitas when they're done.

Shaping: After the dough has doubled in bulk (when you can poke a finger in it and it doesn't bounce back at you), begin preheating your oven to a hot 500°F. Knock the dough down, knead out any stray bubbles and divide it into 8 (or 4 if you've make only half the recipe) pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each out into a circle about 7 inches in diameter. Place two each on a cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth and let rest for at least 15 minutes.

Baking: After the circles have rested, place the baking sheet on the oven bottom (if you have a baking stone, place it on that), close the oven door and keep it shut for 2 minutes. It's this initial intense heat that begins to create the pocket. The outside of the dough bakes very quickly while the carbon dioxide bubbles inside expand and separate the top layer of the dough from the bottom.

After the initial 2 minutes, place the baking sheet on a rack higher up in the oven and continue baking for another 5 to 6 minutes. During this part of the baking process, the pitas should blow up like balloons.

Cooling: When they are done, remove the sheet from the oven and slide the pitas onto a cooling rack. As the gas inside them cools, they will deflate somewhat. Once they are completely cool, you can press the balance of the gas out of them so you can slide them into an airtight bag until they're ready to be cut in half and filled.

Nutrition information per serving (1 piece, 209 g): 406 cal, 7 g fat, 11 g protein, 72 g complex carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 4 g dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 766 mg sodium, 245 mg potassium, 5 mg vitamin C, 4 mg iron, 224 mg calcium, 114 mg phosphorus.

FILLINGS:

Hummus bi Tahina

This is a Middle Eastern "massa," or appetizer that, unlike typical Western appetizers, is almost a meal in itself. By this, we mean that it contains a combination of ingredients that provides a balanced meal: a healthy dose of a complete protein (chickpeas, sesame seeds and wheat in combination), a high level of complex carbohydrates, and the vitamins, minerals and fiber naturally present in these grains and vegetables.

    1 can of chickpeas (1 pound and 3 ounces), drained
    3 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced (again the amount depends on taste)
    1/3 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons worth) plus some grated rind if you're so inclined
    1/2 cup tahini (hulled, ground sesame seeds available at most groceries)
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup finely chopped onions or scallions
    3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley (1 tablespoon dried)
Blend all but the scallions and parsley together until you have a fairly smooth mixture. A food processor does this very quickly if you have one. Otherwise a pastry blender will do.

Mix in the scallions and parsley and taste. Adjust whatever ingredient(s) you want to accentuate. To make the mixture a bit lighter, blend in a little hot water.

Hummus can be spread directly in the Spinach & Garlic pita, or you can rip up the pita and use pieces for dredging.

Nutrition information per serving (1/4 of recipe, 205 g): 365 cal, 16 g fat, 11 g protein, 43 g complex carbohydrates, 9 g dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 943 mg sodium, 489 mg potassium, 19 mg vitamin C, 8 mg iron, 369 mg calcium, 344 mg phosphorus.

Tabbouleh

This is another Middle Eastern "massa," really good for you and absolutely delicious, either on its own or in a pita "bowl."
    1 cup bulghur (wheat that has been parboiled, dried and then cracked)
    1 1/2 cups boiling water
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    3 to 5 cloves of garlic (the taste issue again)
    1/3 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons worth) plus some grated rind if you wish
    1 to 2 tablespoons of freshly minced mint (1 to 2 teaspoons dried)
    1 cup of chopped parsley (or 1/3 cup dried ) -- A pair of long-bladed kitchen shears makes short work of this job.
    1 cup of finely minced onions or scallions
    1/3 cup olive oil (oil from a first cold pressing, or "extra virgin" has the most full-bodied flavor)
    3 fresh, ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Put the bulghur in a mixing bowl, pour over the water and stir in the salt. Let this sit until the liquid has been absorbed. This will take about 3/4 of an hour. Blend in the garlic, lemon juice, mint, and onions. Cover and refrigerate.

Just before you're ready to serve the tabbouleh, stir in the olive oil and tomatoes. Spoon into the Spinach & Garlic Pita and serve.

Nutrition information per serving (1/6 of recipe, 184 g): 233 cal, 12 g fat, 4 g protein, 26 g complex carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, 546 mg sodium, 298 mg potassium, 30 mg vitamin C, 4 mg iron, 43 mg calcium, 221 mg phosphorus.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 5, May-June 1992 issue.