Pascale's kitchen: Pita bread & salads

It may seem at first glance that making pita bread at home is complicated, but it really isn’t.

 Pita and tomato salad. (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Pita and tomato salad.
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Sometimes, we crave simple foods that are easy to prepare. Below, you will find recipes for salads that are delicious when they’re scooped up with a piece of fresh pita bread, for which I’ve also included a recipe. 

It may seem at first glance that making pita bread at home is complicated, but it really isn’t. All you need to do is follow a few directions and you’re guaranteed to end up with near-perfect results. 

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Pita bread dough needs to be a little bit more moist than regular bread dough, which helps the pocket to form inside the dough.

In my experience, the best way to bake pita bread is in an electric pot, which costs only NIS 100. You can also bake pita bread on a baking stone in your oven at home. 

And, of course, fresh pita bread wouldn’t be complete without a few fresh homemade salads to scoop up. Below, you’ll find recipes for three of my favorite salads.

The first one is one of my best-loved salads: tomato, garlic and spicy green pepper salad.

Next are two extremely simple recipes for fried eggplant slices, though you do need to follow the instructions for top results. The most important thing is to make sure that there’s as little as possible liquid left in the eggplant slices before you start frying them. The longer you leave them coated in salt before frying, the easier it will be to remove all excess liquid. Coat them with flour, breadcrumbs or panko before frying, if you wish. 

PITA BREAD

Makes 14-16 pieces.

1 kg. white, whole wheat or spelt flour, sifted1 Tbsp. salt1½ Tbsp. dry yeast1-2 Tbsp. white, golden or brown sugar3 Tbsp. canola or olive oil3½ cups water at room temperature

Place the flour in a large bowl, add the salt and stir. Add the yeast and mix by hand. Add the sugar and mix well. 

Add the oil and half of the water and mix well. Knead the dough and gradually add the rest of the water while kneading. Continue kneading until dough is very sticky. 

Dip you hand in water and turn the dough halfway around the bowl with the other hand. Hold on to the side of the bowl and continue kneading the dough. Continue turning the bowl, holding on to the edge of the bowl and kneading the dough with the same hand. Continue kneading the dough for 8-10 minutes. Get your hand a little bit wet, if necessary, to keep the dough from sticking. 

Alternatively, knead the dough with an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed for 10 minutes until dough forms a ball and falls away from the side of the bowl. Add a little extra water, if necessary, while the dough is being mixed. 

Cover the bowl of dough that you’ve mixed by hand (or with a mixer) with a damp towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise for 60-90 minutes or until it doubles in volume.

Place a baking stone in your oven and preheat the oven to 250° about 90 minutes before baking the pita bread. 

Place the dough on a work surface that has been floured generously. Cut the dough into 14-16 pieces, form them into balls and place them on a floured baking tray. Cover with a towel and let them rise for 10 more minutes. Roll out each ball into a flat circle. 

Place each dough circle on the hot baking stone (or on a baking tray lined with baking paper). Wait for 30-60 seconds until the pita bread expands and then remove from the oven. Continue baking all of the pita bread circles in the same fashion. 

Level of difficulty: Easy.Time: 1 hour.Status: Parve.

TOMATO, GARLIC AND SPICY GREEN PEPPER SALAD

Makes 4 servings.

3 medium tomatoes1 large spicy green pepper2 cloves of garlic, crushedSalt and olive oil, to taste

Rinse the tomatoes and peppers and then cut them into very small pieces. Place them in a bowl and add the garlic, salt and olive oil. Mix, taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little lemon juice or vinegar, if desired. Serve with pita bread. 

Level of difficulty: Easy.Time: 10 minutes.Status: Parve.

 SPICY EGGPLANT SLICES. (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) SPICY EGGPLANT SLICES. (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
SPICY EGGPLANT SLICES

Makes 6 servings.

1 large eggplantKosher salt1 large red bell pepper1 large yellow bell pepper3 spicy peppersOil for frying

Spicy tomato sauce:3 Tbsp. olive oil2 tomatoes, crushed5 large cloves of garlic100 gr. tomato paste1½ cups waterSalt and pepper, to taste3-4 Tbsp. vinegar

Toppings:Whole or chopped basil leaves

Lop off both ends of the eggplant. Rinse it well and slice ½-cm. slices. Arrange the slices on a tray and sprinkle with kosher salt. Let them sit and sweat for an hour. 

Cut out the stem, pith and seeds of the bell peppers and cut into 2-cm.-wide strips. Cut the spicy peppers into two pieces. 

Heat oil in a pan so that it’s 2 cm. high, as you would use for frying schnitzel. Pat the eggplant slices with a paper towel and fry in the hot oil on both sides until they turn golden brown. Remove and place on paper towels. 

Dry the peppers and fry them on both sides for 2-3 minutes. Remove them and place in a bowl. Let the oil drain off. 

To prepare the sauce, heat the oil in a large pan and add the crushed tomatoes and the garlic and sauté for a couple minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir. Add the water, salt and pepper and stir. Lower the flame and cook for 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. If needed, add ¼ cup water. 

Pour a thin layer of sauce into a medium-sized shallow round baking dish. Add a layer of eggplant slices, then a layer of pepper strips and on top 2 tablespoons of sauce. Then begin another layer of eggplant slices and continue until you’ve used up all the ingredients. 

Shake the dish gently so that the sauce covers the vegetables. Place the dish in an oven that has been preheated to medium heat and cook for 10 minutes. Serve hot. 

Level of difficulty: Medium.Time: 2 hours.Status: Parve.

 FRIED EGGPLANT SLICES (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) FRIED EGGPLANT SLICES (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
FRIED EGGPLANT SLICES

Makes 6-8 servings. 

2-3 eggplantsSalt for removing liquidOil for frying

Rinse the eggplants in water and dry them. Peel the eggplants, leaving large sections of skin so that they have stripes. Slice lengthwise or into circles. 

Salt the eggplant slices on both sides and let them sit in a colander for a few hours or overnight in the fridge, to remove the excess liquid. 

Heat the oil in a frying pan so that it’s 2 cm. high. Pat the eggplant slices vigorously with paper towels to remove any remaining moisture. Fry the slices on both sides until they turn golden brown. 

Serve eggplant slices covered with a sour sauce made from the juice of 1 large lemon, salt and pepper, 3 cloves of crushed garlic and ½ cup of chopped parsley. If you like yogurt, add some to the sauce. 

Level of difficulty: Easy.Time: 1 hour.Status: Parve.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.