My Mom once had a job at the National Children’s Center. She brought home some funny, if not slightly inappropriate, stories of the people there. One man would ask her every day, “What did you have for dinner last night?” That is the question I seek to answer here.
Last night was pretty special. I started in the morning, actually, with a poolish (2 c. water, 2 c. flour, ¼ t. yeast). That’s the easy part; it just sits there. Same with the soaking chickpeas. It was great to come out in the morning and see they had inflated so much as to pop off the lid of the yogurt container. The little successes are just as tickling as the big ones.
In the afternoon I cooked the chickpeas to the tenderness of a clump of dry soil; easy to mash (electric appliances here = toaster oven). I then created my dough:
2 c. poolish 3.5 c. bread flour ½ T. salt ½ t. yeast 1 T. fresh rosemary ¾ c. water
It turned out to be a really dense dough, and it took a very short knead to get that gluten developed (I haven’t worked with bread flour in quite a while). My original intent was loaves, but the more I thought about it, the more pita seemed the logical end. Turns out that pita dough is basically the same as bread dough. Go figure! I plopped the dough into a bowl with some olive oil and turned back to the hummus:
3 c. soft chickpeas 3 T. tahini juice of ½ lemon 2 t. salt 2 cloves of garlic any herbs you choose (I chose some paprika, pepper, and 1 T. rosemary, since our rosemary bush is HUGE)
Mash all that together, or if you’re fancy, process it until it’s as smooth as you want it to be (I like mine smoother than Smoove B., but the potato masher is no match for a metal blade spinning faster than John McCain’s head two weeks ago. Chunky it was.).
Back to the pita. It’s freaking easy. Preheat your oven to 475. If you have a baking stone, you know what to do with it. If not… you’re on your own. Divide the (risen) dough into as many pieces as you see fit, ball them, then press them into discs (don’t roll them yet) and wait 20 minutes (science note: the gluten has to adjust to the stretching it’s about to receive. If you don’t give it a preliminary squish, it will keep springing back when you try to roll it out.) Roll the pieces out thin, about ¼ inch. Let them sit (unstacked, if possible) for 10 minutes, then spritz your baking stone with water and put on as many as will fit. Now is the fun part.
I like to watch my bread rise in the oven. It’s like watching a fetus grow, but it takes just a few minutes and you can eat it afterward. Watching the pita has a cinematic bent to it; suspense builds as you see little bubbles form on the surface, and you’re not sure whether that’s all you’re going to get, or if it’ll go all the way and form a big steamy pocket. After three minutes, you will know. If it inflates all the way, congratulations, it’s a pita. If not, if your dough lacks some gluteny chromosomes and it miscarriages, do not worry; you have a darling bubbly baby naan! Carry on. Don’t let these brown or they’ll be too crispy and not moist and floppy.
This last bit I credit to Liz for the inspiration; she wanted tempeh. A quick sauté of red pepper, fresh-from-the-CSA-box specialty onion (I don’t know what specialty, it was light purple and shaped like a tamale), toss the tempeh in until brown, and garnish with some cilantro. That’s it! Make a bed of hummus on a plate, put the tempeh on, and serve with hot pita (that’s been sitting under something, keeping it warm and moist).
What a delicious meal; our recent cooking had lacked that Mediterranean flavor, and this was the perfect remedy. The rosemary and cilantro really perk things up, and the textures all went together so well. Filling, too; one serving was just enough.
Giada, eat your heart out.