Traditional recipes

Travel Photo of the Day: Pita

Travel Photo of the Day: Pita

This modern sandwich bread has a long history

When baked at high temperatures, carbon dioxide and steam inflate pita bread.

You may know pita from your favorite Greek restaurant or sandwich shop; it’s a simple bread with a pocket in the middle. What you may not know about pita, however, is that it is one of the world’s oldest breads and has traditionally had many more culinary applications than just a wrap for sandwich-sliced turkey and sprouts.

Click here to see the Travel Photo of the Day Slideshow!

Early civilizations in the Middle East and Mediterranean were the first to develop a pita recipe. Similar versions of this bread have different name in different locations, but the name "pita" as we know it comes from the Greek word pitta, meaning "thin, flat layers." Before developing its modern sandwich bread reputation, pita was actually once used by the Romans as a pizza crust.

Wanting to make your own pita recipe? Check out our suggestion for spicy pita chips!

Do you have a travel photo that you would like to share? Send it on over to lwilson[at]thedailymeal.com.

Follow The Daily Meal’s Travel editor Lauren Wilson on Twitter.


Day In The Life

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A photo journal of my day yesterday here in Barcelona.

7:45am: Buenos días from Barcelona. ♡ Getting a late start to the day today, after not sleeping so well this week. Our lil’ babe has been setting records lately with how many times he wakes me up during the night, which I’m sure is only a very gentle foreshadowing of what’s to come. Still, whew, mornings are pretty groggy right now.

8:00am: We realized just before bed last night that we were out of coffee, so my sweet husband walked across the street to pick us up some flat whites this morning. Still one of my favorite things about living in Europe — little cafés serving good coffee are absolutely everywhere here.

8:15am: Breakfast creature of habit. Love my granola parfaits!

9:00am: Showered, dressed, and ready to start the day with my lil’ buddy. (Who’s not so little anymore — he measured over 4 pounds during our ultrasound on Tuesday!)

9:15am: The view from my new “office.” (Icymi, we moved apartments here in Barcelona around Thanksgiving!)

I’m currently working ahead on recipes that will be shared here during my maternity leave, including this hummingbird cake recipe that will be coming your way in time for Easter. It’s a good one! (P.S. Who else is watching Matt’s season?! Thus far, he’s totally in the running to be my favorite bachelor ever.)

10:00am: It still feels like such a treat each time I get to use this beauty, especially having baked without a stand mixer for our first three years in Barcelona. Loving my new Smeg! (And this cream cheese icing, holy yum.)

10:45am: Barclay just went to check the mail and found a pile of Christmas cards that arrived well over a month late, which is par for the course with our international mail situation here in Spain. Nearly half of the packages sent to us never make it out of customs, cards always arrive very (very) late, and any mail that we send out is always a bit of a gamble. Ah, expat life.

11:15am: Editing photographs for a different cake recipe while the hummingbird cakes bake up in the oven. (Can you tell that pregnancy has reignited my sweet tooth?) )

1:00pm: Sunny lunch break today out on the terrace. We Glovo-ed in our favorite vegan seitan shawarma wraps today from Hummus Barcelona, which is a must-try for any of you locals. All of their food is amazing, but their freshly-baked ultra-fluffy homemade pita and za’atar hummus are HEAVEN.

1:15pm: My handsome lunch date. ♡ (Also, Fiona totally stole a piece of pita while I was snapping this photo, haha.)

1:45pm: Back to work. This is the first time I’ve made a three-layer cake recipe for the blog in years, and I forgot how much I actually enjoy it! I kept this one simple with just a sprinkle of pecans as decoration. But still, it was fun to assemble.

2:15pm: We converted what used to be a hallway office in our new apartment into a little “studio” where I can take photos. I’m still trying to get the hang of artificial lighting (which has been a major adjustment after having shot with 100% natural light for over a decade, oof). But having the flexibility to shoot at any time of day or night has been an absolute game-changer.

3:00pm: Speaking of game changers, we still can’t get over how amazing it is to finally have a terrace of our own here in Barcelona. Both Barclay and I regularly pop outside for little 5-minute recharge breaks throughout the day. And wow, even just a brief dose of sunshine and fresh air makes such a difference in my mood and energy levels. ♡ After having lived in an apartment without a terrace for the past three years, especially during Barcelona’s periods of quarantine, we’re well aware of what a rare blessing it is to have this sort of space in the city center. So we try to make the most of it every day!

3:05pm: Hummingbird cake leftovers = snack time!

3:15pm: After messaging back and forth today with a seller on Wallapop (the Spanish version of Craigslist), looks like we found the crib we’ve been wanting to buy – yay! Some of our dear friends already lent us their bassinet, so I know it will probably be awhile before this crib gets put to use, but I’m excited to at least get some of the big pieces of our nursery ready to go before our little guy arrives. Looks like we’ll be able to pick up the crib tomorrow!

4:30pm: Cue all of the goosebumps. ♡ Here we go.

5:00pm: Had to watch on our “big tv” (this apartment came with a projector) once the inauguration ceremony officially began. I know that this has been a deeply emotional day for different people on different ends of the political spectrum. But whew, this moment in particular with all of its tremendous “firsts” was the one that made me cry. I’m so thankful that our son will grow up in a world where women are finally represented in the highest offices of the executive branch, and I look forward to seeing hopefully so many more women (especially women of color) from all political parties hold these offices in years to come.

6:30pm: YouTube-ing Amanda Gorman videos while prepping for a (safely-distanced) sushi night here at home with two of our good friends. All of Barcelona’s restaurants are currently closed during dinnertime, so we set up little stations on separate ends of the kitchen island for each pareja to make their own batch of homemade maki rolls…which ended up being so fun!

8:00pm: Also fun for me? Lol, not eating dinner at 9 or 10pm. ) Ever since Barcelona implemented a 10pm curfew (called a toque de queda in Spanish) a few months ago, the city’s late night culture has be forced to shift a bit earlier when it comes to evening hangs. So my friends jokingly now call it the toque de Ali, because they know how much this early bird is enjoying it!

10:00pm: I’ve been wrapping up my evenings lately by spending time in our soon-to-be-nursery, which has been making my heart so happy. Currently working on organizing all of the baby clothes (can’t get over how cute and teeny they are!) and baby gear that our friends have brought over, and dreaming of what life will be like in two months when our little guy arrives. ♡

10:15pm: Btw, nothing tugs on my heartstrings more than reading some of the baby books that friends have given us. They are so sweet and make me so excited for the day when we’ll finally get to be in here rocking, snuggling, and reading to our little one. Can’t believe that day is almost here.

11:00pm: Finally calling it a night here in Barcelona with the poetry of Amanda Gorman still ringing through my head: “There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”


Summer Dip Recipes

There’s no better way to start your summer party than with a crowd-pleasing favorite: dip! Whether you’re scooping it up with chips or crunchy crudités, these recipes are sure to please.

Related To:

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Tara Donne ©Food Network

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Photo By: Armando Rafael ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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Photo By: The Youngrens ©Copyright: 2011 The Youngrens, Inc

Creamy Avocado Dip

Think of this dip as the creamy, tangy cousin to guacamole. The Parmesan may seem out of place, but it's a stand-in for hard-to-find Mexican cheese and is the secret ingredient. Serve it with tortilla chips or veggies, or on the side with grilled chicken or steak.

Tzatziki

Greek yogurt&rsquos thicker texture eliminates the need to drain yogurt in cheesecloth as most commonly seen in tzatziki recipes. Wringing out the moisture from your cucumber ensures that the tzatziki stays thick and creamy. We chose fresh dill and mint over dried to provide the brightest flavor possible.


Excerpt: 'Day of Honey'

Day of HoneyBy Annia CiezadloHardcover, 400 pagesFree PressList Price: $26

There's a saying in Arabic: Fi khibz wa meleh bainetna—there is bread and salt between us. It means that once we've eaten together, sharing bread and salt, the ancient symbols of hospitality, we cannot fight. It's a lovely idea, that you can counter conflict with cuisine. And I don't swallow it for a second.

Just look at any civil war. Or at our own dinner tables, groaning with evidence to the contrary.

After September 11, liberal New Yorkers flocked to Arabic restaurants, Afghan, even Indian—anything that seemed vaguely Muslim, as if to say, "Hey, we know you're not the bad guys. Look, we trust you, we're eating your food." New York newspapers ran stories about foreigners and their food, most of which followed much the same formula: the warmhearted émigré alludes mournfully to troubles in his homeland assures the readers that not all Arabs/Afghans/Muslims are bad and then shares his recipe for something involving eggplants. They were everywhere after September 11, photos of immigrants holding out plates of food, their eyes beseeching, "Don't deport me! Have some hummus!" But a lot of them did get deported, and American soldiers got sent to Afghanistan and Iraq. A decade later, the lesson seems clear: You can eat eggplant until your toes turn purple, and it won't stop governments from going to war.

But then again, there is something about food. Even the most ordinary dinner tells manifold stories of history, economics, and culture. You can experience a country and a people through its food in a way that you can't through, say, its news broadcasts.

Food connects. In biblical times, people sealed contracts with salt, because it preserves, protects, and heals—an idea that goes back to the ancient Assyrians, who called a friend "a man of my salt." Like Persephone's pomegranate seeds, the alchemy of eating binds you to a place and a people. This bond is fragile people who eat together one day can kill each other the next. All the more reason we should preserve it.

Many books narrate history as a series of wars: who won, who lost, who was to blame (usually the ones who lost). I look at history as a series of meals. War is part of our ongoing struggle to get food—most wars are over resources, after all, even when the parties pretend otherwise.

But food is also part of a deeper conflict, one that we all carry inside us: whether to stay in one place and settle down, or whether to stay on the move. The struggle between these two tendencies, whether it takes the form of war or not, shapes the story of human civilization. And so this is a book about war, but it is also about travel and migration, and how food helps people find or re-create their homes.

One of my old journalism professors, a man with the unforgettable name of Dick Blood, used to roar that if you want to write the story, you have to eat the meal. He was talking about Thanksgiving, when reporters visit homeless shelters, collect a few quotes, and head back to the newsroom to pump out heartwarming little features without ever tasting the turkey. But

I've found that this command—"You have to eat the meal"— is a good rule for life in general. And so whenever I visit a new place, I pursue a private ritual: I never let myself leave without eating at least one local thing.

We all carry maps of the world in our heads. Mine, if you could see it, would resemble a gigantic dinner table, full of dishes from every place I've been. Spanish Harlem is a cubano. Tucson is avocado chicken. Chicago is yaprakis Beirut is makdous and Baghdad—well, Baghdad is another story.

In the fall of 2003, I spent my honeymoon in Baghdad. I'd married the boyfriend, who was also a reporter, and his newspaper had posted him to Iraq. So I moved to Beirut, with my brand-new husband and a few suitcases, and then to Baghdad.

For the next year, we tried to act like normal newlyweds. We did our laundry, went grocery shopping, and argued about what to have for dinner like any young couple, while reporting on the war. And throughout all of it, I cooked.

Some people construct work spaces when they travel, lining up their papers with care, stacking their books on the table, taping family pictures to the mirror. When I'm in a strange new city and feeling rootless, I cook. No matter how inhospitable the room or the streets outside, I construct a little field kitchen. In Baghdad, it was a hot plate plugged into a dubious electrical socket in the hallway outside the bathroom. I haunt the local markets and cook whatever I find: fresh green almonds, fleshy black figs, just-killed chickens with their heads still on. I cook to comprehend the place I've landed in, to touch and feel and take in the raw materials of my new surroundings.

I cook foods that seem familiar and foods that seem strange. I cook because eating has always been my most reliable way of understanding the world. I cook because I am always, always hungry. And I cook for that oldest of reasons: to banish loneliness, homesickness, the persistent feeling that I don't belong in a place. If you can conjure something of substance from the flux of your life—if you can anchor yourself in the earth, like Antaeus, the mythical giant who grew stronger every time his feet touched the ground— you are at home in the world, at least for that meal.

Excerpted from Day of Honey by Annia Ciazadlo. Copyright 2011 by Annia Ciazadlo. Excerpted by permission of Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


How to Make It

1. To prepare falafel, combine 6 cups water and chickpeas in a large bowl let stand at room temperature 8 hours or overnight. Drain.

3. Combine chickpeas, onion, and next 9 ingredients (through ground red pepper) in a food processor pulse until coarsely chopped. Divide and shape mixture into 16 (1/2-inch-thick) patties (about 1/3 cup per patty).

4. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Coat pan with cooking spray. Place 8 patties in pan coat patties with cooking spray. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Place on a wire rack set on a baking sheet. Repeat procedure with cooking spray and remaining patties. Place baking sheet in oven bake at 450°F for 10 minutes. Reserve 8 falafel patties for Falafel Pizza and Falafel, Feta, and Tomato Salad.

5. To prepare pita sliders, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, dill, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl. Cut off top fourth of each pita (reserve for another use). Spoon about 1 tablespoon yogurt mixture into each pita pocket top with 1 falafel patty, 1 tomato slice, 1/4 cup arugula leaves, and about 1/4 cup red onion slices.


Greek Pita Pocket

Alison Lewis

Cookbook

400 Best Sandwich Recipes: From Classics and Burgers to Wraps and Condiments

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My Notes

Editor's Note: When you think of a meal you can get on the table within about 30 minutes, you likely think of fast-food or your favorite pizza place that does delivery. But this recipe for Greek Pita Pocket is both easy to make and can be ready to serve within about 30 minutes. After a long day of work, school, and running errands, you'll love having this quick and easy recipe in your repertoire. You'll love the combination of yogurt with vegetables and ground beef in this recipe. Master this recipe for a speedy and delicious pita pocket and you'll be serving it for years to come.

This Greek-style sandwich is a delicious combination and is so easy to make. We love making these on busy weeknights.

Total Time Under 30 minutes

Occasion al Fresco, Casual Dinner Party

Recipe Course Main Course

Taste and Texture Meaty, Savory

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt 250 mL
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon + 2 tsp juice 40 mL
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill (see Notes) 15 mL
  • ½ tsp lemon pepper , divided 2 mL
  • 12 oz lean ground beef 375 g
  • ½ cup diced onion 125 mL
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes 250 mL
  • 1 tsp Greek seasoning (see Notes) 5 mL
  • 4 6- to 8-inch (15 to 20 cm) pitas with pockets
  • 1½ cups chopped romaine lettuce 375 mL
  • 4 tsp reduced-fat crumbled feta cheese 20 mL

More Ground Beef Lunch & Dinner Recipes

Keep your family happy and full with this excellent list of lunch and dinner ideas using ground beef. This collection includes:

- Classic Ground Beef Recipes like Tacos and Meatloaf
- Kid-Friendly Dinners
- Unique Recipes like this Beef Cobbler
- Burgers
& So Much More!

Instructions

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the lemon juice, dill and ¼ tsp (1 mL) of the lemon pepper. Set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, sauté beef, onion and garlic, breaking up meat with a spoon until beef crumbles, for 5 minutes or until beef is no longer pink and onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes, Greek seasoning, remaining 2 tsp (10 mL) of lemon juice and remaining ¼ tsp (1 mL) of lemon pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until heated through.

Place pitas on a work surface. Spread yogurt sauce equally in each pita. Place lettuce, beef mixture and feta cheese equally in each pita.

Notes

Tip: Fresh dill can be kept for only about 2 days. It’s wonderful in chicken salad, with seafood and as a garnish to many dishes.

To make your own Greek seasoning: In a small bowl, combine ¼ tsp (1 mL) each dried oregano, dried parsley, dried garlic powder and salt.

More Greek Food Recipes
Featuring fresh ingredients, fabulous feta, and so much more, this list of classic Greek recipes will impress your friends and their tastebuds.


Loaded 21 Day Fix Pizza

Pizza and sushi. The two best foods that have ever existed in the world of food. If you don’t like sushi, I can forgive you. Sushi can be a little bit funky, and there are some interesting textures goin’ on in there with the raw fish. But pizza? Evveerryyone loves pizza. If you don’t love pizza, then I don’t love you.

Just kidding. I still love you.

Just a little bit less, pizza hater.

So the other day I was really in the mood for pizza (per usual…#erryday), and was trying to figure out a way to make a 21 Day Fix friendly version. By using whole wheat naan as the “crust” (you can also use pita bread), a little less cheese, and ground turkey/turkey sausage instead of beef or pork, you are good to go in healthy pizza land! And, ohhhh man, it is delicious. Satisfied my pizza craving in a second!

And, surprisingly, whole wheat naan is an AWESOME (and suuuupa easy) pizza crust substitute. You bake it in the oven first to begin crisping it up a bit and then as it finishes baking with all the toppings, the bottom and edges get nice and crispy. It ends up tasting like a yummy thin crust pizza!

Now, in these pictures it doesn’t look like there is very much cheese on here. Most of it is underneath all the toppings and there’s just a tiiiiiiny bit sprinkled over top. Because of the very hefty amount of toppings, you can’t even see the cheese…hence the title “loaded” pizza . Hey, if you’re gunna do it, do it right.

A few things to point out here:

  1. There is a lot of meat on this pizza…because…meaty pizzas rock. If you want to half the meat, go for it. If you like meaty pizzas like me, enjoy yourselves ladies and gentleman.
  2. The sauce: you can do one of two things. One – you can use jarred sauce (counts as a green container). If you do this, try to get a good, healthy brand with simple, whole ingredients. Two – you can use canned diced tomatoes and whirl them around in your blender (also counts as green). Whichever floats your boat slash whichever you have in your pantry or fridge.
  3. The toppings!! This is a very versatile recipe. I chose to add red onions and black olives on top of my pizza (along with a little basil), but you can add anything you want. Just stick with the container sizes and you are all good to go.

And that’s it! More pictures.

Alright. So I have to tell you guys about my car drama this weekend. Ugh.

I have to travel back a few weeks to the beginning of this whole situation. Sometime in the beginning of February (ish), I tried to start Seth’s car and it responded zero percent. No noise, no engine turning over, nothing. So I figured I just needed to jump it. After trying to find time for like a week, I finally made it over to my friend’s house and her husband gave me a tutorial on how to jump a car.

Yes. I didn’t know how. Yes. I should know how to jump a car by this point in my life. Stop judging me. STOP IT.

Anyway, went back home, jumped the car, and nothing. My friend’s husband said I needed a new battery. So I went to Walmart, waited in line for forever, and bought a new battery. He came over the next weekend to install it. SO nice, by the way (shout out to Ed Evans – you rock!). So the car started – yay!! Such a satisfying noise. But then he checked the oil and it registered as having literally zero in there.

So I drove to Walmart…again…and bought a few quarts of oil – just enough to get me a few miles down the road to get an oil change. About a week later when I finally had another spare minute, I poured the oil into the thingie (I know nothing about cars), and drove to get an oil change. I waited again for a while, and the dude came in and told me that whoever changed my oil last time messed something up, and when he pulled the drain plug out, all the wires came out with it (again…I don’t know what any of this means).

He then told me that he wouldn’t put it back in and let me drive anywhere, and that I had to get it towed from where I currently was to Firestone. At this point I have no car, no ride, no way to get to Firestone or home. So I called for a tow, and rode with the tow truck guy to Firestone. In the front of his tow truck.

Side note: this ended being awesome and the tow dude was THE NICEST person ever. We had awesome chats on the way to Firestone.

Anyway, so I got there, still not sure how I was going to get home because I hadn’t gotten a hold of any friends yet. They told me it was going to be a several-day thing and the car definitely wouldn’t be ready that afternoon. So I got a hold of a friend, and she and her husband came to pick me up – yesssss no longer stranded – and took me home.

So what began as a simple, 30 minute oil change turned into hours of this big mess. Ugh. These are the times when it is super inconvenient to have a deployed husband! It all ended up working out, though. I have no idea what it is going to end up costing…I really hope it’s not a ton!

Make this pizza when you are stressed – it will solve all your problems ?.


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  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup thick Greek yoghurt
  • 1 cup light olive oil or sunflower oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • sesame seeds
  1. Brush a rectangular tray, about 36 x 30 centimetres, with some of the melted butter (see note). Remove the filo pastry from the packet and cover it with a damp cloth. Remove 4 sheets of pastry, lightly butter them and lay them crisscrossed on the bottom of the tray, with plenty of pastry coming out over the sides of the tray. These sheets will form the sides of the pita. Lightly butter 4 more sheets and place them on top of each other, then place them in the bottom of the tray to reinforce the bottom of the pita.
  2. To make the filling, thoroughly squeeze the excess liquid from the zucchinis. Combine with the feta, ricotta, yoghurt and mint in a large bowl. Season with pepper and salt, if needed.
  3. Set aside 3 sheets of filo for the top of the pita.
  4. Using a tablespoon, drop a few spoonfuls of the filling, here and there, onto the pastry base. Take the next sheet of filo and place it over the top, slightly ruffled, to create pockets of air that will make the pita more fluffy.
  5. Drip a little melted butter here and there over the top of the pastry using a pastry brush, and top with more of the zucchini mixture. Try to drip it in different areas of the pastry from the previous layer, again creating air pockets. Continue this layering process until the filling mixture is used.
  6. To seal the pita, fold the filo from the outside inward, then layer the final 3 sheets over the top, tuck it in around the edges and brush with melted butter. Use a sharp knife to cut the top layer of pastry into about 8-centimetre squares.
  7. To make the topping, whisk the eggs, milk, yoghurt and oil together, season with salt and pepper, and pour all over the pita. Leave to sit for about 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional).
  9. Sprinkle the pita with sesame seeds and bake for about 1 hour, or until both the top and bottom are golden.

Note: The trick to really crisp filo pastry is to brush on plenty of clarified butter. To clarify the butter, melt it over a low heat, skimming off and discarding the foamy milk solids that rise to the top. The melted butter will separate into butterfat and liquid. Use only the butterfat to brush the pastry as the liquid will make the pastry wet.

Serves: up to 10

Paprika really transforms chickpeas. Photo: John Laurie/Melbourne Books

Roasted chickpea and fennel salad (salata me psita revithia, maratho ke karota)

Roasting chickpeas with paprika really transforms them. In fact, once roasted you could serve these chickpeas as they are, with a drink. This dish can be served alone as a lunch dish with some rustic bread, or as a substantial accompaniment to a main dish.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 × 400g cans chickpeas
  • ¼ cup Greek extra virgin olive oil, plus an extra ⅓ cup
  • 1 tsp smoky paprika
  • 1 bunch baby carrots
  • 2 small fennel bulbs
  • 2 brown onions
  • ½ cup whole hazelnuts, toasted
  • 200g feta cheese, to serve
  • 1 cup whole flat-leaf parsley leaves without stalks, to serve
  • 4 tbsp Greek extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 2 limes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and spread them out on the baking paper. Drizzle with the ¼ cup olive oil and sprinkle with paprika. Mix well with your hands to ensure the chickpeas are well-coated. Roast for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  3. Top and tail the carrots, wash them and set aside. Halve the fennel bulbs and onions, then place the cut side down on the cutting board and thinly slice them lengthwise. Place them on a non-stick baking tray with the carrots and toss with the ⅓ cup olive oil. Roast vegetables for 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally to ensure they are caramelised all over. Remove from the oven.
  4. Add the chickpeas and hazelnuts to the roasted vegetables and toss well.
  5. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together, pour over the vegetables and toss well. Transfer to a serving dish and top with the feta and parsley leaves.

Lamb necks are a great alternative to lamb shanks. Photo: John Laurie/Melbourne Books

Slow-cooked lamb necks (katsarola me arnisia lemous)

Lamb necks are a wonderful, and often overlooked, cut of meat. They particularly remind me of my dad, who loved the soft, silky meat, always cooked slowly and falling off the bone. Lamb necks are a great alternative to lamb shanks. They can also be roasted on low heat with lemon juice and oregano. This is good served with the little pasta squares Greeks call hilopites.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 lamb necks (ask the butcher to cut them into 5-centimetre pieces)
  • ⅓ cup Greek extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole garlic cloves
  • 5 whole allspice berries
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 400g can diced tomatoes
  • 500ml chicken stock or water
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ½ bunch fresh basil to serve
  1. Place the lamb in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and strain, discarding the water. Rinse the lamb in fresh water and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the lamb and turn up the heat to gently colour the meat. Add the tomato paste and stir through. Then add the sweet paprika, cinnamon stick, garlic, allspice berries and bay leaves, stir to combine, then add the diced tomatoes. Add the stock or water, ensuring it covers the meat by about 3 centimetres.
  3. Cover the pot and cook on very low heat for 2-3 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone. This can also be done in the oven at 140C fan-forced (160C conventional). Towards the end of the cooking time, season with salt, pepper and the red wine vinegar. The tomato should reduce to a thick, rich sauce.
  4. Serve with the basil leaves torn roughly over the stew.

This cake's slight bitterness is balanced by the sweetness of the icing. Photo: John Laurie/Melbourne Books

Blood orange cake (keik me portokali ke amigthalo)

This recipe is the result of my fascination with the vibrant colour of blood oranges. The cake's slight bitterness is balanced by the sweetness of the icing.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 blood oranges
  • 5 eggs
  • 250g castor sugar
  • 250g almond meal, plus extra
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  1. Boil the oranges submerged in a saucepan of water for 1 hour, then drain and set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional).
  3. Butter a 20-centimetre round cake tin and sprinkle it with almond meal, flour or gluten-free flour if required.
  4. Pulse the oranges in a food processor to a fine puree. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together. Add the orange pulp and mix thoroughly. Add the almond meal, baking powder and salt, and combine thoroughly.
  5. Leave the batter to rest for 10 minutes, then pour it into the prepared tin and bake for about 1 hour. When a skewer comes out clean it is ready. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  6. To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a small bowl and add the blood orange juice. Combine with a fork, making sure there are no lumps. Pour over the cooled cake.

This is an edited extract from Sweet Greek Life, My Shared Table by Kathy Tsaples. Photographs by John Laurie. Published by Melbourne Books. RRP $49.95. Buy now


Chicken Caesar Salad Pitas

Everyone loves a good chicken Caesar salad, but now you can enjoy it in a handy-dandy pita package (no fork necessary!) It’s a perfect make-ahead lunch or an easy weeknight dinner that the whole family will love!

Flavorful yogurt-marinated grilled chicken breasts packed into a soft pita pocket along with romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and a homemade yogurt-based Caesar salad dressing that you’ll simply adore.

This recipe was created in partnership with ALDI, our new favorite source for high-quality food at affordable prices.

So, what’s for dinner? It’s a common question around here. We plan our menus once a week, and sometimes putting together 7 days worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners can be an extremely trying task. We find ourselves returning to a few basic staples each week, until we get tired of that staple, then we’re left with a gaping void in our meal plan and sometimes wind up eating boxed mac and cheese for dinner (I fully admit it).

But your (and our) new favorite dinnertime staple is here to save you from boxed pasta purgatory: it’s perhaps the perfect meal, complete and satisfying, with flavorful grilled chicken tucked inside a warm pita pocket along with romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and a homemade Caesar dressing.

Ok, so it’s not technically a true Caesar (there are no anchovies, for one, and we used Greek yogurt as our base) but the flavors are delightful and more than a little Caesar-ish: just in a slightly healthier, easier, and less fishy form. This same dressing does double duty as a marinade as well, infusing the chicken breasts with moisture and flavor before grilling. Talk about a time-saving trick!

The chicken is best when left to marinate for at least 3 hours, but feel free to let it go overnight if that’s easier for you. Cutting the breasts into easy-to-manage strips (you can also use chicken tenders) lets the flavors absorb more fully, and expedites the cooking process.

We cooked our chicken on the grill (gotta love that charcoal flavor!) but this recipe works just as well inside with a grill pan or nonstick skillet.

For this recipe we picked up pretty much everything we needed at our neighborhood ALDI, including fresh chicken breasts, romaine lettuce, juicy cherry tomatoes and thick, creamy nonfat greek yogurt.

In all honesty, I wasn’t really a regular ALDI shopper before. I’d been a few times, found a few delicious deals, but stuck to my usual store routine most of the time. I know I definitely hadn’t been there since the store was remodeled (ALDI has been completely remodeling many of its stores nationwide.)

But when I walked in this time… well, I was really blown away.

The beauty of ALDI is not having to run around town to find the best quality and best priced ingredients, which, for one, is a huge time-saver (and I’m the type of person who will drive 20 minutes for the superior product and/or to save a few bucks). The brands might not be ones you recognize (most of the products are private label which is one way ALDI can offer such competitive prices) but the quality is nothing short of what I’d expect from name brands, at a fraction of the cost (talk about #winning).

ALDI is really an unexpected treasure trove of natural and organic foods, so if you haven’t been yet, or haven’t been lately, it’s definitely worth the trip. The newest products available at ALDI expand their already large selection of fresh, healthy, and organic product offerings, like the Never Any! line of meats which are raised free from antibiotics, added hormones, steroids and animal byproducts.

The L’oven Fresh White Pita Bread at ALDI is one of the better packaged pita brands we’ve tried (and we’re very picky about our pita!) But even the best packaged pita bread can be dry and hard to open, luckily the solution to bring it back to life is simple.

Wrap the pita bread in damp paper towels and place on a plate, then cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for 30 to 45 seconds to ‘steam’ the pita, warming it and softening it at the same time.

A delicious answer to the pesky “what’s for dinner” question…


Soups, salads and appetizers

Sfihaat

A sfiha (also known as fatayer) can be made with several fillings, from lamb to chicken, spinach, cheese or vegetables. They’re light and tasty and can be added to any other menu as a side dish or for a quick bite with a cup of tea, especially since they can be served piping hot or at room temperature.

Follow this link for an excellent lamb option for this savoury dish and this link for one made with spinach.

Shorbet ‘Adas

In a nutshell, shorbet ‘adas is lentil soup and is perfect for the upcoming cold months. Lentils are a fantastic source of fibre, iron, protein, Vitamin B1 and B6, potassium and zinc, and so they are a great way to lower cholesterol, keep your heart in check, stabilise your blood sugar, increase energy and boost weight loss!

It is super simple to make and can be a great asset to any lunch or dinner menu, and is often a favourite starter to have over iftar in the holy month of Ramadan. Follow this link for a quick and easy recipe.

Chicken and freekeh salad

Well, you can omit the chicken in this one if you’re looking for something vegan because freekeh is really the winner of this dish. Freekeh is young green wheat that has been toasted and cracked. It’s a healthy whole grain food, much like bulgur and other whole grains. Again, this dish can work as a standalone dish or as part of a wider menu for lunch or dinner and can be served both piping hot or cooled down as a side salad.

Follow this link to find out how to make it.


My Favorite Greek Salad with Homemade Whole Wheat Pita.

Like super cheating. I’m only telling you about FIVE ingredients today – five ingredients in my favorite salad. A salad that can be lettuceless too, which is even better.

At least, five star ingredients. Buying it?

Boom. One two three four five.

Okay, maybe a few extra ingredients. There is a dressing. My crazy favorite salad dressing, slightly adapted from one in my cookbook and while it pairs fantastically with this greek salad, it works on all salads. All salads! Make a big batch and keep it in your fridge.

And then, pita. Whole wheat pita to be exact. We will chat about it soon. In just a few scrolls.

Just a few scrolls? Oh 2015. Get with it. I desperately need to, considering the song that has been playing in my head over and over is “pretty fly for a white guy.” What.

This dressing is my dream. I usually go for a simple olive oil and vinegar on my salad with lots of salt and pepper. If I have time, some sort of homemade vinaigrette. So this is me having time, and it’s awesome because you can make it ahead of time. It has extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, but it also has honey, lemon juice, crushed garlic, dried oregano and dried dill weed. The oregano and the dill MAKE this. It sounds easy and it is. And these flavors mesh and create wonders.

I swear. I swear on my teddy bear.

Once I whip up the dressing, I pour it over my oh-so important five ingredients.

And it goes like this. Marinate it. Marinate it for 30 minutes. Marinate it for eight hours. The longer, the better. But obviously not like, weeks long, since it’s veg and stuff.

This is why I do what I do:

Tomatoes? Go for the rich little cherry or grape ones. Halve or quarter them. Cucumbers? Buy a big seedless one, peel it even if you don’t mind the peel. Cut it into cubes. Toss in your olives. My most important rule? The SHALLOTS. I prefer thinly sliced shallots over traditional red onion in slices or chunks. Shallots are slightly sweeter and don’t accost your tastebuds in the same way. The flavor is somewhat milder and since the onion portion will be raw, I say shallots win.

And the biggest player… the cheese. No kidding. I like to take half of the feta that I’m planning on using for the salad when serving and crumble it in. Let it marinate. Have you ever had marinated feta? Tastes like unicorn tears.

When you want to eat your salad, go for it in it’s pure marinated form or toss it with some butter lettuce. If you really want to get freaky, add in a few marinated artichoke hearts. The beauty of this is that you can use the ingredients that YOU like. For instance, I tend to go a bit lighter on the cucumber because Eddie isn’t a fan. I go heavier on the olives because I could survive on tart and briney things for the rest of my life.

I go doubly heavy on the feta, because…

If you let your salad marinate, you should definitely try making your own pita in the downtime.

Why haven’t I been making my own pita forever? I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed that I haven’t and that I’ve wasted good money that could be spent on shoes on grocery store bagged pita instead. 2015 is all about life lessons.

I made a whole wheat version based on this recipe from the kitchn and OH MY GOSH was it ever soft and fluffy. In addition to this salad I would like to suggest 13 pounds of hummus for pita dipping purposes.

These are easy. Yes, you make a yeasted dough. My go-to doughs are almost always foolproof as long as I use lukewarm water and honey, and add the salt with the flour. TRY IT! Once this rises, you cut it into equal pieces (again, do your thang. do you want mini pitas? a pita the size of your face?) and roll it out until it’s super duper thin. Like REALLY thin. Throw it on a hot cast iron skillet for three-ish minutes, flipping once, and you’re done. You have pita in your kitchen!

It’s fabulous for soaking up the extra dressing. Trust me.

It’s fabulous for sandwiches and peanut butter and bananas and even a bacon horseradish dip in your mom’s fridge. It’s all that and a bag of chips. Except it’s pita. You can do it!