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Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Pita

Hello, dear readers!

Today, I was feeling ambitious. I decided to try out my bbq as an oven by making some pita.

I got the idea for tonight's dish from a Serbian-language cooking tutorial I saw from my favorite Youtube grandmother, Jelajelena Petrovic, called "Pita sa Spinacem" (Spinach pita). I knew when I watched her video that I had to try making this, but I hesitated because my husband views cheese as though it's the spawn of Satan. After I asked him whether or not he'd eat a spinach pita if I made one, knowing that it had cheese in it (I resolved to use feta, since it was the closest to what I observed the Serbian cheese used in the video to be) and receiving an answer in the affirmative, I then set about procuring the ingredients I'd need. The one conniption I had was whether we had suitable bakeware for the pita, but after digging around in the cabinet where we keep the pots and pans, I found an aluminum pie pan which originally housed a tray of cinnamon rolls from the store. My husband had saved up a few of those to reuse, and it was big enough to fit on the grill.

Baking the pita on my grill


Thank goodness it rained this afternoon, so the ground was nice and wet. I cleaned out the old crappy coals from the barbecue and after putting in a few fresh ones, I decided to light them using some paper towels soaked in cooking oil thanks to another Youtube tutorial I saw (I refuse to use lighter fluid because then the food tastes like it). It took a few sheets to get the coals going, but I finally got them lit. My husband was whining at me to use the propane stove, but I refused because I didn't want to burn myself during the transfer.

Unfortunately, I didn't take pix of the process because the baby was being exceptionally clingy and was throwing a crying tantrum because my making the filling and assembling the pita meant that I couldn't pick her up and hold her like she wanted me to. I was able to hold her while I fried the onions, garlic and spinach over the hot coals, but once the pita was assembled and on the grill, she went and nursed herself to sleep. Her tantrum had worn her out.

Pitas, as I alluded to in an earlier post, are classic Serbian food and generally don't require much in the way of effort to make. It's an ideal quick-n-dirty meal that can be thrown together in about an hour or so to feed a hungry family or party guests. I wasn't sure how it would taste, given that the coals are made of wood and tend to impart their flavor onto foods, but I was happy to give it a try since I was trying to avoid using the oven at all costs. After I put the pita on the grill to cook, I realized later that I'd forgotten to add milk to the filling. This minor error proved to be providential because as fate and the fickle monsoon weather would have it, another storm blew in and I had to cut the bbq baking time short so that I could take the pita inside. The milk in the filling would have made the fillo dough soggy and rendered it inedible at that stage.

My grandmother would call this "dead"


Despite being undercooked, the pita was cooked enough to the point where you wouldn't get food poisoning from eating it. And actually, it wasn't bad! Only the top layers of the fillo dough carried any hint of charcoal flavoring from the grill, but it wasn't bad. It blended nicely with the rest of the ingredients. When my husband woke up from his nap, he saw the dead pita and finished it off in the oven's broiler. Ironically, he rendered the feta cheese inedible to his standards when he did that because while the top was golden brown, the cheese melted and set off his gag reflex. I was disappointed because now it meant that he wouldn't eat my pita. My husband was also disappointed because he liked the taste, but he couldn't eat melted cheese cuz the texture triggers an adverse reaction in his throat (I think he's allergic to cheese, but it only happens when the cheese is cooked). We'll see about breakfast, after everything is nice and solid.

After a quick stint in the broiler. Much better

Would I do this again? Yes. I have another roll of fillo dough set aside for this purpose. Next time, however, if I can't use more spinach, I'll use half as much feta cheese. I'll also remember to add the milk to the filling, but I think the spinach could stand to have a good chopping so that it would fit easier in the folds of the dough. Also, I'll figure out a way to get the grill to light hotter so that my pita will bake properly. Despite the storm throwing off my timing, I'm genuinely pleased with how this came out. It was much better than my burek.

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