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Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Experiment

Happy Sunday, dear readers.

Success! You CAN mix meat and veggies in a pita!



Last night, I decided to try something new. I knew I was gonna make a pita, but I wasn't sure how it would turn out. The reason for this doubt was because I was making pita with both meat and vegetable filling. While meat, vegetable, as well as cheese are common pita fillings, I've never seen meat and vegetable combined in a pita filling before. I had ground beef and spinach, and I wanted to use that for my pita.

Unsure, if anyone else had made a meat and spinach pita, I consulted the oracle known as Google for help finding a recipe. There was nothing in English, and when I searched the Serbian-language net, I did find one recipe for meat and spinach pita from Montenegro. I thank God for giving me the inspiration to watch cooking tutorials in Serbian because even though I've never been particularly proficient in the language, I now could read and follow a recipe in a language other than my dominant English. I looked at the ingredient list and though I had almost all the ingredients the recipe called for, I did not have sour cream. No matter, I would substitute a cup of milk instead.

There was one other novelty I was trying out with this pita. While at the swap meet a few weeks ago, I bought a 10x10 Corningware casserole baking dish with a lid. I'd washed it and was now ready to test it out with my pita. I intended to make the pita on my barbecue after the resounding success of my most recent attempt, but a summer storm blew through and not only put the kaibosh on that plan, but it cooled down the temperature enough to where I could run the oven inside and not turn my home into a furnace.

Using my handy dandy cast iron pan, I browned the meat, onion, and garlic. For spices, I added salt, pepper, a dusting of paprika, and a pinch of turmeric to enhance the flavor of the beef. I added the spinach last, but not before roughly chopping it. In the last pita I made using spinach filling, I didn't alter the spinach and I didn't like the way it lay for the filling. I decided to try the chopped spinach to see how well it lay in the filling. All this went into my mixing bowl filled with milk and beaten eggs.

Assembling the pita itself was actually much easier in this casserole dish than it was in the old recycled aluminum cinnamon roll tin I'd been using previously to bake pitas. The casserole dish is square, and the rectangular fillo dough sheets lay much better in that than in the round aluminum tin. I didn't even need to use that much oil to grease the fillo dough sheets between layers. Sure enough, the chopped spinach lay in the folds of fillo much better than they previously did. It wasn't until after I'd popped the pita into the oven that I realized I forgot to add the baking powder to the filling. To be fair, though, until recently, I had no idea that baking powder was used in pita filling. Growing up, nobody I knew used it. Baking powder helps the fillo dough puff up some, so that the pita isn't so dense.

After baking for about an hour or so until the top was a gorgeous golden brown color, it was time to answer the ultimate question: how did this pita turn out.

A better shot of the fillo and filling


The answer: delicious! The outsides were nice and crispy, the inside was nice and tender, and the filling wasn't too dense either! Having a dairy product in the filling definitely helps. Next time, though, I will add the baking powder. I may or may not use the sour cream too, given how satisfied I was with the milk, but if I get some, I'll use it just to see how it compares. But that casserole dish was a wonderful investment. For $10, I leveled up my pita baking to a whole new level. I don't have to be ghetto about my baking equipment anymore! Also, this pita confirmed that despite being somewhat rare, you CAN mix meat and vegetables in a pita filling, and it will come out tasting delicious.

I've almost gotten my pita making technique down pat. Thank you for bearing with me while I figure out how to make this classic dish from my ancestors.

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