I admit it - I'm a sandwich fiend. Sandwiches are quick and easy and if you devote attention to the ingredients they can be as good (meaning with complex, subtle, and bold flavors) as any other meal. But the foundation of any sandwich is the bread. If it isn't good the sandwich will suffer. Of all the breads you can make at home, one of the fastest and easiest sandwich breads is pita. So here's my pita recipe and my five favorite sandwiches using it.
I love pita bread. I stuff it with chicken salad, tuna salad, and egg salad. Pocket bread is my preferred bun for my stuffed lamb burgers and it's a handy way to serve my Moorish chicken. A Lebanese friend of mine used to stuff it with feta and then drizzle honey on it for breakfast - it's a great breakfast. Although pita is easy enough to buy, the best pita is fresh from the oven. Even better, you can have fresh bread in less than an hour. I got this recipe from my former colleague, Farmgirl Susan, and she, in turn, adapted it from a recipe by Bernard Clayton.
Egg salad has long been one of my favorite sandwich fillings. In fact, as a kid I never liked peanut butter and jelly, but loved egg salad. Every now and then I get a powerful yen for it again and will make up a batch then eat egg salad sandwiches for a week. Sometimes I add capers, chopped dill pickles, chopped celery or chopped green or red pepper to it. I like it on whole wheat, white bread and, my favorite, croissants. But more often than not, I stuff it into pita cause the pockets keep it from leaking onto the floor or couch.
In this version of tuna salad, bell peppers provide a sharper vegetable flavor than the traditional celery, capers provide the briny taste but without the clutter of dill (or, even worse, the sweet pickle relish sometimes used), red onions provide a touch of sweetness along with heat, and the shredded parmesan brings a deeply savory flavor to the whole.
Some 30 years ago I stepped into a taverna in Athens, Greece and was captivated by a vertical spit of meat rotating slowly in front of a multiple-level charcoal brasier. I watched as the fellow behind the counter sliced off pieces of meat, piled it on a round of flat bread, then slathered it with some kind of sauce, some tomato, chopped onion, and rolled it up. This I had to try, and so I had my first gyro along with a tumbler of retsina. It was a major culinary event in my life, and I immediately ordered a second one.
During one of my many interregnums between regular employment gigs I got up at 4:00 every morning to bake homemade croissants which I then made into sandwiches and sold door-to-door at businesses in my end of town. The fillings consisted of things like sliced roast beef, ham, turkey, and so on - ordinary sandwich fare. But my most popular sandwich was filled with curried chicken salad. This recipe is sweet, spicy, and savory and extraordinarily good. I haven't made a croissant since those days, but I still make this salad and stuff it into pita bread.
These stuffed lamb burgers are a variation on a stuffed leg of lamb recipe I developed some years back. The stuffed leg of lamb is elegant but much more difficult to make. The burgers , on the other hand, are easy to make and almost as good. Both recipes combine lamb with fresh mint (a traditional herb for lamb) and blue cheese. They're incredibly juicy because of the cheese, so I serve them in pita halves to avoid losing a single drop of goodness.
The thing I like about chicken is its flexibility. It readily adapts to the flavors it's combined with and so we find Coq au Vin, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Tandoori Chicken, and chicken fahitas. Last year my father and I spent a weekend at a cabin in the mountains. I knew we'd have a stove, but as for cooking equipment I had no idea what would be available, so I bought some chicken thighs, packed a good skillet, and planned this meal.
Pita steak sandwiches are intended to solve a problem. The problem is that cutting steak on a paper plate using a plastic knife is a pain in the butt. The knife does a poor job, you end up cutting through the plate, and you end up with flecks of paper in your steak. But if you're trying to avoid washing (or transporting) dishes what can you do? Answer: Bring a sharp knife, a cutting board, and pita bread. The recipe below features a Mediterranean marinade, but you can flavor the steak any way you prefer. I like sirloin for this, it's a good compromise on taste, tenderness and price.