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Glatt Kosher Middle Eastern / Mediterranean Cuisine
Pita Bread in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Cuisine

Pita bread is a round piece of bread with a pocket created by puffs of steam during the baking process. This unique bread is widely consumed in the Middle East and the Mediterranean countries as well as Turkey, India and the Arabian Peninsula. Traditionally baked in very hot brick ovens, pita bread (Arabian name khubz), is made from wheat and slightly leavened, which allows the bread to create the hole for which it is famous. Written evidence of Arabs making khubz dates back to the 10th century and is found in a cookbook called the Kitab al-Tabikh.

How Pita Bread is Used
Pita bread is used in a variety of ways, such as a scoop for dips and sauces (especially hummus) and a wrap for falafel, kebabs and gyros. It is usually baked quickly at 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius) in order for the layers of dough to dramatically rise while baking. When taken out of the oven, pita bread layers stay separated, providing the cook with pockets in which to place different kinds of stuffings.

Turkish pita bread is called pide, a word that also defines a pizza-like dish make of the same kind of dough. Pita bread made in Turkey experiences regional differences that cause Turkish pita bread to vary in size, shape, ingredients and baking method. One variation is the crunchy, seasoned pita chip, which is a piece of baked, crisp pita bread that can be used as a substitute for tortilla chips.

In Egypt, Israel and Palestine, it is customary to place just about all food in a pita for consumption. Popular pita foods in these countries are lamb, hummus, Molokhia (Corchorus leaves), chicken shawarma, falafel, kebab and an omelette made from tomatoes and eggs called shakshouka.

A Middle Eastern eggplant dip called baba ghanoush is a popular dip blending a rich and smoky flavor with the soft, yeasty texture of pita bread. Ingredients of baba ghanoush include eggplant, minced garlic, lemon juice, salt and tahini.

Shawarma is another favorite pita stuffing, often referred to as the Middle Eastern “taco”. Shawarma contains:
Chicken, beef or lamb
Minced garlic
Ground cloves, nutmeg, cardamon and allspice
Lemon juice or vinegar

A spicy variation of the traditional pita bread recipe is also found throughout the Middle East that uses a combination of ingredients called za’tar. Ingredients such as thyme, oregano, sumac, roasted sesame seeds, olive oil, marjoram and coarse salt are mixed with regular pita bread ingredients. Salads are also frequently eaten with za’tar pita bread.

Nutritional Value of Pita Bread
As a grain-based, low-fat food, pita bread is considered highly nutritious, providing iron, several important B vitamins and protein. Wheat contains complex carbohydrates and fiber which are vital energy sources utilized by the body. One large pita has about 160 calories but does not possess the empty calories found in white bread. Depending on what is stuffed into a pita, this bread can be an excellent addition to any low-calorie, heart-healthy diet.
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