Whole Wheat Pita Pockets with Mediterranean Meatballs and Tomato, Cucumber and Fennel Salad

I came about this meal by starting with a simple premise: I had a fennel bulb in my fridge and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers in from my garden.

Those three ingredients said “Mediterranean” to me, so I set about creating complementary dishes. I took pre-made Italian sausage and mixed in herbs and spices. I whipped up a quick batch of tzatziki. (I’ve covered that recipe already here, where I also made lamb sliders with similar seasonings to the meatballs discussed in this post.)

Finally, I made a batch of whole wheat pita bread. I had wanted to try making pita pockets again using whole wheat flour; my first attempt wasn’t too successful. After a lot more practice, I had some ideas how to be successful.

Salad ingredients:

  • 1 Fennel bulb, green stems removed and sliced fine
  • 1 Large cucumber, diced
  • 3 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

A mandoline is encouraged for this dish. If you have one, make large, very thin shavings. Otherwise, cut the bulb into quarters and slice it as thin as you can with a knife.

 

Toss everything together and pour the dressing on top. Season well with salt and pepper.

 

 

 

Meatball ingredients:

  • 1 pound uncooked mild Italian sausages (about 5)
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced mint
  • 2 teaspoons fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Remove the casings from the sausages. Combine with the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and mix very well, using your hands.

 

 

Shape into meatballs about the size of golf balls. You’ll have between 18 and 20 meatballs. Saute in a dry pan over medium-high heat until firm and browned, about 15 minutes.

 

Pita pocket ingredients:

  • 3 cups (15 ounces) white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cup (10 ounces) water

Step 1. Combine all the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until the water has been absorbed, then let sit for 20 minutes. This softens the whole wheat flour and makes it easier to knead.

Step 2. Knead until a smooth dough forms, about 8 minutes. Go slowly at first, working the dough with your hands if necessary.

Step 3. Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour.

Step 4. Now comes the fun part. First, with a baking stone in the oven, preheat it to 500 degrees F. A baking stone is strongly recommended for this project, because it essentially guarantees puffed pitas. Preheat a cookie sheet otherwise.

Turn the risen dough out onto a floured surface and shape it into a large ball. Then cut that ball into eight pieces. Shape each of those pieces into tight round balls by rolling them between your cupped hands. This shaping step is key to getting pitas that puff up. Let the shaped balls rest for 15 minutes.

Step 5. Roll out the balls, four at a time, on a well-floured surface. This dough tends to spring back into place, so I’ve found it’s best to roll each pita in two stages. Roll once, then let it rest while you roll out the other pitas. Return to the first pita and roll again. The difference in size between the second roll (left in the photo) and first roll (right) is obvious.

Step 6. Transfer the first batch of four pitas to the baking stone with a spatula, taking care not to stretch or pinch the pitas while placing them down. This inhibits their rising. Bake for six minutes. Remove the puffed pitas and immediately deflate them. If you don’t do this they will cool hard and crispy. Bake the second batch of pitas.

To put this meal together. stuff the pitas with the meatballs and a little bit of the salad. Top with tzatziki and enjoy!

  • http://www.breadbeansandbudget.com/ IdaBaker

    I haven’t made pita bread for a long time.  Thanks for the reminder.  Plus, the meatballs look great!!

    • http://themanlyhousekeeper.com Mark Evitt

      Bringing homemade pita bread is one of my go-to quick potluck dishes. People are always really impressed, plus it doesn’t take that much time – only one rise, for an hour.

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