February 3, 2012

Sfiha on Pita

So why did I finally get inspired to make pita bread? So I could try out this recipe - a spicy ground beef mixture atop pita bread. The day all this occurred was a Sunday, and I don't shop that day. So I was left to make pita bread myself.

This recipe is Mediterranean, and after a life-changing visit to Istanbul, I stocked my pantry with sumac and pomegranate molasses. I realize the average American cook may not have these on hand. Pomegranate molasses is used in a variety of dishes, but if you can't find any, try reducing pomegranate juice to use as a substitute.

I really liked this dish - the crunchy, hot pita with spicy beef and the fresh, cold salsa make an amazing pair. I prepared it for dinner, but really it's probably best as an appetizer or snack. The beef needs to be spread thinly on the pita so that it cooks all the way through. So you'd have to eat way too many of these to get full.

Sfiha on Pita
adapted from Creative Culinary

1 pound lean ground beef
4 ounces chopped onion
1/2 cup minced Italian parsley
3 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp labneh (yogurt cheese) or plain yogurt
1 teaspoon Arabic seven-spice (recipe below)
1 teaspoon ground sumac
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes or chili powder
at least 20 small pita bread rounds

Chop the onion fine and combine with some salt; place it on a sieve lined with a paper towel and let the onion drain its juice for 30 minutes or so.

Place the meat, spices, drained onion, chopped parsley, tahini, pomegranate molasses, labneh and minced garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 2 minutes or until the mixture turns pasty. Transfer to a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 375F and line a few baking sheets with foil. Place a pita on the foil and slather about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the meat mixture (depending on the size of the pita) on the pita, using a spatula to spread it as evenly as possible. The meat should be a fairly thin layer so that it cooks all the way through. Continue with the rest of the pitas.

Bake for 7-10 minutes, checking halfway through. When the meat looks cooked, remove from the oven. Serve warm topped with the salad mixture.

Arabic Seven-Spice Mixture
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
1/2 Tbsp ground cloves
1/ tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Mix together. Store in an air-tight container.

Salad Mixture
2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 cups chopped Italian parsley
1 cup chopped onion or green onion
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp salt
a dash allspice

Mix salad ingredients together. In a separate bowl whisk together dressing ingredients. Toss dressing with salad.

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