I discovered MFK Fisher when I was in college; my roommate's mom had given her With Bold Knife and Fork and one day it caught my eye and I started reading. By the end of the year, I had read and reread that book so many times it was practically in tatters. Eventually I proceeded to collect all her books and even now, if I'm feeling particularly blue I can always rely on her to cheer me up, or find a phrase that fits that moment in my life perfectly. One person she alluded to again and again was a man who lived in the 18th century - Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. He was apparently very quotable; for example "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are." The quote that sprung to my mind tonight upon my first bite of falafel sandwich was:
"The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity, than the discovery of a new star."
Falafel sandwich in this case, is not precisely a new dish because of course I've eaten many falafel sandwiches in my lifetime, of varying quality. In this case, it's discovering a new favorite recipe, a new addition to what I can make at home. I started planning this sandwich yesterday, making pita bread and hummus and soaking a batch of chickpeas for the falafels. As with almost everything I make these days, I followed a recipe from cook's illustrated and it was extraordinarily easy and delicious. The hummus recipe is also from cook's illustrated so I don't feel right posting either of them, but the pita bread I made from this recipe.
Pita Bread (from about.com)
1 package of yeast, or quick rising yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until water is frothy. Combine flour and salt in large bowl. Make a small depression in the middle of flour and pour yeast water in depression. Slowly add 1 cup of warm water, and stir with wooden spoon or rubber spatula until elastic. Place dough on floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes. When the dough is no longer sticky and is smooth and elastic, it has been successfully kneaded. Coat large bowl with vegetable oil and place dough in bowl. Turn dough upside down so all of the dough is coated.
Allow to sit in a warm place for about 3 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
Once doubled, roll out in a rope, and pinch off 10-12 small pieces. Place balls on floured surface. Let sit covered for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 deg F. and make sure rack is at the very bottom of oven. Be sure to also preheat your baking sheet.
Roll out each ball of dough with a rolling pin into circles. Each should be about 5-6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick. Bake each circle for 4 minutes until the bread puffs up. Turn over and bake for 2 minutes. Remove each pita with a spatula from the baking sheet and add additional pitas for baking. Take spatula and gently push down puff. Immediately place in storage bags.
Notes: I made half the recipe to test it and my dough was doubled in size in less than 2 hours. The dough was extremely easy to roll out, unlike the flour tortillas I recently made and they puffed up beautifully. The heat source for my oven was on top so I baked close to the top instead of the bottom. When I cut them in half today for my sandwiches, there was a nice pocket in all of them. Success!