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Take a Tour of the

Mediterranean in a Pita Pocket

Pack your bags-we’re seeing the world through food! With the right combination of fresh ingredients from Walmart like chickpeas, lemon, olive oil, garlic, and of course, pita bread, you can take yourself straight to the Mediterranean in one bite.

One of the best ways to learn about different cultures is through food!

But why stop at one country or culture? Let’s take a step back and look at how one food is prepared and served across a larger region instead of a single country. That way, you’re learning about the similarities, differences, and context in which this food lives-all while learning about new places!

Think of a “regional food” like a pita pocket as part of a larger cuisine in a specific area of the world. Each region’s food is determined by the fresh ingredients that grow there—the herbs, vegetables, and fruits native to that land. Other factors to consider are the climate and the geography of the place—is it by the water, is it a desert, is it mountainous? All these factors come together to create a cuisine that includes many tasty and flavorful foods that follow a similar pattern in how they’re prepared or served.

One of the most delicious tours to take is through the Mediterranean region.

Enter: The pita pocket.

Made of wheat and good to eat, this round, flat, hollow bread has a history dating back 4,000 years. Originally, pita pockets were made by combining water and wheat flour. Today, pita bread is made with a mixture of active baker’s yeast, salt, and sometimes sugar, or it can be bought in packages at the local supermarket!

Pita bread is a staple throughout the Mediterranean, used for sandwiches, in salads, and even as a utensil when it comes to dipping or scooping. Below, take a look at how different foods come to life across the region with pita bread.

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Mezze plates

Baba Ganoush and Hummus

Where there’s mezze, there’s pita bread! Enjoyed throughout the Mediterranean region in countries like Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, “mezze” is similar to Spanish tapas, or small plates—much in the way we think of appetizers. There are loads of different mezze options, both hot and cold, but the ones you might be most familiar with are hummus and baba ghanouj—both even more delicious when made from scratch with fresh ingredients, drizzled in olive oil, and scooped with a fresh pita.

If you’re familiar with the lemony, garlicky taste of hummus, baba ghanoush is similar except that it also happens to have a deep smoky flavor thanks to its main ingredient—eggplant! Its name derives from Arabic; baba is a term of endearment referring to one’s father, while ganoush loosely translates to “pampered” or even “spoiled.”

For both hummus and baba ganoush, garlic, lemon, and parsley for garnish are necessary to fully round out the flavor profile. You can enjoy both of these mezze plates with fresh veggies like carrot sticks, celery sticks, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives. Last, but certainly not least, warm and cut your pita pockets into triangles to create the perfect vessels for this dip. And don’t forget the olive oil!

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Kebabs (and Shawarma!)

Kebabs are widespread across the region, and many countries have their own take on this marinated meat dish, often served in a pita as a sandwich. You might know it as Shish Kebab —but that’s only referring to cubes of marinated meat on a skewer; there are several types! Kebabs can also be made of minced chicken, lamb, or beef—called Adana Kebab—or prepared on those great rotating vertical spits where slices of meat are stacked upon each other and shaved off directly into pita bread, called Doner Kebab.

Kebabs, meaning “to roast,” have been tickling taste buds since 1377. They were originally made by soldiers back in the Ottoman Empire—modern-day Turkey. The men would hunt animals and grill chunks of the meat on their swords horizontally over an open fire, because breaking the meat into pieces allowed their meal to be ready much faster.

Since the Ottoman empire was so big and ruled for 400 years, it influenced much of the cuisine in the region. Shawarma, a dish based on Doner Kebab and adapted in Lebanon, was all the rage in the 1960s. Similar adaptations of shawarma now exist across the Mediterranean region as well as in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

A giant vertical rotisserie may be hard to put together at home, but barbecuing some shish kebabs is simple to do on the grill. When your skewers are done, grab a large pita and slide the grilled meat directly onto it with your favorite fixings.

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Fattoush Salad

Pairing perfectly with all of the above is the refreshing Fattoush Salad, which is scooped up with pita bread or topped with bits of crunchy, toasted pita, exactly like croutons! In fact, Fattoush is derived from the Arabic word for crumbled, referring to the fried or baked pita bits that top this salad.

The combinations of toppings might vary from time to time because Fattoush is a great way to use up leftover veggies, but there are a few core ingredients: cucumber, onion, tomato, radish, and parsley. Olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs like sumac come together to create the dressing.

Remember, don’t add your crispy pita bits until you’re ready to eat your Fattoush so they don’t get mushy!

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Falafel

Fun to say and fun to eat, falafels are deep fried (sometimes baked) croquette-like fritters, made of a combination of chickpeas and spices and served in a pita pocket with fresh and pickled vegetables, drizzled in tahini sauce.

The history of the falafel is just as colorful as the meal itself and stretches back thousands of years. It is said that falafel was brought into the world by the ancient Egyptians and was originally made with fava beans, a plentiful crop in that area. It was adapted to be made with chickpeas (or combined with the fava beans) when it traveled further into the Middle East, a good example of how location can influence the ingredients in a recipe!

By the 1960s, Israel had made falafel its national dish, and Turkish immigrants had popularized it as a street food in Germany. Some purists eat it only with pickled vegetables and tahini, but you can add fresh vegetables like lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and more to your pita pocket to enjoy your falafel however you like!

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Head to Walmart for fresh produce for all these dishes
today to start your world tour now!