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Bosnian Pita – Spinach & Cheese

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Description

At a previous job, I had the pleasure of working with a sweet Bosnian girl. Conversation, as it does with me, turned to food and I asked her what she enjoys cooking for her new husband. This is when she introduced me to the idea of a Bosnian dish called Pita. Not like pee-tah (how we may pronounce the pocket bread used with falafal) but pi-tha (with a soft -th- sound). She described this wonderfully complex dish that I just knew I had to try. It includes an interesting ingredient, “Vegeta”, that she swears by.

So where to begin?

Let’s try to explain Vegeta (she pronounced it va-geth-a….not va-jetta). It’s a vegetable based seasoning used in many Eastern European households. You don’t need to use a lot to get good flavor. She says she finds it at the local “international” store but a quick internet search shows that you can also find it at other grocery stores. If you don’t have Vegeta and don’t want to buy it, that’s totally fine. I tried one pie with it and one pie without it (I forgot!!) and they were both delicious. You may just need to compensate with either more salt or some other vegetable seasoning.

Now, let’s see if I can try to explain Pita – But wait, let me just put a disclaimer out there. I am not claiming to be a Pita expert. I’m far from it. I heard about it from a friend and then researched a bit on the net before combining all that I’d learned into my recipe below. I don’t know if my recipe is exactly the same as what my friend makes at home but it does look like the pictures I’ve found on the internet ;).

Pita is a traditional dish with a long history in Bosnia but the recipe is complicated and time consuming enough that many people have stopped making it. I could hear the pride in my friend’s voice when she said she makes a good pita. She said something to the effect of, the test of being a good Bosnian wife is  you can make pita.

Does that make me a good Bosnian wife? Haha…I’ll have to ask Mitch about that.

Alright, so getting to the point. In the simplest terms, Pita is kind of like a phyllo pie arranged in a spiral. It’s not terribly complicated in concept, but it certainly takes patience. That said, this will be the first recipe for which I’ve posted some “in process” pictures because in this case, seeing really makes a difference – Especially with regards to the thinness of the dough. I think the dough should have been even more thin but my patience ran thinner…that’s why patience would be the first ingredient in this recipe. Regardless, it still tasted good.

Pita is also very versatile. You can stuff it with just about anything. A popular stuffing is spinach & cheese so that’s the example I’m giving today. However, don’t think you’re limited to savory flavors – I made a tasty strawberry and goat cheese pita for dessert (I meant to add candied pecans but…fail…if you try it, let me know how it goes).

Nutrition Facts
8 servings per container
Serving size 1/4 pie

Amount per serving
Calories 353
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7.8g 10%
Saturated Fat 3.3g 17%
Trans Fat g
Cholesterol 64mg 22%
Sodium 664mg 29%
Total Carbohydrate 52g 18%
Dietary Fiber 2.7g 10%
Total Sugars 2.1g
Includes g Added Sugars 0%
Protein 17.6g

Calcium 17mg 2%
Iron 9mg 50%
Vitamin B-12 12%
Vitamin B-6 10%
Vitamin D 2.5%
Copper 8%
Folate 17%
Magnesium 37%
Manganese 37%
Niacin 6%
Pantothenic Acid 6%
Phosphorus 24%
Riboflavin 20%
Selenium 42%
Thiamin 9%
Zinc 10%
Not a significant source of vitamin D, or potassium.

The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
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Nutritions

Ingredients

2 cups All Purpose Flour + more flour for dusting
1 cup Warm Water
1/2 tsp Salt
12-16 oz Frozen Spinach (thawed and squeezed of excess liquid)
Salt to taste (to sprinkle on spinach)
2 cups Cottage Cheese - drained
4 heaping tbs Feta Cheese
2 Eggs
2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil + extra to spread on dough
1 tbs Vegeta
* Click to ingredient to choose one

Directions

1
Select a large counter top and clean, and I mean really clean, that counter top.
2
Combine salt and flour in a bowl. Gradually stir in water. I put my Kitchen Aid Mixer at it's lowest setting. Otherwise, gently knead with your hands. If it's too sticky, add a bit more flour and if it's too tough, add a tad more water. When the dough forms a ball in the mixer, remove and manipulate with your hands until the dough is soft, but not sticky.
3
Lightly oil the surface of this ball. Place it in a bowl and cover. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes.
4
Sprinkle some salt on frozen spinach and set aside to drain and thaw. When thawed, use hands to squeeze our excess liquid.
5
Fold together eggs, cheeses, olive oil and Vegeta. Set aside.
6
Preheat oven to 400 F.
7
Generously flour the counter top.
8
Divide the dough into 2 pieces and roll each into little balls. Leave one in the bowl, covered.
9
Flatten the other ball into a thick disk and place on flour counter top. Using a rolling pin, flatten it into a thinner disc.
10
Apply a thin layer of oil to both sides of this disc and begin to massage and manipulate the dough to gently push and pull out into a thinner and thinner oval.
11
Choose one direction (clockwise or counter-clockwise) and move around the dough using the backs of your hands to gently spread the dough out and your fingers to gently pinch the edges to pull it into an ever thinner layer. The goal is to make the dough opaque enough to see the pattern of your counter top beneath. See methods picture 1.
12
Mix the spinach and cheese mix together. I pulsed it in a blender to make it fairly smooth.
13
Spoon the mix on to the dough into a thin layer starting from both opposing, longer edged, sides. Leave a 2-4 inch swatch in the middle.
14
Fold in each side of the dough so when heating, the filling doesn't spill out. As in Picture 2 of Methods.
15
15.Along the long sides, begin rolling in the dough from both sides to create two long ropes. As in picture 3 of methods.
16
Use a sharp knife to cut the two ropes away from each other.
17
Repeat this process with the other ball. You don't need to use the same filling for both sets. Other ideas include just cheese (like cottage and feta), seasoned "beef", strawberries + goat cheese + candied pecans, apples + brown sugar + cinnamon, almost anything!
18
Oil two pie pans. Twist the ropes into spirals and place gently into the pie pans. You can either make 2 larger spirals as I did, or you can choose to make 4 smaller ones and put them in all in a pan side by side.
19
Brush with an egg wash.
20
Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown.
21
These can be served warm out of the oven or at room temperature. I served them warm with a nice strawberry and pecan salad.