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Makes 6-8 breads and 3½ cups of Chickpea spread

Homemade Pita Bread

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

½ teaspoon sugar

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¼ cup whole-wheat flour preferably freshly milled

2½ unbleached all-purposed flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Make sponge: Put 1 cup lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl. Add yeast and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add the whole-wheat flour and ¼ cup all-purpose flour and whisk together. Put bowl in a warm (not hot) place, uncovered, until mixture is frothy and bubbling, about 15 minutes.

2. Add salt, olive oil and nearly all remaining all-purpose flour (reserve ½ cup). With a wooden spoon or a pair of chopsticks, stir until mixture forms a shaggy mass. Dust with a little reserved flour, then knead in bowl for one minute, incorporating any stray bits of dry dough.

3. Turn dough onto work surface. Knead lightly for two minutes, until smooth. Cover and let rest 10 minutes, then knead again for two minutes. Try not to add too much reserved flour; the dough should be soft and a bit moist. (At this point, dough may be refrigerated in a large zippered plastic bag for several hours or overnight. Bring dough back to room temperature, knead into a ball and proceed with recipe.)

4. Clean the mixing bowl and put dough back in it. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then cover with a towel. Put bowl in a warm (not hot) place. Leave until dough has doubled in size, about an hour.

5. Heat oven to 475 degrees. On bottom shelf of oven, place a heavy-duty baking sheet, large cast-iron pan or ceramic baking tile. Punch down dough and divide into eight pieces of equal size. Form each piece into a little ball. Place dough balls on work surface, cover with a damp towel and leave for 10 minutes.

6. Remove 1 ball (keeping others covered) and press into a flat disk with rolling pin. Roll to a 6-inch circle, then to an 8-inch diameter, about 1
8 inch thick, dusting with flour if necessary. (The dough will shrink a bit while baking.)

7. Carefully lift the dough circle and place quickly on hot baking sheet. After two minutes the dough should be nicely puffed. Turn over with tongs or spatula and bake one minute more. The pita should be pale, with only a few brown speckles. Transfer warm pita to a napkin-lined basket and cover so bread stays soft. Repeat with the rest of the dough balls.

Mediterranean Smashed Chickpeas

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

Salt and pepper

4 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon coarsely ground toasted cumin

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup finely diced celery

4 cups chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cooked or canned

2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered (optional)

Minted yogurt (optional), see note

Tahini sauce (optional), see note

1. Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook gently until softened, about 10 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high. Add garlic, cumin, red pepper flakes and celery. Stir to combine. Let sizzle without browning for one minute.

2. Add chickpeas and let them heat through. With a potato masher or wooden spoon, crush about half the beans. Stir well, taste and adjust seasoning. Add ½ cup water (or bean cooking liquid if you have it) and let mixture simmer briskly for a minute or two. Stir in lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Serve warm in pita or as a dip or side dish. Garnish with quartered eggs, accompanied by minted yogurt and tahini sauce, if desired.

Note: To make minted yogurt, stir 2 tablespoons chopped mint and 1 minced garlic clove into a cup of thick yogurt. Season with salt and pepper. To make tahini sauce, mix ¼ cup Middle Eastern sesame paste with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 minced garlic cloves, ½ teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons olive oil.

— David Tanis, The New York Times

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