In the US, pita bread is usually small and thick, about 8 inches in width; here in Lebanon, pita bread (called Arabic bread) comes in two sizes (even cocktail size, two inches in width) but the vast majority of people buy it in the large size. The bag of pitas weighs one kilo (about 2 pounds) and costs L.L. 1500 which is about one U.S. dollar. Bakeries now in Beirut are making whole wheat and gluten-free versions available to satisfy the clientele.
The pita itself is extra thin. It is used to grab morsels of food during meals and for sandwiches. Traditional lebanese food does not require silverware. People spread the food out in various plates and use bits of bread to eat it.
A classic sandwich (‘arouss) is one pita spread with labneh (drained yogurt cheese) topped with tomato slices, mint or other fresh herbs, some olives and a drizzle of olive oil. Rolled up and wrapped in paper it is the sandwich that kids take with them to school in the morning or make when they come home from school in the afternoon. Workers will make one at home and take it on the job site.
In the sandwich aka 3arousse above, I slathered labneh, then added cut-up makdous (preserved baby eggplant stuffed with walnuts, red pepper and garlic), avocado slices, olives, cherry tomatoes and fresh mint (a must!).
Hassan Hijazi, a follower of this blog, was recounting the ‘arouss he used to eat coming home from school, with hummus, heirloom tomato slices, fresh mint from their garden and the exquisite olive oil from the Koura region.
Above sandwich was used with a local handmade goat cheese called ambarees sliced tomatoes olives and fresh dill picked nearby in the wild.
Here is a sandwich slathered with muhammara topped with chunks of makdous and some olives and purslane or ba’leh growing in the garden.
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