Warm Chickpeas with Toasted Pita, Pine Nuts,
and Yogurt Sauce

Stale bread has inspired some of the world’s tastiest dishes, including this one from the Arab kitchen. In Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, frugal cooks layer their tired flatbread with moist ingredients, like boiled chickpeas or chicken, and big dollops of garlicky yogurt. The dry bread softens quickly in the juicy layers, becoming like pasta in a creamy lasagne. I use toasted whole-wheat pita, and I like to cook my own chickpeas so I have a flavorful broth for moistening. On top of the snow-white yogurt: a flourish of fried pine nuts, chiles, sumac, and cilantro. For a more robust dish, add a couple of layers of shredded poached chicken or browned ground lamb. 
From Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner by Janet Fletcher (Ten Speed Press).

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

  • 2 whole-grain pita breads

  • 2 cups plain yogurt (not nonfat)

  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh mint

  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas

  • 1 cup broth from cooking chickpeas or canned chicken or vegetable broth

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon medium-hot coarse red pepper, such as Aleppo or Maraş pepper, or hot paprika

  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

  • Ground sumac, for garnish

Preheat an oven to 325°F. Toast the pine nuts in a pie tin or on a baking sheet until they are evenly golden brown, about 5 minutes, shaking them to redistribute partway through. Let cool.

With your hands, carefully tear each pita in half along the “equator” to yield half-moons, each with a pocket. Gently open the half-moons and separate the pockets at the rounded edge so that you have eight half-moon pieces. Under a preheated broiler or in a toaster oven, toast the pita on both sides until crisp; watch carefully to avoid scorching. Let cool, then break into pieces about the size of tortilla chips.

In a bowl, whisk together the yogurt, garlic, mint, and salt and pepper to taste.

Put the chick peas and broth in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.

To serve, put half of the toasted pita in a serving dish. Moisten with about 1/3 cup of the hot broth. Add half of the chickpeas, lifting them out with a slotted spoon and scattering them over the pita. Spoon half of the yogurt over the chickpeas. Repeating the layering: toasted pita, hot broth, chickpeas, and yogurt.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the red pepper and sauté until its fragrance rises. Add the pine nuts and stir to coat with butter. When the butter sizzles and foams, spoon the pine nuts and all the butter over the yogurt. Garnish with cilantro and a shower of sumac and serve immediately.

Serves 4