This week is a busy one for me Up North. I stepped back into a restaurant kitchen making Lebanese recipes for a Lebanese food and wine dinner at Harbor Springs’ New York restaurant, and what a warm and wonderful experience it was. Diners told me about their various love affairs with Lebanese cuisine, or their excitement to try it for the first time (the spinach pies, one gentleman told me, reminded him of the spinach and vinegar he ate growing up in England. You just never know what pathways food will lead you down).
It was especially nice for me to be able to share not only a big feast of everything from stuffed grape leaves to orange blossom baklawa, but also to talk a little about why the Lebanese eat the way we do. It’s not just because we know and love good food and wine. We like to make and share big meals because it allows us to express to you that you are important. That we want to sit and talk a while and find out how you’re doing; the more bites we have around the table, the longer we can sit and talk. When we cook for you, you know you are loved.
Lately, on the run, I’ve been eating super delicious, super quick wraps of pita, labne (or, in a pinch, cream cheese), tomatoes of summer which are finally, finally!, here after a long and tortured wait. Cucumbers, onion, little shower of fresh mint. Healthy pinch of salt and pepper. If there is leftover chicken or whatnot, I throw that in. And bam! I ran in the house on Main Street more than once this week in the late afternoon having not eaten all day, and put one of these ditties together in about a minute. Ate it almost as fast too, it was so good.
When I lived and worked in Chicago I would sometimes forget about how great my pita wraps are, and overdose eating and spending too much at Chipotle or Wow Bao, or nothing at all when I didn’t want to bother with lunch (always a bad idea). Then I’d start bringing a wrap-up with me to work, wrapped itself in plastic wrap to keep it soft, and on those days I’d be dipping in for a bite long before noon.
I may have cooked and served a big meal meant to be eaten long and leisurely this week at the New York (and I only did a fraction of the work the rest of the kitchen staff did), but no time for indulging in long evenings at the table myself. I bet you’re busy wrapping up summer or starting kids at school, too. There’s always time, though, for this wrap, breakfast-lunch-dinner-and anything in between. It’s the kind of food that makes it easier not to skip a meal when you’re tempted to. The kind of food that fits a Labor Day weekend picnic, with ease. After eating one, I guarantee you’ll feel recharged, refreshed, satiated. And ready to run out the door for the many good things that fill our days.
Summer Veggie Pita Wrap with Labne
Add whatever looks good that you might have on hand: snap peas, scallions, leftover meats, olives. A sprinkle of za’atar is always good here. Eat the wrap immediately or wrap in plastic to keep the bread soft until you’re ready to eat. Cut the wrap in half on an angle when you want to be extra-civilized.
1 thin pita
Big dollop of labneh
1 small cucumber, cut in 4 spears
1 small, ripe tomato or several cherry tomatoes, sliced or halved
A few fresh mint leaves (or basil, or cilantro)
Salt and pepper
Spread the labneh over the pita. At one end, line up the cucumber, turnips, tomato, and mint. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roll up the pita with the vegetables in the center.