Pita bread is a type of flatbread that is a staple in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Thankfully, it’s a bread that we can now typically find at most U.S. grocery stores, helping to expand our palate and broaden our horizons.

Pita bread is not much different from many flatbreads, including pizza crust, tortillas, naan or matzah. However, pita bread is unique in that it has its own little pocket which forms when baked. The round dough is baked at very high temperatures (450 degrees Fahrenheit), causing the steam to puff up the interior. When the bread is cooled, the layers remain separated. This makes a fun pocket to get creative with, and stuff with all kinds of different foods.

Pita bread is traditionally used to wrap gyros, falafel, kofta or kebabs. It can also be stuffed with salad greens, grilled veggies or beans, egg or meat salads. Buy pocket-less pita bread and use as a pizza crust, or cut into small pieces to make pita chips. Pita bread is best served warm, which can be achieved in the oven, toaster oven or lightly brushed with oil and placed on the grill. Pita bread is low in fat and can be a good source of fiber. Choose pita bread that is whole grain to gain the most nutrients. If you’re tired of sandwich bread, opt for something different this week. Have fun exploring the many ways you can stuff a pita!

Beef Kofta Pita Sandwiches

1 pound lean ground beef

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup finely chopped onion

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon black pepper

8 whole wheat pita bread pockets

Tzatziki or tahini sauce, lettuce, tomato or red onion for topping

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with clean hands or a wooden spoon. Form into 15 patties. Place patties on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until internal temperature reads at least 155 degrees Fahreinheit. Place three patties in each pita pocket and top with desired veggies and sauce.

Yield: 5 servings (1 pita and 3 kofta patties each)

Nutrition facts (per serving): 370 calories, 6 grams fat, 650 milligrams sodium, 45 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 37 grams protein

Smith, a registered dietitian, is a nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.