The first time I made these we were living in Pasadena, California, but we’ve continued to have them every summer since. At that time I was just beginning to explore unfamiliar ingredients and to be brave enough to cook new things. I had Giada at Home and Everyday Italian recording daily. These pita pockets are Giada’s, and they’re one of my favorite summer meals. They make a fresh, filling and guilt-free lunch. They’re made not only with arugula as the lettuce of choice to fill the pita, but also with an arugula pesto that gives each bite a peppery spice. The cherry tomatoes sweeten it out while the rotisserie chicken helps to fill you up and keeps things easy because you only have to shred what someone else cooked! One interesting thing about this recipe is that it calls for lemon zest, but never any lemon juice. It made me think, “Well, this can be skipped, right? ‘Cause at the moment I don’t have anything to do with lemon juice and the zest can’t be that crucial.” Well, I thought wrong! Don’t skip adding the lemon zest because it gives the arugula pesto mayo a freshness and tang that you really need to balance out the peppery arugula. The recipe calls for a teaspoon, but I just zest a whole lemon.
I love that I can make these ahead of time and have them for lunch the next day. I combine the lettuce, extra parmesan, chicken and tomatoes in an airtight bowl. The pita pocket goes into a ziplock bag and the arugula pesto mayo has it’s own small salad dressing type container. Then when I’m at work (or at a picnic, or making life even easier at home) I can whip out the pita pocket and assemble it right there without it getting old or soggy from having already been made and wrapped up. In the recipe directions it says you can warm up your pita pockets before filling them, but that’s totally optional. I’ve found that it’s nice to have them warm, because for a moment they are soft and pliable but at the same time they dry out faster and then begin to crumble and break half-way through the meal. This is especially true if you have the tendency of stuffing them so full that they’re already about to explode and you have to give up holding them and find a fork. (Yes, it happens to me every single time.) So you know, if you don’t warm them then they stay extra soft for that much longer.
I realized that I didn’t really have a proper category to classify these in, so I put them under “salads” and “dinners.” While most of the time I make these for lunch, they do make a perfect dinner if you’re looking for something light. They totally remind me of a salad just hidden in a pita pocket, so I’m hoping that works too. Maybe what this all really means, though, is that I’m going to have to do more blogging with wraps and pita pockets so they can have a category all their own!
- 2 whole-wheat pitas, halved and opened
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise (can use up to 1/2 cup if arugula is too strong)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup Arugula Pesto, recipe follows
- 2 store-bought rotisserie chicken breasts, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 cup arugula
- 2 cups packed arugula
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for topping
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. (Optional for warming pita pockets, but not necessary)
- Arugula Pesto- For the pesto, blend the arugula and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add the oil until well blended. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in Parmesan and salt and pepper.
- Arrange the pita halves on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes until warmed through. (Optional)
- In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon zest and Arugula Pesto. (At this point you’ll want to taste test it. If you find that using 1/4 cup of mayo leaves the pesto too strong or peppery, you can gradually add more mayo to your liking. We prefer it as is.)
- To assemble the pita pockets, spread the Arugula Pesto Mayo on the bottom half of each pita. Add about 1/4 cup arugula and some chicken. Top with tomatoes and an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis
Notes – as this recipe is written it serves 2 people eating an entire pita themselves. Mike and I can usually share one. However, the arugula pesto mayo blend makes enough that you can use it on 6-8 pita pockets depending on how much dressing you like on your pita. That said, this recipe can actually serve 4-8 if you use an entire package of cherry tomatoes, extra arugula and extra parmesan and the rest of the pita pockets that come in the package. After I’ve bought all the ingredients to make this we usually eat it at least three different times.