With the weather warming up, I’ve found myself dusting off the grill and doing more outdoor cooking. And I’m reminded of the magic that happens when smoke and char make their indelible mark on my food. I simply love unsubtle flavors—which are at the core of this hearty spring recipe that combines the meaty-oily richness of lamb, the pungent kick of garlic, the kiss of fire from the grill, and the peppery bite of radishes and watercress.First things first, the lamb-stuffed pitas—based on the Middle Eastern dish arayes—were a runaway hit with my family. And that’s because of the lamb. It’s seasoned with a good amount of za’atar (my brother-in-law brought me a 2-pound bag of it from Jordan!), parsley, onion, and garlic, so it ends up with a flavor akin to both gyro meat and kofta. Soft pitas are each split into two rounds, spread with the spiced ground lamb mixture, reassembled, and grilled. As they spend time over the coals, the meat juices soak into the bread and then crisp up in the most irresistible way. If you’re not a big fan of lamb, you can use ground beef instead—but choose grass-fed beef so that it has a richer, gamier flavor that will stand up to the seasonings.I serve these pitas with a sauce of tahini, lemon juice, and raw garlic. Even though the sandwiches have plenty of flavor on their own, they get even better when adorned with a creamy sauce. One quick tip: Don’t worry if the tahini seizes up when you first start to stir in the liquid. This happens because tahini, made from ground sesame seeds, is carbohydrate-rich. Adding liquid to it is almost akin to adding liquid to flour in that the carbohydrate holds onto the liquid. But when you add a little more liquid, it all thins and smooths out. If you need a little more liquid to get your sauce to the right consistency, just keep adding water a teaspoon at a time.The robust, fatty lamb needs a fresh, zippy counterpoint, so I serve the pitas with a salad featuring my all-time-favorite spring ingredient: radishes. I used three types: watermelon radishes for their gorgeous magenta hue, green daikon for softer color but more pungent bite, and cherry radishes for their crisp, juicy texture. This trio gets tangled in a pile of also-peppery watercress and dressed with the simplest combo of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. That way, the flavors of the main salad ingredients are the star—just given a little bit of bright embellishment.

Ann Taylor Pittman

Gallery

Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop styling by Audrey Davis

Recipe Summary

active:
45 mins
total:
45 mins
Yield:
4
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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Prepare an outdoor grill (preferably charcoal) to medium-high heat.

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Make the sauce
  • Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Instructions Checklist
Instructions Checklist
Make the pitas
  • Combine lamb, onion, parsley, mint, za’atar, oil, salt, pepper, and garlic in a medium bowl. Mix well with your hands to combine. Spread one-fourth of lamb mixture in a thin layer over inside surface of one pita half (hands work best for this; spread all the way to the edge). Top lamb with secondvpita half. Repeat process with remaining lamb mixture and remaining 3 pitas.

  • Arrange filled pitas on oiled grill grate. Cover and grill until pitas are toasted and meat is cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes, turning once halfway through cook time. Cut into wedges.

Make the salad
  • Combine watercress and radishes in a large bowl. Drizzle with oil and lemon juice, and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss gently to coat. Serve salad with pitas and sauce.