Pita Jungle — A hip, healthy haven

The Mediterranean diet has been found to be one of the healthiest in the world. Its tasty staples are primarily whole grains, olive oil, fish, and dried fruits and vegetables.

by Stan Kalson — 

The Mediterranean diet has been found to be one of the healthiest in the world. Its tasty staples are primarily whole grains, olive oil, fish, and dried fruits and vegetables. It also is low in saturated fats and meat, but never skimps on flavor.

A few years ago, three good friends had a dream to create restaurants where people could relax, enjoy reasonably priced, healthy food and escape the daily grind. They have achieved their goal with Pita Jungle, which serves flavorful cuisine quickly and attractively in a friendly atmosphere. And now there are four convenient locations.

After years of serving the Tempe college crowd, Pita Jungle opened a larger Chandler location, a Scottsdale restaurant and now their fourth, in Arcadia. The Arcadia Pita Jungle is smaller than the original Tempe location, but much hard work and vision has gone into making it comfortable and inviting, with cozy indoor seating, and several tables outside so patrons can enjoy the balmy night air.

Pita Jungle’s cuisine is high-quality, fresh, delicious and made-to-order. They have created tasty vegetarian dishes, as well as fish and poultry dishes for meat lovers to enjoy. They have a wide variety of authentic Middle Eastern fare: creamy hummus, zesty baba ghanoush, smooth tsatziki, delicate spanakopita, lemony dolmades and crispy falafel. There are also 11 salad choices, ranging from tabouli and grilled vegetables to broiled chicken.

Visit any of the Pita Jungle locations seven days a week, but please call to verify hours. Locations are: 1250 E. Apache Blvd. in Tempe, 480-804-0234; 1949 W. Ray Road in Chandler, 480-815-3232; 7366 E. Shea Blvd. in Scottsdale, 480-922-7482; and 4340 E. Indian School Road in Phoenix, 602-955-7482.

Here are a few Mediterranean recipes to try at home:

Creamy Hummus

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 19-ounce cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

Instructions:

Blend water, tahini and garlic in a food processor until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Basmati Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup basmati rice, cooked
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups shredded, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, drained
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
  • 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup fat-free chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano

Instructions:

Cook basmati rice with garlic and cool. Add chicken, onion, tomatoes, lemon rind, garbanzos and artichokes. Stir and add dressing to mixture until coated. Serve with pita bread.

Artichoke Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups cooked, short-coil pasta
  • 2 cups thinly sliced spinach
  • 1 cup chopped, seeded tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Instructions:

Combine 3 or 4 artichoke hearts, olive oil, water, lemon juice, herbs and garlic until smooth. Chop remaining artichoke hearts. Combine the chopped artichokes, pasta, spinach and chopped tomatoes in a large bowl. Pour pureed artichoke mixture and toss well to coat. Cover and chill two hours. Sprinkle with feta cheese.

 

Stan Kalson is the founder and director of the International Holistic Center, Inc. and has been active in the Greater Phoenix holistic community for 30 years. www.holisticresources.org. 602-287-0605.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 3, June/July 2007.

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