After years of no road trips, I have just been on two back-to-back. The first was to check out three colleges on the east coast for my younger daughter, to speak to some track coaches and set foot on the campuses before having to commit to one, and the second was to drive my older daughter, Brydie, back to college, which I cannot believe is happening… Road trip food is not what it used to be. In my day, I was a vegetarian stuck with fast food options, so I ate mostly French fries and a donut here and there. On these recent trips, with every restaurant trying to survive on takeout, we used both Triple D and the James Beard Foundation for most of our selections, and we were able to eat vegetable-forward on the road, and keep my sustainability ethos in mind, too. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I had a pork belly gyro with tzatziki and feta at Bread & Circus, a Triple D recommendation. It was amazing. Here is my rendition. Pork belly makes everything better.
For the pickled turnips: In a small saucepan on high heat, bring the vinegar, salt, mustard seeds, ras al hanout, bay leaves, garlic, beets, jalapeno if using and 2 cups water to a boil. Pour over the turnips in a heatproof bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature and refrigerate for 8 hours before using. They will last over a month in the fridge.
For the pork belly: With a sharp paring knife, pierce the skin of the pork belly all over. Take care to go all the way through the skin, just into the fat, but not into the meat. The more perforations there are, the better the skin will crisp. Generously sprinkle both sides with salt. Place on a rack in a baking dish skin-side up, uncovered, overnight, in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (300 degrees F for convection ovens).
Wipe off the salt and any juice with a paper towel. Place the pork belly skin-side up in a baking dish. Add 1/4-inch water on the sides (do not pour on the skin you attempted to dry). Bake for 1 hour. Add another 1/4-inch water and continue to bake for another hour. Repeat 1 more time, for a total cook time of about 3 hours.
Turn the oven's broiler on high heat and broil the skin about 8 inches away from the heat source. The skin should puff up and crisp within 7 to 8 minutes. (Make sure to keep an eye on the skin while broiling in order to prevent it from burning.) Remove from the oven and cut into pieces about 1 1/2-inches long by 3/4-inch thick.
For the tzatziki: In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, mint, lemon zest and juice and salt to taste.
To assemble: Place 3 to 4 pieces pork belly on each pita, then top with arugula, turnip pickles and feta, and dollop with tzatziki. Wrap with parchment paper, then hand off and dig in.