Lebanon – Manakish Zaatar
Today we are traveling to the Middle East to get a taste of Lebanon. The food in most of the Middle Eastern countries is similar with minor changes and Lebanese food is no except.
Lebanese cuisine consists of whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruits and seafood. Chicken is eaten lot more than red meats. Olive oil, garlic and herbs are integral part of the cuisine. Some of the popular food from this nation are hummus, falafel, fattoush, tabbouleh, kebbehs and baklava to name a few. It was difficult for me to pick one recipe from this cuisine. I finally zeroed in on manakish, also known as manakeesh and manaqish and manousheh in singular form. It is usually eaten for breakfast and can be topped with herbs, cheese or meat. I used zaatar seasoning. It can be eaten as it is or can be served with some fresh vegetables.
Zaatar seasoning is a blend of sumac, sesame seeds, dry thyme and dry oregano. Sumac is a common spice in the Middle East. It is dark reddish spice that has a lemony flavor and I must admit, I have neglected or ignored this spice for too long. Whenever a recipe called for sumac, I always left it out but not anymore! This was the first time I used sumac in my cooking and am going to use it a lot more from now on.
Zaatar seasoning can be made at home or can be bought from any Middle Eastern store, as I did. Here in New York, some of the local supermarkets sell sumac in the spice section if one wants to make the zaatar seasoning at home. The other ingredients required for the blend are common herbs which are available in any supermarket. I have listed the recipe for zaatar seasoning even though I used a store bought one.
Source: The Kitchen
Total Time: 55 – 65 minutes
Preparation: 45 – 55 minutes
Baking Time: 8 minutes
Yields: 2 – 5 ½” – 6 ½” pies
- ¼ cup lukewarm Water
- 1/8 tsp. Sugar
- ½ tsp + a dash of Active Dry Yeast (will need ¼ of a packet and each packet weighs ¼ ounce)
- ¾ cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and more for dusting
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- ½ tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil + more for greasing
- 1 ½ – 2 tbsp. Zaatar Seasoning (I used store bought seasoning and check below for homemade seasoning)
- 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Zaatar Seasoning (This recipe yields around ¾ cup seasoning and will need only 1 ½ – 2 tbsp. for the bread)
- ¼ cup ground Sumac
- 3 tbsp. Dried Thyme
- 3 tbsp. Dried Oregano
- 2 tbsp. Sesame seeds
- 1 tsp. Coarse Salt
- Take lukewarm water in a bowl. You can microwave water for 10 – 15 seconds to bring it to lukewarm temperature. Add sugar, yeast and let it stand for 10 minutes until it becomes foamy.
- Meantime, combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Add olive oil and mix it with your fingers. Make a well and keep the flour aside until yeast water becomes foamy.
- Add yeast water mixture and make soft dough using your fingers.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with a damp cloth or a plastic wrap. Leave it in a warm place for 1 hour until it doubles in size. I left it on my counter top.
- Preheat the oven to 400F and place a greased baking sheet in the oven as it heats. You can also use a pizza stone.
- Knead the dough lightly and divided it into two balls. Pull out the baking sheet and place the balls on the baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap (you do not want to use a plastic wrap if the sheet is hot) or a kitchen towel and let stand for 15 minutes. Check note below.
- Meanwhile combine zaatar seasoning and oil in a small bowl, mix and keep aside the topping. I used 2 tablespoons of zaatar seasoning and had some leftover. I did not want to throw it away and spread all of it. I felt I should not have used all of the seasoning.
- On a lightly floured surface, flatten and roll each ball of dough into 1/8” thick, about 5 ½” – 6 ½” in diameter.
- Press each circle with fingertips making an indentation for the topping to rest in.
- Transfer the circles onto the baking sheet.
- Spread the zaatar topping leaving ½” border around the edges.
- Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned and crisp, about 8 minutes.
- Cut the pie into wedges using a pizza cutter. Serve warm or cool on the racks. It is usually served for breakfast but I ate it for lunch. It also makes a good starter for parties.
- I heated the baking sheets and placed the divided dough on it to rest. After this preparation, I realized that rolled out bread needs to be placed on the hot baking sheet and not the divided dough. In step 7 of the preparation use a regular pan and in step 11, after the bread is rolled out, transfer that bread to hot baking sheets or pizza stone.