One of my favorite ways to eat is to eat a little bit from a lot of different dishes – the more little pickles, breads, cheeses, sauces, and olives, the better. Middle Eastern (not one of my favorite ways to classify food, but I’m not quite skilled enough all the time to make clear regional differentiations…) and Mediterranean foods fit the bill perfectly. Luckily, I don’t live super far from Sahadi’s, so when I have the time and am not feeling *too* lazy, I go there to stock up on spices, cheeses, and dried goods. Tonight, we had roasted lamb, manakish zaatar (Lebanese), and tzatziki (Greek). I did a little mixing and matching here, as I often do – it’s in my blood, maybe, to bring it all together. I did not have a homemade zaatar blend, (not having been to Sahadi’s in a while, and not having been able to find sumac in the grocery store, the only spice I was missing!), so I used a pre-made blend this time around. This brand isn’t my favorite, but it works!
The recipe for manakish is, interestingly, almost the same as for pizza dough (see, mixing and matching is okay!). The ingredients are identical, but key differences are in the flour (all-purpose as opposed to bread), proofing (less time), shaping (pizza dough is shaped by hand, manakish is rolled out), and spicing. These will brown across the top as the spice blend gets toasted. If you have a baking stone, they will crisp even more.
For the Bread:
1 packet active dry yeast (or the equivalent in fresh yeast)
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 cup hand-warm water
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
- Bloom the yeast in a small bowl with the sugar and water.
- Once the yeast has bloomed, add to the flour along with the olive oil.
- Begin mixing together; once the dough starts to come together, add the salt (salt, I learned, can inhibit the yeast, so get the dough going before you add the salt).
- Once the dough has come together and looks shaggy, transfer to a floured surface and knead for up to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and holds its shape.
- Preheat oven to 400º. Note: My oven runs a little cool, so I actually baked these at 425º. Most recipes, however, call for 400º.
- Set to rise (covered) for at least an hour (you can let this rise longer, even overnight as with pizza dough).
- Once the dough has doubled in size, knead again for a tiny bit and divide into 8 pieces. Let the balls sit for 15 minutes (covered).
- Roll each ball into a circle, about 7-8 inches wide and very thin. As you can see from mine, the measurements do not need to be exact, though the thinner you can roll the dough, the better.
- Very lightly brush each circle with a little olive oil, then brush spread zaatar blend onto each dough circle, leaving the outermost edges unseasoned. Dimpling the dough a bit will help the spice stick (as will the olive oil).
- Bake for about 8-10 minutes (Again, because of my slightly cool oven, I need to bake for a bit longer to get a nice crisp crust).
For the Zaatar:
1/4 cup ground sumac
3 tablespoons dried thyme
3 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
To go with the manakish (which for me is the real centerpiece, bread-lover that I am), I made roasted lamb, roasted carrots, and couscous with almonds and dates, served with cheeses and tzatziki.
Tzatziki is one of those foods I cannot get enough of, so I tend to make it in small batches or I will be eating nothing but this spicy yogurt for days on end!
1 container (whatever size you like, depending on what you need/want) plain Greek-style yogurt (you can also strain non-Greek yogurt to a thicker consistency if you have time).
- Grate the cucumbers and let drain in cheesecloth or a clean thin towel until most of the water has been released, squeezing the bundle occasionally.
- Once the cucumbers are ready, add all ingredients to the yogurt. This dish is really one you’ll have to taste to get your proportions right. I like a lot of garlic so that the dish is bright and spicy, but you might prefer this a little milder. Start with half a lemon, a splash of olive oil, 1-2 cloves (I usually use 2-4, depending on how much yogurt I have), and a shake of salt, then taste and start adjusting. Start with smaller amounts unless you have extra yogurt on hand to fix any over-spicing!
And finally, the lamb:
1.5 lb lamb for roasting (this was more than enough for 2 people – we have a nice bit left over)
Garlic cloves, minced
Spices/Herbs (I used an herbes de Provence mix this time – it’s an easy go-to for me when roasting meats, especially if I’m rushing at all, which I was a little bit tonight)
Salt and Black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425º (you may need to lower this once the meat has begun crisping; it will depend on your oven)
- Set the lamb into a roasting pan and score several cuts into the meat with a sharp knife
- In a small bowl, blend the garlic, spices, and olive oil.
- Pour the blend over the lamb, making sure to push some into the cuts you’ve made. Add salt and pepper.
- Roast to desired doneness (Medium: 140º, Medium rare: 135º. These are chef recommendations, not USDA, which are higher). This will be about 20-25 minutes per pound.
Tonight our meat thermometer decided to break, so we had to wing it a little, since I hadn’t fully paid attention to what time I put the roast in, assuming that I’d be able to find out the temperature. We took it out a little too soon and it was *really* rare, so we threw it back in for another 10 minutes or so and it was right. My final task of the night: buy a new meat thermometer.
Whew! That was a long one. This meal was worth all the effort, though – all the little pieces make the kind of meal I love to linger over…