manakish za'atar variations

manakish

A few weeks ago, I flew to Phoenix to celebrate Christmas with my whole big family. We had so much fun playing giant Jenga, hiking, and eating a million delicious tacos. While I was in town, I also got to cook with one of my favorite Assyrian food bloggers, Lisa from Seven Spice Life. We spent the morning at her house making an epic manakish feast, with lahm bi ajeen, and a couple of delicious variations on manakish za’atar (AKA manousheh).

The classic manakish with olives, tomato, labneh, cucumber, and mint was inspired by a trip Lisa took to Jordan, and the California-style one was inspired by all our favorite ingredients (goat cheese, blistered tomatoes, arugula, avocado, and garlicky pickled radishes). We used some incredible za’atar from Lisa’s brother-in-law’s family in Lebanon, and everything was just so perfect.

I’ve got some photos and the recipe for the two manakish za’atar variations below, and Lisa was generous enough to direct and edit a video with all three manakish, including the lahm bi ajeen.

Here’s the base of the California-style one—Lisa had the idea to add the tomatoes and goat cheese to the pizza before baking, which was a stroke of brilliance!

Here’s the base of the California-style one—Lisa had the idea to add the tomatoes and goat cheese to the pizza before baking, which was a stroke of brilliance!

Here’s the labneh going onto the classic tomato, cucumber, and olive manakish za’atar. I love the way the za’atar swirls with the labneh a little, and all the flavors meld together.

Here’s the labneh going onto the classic tomato, cucumber, and olive manakish za’atar. I love the way the za’atar swirls with the labneh a little, and all the flavors meld together.

And now for the toppings!

And now for the toppings!

After the labneh and veggies, on goes the mint chiffonade.

After the labneh and veggies, on goes the mint chiffonade.

How have I never had lahm bi ajeen with lemon before?

How have I never had lahm bi ajeen with lemon before?

It’s a revelation.

It’s a revelation.

Here’s Lisa! We had so much fun talking for hours about family, food, travel, and our mutual love of castelvetrano olives.

Here’s Lisa! We had so much fun talking for hours about family, food, travel, and our mutual love of castelvetrano olives.

Collaboration is such a wonderful thing!

Collaboration is such a wonderful thing!

Thanks Lisa for taking these photos of me!

Thanks Lisa for taking these photos of me!

You can see one of Lisa’s pups running by in the background <3

You can see one of Lisa’s pups running by in the background <3

Lisa made these wonderful pickled radishes, with lots of garlic and zesty flavors. Any kind of pickled veggie would work wonderfully here, but the radishes were just the thing.

Lisa made these wonderful pickled radishes, with lots of garlic and zesty flavors. Any kind of pickled veggie would work wonderfully here, but the radishes were just the thing.

above: classic manakish with olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, labneh, and mint chiffonade below: california-style manakish with goat cheese, blistered tomato, arugula, avocado, pickled radishes or onions, and a little more extra virgin olive oil.

above: classic manakish with olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, labneh, and mint chiffonade
below: california-style manakish with goat cheese, blistered tomato, arugula, avocado, pickled radishes or onions, and a little more extra virgin olive oil.

manakish za’atar variations

manakish za’atar base

yield: 4 small manakish
download a PDF to print

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons za'atar *

  • Salt, to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)

  • 1 pound pizza dough

  • Semolina or cornmeal, for sprinkling

  1. Place a pizza stone (or sheet pan) on the oven floor, move the oven racks up and out of the way, so you can easily access the pizza stone, and pre-heat the oven to 500° F.

  2. Combine the olive oil and za'atar. Salt it to taste if you're using unseasoned za'atar.

  3. Lightly flour a clean, food-safe work surface, use a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, and shape each chunk into a round ball.

  4. Roll each dough ball into a circle, about 1/8 inch thick. To keep the round shape, rotate the disc about 90 degrees after each time you roll it out, and be sure to re-flour the surface every so often.

  5. Sprinkle semolina or cornmeal on a pizza peel or thin cutting board. Place one dough disc on the cutting board. Top with about 1/4 of the za'atar mixture (about a heaping tablespoon) and spread it out using your fingers or the back of a spoon. Top with 1/4 cup of feta cheese, if using. Let it rest for about 5 to 10 minutes before it goes in the oven.

  6. Once the oven has preheated, use a quick motion to move the pie from the pizza peel onto the pizza stone. Cook for about 5-8 minutes, until the edges start to brown and the bread is cooked through. The dough should be crispy and chewy, like really good brick oven pizza.

  7. Repeat with the remaining 3 pies.

california-style manakish za’atar

cherry tomatoes + goat cheese + lightly dressed arugula + avocado + pickled radishes/onions + olive oil

Add a few halved cherry tomatoes and a handful of goat cheese crumbles to the manakish za’atar base after the za’atar oil goes on. Bake as usual, until the pizza is cooked through, the goat cheese is melted, and the tomatoes are slightly charred or blistered. Once it comes out of the oven, top with arugula (dressed lightly with oil and vinegar), avocado, pickled radishes or onions, and a little more extra virgin olive oil.

classic manakish za’atar

labneh + olives + cherry tomatoes + Persian cucumbers + mint + olive oil

Bake the manakish za’atar base as the original recipe suggests. Top with labneh, halved olives, quartered cherry tomatoes, large-diced Persian cucumbers, a few sprigs of mint chiffonade, and some more extra virgin olive oil.

manakish

a perfect bowl of tabbouleh

a perfect bowl of tabbouleh

The name of this recipe is a little unfair, because there’s nothing more perfect than the tabbouleh my grandmother, mom, and great aunt make without recipes, scales, or cups. But a great recipe is different from the thing itself, and a recipe only exists to get you to delicious food. So I finally got around to recording our family recipe in grams, instead of bunches, cups, and handfuls. But at the end of the day, you don’t really need to use these precise measurements, because tabbouleh is very straightforward if you know what you’re doing.

The key to good tabbouleh is to remember that the parsley, mint, and onion are not mere garnishes, but a substantial part of the salad, so be sure to pay attention to your ratios, and adjust them to your liking. The most important ratio to pay attention to is bulgur:parsley. There’s some controversy among recipe writers about how much bulgur to add to tabbouleh, and I fall somewhere in the middle, or maybe a little more toward the bulgur-heavy side of the spectrum. One thing we can all agree on is that there shouldn’t be too much bulgur (it’s just that the definition of “too much” varies from person to person, as well as season to season).

Perhaps the reason I like to include a little more bulgur than some is that my family taught me to treat the bulgur with a little special care. So instead of boiling or steeping it in water, we like to soak it in lemon and tomato juice. This makes every bite incredibly flavorful (and it conveniently saves an extra step). But this method only works if you use fine bulgur, so don’t miss the notes at the bottom of the recipe if you want to substitute a coarser bulgur.

tabbouleh

a perfect bowl of tabbouleh

serves 6
total time: 30 minutes
download a PDF to print

  • 150g (3/4 cup) fine burghul/bulgur #1 *

  • 425g (2 cups) minced tomatoes, with their juices (from about 3 medium tomatoes)

  • 85g (between 1/3 - 1/2 cup) lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

  • Salt to taste

  • 100g (2 cups) minced flat-leaf parsley leaves (from about 2 big bunches)**

  • 45g (3/4 cup) minced green onions (from less than 1 bunch)

  • 35g (1 cup) minced mint leaves (from about 1 big bunch, or 2 smaller ones)

  • 45g (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. If you're using fine burghul/bulgur #1, you should not cook your burghul in hot water; instead, soak the burghul in a mixing bowl with the minced tomatoes, their juices, 75 grams of the lemon juice, and a pinch of salt (to taste). Let the mixture soak while you prep the rest of the ingredients (about 20 minutes). The bulgur will continue to hydrate once you’ve mixed the salad together.

  2. Add the parsley, green onions, mint, and remaining lemon juice to the bulgur and tomato mixture, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with pepper. Mix well, and let it sit for about 10 minutes before salting and serving. You can enjoy it for about 48 hours, but if you’re making it for guests, you should serve it within about 30 minutes of mixing. Season with salt (to taste) immediately before serving.

* You can find burghul #1/fine bulgur at most Middle Eastern markets, and some international sections of grocery stores. If you can't find a source near you, you can substitute couscous, cracked wheat, or coarse bulgur. These will need to be cooked in boiling water until al dente, rinsed, strained well, and then soaked with the tomatoes and lemon juice for about ten minutes. Burghul #1 is pre-cooked and very fine, so it only needs to be soaked, rather than cooked.
** Make sure your herbs are dried very well with a towel or spin-dryer before mincing. Use the sharpest knife you have, so that you can cut through the herbs cleanly, instead of crushing them. For precision, all of the ingredients in this recipe are measured after mincing, so the 100g parsley is just the leaves themselves, not the weight of the entire bunch (make sure you buy enough).

tabbouleh