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
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  • 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

aberdeen grape salad with spinach and sweet tahini

spinach salad with tahini date dressing

There are these grapes that show up in the Hong Kong fruit markets around this time of year, and I don’t know what they’re called or where they come from, but I call them Aberdeen grapes because there’s a little fruit stand that sometimes sells them by Aberdeen and Hollywood. I think they might be Australian sable seedless grapes, but I don’t really have a clue. They’re purplish black all the way through, and so incredibly sweet—and while they stain your fingers and cutting board when you slice them, they’re so worth it.

My favorite thing to do with these (other than eat them by the bunch) is to put them in my favorite salads. If this particular variety (whatever it may be called) isn’t available where you are, you can totally use whatever you can find. This salad is delicious with just about any grape, or even blueberries or blackberries. Look for ones that are sweet, seedless, flavorful, and not too tart.

spinach salad with tahini date dressing
spinach salad with tahini date dressing

This particular salad is made with one of my favorite dressings—tahini and date molasses. The two are a middle eastern staple, and many people liken this classic combination to PB&J, since it’s sweet, nutty, and so often eaten with bread. Here, I’ve added some lemon juice and a little water to make it more of a lemon vinaigrette. You can sub honey or another natural sweetener (it’ll still be delicious), but the date molasses gives it an unmatchable depth of flavor.

spinach salad with tahini date dressing
spinach salad with tahini date dressing

aberdeen grape salad with spinach and sweet tahini

yield: 4 to 6 servings
total time: 15 minutes
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PDF to print

spinach salad

  • 1/4 of 1 very small red onion (or 1 small shallot), sliced very thinly

  • (optional) 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter or oil

  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

  • 7 ounces baby spinach

  • 3/4 cup dark purple seedless grapes, sliced in half (can sub red grapes, or blueberries/blackberries)

  • 14.5 ounce can butter beans (can sub any other white bean)

  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

  • 2 ounces feta, crumbled (feel free to use more, leaving it in bigger chunks)

  • 1 batch tahini date dressing (below)

  1. (Optional) Toss the red onion slices in the red wine vinegar, let them pickle for just 10 minutes, and then strain them very well. Otherwise, just use them sliced, as is.

  2. Heat the butter or oil in a medium skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add the almonds and stir constantly for about 5 minutes, just until they take on a little color. Using a slotted spoon, remove the almonds to a paper-towel-lined plate, leaving the oil behind in the pan.

  3. Once the almonds have cooled down for a minute or two, place the spinach in a big bowl, and top with the grapes, beans, sesame seeds, feta, dressing, and toasted almonds. Toss everything together to combine, and serve right away.

tahini date dressing

  • 1/4 cup tahini

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 2 tablespoons date syrup *

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Whisk together the tahini and lemon juice until it forms a paste with a mayo-like consistency.

  2. Whisk in the water, date molasses, and salt. If it doesn’t thin out to your liking, you can add a little extra water and/or lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time.

* You can find date syrup/date molasses (same thing) at most Middle Eastern markets, health food stores, and online, but if you can't find any near you, feel free to substitute honey (and feel free to include a few drops of blackstrap molasses if you want to give it more color and depth of flavor, or choose a buckwheat honey). If using honey, hold back a little, because it’s usually more sugary than date molasses.

spinach salad with tahini date dressing