Recipe of the Week: Manakeesh bi Za'atar

Recipe of the Week: Manakeesh bi Za'atar

Yesterday, Newt Gingrich warned parishioners at a church in Texas that by the time his granddaughters are his age, America will be ruled by the secular atheists and dominated by radical Islam. Leaving aside the obvious logical fallacy there (try suggesting to a radical Muslim that he become a secular atheist--well, go on, apparently radical Muslims are everywhere if he and his ilk are to be believed), the fact is that if we're on our way to becoming Saudi Arabia Occidentalis, the food we eat at home has a long way to go.

I don't know what this supposed takeover of our country would look like, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't look like the peaceful, loyal, completely non-threatening Muslims we have here in Orange County, the doctors and laborers and restaurateurs and small business-owners who've set up shops in places like Anaheim's Little Arabia, where they churn out amazing Middle Eastern food. Manakeesh--flatbreads with toppings--are not a sign of the coming apocalpyse, are they, Newt?

So, Newt, this recipe is for you. If you see this absolutely delicious Middle Eastern specialty being served, there's no doubt that your fearmongering brain will shriek that we are on the way to the destruction of the country you misremember from your halcyon youth. Meanwhile, for those of us back home outside your paranoid fantasy, these are just great, easy-to-make breads with an irresistible spice mixture on top.

1 c. whole-wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 - 3/4 c. warm water
1 Tbsp. ground sumac (available in any Middle Eastern grocery store)
1/2 Tbsp. dried thyme
1/2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1/2 Tbsp. dried marjoram (if you don't have it, substitute oregano)
1/2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted


1. Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl, then make a well and pour in 1/2 c. of water.
2. Stir with a fork, adding more water bit by bit, until the dough becomes a cohesive but rough blob.
3. Knead the dough on an unfloured, clean counter for 10 minutes.
4. Cover with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
5. Mix the sumac, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
6. Divide the dough into 6 or 8 equal portions and roll each into a ball.
7. Flatten each ball and roll with the heaviest possible rolling pin until it is the thickness of a dime (or slightly thinner). You may not need to flour the counter.
8. Heat a griddle over medium-high heat and brush with a small amount of butter.
9. Lay the flatbreads on (you will need to do this in shifts), then brush the top side with a small amount of butter.
10. When the dough starts to puff (1-2 minutes), flip the flatbreads.
11. When the dough starts to puff slightly (another 1-2 minutes), brush the top side with a small amount of butter.
12. Remove the flatbreads and sprinkle 1/2 to 1 Tbsp. of the za'atar (spice mixture) while the butter is still hot, and serve immediately.


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