Mana’eesh Flatbreads with Za’atar spice
Za’atar is the miracle spice of the Middle East. Many people from that region credit Za’atar with medicinal properties, and Middle Eastern students make sure to load up on Za’atar for an extra sharp mind before taking exams. I personally think this spice blend is the key to the fountain of youth, as I recall my Aunt Bahia lived on this spice every day until she passed away at 96 years old. Even in her nineties, she barely had any wrinkles and her skin was soft and smooth.
Fortunately, this blend of spices is rather inexpensive and more readily available in the United States than ever. Check in to your local Middle Eastern store or market, and you are bound to see this spice on the shelves, the color a deep forest green. It’s a combination of oregano, savory, thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds.
The natural pairing for Za’atar is olive oil--a standard part of the breakfast table in any Arabic household. Mana’eesh displays this spice to perfection, with the crunchy fresh bread and fruity olive oil. Sometimes, I am in the mood for this treat but don’t have time to make the homemade dough, so I use either readymade store bought dough or even refrigerated biscuits. If you do choose the store bought option, make sure the ingredients are all familiar to you—hydrogenated fats are an absolute no-no in the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern diet. If I am in a time crunch, I buy the biscuit dough from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Their readymade pizza dough also works beautifully with this recipe, but you must divide the dough into golf ball size and make sure you roll them out as much as possible to ensure crispiness.
You can get fancy with these flatbreads, adding feta or halloumi cheese or vegetables like chopped tomatoes and olives. Check out my video tutorial to get you started.
Sahtein! (which means good health in Arabic)