Saturday, January 15, 2011

Za'atar Spiced Flatbread

There's something wonderful about having family and friends over for a Friday night dinner in the dead of winter. The work week done, the last forced journey into the cold over, a long relaxing weekend to look forward to and the people you love gathering around your table, talking and laughing with not a care in the world. It was extra special because my sister had just returned from Jordan so we were all regaled with stories and pictures and as she is my sister and my blogging mentor, all kinds of goodies of the culinary sort.
My Jordanian presents: 2 za'atars, tea, thyme, sage and saffron
 One of the many goodies came in the form of Za'atar- a Mediterranean spice mixture that can vary in ingredients but most commonly contains sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, oregano, etc. Other herbs can be added or spices, to make it sweet or spicy. I was given 2 different kinds, the Jordanian "premium" za'atar (not sure what was in it to make it distinctively premium) which was very delicious and then a "spicy" za'atar, which was actually not that spicy in terms of heat but did contain a smokey kick that reminded me of a smoked paprika or mild chili powder.

So we made lamb (Trader Joe's Seasoned Frenched Rack of Lamb- already marinated, all you have to do is defrost and pop in the oven, cheating I know but great for fancy nights you don't have a lot of time), mashed fingerling potatoes, the roasted brussel sprouts with bacon and homemade pizza bianca topped with the 2 types of za'atar. With a nice cote de rhone, all of us sitting around my table, eating and enjoying and staying warm, it was bright spot in the dreary dead of winter.

The pizza bianca is another Jim Lahey recipe that can be a little confusing to follow straight from the book, I prefer this variation below. You can also top with sea salt and rosemary, or other herbs, but it was excellent with za'atar.
It's kind of like a really fluffy pita
Pizza Bianca with Za'atar
3 c. bread flour 
1 1/2 c. room temperature water
1 tsp. salt 
3/4 tsp. sugar
tsp. instant dry yeast
Tbl. extra virgin olive oil 
1 Tbl. za'atar of choice

1. Combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer, and slowly water. Mix with a spoon or your hands until the dough is smooth, elastic, and cleanly pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

2. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and allow to rest for 2 to 4 hours until it has doubled in size. Place dough on a generously floured surface and fold over until it formed another ball. Cover again and allow it to rest until the formed dough doubles in size again, at least 1 hour.

3. Heat oven to 500.  Put dough on a lightly floured pizza stone or baking sheet. I use a low sided Le Creuset braiser (the same I used for the pizza). Dimple dough by pressing it down with your fingertips and work the dough outward toward the edges of the peel until you reach your desired size and thickness, about 1/4 inch.

4. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, salt and za'atar. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown on the top and serve immediately.

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