Like us, you may have spent the last year longing to sit shoulder to shoulder at a table with friends, all eating from the same platter. Now that we can dare to plan such things, it’s good to remember how intimate and friendly a luxurious spread of mezze can be. The Middle Eastern version of tapas, mezze loosely translates as “tastings.” It generally refers to a group of small plates meant to be shared, in keeping with the sense of hospitality that is the cultural bedrock of the region. These dishes are best consumed slowly over the course of hours, with generous amounts of wine and conversation.
Bread is central to any mezze spread, and these za’atar manaqish perform beautifully in the spotlight. Small yeasted flatbreads, manaqish are kind of like tender, herbaceous mini pizza crusts, with the same pleasing chewiness and airy pockets. Here, they’re brushed with olive oil that’s infused with za’atar, a spice blend that includes thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds.
The za’atar gets a little roasted during the baking, so you get some earthy depth and a subtle bitterness along with the mild, pillowy sweetness of the bread. Our tasters swooned at the combination of creamy, tangy labneh with the crusty manaqish and the toasty za’atar. Garnishes of fresh mint, crunchy cucumbers, and juicy tomatoes are the perfect refreshing counterpoint to both — and a few oily, salty olives bring it all together.
That said, we think you could happily pair these manaqish with any of your favorite mezze dishes — hummus, baba ganoush, marinated feta. They can serve as breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or snacks. And they promise to raise the bar at any shared feast, making it as unforgettable as your first time back at a crowded table.
Servings: 4 to 8
In a small bowl, whisk together the water, granulated sugar, and active dry yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes, until foamy.
To make the dough: In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the all-purpose flour, kosher salt, and extra virgin olive oil. Mix on low speed while slowly pouring in the yeast mixture. Continue mixing until a smooth dough forms, about 5 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours.
Punch the dough down. Divide it into 8 pieces and roll each into a ball. Place the balls on a lightly floured surface, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until 1 ½ times in size, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the za'atar topping: in a small bowl, stir together the za'atar spice and extra virgin olive oil.
Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 500°. Line a pizza peel or the back of a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Flatten 4 of the dough balls into small discs, each about 5” in diameter. Place them on the parchment paper and make indentations in the discs with your fingertips. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the za'atar topping in the middle of each disc, leaving a narrow border around the edges.
Carefully transfer the parchment paper with the dough to the pizza peel, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the dough is puffy and golden brown in spots. (The za'atar topping will remain liquid-y at this point.)
Transfer the parchment and manaqish to a cooling rack and let sit until the topping has dried and settled into the dough, about 5 minutes.
Line the pizza peel with another piece of parchment and repeat steps 7 through 9 with the remaining dough.
Serve the za'atar manaqish warm or at room temperature with the labneh or feta, assorted vegetables, and fresh herbs.
Recipe adapted from: The Mediterranean Dish