Milk Street The Joy of Cooking Lebanon (Ep 302)

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Flatbread (Pizza) Dough

Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours (30 minutes active) | Makes two 12-inch flatbreads

This versatile dough is a breeze to make in a food processor and can used for pizzas with various toppings or Middle Eastern–style flatbreads. The Greek yogurt makes a supple dough that’s easy to work with and that bakes up with a chewy-soft crumb and subtle richness. For convenience, the dough can be made a day in advance. After dividing the dough in half and forming each piece into a round, place each portion in a quart-size zip-close bag that’s been misted with cooking spray, seal well and refrigerate overnight. Allow the dough to come to room temperature before shaping.

Don’t undermix the dough in the food processor; it needs a full minute of processing to build the gluten that provides structure and strength. When done, the dough may be warm to the touch; this is normal.

INGREDIENTS

  • 241 grams (1 3/4 cups) bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey

INSTRUCTIONS

In a food processor, combine the flour, yeast and salt, then process until combined, about 5 seconds. Add the yogurt, honey and 1/4 cup water. Process until the mixture forms a ball, about 30 seconds; the dough should be tacky to the touch and should stick slightly to the sides of the bowl. If it feels too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and process until incorporated. Continue to process until the dough is shiny and elastic, about 1 minute.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter. Flour your hands and knead the dough a few times, until it forms a smooth ball. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a taut ball by rolling it against the counter in a circular motion under a cupped hand. Space the balls about 6 inches apart on a lightly floured counter, then cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

About 1 hour before baking, heat the oven to 500°F with a baking steel or stone on the upper-middle rack. Working one at a time, gently stretch each ball on a lightly floured counter to an oval approximately 6 inches wide and 12 inches long. The dough is now ready to top and bake.


Za’atar Flatbreads

Start to finish: 25 minutes | Makes two 12-inch oval flatbreads

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar
  • Semolina, for dusting
  • Yogurt dough for pizza and flatbread

INSTRUCTIONS

About 1 hour before baking, heat the oven to 500°F with a baking steel or stone on the upper-middle rack. In a small bowl, stir together the oil, sesame seeds and za’atar. Lightly dust a baking peel, inverted baking sheet or rimless cookie sheet with semolina.

Transfer one portion of the shaped dough to the peel and, if needed, reshape into a 6-by-12-inch oval. Spoon half of the oil mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Slide the dough onto the baking steel and bake until the edges are golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes.

Using the peel, transfer the baked flatbread to a wire rack. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, top and bake the second portion of dough in the same way. Serve warm.


Pita and Chickpea Salad with Yogurt and Mint (Fatteh)

Start to finish: 25 minutes | Servings: 4

This dish is known as fatteh in the Levant, where it often is eaten for breakfast. It’s a way to turn stale pita bread into a hearty meal. We, however, start with fresh pita, brush it with butter, crisp it in the oven, then break it into shards before topping the pieces with warmed chickpeas. Yogurt spiked with garlic, tahini and lemon ties everything together. Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend that usually includes sesame seeds, sumac, thyme and oregano, adds complex flavor. But the za’atar is optional; even without it, the salad is delicious and satisfying. If you like, instead of mint, use flat-leaf parsley or a combination.

Don’t cut back on the butter that’s tossed with the toasted pine nuts. It may seem like a lot, but the butter adds a sweetness that balances the tang of the yogurt and makes the dish taste full and deep.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • Two 8-inch pita breads, each split into 2 rounds
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, melted, divided
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • ⅛ to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Two 15 1/2-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons za’atar, plus more to serve (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed fresh mint, torn if large

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle position. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, tahini, garlic, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Set aside.

Arrange the pita on a rimmed baking sheet. Use 2 tablespoons of the butter to brush both sides of each round, then sprinkle evenly with 2 teaspoons of the cumin. Bake for 5 minutes, then flip each round and continue to bake until browned and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool; reserve the baking sheet.

While the pita cools, distribute the pine nuts on the reserved baking sheet and toast until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring once about halfway through. Immediately transfer to a small bowl and toss with the remaining 3 tablespoons butter, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cumin, cayenne (if using) and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Set aside.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, toss the chickpeas with the za’atar (if using), 1 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons water. Cover and microwave on high until hot, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Meanwhile, break the pita into bite-size pieces and place in a wide, shallow serving bowl or divide among 4 individual bowls.

Using a slotted spoon, arrange the warmed chickpeas over the pita. Spoon on the yogurt mixture, top with mint and spoon on the pine nut–butter mixture. Sprinkle with additional za’atar (if using).


Middle Eastern Rice with Toasted Pasta

Start to finish: 25 minutes | Servings: 4

The combination of rice and pasta, introduced to the U.S. in the mid-20th century as Rice-A-Roni, is based on a classic Middle Eastern pilaf often served as a side dish with meat. Toasting the dry pasta in butter is key; it caramelizes some of the starch molecules, adding color and forming nutty flavors. We prefer thin vermicelli pasta, but thin spaghetti or angel hair (capellini) work well, too. We add the vermicelli halfway through the cooking to make sure the noodles don’t overcook. We finish the dish with herbs and toasted sliced almonds. Toast the almonds in a small skillet over medium, stirring often, until browned and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.

Don’t forget to rinse and drain the rice. Rinsing removes excess starch that can make the cooked grains sticky instead of light and fluffy.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, divided
  • 1 ounce vermicelli pasta, broken into 1-inch pieces (generous ⅓ cup)
  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1⅔ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 tablespoons lightly packed fresh dill, chopped, divided
  • 4 tablespoons lightly packed fresh parsley, chopped, divided
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large saucepan over medium, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until the noodles are deeply browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

In the same pan, combine the rice and broth, then set over medium-high. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low, cover and cook for 8 minutes. Stir in the toasted pasta. Cover and continue to cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about another 7 minutes.

Off heat, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons each of dill and parsley. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with the remaining herbs and the almonds.

PHOTO CREDIT: CONNIE MILLER OF CB CREATIVES