Wednesday, February 23, 2011

turkish breakfast

Recently Katarina and Jakub, two of my favorite people in New York joined me for a Turkish-inspired breakfast, in spite of the freezing cold that separated us. They brought copious amounts of champagne and orange juice, and we feasted and siesta-d until the sun went down.

The menu for the day included labne, a rich, thickened yogurt, sweetened with honey and dates; beautiful roasted eggplant topped with a buttermilk sauce and pomegranates; and a mouthwatering Lebanese flatbread called manaaeesh, which is vaguely reminiscent of Italian foccacia bread.

The recipe for the eggplant can be found in Yotan Ottolenghi's spectacular vegetarian cookbook, Plenty, which my friend Andrew brought me from London last Christmas and which I have been poring and swooning over ever since.

So, per Katarina's request, below is the recipe for the flatbread, which comes from Ana Sortun's book, Spice. You can make the dough the night before and bake it so that it's fresh the next day.

The bread is rich with olive oil and covered with a heavy dusting of za'atar, a wild Middle Eastern mountain herb similar to thyme or oregano. If you can't find za'atar, you can imitate it by combining thyme, oregano, and marjoram. In New York, I found it at Kalustyan's, an amazing place where you can find all kinds of unusual spices.

Photo courtesy of

1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups flour
1 t salt
4 T olive oil
4 T za'atar

Whisk together the water and yeast in a medium-sized bowl. Let stand for about 10 minutes.

Add the olive oil, flour, and salt slowly, whisking all the while.

Knead the dough for about 7 minutes. The dough will still be sticky, but it should cohere in a single ball.

Oil a large bowl, add the ball of dough, and cover with plastic. Chill for 2 hours or overnight, at which point the bread should double in volume.

2 hours before baking, spoon 2 T olive oil onto a baking sheet. Place the ball of dough on top of it and cover with plastic. Let it rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Press the dough onto the baking sheet, stretching it until it is about 10 by 12 inches.

Press your fingers into the dough so that small valleys form. This method gives the bread an interesting texture and allows the olive oil and za'atar to collect.

Sprinkly the za'atar over the dough and let dough rise again for 20 to 30 minutes, uncovered this time, and still at room temperature.

Bake for about 15 minutes. The bread should be golden brown on the edges and should be cooked all the way through.

Enjoy the bread warm. It tastes excellent dipped in olive oil or served alongside tapas or dipping sauces.

(Recipe courtesy of SPICE: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, by Ana Sortun, chef, Oleana)


Ciao-Down said...

That looks delicious! If you haven't been to Ana Sortun's bakery Sofra you should try it out next time you're in Boston. The turkish poached egg is incredible.

Anonymous said...

Oh what a feast it was! Thank you so much Sarah (and now I have to try the bread. My babysteps in the kitchen continues...) x katarina

Rochelle said...

This looks soooo good! Please, please, please make it again! :)

Anonymous said...

the breakfast sunds delish and i just love anything from Ottolenghi, i have the other book and really want Plenty too.

Mirabella said...

I know! Plenty is really excellent. I spend so much time procrastinating over it.