Tag Archives: zatar

Pita with Za’atar

 

Toasty and tasty pita with za'atar

 

Let me start of with a word of caution. If you choose to proof your dough in the oven (as I do) it might be worth your while to attach some sort of tag or sign to the oven controls alerting other household members to the presence of a bowlful of live organisms inside. Those tiny bugs (I speak of yeast here) while hardy will perish once the oven becomes warmer than 140F, which will happen if someone else preheats the oven to do some baking.

However, as Scarlett observed, “tomorrow is another day”. On this fine Monday we are making pita. Now, pita is available in every country around the Mediterranean, from the Moroccan r’ghayef to Italian Piadina and of course the many variants of pita ranging from the soft small Greek variety to the large Iraqi pita (called a lafa in Israel).Where good pita is not available is around the Bay. In fact the best thing on offer is pita baked in LA, frozen and trucked up here. Good pita is fresh, as in the restaurant owner just sent a kid running back to the bakery to get more, fresh. After an hour or two they start to harden up and become better suited to throwing than wiping up hummus or holding a tasty bit of kabob.

These pita are inspired by the small Armenian bakery just on the edge of the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s old city. This small bakery has served countless Israelis, tourists and religious pilgrims over the years. The specialty of the house is pita baked with a topping of olive oil and za’atar. Za’atar for those of you not familiar is prepared from dried leaves of the hyssop plant, mixed with salt and toasted sesame seeds. Like everything else in the spice rack, freshness is the key. So if you are buying this outside the Levant smell it first and make sure it still smells fresh. Rancid sesame seeds are nasty!

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Jerusalem Pretzels

 

Yummy pretzels. Dup in mustard, oil, hummus, or whatever else you may fancy...

 

When I think of pretzels, I think of a Sunday afternoon at the ballpark, with a hot dog in one hand and a pretzel in the other. The pretzel is really scrumptious, though not so nutrious. I’d bet though, you have no idea why it is called a pretzel or why they are usually in that shape…

The pretzel was “invented” in 610AD in southern France/northern Italy. The folded section symbolizes a child’s folded arms during prayer and the three different section symbolize the Trinity. Pretzels, or Pretiola in Latin as they were originally called, were given by monks to children who did well is Bible school. Over the next few centuries the Pretiola migrated to Germany and became the “Pretzel.”

So what does this have to do with Jerusalem (aka Jewish) Pretzels? To be honest, I have no idea. In doing research, I could not find the historical origins of the Jerusalem Pretzel. I found the recipe in Janna Gur’s cookbook, and have eaten them many times in the Old City. She claims post-the-Jews-regaining-Jerusalem, the Jews discoverd that their Arab friends had a tasty treat. Jeruslaem Pretzels, though, are shaped in an oval, presumably because the Arabs and Jews knew the historical roots of the “normal” pretzel. Also, in my research, I discovered the beigeleh, which in Yiddish would mean little bagel. It looks similar to me, but not quite the same. So in sum, pretzels taste good, so just eat them!

Today, I tried making this recipe using weights instead of volumes (ie, 500g and not 1/2 cup). It worked really well, and I recommend it, but I will include the volumes in case you don’t have a scale. So the pretzels are fairly easy to make, but the true ones use no salt and plenty of yeast. They can be enjoyed alone, dipped on olive oil, or even zatar. They are coated with generous amounts of sesame seeds. I recommend eating them immediately; or once they are cooled, freeze them in a ziplock bag and they can be reheated at 350F in the oven.

Recipe…

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Filed under Bread, Goyish, Israeli, Parve, Pasta and Grains