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Friday, July 20, 2007


I received some requests from family members for recipes so I will be posting some occasionally.

This recipe comes from a family cookbook that someone brought into Bill's shop to be copied for family members. It is titled "Arabian Recipes" and appears to have been "home published" and illustrated with hand drawn pictures, mainly of certain implements (like a felafel mold) and techniques (like rolling up pastries).

Here is a recipe for bread that is similar to that served in some Middle Eastern restaurants. We have had bread like this at Kabul House in Skokie and at Cafe Denir on Lincoln Avenue near the Athanaeum Theatre. It is similar to a foccacia in that it is dimpled all over in a regular pattern, and is soft and puffy. The bread we were served had been sprinkled with black sesame seeds before baking. It is a delicious bread for dipping in yogurt or sauces, for scooping up things like baba ganoosh, or for topping with tidbits from your plate, sort of an open face sandwich.

I imagine it would be good to use in a fattoush salad when it is stale. When it is fresh and warm, it is delightful.

Middle Eastern Bread

1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups bread flour
(you can substitute up to
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
in place of the same amount
of bread flour if you wish)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon yeast
1 beaten egg yolk for glaze
nigella, black sesame or
poppy seeds optional (see note)

Follow the instructions for your bread machine and use the dough setting. Or, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar and a hefty pinch of the flour. Let stand in a warm place until foamy and yeasty smelling, about 20 minutes.

Add the salt and stir, then the olive oil. Stir in the rest of the flour a little at a time. If you have a Danish Dough Whisk (pictured here) the job may not go any faster but it will be more fun and you will feel like a professional baker.

Turn the dough out to a floured surface and knead until smooth, then oil your bowl and put the dough back in, turning to coat with oil. Place a piece of oiled plastic wrap down on the dough or cover with a damp dish towel (not a terry cloth one) and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about an hour or so.

When risen, or when the bread machine beeps, cut the dough into three equal size pieces and roll these into balls, then into 6 inch circles. Cover with the oiled plastic again and let rest 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450º f.

Dimple each dough circle all around with your finger tips until they are about 1/4 inch thick. Press your finger tips all across the circle to form dimpled rows and ridges, then turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat in the other direction.

Brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle with the seeds, place onto an oiled baking sheet and bake 9 - 10 minutes until puffy and golden. Serve at once.

Note: Nigella seeds, also called black onion seeds, are tiny, angular, deep black seeds with a nutty, peppery flavor. They can be found in Middle Eastern and Indian markets.

If you prefer, brush with olive oil instead of egg and omit the seeds.

Fattoush Salad

Prepare your favorite salad of shredded romaine lettuce, tomato, diced cucumber and other greens or vegetables such as radishes, onions, etc. Garbanzo beans are a good addition. Make a vinaigrette of a few tablespoons each lemon juice and vinegar, pinches of salt, pepper, a dab of spicy mustard and some basil or oregano. Whisk in olive oil to taste.

Tear or cut leftover bread from the above recipe (or use pita bread) into small chunks and toast until dry and crispy on a cookie sheet in a 350º f oven. Watch carefully that it doesn't burn, and allow to cool.

Toss the salad with the dressing in a large bowl. Scatter most of the bread bits in and toss again, garnishing with remaining bread bits.

Quotable Quotes; In the category bread or circuses?

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)


Louise said...

If that bread bakes up as good as it looks - there will NEVER be any "stale" to use in that salad.
My personal favorite "croutons" (or bread bits)are at a restaurant in Rochelle, IL called The Butterfly. They are located on the salad bar. Even when I don't get the salad bar, I brazenly go up there with my bread plate and load up on the croutons for my soup - (or just to eat as an appetizer). They taste like they were soaked in butter and slow baked with a bit of seasoning.Cholesterol to the max - but if you're going to fall off the calorie wagon - do it BIG!

Mary said...

I definitely have to try this bread recipe. This type of bread always gets my vote over even house-made pita. I'll look for nigella, if only because they'll make me think of Nigella, and what's not to love about Nigella?

On your fattoush recipe - wang up the proportion of lemon juice, grate in some of the zest, and be sure to add some generous pinches of sumac and/or zatar(sp?), both available in those great middle eastern markets that sell bulk spices. Lots of parsley and mint are also essential.

madMad said...

To Mary - we sometimes take out from a Persian restaurant called Noon-O-Kebab. They always include little plastic pouches of sumac, just like the ketchup packets from the burger place, with the order.

I have a plastic cup full of crushed red pepper and parmesan cheese from Pizza hut, and sumac from Noon-O. Sure beats the ubiquitous packets of soy sauce from the Chinese take-out.