Our nation might be in the middle of a political garbage fire, but we all still have to eat. One of the best ways I know to take care of oneself, and keep from going batshit crazy, is to cook. And especially to cook for other people. Our friend Shefije came over last weekend to take a break before tackling her Master’s thesis, and I made a batch of these for her with za’atar, the Middle Eastern spice blend.
These are a riff off a recipe I found on the Guardian UK site for a Za’atar bun and since za’atar supposed to be good for the memory, I thought of Shefije when I saw the recipe. She loved them, and she’s a very satisfying person to cook for, because when she loves something, she really loves it.
Earlier this week I got a hankering to do a version with green onions, parsley, garlic and olive oil. I’ve written before about my annual spring mania for green sauce, and this was much the same, but better, since it was green sauce wrapped in bread.
While the original recipe uses a dough enriched with butter, milk and egg, I wanted a very olive-oil-based flavor, and so I just used my standard sourdough bread recipe. Three cups of bread flour, three tablespoons wheat germ, one tablespoon salt, a cup and a half of sourdough starter and enough water to make a shaggy wet dough. I don’t really knead it, but rather use the stretching method described in the Tartine Country Bread recipe. I like the way this aerates the bread, and seems to activate the gluten — especially in really wet doughs like this one.
While it was rising, I made a green sauce with a bunch of green onions and a head of parsley I had in the fridge. I chopped them roughly along with a clove of garlic, then put them in my mini-chop with some Meyer lemon juice, lots of olive oil, an about half a teaspoon of Aleppo pepper. You want it still a little chunky.
When the dough was ready, I cut it into two equal sections for ease, since I don’t have a ginormous rolling board. I rolled it into a big rectangle and smeared the green sauce on it, then used my dough scraper to roll it lengthwise into a cylinder. I cut each cylinder into eight slices, then put them into a square baking pan.
When the pan was full, I covered it with a plastic bag, and set it aside to rise for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 425, and when the rolls have risen, sprinkle them with more olive oil, sesame seeds, and some coarse salt. Bake for about half an hour, until they are golden on top and are separating one from the next.
These are really yummy, and have the added attraction that you can pick apart the layers as you eat them. And I think you could do almost anything for a filling — black olives and some tomato sauce would be good, parmesan and garlic and olive oil, green sauces of any type from the Indian ones that have all that nice cumin in them to a straight basil pesto, or the original, with lots of za’atar and sesame seed and some coarse crunchy salt. And they cook up really quickly, which is nice.
So there you go — a little project to distract or give a little respite from the national emergency.
Also published on Medium.