It seems that the more I learn, the less I know. I learn a bit of something and next thing I know, I need to learn a dozen more things to learn the how’s and why’s for the first thing to make sense – or to put something in perspective. The minutiae…

We were watching a Netflix show on street food and the host was in Amman, Jordan. One of the things he focused on was refugees bringing different foods to the table. Amman has welcomed literally millions of refugees from throughout the Middle East – Iraqi, Palestinian, Syrian to name but a few – and is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Much of the street food reflects these different groups.

The show had a lot of different flatbreads being made. I know that different cultures have different versions of flatbreads – from injera to lavosh to focaccia or pizza – but I didn’t know of the bazillion cooking techniques that can turn the basic ingredients into such different things. As a guy who has never been to the middle east, I kinda figured your basic pita was pretty universal. It is – and it isn’t. From baking on a rounded dome, baking on stones, in an oven, on a flat stove… the same but different. For someone who loves to bake, it’s fascinating to see.

The flatbread I made today is based on a taboun – but baked on a flat baking stone, not rounded stones – so, I guess it’s really just a pita. Another thing I’ve learned over time is there is really no such thing as a single authentic recipe of anything. Every home has their own authentic version.

Taboun Flatbread

based on several internet recipes

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Combine the water, honey, and yeast. Let it stand for about 10 minutes until foamy.

Combine the flour and salt with the yeast and water mixture, and stir to form a soft dough.

Add the olive oil and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Form it into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour until it doubles in size.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a baking stone or baking sheet in the oven as it heats.

Knead the dough briefly and divide it into 8 balls. Place the balls on a lightly oiled baking sheet, cover, and let stand for about 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, flatten each ball of dough and roll it into a circle 1/8-inch thick and about 7-8 inches in diameter.

Place on baking stone and bake until lightly browned and crisp, about 6 minutes.

Taboun

The final dish is based on a Palestinian dish called Msakhan – a sumac chicken with sautéed onions.

Za’atar Chicken with Grilled Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Za’atar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 chicken breast, sliced
  • 3 cups mixed grilled vegetables
  • 2 large thick flatbreads (taboun, lavash, pita, or Syrian saj)

Instructions

Combine the sumac with the lemon juice. Rub the mixture all over the chicken, then place in a baggie and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the grilled mixed vegetables and heat through. Add a splash of wine and simmer until wine is almost evaporated – but not quite. Transfer to a bowl with all the juices.

Wipe out the pan and place over medium heat. Add a bit of olive oil and when hot, lightly brown the chicken pieces.

Arrange the flatbreads in an overlapping layer in a large, lightly oiled shallow baking dish. Spoon over the roasted vegetables, then top with the chicken pieces and drizzle any pan juices on top. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

I made two individual dishes because I tend to really over-do it when making things like this. I’d have enough food to feed the neighborhood, if left to my own devices…

Taboun and Spiced Chicken

And then, because eating them out of the casserole was impractical, we just slid them out onto plates.

Taboun and Spiced Chicken

A really fun and flavorful dinner. There was chewy bread, there was bread that had sopped up the juices from the vegetables and the chicken. It was pull-apart eat-with-fingers and a bit of knife and fork. The perfect meal. And you could make this in no time with store-bought pitas.

One of these days we really need to travel the Mediterranean countries from Morocco to Turkey.

There’s a lot of good food to be had…..

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