Breakfast pizza: Manouche, Lebanon’s favorite pastry

Serves 4
For the dough

* 2 1/4 cups (500 g) flour
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 1 tablespoon sugar (not heaped)
* 1 teaspoon active dried yeast
* 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
* 1 1/4 cup (30 cl) lukewarm water

For the zahtar or thyme mixture topping

* 4 cups wild thyme or 1 cup dried thyme – ground
* 1 cup sesame seeds – toasted
* 1 ½ Mediterranean sumac berry – ground
* 1 tablespoon salt – ground
* 1/2 cup olive oil

Preparation time: 30 minutes.
Cooking time: 7 to 10 minutes.
For the dough

1. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water and set it aside for about 5 minutes.

2. Add flour to a mixing bowl. Add the salt and mix it well with your hands or a spoon. Add the sugar and mix it in well.

3. Add the olive oil and start kneading it with your hands. Slowly add the yeast water while you continue to knead. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it for ten minutes, or until you get an elastic, soft dough.

4. Grease the large bowl with some extra virgin olive oil and put the dough into it. Cover it and let it rise in a warm place without air drafts for between one and a half and two hours, or until it doubles in volume.

5. Punch down the dough and divide it into four balls. Allow them to rise for 30 more minutes.

6. Use your palms to flatten the dough balls. Roll out to about a circle of ten inch in diameter.

For the topping

1. Add the zaatar ingredients to a mortar bowl and pound and mix them well.

2. Blend the thyme mixture with the half-cup extra virgin olive oil until you get it to a creamy consistency.

3. Put the dough circles onto a baking sheet. Spread the mixture on top of the dough.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 ºF (200 ºC). Bake the breakfast pizza for seven to ten minutes.


Hummus recipe with sesame paste

Serves 6 to 8 as appetizer

* 2 cups (450 g) dry chick peas (garbanzo beans) – about 5 cups cooked
* 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) tahini (sesame paste)
* 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) lemon juice – freshly pressed
* 3 cloves garlic – peeled
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup water (use chickpea cooking water, if you have it available) – optional
* 2 or more tablespoons olive oil
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat Italian parsley – as garnish

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes (not counting cooking the chick peas

1. Place the chick peas, tahini, fresh lemon juice, peeled garlic cloves and salt into a blender and blend them into a thick paste. Add more water as needed. Take care not to liquidize the garbanzo beans – they should have a texture.

2. A few minutes before serving the hummus, decorate it with the chopped parsley. Drizzle olive oil into the center.

3. Serve it at room temperature, or refrigerate for an hour and serve chilled.


Sweet couscous with nuts and dates

Ingredients Serves 8.

2 2/3 cups couscous (about 1 pound)
2 2/3 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted mixed nuts (such as walnuts, blanched almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and pine nuts)
1 8-ounce box pitted dates, cut into pieces
2 cups milk, hot
Additional sugar

Place couscous in a large bowl. Bring two and two-thirds cups of water, one-half cup sugar and oil to boil in a heavy large saucepan, stirring it to dissolve the sugar.

Pour mixture over couscous and stir it until well blended. Cover and let it stand for ten minutes. Fluff with a fork to separate grains. Mix the nuts and dates into the couscous.

Transfer couscous to 13×9 baking dish that is at least two inches deep. Let cool. Cover with foil. This can be prepared four hours ahead. Let it stand at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake the couscous until heated through, for about 20 minutes. Spoon into bowls. Serve, passing hot milk and additional sugar separately.

One of those will satisfy your taste buds. I’ve tried all three and I still have them from time to time!

Get well and keep well,
Ray Baker