Middle eastern stuffed lentil zatar bread with a cool yogurt dip and a book ravings!

Ever since Joanne announced her Middle Eastern regional cooking event I have been going over in my mind thinking about what to cook. To be fair, middle eastern cuisine is so rich in its flavors with all the aromatic spices and moist marinated meat and non-meat dishes that picking any one dish is a herculean task! For most part my mind was set on making Nupur's delicious Ful Medames because that's one dish I truly enjoy eating out everytime I go to a middle eastern restaurant; but after a weeklong fruitless search for canned or dried fava beans, I had to change my plans (by the way, any suggestions where I may find canned or dried fava beans -- ideally around SF bay area?)

Then I thought, rather than showcasing a recipe, why not showcase a middle eastern ingredient and let the recipes revolve around that! Voila, now I sure knew what I was going to be making. Ever since I saw these delicious recipes with zatar on Kalyn' blog, I have been itching to get my hands on this middle eastern spice blend! Her blog is such a wonderful treasure of so many delicious recipes made healthy that when she featured Zatar in so many different ways, I was sure I was going to love this spice! So the focus of today's middle eastern recipes is Zatar.

Now what is zatar, you may ask: Zatar is a middle eastern spice blend made from various spices most notable of which are sumac, thyme, oregano, paprika and white sesame seeds. Some zatar blends also include caraway seeds or cumin, coriander. Its a very unique and delicious spice with lemony, peppery and earthy notes -- typical of the taste that reminds me of good middle eastern food. If you get a chance, I strongly recommend you try this spice blend, it sure was the best $3 I spent last month! Otherwise, there is a simple recipe here or you can always use your favorite greek spice blend or just substitute with a home-made blend of oregano, thyme, cumin, coriander and sesame seeds.
My first attempt cooking with zatar is a middle eastern stuffed lentil bread that I ate at a local middle eastern restaurant a while ago. It is similar to the Afghan Bolani bread except that the bolani wrappers are much thinner and flakier while wrapper for this bread are more paratha like. I made a dough out of AP flour, water and salt. The stuffing is cooked and spiced french green lentils with zatar. The stuffing infact was so tasty that I finished half of it as Chef's treat while making the breads :)

The second recipe is a simple yogurt dip to go along with the stuffed bread made by flavoring yogurt with zatar, lime juice and salt-pepper. Though this is so simple, this is by far the simplest and the tastiest yogurt dip I have had (yes, better than the mint-cucumber raita!) and I'll surely be making it again and again. Thanks Kalyn for introducing this wonderful ingredient to my pantry!

Recipe: Stuffed lentil bread with zatar
1.5 C all purpose flour
1/2C warm water - or more or less to make a pliable dough
pinch of salt

3/4C cooked lentils (I used french green lentils - use any lentils)
1Tbsp finely chopped red onion
1Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1tsp zatar spice blend (see description and alternatives above)
1/2tsp cumin powder
salt to taste

  1. Make a pliable dough from flour, salt and water. Knead well for atleast 10minutes or until the dough is soft, smooth and ready. If the dough is very sticky and wet, add some more flour. Cover with a plastic wrap and let rest for an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, cook lentils per package directions (I boiled lentils and water in 1:3 proportion; then reduced heat to simmer and cook covered for 20-25minutes -- proportion and cooking time varies depending on the lentil variety).
  3. Add cilantro, onions, salt and stuffing spices to the cooked lentils. Mix well and set aside.
  4. Divide the dough into 4 equal sized balls.
  5. Using a rolling pin or your hands flatten the dough into a circular disk with a diameter roughly equal to your palm.
  6. Add few spoonful of stuffing onto half of the disk. Fold the other half over and using a bit of water tightly seal the edges making a half circular stuffed disk.
  7. Using your hands flatter the half circular bread as much as possible taking care not to tare the mixture apart (If its really easy to tear it apart then try to reduce the amount of stuffing for the next one).
  8. On a hot pan or griddle, heat a tsp of oil. When hot, add the bolani. Let it cook on one side until well cooked (red marks should start to appear).
  9. Flip the bread over, add a bit more oil if needed and cook again until both sides are thoroughly cooked.
  10. Remove from heat and serve hot with a cooling yogurt dip!
Recipe: Yogurt zatar dip
Yogurt - 1/2C
Zatar - 1tsp
lime juice
salt & pepper

Mix all the ingredients together. Let rest for half an hour or so before serving.

Notes: You can surely add some mint or cilantro to this yogurt dip too.

I am sending this middle eastern snack party over to Joanne for the regional foods events - hosted this month by Joanne.

I am also sending this as a second entry to Pari's combo event.
(Zatar spice blend)
Now I want to squeeze in a book that I recently read. It is a true life snippet of an Iranian author/professor Azar Nafisi and the book is called Reading Lolita in Tehran: A memoir in books. I have always loved reading books, but not until I realized that I could read a book about the books.. he he!!

Nafisi, a literature professor from Tehran, resigns from her day job at the university in 1990's due to some of the restrictive policies she encounters. As a silent way of retaliating she starts a book club at her home with seven of her most talented female students. They go over literary classics of authors such as Vladimir Nabokov, Jane Austen, F Scott Fitzerald, Daisy Miller and Henry James (many of these books were banned then and there).

The story revolves around the bookclub where these girls read each of the great classics and then discuss their interpretations of it while intertwined in these discussions are the pictures of their individual lives, the state of the society, women's rights, authoritarian regime and many such issues. The books they read are their window to the world outside and fittingly enough this bookclub eventually gives them the strength to resist the unfairness around.

This is not a light read but it is not violent read either. Its a book that makes you think a lot.. many times after reading a few pages I had to take a small break to 'mull things over' so to say. If you are interested in a thought provoking discussion about these historic books through the eyes of seven female students and their teacher in Tehran, then go for it!

Now the last post's truth and lies game: I thought I had done a really good job of hiding one truth behind the six cleverly crafted lies, but turns out I under-estimated you guys potential! Five people were the brave truth hunters who correctly guessed that #4 (many people confuse me to be of greek or mediterranean decent -- only to see if my accent give it away) was the truth: Pari ofcourse, two new visitors to this blog: Saumya and Latha, and Rahin and Dolly! Thanks all for the guesses.. a lot of people guessed few of the lies correctly too! So on that sweet note, I'll see you all next time.


  1. So So yummy! I love the zatar filling!

  2. Had it before.But never knew how to prepare it.Thanks for sharing the recipe.It looks perfect!!

  3. Zatar is new to me...looking so yummy...

  4. Hey, i missed your previous posts. Past week had been v.very hectic. I've to catch up all posts. :)
    I heard a lot about this Zatar bread. Actually, right now I was reading your Ethiopian post. Now, I am looking for Injera bread recipe. Will try this Ethiopian food very soon...inspired from you of course! :)

  5. Preeti, thanks! So glad you liked these.

    Shahana, oh, these were delicious.. very much like our parathas. Hope you try it someday :)

    Cicily, thanks! It's a wonderful ingredients and its going to be part of my pantry staple from now on.

    Sonia, aha, I was just thinking to myself that I should write to you in a day-or-two.. how have you been? Yeah, some weeks are just so crazy, aren't they! I am glad its weekend.. well, ending sort of.. but still :)

  6. A big Yes! to any stuffed bread recipe. This spice blend looks beautiful (a lovely picture by the way). I did read about this book recently. Was Azar Nafisi in the news recently?

  7. Oh, the stuffed bread looks so so good! I love zatar but don't use it often enough.
    About the ful medames- be very sure to not get the fava beans with the leathery skins, they spoiled my ful medames experience :( Canned might work better.
    I'll really enjoying hearing about your latest reads. I read Reading Lolita in Tehran last year and thought it was a very good read, a very different perspective, although the book tended to ramble at times. Makes me thankful that we can go read whatever we like whenever we feel like it.

  8. Indo, thanks! Not sure if she was in news recently.. I read this book fairly recently though. Its a nice read.

    Nupur, thanks for the tip about the fava beans.. I am surely looking for them.. I think in spring they might be a bit easier to find, I know Trader Joe's carries the pre-cooked brown fava beans in season, oh, I am so itching to try your ful medames :)

  9. nice idea PJ!! i've got zaatar- think i'll try it out. you know i tried foul madamas - and just didnt take to the taste. i dont know maybe next time i might like it. even with hummus, i didnt care for it the first time, now its one of my top ten favourite foods. and zaatar is one perky condiment, love to mix it with olive oil and munch on bread sticks dipped in it :)

  10. Oh wow I love zatar..yummy one. Finger licking mixture.. my sons fav too. Loved the stuffed bread picture. But never tried stuffing in the home made bread. we used to have with the pita we get outside.

  11. Hi.How was the weekend?
    Very interesting recipe and quite similar to our dal paratha.
    I like the ingredients going into the spice blend and now that you are saying that it tastes better than our mint raita I must get hold of Sumac as I have all the others in my pantry. Can Sumac be avoided or it gives a distinguished taste?
    I have heard about this book and have not read it till now. If you have not read Khaled Hosseini his books are terrific too and based on Afghan.They are my personal favorites though it's always a nightmare reading the gloomy stuff..

  12. Rajani, I love ful medames but I see what you mean, its a tricky dish to prepare.. I have seen some really terrible takes on it and some really delicious ones :) Olive oil-zatar and bread, now that sure looks like a delicious combination! Thanks for the idea, I am going to try it next.

    Pavithra, thanks! Oh yeah, zatar as a pita dressing would be wonderful! I got some pitas this weekend just for that. Glad you liked it.

    Pair, weekend was fun.. rainy, but relaxing :) How was yours? Try http://mideastfood.about.com/od/middleeasternspicesherbs/r/zaatar.htm they have a recipe for zatar.. or I would just substitute it with some thyme, marjoram or oregano, chili flakes and sesame seeds.. I think the lemony taste is what I love the most about it. Oh I love reading Khaled Husseini, I loved the Kite Runner the most, the next one was a bit too sad though.. yeah, he has some great books.

  13. A totally new cuisine...i havent heard or tried any of the dishes,but would love to explore it as it seems really worth trying...lovely recipe pj,looks absolutely delicious...

  14. Love this post...specially the stuff breads....even i'm also thinking about getting zatar spice blend....

  15. hey the stuffed bread looks awesome..love the addition of such new elements (new for me)..looks delicious..

  16. Sushma, oh yeah, it was delicious.. more like our parathas but with a different filling.

    Spice, if you are ever doing an online spice buying then surely go for some zatar.. you won't regret it :)

    Deepa, thanks! I am so glad you liked it, yeah, this spice was new to me too.. but after trying it now, I think it will be a permanent member of my pantry.

  17. I just love M.E cuisine...this sounds new to me..but Im sure Ill love it!!!!!

  18. An interesting recipe and also new to me. Pictures look lovely as usual!

  19. wow..the filling iz so nice...totally a new cusine to me...

  20. s, yeah, middle eastern cuisine is my favorite too! So many flavorful and aromatic dishes, right.

    Padhu, thanks! I am so glad you liked it.. love the spring look of your profile picture by the way :)

    Reshmi, thanks and welcome to my blog! I am so glad you liked it, the filling was very tasty.. I ate half of the filling while making the breads!

  21. Lovely bread with the filling never tried before and your photo shows how delicious it is....

  22. Never heard about this before and love the ingredients u have used for filling, truly a tempting bread...both dishes together looks marvellous..Very neat presentation PJ!!

  23. Something new for me but your bread looks nice and yummy.

  24. Loved the picture of the heaped up spices. Never had this but i am sure i would love it if i had a chance to taste them :-)

  25. Zatar is new to me..lovely and tempting dish you invented!! got to try it out..yum

  26. Me have been trying to get hold of a jar of ZATAR for some time now-and am so glad for ur wonderful post babes......very informative and perfect for anybody to know it totally .....love this post PJ....ha ur untruths...all cutey truly....i guessed it too ok....actually all sounded true kinda except one i guess...now i know....

    Thanx for everything PJ,really appreciate it and am thankful to ya.....

    and ur recipes rock ...me too going to be a part of middle eastern fest-will post on 25th ...and u will know why...suprise babes......

    Love all ur pics here too...wonderful....

  27. Love the bread and love the new spice "Zatar". I will be on the lookout for this spice in a middle-eastern market soon.

  28. "Zatar" has a nice ring to it :)
    This is new to me and must say looks very inviting!

  29. Wonderful cuisine, looks great!

  30. Treat and Trick, thanks! I am so glad you liked the stuffed bread.

    Priya, thanks! The bread was delicious.. zatar is such a versatile spice, I am sure you will like it too.

    Kamala Bhoopathy, thanks and welcome to my blog! I am so glad you liked the bread.

    Happy Cook, thanks, I am sure you will love it when you taste it.. its such a delicious stuffing!

    Jagruti, thanks! I hope you try it someday, I am sure you will love it.

    VanillaStrawberrySpringfields, thanks! You will probably find zatar in one of the middle eastern groceries.. I am looking forward to your dish :)

    Cool Lassie, thanks! This spice was wonderful, I am sure you will love it.

    Parita, i know :) I like to say 'zatar' too!

    Aruna, thanks! I am so glad you liked it.

  31. Both the bread and the photos look amazing.

    Btw, I really love the book, too! :)

  32. that looks lovely PJ looks tempting. gonna make it very soon for my lonely girls weekday's lunch.

  33. Maninas, thanks! I am so glad you liked the bread and the photos. I very much enjoyed the book.. it was a different perspective on these great books through the eyes of these girls.

    Sayantani, oh no, we'll be there virtually with you so you won't be having lonely girls lunch :)

  34. hey..lovely recipe...yes, the most varied with veggies included is the Iranian cuisine, & was good to read about the book....thanks for sharing !!

  35. it looks great and the way they have been stacked on one another is so gud

  36. There are few middle eastern stores near fremont blvd and peralta crossing in fremont. You might be able to find some canned fava beans there. To get fresh ones you might have to wait till march-april.

    Stuffed lentil bread looks nice.

  37. SE, glad you liked the recipe and the book. Book is pretty good.

    MunchCrunchandSuch, thanks! I am so glad you liked it!

    Mints, aha, thanks for the pointer.. I thought there should be some middle eastern groceries near bay area. I'll check these out. Thanks!

  38. wow prajakta superb dish...its new 2 me, but looks delicious...very nice recipe...very tempting one with the dip

  39. Zatar I heard but never looked so closer! Such a scruptious dish with full of delightful flavor!

  40. Siddhi, thanks! So happy you liked the dish.. :)

    Cham, thanks! So glad you liked the spice and the recipe!

  41. Your hubs is surely a lucky guy...I was drooling at the bread and also the Zatar spice blend...unique recipes for me...and they are bookmarked! Thanks for sharing these unique delights dear...

  42. Zatar is very new to me...but looks really good...must try sometime:)

  43. Zatar stuffed bread looks delish! and the yogurt dip too.

  44. Supriya, thanks :) I'll surely make sure of reminding him of that :D

    Rachana, oh, its a wonderful spice blend.. do try it if you get a chance!

    Amita, thanks! I am so happy you liked the bread and the dip.. that is a combo for sure :)

  45. Zatar is absolutely new for me. A very unique type of dish. Looks tempting. Thanks for this wonderful recipe.

  46. mmmm stuffed bread! You definitely know the way to my stomach. I have been meaning to try Za'atar for such a long time! This looks truly amazing.

    Thanks so much for the submission! I appreciate it so much.

    Also sometimes Trader Joe's has fresh fava beans that are already pre-shelled. I'm not sure where there is one in the bay area though!

  47. Never heard of this ,but it sure looks too good.
    Interesting book review too..I'm trying to read more, these days :-)

  48. Babli, thanks! I am so glad you liked it.

    Joanne, you welcome, thanks for hosting this wonderful event! Yes, last year I saw some fresh fava beans in a pack in TJ's (its my favorite grocery store btw :D).. I guess its just a couple more months and they would stock it again in season!

    Gulmohar, thanks! I am very glad you liked the spice. Give that book a try, not a light read but an interesting perspective on these literary classics.

  49. I never had zatar until I started going to a church with lots of Lebanese members and zatar bread is now one of my FAVORITE THINGS EVER! So excited to have a recipe!

  50. Looks very delicious and tempting, the stuffing is the best part.PJ, what is the answer for 6 lies and a truth, I checked it and cant find it, been keen to know more about you :)

    Yogurt dip sounds a bit like raitha.

    Yup for us it was a change because we have had spicy food and the palace food was less spicy and yet filling.

  51. That looks really good! I love Middle Eastern food so this is a must try for me!

  52. Lele, thanks! I am glad you found the recipe of the dish you love :)

    Ruchika, #4, I posted it all the way to end, I was thinking I'll wait till next post because the post was getting so big! Glad you liked the zatar bread too.

    Radhika, thanks! Middle eastern food is my favorite too :)

  53. that's a great paratha recipe..love the click too

  54. its really new to me...looks super deliicous....

  55. yup, you can use 2% milk, just that the amount of paneer coming out might be less compared to whole milk.

  56. Preety, thanks! I am so glad you liked the recipe.

    Sarah, thanks, we very much enjoyed this bread.

    Preeti, I see, I'll surely give this a try soon with 2% milk.. it has been on my list of things to try for like forever! Thanks got confirming quickly.

  57. Hearing about the zatar spice for the first time. That stuffing makes me drool!

  58. wanted to try to cook with Zatar, now i have a trust worthy recipe, looks yummy !

    Have some awrds for you , plz collect

  59. This is delight full and Joanne being ur sweetfren too, am inviting u here for her little party(its her birthday dear -i know that u know dear) which is a suprise party for her ...do leave her a wish in the sprinkles ok.....my feeds arent working or updating ,so am trying my best to find all her pals to leave her a wish in the sprinkles before she gets there or even after....will ya help too to make it a little sucess....and leave her a wish too?


  60. Sush, thanks! Its a wonderful spice.. do give it a try if you see it around :) Glad you liked the bread.

    Rahin, oh, thanks so much for the award! I am off to visit your site now.

    VanillaStrawberrySpringfield, thats a lovely thing you are doing there.. I am off to join the party now :)

  61. I have a pack of zafar sitting in the shelf for so long,could try this delish bread soon.Last I used zafar was in the Zatar rolls,a recipe I found at Arabic bites.

  62. Those look so good! Which brand of zatar did you use? I love the flavor of zatar, but somehow I never bought it to cook at home.

  63. Yasmeen, Arabic bites has some really delicious recipes.. I hope you give a try to this bread, good way to use the Zatar on the shelf :)

    Evolvingtastes, thanks! I ordered Zatar from Penzy's spices online. It came in a $3 bottle enough for me to use for a couple of months easily.

  64. I love this stuffed bread, I should try it soon!

  65. I love your lentil & za'atar stuffed bread - what a wonderful interpretation of the middle-eastern cuisine. Going on my to-make list.

  66. Just got myself some zatar and this seems a lovely way to use it! thanks for the recipe!

  67. Graziana, thanks! I am so glad you liked the lentil bread. Do try it and let me know how it works out :)

    Marisa, thanks! It was delicious with the tamarind chutney, I hope you try it and do let me know how it goes :)

    Miri, aha, you are going to love this spice blend! There are so many uses and its just so delicious.

  68. Caught this over at Regional Recipes - it looks amazingly delicious!

  69. Hi,
    Is Zatar available in the United States.......!

  70. Martha's Menagerie, thanks! I am so glad you liked the dish.

    Afsal_Alif, yes, I got it from Penzy's Spices. They have stores in some locations or you can always order it online http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/p-penzeyszatar.html


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