Hashweh

Spices bloomed in ghee add complexity to this celebratory Palestinian dish.

Hashweh with chicken served with a bowl of yogurt and farmers salad.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Celebrating With Stuffing

One of the most celebratory dishes in Arab culture is a whole lamb stuffed with rice and meat. It both signals respect to the guest and marks a momentous occasion because of the cost and labor associated with preparing it. In fact, most stuffed dishes are considered worthy of guests and special occasions, and Palestinians stuff a wide variety of animals from lamb and chicken to squab and rabbit. The most typical stuffing is made of rice and meat with spices, and oftentimes pine nuts as well. While these elaborate dishes remain an indispensable part of the Arab culinary repertoire, in recent times, as meat has become more accessible, simplified versions have come to prevail and feature more commonly on dinner tables. In these versions, the stuffing is served as a meal in its own right. For a slightly more elaborate version, short of stuffing a whole animal, shredded chicken or lamb can be scattered on top.  

The word for stuffing in Arabic is hashweh, and that’s what Palestinians call this dish even when it doesn't function as an actual stuffing. Other cultures in the Arab world have different names for similar preparations, including quzi (the Arabian Gulf), ruz bilkhalta (Egypt), or ruz mtabal (Syria).

The Meat

The complex flavor of the dish belies its simplicity. Because of that underlying simplicity, though, the quality of the ingredients is especially important, in particular the meat and broth. Although it is possible on a very busy day to make this meal using ready-ground beef and store-bought broth, the flavor is incomparable to one made with hand-diced (or home-ground) beef and homemade chicken broth.

When you dice or grind beef at home, you are able to control the cut of meat you are using and its fat content, so both the flavor and texture will be superior. When broth is homemade, you control the aromatics that go in and ensure it has a rich, clean flavor that compliments the spices in the dish.

I make hashweh on an almost weekly basis at home and have experimented with all kinds of variables. I have found that for the beef, any cut trimmed of excess fat will do, from sirloin and flank to chuck, boneless rib, or skirt. What I most often do is trim and semi-freeze the meat (broken down first into smaller chunks if it’s a big piece like chuck or brisket), which makes dicing it into very small cubes much easier. This piece explains that process in more detail, although you will need to freeze meat for longer than a fatty cut like bacon since it takes longer to firm up. You could also grind it while semi-frozen, just make sure to use the coarsest setting on your machine.

For broth you can use chicken, beef, or lamb. I personally prefer chicken because it offers a rich taste without overwhelming any of the other ingredients. For a quick weeknight meal, I will often use homemade chicken broth from my freezer, but when serving this to guests, I will make the broth using a whole chicken and then top the final dish with the reserved shredded chicken and nuts. You could use lamb shanks or beef short ribs in place of the chicken (although they would require longer cooking time in the broth to tenderize) for an equally delicious, but slightly different flavor.

The Rice

In terms of rice, my favorite variety for this dish is Calrose, although jasmine is a good substitute. Basmati, while its grains are less likely to clump up, just does not absorb the flavors as well or yield the same cohesive taste. In either case, it is imperative you wash the rice until the water almost runs clear (it will never be crystal clear with rice, but you should see a marked difference from the milky water that first appears when you start washing); removing the loose starchy powder from the surface of the rice grains will help ensure the grains remain separate and don't become gluey or clump.

Some people add the broth to the diced or ground meat once it has been cooked and then drop the rice in after that. I find that sautéing the rice with the meat and then adding the broth yields a fluffier texture that is much less likely to clump or become sticky—high heat from the sautéing breaks down the rice's starch, reducing its ability to thicken and helping to keep the grains even more light and fluffy instead of clumpy and sticky.

The final “trick in the book,” if you will, is to set a tea towel or some paper towels between the pot and its lid once you’re done cooking and to let it rest for a good 15 to 20 minutes before fluffing up with a fork and transferring to a serving dish. This resting step not only helps the flavors to settle and meld better, but also allows the rice to finish cooking in the remnant steam in the pot. The towel, meanwhile, ensures that condensed water doesn't form on the underside of the lid and drip back down onto the rice, which can make it mushy. The result: delicious rice with the perfect texture. With little more than a bowl of yogurt and a Palestinian farmer's salad served alongside, the meal will be perfect too.

For the Spiced Chicken Broth: In a stock pot or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pot, add chicken, skin side down, and sear until golden brown all over, about 5 minutes each side, then transfer to a plate or platter; add additional oil as needed to prevent pot from drying out during subsequent batches.

Chicken pieces searing in a stock pot.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Return all chicken pieces to the pot and stir in the onion and garlic. Add 10 cups (2.5L) water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 5 minutes, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the bay leaves, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, and nutmeg and simmer until chicken is cooked through but not falling apart, about 1 hour; season lightly with salt midway through cooking.

Boiling chicken with spices in a stock pot.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Using tongs and a slotted spoon, transfer chicken pieces to a heatproof bowl along with 2 cups (475ml) broth. Cover to keep warm and set aside until ready to use. Strain remaining broth through a fine-mesh strainer, discarding solids. Keep the broth hot.

Broth straining via a sieve into a large glass bowl.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

For the Hashweh: Place rice in a medium mixing bowl and rinse with several changes of cold water until water runs clear. Cover rice with fresh cold water, soak for 15 minutes, then drain well.

Rice water draining into a kitchen sink.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, and nutmeg.

Allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, and nutmeg mixed in a small ceramic bowl.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil and butter (or ghee) over medium-high heat until the butter starts to sizzle, then add half of the spice mixture and fry just until fragrant, about 5 seconds. Add the beef and cook, stirring often, until any released water evaporates and the meat starts to sizzle, 10 to 15 minutes.

Beef and spices cooking in ghee in a large skillet.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Add 1/2 cup (120ml) of the reserved chicken broth, then lower heat and simmer until the liquid evaporates again.

Chicken broth added to cooked beef.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Add the drained rice to the meat and toss until rice is fully coated in the oil and evenly mixed with the meat. Add 4 cups (950ml) of the reserved chicken broth along with the remaining spices. Season with salt: the broth should be slightly saltier than you would like your finished dish to be, as the rice will absorb some of the salt.

Chicken stock added to a beef and rice mixture.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cover and cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated but the rice is still easy to stir with a spoon and not sticking to the bottom, about 10 minutes. Wrap a clean tea towel or paper towels around the lid and cover tightly again, then remove from the heat and let it sit to steam in the residual heat for 20 minutes.

Hashweh mixture resting while covered loosely with a tea towel.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Meanwhile, for the toppings: In a small skillet, combine 2 tablespoons (30ml) oil with almonds. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring, until almonds are a light golden color, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon (15ml) oil and pine nuts.

Slivered almonds toasting on a stovetop.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

While the rice is still resting, shred the chicken from the broth into bite size morsels, discarding all skin and bones; reserve any remaining broth for another use. Add a ladleful of the simmering broth to the chicken to keep it warm, then remove the broth from the heat.

Shredded chicken mixed with homemade chicken stock.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

To serve, fluff rice with a large fork and transfer to a serving platter. Top with the shredded chicken followed by the toasted almonds and pine nuts and serve immediately.

Finished hashweh served on a large ovular platter.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Special Equipment

Meat grinder (optional)

Notes

To make dicing the meat easier, partially freeze it first (how long this takes will depend on the specific cut of beef you use and its dimensions).If you are pressed on time, you can substitute ground beef, lamb, or veal.

For a simpler weeknight version, you can use any homemade chicken stock you keep in the freezer, or store-bought low-sodium broth; in this case, omit the shredded meat garnish.

Make-Ahead and Storage

The broth and toasted nuts can be made up to 2 days in advance. The broth and chicken can be refrigerated, then returned to a simmer before proceeding with the recipe (it's easiest to shred the chicken while cold, then heat it up after with some broth). The toasted nuts can be held in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use. If the chicken cools down too much before serving, you can always dip it back in the simmering broth for a couple of minutes.

Za’atar

Fragrant herbs dried at home create a blend that pairs perfectly with countless dishes (and is perfect even on its own).

Small bowl of Za'tar next to a piece of pita, a small bowl of olive oil, and a rectangular bowl of vegetables
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Za’atar is one of the most used and loved Arab ingredients in the West, and yet it is also one of the most misunderstood. Translations abound from “thyme” to “spice blend,” and mixes include all kinds of different ingredients, some calling for a mishmash of store-bought dried herbs to simply be mixed together. While this is neither offensive nor terrible tasting, it deprives you from experiencing za’atar in its best and most original form.

What Is Za'atar?

The word "za'atar" itself refers to a specific plant, the same way marjoram or dill or parsley do. It is also the name given to the blend made with the dried leaves of this plant—very creative nomenclature, I have to admit. Za’atar belongs to the oregano family (its scientific name, unsurprisingly, is Origanum Syriacum), and is native to the Levant, particularly the Syrian, Jordanian, and Palestinian mountains. This is probably why its closest substitute here in the West, in terms of flavor, is oregano, and not thyme as so many translations of the recipe might have led you to believe.

Every spring growing up, my family would take several trips to the mountains surrounding Jerusalem and pick za’atar leaves in the wild. We would use the fresh leaves in salads and breads, then dry the rest for use throughout the year. To this day, even with dried and ready-made varieties widely available, my parents, like many others, still forage for za’atar in the wild and dry it at home. If you’re thinking, why bother making it at home when you can now buy this condiment in stores, the truth is that what you buy tastes almost nothing like this home-made version. Give it a try, and you’ll understand why many Palestinian families still choose to forage, dry, and perform this yearly ritual by hand. 

Different elements of za'tar in separate bowls
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

At its finest, za’atar (the blend) uses only the leaves of the plant, which have been stripped off the stem and dried. These leaves are then ground with sesame seeds and then mixed with sumac, salt, and more whole sesame seeds. The texture of the ground sesame-herb mixture should be powdery, but it will not be dry because of the oils released from the ground seeds. The whole sesame seeds added in at the end are there as much for flavor as for texture, giving the blend the most satisfying delicate crunch.  

Making Your Own Za'atar

Fresh za’atar is difficult to find in the US, but its relatives like oregano and marjoram, and even thyme, are bountiful. Yes, you can purchase dried oregano, thyme, and marjoram in grocery stores, but I highly recommend you buy your own fresh leaves and dry them yourself, as the dried ones sold in stores can be cut with other herbs, can include stems, and are probably not as fresh as they should be, which is not ideal for making truly fine za’atar. (While I haven't had much luck finding dried za'atar leaves on their own in the US, one can find the premade za'atar mix here from companies like Burlap & Barrel, Maureen Abood Market, Milk Street, and Syndyanna, all good options for those who want to try za'atar made from real za'atar leaves.)

Sumac is another important component of the blend, and since the recipe calls for store-bought sumac, make sure you use a pure version without salt. If you are unable to find it, simply omit the salt in this recipe.    

All the Ways to Eat Za'atar

Za'tar in a small bowl next to a piece of pita and a small shallow bowl of olive oil
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

There is hardly a Palestinian kitchen table anywhere in the world that does not have a small bowl of za’atar sitting next to one of olive oil. The most common breakfast food is a piece of bread dipped in olive oil then za’atar. It is also perfect sprinkled over fried eggs or swirled into yogurt or labaneh. You can also mix it with olive oil and use it as a topping for manaqeesh (a flatbread), add it to meat and chicken marinades, or blend it into doughs. Since moving to the United Statesabroad, I have come up with less traditional uses for it, mixing it into salad dressings or breadcrumb coatings and even sprinkling it on mashed potatoes and roast vegetables. My soft spot, though, remains the most basic: a fresh piece of taboon bread dipped in olive oil and za’atar.

In an 8- or 10-inch stainless steel skillet, heat sesame seeds over medium-low heat, stirring continuously to avoid scorching, until aromatic and starting to pop, about 8 minutes. Transfer toasted sesame seeds to a bowl to cool completely.

Two image collage. Top: Sesame seeds in a pan with a wooden spoon. Bottom: Toasted sesame seeds in a blue bowl.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Using a blender or spice grinder, and working in batches if necessary, grind za’atar leaves and one-third of the toasted sesame seeds to a fine powder. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, then whisk in the remaining sesame seeds along with the sumac and salt until well combined. Transfer to an airtight container, then store at room temperature for up to 3 months, in the refrigerator for up to 6 months, or in the freezer for up to 1 year.

Four Image collage. Top Left: Sumac leaves and sesame sees in a grinder. Top Right: Grinded sesame seeds and sumac leaves. Bottom Left: blue bowl with ground sumac and sesame seeds, sesame seeds, salt in a bowl unmixed. Bottom Right: za'tar in a bowl.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Special Equipment 

A powerful blender (like a Vitamix or a Thermomix) or a spice grinder

Notes

The actual za’atar plant is not very easy to find in the US, although some specialty purveyors or international markets might carry it in the spring and early summer. Oregano is the most suitable substitute: For the best results, start with fresh oregano leaves and dry them according to the directions below (commercially dried oregano will be older and less flavorful). You can also mix in some marjoram and/or thyme leaves, but oregano should be the most prevalent herb (a ratio of 3 parts oregano to 1 part marjoram and/or thyme works best).

To get 1 1/2 ounces (45g) of dried oregano leaves you will need 250 to 300g fresh oregano leaves, from about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds (500 to 700g) oregano stems (once dried and rubbed to a fine consistency, this will yield about 1 1/4 cups). To dry the oregano, first taste the fresh leaves and make sure they are not so bitter, peppery, or astringent that it feels unpleasant in your mouth (some varieties of oregano can be especially intense and are best not used for this; most of the fresh oregano I've bought in the US is fine, but it's worth confirming before proceeding with the drying process). Spread oregano stems on towel-lined baking sheets and set in a well ventilated but clean area until completely dry (next to a sunny window is ideal). This can take from a few days to a couple of weeks depending on climate and batch size. Alternatively, use a dehydrator set to 100°F (38°C) until completely dry, about 36 hours. You will know the leaves are dry when one easily crumbles between your fingers.Rub dried leaves off of stems and discard stems, then proceed with recipe.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Za’atar can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months, refrigerated for up to 6 months, or frozen for up to 1 year.

Maqlubeh

Layers of meat, fried vegetables, and spiced rice flipped over to reveal a complete and festive meal.

Maqlubeh plated on a white dish with a bowl of sauce and a small salad next to it
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Even at the risk of sounding like the father from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I will start by explaining the etymology of the word maqlubeh or maqlubah (both spellings are accurate and simply indicate different Arab accents). Its root is the Arabic verb meaning “to flip” and the word itself just means “flipped over.” It’s an apt description given that in order to serve this dish, you top the pot in which it was cooked with a large serving platter, then flip it and lift to reveal a cake-shaped dish of rice, vegetables, and meats.  

Common across Palestine and widely recognized as the national dish, there are as many variations of “maqlubeh” as there are Palestinian families. Traditionally, it is made by boiling either lamb or chicken, frying one or more vegetables (historically just eggplants), then layering the meat, rice, and vegetables in a stew pot and cooking it with some stock.

Over the years, it has evolved to include countless variations. There are seasonal ones, such as maqlubeh made with cauliflower in the winter or fava beans in the spring, and personal adaptations that might reflect, for example, a family's preference for putting cauliflower, eggplant, and carrots together in the same pot. Still others might add chickpeas, or garlic and onions, or even tomatoes to line the pot. But eggplant remains the gold standard, and, if the following old story is to be believed, was the vegetable used when maqlubeh first received its descriptive name.

Towards the end of the twelfth century, Salah ad-Din, the sultan of Egypt and Syria, led a military campaign against the Crusaders in the Levant in which he defeated a massive army in the Battle of Hattin and captured back the city of Jerusalem. Legend has it that the local Jerusalem population, elated with this victory, served Salah ad-Din and his men a generous feast. One of the main dishes was “bathinjaniyeh” (bathinjan means eggplant in Arabic), a dish of rice and eggplants ceremoniously flipped over on a serving platter in front of guests as a sign of hospitality and respect. Delighted with its flavor, Salah ad-Din is said to have later asked, “What is the name of this flipped over (maqlubeh) dish?” From that point onwards, the name of bathinjaniyeh became maqlubeh, and remains it today.

How much of this history is true and how much is embellished is hard to ascertain, but eggplant dishes had by that time gained favor and become some of the most popular, with recipes widely available in medieval Arabic cookbooks. Rice, however, was much less popular in the Levant during that era because it did not grow natively (it required a substantial amount of water, difficult in a drier climate). Even in later centuries, rice continued to be perceived as a food reserved for the wealthy and only in recent years has it become a staple. So it is entirely possible that the grain of choice for maqlubeh was historically the more readily available wheat in either bulgur or freekeh form.   

Today, however, maqlubeh is a rice dish, and one of the most popular at that, served both on special occasions and on an almost weekly basis for many Palestinian families. It’s an entire meal in one pot that can feed a crowd, so it is often the perfect choice for weekend gatherings when large extended families tend to get together.

Even though there are countless variations, there are a few elements common across them all which ensure the best flavor and texture.

First is the broth. The flavor of the dish will largely come down to the flavor of the broth used, so homemade is the way to go so that you can control the many layers of flavors and seasonings.

Then comes the rice. The texture is meant to be soft, but not mushy or sticky. Once the dish is flipped out, a gentle shake of the serving platter back and forth should see the grains cascade down to fill the platter in a mound of tender individual grains that are easy to tell apart. This in part comes down to the variety of rice used. You want a long-grain rice that is prized for its ability to produce rice with a fluffy texture, so more glutinous and sticky varieties like medium-grain rice are out. Jasmine is the most popular choice, with Calrose a close second. While basmati is a perfectly suitable choice that many opt for because of its long individual grains, the texture is a little on the dry side and the flavor feels less cohesive.

Rinsing and soaking the rice is equally essential to avoid sticky or mushy rice. Rinsing the rice until the water runs clear removes surface starches that can gum up the results, while soaking it hydrates the starch more evenly, setting it up for more uniform, tender results once cooked.

The choice of meat is discretionary, although both chicken and lamb are common. Bone-in pieces are traditional, because they are used to first make the broth, and yield the most flavor. But if you already have a good homemade broth on hand, it is entirely possible to use boneless cuts of meat. If it is chicken breast, simply brown it in olive oil with spices until almost cooked through before layering the dish; you don't want to simmer the lean, white meat too long, or it'll end up dry and chalky in the finished dish. If it is stewing cuts of lamb (or beef), then cook them in the broth until tender before proceeding with the dish; the longer cooking on these stewing cuts allows for tough, collagenous connective tissue to break down into supple gelatin, ensuring tender results.

It is in the choice of vegetables where the most opportunity for variation exists, though as mentioned, eggplant is the most typical. In most cases, the vegetables need to be pre-cooked before being layered into the maqlubeh, but the method of cooking will depend on the vegetable. Cauliflower and eggplant are usually deep- or shallow-fried first, allowing for thorough browning and tenderizing, and a softer, silkier texture. It's not uncommon today, however, to broil these vegetables in order to speed preparation and reduce the amount of oil needed; high-heat roasting of a vegetable like cauliflower could also work. Other common vegetable choices like favas, carrots, or a mix, are usually sautéed in olive oil until just tender.

The final piece of the puzzle is the assembly. The meat goes into the pot first, followed by a portion of soaked and drained rice that's been seasoned with spices. The vegetables are then layered in and topped with the remaining rice. If it is a substantially large meal, one can do more layers of rice and vegetables. A heatproof plate, slightly smaller than the pot’s circumference, is usually inverted on top to weigh it all down and ensure the layers hold their shape during cooking, and then the broth is poured in. Once the rice is cooked, it’s set aside to steam for 15 to 20 minutes with a tea towel or paper towels inserted under the lid, which absorbs moisture that would otherwise condense on the bottom of the lid and drip back down onto the rice, turning it damp and mushy in spots.

The real treat is the act of flipping it over. There is always this palpable tension in the air, “Will it come out in one piece? What will it look like?” Nonstick pots definitely help reduce the risk of sticking, but another trick if you don't have a nonstick pot is to line the bottom of the pot with a round sheet of parchment paper. While this will not give you a nicely sizzling, brown bottom, it will ensure easy release.

When it comes time to serve, fried slivered almonds add a welcome crunch to the dish, while yogurt and chopped Palestinian salad make the perfect accompaniments. But even on its own with a spoon, this dish is a complete meal. While I will always think of maqlubeh as a celebratory or family meal that can carry its own weight, it’s also the perfect side dish for roasted or grilled meats.

For the Broth: In a heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken, skin side down, and sear until the chicken is golden-brown all over and releases easily from the pot, about 5 minutes per side.

Chicken, skin side down, cooking in a pot on a stove
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Add the allspice, black peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, tomato paste, and turmeric and stir to coat the chicken. Add the whole onion along with 10 1/2 cups water and the salt, and bring to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes, skimming any scum that rises to the surface, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the chicken is cooked through but not falling apart, about 1 hour. Using tongs, transfer chicken to a plate or platter and set aside.

Four Image collage. Clockwise from upper left: Cooked chicken in pot with spices on a small plate to the side; chicken in pot covered with spices; chicken with spices, onions, and broth in pot; cooked chicken removed from pot and plated.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish


Allow broth to cool slightly, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer set through a large heatproof bowl. Discard solids and set broth aside.

Strained broth in a glass bowl, with the strained ingredients in the strainer in the upper right of the frame
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Meanwhile, for the Maqlubeh: While the broth is simmering, set rice in a large mixing bowl and wash in several changes of cold water, swishing well with your hand each time, until the water is clear. Cover rice with fresh cold water and let soak for 25 minutes.

Washed rice in a clear bowl
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Fill a Dutch oven, wok, or large sauté pan, with about 1 inch of vegetable oil. Heat oil over high heat to 375°F (190°C). Working in batches to avoid crowding the oil, fry eggplant slices in a single layer, turning once halfway through, until golden-brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer fried eggplant to a paper towel–lined platter or baking sheet. Once all the eggplant has been fried, repeat with cauliflower, frying florets until golden brown all over.

Three Image Collage. On the left: top image is eggplant being fried in a dutch oven, on the bottom is cauliflower being fried in a dutch oven. On the right is a vertical image of fried eggplant and cauliflower on a paper towel lined sheet
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Drain rice well, return to mixing bowl, then stir in the olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt until thoroughly combined.

Two Image Collage: Rice in a bowl with spices sitting on top; Rice with spices mixed in
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

To assemble the maqlubeh, grease the interior of a large nonstick pot (approximately 10-inches wide and 5-inches high) with ghee; if you do not have a nonstick pot, then line the bottom of a Dutch oven or stainless steel pot with a round piece of parchment paper and then grease with ghee.

Pot lined with ghee
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Arrange the cooked chicken, skin side down, in the pot. Spread one third of the rice on top in as even a layer as possible. Layer the fried eggplant and cauliflower on top as evenly as possible; you can arrange them in two separate stacked layers, as a single layer split down the middle with cauliflower on one side and eggplant on the other, or freely mixed together. Top with the remaining rice, spreading it in an even layer; you should not see the vegetables through the rice, or, at most, see only some edges popping through.

Four Image Collage. Clockwise from upper left: ingredients (chicken on a plate, rice in a bowl, fried vegetables, and broth) arranged neatly; Chicken layered in the pot; fried vegetables layered on top of the chicken in a pot; rice layered on top of vegetables and chicken in a pot.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Set an inverted heatproof plate, slightly smaller than the circumference of the pot, over the rice. This weighs down the maqlubeh, helping it retain its distinctive layers.

A plate weighing down the maqlubeh in a pot
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Ladle broth on top until it reaches approximately 3/4 inch (2cm) above the rice and other ingredients. Cover, set on medium heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a strong simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to a very gentle simmer and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

Maqlubeh with stock brought to a boil on the stove
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Using tongs and an oven mitt or kitchen towel, carefully remove the inverted plate. Set a well-fitting lid on the pot, sandwiching a clean tea towel or paper towels between the pot and the lid. Set aside to steam for 15 to 20 minutes. For crispier rice, see note at end.

Overhead view of lid of pot wrapped in towel
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

For the Almonds: In a small skillet, pour in enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom (about 1 to 2 tablespoons). Add the almonds and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until almonds are a light golden color, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Alternatively, place the almonds on a small sheet pan and toast in a 350°F (175°C) oven until golden, about 5 minutes.

Overhead view of Almonds being toasted in a pan
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

To Serve: Remove the lid and place a large, inverted serving platter on top of the pot. Using both hands, quickly but carefully flip the pot over. Slowly lift the pot to reveal the dish.

Two image collage. Top: Pot flipped over onto a large plate. Bottom: a person slowly lifting the pot off the plate to show intact maqlubeh underneath
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Give the serving platter a gentle shake back and forth to help disperse the rice grains. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve alongside Palestinian salad and fresh yogurt.

Finished Maqlubeh topped with almonds on a plate
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Notes

If you do not have all the whole spices for the broth, substitute with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Or, in a pinch, with 1 tablespoon of ground Lebanese 7 Spice.

If you do not have jasmine rice, you can use Calrose rice or another long grain rice such as Basmati. 

If you prefer your rice and chicken crispier, set the pot on the lowest heat for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour right after covering it with the lid and tea towel in Step 11. This will keep the dish warm and allow the rice and chicken skin to crisp up more. 

Make-Ahead and Storage

Once layered, the pot can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one day before cooking. Cooked leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat with a few splashes of chicken broth thoroughly before serving. 

Salata Falahiyeh (Palestinian or Farmers Salad)

If all you have at home is tomatoes, onion, and mint, you can enjoy a very delicious salad.

Overhead shot of Salata falahiyeh in a patterned blue bowl with crisp pita
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Cucumbers made their way westward to the Arab world from India sometime in the Middle Ages. Tomatoes then traveled eastward from the New World to Europe and Asia in the 16th century, and did not really enter Arab cuisine until the late 18th century. Yet today, so many cultures, from Mediterranean and Balkan to Central and South Asian, have some version of a salad made from cucumber and tomato. Indians call it “kachumber,” Iranians call it “shirazi” and Turks “çoban salatasi,” Balkans and Central Europeans call it “shopska salad” and the Greeks call it “horiatiki.” While it is not too far-fetched that cultures, when exposed to similar ingredients, might come up with similar dishes, the historic trade routes that connected all these areas undoubtedly led to cross-cultural influences and culinary diffusion as well.

Most of these names are practical, referring either to the method of preparation (chopped), by whom (farmers), or where it is eaten (villages). For Palestinians, two of those naming conventions are used, with some referring to it as “salata na’ameh” (finely chopped salad) or “salata falahiyeh” (farmers salad) or simply “salata” because it is the quintessential salad in our cuisine.

Indeed, this salad has been consumed by Palestinian farmers since tomatoes entered the cuisine a couple hundred years ago. Naturally, within Palestine, nobody refers to it as "Palestinian salad," but many Arabs across the Middle East might use this term because it is the most commonly eaten salad by Palestinians, as contrasted to tabouleh in Lebanon or Fattoush in Syria, for example, although overlaps exist across the region.

The contention over this dish and its naming arises because it is frequently referred to abroad as “Israeli Salad.” Yes, Israelis do eat this salad, but the history of how it made its way into the Israeli kitchen—by way of the surrounding Palestinine culture—is largely glossed over when that name is used. The most ironic part of it, though, is what this salad is referred to in Israel: “salat aravi,” or Arab salad. 

Within Israel there is not the same confusion about the origins of this salad, and the history is, in fact, an interesting one. When the first waves of Jewish migrants came into Palestine in the late 1800s and early 1900s, both from the woes of the 19th century and persecution, there was this feeling of returning to a biblical homeland that had been safeguarded by the native (Palestinian) population. Along with this came the desire to emulate these people and integrate with the land and customs. Many Jews lived side-by-side in peace with Palestinians, often adopting the same dress, music, and, of course, cuisine.

As the newly arrived immigrants worked with the local Palestinian population in agriculture, they also started to eat the same foods. Later, when kibbutzim—utopian Jewish socialist agriculture-based communities—developed, their inhabitants continued to prepare and eat these same foods. From the kibbutz mess hall, this Palestinian chopped farmer salad made its way into hotels and more mainstream Israeli kitchens. Still, it was always referred to as Arab salad, in reference to its roots. Israeli academics, historians, and food writers have long attested to this history, acknowledging its Palestinian origins. Those who have taken this dish from its marginalized and occupied creators, and willfully ignored those origins by renaming it “Israeli,” can not claim culinary diffusion, it is the definition of appropriation.

Many Palestinians abroad today might refer to the hallmark salad of our cuisine as “Palestinian Salad,” to correct that kind of misconception, yet more often than not, we find no need to describe this salad in terms of nation or any other signifier, because it simply is our “salata,” the one we serve alongside hashweh and maqlubeh and kafta, and of course, stuffed into our falafel and shawarma sandwiches.

As I mentioned, many cultures have their own version of a tomato and cucumber salad, but there are differences that set them apart, from the size of the dice to the dressing, additional ingredients, and choice of herbs.

Here are some of the elements that set the Palestinian one apart: It is very finely diced with the tomato and cucumber cubes no larger than a dry chickpea. The herb of choice is mint, fresh or dry, although a sprinkling of parsley can be included if available. Onions are non-negotiable. In fact, while cucumber has become a primary ingredient nowadays, in its most basic iteration, the salad requires nothing more than tomatoes, onion, and mint. The dressing is nothing more than olive oil, fresh lemon juice and salt.

Over the years, as other vegetables have become more easily accessible, different families have taken to including more ingredients based on what’s fresh and available. I’ve eaten versions that include finely chopped lettuce, others with bell peppers, others still with avocado or radish. My mother-in-law will often chop an entire lemon, skin and pith included, for a real citrusy burst, which is an option I'm giving in the recipe below. But even if all you have at home is tomatoes, onion, and mint, you can enjoy a very delicious salad alongside any Arabic meal you make.

Tomatoes are a seasonal ingredient and summer tomatoes are definitely superior. To enjoy this salad out of season, I opt for either cherry or plum tomatoes, as their quality tends to be consistent throughout the year.

Some raw-tomato recipes on Serious Eats praise the benefits of salting the tomatoes in advance, which draws out water and concentrates the tomato's flavor. This can be especially helpful if you want to avoid a puddle of tomato juices collecting on the bottom of the plate at the table, as newly-applied salt pulls out moisture. In the case of this salad, though, we want the pool of liquid at the bottom—it adds even more flavor to the rice it so often accompanies.

Another trick you'll sometimes see is to rinse onions with hot water to remove some of their pungency by rinsing away the natural chemical compounds that form as a defense mechanism once the onion's cells are damaged. I don’t recommend that for this salad because their pungency is desirable here, adding to the complexity of the salad and creating a counterpoint to the tomato and cucumber's fruity mildness. One trick that is useful, if you are chopping the vegetables ahead of time, is to coat the diced onion with a tablespoon of the olive oil, which helps prevent the onion from developing an overly pungent aroma as it sits.

The final note I leave you with on this salad is that it is very forgiving. I make it at home on a weekly basis and I never measure. I don’t weigh my tomatoes or cucumbers, and I don’t use measuring spoons for the liquids. Instead I use whatever vegetables are freshest in my fridge, and I simply eyeball things. I have included measurements and weights below, but only as a starting point for those who crave that level of detail. The reality, though, is that this is a dish where you can trust your instincts and taste as you go along.

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, chile (if using), and lemon (if using). Stir in mint, olive oil, and lemon juice until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and serve right away.

Four Image Collage. Clockwise from upper left: Fresh chiles, tomatoes, peppers and lemons; all vegetables chopped up in a bowl unmixed; dressing being added to the bowl finished salad in a bowl.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Notes

If making this salad out of season, opt for cherry or plum tomatoes.

 Make Ahead and Storage

The tomatoes, cucumbers, chile pepper, and lemon can be chopped and held, unseasoned and undressed, in an airtight container for up to 2 hours; the onion can also be diced up to 2 hours in advance, but should be held in a separate airtight container and tossed with 1 tablespoons olive oil to prevent it from becoming overly pungent. Stir onions, olive oil, lemon juice, mint, and salt into tomatoes and cucumbers right before serving.

Msakhan (Palestinian Flatbreads With Onion, Sumac, and Roast Chicken)

Taboon bread spread with sweet onions cooked in a generous amount of olive oil and flavored with tangy sumac before being topped with crispy roast chicken and pine nuts.

Plated msakhan.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Many will tell you msakhan is the national dish of Palestine, although there are probably three or four more dishes vying for the title. In any case, msakhan is a celebrated and essential Palestinian meal whose history tells the story of adaptation and of a people connected to their land.

The word msakhan simply means heated, a reference that started when Palestinian peasantry would take taboon bread, often a day old, and spread it with olive oil before reheating and enjoying it. Over time, the dish evolved from a simple, reheated piece of bread to one elaborately spread with onions cooked in copious amounts of olive oil, and eventually topped with chicken and pine nuts or almonds.

While it’s hard to point to a specific moment in time or incident from which this dish developed, reference to it in Palestinian folk songs and folklore suggests it has been around for well over a couple of centuries.

Today, Palestinians will tell you msakhan is a dish made in the fall around the time of the olive harvest when oil is plentiful. But it is not just the oil that makes this dish so significant in the Palestinian kitchen. All of its ingredients are meaningful to the Palestinian way of life, starting with the bread whose wheat is harvested in the summer. This is followed by yellow onions that are picked, dried, and stored, and then by almonds which are also picked, prepped, dried, and stored. Towards the fall, sumac is ready for harvest and later in the fall olive oil season starts. Chicken was also historically one of the most widely raised livestock by Palestinians and available throughout the year, albeit reserved for more special meals. All these ingredients come together in a dish that is seen as celebratory and most often reserved for festive occasions.

With the ready availability of these ingredients year-round, msakhan can now be enjoyed at any time. Still, it is a dish usually reserved for larger get-togethers, or weekend family meals, as it involves some time and preparation, especially since the bread is almost always made at home. Restaurants will serve it as well, with some specializing solely in msakhan, although as most Palestinians will tell you, there is nothing like eating msakhan made at home.

Msakhan
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

If the preparation of multiple from-scratch elements sounds intimidating, don’t let it be. The flavor is so beloved by Palestinians that countless shortcuts and variations of this dish have been developed over the years, from using shredded chicken to store-bought bread. While the hallmark of the traditional dish is the large taboon breads served open-face with the roast chicken on top, a common modern variation is to mix the onion topping with shredded chicken, then roll it up in saj/shrak bread (a super thin tortilla-like bread) so that it looks similar to a spring roll. This can be done in miniature canape sizes or large enough to serve as a meal for a person.  

In any case, the important thing to keep in mind is that, at its core, this is a dish of very simple ingredients, which means there’s no place to hide. Use good quality olive oil, the best sumac you can find, and bread which is soft and fluffy and won’t quickly dry up and become brittle. As for chicken, white versus dark meat is a matter of preference, but cooking the dark meat fully so it can be pulled from the bone is key.

It is a full meal on its own, but for a complete spread serve it with yogurt on the side as well Palestinian cracked green olives and a chopped Palestinian salad.

For the chicken: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, sumac, allspice, black pepper, and cumin. Arrange chicken, skin side up, on prepared baking sheet and season all over with salt. Rub all over with spiced oil, pushing some under the skin. Roast chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 150°F (66°C) for the breast, about 25 minutes, or 175°F (80°C) for the legs, about 30 minutes. Let chicken rest 15 minutes, reserving any accumulated juices for the onions.

Seasoned chicken on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Meanwhile, for the onions: In a medium Dutch oven or large skillet or sauté pan set over medium-low heat, stir together the olive oil, onions, and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened completely and are turning golden around some edges, about 30 minutes; adjust heat as needed to either speed up or slow down the rate of cooking so that it's gentle but active.

Onions cooking.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Stir in the sumac, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, and chicken broth, along with any reserved chicken juices, and cook, stirring often, until onions have cooked down to a jammy and glazed consistency, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Seasoned onions cooking down.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

To serve: Turn on broiler and position top rack about 4 to 6 inches from broiler element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Working with one flatbread at a time, moisten the edges of each flatbread by dipping it into the oily glaze on the surface of the onion mixture and rotating it around. Set the flatbread on the prepared baking sheet.

Taboon lined with onion mixture oils.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Spoon about a quarter of the onion mixture onto the flatbread and spread it around in an even layer, leaving a thin border around the edge (similar to pizza). Sprinkle all over with sumac and toasted pine nuts. Repeat with remaining flatbreads, onions, sumac, and pine nuts, stacking them one on top of the other (this keeps them moist, especially as you start to broil them).

Taboon topped with reduced onions and pine nuts.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

If chicken has cooled too much, insert it under the broiler just long enough to rewarm and re-crisp the skin. Working with one or two flat breads at a time, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and broil until the flatbread's edges have browned in spots, 1 to 4 minutes (keep a close eye on them as broiler strength can vary quite a bit). Transfer each flatbread to a plate, top with a whole piece of chicken, and serve.

Msakhan ready to eat.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Notes

Taboon bread is best for this dish, but a sturdy flatbread, like homemade or store-bought pocketless pita or naan will do in a pinch.

To toast pine nuts: Toss nuts with 1 tablespoon olive oil, place on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave at 1 minute intervals, stirring in between, until golden brown and toasty, about 3 minutes total; alternatively, toast by tossing the nuts with 1 tablespoon olive oil and cooking over medium-low heat in a skillet, stirring constantly, until toasted, about 5 minutes total.

Make-Ahead and Storage

The prepared onion mixture can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container, then reheated just before assembly.

Taboon

Tender yeast-raised taboon bread is easy to replicate baked on pebbles in a cast-iron pan. An essential component of msakhan, it is also perfect for many toppings or simply ripped apart to scoop your favorite dip.

Taboon breads in a cast-iron skillet on river pebbles and spread out across a white linen.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Taboon is the name given to the clay ovens historically used by Palestinians, but also refers to its namesake flatbread. While taboon bread is uniquely Palestinian, similar breads are common across the entire Arab world, albeit prepared slightly differently and called by varying names in each region, with a history stretching back thousands of years. The earliest archeological evidence of bread baking can be traced to about 14,000 years ago—roughly around the time of the domestication of wheat—in what is today known as the Levant, the Middle Eastern region that includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and more.

Palestinians were historically a farming society for whom wheat and, by extension, bread were dietary staples. Within each village—sometimes within each neighborhood or family even—there was a special room that housed a taboon. The oven itself was built from clay kneaded with hay, then shaped into a shallow, truncated cone and left to dry. At the top was an opening through which food was inserted for baking, and underneath, in the floor of the oven, there was usually another smaller opening from which to stoke the fire. The top opening had a special cover to retain the heat inside and the oven itself was filled with riverbed rocks on which trays of food or bread could be directly placed.  

To use a taboon, animal dung, hay, and other flammable materials, such as small olive branches and wood, would be packed around and set on fire. This would continue to burn, most often through the night, until only embers remained the following morning. The ash would then be dusted from the lid and the oven was ready for use. The thick mud walls and stones acted as a thermal mass that soaked up the heat from the fire, which was then stored and slowly released throughout the day.

The women of the family or village usually repeated the process of adding burning material to the taboon oven each night. In the morning they would gather and take turns to bake bread, and later in the day, cook entire meals on the residual heat. My grandmother, at the very end of a baking day, would sometimes place whole eggplants, tomatoes, and green chilies right on the rocks inside the taboon. Once they were blistered and cooked through, she would peel the vegetables, mash them all together with salt and some olive oil, at times lemon too. The smokey dip, in all its simplicity, was immensely satisfying.

Taboon breads and cheeses, veggies, and spices.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Those days are long gone and taboons are less and less common, with metal and electric ovens supplanting this labor-intensive method. Although if you speak to anyone who has experienced a taboon oven, the nostalgia is palpable as they recall the unparalleled flavor imparted to the food from the clay and embers. Still, there are ways to replicate the shape and texture of taboon bread at home today; and even if the flavor is not identical, it is sublime.

Good taboon bread is soft and tender, dimpled from being cooked on stones and without the kind of hollow pocket inside that is common with many types of pita. That pocket is generated when steam expands to form a single large inner air bubble, but it's not the goal with taboon. There are several factors that play into the development of a pocket, including the dough hydration level, the temperature of the oven, and how the dough is rolled out. In my experience, there's one additional element that can help prevent the pocket in taboon: the rocks upon which the breads are traditionally cooked—they create an uneven surface and compress the dough in spots, making a single large air bubble less likely to form. The result is a sturdier bread that can support a heavier load of toppings, such as the cooked onions and roast chicken pieces in a dish like msakhan.

My preferred method for replicating a traditional taboon at home is to heat smooth river rocks or large pebbles in a cast iron pan, or even on a sturdy baking sheet, with the bread then baked directly on top, giving the bread its classic dimpled shape and helping prevent the development of a pocket. Using river rocks is by no means required, but it's easy enough to find these types of stones not only outdoors but also at art supply stores (see the recipe notes section below for more guidance on finding the right kind of rocks).

Traditionally, each baker would leave a small portion of dough for the next day’s bake—essentially, a sourdough starter. Today, commercial yeast is most often used to leaven this bread, but if you have a sourdough starter and feel confident in adapting the recipe, it would work perfectly fine and probably come closer to the original taste. As for flour, taboon was historically made only with whole wheat. Although healthier, it results in a more finicky dough and stiffer bread. Today, different proportions of whole wheat and white flour are used, with some even opting for white flour exclusively. In this recipe, the proportions allow you to still have the nutty taste from whole grains while enjoying one of the softest and most tender breads you can imagine.

To get to that point, however, it is important to make a very soft and well-hydrated dough. This means that it will be quite sticky to work with. Ensuring your hands, work surface, and the portions of dough remain well-floured throughout make the process much easier, especially as you come to shape and stretch the dough.

Palestinian women have over the generations perfected the stretching of the dough to enormous sizes by simply doing a back-and-forth toss between their palms. After years of practice, I can do the palm dance, but I cannot dream of getting to the size my grandmother would. Likewise, this recipe is not under the illusion that any of us can perfect that skill in a few tries. Instead, it calls for smaller taboon breads which you will be able to stretch with your fingers on a floured surface. Once you transfer the dough to the heated stones, you can carefully stretch it further for a more evenly rounded shape. Regardless of what shape (or thickness) you end up with on the first try, you will still find yourself rewarded with one of the best breads you have ever tried.

Stacked taboon breads.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

To keep the bread soft as you are baking, have a large kitchen towel or two smaller ones ready. Place each bread as it comes out of the oven on the towel then fold the towel over to cover it, trapping steam and preventing the taboons from drying out. Continue, placing each bread on top of the one before it, making sure to keep them covered until you are ready to use or freeze them.

As for the uses, taboon bread is the primary component of msakhan, considered by many to be one of the main, if not the main, national Palestinian dishes. But the bread can be enjoyed in countless other applications. Like pita bread, it can be used to scoop up anything from labaneh and hummus to stews and braises. Because of its shape and texture, however, it also makes the perfect base for open-faced flatbreads. It is very common amongst Palestinians to drizzle taboon bread with olive oil and zaatar and then reheat it in the oven for crispy za’atar manaqeesh. But you can just as well spread it with tomato sauce and sprinkle it with cheese. Or you can put your favorite sandwich filling in it and roll it up. Or, if you’re like most Palestinians, you will simply dip it in olive oil and say it’s the best meal in the world.

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly stir together the bread flour, whole wheat flour, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the middle and add the oil, yeast, and water. Using your fingers, gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones until a very soft and sticky ball of dough forms; if dough feels stiff, work in water 1 or 2 tablespoons (15-30ml) at a time until it is soft and slightly sticky. Let stand 5 minutes, then knead until the dough comes together more smoothly, even if still sticky, about 1 minute. Repeat this resting and kneading process once or twice more until a very soft and elastic ball of dough forms; when ready, the finished dough will still be a little sticky.

Taboon dough forms.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Using well-oiled hands, gently shape the dough into a smooth ball, rub all over with olive oil, then set the dough ball in the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap. Set aside at warm room temperature until dough doubles in size, about 90 minutes. In cooler months, this process may take much longer.

Taboon dough rising
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Once the dough has risen, gently punch down to release the air bubbles. With well floured hands, divide into 8 equal portions, shape each into a ball, and place on a well-floured baking sheet or work surface. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until dough balls grow by roughly 50%, about 30 minutes.

Balls of taboon dough resting.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Meanwhile, if using optional "river" rocks (see recipe note), spread them in an even layer in a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet; otherwise proceed with empty skillet as directed. Adjust oven rack to middle position, set skillet on rack, and preheat to 500F° (260°C), or the highest the oven will go. Line a baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel.

River rocks line a cast-iron pan.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Working with one piece of dough at a time, set dough on a floured work surface, durst with more flour, then flatten slightly with your hand. Using your hands, flatten and stretch the dough out to a roughly 4-inch round. Flip it over, sprinkling with more flour if it feels sticky, and continue to flatten and stretch until you have a roughly 8-inch round.

Taboon dough stretched into a 4-inch circle.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

If using rocks, open the oven and pull out the rack halfway. Carefully transfer dough round directly to the skillet and lay it over the pebbles, carefully stretching it out to form a more circular shape. If you are not using pebbles, place dough round directly in the cast iron skillet and use your fingers to make indentations all over the bread (this will give it a similar shape and feel to having pebbles under it and also prevent it from rising and creating a pocket).

Taboon dough placed on river rocks.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Bake until the bread develops a very light golden top, about 5 minutes. Using oven mitts or silicone-tipped tongs, carefully lift taboon from the pebbles and, if the bottom is not brown, flip over and return to the oven until lightly golden on the second side, about 1 minute longer. Remove taboon from the oven and place on the towel-lined sheet to cool. Allow the rocks and/or skillet to reheat for 5 minutes as you stretch out the next piece of dough, then repeat the process until all the dough rounds are baked. Serve right away as desired or store in a zipper-lock bag for up to 1 day at room temperature or up to 1 month in the freezer.

Completed taboon breads.
Serious Eats / Mai Kakish

Special Equipment

Optional: enough "river" rock pebbles, each about 2 inches in diameter, to fill a 10- to 12-inch cast iron skillet in a single layer (see recipe notes)

Notes

"River" pebbles can usually be purchased from any arts and crafts or homeware store such as Michaels or Home Depot. Just make sure they are natural stones that do not have any kind of coating on them; also avoid stones collected from nature as they can contain small amounts of water and pose a sudden cracking or popping risk when heated. To prep them, simply wash gently with warm, soapy water, rubbing away any sand, dirt or residue with your fingers, then rinse. Set aside to dry fully before using. I usually re-rinse them with water after every few bakes when they’ve accumulated a bit of flour on the surface that is starting to brown and burn.

Make-Ahead and Storage

This bread can be stored in a zipper-lock bag for up to one day at room temperature; it freezes well in a zipper-lock bag for up to one month. Bread leftover at room temperature can be drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar then reheated in the oven for crispy za’atar manaqeesh.

In ‘Taste Makers,’ Meet the Immigrant Women Who Changed American Food

When I first met Mayukh Sen on a windy day in New York City a couple years ago, our conversation flowed like we’d known each other for years. I didn’t understand why at the time. But having blitzed through his new book, Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Wo…

When I first met Mayukh Sen on a windy day in New York City a couple years ago, our conversation flowed like we’d known each other for years. I didn’t understand why at the time. But having blitzed through his new book, Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America, at record speed (it’s as riveting as any novel, as page-turning as a thriller, and as moving as an inspirational book), I finally realize why. Sen has a knack for understanding the stories of those across from him in a way often overlooked by others.

In his new book, this James Beard Award–winning writer delves into the stories of seven immigrant women who shaped and changed the way people in America interact with foreign cuisines, but to whom history, and memory, have not always been as kind. Rather than tell their stories from his view, however, Sen has allowed each woman’s voice to tell her own story. In so doing, he brings readers not only a better understanding of the struggles many face in this industry, but also lifts up a mirror, forcing us to question what role we play in perpetuating these issues. As heartbreaking as it is inspiring, this is a book for anyone who cares about food and the people who create it.

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