Back in 1997, I visited the town of Ramallah in the West Back to do volunteer work. I stayed at a Catholic convent, which also happened to be an orphanage. Every morning I would smell the nutty and fragrant za’atar spice, baking on fresh homemade bread called “manakish.” To this day when manakish are baking in the oven, I get memories of those sweet nuns who made me feel at home. Sometimes I am in the mood for this savory pastry but don’t have time to make the homemade dough, so I use either ready made store bought dough or even refrigerated biscuits. If you do choose the store bought option, make sure the ingredients are all familiar to you—hydrogenated fats are an absolute no-no in the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern diet.

If I am in a time crunch, I buy the biscuit dough from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Their ready made pizza dough also works beautifully with this recipe, but you must divide the dough into golf ball size and make sure you roll them out as much as possible to ensure crispiness.  ZA’ATAR  is a zesty blend of spices that is staple in the Arab world, a combination of oregano, savory, thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. You can buy this spice ready made from a local  Middle Eastern grocery store or online, and you can also make your own. My upcoming cookbook will have the simplest, tastiest recipe for Za’atar  and bread dough 🙂

This spice lasts for months if refrigerated. Za’atar is a miracle blend of spices with medicinal properties. Arab students love to eat Za’atar before exams for an extra sharp mind, and my dear aunt lived to be almost 100 years old with a daily diet of za’atar for breakfast. You can get creative with these flatbreads, adding different types of cheeses or vegetables like chopped tomatoes–sahtein! (which means to good health!)  Here is my video tutorial to get you started:


Mana’eesh (Za’atar flatbreads)  Makes 24


  • ¼ cup za’atar spice
  • Biscuit dough, ready made pizza dough, or my recipe for bread dough
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • Feta cheese (optional)
  • Olive oil spray for pan
Zesty flatbread featuring Za’atar and feta cheese–pure yumminess!


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