Koosa Fatayar (a.k.a.: savory zucchini pies)
Koosa Fatayar are one of many Lebanese fatayar recipes, little triangular pies with savory fillings. Practice makes perfect in getting the dough pinched very hard along the seams to keep the pies from opening up. Find recipes for spinach fatayar here and meat fatayar here.
When one makes a study of literature, as I did in college and graduate school, there are phrases from all of that reading that stick with you. I’m glad for this, and so glad that all has not been lost to the years (lots of them).
One of my old favorites: Ezra Pound’s “make it new.”
The times when I’m feverishly, excitedly in the kitchen discovering how a Lebanese ingredient might be used in a new way (za’atar kale chips!, pomegranate rose sorbet!), Ezra’s mantra hovers there with me. Make it new, Mo….
I get just as excited when I experience the make-it-new factor anywhere, especially when it comes to Lebanese flavors. The brussels sprouts with dates and walnuts that we had out in California: wowza. The za’atar filled croissant that sent my head for a spin in Beirut. Little tiny kibbeh bites with tahini sauce. (I haven’t shared those with you yet? Stay tuned!!)
A similar discover took place when I was out on the road for the Library of Michigan book tour this spring, I headed to the west side of the state, with a detour through Grand Rapids. I’d heard about an epicurean shop there owned by a Lebanese family, with major wine distribution. Mom, Peg and I thought we’d stop in and see about it.
We had wine on the brain, but found a dazzling array of goodness. This is serious, I said. This is Chicago-level, Peg said. Chocolate! Mom said (the wall of chocolate bars was out of control!).
As I wandered down the aisles to the opposite end of the shop, I discovered a whole other project going on: a gorgeous pizza oven for pizzas to go, and a deli counter whose contents revealed that yes, this place is owned by Lebanese: arras kibbeh, tabbouleh, baba and hummus.
And fatayar–but with fillings I had never seen before or thought of: Sesame with pine nuts and cheese. Koosa with onion and sumac. They even dusted the tops of their fatayar with a hint of what’s inside, such a pretty idea.
Not long ago I was leafing through my Lebanese cookbooks and saw, lo and behold, the koosa fatayar with sumac. A very traditional savory summer pie!
When I told Dan about all of this, he noted that he’s glad I’m open to learning new things from tradition, just like when he told me about za’atar.
Yeah, you hadn’t heard of za’atar before we met. And you hadn’t rolled grapeleaves before either.
Okay. Those are fighting words.
I had to pull out the photos. There’s proof, bro, if you need it. Doesn’t my young face just reach out into the future and say Here Dan, I’m making grape leaves with Aunt Hilda!
And just for his Lebanese I-know-more-than-you attitude, I told him I’d be making those koosa fatayar asap, and they’d all be koosa. He and I both know that’s a particular jab, since he really isn’t getting excited unless his fatayar have meat in them.
I wasn’t even sure I’d let him have a taste after all of that.
But who can take the scent of fatayar baking and not stand by the oven waiting for them to come out? You know he did more than taste…he ate, and ate some more, directly out of the oven.
Delicious, he said. Never had koosa fatayar before.
Great idea you had, I said. Thanks for sharing it with me.
Welcome, he said.
For the dough:
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 cup warm water (about 105 degrees)
- 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup canola or other neutral oil (such as safflower), plus more to coat the pans
- 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to coat the fatayar before baking
For the filling:
- 3 cups grated zucchini or koosa (about 3 medium zucchini, on a large-hole grater)
- Big pinch Pinch kosher salt, plus one teaspoon for seasoning if the sumac doesn’t contain salt
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon sumac, plus more for garnish
- Few grinds black pepper
- Juice 1/2 lemon
- Proof the yeast by dissolving it in ¼ cup of the warm water with the sugar and letting it activate for about 10 minutes, or until creamy and starting to bubble.
- Whisk together the flour and salt in a mixer bowl or medium bowl. Create a well in the center and add the oil and proofed yeast mixture. Using a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment (ideal because this is a wet dough) or by hand, slowly work the wet ingredients into the dry, adding the remaining ¾ cup of water slowly. Add more water only as necessary to create a sticky dough.
- Knead by hand or with the dough hook in the mixer until the dough is very soft, smooth, and tacky/sticky to the touch (but it should not leave dough on your fingers when touched). The kneading by hand can be awkward at first because it's such a wet mess, but as you knead, the dough will firm up a bit and absorb all of the water.
- In a clean bowl at least twice the size of the dough, lightly coat the dough and the sides of the bowl with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 90 minutes.
- While the dough rises, drain the grated zucchini with a pinch of salt in a colander in the sink.
- When the dough is ready (90 minutes), squeeze the zucchini to remove as much liquid as possible. Combine the zucchini with the onion, sumac, pepper, and lemon. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush two heavy baking sheets with canola oil (I line them with nonstick foil and brush that with oil; this is optional).
- Roll half of the dough out on a dry work surface to ⅛-inch thickness. Gently lift the dough from the edges to allow for contraction. Cut dough into 3- or 4-inch rounds. Knead together the scraps, cover with plastic, and set aside.
- Fill the rounds of dough by placing a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of each round. Be careful not to let the filling touch the edges of the dough where it will be gathered together and closed. A good way to keep the filling in the center is to lower the spoon with the filling over the center of the dough (parallel to it) and use your fingers to slide the filling off the spoon and into the center of the dough circle.
- Bring three sides of the dough together in the center over the filling and pinch into a triangle. Close the dough firmly.
- Place the fatayar on the baking sheets and generously brush or spray the dough with olive oil. Bake in the middle of the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Set the oven on convection bake for the last 5 minutes of baking to encourage browning. Remove them from the oven, brush with a touch of olive oil, and dust very lightly with sumac immediately.
- Repeat the process with the other half of the dough, then with the scraps that have been kneaded together and left to rest for a few minutes before rolling out.
I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!