Mini Cheese Flatbreads with Mint
These mini cheese flatbreads with mint are a Lebanese tradition, part of the mana’eesh, the man’oushe flatbread family and just one of the many variations of toppings used. I love making cheese flatbreads in little rounds using my fatayar dough recipe, party-ready and so soft and tender. The topping is out-of-this-world flavorful, with halloumi, labne, scallions, and dried mint (if you haven’t tried my Mint Salts from Maureen Abood Market yet, I know you’ll love them!).
I can’t imagine two guys more different than Camille Abood and Anthony Bourdain. Dad, a brilliant attorney who trained in the seminary for the priesthood. Bourdain, also brilliant, and, well, you know.
Yet I’m surprised by the thoughts I’ve been having in the wake of Bourdain’s death. Anthony Bourdain reminds me of, or rather much more accurately, makes me think of my father.
Maybe this connection is happening just because whenever something really awful happens in the world, I want my dad. Maybe it’s because this weekend is Father’s Day and pretty much everything is making me think of Dad. Maybe it’s because the end of June will mark the 18th anniversary of his passing. Probably it’s all of that, and more.
My relationship with Bourdain is similar to yours, in that we didn’t know him, but we feel like we did. The show he shot in Lebanon in 2006 when the Israeli-Lebanese war broke out was what first drew me to him. This was the same summer Chris and Ruth were in Lebanon adopting John, and getting Ruth home with the baby was dramatic and difficult and took true grit and bravery on Ruth’s part.
And then, a couple of short years later, we lost Ruth. Anything we could see that shed light on her time in Lebanon, we were riveted. Also, I hadn’t been to Lebanon yet when this episode of No Reservations came out, and was sorting through my fear/reservations/want to go/need to go/fear/reservations feelings. Then, in 2012, I went. Then, in 2013, I met Bourdain as a fan at his “No Guts No Glory” show in East Lansing. We talked about Beirut and Lebanese food. Then, in 2014, I asked him to review and write a blurb for my book. I wanted to hug the man like my father, but with a big Lebanese spread to express my thanks better than words could.
No matter how I got here, the Dad-Bourdain thoughts are swimming around in my head freely. Both men liked a certain raw-ness in life. Both never met a person they couldn’t talk with. Both were supremely generous (Bourdain had no need to spend time on the cookbook of a non-celebrity chef, did he? He was generous, and cared about Lebanon, so he did it).
Learning that Bourdain killed himself struck such a painful cord throughout the world. For me, I just keep thinking what my dad would say. Dad was a counselor in every sense of the word, an attorney who dove deep and drove hard at the truth. He could talk you through, into, or out of anything. He was especially adept at facing suffering with others. There’s not a reason to think about it, but I think that if Dad knew Anthony Bourdain, Anthony Bourdain would still be here.
The strongest connection I keep thinking of, though, is OF COURSE! the food. My father was not a traveling man. He was happiest in his own house, his own bed, his own kitchen. He was not a food explorer like Bourdain.
But the eating! The savoring! The necessary marriage of people, story, and the food! To watch Dad eat anything was to crave that food for the rest of your life. Same Bourdain.
Seems like I have for a long time chased after the recipes of the Lebanese foods my dad loved. But too, I think of how much I wish I could hand him plate after plate of the new recipes I’m developing all of the time, classics and inventive dishes, to see what he’d think of them.
That’s especially true of anything pizza-esque. No better appetizer in my dad’s book than a pizza. Get one for the table while we look over the menu!
The cheese flatbreads, mini mana’eesh, man’oushe: case in point. Little soft pillows of goodness, with melty minted cheese and labne. I’d like to watch Dad, Bourdain, any lover of food eat these, and set the lifelong craving in play.
Mini Cheese Flatbreads with Mint
For the dough:
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water, about 80 degrees, divided
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
For the topping:
- 1/2 pound halloumi cheese, finely grated
- 3 tablespoons labne
- 4 scallions, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Mint Salt, or crushed dried mint
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for finishing
- Proof the yeast by dissolving it in ¼ cup of the warm water with the sugar and letting it activate for about 15 minutes.
- 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 or by hand, slowly work the wet ingredients into the dry, adding the remaining 3/4 cup water slowly.
- 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).
- 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 (don’t go much longer than that, though).
- While the dough rises, make the filling. In a medium bowl, combine the halloumi, labne, scallions, and dried mint.
- When the dough is ready, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
- To shape the flatbreads, roll out half of the dough at a time to about 1/4-inch. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter, or the top of a glass, to cut out circles. Position these as close together as possible. Using a spatula or by hand, transfer the circles to one of the pans. Repeat this same process with the second half of the dough.
- Spread about a teaspoon of the filling on top of each little circle. Brush the tops with olive oil.
- Bake one sheet at a time for 12-15 minutes, or until the breads are light golden brown.
- Serve the cheese breads warm or at room temperature.
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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!
Maureen, you write so beautifully. Your post was amazing as you are. Thank you for all of your posts. I love them.
Thank you so much, dear Mrs. Lasher! Your daughter has played an important role in all of it….
I agree with Virginia. Being of Lebanese descent my fondest memories of family and friends center around food and conversation at the dinner, picnic or any table you make. I enjoy your posts and delicious recipes ,, whenever I’m stuck or cannot remember a specific recipe I look on your site.
Rest In Peace Anthony, our fathers and loved ones
Beautiful, thank you!
Beautifully written. I too have a connection between my late father and Anthony. And both men have been center to my thoughts since I heard the horrible news. I love you book, your recipes and your writing. Thank you.
Wow. Well we’re blessed to have that connection. Thanks so much Ellen.
There is a Middle Eastern market very close to my house. Evan though it is 93 degrees and feels like 120, I am going to go out and buy the cheeses for this bread. Your post brought me to tears. I did not have the kind of relationship you had with your father, in fact it ended quite badly. But maybe I’ll bake and remember the good times and forgive him. Thank you.
These little breads are just that good, to inspire baking in the heat… As for your own father, I’m so sorry. Forgiveness is powerful, and I believe it will set you free. Bless you in this, Michele.
Maureen I have a strong feeling your father is still with you, encouraging you every step of the way. It’s hard to believe it has been 18 years since he passed away. I’m betting he is a proud Pappa of his youngest child these cheese delights look delicious, so I shall add them to my bucket list. Keep up the great work
Bless you Diane, thank you so much.
This is why I like your website so much, because your delicious-looking recipes often include commentary from the heart. If you said Mr. Bourdain was your relative, I would totally believe it. He looked as though he would be a member of your beautiful family!
I love your comment Rebecca, thank you!
Virginia took the words right out of my mouth. I hope and pray Maureen that I can meet you someday. From your writings I feel like we’re family, you’re bringing my childhood memories back. And I thank you for that. Keep writing I enjoy everything I read.
Many, many thanks Laurie. Hope to meet you too.
Maureen, I can’t tell you how much your stories and recipes inspire me, I never took the time while growing up, to learn how to make the various Palestinian dishes my mother made. I prepared the “American” dishes while Mom made everything else, fatayer, grape leaves, koosa etc. A number of years ago, I surprised Mom and learned how to make desserts i.e. maamoul, ka’ak, qatayef and got the thumbs up and she was a critic! We lost Mom three years ago and since then, thanks to you, your stories, cookbook and website, I have advanced to making fatayer, koosa, laban, labaneh, baklawa and many other things. Today I made your mini cheese flatbreads. While they are not as pretty as yours, they are indeed delicious. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Now that is just beautiful. Thank you so much for those words. God bless you!
Well, my dear, I most likely could be your mama! I was just “introduced” to you this past week and have been enjoying reading these posts! I am greatly touched by your sweet spirit! My beloved husband, from Jezzine, Lebanon, just passed away this January and these days are lonely and days of memories and reflection. His sweet mama and some dear Lebanese friends taught me well over the years and I learned to cook/bake the spectacular Lebanese cuisine!! Doing so, more than anything else, bonded my heart to this amazing culture and bound the family to me in wonderful and tender ties! The gift of cooking is God-given and is such a heart-warming way to give and receive love! God bless you in you life’s adventure and I look forward to polishing my skills by reading you recipes and personal notes! Christina
Beautiful!!! Thank you so very much!
Maureen, would you post the ingredients/ recipe for the open face meat pie.
Thanks Sheila! If you have my cookbook, the sfeha are there, and you can also use this meat-filled fatayar recipe and shape them as open-faced.