Za’atar Bread!

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I went to a family gathering yesterday and saw some cousins and aunts that I hadn’t seen in quite a while. It was truly beautiful. We all brought things to eat, and one of the things that I brought was za’atar bread. I don’t make this that often but when I do I wonder to myself why I haven’t made it in such a longtime; it is so simple and delicious. But before I talk about the actual recipe I suppose I should mention the herb blend itself. Za’atar is a common herb blend all over the Levant, but is particularly common in Lebanon. In it’s most common form, it is comprised of thyme, sumac (which gives it it’s distinctively slightly sour taste), toasted sesame seeds, and sea salt. But there are many variations; two of the more common also include oregano or cumin. It’s usually readily available in any Middle Eastern market. If you are in the Buffalo area you can purchase it at Pete’s Lebanese Bakery, Guercio’s, or Penzy’s on Elmwood. Or you can make your own.

I’m told that in Lebanon this is eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I can understand why…once you get a taste you’ll know too. And as I mentioned, this is so easy to prepare. Normally this is not made with whole wheat dough, but I prefer most things whole wheat/grain these days. Anyhow, you can make your own dough as I did (use any of these super easy recipes), or a store-bought raw dough.

After forming the dough into balls, the next step is to roll it out. I used my siti’s (grandmother’s) rolling pin which I inherited from my aunt a few years ago. She told me it was from the “old country.” Anyhow, roll the dough as large or small or as thick or thin as you like. I rolled these into discs about 8″ wide by 1/4″ thick. This was to be used to dip into hummus; if I was making it for sandwiches I would have rolled it much wider and paper thin.

Next, drizzle the dough with olive oil and sprinkle a liberal amount of za’atar, and rub it into the dough with your fingers.

After letting the discs rise for a few minutes, bake them–a few at a time–in a hot oven (425F) for about five minutes. I have a pizza stone in my oven which I slide the dough onto. Lacking that, you can use an inverted baking sheet. Either way, it is essential that the oven be pre-heated and that the stone or tray are hot.

Lastly, share the bread with friends and family.

If you’d like additional Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here.

PAX (a photo and a few words)

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The word comes from the French, paix
Which comes from the Latin, pax
An absence of violence
That’s one definition
Freedom from disturbance is another
Calm and tranquil are two more
There are others
But what about love
None seem to say that
Because with love comes peace
Not romantic love
But love for your fellow human
For all things
For every thing
With that, I think, there would be peace
But we are not there
I know I’m not
I have peace at hand
But not in my heart
At least not entirely
It’s easy for me to pray for family
And friends
But for those whom I dislike
Those I feel do wrong in this world
Those who slander me
That’s not so easy
At least not sincerely
But when I can
When I can truly love everyone
Even those who wrong me
Or those who do terrible things
And only then
Will I have peace
Be peace
There is so much work to do
So much to strive for
The absence of violence

Three Photos and Five Quotes….

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 “We choose our next world through what we learn in this one. Learn nothing, and the next world is the same as this one, all the same limitations and lead weights to overcome.”

–Richard Bach

 “We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill.”

–Richard Bach

More in the Five Quote series.

The easiest tomato sauce you’ll ever make…

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Okay, maybe this isn’t the easiest sauce–I generally don’t use extreme words such as easiest, best, worst, etc–but it is really easy. And it’s really delicious. Basically, after cooking onion and garlic until it is nice and caramelized, you add seasonings and grape tomatoes (diced tomatoes work fine–maybe even better–but I had these on hand so there was no dicing, that’s what made it so easy. The sauce itself can be seasoned however you want…add cumin for a more Middle eastern flare, or curry for Indian, but I kept it simple with basil and hot pepper to toss with pasta. This can also be used as a base for braising meat, poultry, fish, or vegetables. Anyhow, the simple recipe is below.

Tomato Sauce (made with grape tomatoes)

Makes about 2 cups

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

1 teaspoon basil leaves

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

2 pints grape tomatoes

1 cup water

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot, then add the onion. Cook the onion, while stirring, for 5 or 10 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Add the garlic and cook another couple minutes. Stir in the sugar, basil, salt, and hot pepper; cook for a few seconds then add the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes for a few minutes, until they begin to pop. Add the water and stir and cook the tomatoes until they break down. While the tomatoes are cooking mash them with the back of a spoon. Cook the sauce until it reduces and thickens.

Playing Chess in the Park and other Photos…

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So just a bit of shameless self-promotion here (hey, someone’s gotta do it). My solo show is up and the reception is Friday evening. If you are in the WNY I would love to see you there. More than 100 photos in all. Here’s a link to the Facebook event page. My artists statement is below. Peace. 

Photography for me is often a contemplative practice. When I look through a lens it forces me to focus on what’s right in front of me. And it’s always beauty. One simply needs to look—to open themselves to it—and it’s there. These photos were taken over a five year period, from 2011–2016, but most were taken during 2012–2014. I was enrolled in ministry classes in the city and traveled there nearly every month for 2 years. And when I wasn’t in class I would wander around the city, mostly the east and west village, and contemplate what it means to be human at this point in time. And these photos are the result.

Five or Six Quotes from Maggie Kuhn…

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Maggie Kuhn, born in Buffalo, NY on August 3rd 1915, is often attributed to the inspirational quote, “Speak the truth even if your voice shakes.” But from what I’ve found that is a paraphrase, the actual quote is the first listed below. To read about Ms. Kuhn’s extraordinary life, click here.

“Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind — even if your voice shakes.”

“When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say.”

“Power should not be concentrated in the hands of so few, and powerlessness in the hands of so many.”

“I’m an old woman. I have gray hair, many wrinkles and arthritis in both hands. And I celebrate my freedom from bureaucratic restraints that once held me.”

“By the year 2020, the year of perfect vision, the old will outnumber the young.”

“There must be a goal at every stage of life! There must be a goal!”

To read more in the Five Quotes series, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Things that can be carried on a bike (#705)

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122 framed and/or matted photos of various sizes on their way to a local gallery for an upcoming show. 

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