Lisa cooks: Syrian-style flatbread

Savoir vivre, I think sums up the appeal of the French style. It is defined at the beginning of the book Working lunch: Paris of which I received a review copy. It means “having an intelligent approach, enjoying life and welcoming every situation with sophistication and poise”. The reader is encouraged to “embody that attention to detail” as they prepare the dishes in the book to achieve results that are emblematic of Parisian cuisine. This sounds almost strict, but the stories throughout the book actually show a very down-to-earth, welcoming style of hosting and cooking at home. However, the cooking described is carried out with care and with special ingredients adapted to the season. A very casual entertainment option that is mentioned is the aperitif dinner This includes charcuterie, cheese, simple dishes that are either bought or quick to make like slow roasted cherry tomatoes, bread etc. The classic French dishes and anecdotes with the recipes are great. There’s a spinach tart inspired by a grandmother’s recipe, made after a trip to a street market for the freshest spinach. Herb Poached Fish with Beurre Blanc Sauce and Pickled Shallots is a recipe shared from mother to daughter with coaching via video call. Well-known French favorites include coq au vin, steak frites and quiche lorraine. There are also descriptions of French bread, wine and cheese to keep an eye on. In the sweets chapter, I was smitten with the Paris Black and White Cookies and had to try them. Shortbread dough is made in both vanilla and chocolate. Two trunks are then formed: one with chocolate dough in the middle and wrapped in vanilla, and a second in reverse. Unfortunately, my dough ended up getting a bit dry, and I blame the flour for sometimes needing more moisture than it should. I wasn’t happy with how my cookies looked, but the taste was delicious. The Creme Brulee, Ile Flotantes and Crispy Almond Cookies are also enticing. But what always struck me as I read the book were the dishes that aren’t traditionally French. The Tunisian salad with preserved lemon and harissa, the West African rice with fish and vegetables with chili marinated and fried fish, and the Syrian-style flatbreads added some interesting flavor variations to the recipes collected here. It was the photo of the flatbread that inspired me to try it.

I’ve already read a bit about lahmajun or Syrian flatbread. The crust is so thin. In the book, it’s topped with spicy minced lamb. I went a different route and topped mine with shredded halloumi, but used the sauce as directed. The dough consisted only of flour, water and salt. After mixing, it was set aside while the sauce was being prepared. The sauce was a mixture of grated tomatoes, chopped garlic, chopped onions, parsley, cayenne pepper and cumin. The dough was divided, rolled into ovals, which were placed on parchment paper, topped with sauce and grated cheese, then placed on a preheated baking sheet and placed in a hot oven until the edges began to brown. The dough should remain foldable and not be crispy throughout. A bright, fresh topping was made with parsley leaves, chopped onions, Aleppo pepper and chopped olives. This mixture was spooned onto the flatbreads before serving.

What I learned about this type of flatbread from this recipe is that you should roll it up and eat it like a burrito. This was a fabulous way to enjoy it. Portions of the crust edges were crispy, but the center was tender enough to roll. There was a hint of spiciness from the Aleppo pepper and freshness from the parsley. Now I just have to experience that while actually in Paris.

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