Roasted Vegetables with Za’atar and Labneh

Middle Eastern Pitza

There is something a little unfair about roasted vegetables. Unfair in a good way that is. Given how little time you need to spend in the kitchen you are rewarded with a sweet caramelised concentration of flavours wholly out of proportion to effort. And they are wonderfully flexible too. 

roasted vegetables

For starters you have pretty free rein over what you choose to include in your roasted vegetables. It’s a great way to use up things that are kicking around the kitchen. Roasting vegetables is a very forgiving cooking method and will enhance the natural sugars in the veg. Peppers and onions especially come out soft and sweet; eggplants have a little crisp on the outside with a silky soft interior. Even zucchini (a vegetable for which I think generally requires quite a bit of work to make it interesting) transforms in the oven. When roasting, I’ve used the following very successfully:

  • Onions (red seem to get sweeter that white)
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Peppers (red and orange; green not so much)
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Butternut Squash (but can take longer than other veg)
  • Leeks (careful not to burn them though)
  • Sweet potato
  • Potato

za'atar

 

A tray of vegetables roasted until caramelised is a tasty delight on its own. But if you like you can enhance the flavour with judicious use of herbs and spices. Oregano, Marjoram, Thyme and Rosemary have all found their way into the roasting tray; tossed in whole and tucked in amongst the veg. A little sweet paprika would work well too, as would cumin and coriander seed. Today I was making a trip to the best Middle Eastern Store in the city—Sahadi’s—and so I was inspired to take my vegetables on a trip to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. A sliced chilli, and a very generous four-finger pinch or two of Za’atar gave the veg a woody, citrussy tang. If you haven’t come across za’atar before, you’re in for a treat. It’s a herb mix with sesame seeds and sumac. The herbs are usually a mix of thyme, oregano and marjoram and a bit of salt for good measure. Sahadi’s sell a great inexpensive mix, or you could make your own

pitta bread with labneh

 

Since I was on a middle eastern vibe, I decided to serve my veg on warm fresh pitta bread from Damascus Bakery slathered with Labneh. In case you haven’t come across it before, Labneh is a strained yoghurt; thick like cream cheese, but sour like yoghurt. It’s perfect for a dish like this; the sourness marrying with the sweet vegetables wonderfully. But in case you don’t have (or don’t fancy) having your roasted veg like this, here are some other suggestions:

  • Warm, over couscous
  • Warm or cold on crunchy toasted ciabatta
  • Scattered with toasted pine nuts
  • Served aside grilled chicken or (especially) lamb
  • With long pasta and a makeshift sauce made with sour cream thinned with a little pasta water

So there you have it – an incredibly easy dish to make, and a great standby for using up vegetables. It’s the sort of thing you can make one day and dress up different ways three or four times over the week. Give it a shot and enjoy!

making Middle Eastern Pitza

 

Roasted Vegetables with Labneh and Za'atar
A very versatile dish. Feel free to mix it up with your choice of veg.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
55 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
55 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 medium Eggplant, cut into 3/4" chunks
  2. 1 medium Red Onion, quartered
  3. About a dozen Cherry Tomatoes
  4. 1 or 2 Red or Orange Peppers, deseeded and cut into 1" chunks
  5. 3 or 4 Cloves Garlic, Crushed under the flat of a knife blade
  6. 1 Small Chilli, halved and deseeded
  7. A generous four-finger pinch or two of Za'atar
  8. A couple of tablespoons of Labneh
  9. 2 pita bread
  10. A few generous slurps of Olive Oil
  11. A little chopped Parsley, to garnish
Instructions
  1. Set the oven to 400ºF
  2. Combine the vegetables, garlic, za'atar, chilli and olive oil in a roasting tin and spread out so the veg is (if possible) in a single layer. Be generous with the oil. Season with a generous scattering of salt and put in the oven. Every 10 minutes give the veg a good move around. After about forty minutes, start tasting for done-ness. The eggplant will be done last, so taste a chunk to see if it's gone all melty and delicious.
  3. When the veg is about ready, push it to one side of the dish and lay the pita bread down beside it. Give it a little rub to see if you can get some crispy bits from the tin absorbed into the bread. If you don't have enough space, no matter; just lay the bread atop the vegetables. Give it 4-5 minutes to heat through.
  4. To serve, take the pita out of the oven and spread with a tablespoon of the Labneh. Pile on the vegetables and top with another dollop of Labneh. Scatter with some chopped parsley and enjoy.
Barnes and Hoggetts http://barnesandhoggetts.com/

Pairing with Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables are quite rich and sweet in flavour and so I would err towards drinking something smokey or soft and fruity. The good news about that is you can really choose red, white or rosé depending on your mood. For white I’d suggest a nice oaky Chardonnay. Any cold dry Rosé would quench my thirst with this dish, but if I were going for red I would keep myself to a Zinfandel or a nice fruity Merlot.

Provenance

Eggplant: 9j Nurseries
Onion, Tomatoes: Kernan Farms
Pepper, Garlic: Lani’s Farm
Za’atar, Labneh: Sahadi’s
Pita Bread: Damascus Bakery

finished Middle Eastern Pitza

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