The Lebanese are known for their mezza or mezze platters; small plates full of tabbouleh, fattoush, hommos, baba ghannouj, fresh vegetables, meat and vegetable pies, pickled vegetables, all kinds of olives and cheeses, an arrangement of grilled and raw meats, etc. Aside from the most popular salads and dips, meat and vegetable pies make up an important part of the spread. A particular favorite of mine are small dough pies stuffed with spinach, onions, and sumac. We call them Ftayer bi Sbanekh, and they are eaten with a healthy squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Let’s start with the dough …
3 cups all purpose Flour – plus a little extra for dusting
1 teaspoon coarse Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil – plus a little extra for finished dough
1 – 1 1/2 cups warm Water – depending on humidity
1 pkg rapid rise Instant Yeast – about 2 1/4 oz
*You may use regular active dry yeast, but you will have to proof the yeast in the warm water and sugar before you add it to the flour, salt, and olive oil. I like using rapid rise, because it is much easier and takes less time for the dough to rise.
Combine the flour, salt, yeast, and sugar in a stand mixer, and turn it on low. Add the extra virgin olive oil, and slowly add in the warm water. Start with a cup; should you require more, add a little drizzle at a time. If your dough is too moist, add more flour. Turn the stand mixer to medium low and keep kneading the dough for about 5 – 8 minutes, until it is smooth and pulls away from the bowl.
On a clean board, sprinkle some flour and transfer the dough to the floured board. Roll into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Drizzle a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil to coat the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it a warm dark place to rise for about an hour to an hour and a half.
4 cups fresh Spinach – roughly chopped
1 small Onion – diced into small cubes
2 tablespoons of Sumac
1/2 cup Lemon juice
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil – plus a little more for ftayer tops
1/4 cup Pine Nuts
1 teaspoon Salt
Lemon wedges for the final product
While the dough is rising, chop the spinach and dice the onion, and combine them in a bowl. Add the salt, sumac, lemon juice, olive oil, and pine nuts. Stir gently to incorporate all the ingredients together and leave to the side, while you attend to your risen dough.
After the dough has risen, move it out onto your floured board, cut it into manageable sections, and roll it out into a thin sheet with a rolling pin. With a round cookie cutter or any round cup, cut out rounds, then remove and bring together the excess dough to be reused. For an extra thin dough, re-roll the individual small dough rounds with the rolling pin to achieve the desired outcome.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Scoop a small spoonful of the filling into a dough round. Bring two opposing side of the round dough together, and pinch it all the way to the left to seal those two sides. Then bring the right round side of the dough toward the already pinched part and seal it, forming a 3D triangle or pyramid. Place the ftayer or triangle pies on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush each of the pie tops with olive oil, and bake in the oven for about 12 – 15 minutes. To achieve a very nice golden color, when the baking process is almost over, turn the oven to boil. Make sure you keep a close eye on the pies, as they will turn golden brown very quickly. Remove from the oven when the desired color is achieved, let sit for a few minutes, then plate. They are best served at room temperature with many lemon wedges.