by Alison Landolt
In the fall of 2018, my boyfriend who is half Lebanese, and I traveled to Beirut, Lebanon for vacation. It was my first time leaving the United States, and it was an experience. In Beirut, you can’t drink the water. Electricity can be unpredictable with daily blackouts that don’t always follow a schedule. You take your life in your hands every time you cross the street. I can’t wait to go back.
Beirut is a city that has seen much strife but refuses to fall. Old buildings sit nestled between modern high-rises and the bombed-out shells of war. Everywhere you look you see the old, the ruined, and the new. You see the past and new beginnings, hope, and heartbreak. You see people who are forced to overcome.
I think part of what resonates with me about Lebanon is not just the delicious food or beautiful landscapes or a desire to embrace my boyfriend’s ancestry--it feels reminiscent of the endometriosis journey. I feel like endometriosis blew up my life. It destroyed it, and yet I’ve been able to rebuild over the last five years. There are stumbles and setbacks. There are relapses, but I keep trying to rebuild. And even though my life is on the mend, the scars of this journey remain -- both physical and emotional.
I originally started writing this blog post, filled with nostalgia and craving some good Lebanese food, five days before the devastating port explosion in Beirut. The explosion in Beirut was an atrocious government failure. It’s just one of many. And, in drawing parallels between endo and Beirut, I can’t help but think of the massive shortcomings and failures of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). ACOG continually fails patients suffering from endometriosis because the organization doesn't correctly define endometriosis. Their standards of care are outdated, pushing dangerous, often irreversible non-treatments. They don’t recognize expert excision surgery as the gold-standard of endometriosis care that it is. They ignore our pleas for help, and they leave us to suffer.
Rebuilding is left to the people. Guiding each other to safety is left to the sufferers. The people and the endo community are forced to step up and take care of each other because no one else can be trusted to do so. It’s what you saw in the wake of the explosion in Beirut, and it is what you see in the endometriosis community.
Today’s Feed Me Friday is a “Mediterranean pizza.” It's my take on a gluten-free, yeast-free approximation of man’oushe, popular Lebanese street food often consumed for breakfast or lunch. Man’oushe reminds me of Lebanon; it’s one of the first Lebanese foods I ever ate when my boyfriend and I started dating, and it’s how we started and ended our trip (even if I insulted the man at the airport because I ordered my man’oushe “wrong” by asking for it without za’atar. Lesson learned! Apologies to your grandmother.)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
1 cup Bob’s Red Mills Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup Greek yogurt, excess liquid poured off
1 tablespoon olive oil
*Halloumi cheese, grated (⅓ cup per flatbread)
Grate halloumi. Set aside. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil with 1 tablespoon za’atar per flatbread. Set aside.
Combine dry ingredients. Mix to combine. Add in yogurt and oil. Stir together. Use hands to bring the dough together until combined and no longer dry and crumbly. Divide into 4 portions.
Gluten-free dough will not hold together as well as normal doughs and may be stickier. I suggest Lightly coating hands with oil to make it easier to work with dough. Form each portion into a rough ball, then gently flatten into a flat puck.
Roll out the dough: Place one puck of dough on a sheet of parchment paper or a Silpat. Sprinkle a little bit of GF flour on top. Cover with a piece of parchment paper, and carefully roll out the dough into a half-centimeter thick round. Carefully transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper that has been lightly brushed with oil.
Repeat for remaining pieces of dough. Two pieces should fit on a standard size cookie sheet. I cook the flatbreads in two batches.
Lightly brush the tops with olive oil and bake for six minutes.
After six minutes, remove from the oven. Brush za’atar and oil mixture on flatbread or top with the grated halloumi. Sprinkle a dash of za’atar over the cheese. Return to oven.
Bake an additional six minutes.
If you are not topping the flatbread, bake for 10-12 minutes.
*Halloumi is a semi-firm brined cheese made from goat’s and sheep’s milk. It is not as sour or sharp as feta and makes a great, salty cow-free alternative to mozzarella. Look for it at Middle Eastern grocers, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and other specialty grocery stores.
**Za’atar is a popular Middle Eastern spice blend that is a combination of herbs, sumac, and sesame seeds. You can find it at Penzey’s, Phoenicia (Houstonians!), Middle Eastern grocers, and, of course, online. Read more about it here.
Alison Landolt is an EFHou founder.