When I discovered the spice blend za’atar years ago, I started sprinkling it on everything – roasted chicken and fish, eggs, even my morning toast. Sesame seeds, thyme, salt and a ruddy dried herb called sumac are among the ingredients. It’s herby, toasty, almost nutty and completely addictive.
Za’atar’s inclusion as a flatbread topping is what I zero in on when scanning the menu at Taqwa’s Bakery & Restaurant. On its traditional stone-oven-baked, focaccia-like taboun, it provides a vibrant boost of flavor, the spices so liberally sprinkled on that my lips are dusted with it. The cheese version is also very satisfying. Taqwa Obaid started out her career baking breads in her own kitchen. That progressed to sharing with family and friends, then eventually to opening this Greenfield restaurant in 2020, focusing on family recipes and her Palestinian-American heritage.
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The first plates to arrive during my visit are the topped taboun bread, called manakish ($8), thick, nutty hummus drizzled with olive oil ($6), and the fatayer ($1.25), individual bread pies filled with cheese and ground beef. (There’s also one filled with spinach.)
The flavors from the Taqwa kitchen meld so well that it’s natural to want to combine dishes, slathering hummus on the kufta kebabs – tender chargrilled handmade cubes of lamb served with rice ($15) – and spooning the parsley-rich tabbouleh ($5) over the chicken shish tawook ($16) – chargrilled cubes of meat that melt in your mouth. So as not to waste any of the delicious taboun bread, I use it to pick up pieces of chicken, lamb, even the rice that comes with them.
The dish that hasn’t left my memory is mosakhan – a crispy-skin grilled half-chicken draped over bronze-colored caramelized onions on taboun ($13). Between the tangy, sweet caramelized onions, the chewy bread and pliant bird, not one crumb of this marvel will remain on the plate.
Desserts are also Taqwa’s bailiwick. They range from warbat, a phyllo-wrapped custard that’s at once creamy and crispy, to the rich, dense mamoul cookies filled with dates ($2.50 each).
With each plate, Obaid shares her culinary ancestry with diners. How fortunate we are.