That Winter Detox Moroccan Sweet Potato Lentil Soup was ah-ma-zing, and I just have to keep with the Mediterranean theme. Well, Mediterranean-ish with these Zaatar Spring Rolls. Just like Korean Tacos, they’re a fusion cuisine that I was surprised and intrigued by. Eastern Asian meets Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine. I like (love!) all those things, but are they going to be a good combination? Well, as usual, there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to hit the grocery store then get cooking. Please join me!
This za’atar spring rolls recipe is a Lebanese inspired oven-baked appetizer that’s savory, crunchy & incredibly easy to make with wonton/egg wrappers.
So, this recipe had a lot going on because I had to make a couple of the ingredients. I found the halloumi cheese in the deli/gourmet cheese section of my usual grocery store. The mint was also no problem. However, I couldn’t find a few important items.
The first was the eggroll wrappers. The only store locally that had them was Fresh Market. They’re usually my savior when it comes to hard-to-find gourmet ingredients. Unfortunately, they were out of the square Nasoya wrappers that the author recommends.
They only had Dynasty brand 22cm circular rice paper wrappers. I assume that’s 22cm in circumference because the diameter was about 8.5 inches. The shelf label said “spring roll wrappers”, but the packaging did say they could be used for deep frying. I took a chance since that was all that was available, and they worked out pretty well.
Za’atar Spice Mix
The next item I couldn’t find was the za’atar spice mix. Again, I thought Fresh Market had it, but it was out of stock. All was not lost, however, because I had a recipe for Za'atar Substitute Spice Mix.
What was even better is I had all the spices needed in my pantry. My pantry is so overstuffed that I take every opportunity to use up what I have in it. Thankfully, I had just enough sumac left to make the za’atar.
Labneh Yogurt Cheese
Finally, there was no labneh to be found anywhere near me, and I didn’t even try Amazon since it’s perishable. Pinterest to the rescue again! I found a ridiculously easy three-ingredient recipe and learned How to Make Labneh. I had to order some cheesecloth to do it, so I combined it with my anise seed order. A tub of Greek yogurt (full fat) and a lemon were easily found at my usual grocery store.
When I went into this recipe, I imagined it would be a long and difficult process. I even bought two packages of rice paper wrappers in case I messed things up! It turned out to be pretty far from what I envisioned (in a good way). Here’s how my time was spent:
- 18 minutes to prep the spring rolls
- 23 minutes to cook the spring rolls
- 41 minutes total
That’s just a little longer than the 30 minutes listed, but I had some minor issues. I changed the type of spring roll wrapper, and that caused me to have to cook them longer than the recommended time.
I split this recipe into a two-day process since I had to make the za’atar spice mix and labneh too. They were both very simple to make, but I completely forgot to time them, so they are not included in the times above.
Prepping the Za’atar and Labneh
The za’atar spice blend was as simple as measuring out the ingredients and toasting the sesame seeds in a small skillet. Once they were fragrant and turned golden brown, I removed them from the heat to cool for a minute. Then I mixed them with the rest of the herbs and spices, and the za’atar was ready to go.
The labneh was just as simple. I mixed the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and salt, then I put it into a cheesecloth-lined strainer placed over a mixing bowl. I folded the corners over the yogurt mixture and placed a heavy ceramic bowl on top to lightly press out the moisture. This all went into the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, I removed the ceramic bowl and gently twisted the cheesecloth to press out any remaining liquid (there wasn’t much). The result was a mild-tasting soft cheese that reminded me of cream cheese.
Prepping the Za’atar Spring Rolls
Now it was time to get down to the real work of making the Za’atar Spring Rolls. I have never made eggrolls or spring rolls, so I had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be pretty simple.
The rice paper wrappers I bought had to be moistened before they could be used, so I set my workspace up accordingly. I had a large cutting board for a work surface with a plate filled with water next to it. I sliced the halloumi into 16 pieces, chopped up a bunch of mint leaves, and I was ready to get rolling.
The wrappers had to be soaked in water for around a minute before they became pliable. I began by working with one at a time. Soak a wrapper, add the cheese and mint, roll, repeat. As I got the hang of it, I was able to soak the upcoming wrapper while I was assembling a spring roll. It was a lot like rolling a small burrito with a much more delicate wrapper.
Baking the Za’atar Spring Rolls
I added the Za’atar Spring Rolls to a sheet pan that had been sprayed with olive oil. I gave them a generous spray with more olive oil and sprinkled on the za’atar spice mix. Then it was into the oven to bake for 15 minutes.
The spring rolls weren’t golden brown on the outside, so I added another 5 minutes. That didn’t do much to brown them either. I’m guessing that was because the spring roll wrappers I used were wet.
My solution was to turn the broiler onto high, reposition a rack right under it, and allow the rolls to brown that way. The za’atar looked like it was at risk of burning after 3 minutes, so I called it. The spring rolls didn’t exactly get golden brown, but they were a little crispy on the outside.
The inside was just fine. Halloumi cheese has a high melting point, so it softened nicely without melting. It was nothing like the mozzarella stick stringiness I imagined it would become, and that was a good thing. These spring rolls were easy to eat as finger food dipped in the creamy labneh I made to go with them.