If you yearn for Israeli flavors as you prep for your Super Bowl party, consider creating a mash-up of old school cheesy potato skins and bold Israeli flavors.
I’ve never eaten potato skins in Israel, but I channeled my recent eating adventures there and imagine that crisp, baked skins should be flavored by za’atar and finely minced garlic mixed into feta cheese and whatever gooey, meltable cheese you enjoy.
Za’atar is probably the most widely used spice combination across the Middle East. The name itself is Arabic and refers to a blend of spices, most often including ground thyme, salt, sesame and sumac. It can vary, though–it’s not uncommon to find za’atar that includes cumin, coriander, fennel seed, marjoram or oregano. The mixture is distinctive for its herbal and slightly lemony flavor, thanks to sumac.
In Israel and across the Middle East you’ll find za’atar used in chicken and meat marinades, seasoning chopped raw vegetable salads, sprinkled over hummus or labneh. Most visitors to Israel can’t resist warm pita or doughy bageleh (Yiddish for bagels), sold on the street, smeared with local olive oil and a generous dusting of za’atar.
In the spirit of resurrecting everybody’s favorite finger food of the ’80s, let’s change it up with skins that signal a more Middle Eastern leaning. Be sure to make extras and serve them gooey and bubbling, straight from the oven.
6 Russet potatoes
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter, melted
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 Tbsp za’atar
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp salt
5-6 twists of freshly ground black pepper
½ cup plain yogurt, 2% (or sour cream)
2 scallions, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Scrub potatoes and dry them well with paper towels.
Line 1 cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. Place whole potatoes on sheet and bake 35-45 minutes, or until you can pierce a fork into them easily.
Remove from oven (leave oven on) and cool potatoes until they can be handled. Slice potatoes lengthwise and gently scoop out the flesh, leaving enough potato clinging to the skin so that it will support the cheese filling. (Reserve scooped out potato flesh for mashed potatoes or to use as a thickener for blended veggie soup.)
Combine olive oil and melted butter in a dish.
Place scooped-out skins, hollowed side down, on lined cookie sheet and brush with butter/oil mixture. Flip them over and do the same on the hollowed-out side.
Place skins in oven, cut side down, for 5-10 minutes and then flip them. Bake another 5-10 minutes until the edges of skins are golden and crisped. Remove from oven and cool just long enough to handle.
While skins are crisping, combine feta, mozzarella, za’atar, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl. Stir to combine.
Place 1-1/12 Tbsp of cheese filling in each potato skin until the filling is evenly distributed.
Place filled potato skins back in oven for 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Remove from oven and place a dollop of yogurt, followed by a sprinkling of scallions, on each. If you are a real za’atar lover, dust with additional za’atar.