The Middle East is no stranger to strife, and its kitchens are almost as contentious as its borders. The catalyst for all the culinary unrest? A regional spice blend called za’atar. The exact formulation varies throughout countries—nay, across households even—and each believes its recipe to be superior.
We here at Man Gourmand take a extra moderate stance: I’ve never encountered za’atar I didn’t like, and I’ve but to come across a dish that didn’t profit from its addition.
So what exactly is this wonder ingredient? Za’atar is a blend of sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, and salt, with cumin, oregano, and other spices sometimes being included as well. Earthy, savory, and tremendously fragrant, it is chargeable for much of the pervasive, iconic flavor related Mediterranean food.
True purists craft their own, however packaged blends are readily available online or at Mediterranean specialty retailers, and lots of mainstream grocers, including Whole Meals, carry it as well. Oh, and before you hit the shop? It’s pronounced “zAH-tahr,” with no nasal “aeh” inflection. (Keep in mind: It’s a spice, not a strep culture.)
Now, chances are, you’ve already skilled this transformative ingredient; you just won’t have been able to determine it. You realize the ultra-genuine, luxuriant hummus that makes the store-purchased stuff taste like reconstituted gerbil meals? Teeming with za’atar. Or how concerning the vibrant, flavor-dense Greek salads you possibly can by no means seem to recreate once house? Positively brimming with it. However conventional applications are just the beginning—this versatile ingredient works far past Mediterranean waters. Here are just a few more options:
Mix it with enough olive oil to form both a thick spread or a looser dip, and use with bread (pita, in case you’re taking pictures for authenticity; if not, crusty, contemporary ciabatta or different Italian bread also works effectively)
Combine one half za’atar with one half breadcrumbs. Coat pounded chicken breasts in egg wash, adopted by breadcrumbs, and pan-fry. Serve with tzaziki for a Middle Eastern spin on a Southern classic.
Coat a round of goat cheese in za’atar, then partially submerge in marinara in an oven-proof bowl. Place underneath the broiler until the marina simmers and the top of the cheese begins to brown. Serve with bread.
Mix za’atar, Greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, and crushed red pepper for a creamy salad dressing or all-function sauce
Sprinkle it over pizza (either your individual or carryout)
Add it to scrambled eggs or omelets
Use it as a rub for grilled fish
Or just sauté and toss shrimp with za’atar, season Greek yogurt with smoked paprika and za’atar, and zaatar assemble on toast.
These are just a number of concepts to get you started. Give them a shot or provide you with your own. Either approach, clear some space in your spice rack—that is one ingredient you’ll want to keep close at hand.