The Middle East is not any stranger to strife, and its kitchens are practically as contentious as its borders. The catalyst for all the culinary unrest? A regional spice mix called za’atar. The exact formulation varies across countries—nay, across households even—and every believes its recipe to be superior.
We here at Guy Gourmand take a extra reasonable stance: I’ve never encountered za’atar I didn’t like, and I’ve yet to come across a dish that didn’t benefit from its addition.
So what exactly is this wonder ingredient? Za’atar is a mix of sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, and salt, with cumin, oregano, and different spices often being included as well. Earthy, savory, and zaatar tremendously fragrant, it is chargeable for much of the pervasive, iconic taste related Mediterranean food.
True purists craft their own, however packaged blends are readily available on-line or at Mediterranean specialty shops, and plenty of mainstream grocers, together with Complete Foods, carry it as well. Oh, and earlier than you hit the store? It’s pronounced “zAH-tahr,” with no nasal “aeh” inflection. (Remember: It’s a spice, not a strep culture.)
Now, chances are high, you’ve already experienced this transformative ingredient; you just may not have been able to establish it. You recognize the ultra-authentic, luxuriant hummus that makes the store-bought stuff taste like reconstituted gerbil food? Teeming with za’atar. Or how concerning the vibrant, taste-dense Greek salads you’ll be able to never appear to recreate as soon as home? Positively brimming with it. But conventional functions are just the beginning—this versatile ingredient works far past Mediterranean waters. Here are a few extra options:
Mix it with enough olive oil to form either a thick spread or a looser dip, and use with bread (pita, in case you’re capturing for authenticity; if not, crusty, recent ciabatta or other Italian bread additionally works effectively)
Combine one part za’atar with one part breadcrumbs. Coat pounded chicken breasts in egg wash, followed 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 below the broiler until the marina simmers and the highest 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-goal sauce
Sprinkle it over pizza (either your personal 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 assemble on toast.
These are just a number of ideas to get you started. Give them a shot or come up with your own. Either method, clear some space on your spice rack—this is one ingredient you’ll need to keep shut at hand.