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 blend called za’atar. The exact formulation varies across international locations—nay, throughout households even—and every believes its recipe to be superior.
We right here at Guy Gourmand take a extra moderate stance: I’ve never encountered za’atar I didn’t like, and I’ve but to encounter a dish that didn’t benefit from its addition.
So what exactly is that this wonder ingredient? Za’atar is a blend of sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, and salt, with cumin, oregano, and different spices occasionally being included as well. Earthy, savory, and tremendously aromatic, it is liable for a lot of the pervasive, iconic flavor associated Mediterranean food.
True purists craft their own, however packaged blends are readily available on-line or at Mediterranean specialty shops, and lots of mainstream grocers, together with Complete Foods, carry it as well. Oh, and earlier than you hit the shop? It’s pronounced “zAH-tahr,” with no nasal “aeh” inflection. (Remember: 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 already know the extremely-genuine, luxuriant hummus that makes the store-purchased stuff taste like reconstituted gerbil food? Teeming with za’atar. Or how concerning the vibrant, taste-dense Greek salads you possibly can never appear to recreate as soon as dwelling? Positively brimming with it. But conventional purposes are just the start—this versatile ingredient works far beyond Mediterranean waters. Here are a couple of more options:
Mix it with enough olive oil to type either a thick spread or a looser dip, and use with bread (pita, zatar in the event you’re capturing for authenticity; if not, crusty, recent ciabatta or other Italian bread also works well)
Combine one half za’atar with one part breadcrumbs. Coat pounded hen breasts in egg wash, adopted by breadcrumbs, and pan-fry. Serve with tzaziki for a Middle Eastern spin on a Southern classic.
Coat a spherical of goat cheese in za’atar, then partially submerge in marinara in an oven-proof bowl. Place under the broiler until the marina simmers and the highest of the cheese starts 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-objective sauce
Sprinkle it over pizza (either your own 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 just a few concepts to get you started. Give them a shot or provide you with your own. Both method, clear some space on your spice rack—this is one ingredient you’ll want to preserve shut at hand.