The Middle East is not any stranger to strife, and its kitchens are almost as contentious as its borders. The catalyst for all of the culinary unrest? A regional spice mix called za’atar. The precise formulation varies across international locations—nay, throughout households even—and each believes its recipe to be superior.
We right here at Guy Gourmand take a more moderate stance: I’ve never encountered za’atar I didn’t like, and I’ve yet to encounter a dish that didn’t profit from its addition.
So what precisely is that this surprise ingredient? Za’atar is a mix of sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, and salt, with cumin, oregano, and other spices often being included as well. Earthy, savory, and tremendously fragrant, it’s liable for a lot of the pervasive, iconic flavor associated Mediterranean food.
True purists craft their own, but packaged blends are readily available online or at Mediterranean specialty outlets, and plenty of mainstream grocers, together with Whole Meals, carry it as well. Oh, and before you hit the store? It’s pronounced “zAH-tahr,” with no nasal “aeh” inflection. (Remember: It’s a spice, not a strep culture.)
Now, likelihood is, you’ve already experienced this transformative ingredient; you just won’t have been able to identify it. You know the ultra-authentic, luxuriant hummus that makes the shop-bought stuff style like reconstituted gerbil food? Teeming with za’atar. Or how in regards to the vibrant, flavor-dense Greek salads you possibly can by no means seem to recreate once house? Positively brimming with it. But traditional functions are just the beginning—this versatile ingredient works far past Mediterranean waters. Here are a number of extra options:
Blend it with enough olive oil to kind either a thick spread or a looser dip, and use with bread (pita, if you’re taking pictures for authenticity; if not, crusty, recent ciabatta or different Italian bread also works properly)
Combine one part za’atar with one half breadcrumbs. Coat pounded rooster 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 underneath the broiler till the marina simmers and the highest of the cheese begins to brown. Serve with bread.
Combine za’atar, zaatar Greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, and crushed red pepper for a creamy salad dressing or all-purpose sauce
Sprinkle it over pizza (both your individual or carryout)
Add it to scrambled eggs or omelets
Use it as a rub for grilled fish
Or simply sauté and toss shrimp with za’atar, season Greek yogurt with smoked paprika and za’atar, and assemble on toast.
These are just a couple of ideas to get you started. Give them a shot or provide you with your own. Both manner, clear some space in your spice rack—that is one ingredient you’ll need to hold shut at hand.