Spices are often the ingredient that gives everyday food items a distinct character. For instance, when we think of pumpkin pie, we think of a flavor very distinct to the pumpkin pie, a flavor we have come to know and love. But the flavor is not pumpkin at all. In fact, pumpkin has such a mild squash kind of flavor that I often wonder why sweet potato didn’t become the star of that pie we all love at holiday time instead of pumpkin. What we are tasting in pumpkin pie is in fact the spices: Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Spices, not pumpkin.
The same is often true of the savory dishes we cook. In Mediterranean foods, the vast array of spices used are what bring alive dishes that use everyday ingredients.
ZA’ATAR, is one of those very distinct spices. It is not one spice, but rather a well selected group of spices that when combined, take on an entirely new character. The same can be said of curry. It tickles me when I realize that we often think of curry as a spice, when in fact it too, is a combination of a variety of spices. So, let’s see if we can get you to know and love Zaatar, just as you may already know and love curry.
- Sumac – ½ cup. Sumac is a red berry that has been dried and crushed, and has fruity, slightly sour flavor, sometimes called citrusy.
- Thyme – 4 tablespoons
- Oregano – 4 tablespoons
- Marjoram – 4 tablespoons
- Toasted Sesame Seeds – 2 tablespoons (they are most flavorful if you toast them yourself, because the natural oils will be released and not dry like store bought toasted sesame seeds.
- Salt – 2 teaspoons
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and toss together until well mixed. Do not mix in a processor.
Transfer to an airtight jar or container and the Za’atar will keep for several months.
- Rub into lamb, chicken, or beef before cooking
- Add to soups or stews
- If you make your own bread, (check out our Homemade Bread recipe for a simple and delicious yeast bread) when the dough rises, roll it out, sprinkle Za’atar on the dough and roll the dough into a log to bake. When the bread is baked and sliced, the beautiful aromatic flavors of the Za’atar will be encased inside of the bread
- Sprinkle a little in your quiche or scrambled egg dishes
- Adds a refreshing flavor to fish. Za’atar can be sprinkled on the top of the fish filet before cooking, or rubbed inside of the fish before grilling or baking