The Middle East isn’t any stranger to strife, and its kitchens are practically as contentious as its borders. The catalyst for all of the culinary unrest? A regional spice blend called za’atar. The exact formulation varies throughout countries—nay, across households even—and every believes its recipe to be superior.
We right here at Man Connoisseur take a extra average 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 marvel ingredient? Za’atar is a blend of sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, and salt, with cumin, oregano, zatar and other spices often being included as well. Earthy, savory, and tremendously aromatic, it’s answerable for much of the pervasive, iconic flavor related Mediterranean food.
True purists craft their own, but packaged blends are readily available on-line or at Mediterranean specialty retailers, and plenty of mainstream grocers, together with Whole Foods, carry it as well. Oh, and before you hit the store? 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 might not have been able to determine it. You understand the ultra-authentic, luxuriant hummus that makes the shop-bought stuff taste like reconstituted gerbil meals? Teeming with za’atar. Or how about the vibrant, flavor-dense Greek salads you can never seem to recreate as soon as house? Positively brimming with it. But traditional purposes are just the start—this versatile ingredient works far beyond Mediterranean waters. Here are just a few extra options:
Mix it with sufficient olive oil to kind either a thick unfold or a looser dip, and use with bread (pita, in the event you’re shooting for authenticity; if not, crusty, recent ciabatta or different Italian bread additionally works properly)
Combine one part za’atar with one half 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 beneath 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-purpose 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 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 come up with your own. Both method, clear some house on your spice rack—this is one ingredient you’ll want to preserve close at hand.