The Middle East is not 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 mix called za’atar. The exact formulation varies throughout countries—nay, throughout households even—and every believes its recipe to be superior.
We right here at Man Connoisseur take a extra average stance: I’ve by no means 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 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 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 on-line or at Mediterranean specialty retailers, and lots of mainstream grocers, including Whole Meals, carry it as well. Oh, and before 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 experienced this transformative ingredient; you just may not have been able to determine it. You recognize the extremely-authentic, luxuriant hummus that makes the store-bought stuff style like reconstituted gerbil meals? Teeming with za’atar. Or how about the vibrant, flavor-dense Greek salads you’ll be able to never seem to recreate as soon as house? Positively brimming with it. But traditional functions are just the beginning—this versatile ingredient works far beyond Mediterranean waters. Here are a few extra options:
Mix it with enough olive oil to form both a thick spread or a looser dip, and use with bread (pita, in the event you’re taking pictures for authenticity; if not, crusty, recent ciabatta or different Italian bread additionally works nicely)
Mix one part 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 beneath the broiler till the marina simmers and the top of the cheese starts to brown. Serve with bread.
Mix za’atar, Greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, zatar olive oil, lemon juice, and crushed red pepper for a creamy salad dressing or all-function 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 simply 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 come up with your own. Either approach, clear some area on your spice rack—that is one ingredient you’ll wish to preserve shut at hand.