Za’atar, the spice mix you never knew you needed
Many dishes are greatly enhanced by za'atar, an earthy and savory spice blend from the Levantine region and traditionally made of dried thyme, oregano, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, and salt.
What makes the best za’atar blend has been hotly debated for centuries, and it seems every Middle Eastern family holds dear to their heirloom recipe. Formulations of this beloved staple food vary from country to country, from village to village, even from household to household, with some adding interesting ingredients such as marjoram, coriander, crushed walnuts, aleppo pepper, or other local flavors.
While premixed za'atar is available in some grocery stores, you can also easily make your own at home. You might be surprised at how much flavor is packed into such a simple mixture: Sumac lends a citrus flavor, oregano a subtle bitterness, and sesame seed adds nuttiness. The advantage of making your own is that you can experiment with different quantities until you perfect your own house blend. Sprinkle it on bread, dips, meat, veggies, grains, potatoes, pasta, soups, and sauces once you've made a batch. You’ll be surprised how a little sprinkle of za’atar elevates just about any savory dish.
In addition to its flavor punch, za'atar is highly regarded for its incredible health benefits too. This legendary pixie dust is packed with antioxidants, flavonoids, and magnesium, and leads to increased energy, improved memory, and fights inflammation. It’s no surprise that Middle Eastern parents feed their school-going children za’atar on the mornings of every quiz and exam.
The beauty of za'atar is that it is simple and easy to use. It tastes earthy because it's been roasted. But it also gives foods a lemony brightness when used with them. Its flavor is light but fragrant, rich but not too strong, deep but with a hint of tang.
Where to sprinkle it on and how to use it?
Za'atar bread, or manakeesh, is probably the most well-known way to use za'atar. Manakeesh are baked flatbread topped with za'atar, olive oil, and lemon juice. They are baked in a very hot oven, like pizza. Za'atar bread is a popular street food in Lebanon, and people often eat it for breakfast. You can serve za'atar bread with fresh tomatoes, labne (yogurt cheese spread), and mint leaves. Za'atar bread can also be made with a melty cheese like mozzarella , which makes it almost like a Middle Eastern pizza.
Ready to mix your own za’atar? Here’s a simple recipe:
- 2 tbsp dried and coarsely grinded oregano
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp sumac
- 1 tsp phoenician sea salt
For more fun and delicious za’atar recipes, visit the ZEED recipes blog here - https://zeedpantry.com/blogs/recipes