Za’atar is a ubiquitous spice mixture in Arab and Jewish cuisines throughout the Middle Eastern and North Africa. In it’s simplest form it’s made from thyme, sesame seeds, salt, and ground sumac.
Some versions use oregano and/or marjoram. It’s sprinkled on hummus, bread, and labneh. It’s used as a seasoning for vegetables and meat dishes. It’s everywhere, and it’s wonderful.
All About Za’atar
Za’atar is one of those Mediterranean Diet pantry staples you should always have on hand. It’s so fast and simple to make that there’s really no reason not to, and it’s a really great finishing touch to so many dishes. I find myself sprinkling a bit of za’atar on things all the time.
I find that I really like the little bit of crunch and texture that it adds to yogurt, soups, and eggs. And the sumac adds an unexpected bright citrusy note to a dish that you wouldn’t expect from a spice mixture if you’re not well versed in the ways of za’atar.
If you’re not familiar with sumac, it’s the dried, ground berries (drupes) of a shrub that grows throughout East Asia, Africa, and North America. As a ground spice it’s a deep crimson color and has a really bright acidic flavor very similar to lemon. And like citrus fruit, it’s got powerful anti-oxidant qualities.
The lemony flavor of sumac can come in really handy in applications where you want a sharp citrus punch in a dry form rather than a liquid.
The Lebanese make this amazing flatbread topped with za’atar mixed with olive oil called Man’oushe that’s utterly amazing. To me it’s kind of a stripped down middle eastern pizza. It’s not something I can really eat anymore. You know. Carbs. Diabetes. But if you can handle the carbs you should make it. It’s so so good. If you’re interested, here is a great recipe from the amazing Maureen Abood.
You’ll see that I’ve dried the thyme in the oven under low heat, but traditionally it’s dried in the sun. If you have the time and the space, that’s the prefered way to do it. Some people just use fresh herbs, which works well as well. However, the flavor isn’t quite as intense (drying herbs concentrates the oils and intensifies their flavor), and it doesn’t store as well. But if you’re going to use it all up at once, it’s a nice way to go as well.
That, and follow me on Facebook. Yes. Help a fellow out and I’ll keep the trout coming, or not…
- 3 Tablespoons Dried Fresh Thyme
- ¼ Cup Sesame Seeds
- 2½ Teaspoons Sumac
- ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
- Preheat oven to 300°F (150°F).
- Spread fresh thyme sprigs on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven until leaves are dry (about 10 minutes).
- Mix thyme and remaining ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.