Za’atar is one of my most favorite condiments, it lends well to almost any type of cuisine but particularly Middle Eastern as that is it’s place of origin. It’s subtle flavors enhance without overpowering. Try it on any meats, in some toasted large pearl couscous, or load up your yogurt with it and drizzle it over some lamb kebabs with pita.
Put that shit on everything, as Frank’s would say.
Za’atar (Arabic: زَعْتَر za‘tar, also romanizedzaatar, za’tar, zatar, zatr, zattr, zahatar, zaktar or satar) is a generic name for a family of related Middle Eastern herbs from the generaOriganum (oregano), Calamintha (basil thyme), Thymus (typically Thymus vulgaris, i.e., thyme), and Satureja (savory). The name za’atar alone most properly applies to Origanum syriacum. It is also the name for a condiment made from the dried herb(s), mixed with sesame seeds, dried sumac, and often salt, as well as other spices. Used in Arab cuisine, both the herb and spice mixture are popular throughout the Middle East.
Za’atar is traditionally dried in the sun and mixed with salt, sesame seeds and sumac. It is commonly eaten with pita, which is dipped in olive oil and then za’atar. When the dried herb is moistened with olive oil, the spread is known as za’atar-wu-zayt or zeit ou za’atar (zeit or zayt, meaning “oil” in Arabic and “olive” in Hebrew). This mixture spread on a dough base and baked as a bread, produces manakeesh bi zaatar. In the Middle East, ka’ak (a soft sesame seed bread, known as ka’akh in Hebrew), is sold in bakeries and by street vendors with za’atar to dip into or with a za’atar filling.
Za’atar is used as a seasoning for meats and vegetables or sprinkled onto hummus. It is also eaten with labneh (yogurt drained to make a tangy, creamy cheese), and bread and olive oil for breakfast, most commonly in Jordan, Israel, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as other places in the Arab world. The Lebanese speciality shanklish, dry-cured balls of labneh, can be rolled in za’atar to form its outer coating.
Fresh za’atar, the herb itself, rather than the condiment, is also used in a number of dishes. Borek is a common bread pastry that can be stuffed with various ingredients, including za’atar. A salad made of fresh za’atar leaves (Arabic: salatet al-zaatar al-akhdar) is also popular throughout the Levant. The recipe is a simple one consisting of fresh thyme, finely chopped onions, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
This variation is dried so that you can keep it much longer in the cupboard. To make a more authentic version use fresh herbs and keep refrigerated for up to one week.
Za’atar Spice Blend (dried):
2 TB sumac
2 TB toasted sesame seeds
1 TB oregano
1 TB thyme
few pinches sea salt
-place the spices in a coffee grinder or food processor and pulse several times to break up the sesame seeds. Be sure to leave a few whole, don’t buzz completely.
-Keep in an airtight container up to 30 days. Make fresh after 30 days to prevent staleness.