The Middle East isn’t any stranger to strife, and its kitchens are nearly as contentious as its borders. The catalyst for all the culinary unrest? A regional spice mix called za’atar. The exact formulation varies throughout international locations—nay, zaatar throughout households even—and every believes its recipe to be superior.
We right here at Man Gourmand take a more reasonable stance: I’ve never encountered za’atar I didn’t like, and I’ve yet to come across a dish that didn’t profit from its addition.
So what precisely is this surprise 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 answerable for a lot of the pervasive, iconic taste related Mediterranean food.
True purists craft their own, however packaged blends are readily available on-line or at Mediterranean specialty retailers, and plenty of mainstream grocers, including Complete Meals, carry it as well. Oh, and earlier than you hit the shop? It’s pronounced “zAH-tahr,” with no nasal “aeh” inflection. (Bear in mind: It’s a spice, not a strep culture.)
Now, chances are high, you’ve already skilled this transformative ingredient; you just won’t have been able to identify it. You already know the extremely-genuine, luxuriant hummus that makes the store-bought stuff style like reconstituted gerbil food? Teeming with za’atar. Or how concerning the vibrant, taste-dense Greek salads you possibly can by no means appear to recreate as soon as home? Positively brimming with it. But traditional functions are just the start—this versatile ingredient works far beyond Mediterranean waters. Here are a couple of more options:
Mix it with sufficient olive oil to type either a thick spread or a looser dip, and use with bread (pita, for those who’re capturing for authenticity; if not, crusty, fresh ciabatta or other Italian bread additionally works well)
Mix one half za’atar with one half breadcrumbs. Coat pounded hen breasts in egg wash, followed 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 underneath the broiler till 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-objective sauce
Sprinkle it over pizza (both your own or carryout)
Add it to scrambled eggs or omelets
Use it as a rub for grilled fish
Or just 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 ideas to get you started. Give them a shot or provide you with your own. Either approach, clear some area on your spice rack—that is one ingredient you’ll wish to keep shut at hand.