The Middle East is not any stranger to strife, and its kitchens are almost as contentious as its borders. The catalyst for all the culinary unrest? A regional spice blend called za’atar. The exact formulation varies throughout countries—nay, across households even—and each believes its recipe to be superior.
We here at Man Gourmand take a extra moderate stance: I’ve never encountered za’atar I didn’t like, and I’ve yet to encounter a dish that didn’t profit from its addition.
So what exactly is that this surprise ingredient? Za’atar is a blend of sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, and salt, with cumin, oregano, and other spices sometimes being included as well. Earthy, savory, and tremendously aromatic, it’s liable for a lot of the pervasive, iconic flavor related Mediterranean food.
True purists craft their very own, however packaged blends are readily available on-line or at Mediterranean specialty shops, and plenty of mainstream grocers, together with Whole Meals, carry it as well. Oh, and earlier than 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 establish it. You already know the extremely-authentic, luxuriant hummus that makes the shop-bought stuff taste like reconstituted gerbil food? Teeming with za’atar. Or zaatar how in regards to the vibrant, taste-dense Greek salads you may by no means seem to recreate as soon as house? Positively brimming with it. However conventional functions are just the beginning—this versatile ingredient works far beyond Mediterranean waters. Listed below are a couple of more options:
Mix it with enough olive oil to type either a thick unfold or a looser dip, and use with bread (pita, in case you’re taking pictures for authenticity; if not, crusty, contemporary ciabatta or different Italian bread additionally works well)
Combine one half za’atar with one half breadcrumbs. Coat pounded chicken breasts in egg wash, adopted by breadcrumbs, and pan-fry. Serve with tzaziki for a Middle Eastern spin on a Southern classic.
Coat a round 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 highest of the cheese starts 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-goal sauce
Sprinkle it over pizza (both 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 a couple of concepts to get you started. Give them a shot or give you your own. Either approach, clear some area in your spice rack—this is one ingredient you’ll wish to maintain close at hand.