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Good on a bagel with cream cheese, great over avocado toast. Tasty stirred into quinoa, magnificent on my Za’atar Chicken with Tahini Sauce. Sprinkle over roasted or sauteed veggies, or spread over buttered French bread and toast in the oven! This versatile mixture can be made and kept in an airtight container or spice jar for many months. But, trust me when I say it won’t last that long before you eat it all!Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix that I began eating during my college days in San Francisco. Restaurants of different nationalities ranging from Turkish, to Lebanese, to Syrian, to Israeli all incorporated Sumac, (Za’atar’s main ingredient) into almost every dish that left their kitchen. Its not only used as a flavoring, but as a garnish similar to a piece of parsley atop pools of delicious hummus or smokey baba ganoush.
When I was living in Fort Lauderdale, FL there was an amazing little spot called The Noor Bakery. There they prepared flatbread that cooked in front of us while going through a conveyor-belt-like oven. Before going into the flame, the bandana-clad cook would smother the oiled dough with generous scoopfuls of his Za-atar mixture. After cooking a few minutes, the finished bread would come out the other side slightly browned, piping hot, and with an earthy smell that took some self control not to jump over the counter and grab!
Although I have not yet found a way to purchase and install the aforementioned conveyor-belt-oven in my RV, I have managed to keep this spice on hand in our house (& RV) at all times. I like to make my own spice mixes in general, mostly because it allows me to control the salt content. But, also because sometimes I like more of one ingredient than another.
Yes, you can buy a ready made Za’atar spice mix, but you don’t know what you are going to get. Different regions of the Middle East emphasize different ingredients. In mine, I like to play up the tanginess of the sumac, paired with the nutty, buttery taste of the sesame seeds. I downplay the thyme because in my experience it can go bitter if its too much at the forefront of a dry mix.
I suggest not skipping the sea salt, nor substituting table salt. The crunch you get from the sea salt really stands up to the dried herbs and sesame which can be overbearing in texture. But, don’t take my word for it, give it a try and let me know what you think!
For a great read on one person’s experience tasting Za’atar for the first time, check out Za-atar: A Spice Mix With Biblical Roots And Brain Food Reputation.
- Combine all ingredients and keep in a spice jar, or other airtight container. But really, its pretty great with my easy Zaatar Chicken with Tahini Sauce.
- There is no “step 2”. Its that easy!