The Middle East is no stranger to strife, and its kitchens are practically as contentious as its borders. The catalyst for all the culinary unrest? A regional spice mix called za’atar. The exact formulation varies throughout countries—nay, throughout households even—and each believes its recipe to be superior.
We here at Man Connoisseur take a more reasonable stance: I’ve never encountered za’atar I didn’t like, and I’ve but to encounter a dish that didn’t profit from its addition.
So what exactly is that 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 aromatic, it’s chargeable for much of the pervasive, iconic flavor associated Mediterranean food.
True purists craft their own, however packaged blends are readily available on-line or at Mediterranean specialty retailers, and lots of mainstream grocers, together with Whole Foods, carry it as well. Oh, and earlier than you hit the shop? It’s pronounced “zAH-tahr,” with no nasal “aeh” inflection. (Keep in mind: It’s a spice, not a strep culture.)
Now, chances are, you’ve already experienced this transformative ingredient; you just might not have been able to determine it. You know the ultra-authentic, luxuriant hummus that makes the store-bought stuff taste like reconstituted gerbil meals? Teeming with za’atar. Or how about the vibrant, taste-dense Greek salads you may by no means appear to recreate once home? Positively brimming with it. But conventional purposes are just the start—this versatile ingredient works far beyond Mediterranean waters. Listed below are just a few extra options:
Blend it with enough olive oil to type both a thick unfold or a looser dip, and use with bread (pita, should you’re taking pictures for authenticity; if not, crusty, contemporary ciabatta or different Italian bread also works nicely)
Combine one part za’atar with one part breadcrumbs. Coat pounded hen breasts in egg wash, adopted 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 under the broiler till the marina simmers and the top of the cheese starts to brown. Serve with bread.
Combine za’atar, zatar 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 individual 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 ideas to get you started. Give them a shot or come up with your own. Either manner, clear some house in your spice rack—this is one ingredient you’ll want to maintain close at hand.