Za'atar

Posted by : Ruth Heiges

Za'atar is a Middle-Eastern spice blend based on Syrian Hyssop (likely the
hyssop referenced in the Bible), which grows wild in the region. It's
character is reminiscent of marjoram, thyme or oregano, though it is not
quite as pungent as oregano. You can buy it in Middle-Eastern shops or do
a web search for mail-order sites. 

If you can't get the real thing, the following may help you approximate
it:

3 parts toasted sesame seeds
2 parts dried thyme
1 part dried marjoram
1/2 - 1 part powdered sumac 
salt, optional

The thyme and marjoram should be as fine as possible.
If you can't find sumac, you can either do without or substitute some
lemon salt (maybe only a half part, in proportion), since the sumac has a
lemony flavor.

I use za'atar on chicken (blacken the chicken with a layer of it, salt and
roast). It's also great on salty white cheeses such as feta or Balkan.
Sprinkle it on a slice of cheese and drizzle with olive oil. Add some
olives, tomatoes, or other vegetables, a pita to sop it up, and you have a
lovely first course or light lunch.

In the Middle East, pitas are sometimes coated lightly with oil then
sprinkled heavily with za'atar before baking. It's heavenly! (For those of
you who are familiar with Israel, or who live here, or are visiting, _the_
place for such pitas is Aboulaffia, in Jaffa.) There also are still some
purist sidewalk purveyors of the Israeli version of bagels who will give
you a small portion of za'atar twisted in the corner of a plastic bag,
into which to dip the "baygaleh."

Likewise, it can be used in bread baking; both mixed into the dough and/or
sprinkled on top, before baking. It also is a nice seasoning for fresh
salads, and my brother-in-law even sprinkles it on scrambled eggs.

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