Are you sensitive to nightshades and/or FODMAPS? Interested in experimenting more with Mediterranean flavors? Or just tired of serving the same old dishes using the same old spices?
Enter Za’atar, or Zaatar (or Zhatar)!
While za’atar comes in many forms, it is typically a blend of savory dried herbs like oregano, marjoram or thyme, and cooling spices like cumin, fennel and coriander, along with toasted sesame seeds, salt and ground sumac berries (beautifully tangy!). Some people also add cinnamon or mace, but I personally prefer not to.
The most basic combination will at least include thyme, sumac, salt and sesame seeds.
Za’atar is widely used in Middle Eastern cooking, especially in Israel and Lebanon, and is traditionally tossed into olive oil and brushed on flat bread. Its uses, however, go waaaaay beyond that! It’s delicious on top of yogurt, labneh or cottage cheese, sprinkled on veggies (raw or roasted), eggs or hummus, and it can be used as a dry rub for fish and meat (it’s great with chicken and lamb).
Za’atar also tastes terrific with pomegranates. For instance, you can roast some veggies (e.g., zucchini, peppers, aubergine, radishes and red onions) and top off with yogurt, za’atar and pomegranate seeds for a delicious east-Mediterranean flair!
Below, I’ve added za’atar to a 3-egg omelette I stuffed with labneh, spinach, smoked salmon and dill. DIVINE!
And here, I’ve sprinkled za’atar on top of cottage cheese (there, below the scallions!)
Another yummy way to enjoy it is with çilbir, aka Turkish poached eggs with yogurt (you can use coconut yogurt). I like making çilbir by mixing labneh with fresh garlic (when I can tolerate it!), throwing 2-3 poached eggs on top, and drizzling with a generous glug of cold-pressed Greek olive oil. Traditionally, çilbir is made with red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper, but because I don’t do great with nightshades, I use za’atar instead. Trust me, it’s amazing!
Last but not least, I recommend trying the mixture with soft-boiled eggs fried in ghee (yep, you heard that right). If you can tolerate feta, throw a few crumbled pieces into the pan with the eggs and ghee – you won’t regret it! I like sprinkling the za’atar on top last, but you can also cook the eggs with it.
I should note that the szechuan pepper included in my version is not typical of za’atar mixtures in the arabic world, but I think it brings a nice kick to the mix. If you’ve never tried it, szechuan pepper is highly aromatic and it’s a great compliment to the tanginess of the sumac. If you don’t like szechuan pepper, or have trouble finding it, you can just skip it! There is no one or right way to mix za’atar and everyone’s encouraged to find their own perfect blend!
about 1 cup
- 3 and 1/2 tbsp sumac
- 3 tbsp white sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp thyme
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1/2 tbsp szechuan pepper
- 1 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
- Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Transfer to a jar or large shaker.
- The za’atar will keep for several months at room temperature.