It’s about time we had another spice blend around here, don’t you think? Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice combination that I’ve been wanting to make for almost a year. The word is Arabic and can also be used to describe the herb thyme; if you’re buying za’atar instead of making your own, make sure you get the spice blend.
I’ve learned that za’atar, like many other spice blends, has many variations, some regional and some also due to personal preference. Sumac is an important part of this spice blend. It’s an intensely deep, dark reddish colour and its fragrance and taste is fruity but sour. Thyme is the traditional herb used in za’atar but in my research I found recipes that used other herbs as well. I used dried thyme, but if you use fresh it will only keep a few days. The blend also includes toasted sesame seeds and some salt. Different recipes use these four ingredients in different proportions.
The recipe that I used is from Ian Hemphill’s The Spice and Herb Bible: A Cook’s Guide, an excellent reference that I keep with my cookbooks. He advises that za’atar complements breads and potatoes very well. I’m using it today on a chicken dish that’s in the oven right now (more about that dish another time). But let me tell you, it smells heavenly in here!
Blend 3 tsp dried thyme leaves (crushed in a mortar and pestle, but not powdered), 1 tsp sumac, 1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds and 1/4 tsp salt.
Wasn’t that easy? By the way, it’s a bit later now and we just ate our chicken dish; it was delicious. I will definitely be using more za’atar, and maybe next time I’ll make a bigger batch. I should be able to keep it well sealed in a cool, dry place for at least six months.
In my research, I found a blog called Taste of Beirut with an informative post on za’atar, here. I’ll be returning to this site to learn more about Lebanese cooking.