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Za’atar: The Beloved Middle Eastern Spice Blend

Za’atar

This toasty, herby, and nutty Middle Eastern essential is the underrated spice blend you need in your kitchen right now.

What is Za’atar?

Za’atar is most commonly used to refer to the Middle Eastern spice blend, but it’s also another name for hyssop, an herb from the thyme family that grows wild throughout the Levant. The za’atar herb is the central ingredient in a traditional za’atar blend, but isn’t a necessity in every blend because of its rarity in other regions.

What Does Za’atar Taste Like?

Za’atar is herbaceous and earthy with a rich, toasty nuttiness. Depending on the spices and herbs used, it can also have tart citrus or slightly sweet mint accents.

Image Credit: Flickr user Tiny Banquet CommitteeCC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

How Is Za’atar Made?

Recipes  for za’atar vary considerably throughout the Middle East, but generally it’s a combination of one or a few woodsy herbs (such as za’atar or hyssop, thyme, oregano, and marjoram), toasted sesame seeds, and salt. Sumac is often added for its citrusy tang, a variation particularly popular in Jordan, while za’atar in Lebanon relies on dried orange zest for a similar effect. Cumin, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and caraway seeds are other popular additions.

What To Do With Za’atar?

Za’atar works well as both a table condiment and a versatile spice blend for cooking. Bread served with a side of olive oil and za’atar for dipping is an easy and immensely satisfying appetizer or side dish to savory mains like butterflied leg of lamb. It also makes a fantastic dry rub for said leg of lamb or for roasted chicken, as evidenced by this effortlessly delicious za’atar chicken with asparagus.

The flavorful blend can transform simple fare such as a can of chickpeas or a pair of poached eggs into a dynamic meal. Try making these za’atar chickpeas with greek yogurt or sprinkle za’atar over Turkish soft boiled eggs with savory yogurt. Whether you’re buying a premade za’atar blend from the store or making your own, be sure to prepare more than you need – we guarantee the jar will be empty sooner than you think.

Image Credit: Flickr user Oldtasty ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

Feature Image: Ajale from Pixabay 

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