Za’atar is a Middle Eastern herb and spice blend with ingredients that can vary but that will usually contain thyme, oregano, and sesame seeds. It is versatile and can be used in a range of preparations; however, you will need to follow a few guidelines to get the best results. Read on below to learn how to get the most benefits from za’atar.
Do use za’atar for breakfast.
Za’atar is a popular seasoning blend for breakfast foods, especially in Lebanon. It is a great addition to eggs or you can add it to Greek yogurt to make a dip similar to tzatziki sauce. It is also useful for turning butter into a flavorful spread for bread.
Do recognize that za’atar is versatile enough to be used in Western dishes.
Western uses for it include as a dry rub for grilled meats or as the herbal component to a vinaigrette. Lastly, the most popular way to use it is as a condiment that you add at the table. Simply sprinkle it over cooked foods the way you might sprinkle salt and pepper.
Do make your own za’atar.
Like many spice blends, za’atar is not purchased as a premixed blend in the countries where it is used most. Instead cooks formulate their own za’atar mixes, choosing their preferred ingredients and their preferred amounts of those ingredients. Most of the ingredients in za’atar are easy to find in the average Western grocery store. You should be able to find the rarer herbs and spices such as sumac and hyssop online or in Middle Eastern stores. Simply combine the ingredients in a blender or spice grinder and grind them to make your own version of za’atar.
Do pair za’atar with olive oil.
The two work together well as you can see from the fact that both za’atar and olive oil tend to show up in many of the same recipes. One za’atar application involves mixing the seasoning blend with olive oil and using that as a dip for flatbread. In addition, the individual ingredients in za’atar and olive oil are used extensively in both Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking.
Do recognize the different regional variations of za’atar.
Jordanian za’atar is not the same as Lebanese za’atar and Israeli za’atar is not the same as either of those two varieties. If you are making dishes from a particular region, you may want to complement them with that region’s style of za’atar.
Do store za’atar correctly.
Like any spice and herb mixture, za’atar is in danger of losing its flavor if you fail to use the right storage methods. Firstly, you will need an airtight container. Ideally, this container should also be made of a material that blocks light in addition to keeping air out. Air, moisture, and light are enemies of flavor in herbs. If your only option is to store za’atar in a clear container, place that container in a dark cupboard.
Don’t mistake the za’atar herb blend for the za’atar herb.
It is easy to confuse the two, given that they have the same name and the fact that the seasoning blend may include the eponymous herb. The herb is also known as Syrian oregano, which many scholars believe to be the hyssop mentioned in the Bible.