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Discover Za’atar: A Middle Eastern Herb and Spice Blend

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by Jennifer Armentrout, Melissa Pellegrino, and Samantha Seneviratne
from Fine Cooking #106, p. 92

Za’atar is both a Middle Eastern herb and a spice blend. The herb za’atar is so treasured for its savory-thyme-oregano flavor that it’s called the “king of herbs.” Za’atar, the spice blend, is a combination of dried za’atar, sesame seeds, ground sumac, and other herbs and spices. The blends vary from region to region, but, generally, the flavor is herbal and nutty.

The za’atar herb is rarely exported, so it’s safe to assume that recipes calling for za’atar refer to the spice blend. To get to know za’atar, we suggest you order a few different varieties and try them, either by making the recipe for Sautéed Zucchini with Za’atar and Crispy Chickpeas, or by using one of the ideas below. One teaspoon of za’atar is a good starting point.

Grilled Lamb Kebabs  Marinate lamb cubes in yogurt, za’atar, lemon zest, cumin, salt, and pepper. Wipe off the marinade, skewer the meat along with chunks of fennel, and grill. Sprinkle with a pinch of za’atar.

Lentil Soup Sauté diced onion, celery, carrot, za’atar, and salt in butter until tender. Add French du Puy lentils and chicken broth. Simmer gently until the lentils are tender. Garnish with parsley and serve with crusty bread.

Roasted Eggplant Dip Rub halved eggplant with oil, salt, and pepper and roast in a hot oven until tender. Scoop out the flesh and mash gently with a fork. Stir in za’atar, tahini, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, chopped mint, salt, and pepper.

Grilled Pineapple Wedges Grill wedges of fresh pineapple until lightly charred. Sprinkle with za’atar and a pinch of cayenne.

Pistachio-Crusted Salmon Smear mayonnaise thinly on the top and sides of skin-on salmon fillets. Coat the salmon with a mixture of coarsely chopped pistachios, za’atar, salt, and pepper. Roast skin side down in a hot oven until cooked through.

Grilled Pita Rub pitas with the cut sides of a halved garlic clove and then brush with olive oil. Grill until lightly toasted on both sides. Sprinkle with za’atar and salt. Cut into wedges.

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