Homemade spice blends have been closely guarded family secrets and have flavored Middle Eastern food since the middle ages. As with many regional blends there are countless versions that vary from region to region, village to village and even family to family.
Za'atar is also known as Zaatar, Zahatar Za'tar and Zahatar. This seasoning is a delightful blend of dried herbs, sesame seeds, and sumac, and usually salt. The regional variations can be quite different – think of it like the various salsas that we use in the US. While there is no right or wrong salsa practically everybody can find a variation they like best (chunky, with black beans, hot, mild, etc.).
In Israel, Zahtar often contains dill weed, the Jordanian version is redder in color due to the larger amounts of sumac use while Lebanese versions may contain orange zest.
Typically used as a table condiment (much like we would use pepper), Za'atar is sprinkled on dishes. In Lebanon it is believed to clear the mind and provide strength and is commonly used with breakfast dishes. We like to follow this lead and use it sprinkled over our morning oatmeal or eggs for a zesty twist.
Za'atar is often stirred into olive oil and used as a dip or made into a paste for soft flatbreads and vegetables or applied to bread prior to baking. Za'atar also works exceptionally well as a dry rub for chicken, lamb and seafood (especially fish) and partners well with cauliflower and potatoes.
In our house we know it best for making homemade hummus and it is also delicious when added to French onion dip or used as a topping with sour cream on your baked potato. We've also made a wonderful Zahtar Crusted Baked Chicken ,Za'atar Bread with Tomatoes and Zaatar Spiced Meatball that were all absolutely sinful.
While we also carry a wonderful Salt Free Za'atar but we couldn’t resist and added this Syrian Za'atar from a recipe one of our customers gave us. Hand blended from sesame seeds, sumac, coriander, cumin, lemon zest, coarse sea salt and anise seed.
If you’re a fan of seasonings from this region then you may also want to check out these – Baharat, Ras el Hanout, Moroccan Chicken, Berbere, Piri Piri and Tunisian Five Spice.
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