Question: How to Use Za'atar
My wife and I have just discovered za'atar and love it. I have been sprinkling it on flatbread. What are some other ways I can use za'atar?
Answer: I am glad to hear that you and your wife are enjoying za'atar. It really is great and probably my favorite spice blend of all time.
As you've probably already learned, za'atar is a traditional Middle Eastern condiment that typically includes a blend of dried thyme, oregano, sumac, toasted sesame seeds and salt. Every region (and sometimes every household) might have a slight variation on the blend. Some other possible additions might be marjoram, cumin, coriander, fennel or caraway seeds.
You're definitely correct to sprinkle it on flatbread because that is the most common usage. In fact, za'atar is more commonly known to be used on breads with olive oil. But even though pita, naan and other flatbreads are more traditional in Middle Eastern cuisine, I sometimes go for a little change and spread olive oil onto thick slices of Italian or French bread, then sprinkle the bread with za'atar. Then I broil it, much like a garlic bread. It's delicious and is also a healthier alternative to garlic bread.
Bread aside, you can sprinkle za'atar on chicken, beef or seafood before cooking as well. Try it on chicken before your bake or grill it, as well as on salmon and halibut.
It gives a great flavor and is so much better than the plain lemon juice that often accompanies seafood. And za'atar on a grilled steak is heavenly.
Za'atar can also be sprinkled on dips before serving. Try it on hummus and more traditional western dips like french onion. Sprinkling it on sour cream on top of a baked potato also gives the side dish a little extra zing.
As for vegetables, I have yet to find one that couldn't benefit for a sprinkle of za'atar but my favorite has got to be carrots. I drizzle a bit of olive oil on them, sprinkle a touch of za'atar and roast until golden and tender. Then I finish them off with another sprinkle of za'atar and a dollop of lemony tahini sauce. The combination of the sweet carrots and earthy spice is magnificent.
The sky is the limit when it comes to za'atar. I always encourage people to experiment in the kitchen. Creative cooking is always more rewarding than cooking by the book.