Friday, July 16, 2004

Za'atar Spice Mix Recipe

When I find a new ingredient I am intrigued. So it's not unusual for me to buy something I have absolutely no idea what to do with. Lately I have have been drawn to the Middle Eastern ingredients I've discovered in a fresh produce market. Last week I bought both a bottle of concentrated pomegranate juice and a spice called sumac.

Sumac is a plant with bright red berries. When dried and ground up they are sour and tangy, almost lemony. Sumac is the main ingredient in a spice blend called za'atar. It is composed of sesame seeds, thyme, sumac, salt and pepper. But it varies depending on who is making it. It might also include marjoram, oregano or cayenne. From what I've read za'atar actually means "thyme". It's often mixed with oil and served a dip with veggies or pita, but you can put it on almost anything, meats, eggs, potatoes, fish, salads or in a vegetable tagine. It's great sprinkled over feta cheese or over sliced white onions. I am crazy about it on toasted sourdough bread with a little butter.

You can buy za'atar in Middle Eastern grocery stores, spice store or online at your favorite spice seller but I think if you can find sumac (also available online or in Middle Eastern grocery stores) it's more fun to experiment and make it yourself. If you have difficulty finding it, at Penzeys you can get za'atar or sumac. Sumac is much cheaper at MySpicer but you have to buy in larger quantities.



2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
2 Tablespoons ground sumac
1 Tablespoon powdered dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste


Roast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring frequently until toasty golden brown. Allow to cool, then mix with the rest of the spices.