Za’atar is a mixture of wild or cultivated thyme, sesame seeds, and salt, and can also include tart, citrusy sumac. You can buy it in Middle Eastern markets or from mail-order spice shops such as Penzeys, or you can make your own. “If you go to a Persian restaurant it’s sometimes sitting as a condiment in a big glass shaker on the table, like pepper flakes in an Italian restaurant,” says ballulah. “I would shake it on anything that takes your fancy.” But “[u]se it with a heavy hand, it isn’t very strong in flavor,” counsels cheryl_h.
Za’atar is a traditional accompaniment to pita and other flatbreads: Brush pita with olive oil, sprinkle with za’atar, and toast, or simply dip pita wedges in olive oil and then in za’atar. It is also great sprinkled on hummus or on fresh goat cheese or feta, say hounds. It’s “v. nice in a tomato/feta salad—lots of olive oil,” says MMRuth. HillJ‘s favorite use is to swirl a teaspoon into Greek yogurt and use it to top a cucumber and tomato salad.
Kelli2006 likes to dredge half chickens in za’atar and roast them, and HillJ rubs pork tenderloins with olive oil, and then with za’atar, before grilling the meat. Fajap mixes za’atar with panko and uses it to coat fish. rabaja sprinkles it over sautéed onions when making rice pilaf and mixes it into meatballs. Roast cubed sweet potatoes or butternut squash tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, za’atar, and sesame seeds, suggests galka, who says, “My family never tires of these as side dishes.”
Discuss: Uses for Za’atar