The renowned Chef Yotam Ottolenghi calls it “Magic Dust.”
Dating back to at least the 13th century, za’atar is at its simplest thyme, sumac, sesame seed, and salt. The proportions of each vary a little depending on whose kitchen you’re in at the time.
You can buy za’atar at a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean grocery or at a specialty spice shop such as Penzeys. Or you can quite easily make your own.
Za’atar is a basically a condiment, like a seasoned salt, which you can sprinkle over all sorts of dishes.
I have a little jar sitting in with the other spices ready-to-go.
Mix it with some olive oil and dip bread into it. Sprinkle it generously over vegetables, roasted or when serving, and it adds another layer of flavor that I just love. Sprinkled over scrambled eggs at breakfast! Or with freshly-popped popcorn? Get outta town.
I keep it simple, textbook if you will, with equal parts sumac, thyme, and sesame seeds. Then a bit of good salt (I love using Maldon flakes for this).
I do toast my sesame seeds and I think most people do — about 5 minutes over medium heat — but it’s not a strict requirement.
Everything goes into a spice grinder a.k.a. clean coffee grinder and gets pulsed a few times. I’m not trying for absolute powder, a few sesame seed pieces are nice, but I do prefer it over blends that don’t grind at all. Just a personal preference though.
Keep it in a sealed jar and use liberally.
I’ll share one of my favorite uses.
Cut a potato or two into chunks in a baking dish.
Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle generously with za’atar, maybe a little Aleppo pepper or cumin. Toss.
Then into a 400°F oven for 40-50 minutes.
You can’t beat it. I do hope you’ll give it a try.
Za'atar Spice Blend
Za'atar is a terrific blend of herb and spice that goes well with so many things. The renowned Chef Yotam Ottolenghi calls it "Magic Dust." Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- 2 tablespoons sumac
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon kosher / sea / flake salt
Toast sesame seeds over medium heat if desired.
Mix all ingredients together.
If desired, pulse briefly in a spice grinder.