Za'atar is a traditional spice blend that is popular throughout the Middle East. Sometimes spelled zatar or zahtar or zaatar, this seasoning blend starts with a family of related herbs: oregano, thyme, and savory, with sesame seeds and salt. Some chefs include dried sumac, marjoram, and/or hyssop in their Za'atar - it is as variable as the ubiquitous "Italian Seasoning," "Chinese Five Spice," and "Tandoori Masala.”
A staple of Arab cuisine since medieval times, Za'atar also has historical and cultural significance for Palestinians. The presence of za'atar in a house signifies that it's a Palestinian home; the particular blend of spices in a za'atar recipe also signifies the family, village, or region. Za'atar pops up in recipes from Lebanon and Syria and from Turkey to Iran.
Children in the eastern part of the Mediterranean are encouraged to eat a za'atar sandwich for breakfast before an exam, as za'atar is thought to make the mind alert and the body strong.
Za'atar is traditionally used to season meats and vegetables, and is easily mixed with good olive oil to marinate olives or sliced onions, or to spread on pita or flatbread. Spread the olive oil - za'atar mix [zeit ou za'atar] on bread dough and bake a loaf of manakeesh bi zaatar. Za'atar also makes a tasty garnish for a fresh batch of hummus or labneh [yogurt cheese]. Try a sprinkling of za'atar on your next batch of kebabs or in your next pita sandwich for an authentic Middle Eastern twist.
Ingredients: Sesame seed, sumac, thyme, salt, oregano