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The Middle East is not any stranger to strife, and its kitchens are nearly as contentious as its borders. The catalyst for all of the culinary unrest? A regional spice blend called za’atar. The precise formulation varies across countries—nay, zaatar throughout households even—and every believes its recipe to be superior.

We here at Guy Gourmet take a extra average stance: I’ve by no means encountered za’atar I didn’t like, and I’ve but to come across a dish that didn’t benefit from its addition.

So what exactly is this wonder ingredient? Za’atar is a blend of sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, and salt, with cumin, oregano, and different spices often being included as well. Earthy, savory, and tremendously aromatic, it’s chargeable for much of the pervasive, iconic taste related Mediterranean food.

True purists craft their very own, however packaged blends are readily available online or at Mediterranean specialty outlets, and lots of mainstream grocers, together with Whole Foods, carry it as well. Oh, and earlier than you hit the store? It’s pronounced “zAH-tahr,” with no nasal “aeh” inflection. (Bear in mind: It’s a spice, not a strep culture.)

Now, likelihood is, you’ve already experienced this transformative ingredient; you just might not have been able to determine it. You know the ultra-authentic, luxuriant hummus that makes the store-purchased stuff taste like reconstituted gerbil food? Teeming with za’atar. Or how in regards to the vibrant, flavor-dense Greek salads you possibly can by no means appear to recreate as soon as residence? Positively brimming with it. But traditional applications are just the beginning—this versatile ingredient works far beyond Mediterranean waters. Listed here are a few extra options:

Blend it with sufficient olive oil to kind either a thick spread or a looser dip, and use with bread (pita, should you’re capturing for authenticity; if not, crusty, contemporary ciabatta or other Italian bread additionally works nicely)

Mix one part za’atar with one part breadcrumbs. Coat pounded hen breasts in egg wash, adopted by breadcrumbs, and pan-fry. Serve with tzaziki for a Middle Eastern spin on a Southern classic.

Coat a round of goat cheese in za’atar, then partially submerge in marinara in an oven-proof bowl. Place below the broiler till the marina simmers and the highest of the cheese starts to brown. Serve with bread.

Combine za’atar, Greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, and crushed red pepper for a creamy salad dressing or all-function sauce

Sprinkle it over pizza (either your individual or carryout)

Add it to scrambled eggs or omelets

Use it as a rub for grilled fish

Or simply sauté and toss shrimp with za’atar, season Greek yogurt with smoked paprika and za’atar, and assemble on toast.

These are just a few concepts to get you started. Give them a shot or give you your own. Both approach, clear some area in your spice rack—this is one ingredient you’ll want to preserve close at hand.