Za’atar is an ancient blend of spices used throughout the Middle East. It is the King of spices for savory dishes, and it is available in many supermarkets. It is a mixture of ground wild thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, salt, marjoram and oregano. Like many old recipes, there are variations in the amounts and ingredients and disagreements on the “right” version. If you make your own, you can experiment with the combinations to find the perfect spice blend for your palate. Start with small batches using the recipe below and use it with olive oil on toast. Don’t be afraid to play around until it’s just right for you. Sprinkle it on Greek yogurt and spread on toast. Good stuff. Sprinkle it on bread, dips, dressings, meat, vegetables, rice, potatoes, pasta, soups, and more. It will add to any savory dish.
If you’ve never used the spice, sumac, I think you’ll find it a pleasant surprise. The red berries are not from the poisonous sumac bushes. Culinary Sumac is easily identifiable by it’s vibrant red bulbs (don’t touch any of the white bulb shrubs!). It is grown on high plateau regions of the Mediterranean. Sumac has a citrusy aroma and pleasing sweet and sour, tarty, and fruity flavors. Ground sumac can be sprinkled on hummus, used in meat rubs, in vegetable dishes, and on nuts. You’ll love it on eggplant dishes.
I love toast for breakfast, lunch, and almost any other time. For the last few years, I’ve made all sorts of avocado toast, cheese toast, hummus toast, and now I’m on to Roasted Beets and Feta Toast. Add Za’atar and it’s a culinary delight. If you roast the beets the night before and refrigerate, just let the beets come to room temperature to use. Beets are packed with anti-inflammatory properties and contain a hearty dose of antioxidants in addition to fiber. They contain a natural phytonutrient known as betalains that assists with detoxification as well. It’s important not to over cook your beets though, for prolonged heat exposure has shown to decrease their nutritive properties.
Use organic when available.
Za'atar Spice Mix
- 1/4 cup sumac
- 2 tbsp ground dried thyme
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds toasted
- 1 tbsp ground dried oregano
- 1 tbsp ground dried marjoram
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- Grind sesame seeds with food processor or mortar & pestle
- Combine all ingredients and mix well
- Store in air-tight container
- Should stay fresh for 3 to 6 months
Roasted Beet & Feta Toast
Use organic when available. Serves 4
Roasted Beet & Feta Toast with Za'atar
- 3 medium beets cut in half
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 oz feta cheese
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 medium clove garlic crushed
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 4 slices whole-grain bread
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp Za'atar or to taste
- dash of Za'atar and sesame seeds for garnish
- Scrub beets and trim any greens
- Coat beets with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and wrap with alumium foil
- Place on baking sheetBake at 375 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes or until cooked through
- Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature
- Crush garlic and let sit 5 minutes
- Use a paper towel to slide off beet skins
- Cut beets into cubes (wear gloves to prevent staining)
- Place beets in bowl and add crushed garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, Za'atar, & salt and pepper to taste
- Mash lightly with fork
- Toast bread
- Top with mashed beets
- Sprinkle feta on beets
- Add a dash of Za'atar and sesame seeds for garnish
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