A Harmony of Flavors

Friday, November 9, 2012

A New Spice Mixture Graces My Shelf

My last post was about how much I love spices, and this is an offshoot of that.  I mentioned Zahtar in that post, and yet didn't really go into it. Zahtar (or Zah'tar, Zaatar, Za'atar, Zatar) is a spice mixture used and made mainly in the Middle East.  One of the reasons I looked into Zahtar is that I have had Sumac in my cupboard for a while, but have yet to really use it as I should.  Sumac is a plant that grows willd around the Mediterranean and in the Middle East.  The part of the plant used is the berries, which are dried and ground, yielding a reddish powder.  It is a tart flavor, used in place of lemon or vinegar for many cooking preparations.

Clockwise from top left: Sumac powder,
sesame seeds, oregano, salt, thyme
Zahtar is generally made with sumac as an ingredient, so I though I would make some and give it a try.  One of the other ingredients generally in the mixture in the Middle East, is a wild variety of marjoram, not available widely outside of the area.  Since finding that is not likely, I used thyme and oregano, along with sesame seeds, the sumac powder and some salt. 

I read somewhere that since this is a fairly aromatic mixture, it is really good sprinkled over less flavorful foods, such as avocado or eggs.  I love avocado. But the mixture's ultimate combination, flavorful with sumac as the sour note, thyme and oregano as the warm Meditarranean herbal note, and the toasted sesame seeds - even with my ability to combine flavors in my mind I couldn't imagine that combo.  I couldn't wait to try it out and see what it would be like.

Zahtar, mixed and ground
The first thing I tried was putting some in good olive oil and dipping bread in it.  That was really good.  Okay, I wanted to try something else. I had a half avocado, so I cut that up and sprinkled the Zahtar over it.  Oh, delicious!  Later I made a lentil, quinoa and cauliflower dish and sprinkled it on that as well, just to see.  Another great flavor combination.  I am going to be taste-testing this new set of flavors on just about everything for a while, until I really get a good feel for where it goes best, and I have lots of ideas.