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.

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.

Zahtar / Zah'tar / Za'atar

Zahtar, mixed and ground

Makes about ¾ cup

A Middle Eastern and Mediterranean spice mixture, used dry sprinkled over foods, or mixed with olive oil and brushed on flatbreads. May be sprinkled over any dish that could use a little zip.

¼ cup sumac powder
¼ cup raw, unhulled sesame seeds (may be toasted in a dry pan first)
2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves (not powder)
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves (not powder)
1 teaspoon salt

If toasting sesame seeds, place them in a dry frying pan and stir constantly until they begin to pop and snap. Remove from heat immediately and pour onto a plate to cool. Grind all ingredients together in a mortar and pestle, or briefly pulse together in a spice grinder.

Store Zahtar in a clean glass jar with close fitting lid for up to 3 months.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.