Friday, March 24, 2006

Spur of the Moment Za’atar

For weeks I have been craving savory yogurty or buttermilky drinks. A few days ago, I prepared and drank an entire quart of moru, but I will have to tell you about that next time.

This week
I have been thinking of Za’atar, a thyme blend used in Lebanese and Israeli cooking that I have always enjoyed, but never tried to make at home. When I picked up this very pungent thyme bouquet of thyme, it seemed as good an opportunity as any to try. Anissa Helou gives a recipe which calls for sumac. I had none and used amchoor. Amchoor, according to Yamuna Devi’s Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, is a powder made from tart, unripe mango slices. Sumac, according to Anissa Helou’s Lebanese Cuisine, is powder made from the dried berries of Rhus Coriaria, or elm-leafed sumac. So, tart reddish powder made from dried sour fruit. I decided it was not an unreasonable substitution to make.

Spur of the Moment Za’atar

One small bunch thyme—about ten braches, one tablespoon thyme leaves
½ teaspoon amchoor, or sumac, if you have some
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 generous tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste, possibly a pinch of sugar

Crumble the thyme leaves between your fingers. Combine them with the sesame and amchoor. Grind them together a little in a mill or mortar, not enough to pulverize them, just enough to get them acquainted. Heat the oil in a small iron skillet and add the herb mixture. Sizzle until the herbs are fragrant. Traditionally, you brush some of this onto flatbreads before grilling them, or drizzle some over labne, feta or other white cheeses. I have also seen za’atar used very effectively other kinds of breads. At the Park Avenue Café, we used to brush some on to our very rich Parker House rolls before baking (Homer mode on) Arhrhrhr (Homer mode off). This time, I stirred a teaspoonful into a glass of yogurt. Soothing to all the senses, as is our fearless leader, Kalyn of Weekend Herb Blogging.

Here are the denuded stems.

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Blogger MM said...

We usually have our sumac sprinkled over our salad but I like it sprinkled over my mash potatoes too!

I don't know if it is the same zatar as I have only seen it dried or in leave form. But we have a tea here we also call zatar. very interesting. I like reading your blog as I always learn new things here.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Kalyn said...

My favorite mediterranean restaurant in SLC has bottles of Sumac on the table. I order it sometimes from Penzeys, but I don't remember having Zaatar. Sounds just wonderful. Since I love Sumac and really like thyme too, I'm betting I would like it a lot.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Sury said...

Great post and lovely blog. It's so interesting to learn about the culinary features of different cultures. Thanks for sharing!

11:03 PM  
Anonymous sher said...

This sounds very good and I love learning about something new. I also have never heard of Zaatar

1:22 AM  
Blogger Isil S. said...

Sumac is smth I usually use for salads.They also make sumac syrup here in summer,it's so freshing. As for zahter,it's brewed as tea. Good for digestion ;)

5:05 AM  

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