Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love to use herbs and spices. It’s not that I am against mild food. It’s just that my tastes prefer stuff that’s more assertive or interesting.
I’ve tried all sorts of spices and blends for all sorts of foods. One of my favorites is Za’atar, an Arabic specialty.
There are lots of ingredient combinations to make this recipe but invariably, basic Za’atar is a mixture of sumac, sesame and thyme (in the Middle East it is made with an herb called za’atar that tastes like thyme). Some recipes include ground up pistachios or other nuts; some call for ground cumin and/or dried oregano or marjoram.
I fell in love with Za’atar years ago. It is so incredibly useful that I have several different versions of it in my spice cabinet. I sprinkle it on hummus and eggplant dip. I make homemade flatbread crisps with it (brush pita rounds with olive oil, add a few sprinkles of Za’atar and bake in a 400 degree oven until the bread is crisp). I’ve added it to marinades for grilled chicken, sprinkled it on top of roasted winter squash and beets.
Recently I decided to sprinkle Za’atar onto challah rolls. I got the idea from a colleague of mine, Melinda Strauss, who wrote about Za’atar braided bread on her blog, Kitchen Tested.
It was an inspired thought on her part. So I proceeded to make my usual challah rolls, brushed the unbaked surface with vegetable oil, sprinkled with spice and baked.
Voila! More than delicious bread for sandwiches or for breakfast with eggs or to eat with Shakshouka or buttered and nibbled with coffee. You can figure all that out.
2 tablespoons dried sumac
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Mix ingredients well. Makes about 1/3 cup